It's Not The Load That Breaks You Down; It's The Way You Carry It

October 31, 2012
By

By Kamilah Aisha Moon

Five strong, consistent years as an adjunct professor. So what? So what you spend extra, unpaid hours assisting students who arrive needing far more than a semester in your class could ever provide. So what you need surgery to literally keep from bleeding to death from a condition that was exacerbated by all of the hustling you have to do just to stay afloat.

It gets tough. The greatest and most diligent of black women warriors we revere also got tired, struggled with hopelessness and the urge to surrender despite keen awareness about the necessity for self-preservation. Too busy fighting the good fight, it is possible and likely that vacations weren’t taken, key appointments were deferred and warning signs may have been missed, allowing cancers and other ailments to claim some of them at the height of their powers.

“I need you to thrive. Your work is too important.”

This simple, profound sentence in an email from a dear friend echoes in my head. I would say she has no idea how much I needed to read that, but she does. One of the reasons we are close is because of the ways we see and affirm each other constantly while telling each other the truth, lovingly. In a highly-competitive environment, it is a worthwhile commitment to nurture each other—to never forget that we weren’t initially welcomed, nor meant to thrive—especially when health-related issues arise.

Approximately five years ago, I developed fibroids—one of the most pervasive, rotten fruits of sacrifice that is rarely discussed but widely suffered. They gradually began to take over my body and well-being. For the last two years before surgery, severe anemia blanched my skin and stole oxygen from my organs, making breathing and everyday functioning very difficult. At its worst, I would have excruciating chest pain, become dizzy and blackout—a terrifying prospect navigating the city, especially the subway. Monthly, my home resembled a vicious crime scene. These fibroids were the culmination of “benign” neglect (until they began to wreak havoc), ballooning stress and pressures at work and dealing with the aftermath of a few regrettable personal decisions.

If one is brave enough to prioritize wellness after stepping over and around the internal landmines that often complicate that journey (i.e. denial, fear, esteem issues), the struggle for adequate care is its own Kilimanjaro. What should have been perhaps a six-month process at the most to diagnose and remove these vampires of the womb, ended up taking years—harrowing years that took a hefty toll in every realm of my life. Several doctors outright dismissed or minimized my symptoms, blamed my weight without ordering standard tests and took a “here’s some birth control and let’s monitor this” approach, despite every indication of an acute situation that was worsening with each cycle.

I found myself reasserting my humanity over and over again. So many times I’ve spoken in my best diction and name-dropped where I went to graduate school in clinics and hospitals; made sure to mention my parents’ concerns as they waited to hear the news in TN, letting them know I am a daughter, a sister—a patient worth taking seriously. Desperate after my second hospitalization for dangerously low hemoglobin, I took a gruesome picture of my scarlet, beet and plum-sized evidence-filled shower with my cellphone camera that finally shocked the ER internist into calling a specialist and advocating on my behalf.

Many of us believe we are strong enough to tolerate illness and stress and keep going. Who will do what needs to be done otherwise? Who will teach our children and young adults?  Who will take care of our elders?  Who will lead the church, give the keynote address, and govern the city? The doctors who refused to be proactive in my care plan apparently believed that I could keep going, regardless. And certain loved ones who blamed me, resented my worsening health and ultimately abandoned me, also agreed that I should keep going somehow. I started to feel like it was my fault and maybe I didn’t deserve help in resolving the problem. Beyond frustrated, I half-joked to a friend, “does my womb have to fall out first to get surgery?!” Outrageously, that was almost the case. After the third postponement of the myomectomy the doctors finally determined I needed, I began to hemorrhage badly during a professional conference. It led to a six-day hospitalization with as many blood transfusions to get me stabilized.  I was finally rushed into surgery.

Despite the support of my department, once the HR office of my college became aware of the situation, I was essentially fired and later rehired. This meant a sharp decrease in pay for the remainder of the semester, and cancellation of the puny health benefits I had, just as I began follow-up care. Prior to this medical emergency, I hadn’t been paid for all of my classes due to a paperwork error.  Focusing on recuperation was quite a challenge.  To say I was in dire straits is a vast understatement.

The microaggressions and invalidations inherent in low-status academic positions are notorious and well-documented. Not unlike the reaction to poverty in big cities, there is a mass desensitization that happens. To quote Run DMC, “it’s like that, and that’s the way it is.” As a result, most walk by and don’t even notice people sleeping on sidewalks anymore; they step around streams of piss without missing a beat. Many of us shake our heads and don’t say anything when we see each other in peril in these settings because fury, pity and sympathy are hard to sustain.  And, we choose silence as a tool of self-preservation, not wanting to end up in the same predicament (although Lorde pointed out it won’t protect us).

Great strides have been made, elevating the numbers of black women across every rank and position, which has been wonderful to witness. Ironically, the other side of increased numbers is increased apathy. It seems that some of us have stopped seeing each other and stopped seeing the need for solidarity now that it’s not an extreme novelty to encounter another black female academic in hallowed corridors. To quote Elizabeth Alexander, “many things are true at once.”  Some learn the ropes too well, and the critic never sleeps. Deconstruction is for theories, ideas, systems…not people. Why not show more compassion for colleagues traveling this peculiar journey, rather than contempt?

The sentiment is often you should know better, thus do and be better. No excuses. Crushed in the grip of a long-suffering martyr trope that won’t die, it is more than a notion for many of us to fully live. Like a bad relationship with a narcissist, shady institutional policies convey thanks for your dedication—but to hell with your concerns, support for your goals/advancement and desires, the most basic of your needs. This is the humiliating reality of the indentured servitude of the adjunct faculty experience, requiring so much for so little in return.

I can only imagine from the stories I’ve been told about what happens once one reaches the upper echelons of academia—the politics one must navigate and the pressures endured, especially as a black woman garnering respect while maintaining a strong sense of self in what is often a Darwinian culture. As I gain credentials and publications that allow me to move further into this world, I am so grateful to have sister-allies already there who readily help me finesse and brace for the new devils on each new level, so to speak.  It can’t be said enough that we are our own wealth, first and foremost.  By virtue of our own eyes and breath, we are seen and heard.  We need each other more than ever as academia and the rest of the planet slowly trudges toward progress.

Our individual and collective work is too important.  We must ensure that we thrive as models of wellness, not wither away as cautionary tales. We must honor our foremothers by actualizing and building upon the best of their mighty, courageous offerings, while heeding their missteps and warnings.  Since Hurston’s mule metaphor continues to haunt us, let us be stubborn and tenacious about our care— insisting on the best treatment in every realm of our lives.

I admit to being so overcome with anger and righteous indignation at appalling conditions and injustices that I made mistakes analogous to those who riot in their own neighborhoods; adopting detrimental coping mechanisms like not eating well, exercising regularly or getting enough rest, and turning to vices that hurt this precious body sorely needed to think, teach, act, write and love at full capacity.  Since the load isn’t lessening, we must remember as Lena Horne so eloquently stated, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Many black women intellectuals have carried their loads with much grace and continue to do so. And each day is a chance to forgive self and others, to be accountable and begin anew.

___________________________________________

Kamilah Aisha Moon is the author of She Has A Name (Four Way Books, 2013). A recipient of fellowships to the Prague Summer Writing Institute, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA, the Vermont Studio Center and Cave Canem, her work has been featured in several journals and anthologies, including Harvard Review, jubilat, Sou’wester, Oxford American, Lumina and Villanelles. She has taught English and Creative Writing at Medgar Evers College, Drew University and Adelphi University. She has also led workshops for various arts-in-education organizations in diverse settings from schools to prisons. Moon received her MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. http://www.kamilahaishamoon.org

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80 Responses to It's Not The Load That Breaks You Down; It's The Way You Carry It

  1. Diasporic life on October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I, like I am sure so many others, really needed to hear this today. I wish you the best.

  2. Diasporic life on October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I, like I am sure so many others, really needed to hear this today. I wish you the best.

  3. Diasporic life on October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I, like I am sure so many others, really needed to hear this today. I wish you the best.

  4. Diasporic life on October 31, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this. I, like I am sure so many others, really needed to hear this today. I wish you the best.

  5. Alexis Pauline Gumbs on October 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I love you. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for all of your chosen words. Thank you for loving yourself and for loving us enough to speak the truth.

  6. Alexis Pauline Gumbs on October 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I love you. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for all of your chosen words. Thank you for loving yourself and for loving us enough to speak the truth.

  7. Alexis Pauline Gumbs on October 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I love you. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for all of your chosen words. Thank you for loving yourself and for loving us enough to speak the truth.

  8. Alexis Pauline Gumbs on October 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    I love you. Thank you for telling your story. Thank you for all of your chosen words. Thank you for loving yourself and for loving us enough to speak the truth.

  9. Lisa McGee on October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Such an eloquently stated disclosure of personal trial and triumph. I am so proud of you Aisha Moon! Your words really touched my soul as I struggle with the proverbial “load” of this life on this journey. I feel a sense of renewed determination and intention through the sharing of a leg of your journey. I had no idea of the “load” you were carrying, but I sincerely applaud the way you carried it. Hugs and Love, Aunt Lisa

  10. Lisa McGee on October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Such an eloquently stated disclosure of personal trial and triumph. I am so proud of you Aisha Moon! Your words really touched my soul as I struggle with the proverbial “load” of this life on this journey. I feel a sense of renewed determination and intention through the sharing of a leg of your journey. I had no idea of the “load” you were carrying, but I sincerely applaud the way you carried it. Hugs and Love, Aunt Lisa

  11. Lisa McGee on October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Such an eloquently stated disclosure of personal trial and triumph. I am so proud of you Aisha Moon! Your words really touched my soul as I struggle with the proverbial “load” of this life on this journey. I feel a sense of renewed determination and intention through the sharing of a leg of your journey. I had no idea of the “load” you were carrying, but I sincerely applaud the way you carried it. Hugs and Love, Aunt Lisa

  12. Lisa McGee on October 31, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Such an eloquently stated disclosure of personal trial and triumph. I am so proud of you Aisha Moon! Your words really touched my soul as I struggle with the proverbial “load” of this life on this journey. I feel a sense of renewed determination and intention through the sharing of a leg of your journey. I had no idea of the “load” you were carrying, but I sincerely applaud the way you carried it. Hugs and Love, Aunt Lisa

  13. Bushra on October 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Always amazing to read your words. . much love always, Bushra

  14. Bushra on October 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Always amazing to read your words. . much love always, Bushra

  15. Bushra on October 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Always amazing to read your words. . much love always, Bushra

  16. Bushra on October 31, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Always amazing to read your words. . much love always, Bushra

  17. ifeona Fulani on November 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it is read widely – it will inspire many to shift that load. Sending you peace and love.

  18. ifeona Fulani on November 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it is read widely – it will inspire many to shift that load. Sending you peace and love.

  19. ifeona Fulani on November 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it is read widely – it will inspire many to shift that load. Sending you peace and love.

  20. ifeona Fulani on November 1, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Thank you for sharing your story. I hope it is read widely – it will inspire many to shift that load. Sending you peace and love.

  21. Recovering Adjunct on November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    1. Thank you.

    2. When I tell people I don’t understand health insurance because I never had it, they laugh. I feel you on making people believe you’re worth care. I started taking better care of myself because I literally couldn’t afford to be sick.

    3. An elder told me in my first year of teaching full time to make sure to create “mental health” days on my syllabus.

    I’m no longer on an adjunct contract, but what I have now is as unstable, stressful, and important as the former. I now have “days” that I must request to be away from the writing center.

    I used one of those “days” last week. My supervisor asked why, before he signed off on it. Yes, I know, wrong on many levels. But I gave him my answer: because I needed to be away from Here.

    4. We have to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of those entrusted to our care. Lately, it had becoming increasingly more difficult.

    I run in the morning before work, but my supervisor doesn’t understand that I need time at least before or after to devote to my well-being: mental and otherwise. So he extended my hours. And I set my alarm earlier and remembered the advice of my elder.

    5. Thank you.

  22. Recovering Adjunct on November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    1. Thank you.

    2. When I tell people I don’t understand health insurance because I never had it, they laugh. I feel you on making people believe you’re worth care. I started taking better care of myself because I literally couldn’t afford to be sick.

    3. An elder told me in my first year of teaching full time to make sure to create “mental health” days on my syllabus.

    I’m no longer on an adjunct contract, but what I have now is as unstable, stressful, and important as the former. I now have “days” that I must request to be away from the writing center.

    I used one of those “days” last week. My supervisor asked why, before he signed off on it. Yes, I know, wrong on many levels. But I gave him my answer: because I needed to be away from Here.

    4. We have to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of those entrusted to our care. Lately, it had becoming increasingly more difficult.

    I run in the morning before work, but my supervisor doesn’t understand that I need time at least before or after to devote to my well-being: mental and otherwise. So he extended my hours. And I set my alarm earlier and remembered the advice of my elder.

    5. Thank you.

  23. Recovering Adjunct on November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    1. Thank you.

    2. When I tell people I don’t understand health insurance because I never had it, they laugh. I feel you on making people believe you’re worth care. I started taking better care of myself because I literally couldn’t afford to be sick.

    3. An elder told me in my first year of teaching full time to make sure to create “mental health” days on my syllabus.

    I’m no longer on an adjunct contract, but what I have now is as unstable, stressful, and important as the former. I now have “days” that I must request to be away from the writing center.

    I used one of those “days” last week. My supervisor asked why, before he signed off on it. Yes, I know, wrong on many levels. But I gave him my answer: because I needed to be away from Here.

    4. We have to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of those entrusted to our care. Lately, it had becoming increasingly more difficult.

    I run in the morning before work, but my supervisor doesn’t understand that I need time at least before or after to devote to my well-being: mental and otherwise. So he extended my hours. And I set my alarm earlier and remembered the advice of my elder.

    5. Thank you.

  24. Recovering Adjunct on November 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    1. Thank you.

    2. When I tell people I don’t understand health insurance because I never had it, they laugh. I feel you on making people believe you’re worth care. I started taking better care of myself because I literally couldn’t afford to be sick.

    3. An elder told me in my first year of teaching full time to make sure to create “mental health” days on my syllabus.

    I’m no longer on an adjunct contract, but what I have now is as unstable, stressful, and important as the former. I now have “days” that I must request to be away from the writing center.

    I used one of those “days” last week. My supervisor asked why, before he signed off on it. Yes, I know, wrong on many levels. But I gave him my answer: because I needed to be away from Here.

    4. We have to take care of ourselves if we are to take care of those entrusted to our care. Lately, it had becoming increasingly more difficult.

    I run in the morning before work, but my supervisor doesn’t understand that I need time at least before or after to devote to my well-being: mental and otherwise. So he extended my hours. And I set my alarm earlier and remembered the advice of my elder.

    5. Thank you.

  25. Rochelle Spencer on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you. This was a moving story, told with honesty and openness.

  26. Rochelle Spencer on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you. This was a moving story, told with honesty and openness.

  27. Rochelle Spencer on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you. This was a moving story, told with honesty and openness.

  28. Rochelle Spencer on November 1, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Thank you. This was a moving story, told with honesty and openness.

  29. Ashley Faye de las Flores on November 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    A friend shared your piece with me, not yet knowing how timely was its arrival. I’d already had all kinds of thoughts bouncing around madly, but reading this–especially following a beatdown of individual and collective morale–enabled me to kind of put it together. Without filling in the background, which I’m sure can be extracted, I wrote this to the public, but primarily to my colleagues, who are all female, save one: Coach, but I’m pretty sure he’s a womanist. I apologize for the length:

    I read this when I got home from work yesterday after a short meeting with MEA. Others agree with me that it was among the most demoralizing five minutes ever. I personally came home, started a couple of tasks, didn’t finish them, and then
    sat like a vegetable until bedtime. When a large portion of ones life is spent in an environment that can have that effect, it’s difficult to feel up to doing the things we know we should to feel good and to stay healthy. This author’s experience demonstrates an all-too-common occurrence.

    A rhetorical question for my colleagues who were in the same room as I: Do you feel, like I do, that if it came down to it–if, for example we got surplussed or one-up’d by an arbitrary TEM score–that it wouldn’t matter one bit who we are, how high our level of expertise, how much research we do, how many degrees we have, how long we’ve served, how many extra hours we put in, how much passion we have/had, how much we may have sacrificed financially & personally, or how we may feel we’re heeding our perceived call of purpose? That we would indeed be dismissed without a second thought or much genuine opportunity for recourse? That’s pretty much what I understood to be on the table.

    For that reason alone, we should absolutely not feel guilty or apprehensive when we need to take a day or two here and there to reset and/or to take care of ourselves: whether it be for an appointment, for personal mental health; or just to get some more sleep, for cryin’ out loud. It’s not like we get the Golden Ticket if we don’t use those sick days, and they’re certainly not going to politely hold the door and then follow us out should we find ourselves unceremoniously ejected. I’ll confess, with neither guilt nor sense for further explanation: There was one particular instance in the past where I felt such professional disillusionment that I would have walked had I not been able to create for myself a three-day weekend where I could just have time to think, to get angry, and then let that anger be my motivation to change my perspective. That anger drove my co-authorship of an educational proposal which is still one of the things I’m most proud of. I think I can label that day of playing hooky worthwhile & relevant Professional Development!

    My point is, we are most effective when we feel good, both physically and mentally. When we feel good, we feel motivated, and motivation can lead to all kinds of good things. The best good things can even be scary! ;) We should try our very best to not allow negative factors to cause us mental or physical harm or to change who we are or how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. It’s very easy to isolate, even on a campus full of people. Isolation is many people’s default, and I call myself out on that one as a major offender. It’s important to be mindful of this and to take small steps for our own benefit. It doesn’t have to be a group walk on the track; it could be as simple as a few “hellos” on the way to the bathroom or eating lunch in the lounge a couple times a week. I’m always amazed & dismayed that an entire day can go by where I feel like I don’t speak much to anyone over the age of five. Then I come home and talk to my dogs. I’m pretty sure even introverts like me need more interaction than that.

    On the flip side, we should also be mindful that many of our colleagues may be drifting around in the same kind of boat–whether or not they’re conscious of it, and could benefit from us sticking our heads in their door. For those who have no children or significant other at home & who may also not get out much, that brief moment may be a needed and invaluable human connection; it always feels good to be reminded that you matter. Worst case, you’ll just be a brief annoyance.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot; that’s what I’ve been chewing on.

  30. Ashley Faye de las Flores on November 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    A friend shared your piece with me, not yet knowing how timely was its arrival. I’d already had all kinds of thoughts bouncing around madly, but reading this–especially following a beatdown of individual and collective morale–enabled me to kind of put it together. Without filling in the background, which I’m sure can be extracted, I wrote this to the public, but primarily to my colleagues, who are all female, save one: Coach, but I’m pretty sure he’s a womanist. I apologize for the length:

    I read this when I got home from work yesterday after a short meeting with MEA. Others agree with me that it was among the most demoralizing five minutes ever. I personally came home, started a couple of tasks, didn’t finish them, and then
    sat like a vegetable until bedtime. When a large portion of ones life is spent in an environment that can have that effect, it’s difficult to feel up to doing the things we know we should to feel good and to stay healthy. This author’s experience demonstrates an all-too-common occurrence.

    A rhetorical question for my colleagues who were in the same room as I: Do you feel, like I do, that if it came down to it–if, for example we got surplussed or one-up’d by an arbitrary TEM score–that it wouldn’t matter one bit who we are, how high our level of expertise, how much research we do, how many degrees we have, how long we’ve served, how many extra hours we put in, how much passion we have/had, how much we may have sacrificed financially & personally, or how we may feel we’re heeding our perceived call of purpose? That we would indeed be dismissed without a second thought or much genuine opportunity for recourse? That’s pretty much what I understood to be on the table.

    For that reason alone, we should absolutely not feel guilty or apprehensive when we need to take a day or two here and there to reset and/or to take care of ourselves: whether it be for an appointment, for personal mental health; or just to get some more sleep, for cryin’ out loud. It’s not like we get the Golden Ticket if we don’t use those sick days, and they’re certainly not going to politely hold the door and then follow us out should we find ourselves unceremoniously ejected. I’ll confess, with neither guilt nor sense for further explanation: There was one particular instance in the past where I felt such professional disillusionment that I would have walked had I not been able to create for myself a three-day weekend where I could just have time to think, to get angry, and then let that anger be my motivation to change my perspective. That anger drove my co-authorship of an educational proposal which is still one of the things I’m most proud of. I think I can label that day of playing hooky worthwhile & relevant Professional Development!

    My point is, we are most effective when we feel good, both physically and mentally. When we feel good, we feel motivated, and motivation can lead to all kinds of good things. The best good things can even be scary! ;) We should try our very best to not allow negative factors to cause us mental or physical harm or to change who we are or how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. It’s very easy to isolate, even on a campus full of people. Isolation is many people’s default, and I call myself out on that one as a major offender. It’s important to be mindful of this and to take small steps for our own benefit. It doesn’t have to be a group walk on the track; it could be as simple as a few “hellos” on the way to the bathroom or eating lunch in the lounge a couple times a week. I’m always amazed & dismayed that an entire day can go by where I feel like I don’t speak much to anyone over the age of five. Then I come home and talk to my dogs. I’m pretty sure even introverts like me need more interaction than that.

    On the flip side, we should also be mindful that many of our colleagues may be drifting around in the same kind of boat–whether or not they’re conscious of it, and could benefit from us sticking our heads in their door. For those who have no children or significant other at home & who may also not get out much, that brief moment may be a needed and invaluable human connection; it always feels good to be reminded that you matter. Worst case, you’ll just be a brief annoyance.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot; that’s what I’ve been chewing on.

  31. Ashley Faye de las Flores on November 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    A friend shared your piece with me, not yet knowing how timely was its arrival. I’d already had all kinds of thoughts bouncing around madly, but reading this–especially following a beatdown of individual and collective morale–enabled me to kind of put it together. Without filling in the background, which I’m sure can be extracted, I wrote this to the public, but primarily to my colleagues, who are all female, save one: Coach, but I’m pretty sure he’s a womanist. I apologize for the length:

    I read this when I got home from work yesterday after a short meeting with MEA. Others agree with me that it was among the most demoralizing five minutes ever. I personally came home, started a couple of tasks, didn’t finish them, and then
    sat like a vegetable until bedtime. When a large portion of ones life is spent in an environment that can have that effect, it’s difficult to feel up to doing the things we know we should to feel good and to stay healthy. This author’s experience demonstrates an all-too-common occurrence.

    A rhetorical question for my colleagues who were in the same room as I: Do you feel, like I do, that if it came down to it–if, for example we got surplussed or one-up’d by an arbitrary TEM score–that it wouldn’t matter one bit who we are, how high our level of expertise, how much research we do, how many degrees we have, how long we’ve served, how many extra hours we put in, how much passion we have/had, how much we may have sacrificed financially & personally, or how we may feel we’re heeding our perceived call of purpose? That we would indeed be dismissed without a second thought or much genuine opportunity for recourse? That’s pretty much what I understood to be on the table.

    For that reason alone, we should absolutely not feel guilty or apprehensive when we need to take a day or two here and there to reset and/or to take care of ourselves: whether it be for an appointment, for personal mental health; or just to get some more sleep, for cryin’ out loud. It’s not like we get the Golden Ticket if we don’t use those sick days, and they’re certainly not going to politely hold the door and then follow us out should we find ourselves unceremoniously ejected. I’ll confess, with neither guilt nor sense for further explanation: There was one particular instance in the past where I felt such professional disillusionment that I would have walked had I not been able to create for myself a three-day weekend where I could just have time to think, to get angry, and then let that anger be my motivation to change my perspective. That anger drove my co-authorship of an educational proposal which is still one of the things I’m most proud of. I think I can label that day of playing hooky worthwhile & relevant Professional Development!

    My point is, we are most effective when we feel good, both physically and mentally. When we feel good, we feel motivated, and motivation can lead to all kinds of good things. The best good things can even be scary! ;) We should try our very best to not allow negative factors to cause us mental or physical harm or to change who we are or how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. It’s very easy to isolate, even on a campus full of people. Isolation is many people’s default, and I call myself out on that one as a major offender. It’s important to be mindful of this and to take small steps for our own benefit. It doesn’t have to be a group walk on the track; it could be as simple as a few “hellos” on the way to the bathroom or eating lunch in the lounge a couple times a week. I’m always amazed & dismayed that an entire day can go by where I feel like I don’t speak much to anyone over the age of five. Then I come home and talk to my dogs. I’m pretty sure even introverts like me need more interaction than that.

    On the flip side, we should also be mindful that many of our colleagues may be drifting around in the same kind of boat–whether or not they’re conscious of it, and could benefit from us sticking our heads in their door. For those who have no children or significant other at home & who may also not get out much, that brief moment may be a needed and invaluable human connection; it always feels good to be reminded that you matter. Worst case, you’ll just be a brief annoyance.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot; that’s what I’ve been chewing on.

  32. Ashley Faye de las Flores on November 1, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    A friend shared your piece with me, not yet knowing how timely was its arrival. I’d already had all kinds of thoughts bouncing around madly, but reading this–especially following a beatdown of individual and collective morale–enabled me to kind of put it together. Without filling in the background, which I’m sure can be extracted, I wrote this to the public, but primarily to my colleagues, who are all female, save one: Coach, but I’m pretty sure he’s a womanist. I apologize for the length:

    I read this when I got home from work yesterday after a short meeting with MEA. Others agree with me that it was among the most demoralizing five minutes ever. I personally came home, started a couple of tasks, didn’t finish them, and then
    sat like a vegetable until bedtime. When a large portion of ones life is spent in an environment that can have that effect, it’s difficult to feel up to doing the things we know we should to feel good and to stay healthy. This author’s experience demonstrates an all-too-common occurrence.

    A rhetorical question for my colleagues who were in the same room as I: Do you feel, like I do, that if it came down to it–if, for example we got surplussed or one-up’d by an arbitrary TEM score–that it wouldn’t matter one bit who we are, how high our level of expertise, how much research we do, how many degrees we have, how long we’ve served, how many extra hours we put in, how much passion we have/had, how much we may have sacrificed financially & personally, or how we may feel we’re heeding our perceived call of purpose? That we would indeed be dismissed without a second thought or much genuine opportunity for recourse? That’s pretty much what I understood to be on the table.

    For that reason alone, we should absolutely not feel guilty or apprehensive when we need to take a day or two here and there to reset and/or to take care of ourselves: whether it be for an appointment, for personal mental health; or just to get some more sleep, for cryin’ out loud. It’s not like we get the Golden Ticket if we don’t use those sick days, and they’re certainly not going to politely hold the door and then follow us out should we find ourselves unceremoniously ejected. I’ll confess, with neither guilt nor sense for further explanation: There was one particular instance in the past where I felt such professional disillusionment that I would have walked had I not been able to create for myself a three-day weekend where I could just have time to think, to get angry, and then let that anger be my motivation to change my perspective. That anger drove my co-authorship of an educational proposal which is still one of the things I’m most proud of. I think I can label that day of playing hooky worthwhile & relevant Professional Development!

    My point is, we are most effective when we feel good, both physically and mentally. When we feel good, we feel motivated, and motivation can lead to all kinds of good things. The best good things can even be scary! ;) We should try our very best to not allow negative factors to cause us mental or physical harm or to change who we are or how we feel about ourselves and our place in the world. It’s very easy to isolate, even on a campus full of people. Isolation is many people’s default, and I call myself out on that one as a major offender. It’s important to be mindful of this and to take small steps for our own benefit. It doesn’t have to be a group walk on the track; it could be as simple as a few “hellos” on the way to the bathroom or eating lunch in the lounge a couple times a week. I’m always amazed & dismayed that an entire day can go by where I feel like I don’t speak much to anyone over the age of five. Then I come home and talk to my dogs. I’m pretty sure even introverts like me need more interaction than that.

    On the flip side, we should also be mindful that many of our colleagues may be drifting around in the same kind of boat–whether or not they’re conscious of it, and could benefit from us sticking our heads in their door. For those who have no children or significant other at home & who may also not get out much, that brief moment may be a needed and invaluable human connection; it always feels good to be reminded that you matter. Worst case, you’ll just be a brief annoyance.

    Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot; that’s what I’ve been chewing on.

  33. Stephanie Pruitt on November 2, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  34. Stephanie Pruitt on November 2, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  35. Stephanie Pruitt on November 2, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  36. Stephanie Pruitt on November 2, 2012 at 1:01 am

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  37. Elana Bell on November 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Miss Moon,

    Thank you for shining the light, as you do, on something very dark. Thank you for your courage in sharing your personal story and for making CLEAR the systematic implications. You are a warrior. I am so grateful to know you.

    With love,
    Elana

  38. Elana Bell on November 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Miss Moon,

    Thank you for shining the light, as you do, on something very dark. Thank you for your courage in sharing your personal story and for making CLEAR the systematic implications. You are a warrior. I am so grateful to know you.

    With love,
    Elana

  39. Elana Bell on November 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Miss Moon,

    Thank you for shining the light, as you do, on something very dark. Thank you for your courage in sharing your personal story and for making CLEAR the systematic implications. You are a warrior. I am so grateful to know you.

    With love,
    Elana

  40. Elana Bell on November 2, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Dear Miss Moon,

    Thank you for shining the light, as you do, on something very dark. Thank you for your courage in sharing your personal story and for making CLEAR the systematic implications. You are a warrior. I am so grateful to know you.

    With love,
    Elana

  41. Nina Sharma Jones on November 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your work is, in a word, necessary.

    ~nina

  42. Nina Sharma Jones on November 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your work is, in a word, necessary.

    ~nina

  43. Nina Sharma Jones on November 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your work is, in a word, necessary.

    ~nina

  44. Nina Sharma Jones on November 2, 2012 at 8:34 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Your work is, in a word, necessary.

    ~nina

  45. Kirsten on November 3, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Thank you, Ms. Moon, for your words. Your voice is important. Sending you light –.

  46. Kirsten on November 3, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Thank you, Ms. Moon, for your words. Your voice is important. Sending you light –.

  47. Kirsten on November 3, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Thank you, Ms. Moon, for your words. Your voice is important. Sending you light –.

  48. Kirsten on November 3, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Thank you, Ms. Moon, for your words. Your voice is important. Sending you light –.

  49. Cherryl Floyd-Miller on November 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thank you so much, Kamilah, for letting us into your story. I am not in academia, but I am in a black woman’s body and traveled a similar journey. The company I worked for didn’t provide health insurance, either. I know there are many others who have had this experience, and I hope your beautiful, brave experience will give them some much needed light.

  50. Cherryl Floyd-Miller on November 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thank you so much, Kamilah, for letting us into your story. I am not in academia, but I am in a black woman’s body and traveled a similar journey. The company I worked for didn’t provide health insurance, either. I know there are many others who have had this experience, and I hope your beautiful, brave experience will give them some much needed light.

  51. Cherryl Floyd-Miller on November 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thank you so much, Kamilah, for letting us into your story. I am not in academia, but I am in a black woman’s body and traveled a similar journey. The company I worked for didn’t provide health insurance, either. I know there are many others who have had this experience, and I hope your beautiful, brave experience will give them some much needed light.

  52. Cherryl Floyd-Miller on November 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Thank you so much, Kamilah, for letting us into your story. I am not in academia, but I am in a black woman’s body and traveled a similar journey. The company I worked for didn’t provide health insurance, either. I know there are many others who have had this experience, and I hope your beautiful, brave experience will give them some much needed light.

  53. Denise Davison on November 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

    POWERFUL!

  54. Denise Davison on November 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

    POWERFUL!

  55. Denise Davison on November 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

    POWERFUL!

  56. Denise Davison on November 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

    POWERFUL!

  57. Phantom Weight on November 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lady Lady Lady…please take care of yourself. I know in many of these situations the other half of the equation mostly is absent but I would like to let you know we need you to be here. When we get older we start to have those nagging pains that become real deathly problems. I read this with shock and understanding that the pain we live with can be major and without interruption. Lean and cipher as such as you can to get the relief and understanding you need. I hope that one day many of us in this state will master the minefield of health physical and mental. I hope we will build the support paths that will lead us to happiness and survival. You have spirits and ancestors in your corner reinforcing your chi.
    I will always be your friend and brother. Phantom Weight

  58. Phantom Weight on November 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lady Lady Lady…please take care of yourself. I know in many of these situations the other half of the equation mostly is absent but I would like to let you know we need you to be here. When we get older we start to have those nagging pains that become real deathly problems. I read this with shock and understanding that the pain we live with can be major and without interruption. Lean and cipher as such as you can to get the relief and understanding you need. I hope that one day many of us in this state will master the minefield of health physical and mental. I hope we will build the support paths that will lead us to happiness and survival. You have spirits and ancestors in your corner reinforcing your chi.
    I will always be your friend and brother. Phantom Weight

  59. Phantom Weight on November 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lady Lady Lady…please take care of yourself. I know in many of these situations the other half of the equation mostly is absent but I would like to let you know we need you to be here. When we get older we start to have those nagging pains that become real deathly problems. I read this with shock and understanding that the pain we live with can be major and without interruption. Lean and cipher as such as you can to get the relief and understanding you need. I hope that one day many of us in this state will master the minefield of health physical and mental. I hope we will build the support paths that will lead us to happiness and survival. You have spirits and ancestors in your corner reinforcing your chi.
    I will always be your friend and brother. Phantom Weight

  60. Phantom Weight on November 5, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Lady Lady Lady…please take care of yourself. I know in many of these situations the other half of the equation mostly is absent but I would like to let you know we need you to be here. When we get older we start to have those nagging pains that become real deathly problems. I read this with shock and understanding that the pain we live with can be major and without interruption. Lean and cipher as such as you can to get the relief and understanding you need. I hope that one day many of us in this state will master the minefield of health physical and mental. I hope we will build the support paths that will lead us to happiness and survival. You have spirits and ancestors in your corner reinforcing your chi.
    I will always be your friend and brother. Phantom Weight

  61. Jericho Brown on November 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

    So perfect. So timely.

  62. Jericho Brown on November 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

    So perfect. So timely.

  63. Jericho Brown on November 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

    So perfect. So timely.

  64. Jericho Brown on November 6, 2012 at 12:06 am

    So perfect. So timely.

  65. Donna Morask on November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Powerful, illuminating, and shining the light on the necessity of advocating… for ourselves, for our sisters, and for all women who have to struggle in figuring out how to carry the load every day. Your personal struggle, bared here for all who would read makes a difference, a huge difference. You have given a gift to many. Blessings and Peace to you. Namaste.

  66. Donna Morask on November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Powerful, illuminating, and shining the light on the necessity of advocating… for ourselves, for our sisters, and for all women who have to struggle in figuring out how to carry the load every day. Your personal struggle, bared here for all who would read makes a difference, a huge difference. You have given a gift to many. Blessings and Peace to you. Namaste.

  67. Donna Morask on November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Powerful, illuminating, and shining the light on the necessity of advocating… for ourselves, for our sisters, and for all women who have to struggle in figuring out how to carry the load every day. Your personal struggle, bared here for all who would read makes a difference, a huge difference. You have given a gift to many. Blessings and Peace to you. Namaste.

  68. Donna Morask on November 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Powerful, illuminating, and shining the light on the necessity of advocating… for ourselves, for our sisters, and for all women who have to struggle in figuring out how to carry the load every day. Your personal struggle, bared here for all who would read makes a difference, a huge difference. You have given a gift to many. Blessings and Peace to you. Namaste.

  69. Iyatunde on November 11, 2012 at 12:14 am

    “It can’t be said enough that we are our own wealth, first and foremost. By virtue of our own eyes and breath, we are seen and heard.”
    Ms. Moon, those were your words and I want to thank you for them. As a nonacademic who has witnessed many of my women of color and transgendered academic friends either reach tenure or struggle as adjunct professors. I have considered returning to school to further my education and watch your amazing example but the supremacy is so entrenched until I don’t know if at mid-life I even have it in me. “A wage earner is still a slave, no matter how high the wage.” I believe that creative methods of self-care be employed and that what is required be questioned by a measure of sustainability. Until we stop legitimating and acquiescing to these unhealthy processes they will continue to our burden. To borrow from your “riot” metaphor, why not start with tearing down the walls of unreasonable expectations. As with everything we have gained as workers, women, Black folk and queer we had to ORGANIZE. Healthy, safe “working conditions” are rights that were and are still being fought for in this country by all workers. Your community will support you too. So, take the mental health day and add an extra day for a meeting of like minds because “I need you to thrive. Your work is too important.”

  70. Iyatunde on November 11, 2012 at 12:14 am

    “It can’t be said enough that we are our own wealth, first and foremost. By virtue of our own eyes and breath, we are seen and heard.”
    Ms. Moon, those were your words and I want to thank you for them. As a nonacademic who has witnessed many of my women of color and transgendered academic friends either reach tenure or struggle as adjunct professors. I have considered returning to school to further my education and watch your amazing example but the supremacy is so entrenched until I don’t know if at mid-life I even have it in me. “A wage earner is still a slave, no matter how high the wage.” I believe that creative methods of self-care be employed and that what is required be questioned by a measure of sustainability. Until we stop legitimating and acquiescing to these unhealthy processes they will continue to our burden. To borrow from your “riot” metaphor, why not start with tearing down the walls of unreasonable expectations. As with everything we have gained as workers, women, Black folk and queer we had to ORGANIZE. Healthy, safe “working conditions” are rights that were and are still being fought for in this country by all workers. Your community will support you too. So, take the mental health day and add an extra day for a meeting of like minds because “I need you to thrive. Your work is too important.”

  71. Iyatunde on November 11, 2012 at 12:14 am

    “It can’t be said enough that we are our own wealth, first and foremost. By virtue of our own eyes and breath, we are seen and heard.”
    Ms. Moon, those were your words and I want to thank you for them. As a nonacademic who has witnessed many of my women of color and transgendered academic friends either reach tenure or struggle as adjunct professors. I have considered returning to school to further my education and watch your amazing example but the supremacy is so entrenched until I don’t know if at mid-life I even have it in me. “A wage earner is still a slave, no matter how high the wage.” I believe that creative methods of self-care be employed and that what is required be questioned by a measure of sustainability. Until we stop legitimating and acquiescing to these unhealthy processes they will continue to our burden. To borrow from your “riot” metaphor, why not start with tearing down the walls of unreasonable expectations. As with everything we have gained as workers, women, Black folk and queer we had to ORGANIZE. Healthy, safe “working conditions” are rights that were and are still being fought for in this country by all workers. Your community will support you too. So, take the mental health day and add an extra day for a meeting of like minds because “I need you to thrive. Your work is too important.”

  72. Iyatunde on November 11, 2012 at 12:14 am

    “It can’t be said enough that we are our own wealth, first and foremost. By virtue of our own eyes and breath, we are seen and heard.”
    Ms. Moon, those were your words and I want to thank you for them. As a nonacademic who has witnessed many of my women of color and transgendered academic friends either reach tenure or struggle as adjunct professors. I have considered returning to school to further my education and watch your amazing example but the supremacy is so entrenched until I don’t know if at mid-life I even have it in me. “A wage earner is still a slave, no matter how high the wage.” I believe that creative methods of self-care be employed and that what is required be questioned by a measure of sustainability. Until we stop legitimating and acquiescing to these unhealthy processes they will continue to our burden. To borrow from your “riot” metaphor, why not start with tearing down the walls of unreasonable expectations. As with everything we have gained as workers, women, Black folk and queer we had to ORGANIZE. Healthy, safe “working conditions” are rights that were and are still being fought for in this country by all workers. Your community will support you too. So, take the mental health day and add an extra day for a meeting of like minds because “I need you to thrive. Your work is too important.”

  73. Zisa Aziza on November 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Sistah Moon,

    I cannot fathom the vulnerability and loneliness you must’ve experienced within those trying years. The body is a delicate being, a highly expressive one. Academia, in general, as far as I am concerned, is a terribly toxic environment. Exciting and thrilling due to the intellectual exchanges and potential growth, but so much egoism is at play.

    As for unity and solidarity, these times are odd. Everyone is chasing up the ladder forgetting to pull up their souls. Now that we have a black president and still live in police-state and bomb the world by air, I believe it’s time for us to quit with the superficiality. Times are becoming more burdensome on the soul, wallet, and sanity.

    I’ve chosen to work on being comfortably poor, a meager living. I am a writer who can’t do any more school, and am eager to teach. But the cost of working within the hierarchical structures of educational institutions is too steep a price. Medicaid, creativity, and wisdom will be my guiding forces. But my temple is my only vessel for the journey in this dimension; therefore, my body must be safeguarded by all means necessary.

    Please keep your temple at peace! Please don’t fight any more battles of such nature. Lessons needn’t be learned at that high a price.

    Much Love,
    Zisa Aziza

  74. Zisa Aziza on November 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Sistah Moon,

    I cannot fathom the vulnerability and loneliness you must’ve experienced within those trying years. The body is a delicate being, a highly expressive one. Academia, in general, as far as I am concerned, is a terribly toxic environment. Exciting and thrilling due to the intellectual exchanges and potential growth, but so much egoism is at play.

    As for unity and solidarity, these times are odd. Everyone is chasing up the ladder forgetting to pull up their souls. Now that we have a black president and still live in police-state and bomb the world by air, I believe it’s time for us to quit with the superficiality. Times are becoming more burdensome on the soul, wallet, and sanity.

    I’ve chosen to work on being comfortably poor, a meager living. I am a writer who can’t do any more school, and am eager to teach. But the cost of working within the hierarchical structures of educational institutions is too steep a price. Medicaid, creativity, and wisdom will be my guiding forces. But my temple is my only vessel for the journey in this dimension; therefore, my body must be safeguarded by all means necessary.

    Please keep your temple at peace! Please don’t fight any more battles of such nature. Lessons needn’t be learned at that high a price.

    Much Love,
    Zisa Aziza

  75. Zisa Aziza on November 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Sistah Moon,

    I cannot fathom the vulnerability and loneliness you must’ve experienced within those trying years. The body is a delicate being, a highly expressive one. Academia, in general, as far as I am concerned, is a terribly toxic environment. Exciting and thrilling due to the intellectual exchanges and potential growth, but so much egoism is at play.

    As for unity and solidarity, these times are odd. Everyone is chasing up the ladder forgetting to pull up their souls. Now that we have a black president and still live in police-state and bomb the world by air, I believe it’s time for us to quit with the superficiality. Times are becoming more burdensome on the soul, wallet, and sanity.

    I’ve chosen to work on being comfortably poor, a meager living. I am a writer who can’t do any more school, and am eager to teach. But the cost of working within the hierarchical structures of educational institutions is too steep a price. Medicaid, creativity, and wisdom will be my guiding forces. But my temple is my only vessel for the journey in this dimension; therefore, my body must be safeguarded by all means necessary.

    Please keep your temple at peace! Please don’t fight any more battles of such nature. Lessons needn’t be learned at that high a price.

    Much Love,
    Zisa Aziza

  76. Zisa Aziza on November 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    Sistah Moon,

    I cannot fathom the vulnerability and loneliness you must’ve experienced within those trying years. The body is a delicate being, a highly expressive one. Academia, in general, as far as I am concerned, is a terribly toxic environment. Exciting and thrilling due to the intellectual exchanges and potential growth, but so much egoism is at play.

    As for unity and solidarity, these times are odd. Everyone is chasing up the ladder forgetting to pull up their souls. Now that we have a black president and still live in police-state and bomb the world by air, I believe it’s time for us to quit with the superficiality. Times are becoming more burdensome on the soul, wallet, and sanity.

    I’ve chosen to work on being comfortably poor, a meager living. I am a writer who can’t do any more school, and am eager to teach. But the cost of working within the hierarchical structures of educational institutions is too steep a price. Medicaid, creativity, and wisdom will be my guiding forces. But my temple is my only vessel for the journey in this dimension; therefore, my body must be safeguarded by all means necessary.

    Please keep your temple at peace! Please don’t fight any more battles of such nature. Lessons needn’t be learned at that high a price.

    Much Love,
    Zisa Aziza

  77. JSA Lowe on November 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    This…is a completely horrifying story. I am so, so, so sorry that you had to live through it. I don’t even want to praise your strength and ferocity, because you shouldn’t have had to waste them on such “microaggressions and invalidations.” I’ll simply say that you’re an amazing writer, and I hope you keep taking care of yourself (somehow, despite how difficult it’s been made for you) and I hope you heal. And above all else I hope you get properly remunerated, less exhausting work (I hope this for myself as well, someday). May all beings be cared for.

  78. JSA Lowe on November 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    This…is a completely horrifying story. I am so, so, so sorry that you had to live through it. I don’t even want to praise your strength and ferocity, because you shouldn’t have had to waste them on such “microaggressions and invalidations.” I’ll simply say that you’re an amazing writer, and I hope you keep taking care of yourself (somehow, despite how difficult it’s been made for you) and I hope you heal. And above all else I hope you get properly remunerated, less exhausting work (I hope this for myself as well, someday). May all beings be cared for.

  79. JSA Lowe on November 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    This…is a completely horrifying story. I am so, so, so sorry that you had to live through it. I don’t even want to praise your strength and ferocity, because you shouldn’t have had to waste them on such “microaggressions and invalidations.” I’ll simply say that you’re an amazing writer, and I hope you keep taking care of yourself (somehow, despite how difficult it’s been made for you) and I hope you heal. And above all else I hope you get properly remunerated, less exhausting work (I hope this for myself as well, someday). May all beings be cared for.

  80. JSA Lowe on November 17, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    This…is a completely horrifying story. I am so, so, so sorry that you had to live through it. I don’t even want to praise your strength and ferocity, because you shouldn’t have had to waste them on such “microaggressions and invalidations.” I’ll simply say that you’re an amazing writer, and I hope you keep taking care of yourself (somehow, despite how difficult it’s been made for you) and I hope you heal. And above all else I hope you get properly remunerated, less exhausting work (I hope this for myself as well, someday). May all beings be cared for.

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