77 Barriers to Vulnerability

Rebecca Grant

Spring 2022

Today I rewatched Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s keynote, and I am again left wondering about my positionality and how I can contribute to building/supporting the structures at PSU that I believe in. Her question about what kind of institution I want to be a part of hits home, and is something that I return to again and again. I’m finding it difficult to put into words today (and am feeling weirdly emotional—maybe it’s the end of the semester? the drab(ish) day?), but what I come back to thinking about is that there are times when small gestures of kindness, of generous thinking, would not be onerous—they wouldn’t cost much (if anything), would not take much time, or really too much effort, but this is the path not taken. We can blame it on policy, external pressures, the climate of higher ed, past practice, but what I think it comes down to is a reluctance- to put aside the ego and individualism, abandon the hierarchy, and to allow for vulnerability that returns us to rigidity. I include myself in this as a work-in-progress, and am thankful to be often reminded of my own limitations and opportunities for change, especially in my teaching.

Fitzpatrick also mentioned that we must, “let go of the idea that love of institution is reciprocated.” This is a tough one—if I let go of this fantasy, my perceived idea of being necessary, do I risk losing or gaining something? Does this realization free me to take more risks and to invite more vulnerability? To see more possibility, and to lose some sense of disappointment? Does it sap the passion I have for my work and this place? If I’m being honest, I understand that this is true, but I sometimes (often) forget. To be a part of a community is to be necessary to that community, to be valued within it, to be invested, and to understand how we support and impact each other. Can we ever truly be a compassionate, generous community without this mutual understanding and practice?

Maybe these conversations are a part of how we get there- how we change and build community for each other. I see this happening all around me, and am so grateful to be able to contribute a small part to our collective actions. I agree with Fitzpatrick that the practice of solidarity is one of the essential elements to allowing us to become more generous.

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