Rushing Like the Sea

“My job is to believe in other people’s children.” – Dr. Larry Roper, during a recent visit to my AHE 548 class

I’m a purpose-driven individual; that should already be clear. I think a lot about what I’m doing, trying to make sense of the why factor mostly. Why does education draw me in, specifically colleges? Why, in the face of mounting budget cuts, do I envision myself a fixture in our public institutions? Why do I care when so many people complain that college isn’t worth it anymore?

Because I’m supposed to be larger than life**. Because I’m supposed to be a rare beacon of hope. Because I am capable of leaving behind a legacy.

My job is not only to believe in your children; it is to believe in those children whose parents don’t believe, to believe in those children who have lost the ability to believe in themselves. My maternal instincts haven’t fully kicked in because it’s more important for me to believe in your children first. Maybe after I see if I can truly make a difference, then I’ll give myself the chance to bring someone new into the world–and hope that the world believes in him or her.

My lessons this year have centered around belief in myself. Believing I can get through my graduate program. Believing I can find meaning in my work. Believing that someday, I will have a love story that ends (and begins a new story) with “happily ever after.”

Look, this blog reflects a side of me you won’t necessarily see in face-to-face interaction. It’s here to give me a place to exercise the full depth of my personality. I’m not just the pretty, funny girl that is easily “one of the guys.” It’s here so people aren’t surprised to see tears in my eyes or hear my voice quake over the phone. It’s here so you know I’m not strong all the time, that I have–and always will be–a complex person. And knowing that and understanding that makes me more effective–and more real–than pretending to be a one-dimensional laugh factory.

On a related note, something I’ve been thinking about a lot… well, one thing I’ve learned recently is to abandon the concept of “all or nothing.” I’ve had this idea that boys that are my friends, stay as my friends; boys that are supposed to be “more than friends,” can be like that for awhile and then that stops, and we lose touch. Those boys in my life that mean nothing once our “relationships” are through were not meant to stay; I can think of several off the top of my head.

Then there are those that I confide in, who have been there through the roller coaster that has been my life (and the ones who seem to be joining the ride over the years)–those are the ones that matter. They are the ones that will stay. They are the ones in whom I find comfort and I find safety, even if I don’t find romance with them (and one can add, “At this point in time.” That uncertainty bit is so tricky.).

But then there’s a few who do so much and do it well. We care about each other as more than friends but we’re not together as a couple. We’re in this gray space that scares folks. Like, “How can you be so close to an ex?” or “But you have feelings for each other,” or this or that. I used to ask myself those same questions.

The thing is, just like student affairs theory teaches us, it’s dangerous to use blanket theories to understand people. We have to learn to relate to people on a one-on-one basis, and that’s tricky, but it’s worth it. We’re all here for one reason or another, I believe. We can’t know the full extent of anything unless we give up some control and let the river take us for awhile.

Those guy friends I’ve mentioned, the ones who have shared ups and downs and conflicts and the deepest secrets? Here’s the thing: they believe in me, and I believe in them. We’re not quite adults,* and that’s okay. We don’t have it all figured out, but we know we’re supposed to be around in one way or another.

If I had a partner at this point in time, trust me–the projects on which I’m embarking would not have surfaced. I am pushing myself to become something I am still frightened of. I’ll reveal more when the time comes, but I can say I need all the good thoughts sent up to God and the Universe or whatever Supreme Being you may (or may not?) believe in.

As 2012 rolls around, perhaps my theme will be, simply, “Believe…” Open-ended. It was “Believe in the impossible” the other year, and that’s fine. This isn’t a paring down, but a broadening. One word to give myself the chance to dream and to ground myself, all at once. I am still in a stage where I need that. I need something to wake up to, to remind myself why I do what I do.

To remind myself that when I was younger, I said, “When I grow up, I want to be something great.”

I believe you will, Ardith. I believe.

*Not Quite Adults by Richard Settersten, Ph.D. and Barbara E. Ray. Dr. Settersten teaches and works at OSU, and he was recently a featured speaker at the NASPA Western Regional Conference. Although what he shared was probably intended to inform older generations about today’s young adults, what he actually did was talk about people like me. I might be 26-years-old, but I’ve been slowly floating down the river of life. The only milestones I’ve probably hit are graduating from college, getting a job, and living on my own–only to return back to the academic world.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is, check the book out.

**Feelin’ LOL-worthy? Here! Larger Than Life

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