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  • Angélica De Jesús

A Wavy Decade

Updated: Jan 2, 2020

On New Years Eve (NYE) I do three things: call my abuelas, reflect on the past, and set intentions for the future.

Selfie of the author taken in Shawano, WI during a transformative time at the Indigenous Planning Summer Institute (IPSI). In the background is a white-paneled house. In the foreground is the author, who has long, dark, chest-length hair, lavender eye liner, and beaded earrings gifted by a new friend.

[Image description: Selfie of the author taken on traditional Menominee lands (aka Wisconsin) during the 2019 Indigenous Planning Summer Institute (IPSI). In the background is a white-paneled house. In the foreground is the author, sitting on grass and looking directly into the camera. She wears her long, dark, chest-length hair loose around her shoulders, lavender eye liner, and beaded earrings gifted by fellow attendee.]


This ritual is a practice in listening (visiting with elders), storytelling (reflecting on past), and braiding together a year of lessons with future dreams (setting intentions). It is a way to weave grandmothers' teachings about the nature of waves* into my life.

In the past, this ritual has inspired me to draw a road map connecting lands/people visited during the year. Other times it has lead me to burn what was no longer needed and sing about what's important to keep. At least once this decade, I completed the ritual by whispering future-dreams to my sleepy, nursing child.

This NYE, after calling both abuelas, I reflected on both 2019 and an entire decade of life and was overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for community that has supported me through major change. To say this has been a wavy decade feels like BIG understatement. It also feels impossible to summarize everything - its 10 whole-ass years! Still, I want to write this down. I want to write the story of this life, which is at once my own and also more than mine. So here goes.

Here are 20 things I did before 2020:

  1. Started parenting a delightfully rambunctious, curious, and tender child with my partner during the second year of a master's program.

  2. Found a way to merge STEM and art training through research, data visualization, visual creative works, and [see below]

  3. Completed semester one of a PhD program centered on climate change, environment/health, and cultural + scientific aspects of food sovereignty!

  4. Learned that taking more than 4 years to finish an undergrad program is common for first generation students (and true for first-gen me).

  5. Became a published poet, artist, and writer (in academia & beyond). Collaborated with and shared work alongside nationally renowned artists at art festivals, theaters, and galleries; showcased visual art in anthologies, zines, and tarot cards!

  6. Examined and re-examined many times over my relationship to the complex practice of yoga.

  7. Mourned and celebrated the lives of dozens of friends, elders, and family who passed on.

  8. Connected with Boricua's across the US and the globe over our shared love for la isla, isla people, and a desire for a future where we are free from settler colonialism (& all that comes with establishment of empire).

  9. Visited Puerto Rico more times in a few years than ever possible during childhood.

  10. Failed more times than I can count. (See: breakups, unfinished projects, and so on).

  11. Navigated complex medical systems for years to finally gain clarity & correct diagnoses needed to manage and improve my health. Leveraged what I learned as someone with chronic illness to advocate for my students and support others interacting with a medical system that fucks over so many of us without resources.

  12. Gifted myself rest, because rest is valuable. #HamacaEpistemologies #NapPower

  13. Moved to Michigan. #ThirdCoast

  14. Gained confidence in my life choices and path. Embraced my sexuality and made peace with the journey it took to get here. (More on /that/ later)

  15. Received support from many many Black, Indigenous and other women/ LGBTQIA people of color to speak my mind, take up space, and do the work for my/our dreams. Srsly, I'm here because of support primarily coming from women + LGBTQIA people & other non cis-dudes; I'll always remember that.

  16. Co-facilitated several workshops and education series at conferences, non-profits, and universities including Sexuali(té) at Dia de la Mujer in Lansing, MI.

  17. Deepened connections to chosen and bio family. Special s/o to my amazing siblings who make this life 100000000 times brighter.

  18. Worked several formal and informal paid-jobs from domestic worker to policy-wonk. Reminded myself that my value exists in addition to, not solely on, work.

  19. Reaped the benefits of multiple years of self-work and the healing powers of accountability found in intentional community.

  20. Started & finished this post.


As for intentions: If the last decade was an era of navigating waves, I want this next decade to be an era of building. In order to make this era come true, in 2020 I want to prioritize my health, generative relationships, and writing practices (including texts & emails, jaja); decenter draining tech, accept challenges, and continue learning to listen better.

Thank you for reading this far. <3 Here's to another decade of riding waves and building for future generations.


*My abuela Casiana says change comes in waves. As a child of the island of Puerto Rico, whose father was born two years after the US laid settler-colonial claims, she learned how to navigate seasons of storms and seasons of calm. These ecological lessons would prepare her to endure slow/fast shocks of empire (can you ever escape empire unscathed?). Environmental scientists, I am learning, draw from such lessons when studying ecosystem resilience but have much to learn in terms of acknowledging ecological knowledges of the people of the ecosystems they study. This need for climate change policy makers, scientists, & activist to connect with people who keep traditional, heritage, and/or Tribal knowledge drives my work and reminds me of my role within an ocean of change.

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