© 2017 by Cierra Kaler-Jones

August 14, 2017

Dear Self,

This letter is for you(yes, you).

There will be days when you’re not quite sure who you are - the days where your heart will beat a little faster than normal, your temples will pulse, and you’ll be spinning into a downward abyss trying to find something you can grab a hold of that feels like safety.

There will be days where you wake up in a tattered mess of your curls and pull the blanket tightly over your head because you don’t feel like greeting the sunlight. There will be days where you skip through the streets singing at the top of your lungs, letting the air fill you with its lively breath, reminding you that you are alive.

All of those days will come, but surely they will pass and you have to remember to take in both the highs and lows to experience life at its fullest.

Don’t ever let anyone or anything make you forget your core. Don’t let them make you forget that you are the girl who trips over air at least twice a day and the girl who can’t go a meal without a few crumbs...

July 8, 2017

A lot has changed within the span of a month’s time. I graduated with my master’s degree. I moved into a new apartment; my first solo apartment. I let go of toxic relationships and built stronger bonds with positive ones. I went home and reveled in a few weeks of no commitments or responsibilities. I took the time to actually celebrate my accomplishments without diving head first into a new task. I reflected on the woman I’ve become, laughed more than I have in years, and felt the weight of expectation float from atop my shoulders.

As I held up a decorative frame to place somewhere, anywhere on the plain walls of my new apartment, my mom firmly told me, “Ci, you have to learn how to let things go.” Her reasoning was that it didn’t match the decor, but the words seeped into my soul as something much greater than a simple item that no longer had a place in my living space.

I don’t know how to let things go. Whether it be people, ideas, fantasies, dreams, or actual, tangible items, I find m...

May 12, 2017

If you were to ask five-year-old Cierra what she wanted to be when she grew up, she would’ve slew out an ambitious list of ‘ballerina princess, teacher, president,’ probably in that order. Now if you were to ask me that same question, I would confidently reply with, “I don’t know.” In different conversations in varying contexts, I have made a habit of tailoring my answer to this common question to fit into perfectly constructed job titles including executive director of a non-profit or head of a government agency or professor. Even though it may seem as though my future is planned, I still feel a sense of being lost. Throughout the years I have chased dreams dependent on my current situation and the topics that found their way into my heart, but in that, I’ve learned that all of my experiences have led me to the moment I am in today - that of pursuing the Ph.D.

When we hear the word, “doctor,” what do we envision? Do we see a white coat and many years of laborious schoolwork or maybe a...

April 16, 2017

In the midst of what has been a turbulent first few months of a new presidential administration, it has been reported that the administration has a proposal to cut arts and humanities funding, while ceasing the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Although many noteworthy figures in arts, media, and education have spoken against cutting arts funding from the federal budget, it has unfortunately been a common practice in government to slash arts funding first in times of financial strife.

In a world that emphasizes standardization and measurement to identify student success, art is immeasurable; therefore, untrustworthy as a source of assessment. Art is seen as not being rooted in fact, but rather draws on the emotion and expression of the artist. Our society becomes uncomfortable when we cannot quantify something or put it on a scale, leaving little to no room for creativity in classroom spaces or on the world stage. 

Art is often painted as...

November 11, 2016

The past few days have been incredibly trying. I am exhausted, angry, frustrated, disappointed. As my alarm pings powerfully at 7:00am, I slam the snooze button, as it’s a reminder of another day I have to get up and face the disappointment that I feel in my own country. This is not to be political. At my core, I believe in the tenants of our nation, including the importance and value of acknowledging the different ideologies that shape our worldviews. As an educator and researcher, I encourage students to willingly engage in uncomfortable conversations as a form of growth and expansion of their minds and lived realities.

No matter your political views, no matter whether or not your candidate won, you still need to wake up and recognize that the state of our nation is one that is not equal and the current state has only put a spotlight on issues we’ve been facing. When I say I am disappointed, it is for very real and very personal reasons. I write this to make sense of and give voi...

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