Last summer I left academe. Enough.
It was my life for decades. I know how to teach, research, work and counsel with students and other faculty, run departments and programs, write policies and procedures for this, that and the other, present in public forums, argue, pleasantly but firmly, for my views, and manage a host of other things people generally don’t know that professors do. In other words, I know how to have a successful and satisfying career within academic contexts.
I have had many passions and professional interests to keep me occupied during those decades. First and foremost, the field of second/foreign language and culture acquisition will always be part of everything I do and everything I think about. It is so inseparable from how we perceive and interpret the world in which we live that most of us have little understanding of its effect on us. We might believe that we are free thinkers. Maybe. Maybe not. If we have spent little to no time trying to explore other ways of seeing the world (cultural, racial, linguistic, ethnic, sexual, religious, political), we might actually be quite limited in our perceived freedom and generosity of thought. Disturbing, but food for thought, anyway.
Second, because my area of expertise is in applied linguistics, I have bumped into a few intriguing areas where I wanted to exercise my knowledge and skills. Among these, most importantly, was aviation English when I was with my late husband Masa and our flight school M.I. AIR, learning to fly and trying to comprehend communication minimums for safety among pilots and air traffic controllers. That work, in concert with many other remarkable individuals, resulted in new standards for global aviation. It was a great honor to participate in something that significant with such significant social consequences. You can learn more about that endeavor here: http://tedxsannomiya.com/en/speakers/marjo-mitsutomi/.
My passion has also been for kids in schools, whether in Finland, Japan or in a multilingual state like California, who are asked, mandated, forced, encouraged to learn another language. The contexts vary, but some of the same basic facts about how this happens in happy and successful classrooms remain basically the same. I would be willing and delighted to share about any of the above, anytime anywhere, again. I stay current on the research in this field.
Surely there were other points of interest and research, but none of that is the point of this long message. The point simply is that it was a fulfilling career. I found answers to satisfy my academic curiosity and that of my students to say – enough, for now, at least.
I have been in countless faculty and administrative meetings and know how to negotiate and try to fight for “my people”, but also have come to realize in that world we really are independent contractors, all looking for our own interests. The larger entity, the university itself, worries about its profits (of course!) which means bringing in more and more students and/or cutting costs elsewhere. Departments and schools struggle for their share; professors are weary, worried about tenure; part-timers get abused; students want better grades with increasingly less work; lack of trust abounds in the system, depending on which school one calls home. I have been in the trenches, domestic and foreign, sufficiently long to say – enough.
I QUIT my job. I did NOT retire. Now, with the freedom – at least that of time – I have been thinking of what might be next.
Last fall I had no idea. It was too soon to tell anyway. A wise friend advised me to just “lean into it.” Another suggested to rest and regroup. My bishop friend remarked, “Let go and let God.”
Then, sitting in Finland in the middle of the dark winter, I started reading #metoo, #churchtoo, #silenceisnotspiritual posts from around the world. The same kinds of postings were showing up on my screen in Finnish as well: #memyös, #totuusvapauttaa. Oh, the anguish of these people! Some were sharing for the very first time, some to say they will never ever be the same because of the abuse they experienced as youngsters.
I KNOW what they are saying. It happened to me when I was young and vulnerable. I UNDERSTAND! But, learning to understand myself took years, decades of therapy and counseling.
In a very short and intensive period both in my head and heart, I started feeling a literal “calling” to do something, to help, to alleviate the pain, to minister, to stop it, to prevent it, to interfere, to shout about it, to change something in society, and not just for now, but for good. I got really mad! I could not help but find a way get involved.
Last Christmas, an unexpected opportunity came to speak about my experiences in a documentary film produced in Finland. It will air soon. The whole event was cathartic for me. It affirmed the decision I had made to leave my full-time (with benefits) tenured job at the university. Goodbye security! Hello, new life with uncertainty but a burning need to be of service in a new way! A few weeks later, I was interviewed for my church newspaper: one whole page with my name and picture. Was I worried about being identified as a victim of sexual abuse? No. At this point, I have nothing to lose, and there was no turning back. I was ready to face the crazy, unjust world with my new vulnerable self but madder than hell at the system-level, ignored, not-talked-about, brushed-under-the-carpet silence – enough!
I finally understand what happened to me was not my fault. It was #notmysin. The blame belongs to the “bad guys.” The guilt and shame are theirs. They need to know it and own it. But, my violators were powerful Christian men. They were protected – still are. The network of secrecy in the CHURCH is what should shame all of us! I blame not only the Christian church for failing to reach out to many of its past and current victims but many organized religious groups in general.
Yes, love and forgiveness are essential. More essential than that though, to gain victory over the hurt, is the recognition that people who cause the damage must be held accountable. In my experiences as the young victim, the pastor’s wife, the woman in constant need of therapy, the mother, the grandmother, and now the Sisu Advantage CEO, the most essential piece needed to address women’s plight everywhere is the truth – no matter how bad or ugly. Enough!
And, it is to THIS cause I now commit myself, my life, with all of my personal and professional knowledge and experiences, for as long as my voice adds value: to spread awareness, to educate, to minister, to heal, to eradicate sexual harassment, abuse and secrecy – especially within the church.
The newly-formed Church Abuse Research and Education Services, sisuCARES, within the not-for-profit SISU ADVANTAGE (ThinkSisu.Org) is my chosen platform for this next big step of faith in my life. I am joined by my family, their support and love, and I trust many others will come on board to do what is right and to say with me – enough!