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VOF Week 2: (On the road where I am going)


"If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there, the Cheshire Cat tells Alice when she asks for directions in Wonderland. But what if Alice had known exactly where she wanted to end up, and just didn’t know which road would get her there?"

This passage opened an article in today's Stanford's Social Innovation review. The article was a book review The Blue Sweater written by Acumen Fund founder and CEO Jacqueline Novogratz. (I will leave my critique of social enterprise, the idea that capitalism or the power of markets will save the world, for another day. On this issue let me just say, how can it possibly make sense that the sickness can also be the cure??)

Maybe it is one of those serendipitous confluence of where I am at this moment -- 2:00AM, in a hotel room, working on my presentation for the National Association for Ethnic Studies conference tomorrow, and of course distracting myself from the pressing task at hand by [compulsively] checking email -- but that passage really struck me and feels oddly appropriate for this VOF Week 2 entry on "my personal story" that led me to participate in VOF. (To the extent that anyone can tell their Personal Story in 500 words or less!)

Sometimes I wish I didn't know where I'm going, because it wouldn't matter if I was getting there, because there would be no "there" to get to. Any road will do. But I DO know where I want to go, and I have a vague idea of the road to get there, which makes it all that much harder to rationalize why I'm not there already, or at least on my way.

All these things I'm involved in right now are attempts to move myself toward that direction -- joining VOF, signing up for this conference, killing myself trying to work full time, go to school full time in a nonprofit administration program, and to crank out a 20-page paper "on the side" about how the eruption of non-normative familial, erotic and gender configurations in Shani Mootoo’s 1996 novel Cereus Blooms at Night, works to dismantle hegemonic constructions of identity upon which the totalizing logics of colonialism, nationalism and diaspora rely. I know that academic jargon means very little to 99% of the population, but I LOooOooovE it. I love theory, I love thinking critically about what it means to do the things we do, I love to read and I love to write. Oh yeah, I also want to change the world. I want a world in which women and girls achieve their full potential, where all girls receive an education (including higher ed), find meaningful, sustainable, fairly compensated work, and live truly self-determined lives regardless of the color of her skin, what she chooses to believe in, where she was born (or her ancestors), or how much money she does not have.

Where I want to go is academia. What I want to be is a tenured professor at a university, to be in a community that deeply engages in these big ideas -- but on my terms, which means in a way that does not segregate theory from lived historical realities, but recognize them as imbricated with one another. I haven't quite found the magic formula that strikes the perfect balance, but I'm trying to get there, which is the ultimate reason for my crazy multi-tasking and many sleep-little nights. So much to accomplish, so little time -- what else is a first-generation college graduate Burmese-Chinese-American immigrant woman in America with an activated consciousness and Ph.D aspirations to do?



katea's picture

glad to hear from you again

Like what elders say, sometimes the journey and not the destination itself is our destiny. You are very critical and very informative, that's why I also like reading your posts! :)

kind regards,

Poverty is man-made that we can undo.

LauraB's picture

Knowing your path


Well, you know your destination and your path is clear. Your goals are set high and your aspirations high. Your magic formula will probably have some very unique qualities which are more and more possible. I think we can make our own way, schedule more than ever. I love to read and studied lit. in college; so I admire your love of deep understanding with academic learning applied to real life issues. I am sure that you will have a vast amount to share with the World Pulse community with a strong, clear voice.

Best to you!


Emily Garcia's picture

You're so there! :-)

Dear Nwan,

Thank you for sharing your personal story with all of us! Your article is extremely well-composed and a treat to read with its stimulating academic jargon and lightly humorous tone.

I love that you love "thinking critically about what it means to do the things we do" because it is such thinking that may help enable one to establish a truly self-determined life--the ability to establish such a life being something you mentioned as one of your hopes for the future for all women.

You are a brilliant and bold example of a woman who HAS determined her own direction in life. I'd like to reiterate what Katea has mentioned above in response to your article in order to stress the importance of what you are already doing with your life (even if you feel you have not yet reached your final destination)--she says, "sometimes the journey and not the destination itself is our destiny." I mention this because you know what you want and are working toward it, so it seems to me that you are already fulfilling your destiny every step of the way!

Thank you for your leadership and your powerful voice.

Kind regards,


Emily Garcia
World Pulse Online Community Lead

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