The Origin of My Discontent…and How I’m Saying Goodbye

I’ve been grappling to name a state that I’ve been in for some time.

I finally realized very recently that the state I’m experiencing is appropriately categorized as discontent.

Most days my discontent is centered in the second of the two Merriam Webster definitions above – i.e., I feel a deep sense of “restless aspiration for improvement.”

This restless yearning that I feel for improvement is not just about personal improvement – although I’ll always strive for improving myself. I need – desperately long for – collective and structural improvement for the communities and spaces in which I am imbedded. And as a person who aspires to reciprocity and generosity, I want that same improvement for communities and spaces at large – whether I reside therein or not.

I think I struggled to name my state of discontent because in some ways it’s been a state of productive discontent, whereas generally discontent is disruptive for me.

I’ve been experiencing productive discontent in that – perhaps largely unknowingly – I’ve spent a lot of time in self-reflection to get out of this state because I’m unsettled, unmoored, maybe even agitated.

There is a lot to be agitated about in the world at large, as well as in my professional world of higher education. There are so many tragedies and deaths of Black women in higher education to name – recently Dr. JoAnne A. Epps, Dr. Orinthia T. Montague, Dr. Claudine Gay, Dr. Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey, and many more deserving of being named and remembered (For recent commentaries see – Asare, Branch, George; Mitchell, Njoku and Marshall, et al.). And yet, agitation or discontent without appropriate understanding of its origin or cause, as well as its productive purpose or means of dissipation, is problematic for me.

So how am I coming to understand the origin of my discontent and how am/will I dissipate it? Through deep and intentional self-reflection and intentional action.

Self-reflection is often a productive state for me because I grapple with needing to understand, name, and settle in on my feelings, my motivations, my actions. Frequently, I process and understand myself and the world through writing. So, I’ve written profusely in this period – perhaps hoping to write myself out of discontentment. Again, I am centering getting out of the state of discontent understood as “restless aspiration for improvement” and moving away from aspiration and towards a means of intentionally and actively calling into being and contributing to the desired improvement. 

While I haven’t fully achieved that, I have written myself into the knowledge and naming of my state and have also written myself into naming and laying out a path towards reclamation of a state NOT centered in discontent.

I’ve been laser-focused during this period of self-reflection because I’m a steady person. One of the people who knows me best describes me as “solid, settled, spirited.” Sometimes the spirited portion seems at odds with the solid and settled to others – but not at all to me.

So, I’m deeply reorienting myself, my direction, and path to reestablish my steady state of solid, settled, and spirited. This necessarily means unseating myself from some spaces and places, as well as leaving some paths to follow the one that returns me to my settled self. 

The current reseating and redirecting of paths are leading me where I need to be even as my shifts and moves will perhaps have less than desired reverberations on those with whom I was seated and with whom I was traversing a common path. 

Yet, as always, I’ve given myself the freedom to treasure and say farewell to the time and space that led to growth, even as discontent is signaling that “a change is coming.”

I am genuinely excited about the present and coming change…I am authentically motivated to reestablish my preferred state of “solid, settled, spirited.”

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, you can find me on Twitter at @BerondaM.

2023 is upon me…I’m ready

2023 seemed to come quickly.

Although every year has the very same 365 days – or 366 days when we “leap. It sure seems that some years pass more quickly than others – especially as I mature.

I understand why 2022 in particular seem to pass in a blur – I had a lot going on!

I moved my professional life from one Midwestern location to another – although the move of my personal and social lives have not fully followed (a story for another day).

This move was one that entailed packing up my liberal-arts infused science career at a research institution that resulted in my producing work spanning from lessons on the biochemistry of plants to lessons from plants (#LessonsFromPlants) on how to thrive as humans, individually and in community.

This is a move that I described as moving from ethos alone to ethos and place.

Cover of the book Lessons from Plants (2021, Harvard University Press) by Beronda L. Montgomery

I’m still processing and writing through my reflections of my first 6 months in this new professional phase. I’m sure I’ll share some here, in published essays, and these reflections may even influence some portions of my next long-form project-in-progress (more on the latter soon!).

The greatest victory is that I’ve re-established my writing practice that experienced some significant disruptions in the first couple of months after my move in late June 2022. This re-establishment involves a new BELOVED plant-laden writing studio, and as of last week’s end-of-year writing retreat, a writing plan and schedule for 2023. As always my writing retreat involved reflecting on my writing progress (and challenges) for last year. I wrote both before, during, and after the move even if the pace was slower and sporadic.

I’m excited about the writing journey ahead for me in 2023. I’ve got solo and joint writing retreats on the calendar – with room for more!

2023 is here…and I’m ready for it!

I generally end each post with “As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, you can find me on Twitter at @BerondaM“. While this is currently true, it could change given *waves hand all around*, but you can always find me by adding yourself to my list here on this site:

I hope each of you is ready for all that 2023 has in store for you.

Unpacking…thoughts more so than boxes

I’m about 3 weeks into my professional transition from more than two decades researching, teaching, and leading at research-intensive institutions to a new post at a small liberal arts college.

I must say that I’ve been diligently unpacking, but I’d be less than honest if I said that the diligence was focused on unpacking boxes. I’m focused on unpacking my transition and reflecting on new opportunities.

As a part of this unpacking focus, I’ve been finding and getting accustomed to new rivers and lakes so that I can stick to the rivers and the lakes that I’m used to…if you know you know…for periods of reflection and writing.

Left: A picture with grass, trees, sky, and a lake ; Right: A picture containing sky, grass, and an arched bridge over a river.

I’m enjoying all I’m learning about a new community and institution, as well as about new colleagues and neighbors.

I’m also thrilled to have selectively spent time unpacking and setting up my new writing studio. While the other unpacking can wait, I’m re-establishing my writing practice after moving-related (and anticipated and planned for) gaps in my regular writing process.

I’m finding new “pre-writing” contemplation walking trails and paths.

I’m forgoing new place-based writing rituals and routines

I’m settling in at work, home, and play…and focused on possibilities.

Even as I walk by unpacked and/or tucked away boxes, I’m thrilled to be unpacking new thoughts and plans for opportunities in writing, leading, contributing in new spaces and places.

As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, you can find me on Twitter at @BerondaM…even when I should be unpacking!!