Why I Stayed

I log in, after scribbling a few bullet points on professional hopes and dreams in a notebook.

The button reads, “Write.”


That brings us to now. (I told you I wasn’t leaving.)

Several months… okay, almost two years ago, I wrote about my departure from higher education and student affairs. Almost two years later, I am still with my “new” employer, and I continue to build upon the foundation set by my learning and experience in student affairs.

I have also learned a fair amount about myself, about how to be more honest with what I want and what I need. Recently, I have been having conversations about what comes next for me; this requires multiple conversations and layers of unpacking, as I cannot seem to travel down a linear pathway. In my world, linear pathways just don’t exist.

I’ve learned that, while I certainly have a propensity to gravitate towards service roles, working with customers, students, and clients directly, there are strengths and interests I need to tend to and cultivate. I miss research and writing–activities nearly exclusive to my undergraduate and graduate career; I miss those hours spent synthesizing disparate sources to compose and share knowledge, and to create further questions and learning for myself and others. I have not had the space to be as intensely passionate (oh dear, I used that word) as I was about spiritual development or identity development or even the idea of how a concept as abstract as “trust” plays into the development or lack of relationships. I crave it.

Today, I shared with another person a sliver of my dreams, and as soon as I had a moment to start to elaborate on an idea I had, about a topic I thought I had a remote interest in, I found myself speaking without taking a breath, engrossed in elaborating on the questions I wanted to know more about. That spark I knew I still had is very much alive, and it’s up to me to continue to stoke the fire. Somehow, somewhere along my recent professional journey, I didn’t allow myself to truly pursue that which gave me energy because those things were “scary” or because I believe myself to be woefully unqualified.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’m bad at the jobs I held or what I currently do. It isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy what I do or the organization I’m at. In fact, everything I process in my head and put down on paper confirms that I am exactly where I want to be. Because of that, I also have the ability to finally allow myself to pursue ways in which my dominant strengths will flourish.

So what if I don’t have an MFA, nor have I ever held a position in which learning and development or training or writing were a significant component. Do I possess the skills to excel in roles that might demand these things? Sure. Do I possess an amount of confidence in myself to continue to learn, explore, and make positive impact on the community around me? Of course.

Am I committed to cultivating a mindset for success?

Well, I sure hope so. The only way to know is to stay long enough to find out.


I haven’t gone.

I used to tend to this blog regularly, making time to write and record my thoughts and musings several times a week. Without too much hesitation, I let you all in on my vulnerability, shortcomings, and loneliness; my excitement, achievements, and humor; and sometimes, just my nonsense.

Then I decided to put my energy elsewhere. I moved, I changed jobs, I met someone, I traveled, I adjusted my workout priorities, I traveled some more–in other words, life happened, and I had more time to spend being present rather than being reflective.

I miss writing, and it still feels good to put things down in written words, but things are good. They aren’t perfect. There are still days where I stress about what to do with my life, but as my colleague said yesterday, maybe the question I should be asking is, “What’s next?”

My life has been anything but linear and predictable. I still stress about uncertainty and the future, but that’s who I am. I still lament about being athletically talentless, but I’m having a fine time working on my weaknesses.

Also, I love my partner very much, but I leave my disastrous dating stories up here if only to serve as a reference for others who might be feeling the way I once did. Maybe it will help someone, after all.

I leave my projects and artifacts here to showcase where I came from as a graduate student and as a professional. I currently do not work in higher education, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m able to research, analyze, compose, and assess.

I still dream of traveling, and I’m sure I’ll still recollect my journeys in one way or another–through writing or photos on various platforms. There’s so much to see and do still.

This all makes it sound like I’m closing down the blog. It’s not going anywhere, but I might, and I might not record it here. I’m not sure what’s next for my personal record-keeping. Maybe it’s just a layout change; maybe it’s a new site. We’ll just wait and see.

In the meantime, don’t wait up for me. There’s a world out there to explore.


The Return! Kind of.

“Hey, so, Ardith–what’s with the lack of blogging?”

Oh, jeez. Well, there are several reasons that I haven’t posted as much as usual.

The Wide World of Student Affairs and Higher Education
I’m still wrestling with what’s up with my professional life. As I’ve said a hundred times before, my job is fantastic and my team is great, but I’m missing something. I can’t pinpoint it yet, but I think it partially has to do with a need to be connected and engaged with more AAPI professionals more often, the desire for an outlet to explore research and theory, the negotiation of feeling like part of my professional network left me hanging, and wondering what to do about not feeling like a rock star and feeling more like I’m adequate and competent in my role(s). Turns out the working world isn’t full of fireworks all the time, and that the every day can be quite common. Making a difference in the world isn’t instant either; I feel like even though I knew that coming out of graduate school, actually experiencing the little victories and the little shifts is difficult. I feel like there should be more pizzazz, more “wow,” more so-much-other-stuff, and realizing that that isn’t real life is somewhat “bleh.”

However, it’s been quite the wild ride the last two or so years. Being involved with health-related programs as an adviser has helped me think more deeply about my own interests in health and wellness. I want my trajectory to have something to do with that, although there are several different pathways I could pursue. That’s hopeful. I have to remind myself that a career is something to think about longitudinally, and these ideas take time to develop. I don’t have an end point; you won’t find me stating flat-out, “I want to be Dean of Student Life/President of a college.” That’s not how I roll; it never has been. I’m still learning to negotiate uncertainty and embrace it. Part of me wants to know where I’m going, but the other part of me just wants to wander and love all that comes with that.

I’m still playing with the idea of getting my doctorate. It could be that I set my target entry date as soon as Autumn 2016; it could be that I change my mind and delay for any number of reasons. Right now, my short list includes universities far, far away, as well as the University of Washington. I feel good when I think about the programs (programmes) I’m eying. Now to marinate on some research questions. Before I make any decisions, a few other things need to become more clear. Again, I’m anxious. What’s next? Oh, calm down, self; you’ll get there soon enough.

I’m still doing that thing with the sweating and the barbells and the fitness. I like it a lot. I’ve now progressed into “Intermediate” territory, where I’m seeing slower progress in my numbers, but I’ve also started to incorporate more advanced skills. Ring dips and pistols and full range-of-motion GHD sit-ups are all in my arsenal now; even double-unders are starting to come along with the switch to a new jump rope. Now I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I’ve gotten into better shape, that’s for sure, so do I aim for recreational competitions? (Yes; actually, that’s what I’m looking towards now.) Setting this goal of competing regularly in local competitions means I’m intentionally working on weaknesses. This means putting in extra work in the gym, incorporating some extra drills and skills, although fitting it all in with a full-time work schedule can be tough. Making the time, though, is worth it.

I’m also starting to explore my interest in coaching, which is no surprise given my inclination towards the helping professions. I’ve been demoing skills for the new members, while also watching and learning how our trainers work with different clients. I hope to participate in a Level One certificate class within the next year in order to bolster my skill set. I’ve enjoyed introducing people to CrossFit, and it’s kind of a nice full-circle to be someone who new people can approach to ask a question. This is really a role in which I fully play out my co-learner approach, reminding them I am by no means an expert, but that I’m someone who has been enthusiastic about my own learning and applies that to their learning, too. I’ve been told I move well, which is absolutely the result of my mediocrity coming into CrossFit and the need to establish strong basics. I hope to carry that forward because–let’s be honest–I’m having a ton of fun so far. I also have to say that my involvement in CrossFit has bled over into my professional interests, and it is shaping how I approach future work and trajectory. Again, I’m a bit antsy about how everything will play out in the long-run, but I’m enjoying the ride thus far.

Have I been absolutely the worst in terms of providing you all with juicy stories about being single in the city? More or less, yes. You all had high hopes for me!

And behind the scenes, I did fine. I went on a few dates here and there early on in 2014, and nothing really came of it. The thing is, that was totally fine by me. When I moved to Seattle, I spent a lot of time transitioning into my new job, my new house, my new gym, and my city that I had left behind in 2010. That was my focus, and it went quite well. I reconnected with friends, I traveled, I re-established myself. I didn’t have time for dating, which was partially a carry-over from #bestsummerever. I was open to it, though, and by no means had I given up on dating; it just wasn’t the right time.

2014, I met some fellows that piqued my interest. I went on some dates, felt things out, pursued when I thought necessary, and backed off when it didn’t feel right. I did the “grown-up” thing and politely declined some dates and didn’t string people along. And it all felt pretty good. At some point in 2013 and 2014, the nagging feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I still single?” dissipated. I was finally free of this unreasonable anxiety that was doing me no good.

And in that freedom, I was able to clear my head and give myself the ability to take notice of someone worth my time.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front right now, except for… he’s really great.

In Conclusion
Things are going! Things are happening! I have to go tend to dinner! Stay tuned for more things and stuff!

Mulling it Over

Our individuality is all, all, that we have. There are those who barter it for security, those who repress it for what they believe is the betterment of the whole society, but blessed in the twinkle of the morning star is the one who nurtures it and rides it in, in grace and love and wit, from peculiar station to peculiar station along life’s bittersweet route.
Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

I am richly complex, and the story I am writing follows suit. I will not give this up to be the “safe choice.” I will not have my ambitions quashed by society’s institutions and individuals that gave up on themselves and their dreams long ago.

This is the story of how I lived, and my biggest hope is that it is far from ordinary.

Via Ashley

San Francisco, with its stars. For more, visit: http://thierrycohen.com/

(Thanks, Ashley, for reblogging all of those pictures. I had heard about them months ago and nearly forgotten.)



I Want to Share This With You

Sometimes, it’s hard to explain what it’s like to be multiracial, like playing Twister with one hand in “White” and the other in “American” and your foot (I almost said “the other,” as in hand) in “Filipino.” It’s hard to explain what it’s like when you’re Filipino American. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be an invisible majority minority.

And when your people finally have a hero that becomes a household name, it makes you feel special. It makes you feel like you could do anything in the world. And for being a part of such a solid, community-oriented culture, it’s really, really difficult to know how to feel when that hero says something that hurts so many others.

Yet it’s also hard to reconcile your feelings of respect and knowing how hard it is to reconcile your own beliefs with your culture’s strong Catholic tradition. I joke about being “culturally Catholic” sometimes, but it’s a daily negotiation to interpret the Church’s beliefs and proclamations with my own reality.

My heart goes out to my kuyas and ates and titas and titos and so forth and so on who not only struggle with this, but who also struggle with knowing that the culture still has a ways to go in terms of LGBTQ rights and that it affects who they are, their identity, day in and day out.

So please, take a moment, to read this. Because it’s so well-written–and I’m proud to say that, in a way, the author is my family, too.

An Open Letter to Manny Pacquiao From a Gay Filipina American



Sometimes it seems as if life is a “Connect the Dots” picture, with checkpoints and milestones along the way.

Sometimes it also seems as if the fact that pathways connect the docs gets lost in the fold.

It’s that loss that drove me crazy in 2008. It was the expectation that I needed to be at Point A, Point B, and so forth at a certain time. You all know that about me, though.

The thing is–do you know that about yourself? Or are you going to wake up in twenty years and feel utterly stuck?

There is not enough emphasis in learning from the in-between. I cannot help but think about how much change could come about if, for example, more American youth were supported in taking a gap year. I know, I know–it screams of privilege at first glance. (We certainly would not want this to happen.)

But think about it for a second. What if more of us had taken a service year between high school and college? What if we had even taken a year just to work? What if we built in a year to humble ourselves before leaping into college? Do you think it could alleviate that “stumbling out of the gate” feeling that I found and others have experienced?

Even more so, what if more of us had taken the route of one of my incredibly intelligent friends, working for several years while taking some classes here and there to narrow down his field of interest? He has gone from science and medicine to photography and film and creation–and I must say, he is finding some outstanding opportunities, probably due to a combination of growth, experience, and wisdom. And yes, some of the experience is outside of his direct career field, but it is transferable.

What if it was encouraged… no, acceptable… to take one’s time. (Completion Agenda advocates are rolling their eyes, but hang on a second.) I see it in my new job. I see students who slow down so that they can succeed by devoting time to fewer classes, and a lot of them are, by no means, in privileged positions to dawdle. No, instead they are deliberate in their progression, and they are understanding of who they are and their unique circumstances.

If we let people take time to live their lives and explore who they are and find ways to contribute to the global community instead of implying, “When you’re done with high schoolit’s time to decide on a career path (which includes the perfect major, if you go to college)! And make sure to get done in a pre-determined time frame because otherwise… fail!” maybe students will be more deliberate in their choices of school and major and path. Maybe young people will stop berating themselves for not having it “all figured out” by their mid-twenties.

I am not advocating racking up a ton of student debt, though, by switching programs and majors and staying in college for a gajillion years. What I mean is, perhaps if someone is having trouble in finding that set path–maybe they need time away from the stress of searching. I certainly should have taken some time off before locking into a pre-music program; it could have saved me the trouble of panicking when I realized I needed to be doing something with people. Programs that encourage active exploration of interests, too, are so useful.

But what if those were available before college on a wider scale? I don’t have the answers.

What I do believe is as follows. When you are given the chance to forge your own path, you learn much more about yourself than when you follow a trail that was blazed by someone who did not know you or your life’s story. It won’t be easy, by no means, but if you can live life between the dots and take time to be aware of what that looks like, I would imagine your discoveries will be ten times more amazing that if you rush to the next checkpoint.

Move through transitions. Take time to explore. Spend time with yourself. Find the little things–like a tiny yoga studio or a nearby park or whatever moves you–and enjoy them. Discover your talents. Consider your passions.

I can’t imagine that Newly-Graduate Ardith in 2008 would be happy if she had ended up where she thought she “should” have been.

But I do know that About-to-Graduate Ardith in 2012 is ready to try this “real world” thing one more time, with deliberate and intentional baby steps, day by day.



A father who was a guidance counselor, a teacher, a principal, and a worldly traveler.

A mother who was a teacher, a music-lover, and a traveler at heart.

A teacher who believed in my talents, and now recalls how fantastic parent-teacher conferences were with my parents, and praises me for doing something good and meaningful with my talents.

Parents who cared and were involved, but made me fight my own battles, driving my independence.

Professors who saw potential in my writing and hesitation in my verbal expressions.

An advisor who showed me that people that look like me can be educators, too.

A colleague who was only a virtual friend at first who encouraged me to look at OSU’s program.

A best friend who I met at summer orientation before my first year of college, who jokingly suggested I look at OSU because she grew up in Corvallis.

A professor whose wisdom and even-headedness reminded me of the father who believed in me and pushed me to become much more.

Professors with Ph.D.’s who pushed me to think even more critically, to write even more precisely.

Supervisors that were thrilled with my enthusiasm and perspectives that came from outside education.

Friends that dealt with my tears, my frustration, and a nagging undertone that I’m not good enough to do x, y, or z.

All of you got me here. All of you helped me look in the mirror and say, “Maybe I am something more than this. Maybe I can change the world.”

And if someday, I become the advisor that pushed a student to pursue his or her talents to the fullest, then I have done something right.

Dream Sequence

I dreamt of airplanes over O’Hare. They flew in flocks, like birds crossing the Oregon sky. They alighted upon green hillsides, the airspace too crowded for conventional landings. Each plane was gentle, careful as a butterfly on a spring petal, and the late afternoon sun glinted off their aluminum bodies.

I dreamt of bridges and tornadoes. I ran as fast as I could with no direction, the storm moving closer and closer. I looked back over my shoulder– over and over. The sky turned bluish-gray, never that eerie green seen in Tornado Alley; it eventually parted as a twister reached me. Clouds’ rotation slowed and slowed, as gold and sun triumphed over gray. Instead of dissipating, the clouds transformed into an angel, flowing robes hanging from her body– perhaps she was a goddess– and she spoke to me in the middle of a flowering field. What she said, I do not recall. I felt peaceful when I knew I should have lost my life.

I dreamt of you, coming and going just like the women of whom Prufrock sings. I snarled at you, a fox snapping at her cage, reeling against your presence. I blamed you for my state, and you stared silently, your vacant gaze indicating you still knew nothing of empathy. I remember raising my voice but never shedding one tear. Still, you feigned worry, then continued out the door to a job you would always hate. The kitchen lights– one burnt light bulb, the other flickering– barely illuminated the wall clock.

I did not dream of resolve in the chaos. Instead, I awoke with a sense of dedication. Lost loves, I will forget you all; bit by bit, only the highs and lows will remain until possibility finds its way to me.

Of whom will I dream? Who will inspire me to live life in an unaccustomed fashion? Has he frequented my most unconscious dreamscapes under moonlight’s cautious gaze? Or like the angel from the storm– will he only emerge when all is lost?

*It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any original non-bloggy/non-academic writing. This is just a short piece which  was inspired by a series of dreams I had several weeks ago.


Dec. 2nd

Prompt: Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

I procrastinate with mindless humor to put off doing work of substance outside of my academic work. I scour YouTube and The Hype Machine, all while Facebook is open in the background. I spend a lot of time texting, as well, carrying on conversations over extended periods of time that often are not that imperative. In the last week, though, I have been doing a lot of brooding and feeling sorry for myself. I have a lot of undirected anger, too, and I’m trying to figure out the answers; both of those elements could be remedied, up to a point, with more writing. I’m sure of that. But unfortunately, it is a low priority right now. Things I should do more of include dancing, working out, and writing– why can’t I do that right now?

I suppose making a commitment to write every day in this blog and try at least writing something in my poetic/writing journal every night would be a good way to get back into the swing of things. I should also be reading more. After all, one cannot become a great writer without studying great writers.

What is Beautiful?


It’s the jackpot of adjectives. It’s the one word that makes my heart swell with joy when a boy I adore says, “You’re beautiful.”

Not stunning. Not even gorgeous. Definitely not cute or pretty.

Just… beautiful.

But why is that? What is it about one word that evokes feelings of worthiness and importance and validation?

I look at a sunset. I say, “That’s beautiful.” I read a poem I like. I say, “That’s beautiful.” I see a photo that captures emotion and tension and light and peace, and I say, “That’s beautiful.”

When someone calls me beautiful, I fully expect them to mean I evoke a full range of emotion in them: aesthetically pleasing, but offering love, heartache, and possibility somewhere in this soul of mine.

There has only been one whom I’ve cared about that’s looked at me and said, “You’re beautiful.”

It’s meant everything to me.