Trust in the Person You’re Becoming

May we enjoy the places of peace — the ones that give us peace and the places of peace we create.

Lake Michigan Sunset

I don’t know about for you, but ringing in 2021 for me was rather anticlimactic. Some of my friends and I had this plan to have a college reunion for New Year’s Eve 2020, but as the ripple of the COVID19 pandemic grew wider and stronger through the U.S. Midwest this season, we decided not to do it after all. For me, I celebrated the new year quietly and simply. With immediate family in the living room, it reminded me of my childhood new year’s eves when I would be so excited to stay up until midnight and as much as I tried to preserve my energy, I grew sleepier and sleepier as it got later and later. To be honest, not much changed with how I felt this New Years Eve. However, in addition to the steadfast nature of my inability to be a night owl, I also felt the same childlike liberty to feel protected, loved, cared for, and secure; feelings that at other times this year ebbed and flowed with challenges and changes.

I don’t know about you, but in 2020, I had more feelings of disorientation, displacement, and discouragement more than feelings of hope, purpose, and gratitude. Burnt out on the virtual and as I am still reeling from cancelled plans, parties, and participating in in-person programs, it’s a difficult year to reconcile. And I imagine we are all still feeling the ongoing waves of grief.

As I reflect on 2020, I want to remember the positives as well. Not each of those 365 2020 days were negative. These are the questions I’m reflecting on in the early days of 2021:

  • What was a good memory I made in 2020?
  • What progress did I make?
  • What is an affirmation I received?
  • What self-care routine worked? What didn’t?

And as I prepare for 2021, I’m concretely considering my choices. My choices to set boundaries, to create healthy rhythms, and to be ok to change what doesn’t work for me. And may I encourage you to be gentle with yourself and to (re)evaluate the expectations you set for you and others as we begin this new year.

One approach to do this is to consider and reflect on why you commit to the things you commit to, how you structure a routine, and where you can take small steps to meet the requirements of your work or school. This may look like deciding for you:

  • What and when are exceptions ok?
  • What questions can I ask for more clarity?
  • What does kindness look like for self and others?
  • What is one thing I can do today that’ll be good for my body, mind, and soul?

As we step into 2021, with its new changes, challenges, and celebrations, may we be empowered to respect our personal needs and to articulate graciously what we have time for and what we don’t have time for. It’s ok to say “no” and it’s ok to rest. It’s really important that we do both, actually.

One way I feel re-centered and grounded is in nature and what I’m finding living in West Michigan is that there are so many outrageously beautiful sunsets on Lake Michigan. I find so much peace and renewal when I have the opportunity to witness one of our sunsets. I’ve travelled a lot in my life (like 30 plus countries a lot) and have also lived in 10 countries. And I wholeheartedly believe that our sunsets are the best in the world. In 2021, I want to commit to taking more time to watch our lakeshore sunsets. When things I can’t control come my way, I can control my reaction and will probably go out to a pier to process and to protect my mind from “what ifs” and unexplainable “whys?!”. As each sunset is different, so is each day of our life. Let’s reflect on each one and prepare for each next one. May we enjoy the places of peace — the ones that give us peace and the places of peace we create.

Life is a series of trade offs and as we decide what to do in 2021, may we consider these questions every morning:

  • What is in my heart today?
  • What do I need to do today to feel healthy in body, mind, and soul?
  • What is one way to practice patience today?
  • What is the most important thing for me to do today?

Perhaps see you at sunset. Still socially-distanced, of course.

If You Were to Build a RAFT, What Would it Look Like?

The semester is wrapping up and for some, this may be the final one on campus. And so, it’s important to consider how to transition well. The popular “RAFT” model coined by David Pollock in the book Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, is one way to concretely decide how to move through this transition. The RAFT model is an acronym for Reconciliation, Affirmation, Farewells, and Thinking Ahead.

A fancy word for a simple (albeit, sometimes difficult) action. In other words, is there anyone you need to go to one-on-one to apologize to, make things right with, hash out some misunderstandings? Stepping into a place where you can talk about conflict takes courage and vulnerability. It’s an important action to bring about understanding and forgiveness. Here are some steps to an apology as a framework to reference:

  1. Express sorrow (I’m sorry)
  2. Own guilt (I was wrong)
  3. Name the specific wrongdoings (I did ____________________)
  4. Name the impact (I hurt you)
  5. Don’t blame shift/defend (But you…I’m sorry if you…..)
  6. Don’t use passive voice (I’m sorry if you were offended….)
  7. Make amends (What can I do)

Another fancy word simply translated: let’s celebrate each other a little bit more! What do you love about someone? Their encouragement? Their detail-orientation? Their courage? Their timeliness? Their active volunteerism? Their jokes? Their availability to have a heart-to-heart sesh at 2am on a Tuesday? Take some time to reflect on how various people have invested in your life this semester and thank them for it! This is a beautiful way to demonstrate your love and to honor the people in your life. Some card-writing prompts could include:

  • One thing you did for me this semester that stands out is…….
  • One comment you made to me that really encouraged me was……..
  • Thank you for taking the time to….
  • It meant a lot to me that you….
  • Your ability to……
  • I deeply appreciate your…..


So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, goodbye! We TCKs are no stranger to this word. We’ve done this action and said a variation of this word (sometimes in multiple languages!) countless times. This year it may look a bit different on campus, though. With social distancing regulations in place and students leaving on different days, it’s important to make a list of who you want to see before you leave campus yourself. For Seniors especially, it’s important to say farewell to the places that have been significant to you on campus as well. Take some time to reflect on campus about how the places and people have encouraged you, challenged you, and shaped you into who you are today.

Thinking Ahead
It’s a hard ask this year with so much change and ambiguity. Thinking ahead may be daunting, discouraging, and even depleting. Protect your energy and thoughts as you think ahead.  Write out what you can control and the decisions you can make to set you up for success next semester. Don’t dwell on things you cannot control. 2021 may not be as clear as you want, but continue to give yourself permission to dream and to goal-set; and to name and own your desires — to claim them as gifts from God.

The Importance of Not Just the Facts Post Election 2020

I’ve never been one to either start or engage in political conversation; or to overly and overtly showcase my political perspectives and leanings. Growing up, I learned to “respect the office” no matter who sat in the Oval Office; a value rooted – I believe – from my military and Foreign Service household. And I tend to hold that value now into adulthood as I choose not to report on social media or in wider social circles my opinions about the person behind the desk in the Oval Office.

As a sociologist, I am drawn to the facts in election seasons; but, not the facts you’re probably thinking like the policy positions and debate material. I’m curious about the facts people vote on based on their values, which are full of nuances and shaped because of their worldview. The facts I consider include my believing that no election should contain the words “right” and “wrong” and that decisions cast don’t make us into “winners” and “losers.” The fact that in my travels I have seen candidate signage change from one state to another – and even house to house in neighborhoods, makes me wonder how many of the people who have placed these signs have had the courage to listen to those who placed the candidate sign of a different party. With the result of the 2020 election, it’s important to look at not just the facts of policy position or the person taking office; it’s important to look at how we are responding to the facts. Let’s consider the facts of emotion management as we embrace the reality of election facts. Emotion management is not using those facts to assume, accuse, or assault. Emotion management is using those facts to ask open ended questions – and to not be upset if it’s not what we consider the “right” answer. 

Emotion management is first and foremost taking emotions seriously. There have been “facts” thrown out this election season that some positions are based on “thought” and some are based on “emotion.” The fact is, it is not accurate to say: “I’m casting my vote this way because ‘I’m thinking’” and you’re making your decision because ‘You’re emotional.’” Our values, worldview, and choices are made up of both feelings and thoughts. We attend to our emotions because we care deeply about a particular position or decision, but we need to ensure that emotions don’t drive our conversations.

Emotion management is pausing to consider if a social media post or verbal response is evoking or suppressing emotions. Consider: you don’t need to have the last word, even if you are right. There are disagreements about position and policy and that’s ok — what’s not ok is when you don’t listen to where someone is coming from in their perspective and worldview. Asking questions as someone ready to understand – and not as someone armed to respond – is an act of kindness and of exercising emotion management.

Emotion management is identifying what information our emotions are giving us and not asking others to be responsible for them. All emotions are valid and are an important human mechanism in each of us to help give clues about what we need. Pause to understand the whys behind your values and where your perceptions have been shaped. Focus on the things you can control, starting with the intentionality of getting curious about another person’s perspective. Claim some relational land with yourself and with others as you look at the facts of why emotions are there and listen with deep grace and patience.

Emotion management is reminding yourself that, “Everyone has a story. Have the patience to listen. Have the wisdom to learn.” Engaging as a listener to both self and others as together we see and experience the implications of this election season takes patience and wisdom. Listening is initiated in asking questions and resisting the urge to “fix” feelings. Some will struggle with this more than others. Some will find peace sooner than others. Some will feel hurt and fear and as a result, that may come out as anger. Don’t let emotions drive your life in reactionary ways. You don’t need to react.

Emotion management is using facts to find potential common ground and to find those intersections of agreement. Emotion management is using those facts to exercise emotional intelligence and empathy. It’s not coming to the table saying, “change my mind.” It’s coming to the table to engage difference and asking, “can you explain to me why these facts are so important to you?” It’s coming into conversation without armor or case studies or a fixed mindset. Emotion management is developing a growth mindset and protecting your energy about what discussions you engage in.

As we enter into a season with ongoing political transition and conversation, ask yourself this question Arlie Hochschild poses in an On Being podcast, “Do you want to be right in every moment, or do you want to be part of the larger healing? …. [Be] models of repair.” Emotion management is a form of empowerment; it is leading with purpose and impact. As we are going to experience the spectrum of emotions this month, let’s not be ashamed of our own emotions or make others feel shame because of theirs. But ensure that your emotions don’t run the show and purpose now in your heart to take the power away from them. Reaction isn’t necessary. Phrases like, “I’m disappointed, but….” and “It’s hurtful that…..” and “I’m concerned that…..” can empower you to validate your feelings and not be consumed by them. Soothe any fear and hurt with what you can control and remember the principle that trusting in others is not blind obedience. Your reaching across political spectrums is not eliminating difference; it’s bridging. I may not reveal or discuss my political stance, but I will contribute to the larger story of what I can do by listening to others.

Take your emotions seriously. Take others’ emotions seriously and together “May we be people of peace with voices of hope doing the hard work of love.” We must not see difference as a threat; but an opportunity to find bridges.

I voted.