Why I Stayed

I log in, after scribbling a few bullet points on professional hopes and dreams in a notebook.

The button reads, “Write.”

Click.

That brings us to now. (I told you I wasn’t leaving.)

Several months… okay, almost two years ago, I wrote about my departure from higher education and student affairs. Almost two years later, I am still with my “new” employer, and I continue to build upon the foundation set by my learning and experience in student affairs.

I have also learned a fair amount about myself, about how to be more honest with what I want and what I need. Recently, I have been having conversations about what comes next for me; this requires multiple conversations and layers of unpacking, as I cannot seem to travel down a linear pathway. In my world, linear pathways just don’t exist.

I’ve learned that, while I certainly have a propensity to gravitate towards service roles, working with customers, students, and clients directly, there are strengths and interests I need to tend to and cultivate. I miss research and writing–activities nearly exclusive to my undergraduate and graduate career; I miss those hours spent synthesizing disparate sources to compose and share knowledge, and to create further questions and learning for myself and others. I have not had the space to be as intensely passionate (oh dear, I used that word) as I was about spiritual development or identity development or even the idea of how a concept as abstract as “trust” plays into the development or lack of relationships. I crave it.

Today, I shared with another person a sliver of my dreams, and as soon as I had a moment to start to elaborate on an idea I had, about a topic I thought I had a remote interest in, I found myself speaking without taking a breath, engrossed in elaborating on the questions I wanted to know more about. That spark I knew I still had is very much alive, and it’s up to me to continue to stoke the fire. Somehow, somewhere along my recent professional journey, I didn’t allow myself to truly pursue that which gave me energy because those things were “scary” or because I believe myself to be woefully unqualified.

Now, this isn’t to say that I’m bad at the jobs I held or what I currently do. It isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy what I do or the organization I’m at. In fact, everything I process in my head and put down on paper confirms that I am exactly where I want to be. Because of that, I also have the ability to finally allow myself to pursue ways in which my dominant strengths will flourish.

So what if I don’t have an MFA, nor have I ever held a position in which learning and development or training or writing were a significant component. Do I possess the skills to excel in roles that might demand these things? Sure. Do I possess an amount of confidence in myself to continue to learn, explore, and make positive impact on the community around me? Of course.

Am I committed to cultivating a mindset for success?

Well, I sure hope so. The only way to know is to stay long enough to find out.

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Routinely

I haven’t gone.

I used to tend to this blog regularly, making time to write and record my thoughts and musings several times a week. Without too much hesitation, I let you all in on my vulnerability, shortcomings, and loneliness; my excitement, achievements, and humor; and sometimes, just my nonsense.

Then I decided to put my energy elsewhere. I moved, I changed jobs, I met someone, I traveled, I adjusted my workout priorities, I traveled some more–in other words, life happened, and I had more time to spend being present rather than being reflective.

I miss writing, and it still feels good to put things down in written words, but things are good. They aren’t perfect. There are still days where I stress about what to do with my life, but as my colleague said yesterday, maybe the question I should be asking is, “What’s next?”

My life has been anything but linear and predictable. I still stress about uncertainty and the future, but that’s who I am. I still lament about being athletically talentless, but I’m having a fine time working on my weaknesses.

Also, I love my partner very much, but I leave my disastrous dating stories up here if only to serve as a reference for others who might be feeling the way I once did. Maybe it will help someone, after all.

I leave my projects and artifacts here to showcase where I came from as a graduate student and as a professional. I currently do not work in higher education, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m able to research, analyze, compose, and assess.

I still dream of traveling, and I’m sure I’ll still recollect my journeys in one way or another–through writing or photos on various platforms. There’s so much to see and do still.

This all makes it sound like I’m closing down the blog. It’s not going anywhere, but I might, and I might not record it here. I’m not sure what’s next for my personal record-keeping. Maybe it’s just a layout change; maybe it’s a new site. We’ll just wait and see.

In the meantime, don’t wait up for me. There’s a world out there to explore.

 

2017

I don’t have “one word” for 2017. I don’t have a theme. I don’t have transformative resolutions, or a “New year, new me” mantra. I am perfectly fine with this.

It feels as if I’ve finally settled into who I am. I’m no longer “in crisis,” as I was several years ago. That is not to say I’m not still turbulent in some ways, and I am critical, wanting and demanding more from myself, and being forgiving where possible. At the same time, however, I feel more level-headed and clearer about what my priorities are.

I know where I could get better in my professional and in my personal life. I know where I want to grow. Instead of wishing, I’ll write it down and track my progress. I’ll use my voice to see things through.

I will not quit trying to improve my health. I probably will never be elite-level in CrossFit nor weightlifting, but that isn’t a reason to quit trying. However, even the best intentions for a super-fit 2017 won’t matter if I don’t focus on taking care of my shoulders and honing in on weightlifting technique. I could say, “I want to snatch the yellow plates,” as much as I want, but that won’t happen if I don’t make an active decision to focus on the details.

In a nutshell, setting intentions isn’t just for yoga, and I feel free enough now to set my intentions outside of arbitrary parameters.

So, I suppose in 2017, I will strive to push boundaries and live intentionally.

That seems just fine.

 

Out of Left Field

“I’m a big fan of non-linear pathways.” – Ardith L. Feroglia, in many advising sessions

In that case, it should surprise no one that on October 2nd, I will leave my job at the University of Washington, take a week off, and then start a new position at Aduro in Redmond, WA. I accepted an account manager position and will continue to change lives (or crush dreams, maybe) by working on wellness programs and initiatives for clients (in a nutshell). I will also learn how to spell “initiatives” correctly on the first try.

Whoa, wait, hold up.

Did she just say she’s leaving higher education? As in, the realm for which she holds an advanced degree?

Oh. Well, yes. I will no longer be working within the context of a university; that part is true. I will be working in the private sector, and my line of work will be business-y and HR-y.

But.

Oh, there’s always a “but.”

There are many ways to be a student affairs professional. Everything I learned about: involvement, engagement, transition, health, wellness, balance, advising, culture, context, intent, impact, and on and on and on–all of it still matters.

Is it not true that if we, as #SApros, believe that learning happens outside of the classroom, then learning should also (and does also) happen outside of the campus? And outside of the context of formal education? And that by teaching people to think and to learn that they will hopefully go on to do that forever? Well, at the least, I think these things are true.

I remain an educator, but just like I never envisioned myself as a traditional teacher, I don’t want to be boxed in by someone else’s definition of what an educator is.

There are many ways to stay authentic and true to myself. I learn, I read, I seek out information. I step outside of what’s known and what’s comfortable. I consider, I dialogue, I wrestle with uncertainty. I expand on past experiences and knowledge. I build. I grow.

This is not a departure, just like leaving Clark College wasn’t closing the book on something; it was the continuation of a journey. That’s what this is, too.

I’m forever thankful for the smart, thoughtful, and (dare I say it?) passionate colleagues I’ve met at the UW, as well as the opportunity to work at one of the most well-known and respected public institutions out there. Beyond that, I’m thankful to have met and worked with the some truly wonderful students; they will go on to do great things. (We are truly the #bestmajorever.) 

And now it’s time to shake things up again. So here’s to learning way too much about the commute to the east side, to digging up my sleeping business skills, to finding new problems to solve, to meeting new people, to learning new things, to furthering my professional growth, and to trying to just enjoy the ride. 

As the late Yogi Berra said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

A photo of two young academic advisers, one in active wear and the other in a pea pod costume, standing with a cardboard Michelle Obama

Hard to leave this behind!

The Return! Kind of.

“Hey, so, Ardith–what’s with the lack of blogging?”

Oh, jeez. Well, there are several reasons that I haven’t posted as much as usual.

The Wide World of Student Affairs and Higher Education
I’m still wrestling with what’s up with my professional life. As I’ve said a hundred times before, my job is fantastic and my team is great, but I’m missing something. I can’t pinpoint it yet, but I think it partially has to do with a need to be connected and engaged with more AAPI professionals more often, the desire for an outlet to explore research and theory, the negotiation of feeling like part of my professional network left me hanging, and wondering what to do about not feeling like a rock star and feeling more like I’m adequate and competent in my role(s). Turns out the working world isn’t full of fireworks all the time, and that the every day can be quite common. Making a difference in the world isn’t instant either; I feel like even though I knew that coming out of graduate school, actually experiencing the little victories and the little shifts is difficult. I feel like there should be more pizzazz, more “wow,” more so-much-other-stuff, and realizing that that isn’t real life is somewhat “bleh.”

However, it’s been quite the wild ride the last two or so years. Being involved with health-related programs as an adviser has helped me think more deeply about my own interests in health and wellness. I want my trajectory to have something to do with that, although there are several different pathways I could pursue. That’s hopeful. I have to remind myself that a career is something to think about longitudinally, and these ideas take time to develop. I don’t have an end point; you won’t find me stating flat-out, “I want to be Dean of Student Life/President of a college.” That’s not how I roll; it never has been. I’m still learning to negotiate uncertainty and embrace it. Part of me wants to know where I’m going, but the other part of me just wants to wander and love all that comes with that.

I’m still playing with the idea of getting my doctorate. It could be that I set my target entry date as soon as Autumn 2016; it could be that I change my mind and delay for any number of reasons. Right now, my short list includes universities far, far away, as well as the University of Washington. I feel good when I think about the programs (programmes) I’m eying. Now to marinate on some research questions. Before I make any decisions, a few other things need to become more clear. Again, I’m anxious. What’s next? Oh, calm down, self; you’ll get there soon enough.

CrossFit
I’m still doing that thing with the sweating and the barbells and the fitness. I like it a lot. I’ve now progressed into “Intermediate” territory, where I’m seeing slower progress in my numbers, but I’ve also started to incorporate more advanced skills. Ring dips and pistols and full range-of-motion GHD sit-ups are all in my arsenal now; even double-unders are starting to come along with the switch to a new jump rope. Now I’m trying to figure out where I want to go next. I’ve gotten into better shape, that’s for sure, so do I aim for recreational competitions? (Yes; actually, that’s what I’m looking towards now.) Setting this goal of competing regularly in local competitions means I’m intentionally working on weaknesses. This means putting in extra work in the gym, incorporating some extra drills and skills, although fitting it all in with a full-time work schedule can be tough. Making the time, though, is worth it.

I’m also starting to explore my interest in coaching, which is no surprise given my inclination towards the helping professions. I’ve been demoing skills for the new members, while also watching and learning how our trainers work with different clients. I hope to participate in a Level One certificate class within the next year in order to bolster my skill set. I’ve enjoyed introducing people to CrossFit, and it’s kind of a nice full-circle to be someone who new people can approach to ask a question. This is really a role in which I fully play out my co-learner approach, reminding them I am by no means an expert, but that I’m someone who has been enthusiastic about my own learning and applies that to their learning, too. I’ve been told I move well, which is absolutely the result of my mediocrity coming into CrossFit and the need to establish strong basics. I hope to carry that forward because–let’s be honest–I’m having a ton of fun so far. I also have to say that my involvement in CrossFit has bled over into my professional interests, and it is shaping how I approach future work and trajectory. Again, I’m a bit antsy about how everything will play out in the long-run, but I’m enjoying the ride thus far.

Dating
Have I been absolutely the worst in terms of providing you all with juicy stories about being single in the city? More or less, yes. You all had high hopes for me!

And behind the scenes, I did fine. I went on a few dates here and there early on in 2014, and nothing really came of it. The thing is, that was totally fine by me. When I moved to Seattle, I spent a lot of time transitioning into my new job, my new house, my new gym, and my city that I had left behind in 2010. That was my focus, and it went quite well. I reconnected with friends, I traveled, I re-established myself. I didn’t have time for dating, which was partially a carry-over from #bestsummerever. I was open to it, though, and by no means had I given up on dating; it just wasn’t the right time.

2014, I met some fellows that piqued my interest. I went on some dates, felt things out, pursued when I thought necessary, and backed off when it didn’t feel right. I did the “grown-up” thing and politely declined some dates and didn’t string people along. And it all felt pretty good. At some point in 2013 and 2014, the nagging feeling of, “Oh my gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I still single?” dissipated. I was finally free of this unreasonable anxiety that was doing me no good.

And in that freedom, I was able to clear my head and give myself the ability to take notice of someone worth my time.

That’s all I’m going to say on that front right now, except for… he’s really great.

In Conclusion
Things are going! Things are happening! I have to go tend to dinner! Stay tuned for more things and stuff!

In Which She Reminds Herself Why She’s Here

Another mental block. Another dry spell. I haven’t felt like decompressing via my usual online sources like normal. Maybe it’s partially because I’m still bothered about a particular friend/colleague/role model/trusted confidant who ditched me on all forms of networks without so much as a, “I apologize, but you’ve gotten to be too much,” and I feel like I’ve been let down or deceived and like maybe I’m just really not that awesome at the field I chose. I’m hurt by it, but I suppose that’s life, and sometimes that’s what you get when you tell someone, “Hey! It’s been awhile. Let’s catch up!” Of course I have trust issues. No surprise there.

Or maybe it’s just because the shininess of student affairs has worn off or because I’m moving into intermediate ground in CrossFit and the wonder has turned to frustration at stupid skills I still can’t master, as well as celebration for new, more complex skills. Or maybe it’s just a lack of time in my day.

I’m realizing that things I thought I cared the most about in grad school aren’t what I truly, deep-down want I to pursue. I’m realizing that all those times in the working world that I felt energized and inspired were those times when I was involved with athletics and fitness and being active and well. Spirituality, transition, holistic education, experiential learning, identity development, communication, and health and wellness–all off-shoots of the idea of cultivating wellness and developing that idea of purpose by really honing in on what makes an individual move towards a more satisfying state of being.

I want to learn more about what makes our hearts race, what makes our minds clear up, what makes our eyes recapture that gleam they lost at one point or another. When I start talking about exploring how sport can create community, or how coaches’ training and curriculum is possibly missing elements we so respect in student affairs, or how life is not a linear, two-dimensional path but one punctuated by chaos and the unknown–that’s where I come alive.

I obsess over my writing and my skills in the gym. I feel alive when new thoughts about these topics “click” in my head, or when I call out, “Time!” and know my body has accomplished something my mind once called impossible. These things remind me that I am far behind mediocre. I am not average.

And I will push past those barricades, whether they be a careless end to a friendship, a heavy weight, a stupid much-hated skill I cannot for the life of me understand (double-unders can die), or my own self-doubt.

This is the evolution. I love it, and I don’t care.

She Says it Better

The Other Side of Privilege at Princeton

If you haven’t heard about the Princeton Kid, you should look into it. Essentially, he wrote a no apologies piece about not being sorry for his privilege (primarily “White,” and “male,” in this case). The article I’ve linked provides another lenses with which to consider privilege–and it is such a good read. And it is much more eloquent than the stream of thought I’m about to put out here. (So please, read the above article first.)

I’ll own up to my privilege in this world. I speak English with an American accent. I grew up not rich but without want. I largely wasn’t questioned for my achievements in school and in music growing up; my success was attributed to inherent talent along with hard work. I can hold hands with my significant other in public, and our orientation is never challenged nor called out.

And at the same time, I can point out many different ways in which I understand not having privilege. My identity is constantly questioned and assumed to be something it is not. “What are you?” is one of the first questions I am usually asked, usually following “What do you do?” and “Where are you from?” People have gotten upset with me when my identity does not fit what they expect or want. “No, you’re Latina; I know it.” “You’re not really Asian, though. Filipinos aren’t really Asian.” “You’re basically White!” Sometimes, I don’t get to tell my own story, and it rightly pisses me off. You don’t know me; how dare you invalidate me.

People sometimes assume I don’t and can’t speak English. Or they’re surprised it’s my first (and only) language. And others guilt me for not speaking my “native tongue.” I don’t speak Tagalog because my father didn’t speak it, and it was easier in the household to just speak English.

I couldn’t afford a private education. I grew up in the public system, and was constantly top of my class. I went to public universities because the burden of debt at a private institution would have been too much for my family. Certainly I was capable. And if I had gone to an elite institution, my presence as a mixed-race, middle-class female would have likely been questioned or downplayed. Some would have thought my scholarships were due only to my race or my socioeconomic class; that’s not right, and it’s frustrating to have your own hard work come with an imposed disclaimer.

And regarding my partners? Well, I definitely have heterosexual privilege, but at the same time, there are people who still question my relationships because of the color of my skin. What the actual Hell, people?

I recognize my privilege, and I honor the stories my family has provided me through their own struggles. And some days, I feel the weight of having more than others. I am still working on what to do about that. How can I provide equity in this world? How do I make things just a little bit better? These are terribly difficult things, and I will do an imperfect job.

But I will at least try.

Look, privilege and identity and the truth and reality we live are all different. Sometimes we benefit from the established order because of those who came before us, even if they were completely misguided. Sometimes we oppress others because of that same constructed order. We all struggle, and we all struggle differently. I’m not asking for apologies. I’m asking that you LISTEN to my story and to others’ stories. I’m asking that you drop your judgement and your guilt, and listen.

Learn what empathy really is. Learn that your experiences are real and valid, but not everyone lives the same reality as you. I’ll admit I am still learning this, and it wasn’t until I was well into college that I began to understand the complexities that make up our experiences.

Princeton Kid, I don’t want your apology. You do you; live your own story. Your reality is just as real (although you might want to do a bit more analysis. Yes, analysis of a story, like we did in high school English). But to invalidate others’ stories? That’s not acceptable.

I only hope you grow and learn and open your mind and heart–and it is difficult, that’s for sure. I cannot tell you how shaken I was when my beliefs were challenged for the first time.

But here I am, weary yet stronger for being challenged.

It is a long journey.

Last thing I will say for tonight… Princeton Kid, I will use my privilege as a (very lax) Catholic to say I’ll keep you in my prayers. I will do my best to challenge others to stretch themselves and understand the stories we all live. I will come at you not with fire on my tongue, but with stories and ideas that you may hate. But I’ll put them out there, leave them there for you, and constantly hope that you take the time to listen.

It’s not enough. It will never be enough. Yet… At least it’s something.