© 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...

August 17, 2016

I threw my hat into the ring for candidacy for a full-time position. The stars seemed to be in alignment when this job opportunity was presented to me not once, but twice, even after I shunned the thought of leaving my current position to pursue something new. I had the support from friends, family, and mentors and with my supervisor’s blessing, I walked into the interview room comfortable, prepared, and was so at ease that I left the interview grinning like the Cheshire Cat with my interviewers laughing and embracing me as I left. This was my time! I started perusing places I could live and fantasizing about what my world would be like with a salary and benefits. I felt like I was finally on my way to starting what I believed to be at the time, my life as an adult, and I couldn’t shake the feeling of being on my way. I wasn’t sure where I was on my way to, but I sure as heck felt as if this moment would propel me one thousand steps forward.

As days and hours passed the time I...

August 10, 2016

I was in third grade. 

I had a schoolgirl crush on a little boy in my class and in true elementary school fashion, news spread rather quickly to him. I was at the skating rink with a group of friends because that’s how we celebrated our birthdays then, and his friend skated up to me, looked me in the eye, and offhandedly spoke the words, “Insert name here doesn’t like you because you’re black.”

As he said those words so nonchalantly, the words pierced through my heart like a needle. In my third grade brain, the words rattled around my head as I thought, “I’m black? What does that mean? There’s different skin colors? Why is that bad? What’s wrong with ME!?” As a young girl born to an African-American father and Filipina-Caucasian mother, I was never taught to think twice about the color of someone’s skin.

As soon as I got back from the party, I ran upstairs to my mom,who I distinctly remember was doing laundry, cried in her arms and told her what happened. She, of course, knew that th...

May 30, 2016

23. The Jordan Year. Sigh. It’s quite an odd age, stuck right in between the rites of passage that come along with turning 21 and the stress-ridden ‘what am I doing with my life’ that comes with being a quarter of a century. I may not be ripe with old age and wisdom, but I have learned a thing or two from surviving high school, college, moving away from home, and completing half of a graduate degree. I think that accounts for the knowledge and familiarity that accompanies growing older and more experienced.

I strive to age gracefully, to grow more internally beautiful as the years trudge on, and become more of the woman God created me to be with every step I take.

1. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Nothing in life will ever be handed to you. You’re not going to wake up with success in your lap. A lot of the triumphs I’ve had in life are because I mustered up the courage to ask for something more, even if it wasn’t readily in front of me.

2. Treat yourself to expe...

May 22, 2016

My Dearest Hometown,

It’s not you, it’s me. You see, I’ve always been a little restless. My head was in the clouds dreaming up my next adventure or conjuring up a story that allowed me to travel past your constricted dimensions. My head was always delved into a book that enabled me to explore lands beyond the coordinates you defined for me. For most you would have been sufficient, but for me, I did not see how it would work out long term. Maybe it was my curiosity that led me to leave, but I soon started to feel like you were a sweater that was a little too tight. My physicality outgrew you, my mind too fixated on a map of endless possibility. Maybe I’m ungrateful. Maybe I’m selfish. Maybe I just knew what the future could hold.

You were predictable, safe, warm. I could foresee the way the wind would blow and encompass me in its embrace. I had to move away, first to college and then to grad school, to see if we were meant for one another. I thought a long distance relationship would...

May 14, 2016

I’ll be honest. Post-grad life is scary. Actually, it’s downright terrifying. If you would’ve asked me a year ago where I envisioned myself now, I would probably rattle off a series of exclamation point worthy excitements. Job! Grad school! New city! Adventures! New people! Adulthood! Fun! Freedom!

As I detailed more in WhatI Wish I Knew about Grad School, post-grad life wasn’t actually as glamorous as I originally anticipated. It was about a year ago that I walked across the commencement stage with a glimmer in my eye and a dollar and a dream. Throughout my undergraduate years, I changed in my temperament, my beliefs, my goals,my style, while still keeping the embedded core of what defined my values and characteristics, with a little fine tuning(aka learning that white eyeshadow is NOT attractive). I was exiting a stage that I entered so fragile and frail with a better understanding of how my experiences, my upbringing, and my decisions shaped me into an accomplished woman. I thought,...

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