(I’ve been sending periodic emails to current and former students. I think I’ll be sending fewer and fewer, but, just in case, if you want off this list, lmk. Also, if you’re graduating and want to stay on, send me your non-UW email. And, if you’re interested, an archive of the emails can be found here: https://markdangerchen.net/2020/06/03/letters-to-my-students/)
As stated in the disclaimer above, this may be one of my last emails to you all. I started writing these when the pandemic first hit because I was seriously worried that no one was checking in on you and letting you know exactly what was happening. We lived in a time of massive misinformation (and still do) and incompetent leadership. Then, as UW and local authorities became more clear on their pandemic news and guidelines, we started going through extreme turmoil as news hit about George Floyd’s murder, acting as the breaking point and giving rise to an (inter)national movement for black lives. (The Central Park Karen was just icing on the cake.) We also realized that we were in this pandemic life for the long haul, adding stress and negatively affecting our ability to stay social and healthy both physically and mentally. So I kept writing. Then it became pretty damn clear that the previous administration was deliberately encouraging Asian American hatred and violence. It just seemed like I needed to keep writing and reminding you all that moments like these are challenges to be the best humans we can be and that no matter how shitty the world is, love and friendship CAN triumph. But now, with the academic year coming to a close (grats graduates!) and the bright days of Seattle summer are upon us, marking a change in national leadership as well, I feel like I might be able to take a break and just geek out on sci-fi and videogames for a while. (Effing Supreme Court better not eff things up too much!)
A Note on Communicating and Being Human:
Being human sucks sometimes. I say this because sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to miscommunicate, and sometimes it’s alarming how much what you say can be misinterpreted and then taken offensively/defensively. And when this happens, it can be painful since it’s confusing and such a jolt. “Everything was going great; what the hell happened?”
But here’s the thing. I believe you get better by trying, failing, and trying again. That said, sometimes it’s hard when who you’re communicating with has been put on guard and doubts your intent or when you’re the one who feels slighted so you’re not open to anything else they have to say.
But I think it’s important to remember this:
Never ascribe intent when incompetence or obliviousness could explain what happened.
Then follow up with questions. Indeed this is very true of group work and something I tell my students, but it’s also just true of general communication with friends and loved ones. This requires generosity in how you interpret and communicate.
If it seems like things got out of alignment somewhere, whether you think you may have said something wrong or whether you’re the one misinterpreting, the only move is to apologize for the miscommunication and then see if things can be repaired. If so, great! If not, that’s sad but you’ve done the right thing in admitting that there was a breakdown and trying to learn from it. Sometimes, you just have to let go.
Regardless, if you feel like you have no control, remember that you do… with yourself. You will always be in control of yourself and how you interpret and react to things, and mastering that–attempting to stay level-headed and not overreacting or jumping to conclusions–is the key to peace, contentment, and enlightenment.
Anyway, I say all this because I was surprisingly repeatedly reminded this year about these things, and, in thinking why, I thought maybe the extremely stressful year may have made miscommunication events more likely. So maybe it’s happened to you, too. And you don’t know what to do. Well, I encourage you to reach out to your friends and family and just let them know you love them. We need to normalize love because being human doesn’t have to suck as much as it does.
(Potential) Final Thoughts:
I leave you all with these wise words from Bill and Ted: “Be excellent to each other!” But also be excellent to yourself, too. 🙂
And, as always, if you need anything, you can find me in netspace.
FB/IG/LI: markdangerchen, Twitter: @mcdanger, Discord: mcdanger#6611
P.S. I’ll be rescreening the Lord of the Rings and maybe throw in Bill and Ted’s trilogy as well this summer starting in June in case you’re interested in joining the Discord server… 🙂
P.P.S. I’m also still out in space with Elite Dangerous if anyone wants to come to check it out sometime, but I’ve also been thinking of trying some more coop games so lmk.
P.P.P.S. I still can’t get enough of this YT channel! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfx4cqD5n0M
P.P.P.P.S. This Red Table Talk about Asian American and Black tension is very, very good. I cried for the whole thing. https://fb.watch/5Oq0cxKZWR/