Aspen's Farewell Letter

posted August 30, 2017

Dear Exhale,

The time is finally here. I’m stepping down as your Executive Director on September 1.

We always knew this day would come, though it was hard for me to imagine when, why, and how I would leave a job that I have loved so much, for so long.

Turns out, it’s just time. I started Exhale when I was 25-years old. I’m now 41.

Every morning, for over 15-years, I have woken up thinking about how I could be the Executive Director that Exhale needed and I’d spend my day (and often, my night) trying to deliver.

I love how my job has changed over time; how it’s afforded me so much creativity and opportunity. I am grateful for all that I’ve learned and who I’ve met along the way.

There are so many things I will remember from these years, but what I will remember most is you: The Exhale Community. I will remember how hard we worked to build this community, person by person, and by word of mouth, rooted in our service of listening to others.

We could have chosen an easier path, one where we fit in, but we didn’t.

Despite all the constant outside pressure on Exhale to be something else, it’s our community that took the time to practice, to build the skills and the muscle memory needed for times like these: resisting hate, divisiveness and ideology with love.

Yes, at times, I have wanted to throw in the towel. But, our community always said: not yet. Let’s keep going.

Once, when I was feeling particularly beaten down, one of our former board chairs, Jennifer Rudy, said: “Aspen, you know there was a time when people didn’t know what seatbelts were. They fought against the change. But now, we can’t imagine a car without seatbelts.”

It became our code word. All we had to say was “seatbelts” and we reminded each other it was OK if not everyone was behind us, or fully understood what we were trying to achieve.

When I look back, there are so many things that we have done together: We made a talkline and a volunteer program. We built a board of directors. We created an organization. We fundamentally changed a field. We made and shaped the news.

Our message of love and care spread and, others have made it their own.

It’s been so much more than all that: We invented a whole new way to talk about abortion. We changed people’s thinking, their hearts and their minds. We changed what’s possible.

Exhale - because of you, because of our community - will continue to change what’s possible around personal abortion experiences, and so much more. We’ve been preparing for these times all along. We know how to tell the truths of our lives.

Together, we take a public stand for human dignity and create space for listening and storytelling amongst the chaos of lies and distortions and the cruelty of oppression.

The main difference that I see between the last 15-years and the next 15-years is this: people finally know what seatbelts are. Now, it’s about how to get them in every car.

In other words, people know the value of pro-voice (whether they call it by name or not) and they are expressing the need for it in their lives - and in our nation. Now, it’s about how to get pro-voice in every community hub across the United States.

This next phase of Exhale’s work, like all of our work before, will be a collective effort: it will be community-led and community-driven.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to be your Executive Director. I look forward to welcoming and supporting our new leader with all of you as a member of the Exhale Community. I'm really looking forward to what's next.

Love to you all,

Aspen Baker

1 Comment

Good luck, Aspen! It's been such an honor to learn from you. Thank you for being imaginative enough to see that a different way was possible --- and for being brave enough to make that vision come true.

I can't wait to see the amazing things that happen (to you and Exhale) over the next 15 years!


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