Dear Future Me: On Mountains and Molehills.

Good morning, sweetie -

If all goes according to plan, one year from today you'll be making the final edits to your dissertation and planning your defense. I can only imagine how sick of this topic you must be, how ready you must be to do something else, anything else besides write one more f(x)ing word or cross check one more reference.

But today, I'm staring at these beginnings of a plan sketched out on color-coded sticky notes, sketched out with equal parts haste and deliberation, and I'm excited. Like, really excited. Like, flag-down-everyone-who-walks-by-and-tell-them-the-plan excited. One of those people yesterday was a professor in the school whom I admire and whose opinion matters to me. As she walked by this board, she sighed wistfully and said:

"May I give you some advice? Take your time. Take as much time as it takes to make this what it needs to be. Because this will be the last time in your career that you have this much time to plan, to think your research through. Enjoy this time."

I realized later that while she was talking to me, she was also talking to herself in my position all those years ago, cautioning both of us to take advantage of this time in our lives when our goals and to-do lists more closely resembled molehills, not mountains.

I promised her I would.

So, future me, in service of that promise, I want to take some of this precious time to remind you of why you started on this adventure in the first place.

This is what we believe:

Education is liberation.

Every child deserves the opportunity to have a world-class education, regardless of the circumstances of their birth - an education in service of their dreams, not ours.

Education should build bridges, not walls; open doors, not board them up; and cultivate the capacity for wonder, not make you crave stability and certainty.

STEM without arts and humanities is a tin man looking for his heart.

Arts and humanities without STEM is a kite that can only dream of flying.

Every child, every student has the capacity to become the best versions of themselves. Our job, as educators, administrators, analysts, and policy wonks, is to create the environment in which that can happen, and provide the scaffolding with which students can reach out and touch their dreams.

If a college student thinks graduate school is the only option because they feel unemployable after receiving their degree (or have been told as much by others), we have not done our jobs. If a graduate student earns a PhD and spends the next five years in post-doc purgatory, we have not done our jobs.

Privilege is a megaphone with which to amplify the voices of those who don't have one.

Service is the rent we pay for living - so why not a life spent in service of removing barriers, clearing away obstacles, and shining light in the dark places?

There is no such thing as other people's children.

We belong to each other.

Love and kindness are NEVER wasted.

Good luck! Just as I promised my professor that I would enjoy this time while it lasts, I promise you that I will do everything I can to set you up for success, to make today-one-year-from-now a molehill and not a mountain. This is important work.

Remember, this is not the best work you will ever do. This better not be the best work you ever do. This is only the beginning, the thing that gives you the credential to walk into the right rooms and change the conversation.

I'll see you at graduation.