Authentic self.

I’m learning to live more true to myself. This means letting go of judgement, of fear, of resentment, of criticism to the point of stagnation.

In an ongoing healing journey, I am coming home to myself in the sense of living from a place of truth. My intention is to live, to fully live, without fear of rejection, fear of isolation, fear of worthlessness. I have been hiding from myself. I have been protecting myself from really living. Somehow I have convinced myself that I am not worthy. That the work I do is unimportant. This narrative is self-constructed. This narrative is rooted in a lens of lies.

The push and pull struggle of authenticity is bound in waves of lightness and darkness. Of beauty and strength. Of fighting against myself in perpetual self criticism.

Instead I work to create a lens of truth, of light. In my work in creating lenses – in seeing myself, caring for myself, this means seeing the beauty that lies within me. The beauty that is at my very core. At my core is a cave that is teaming with gems. The most precious, the most beautiful gems – so hidden deep within the caverns of my soul that the world has not seen anything like them before.

In waves I shed layers of doubt, of fear, of anxiety, of worthlessness. I shed layers to see more clearly the beauty that lies deep in my core. I do this through breath work. Through meditation. Through mindfulness. Through attention. More importantly, perhaps, I do this through love.

My teachers continually remind me – and somehow I do not listen. To truly live is to truly love myself. To be my own best friend. To love and care for myself in the utmost way possible. From this space I can then come into my true, authentic self.

It would be impossible to express only in words what or who this self is. What I can tell you, is that I am love. I am light. I am both powerful and soft. My sensitivity is my superpower. Sensitive to shifts and changes in the season. Sensitive to moods and so keen on my own and your energy that no mood ring is needed to tell the power. I am a story teller.

I am an educator. I am also unconventional. In my perceived failures of not publishing enough, or in the most prestigious journals, I need to remind myself of the other ways that I educate. Through my writings, my videos, my presentations, my comics, my conversations with others. And also on my yoga mat. 

I have learned to cultivate lenses to see the world through the eyes of a child. I have learned to question the surface level investigations of how representations are used to convey meaning. Meaning to whom? Meaning by whom? I have learned to question the purely cognitive lens on education, toward the deeper and more cross cutting cultural aspects of learning. How are the social systems set up to exacerbate the inequities of our system of education? How can we work together in community to cut across the artificial boundaries of research and practice? To position our work as educators as not just working in isolation to advance knowledge to be used by some hypothetical user, but instead, to work together in collaboration to achieve our goals and vision for mathematics education.

This aspect of my professional work takes up a lot of my intellectual capacity. Yet I need to be reminded that this does not define who I am. I need to take breaks. I need to be immersed in my community, to position myself as an expert, as a thinker and doer, as a communicator, as a creator, as a leader. I need to position myself as someone whom I care so deeply about that there is no question but to love and protect myself from myself. Yes, feel pain. Experience despair. But also rest in the law of impermanence. Such unsettling sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, they are not eternal. For nothing but love is eternal. (And no, this is not a hokey love song, but instead, this is what I understand as the purpose of life – to love.) Then the question becomes how is my life work contributing to the continuation of love?

It is through my work as a teacher. I choose to be a teacher, a teacher who teaches others to connect, to grow, to partner, and to care about each other, about our communities, and about children. In this whole endeavor – this enterprise of education – I will continue to fight for public education – because these are the spaces in which we have opportunities to shape the lives of young people to come into their own authentic selves. While they are not the only spaces, they are the “required” spaces – by law, children attend school. Thus it is here where we must meet them, with caring and open arms. To show them and to help them experience a pedagogy of caring.

Like the goals of liberal education in institutions of higher education, through the sciences, arts, humanities – we learn to live and to love and to open ourselves up to the experiences of a lifetime. To find our passion, to pursue our interests. It is in these spaces that we aim to live from. When we learn of grave inequities in the social and political structures of our nation, of our world, do we remain silent? Or do we fight on behalf of the oppressed? How are we acting as the oppressor if we are not working on behalf of the salvation of the oppressed? I am talking about humanity. And in talking about humanity, in seeing ourselves in the faces of others, in solidarity with the fights, the droughts, and struggle, the optimism, the love, the joy, the human experience.

In my work I am in tune with approaches that seek to understand students’ meaningful experiences with mathematics. One of the lenses I employ is that of representational fluency. In that work I seek to make sense of how students create and interpret representations to make sense of and reason about mathematical ideas in ways that are productive for their own understanding and sense-making. Yes, there are established disciplinary representations and ways of making sense of mathematical ideas (e.g., this is a graph, this is a Cartesian grid, y=x). But for me, what is compelling are the way in which students are using this external inscriptions that are shared in a space to convey their ideas – it is the thinking of the child that compels me to want to learn more. I would hope that this can be taken as a starting point for potential collaborations with others who share in this interest. How do children learn mathematics in meaningful ways? How can our lenses on the ways in which children create and interpret multiple representations shed light on their thinking and understanding? What are the spaces in which children are expressing this understanding? How can we aim to cultivate spaces in which children see themselves as mathematical thinkers and doers – to advance the work of creative and critical thought in the service of advancing science?

I return to the original thread of this idea. What is my truth? What does it mean to live my authentic self? It means to come into a space where I trust that the way I spend my time is what I am meant to be doing. It means the collaborations I have formed are worthwhile. It means the pockets of activity I take time to cultivate will be harvested over time into ripe fruit from which I can point to and say – yes – that is how I have made a difference in this world.

I make a difference in the world by being in it – perhaps you take that as a starting point. I seek to have my difference in this world to be nuanced with respect to establishing greater connections.

I seek to establish greater connections between research and practice through communication, collaboration, and community. I also seek to establish greater connections in students’ learning of mathematics – through the interpretation and creation of multiple representations.


I seek to establish greater connections with myself. To really know myself, I must hold my self up as a beautiful creative spiritual being. I am so rich with potential, with greatness, with light, it cannot be contained, it becomes contagious. In being together, you can feel my calming energy, you can feel my sense of self, my spirit.

I have a habit of not listening to myself. So I add this as a reminder, and part of my practice of trust: Listen to yourself, Nicky. Do not glance over these words. You are beautiful. Take them as meaningful. You are creative. Listen to yourself. I love you. Show up for yourself. You do great work. Do the important work. Your work is important. Do not give up on yourself. You can do it!

Meaningful connection in this world does not come through external validation on paper, and quantifications of blue thumbs up and hearts. Meaningful connection comes through shared energy, through shared space, through shared values. It is how we come together that binds us in the human experience.

This is your life. Show up for it. Don’t just glide along on the surface. Dive in with open arms. Be willing to be hurt along the way. For remember – the law of impermanence. Whatever lightness and darkness is experienced along the way is merely temporary. To truly live in this life dive in heart first and be ok with whatever transpires.

I create and choose the lens to see my life through. How do you choose to see yours?

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