Closing Out Year One

Toronto Sunset

Hi Friend!

Wow I feel like it’s been so long! SO MUCH has happened in this last month or so. I guess I’ll start from where we left off?

So I was in Toronto. It was interesting to be there by myself, not knowing anyone and sort of having this new level of awareness of my feelings. I felt very much hyper-aware of my emotions and what I was feeling. I definitely went through a similar cycle I’ve seen myself go through in the past whenever I go to new cities – 

  1. Trying to put myself out there, “break” into meeting organizers and organizations
  2. Feeling the need to perform and be productive when I have free time
  3. Being lonely (esp in Toronto since I didn’t know anyone)
  4. Frustration with meeting people in general
  5. Finding friends, going on dates
  6. Getting crushes along the way
  7. Meetings and working with organizations and leaders
  8. Getting settled into the city
  9. Preparing to leave
  10. Leave feeling good, having fun, usually wanting to stay longer but also excited for the next place

It’s actually really interesting to write this out. Everywhere I go some version of this usually plays out. Sometimes it’s in a different order, or a step gets missed, some steps usually repeat, and some steps always occur. For example I had THREE(!) different crushes in Toronto (more on this later) but ZERO crushes when I was in LA or NYC. IMAGINE THAT! LOL. 

So I was able to spend time with a couple groups in Toronto. I visited two areas, one named Parkdale which has been one of the last few areas in Toronto where gentrification has not totally changed the community, and they’ve been organizing and had some successful wins at the city and against landlords and developers. I also visited an area named Regent Park, which is apparently the first and largest public housing project in all of North America. The Toronto’s fast development represents a trend that has been occurring all over American and Canadian cities – high levels of real estate investment, gentrification, and displacement. Some of this is naturally occurring, but most of it is sanctioned, subsidized, and supported by local governments. Cities of course love new development because it drives up tax revenue and “beautifies” areas that traditionally have had less investment. But what’s the cost?

Parkdale in Toronto is one of the last areas near downtown to face massive development. The speculation of new development has begun causing old property owners to sell their real estate. New owners are trying to push out long term renters through raising rents, buyouts, disrepair, evictions and more. But the development has been slow. One reason being that many of its residents are fighting back. Parkdale residents have been organizing to create a community benefits framework for all new development, they’ve been publicly shaming landlords who are using scare tactics to push out residents, and they’ve created their own land trust to begin purchasing homes on behalf of the community. Unfortunately, I think many still see what’s coming as inevitable – just a matter of when.

Regent Park was the first and largest public housing project in all of North America (according to one long term resident I spoke to). The project was built in the 1940s with 69 acres worth of housing. Due to deteriorating buildings, drugs, and crime, the city began leading a 15 year revitalization project to replace old public buildings and also build new market-rate and luxury housing to create a “mixed-income” neighborhood. The revitalization was supposed to be a model for the rest of the city (and the world actually) on how to revitalize old public housing projects. It’s actually attracted a lot of international attention. The revitalization is now in its fourth and final phase. Of course there’s been a lot of controversy to how it’s been handled. It’s interesting to be in the community seeing the old buildings and park juxtaposed next to tall luxury condos. You see it in the businesses as well – older convenience stores and local businesses on some streets, and high end restaurants and franchises a block away. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it all. One long term resident talked to me about how the community feels different now. People don’t look out for each other. While drugs and crime are down, he says he felt safer before because people knew who you were and looked out for you. Many people have left because of the revitalization. They have a right to return if they want but it sounds like many choose not to return. And I think that’s okay. People should be able to live where they want. I think it’s important for old housing to be revitalized. While older residents are not returning, there are now new residents in these new buildings. But the units are, while nicer, smaller, not necessarily ideal for a family. 

I think the bigger problem is that it’s simply costing too much for people to afford to live in their homes. Homes are becoming more and more a commodity which is causing rents to rise in cities everywhere. Homes are no longer a place to live, but are now an investment to make more money. But is that really what a home should be? Shouldn’t people be able to afford a roof over their head, a place to sleep and be safe, a space to raise a family? Is that a basic human right we believe in? If so, then what are we actually doing about this crisis we are in? 

Like we can see physically see with our own eyes what is happening. We can see brand new buildings (some of which are half empty because they make money off the building not the actual units rented) popping up everywhere, we see neighborhoods changing, we see the cost of living in our neighborhoods increasing, we see old neighbors moving away, we see an increase in homelessness on our streets. We can SEE this. But what in the world are we willing to do about it?

Niagara Falls

So also in Toronto I somehow developed crushes on THREE different boys. THREE! That’s like one a week! Seriously. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it all lol. Like, how do I have emotional capacity to even do that? And like how do they develop so fast. And how do they go away so fast? And like, how many people can I have feelings for at the same time? Like one crush I had seriously consumed so much of my emotional energy, all I could think about was him for like 3 days straight (maybe even longer!) And then I met someone else and all of a sudden the boy was gone (well not really) and I had another crush. Here’s the thing about crushes – they really consume a lot of my energy. Like when I develop a crush on someone, my feelings are STRONG (scorpio) and it’s all that I can think (and overthink) about. 

So I wrote this about one crush:

I hate crushes. It consumes you. Changes you. Makes you become someone you’re not. It’s uncontrollable. It makes you nervous, self-conscious, anxious. It takes over your mind. Makes you second guess yourself. Makes you dwell on stupid shit. Makes you think and do stupid shit.

So clearly this was a crush that didn’t feel the same way about me. LOL.

And then I wrote about another boy who did share similar feelings towards me:

I’m so infatuated with him it’s unhealthy lol. Like if I let myself follow my irrational feelings I’d marry him right now. LOL. That’s how infatuated I am. 

Like I said, crushes make you say and do the stupidest shit! 

All this makes me think about the breadth and depth of our human emotions and attraction. How is it that my feelings can be so strong for one person and then a week later those feelings can disappear like they meant nothing? How is it that I can feel such strong feelings for multiple people at the same time? What does this say about our relationships? What does it say about passion and sex? About the bounds of our love? Idk… lmao

I left Toronto on a high note, feeling like I wanted to stay longer. I came home to attend the Victory Institute Training in Minneapolis. The Victory Institute trains LGBTQ leaders to run for office. This was a national training, but about 1/3 of the people were local MN folks. I saw a number of other friends and movement comrades there. It actually felt really nice to tell other local leaders there that I am planning to run. Slowly and surely it’s becoming more real. It’s been a long journey for me to get here, to say it publicly with some friends, family, and slowly more and more people. There was an article in the Star Tribune about the training. The reporter interviewed me about running for office. Didn’t know the article would end up on the front page though lol. In a way it felt like a major weight off my shoulders in being able to just say it out loud to folks. It’s kind of like coming out in some sort of weird way. 

A couple days later I attended the Bush Fellows mid retreat. Wow was it an amazing time. I honestly did not know how much of an impact this retreat would have on me until it was over. I felt so renewed, connected, inspired, supported. I guess we’ve all been apart doing our own things for so long that I didn’t realize how nice it would feel to be together. There’s something about the Bush Fellowship that is so unique that it’s really hard to describe your journey to other people. Committing yourself to a learning journey like this can be really lonely and isolating at times. So being in the room with like minded people who “get it” felt really supporting. Here’s what I wrote after the first night of the retreat:

Night one of the Bush Fellows Retreat. “Grounded” was my word for how I felt, but I feel so much more. Just being in the room, I felt… supported, in community, happy, at peace, excited, eager, emotional, nostalgic. 

Definitely didn’t expect all of these feelings. It just felt nice to be able to dig in, talk to people who have been going through the same personal transformation. I mean once we got through all the random small talk. Like really digging in. Sharing our experiences. Learning from each other. Relating to each other. There’s really nowhere else… in the world where I could be right now where people would get what I’m going through. Except these folks. Absolutely cannot believe it’s been one year. I feel like I’m just getting started. Also, I don’t want this to end!

And then after the retreat was over:

I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a learning journey like this with a group so committed to personal growth. It feels really warming.

I’m so inspired by everyone. Such greatness. Such visionaries. It feels like everyone has grown so much. Like, we’re all thinking differently. We’ve committed to this life of learning. Of growth. Of impact. It’s like you can see and feel it. Everyone is thinking so much bigger now. Like yeah, we can achieve the impossible. It’s an amazing feeling to be in a room full of can-doers. Visionaries. Dreamers. Builders. Impact makers. There’s so much more we can do. The sky is the limit. I feel like I can do anything when I’m with these people. I feel like I can change the world. It’s so inspiring. Uplifting. Humbling. So much greatness in the room. So smart. Ugh. I can’t get over it. I’m literally crying right now thinking about today.

My biggest takeaway was our growth. Everyone came in with a plan in the beginning of the year, but what’s changed now is how much bigger we’re all thinking. It’s like, we’re all able to see how much more we’re capable of. We’re thinking differently. We’re dreaming bigger. We’re able to see through the clouds and reach for the stars. I can see it in myself too. My plan was always about organizing in the AAPI movement but it was also about preparing to run for office. I don’t know if I connected the two before. But they’re definitely connected now. My vision has never been more clear for who I want to be and the impact I want to have in the AAPI movement and beyond.

2018 Bush Fellows

So I came home and then a couple days later left for Yellowstone with my family! It’s so beautiful there. Felt really nice to spend time with family and cousins. I was actually really surprised at how developed some areas of the park were though. I guess I didn’t expect there to be communities of grocery stores, gas stations, and lodges. The park felt… crowded. Like, even late at night when I just want to listen to nature I could still hear cars driving around everywhere. I could still see lights across the lake. It’s kind of disappointing but I guess it is probably the most popular park in the US so it’s to be expected.

Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

So I was in Yellowstone for 6 days and then returned home and the next morning caught a morning flight to Vegas for the NQAPIA Leadership Summit (I told you this was month was jam packed!). I recently joined the board of NQAPIA. It felt really nice to be there. In a way it felt like reuniting with a bunch of old family. Lots of people I hadn’t seen in awhile. But it was also nice because there were people I had met earlier this year as I journeyed along in my fellowship. It’s fun to see how relationships you develop turn into even greater ones later on. Like you meet people at one point, but you don’t really know when or if you’ll ever see them again, but some of them you do and it makes you appreciate the time you took to develop those relationships. And then there were also so many new faces too and so many new groups. I realized that I hadn’t been to an NQAPIA Summit or Conference since 2015. It was a long time ago. This time, I definitely sensed a void. It made me miss SOY. I look on the map of NQAPIA orgs and see where SOY’s place used to be and how it’s no longer there. I wished there were other folks from MN in this space. Idk what it is, but I keep coming back to this and to SOY. I know it’s okay and important for things to die but I continue to feel so much regret about it. I feel like there’s such a void that’s missing in MN and nationally without SOY…

Morning sunrise over Lake Yellowstone

*Deep breath* That was a lot. So here I am now, back at home for about 5 more days until I take my (DELTA ONE SUITE!) flight to Seoul :). As I think about closing out this past year, I guess there have been some expectations that have been unmet. Trying to think back one year ago, I think I probably expected to have developed a deeper network of API orgs. But honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me. I feel really good about where I am right now, about how I’m growing, about what I’m committing myself to for the future. The Bush Retreat has got me thinking about what it means to dedicate myself to a lifelong journey of learning and growth. How will my personal learning continue after the fellowship is over? What will this look like for me? I’ll keep thinking on this. But in the meantime, I’m excited for year two and to see what new things I will discover about the world and myself 🙂

Cheers! ❤

Taggart Lake, Grand Tetons National Park

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