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.

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But Why Not…

“Okay, #SAchat. I have something to admit: I feel like I’ve let you down. I feel cynical and uninspired, and I’m uncertain how to change it.”

I sent out the above tweet earlier today. I sent it out right in the middle of a weekly #SAchat happening, but it wasn’t directly related nor triggered by the conversation. In fact, it wasn’t even related nor tied to particular #SAchat threads. No, it’s something I’ve been sitting on for quite some time, and I can’t even pinpoint how long ago that I started to feel this way.

Since making the move from being a student affairs graduate student to being a full-time professional, I’ve seemingly disengaged, and I’ve done so much, much more than I expected. As a #SAgrad, I was thirsty for knowledge, to learn, to immerse myself in the information about student affairs and higher education. I was ready to be the catalyst that sparked students’ “a-ha!” moments. And in many ways, today–I am. Sometimes those moments are difficult, like when I have to gently explain that the major for which I advise is not a viable option. And other times, those moments are wonderful, like when I can help a student reframe what it is about their current major that will help them in the long-run, especially when they can’t quite connect the dots between the “now” and the “yet to come.”

I have made new connections. I have strengthened many existing connections. I’ve lost several connections, too, though, and I was saddened to see how far removed I had become from several specific contacts. They used to be major drivers behind why I was pursuing my degree, and they believed that I would go out and do great things in the field. And to see that they’re just now on the peripheral of my professional life makes me step back and wonder if I’ve slipped into mediocrity. I feel like a promising college quarterback who went on to the NFL and just did… alright. Not bad, not outstanding, but just… okay. “Meh.”

I like to think that I do a good job. In my recent six-month review, I was pleased to see that I could identify where and how I’d fulfilled my job description and many of the goals I set out for myself. I presented at a national conference. I’m gearing up to present at another conference next week. My students wave and smile when they see me (hey! They know me! They like me!).

But even then, I feel like I’m sitting on my own potential. You’ve probably all seen how rabidly obsessed I became with CrossFit. Why does this hobby, activity, sport, lifestyle get to me like nothing else really has? Why am I writing about my fitness non-stop but not the profession that I spent more than two years writing about non-stop?! For starters, I can point to the team aspect and the part where I’m getting in the best shape of my life.

Beyond that, CrossFit is something that is truly difficult for me. CrossFit is actually something that I’m bad at, despite all my posts and affection for it. I suck at CrossFit. I was worse when I began, and I’m better now, but I have a very long road ahead of me. In other words, it challenges me like nothing ever has before. But I see what I’m learning, I can apply what I’m learning to many other aspects of my life, and this silly sport might be just what I need to kick my own butt into high gear.

I’m talking beyond fitness. The thing about what I do professionally is that I like it, I feel like I do make a difference, and I feel like I am constantly applying theory into practice. But it just doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t mean that I don’t have enough to do; I have many projects to balance, and I enjoy the variety of things that I do in my capacity as an adviser and “curriculum support specialist” (we never settled on an official “ampersand” part of my Academic Adviser title, but this gets at it).

What I mean is, if my dad were still alive, he would probably lecture me on not challenging myself enough. He would be telling me to write more. He would be telling me to travel more. He would be telling me to go out there, ask questions, and use my noggin. What I’m basically getting at is, I would continue the good work I do now but take it a step further. He would back me all the way if I said, “Then I suppose I need to pursue my doctorate.” I want to feel the same drive about my career that I do about my fitness. Staying hungry. Wanting more.

I am beginning to think that “research” is when I thrive. I say “when” because I mean the act of formulating a question, seeking out the information, crafting the information, writing the information, sharing the information, and then repeating the process… actually, I just got really into what I just said there. That’s… that’s where I’m supposed to fit in.

CrossFit, for example, fascinates me. The premise of it is basic enough: high-intensity, constantly varied, etc. and so forth. In terms of what it does to my body physically, I’m not super-interested in that. What I’m interested in, though, are ideas of:

Why do I, personally, keep going back for more? The workouts are high-intensity, and I routinely think, “I hate this. What am I doing?” What’s at work, psychologically?

Who are the people that keep going back for more? Do we share common themes (e.g., extrovert/introvert; team-sport background; social interaction needs, wants, ideals; motivation)?

Who are the people that aren’t participating? Who doesn’t the model work for, in terms of who starts and then subsequently stops (e.g., personality type; athletic background; motivation)? Who is not starting and what are the barriers (e.g., socioeconomic status [Is CrossFit a grittier substitute for the country club?]; cultural norms)–and this question in particular then also feeds into deeply-rooted sociological issues that aren’t necessarily going to be changed by CrossFit or the athletes… but they are things I think of.

Pair this with my interest in holistic wellness and spiritual well-being, stemming from graduate school. If learning happens outside the classroom, then learning also happens outside the walls of institutions. What can I do with this? What are the burning questions I’m trying to get at here?

Well, I’ve got a few questions I’m developing. Now… I guess it’s a matter of starting the research. Slowly, with Google Scholar and whatnot.

When I came out of graduate school, I had a very clear of idea of where I wanted to begin my journey: academic advising. However, I had no clue where I wanted that path to go next. Framed just in terms of administration, I couldn’t pinpoint very many things. I thought I wanted to avoid the hard work of more advanced education, as well. I thought I wanted to avoid pigeon-holing myself into scare tenure-track faculty roles. I thought I wanted to avoid further student debt.

But then I got to thinking about all the people who believe in me (and those that would, if they were still here). And they would believe wholeheartedly that by going after the scary things, the impossible things, that beyond the odds, I would find my place.

So… just a few final thoughts to wrap up my long-drawn-out story of why I’ve been so “blah” lately and why my #SApro and #SAchat friends may have been worried that I’ve fallen off the face of the earth, never to emerge again. I’m not jaded; I’m hungry for more knowledge. I’m not depressed; I’m not pushing myself like I should be. I’m not discontent with where I’ve landed; in fact, it’s given me the clarity and the setting I needed to start to conceptualize my potential. And this will all take time and planning and the occasional swift kick from friends and family.

I’ll leave you with this tonight, just to chew on it:

Successful people pursue hard things. Unsuccessful people avoid them.” – Greg Glassman (via way of a friend)

“‘…why not you?'” – Russell Wilson

 

 

 

The Evolution of Strength

In the English language, we use “strong” to mean many things, whether to mean physically strong, mentally strong, resilient, persistent, unrelenting, and so forth. Several years ago, following Stratejoy’s suggestion, I created a theme for the year. The theme that year was Beauty Through Strength. The main purpose was to remind myself each day to stay mentally tough, to accept obstacles and learn from them.

Right now, I’m reminded of that time in my life. Currently, I am processing a transition to a new city and new job, wondering how to appropriately balance where I’ve come from and where I’m headed. It isn’t smooth, and there are some jagged edges of which to be wary, and I have spent some time discussing and venting with several people.

One of my closest friends nudged me to think of this more as evolution, not vacillation. I am not floundering; I am trying to make sense of the new and the old, reconciling some of the development I did over the past three or so years with on-going development and contradicting thoughts that overlapped with the entrance back into the full-time working world.

I am also unlearning some “truths” about myself that are quite personal, but I can say that CrossFit and the people I have connected with through the community are largely responsible for this. It’s lovely, and it’s leading me to consider a more involved and dedicated position.

What I am beginning to discover is that I have been holding back (and hiding) from my true potential in many ways, and it will take nothing but strength and perseverance to reach all my goals. That is why I am making a slight shift in direction and focus here. Maybe I am not simply an adult in transition. Instead, I am a human being who is changing, growing, evolving, and I anticipate this to be the case forever.

And I love reflecting on my own growth and adventures in my blog, but I also love going out and challenging others to be their best selves, too. I don’t necessarily like to recount how I affect others because it seems unneeded and self-indulgent, but I like having those moments to connect and synthesize how challenges and successes, interests and weaknesses, all contribute to a fuller, more purposeful life.

I won’t lie in saying I think these revelations will take me beyond student affairs and education. On a broad enough spectrum, the world is our classroom. Well, actually, it’s beyond the classroom. And that’s the beauty of learning–that as long as people can engage and think critically, then we have opportunity to learn and grow.

For now, this space will still chronicle my journey, but I hope to develop this into something bigger. As always, stay tuned, and come along for the journey.

One For the Books

Wednesday was the big day.

…no, I didn’t get married.

No. Wednesday was my NACADA presentation. My colleague and I presented on a topic that roughly translated into, “Why new professionals should not be afraid to think about two-year colleges as employment options.”

We got saddled with the 8AM slot on the last day of the conference, which is well-known as one of the most challenging times for these types of conferences. However, my co-presenter and I took it in stride, knowing that this could open the door for good conversation and involvement with attendees. We did end up with a small crowd, albeit a crowd which was larger than our anticipated audience.

We were able to do audience introductions, to be able to discern the backgrounds our attendees brought. We were able to give people at least ten minutes to discuss and develop strategies for recruitment, outreach, and visibility near the end. And it gave us the chance to comfortably share our stories as advisors.

We went over the research we had done, addressed misconceptions about two-year colleges and how typical job gripes may confound the misconceptions. I talked about how my fellow grad students expressed hesitation and even intimidation when thinking about taking on employment within the two-year colleges. My co-presenter talked about how he is finding greater purpose in the two-year, even with some of the unique challenges he faces in his particular geographic area.

During the discussions, we had participants consider which factors they think could benefit grad students and new professionals. We had them come up with ideas, and the most common one was “internships.” And since most were already professionals, that meant getting the message out to the target group and telling them, “We have opportunities. We want you to come check this out. Come shadow. Come intern.”

And at the end, one participant came up to me to say that she really enjoyed the session and wanted to keep in touch to further the idea of grad students actively exploring the two-year option.

Of course, beyond my presentation, I had the opportunity to connect with other advisors/advisers and professionals, as well as attend quality sessions. I heard about the great things people are doing to help students in transition, as well as how to frame difficult conversations in specific contexts (e.g., pre-health advising, which is apparently what I keep finding myself doing). There were presentations that will be helpful as I [hopefully] advance my career, which will help me effectively supervise and take on new roles. And there were presentations which confirmed that I am, as a new professional, doing the right things by continuing to learn, continuing to stay curious, and continuing to improve how I approach my work.

Special thanks to all of you who helped get me to the conference. I know some of you contributed even though you are trying to save up to get to an event of your own, and that means so much to me. You have earned a virtual hug and a virtual high-five, although many of you have received hugs and high-fives in real life since then. Thank you!

Several folks contributed the amount to earn a written thank-you on the blog. So, thank you to:

Melissa
Trish
Joe
Mary
Gini
JOHNNY OMAHA

And there were a few souls who trusted and believed in me enough to earn a video shout-out.

Overall, I am happy with the way it went. It was a presentation that came out of love for the two-years and the realization that not everyone gives the two-years a thought because of misconceptions and because of intimidation. It came together by way of a presenter matching tool and crowd-sourcing the funds to make it to the conference.

In other words… we did it! Thank you again, and what I took away from the conference and will bring back to my current position is so valuable. And what I took away from the crowd-sourcing part of this effort is also valuable, as you all helped me to take this next step, realize a dream, and do something that hopefully will inspire others.

I Didn’t See You There

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I’m working on a piece that’s been rolling around this head of mine for some time. Between working and working out and spending the weekend getting sun and BBQ’ing, I haven’t had time to share thoughts on education or working out or LIFE lately.

One cool thing that I do want to share, however, is that my GoFundMe project is live. For those that do not know, I was accepted to present at the national NACADA (National ACademic ADvising Association) conference in October. Based on budgetary restrictions at my Washington state institution, however, I am not being funded by the school to attend and present. But, because this is my very first national presentation, I’m going to find a way to get there. What I’m attempting right now is to crowd-source the funding to cover my registration fee, flight, and accommodations. The goal is $950, with a current amount of $110 raised.

I’ll be posting here about why I’m presenting, why this is important, and other cool things. So, if you are keen to learn more (and hopefully to chip in a bit for this amazing opportunity!), click on the GoFundMe link on the right. There are reward and thank-you levels for different dollar amounts, but you can donate what works for you.

(Also, if I see you in real life, I also have the ability to collect donations less than $5. The site only allows for $5+.)

Thank you so, so, so much in advance. You really have no idea what the support means!

Putting Up Numbers

“Coach, this time last year, I thought CrossFit was an eating disorder.”

True story.

What a difference time makes.

Now, here I am, grumbling about how my assisted pull-ups disintegrate after about ten reps and how thrusters are miserable and wall balls are clearly unfair to us short people.

We did the HEL5 last week, and I PR’d four out of the five lifts. I’m most proud of my deadlift attempt: 200lbs.! I’ve been working through 195lbs. since I competed in April, and it finally happened. I didn’t PR my shoulder press during the HEL5, but I had bested 65lbs. the week prior; I attempted 75lbs. during my second attempt in the HEL5, but did not succeed. So, I have a new goal. Thank goodness.

Here’s the evidence:

6/20/13 HEL5 results

6/20/13 HEL5 results

In order:
Back squat – 160lbs.
Strict press – 65lbs.
Deadlift – 200lbs.
Bench press – 100lbs.
Overhead squat – 95lbs.

We have also been doing quite a few benchmark WODs. This Tuesday was Fran, and I scaled the weight tonight to stay within the 5-10 minute time domain (it took me 11+ minutes at 65lbs. two months ago). My pull-ups absolutely collapsed near the end; I was not happy with myself. I know what I’ll be hitting hard (along with wall balls) for the next few weeks.

Anyway, things are going in the world of CrossFit. I have two skills left in the Basic test along with a sub-15 Christine. I want all of this.

***
On to something somewhat unrelated to fitness but definitely related to growth, I’m starting a GoFundMe fundraiser. I was recently accepted to co-present a workshop session at a national academic advising conference in October 2013. The problem comes down to I don’t have the funds to get myself there, along with two family weddings in the same month, and my institution also doesn’t have the funds to support me in my first ever national presentation. So, I’m figuring out what to do about the family travels, but I’m turning to peers and friends and family to help me out with this amazing professional development opportunity.

Here’s where you can find out more about how to help out: Help Get Ardith to NACADA!

Fun fact: If 190 people donate $5, I”ll reach my goal!

 

The Calling and the Purpose

A lot has changed in the past few years since starting to pay more attention to this concept of “purpose.” I switched career tracks, switched industries, and signed up for a lifetime of being over-worked, underpaid, and under-appreciated (or so the “common knowledge” says), all in the name of having some sort of impact on this crazy world.

Since identifying higher education as my ideal setting, I’ve been working to further refine that idea. What do I want to be able to do as I progress through this career? “Helping students” is so generic and broad, but I’m starting to get an idea of what it is I want to do.

The two-year college is an environment that I’ve always been drawn to. I was lucky enough to land a job in my first-choice realm*. Now that I’m in, I’ve been realizing that it’s open access that drives a lot of those admirable traits I see in the two-year college.

It’s not a perfect world, though. There are still many policies and procedures throughout this kind of setting that create barriers. There are specific populations who are more affected by these barriers, and I have an inkling that my eventual role will be to analyze and create policy that betters these experiences.

For now, I need to keep brushing up on my technical skills and my soft skills. I need to look further into what I want to know more about, what drives my curiosity.

How about you? Is working a means to an end? Or is work something that takes your interests and talents and churns out something bigger than you imagined?

*In case you’ve been wondering, my top choices for work environment go, in-order: 1. two-year public; 2. four-year public; 3. four-year private Jesuit; 4. four-year private Catholic