Checking In…

It's time for another progress report on my "30 Before 30" list. Regarding the deadline, let's just say I keep asking for and granting extensions. 23-year-old Ardith is thankful for the more flexible time constraints, I like to believe. (That could be Present Me projecting.)

First, the last update from 2015. If you remember, I whittled my definitive list down to a handful of items. Below is the progress made since then, along with some notes where necessary.

The List
1. Visit theItalian town my Italian ancestors are from (Monastero di Lanzo)

2. Visit Australia and New Zealand

3. Visit Kauai, Hawai’i – Completed in February 2017

4. Learn to swim

5. Learn to ride a bike – Completed as of July 2017 (Well, my three class beginner series ended, and it ended with me being able to successfully ride in circles in a single gear! The learning continues.)

6. Learn more Spanish and Tagalog 

7. Meet my cousins and family in the Philippines – Finally completed as of April 2017 (And I plan to go again. Coincidentally, I returned to SE Asia a month later on a business exchange to our Vietnam office.)

8. Travel to the Oregon Coast again

9. Get my CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Change of plans: Completed my USAW Sports Performance Coach certification in June 2017

10. Visit Iceland – December 2015

11. Have the BEST 30th birthday celebration w/ my closest friends somewhere far away – See #10!

Giving me a little bit of extra time seemed to be the trick to ticking off more of my pared-down dream list.*

To be honest, this check-in was inspired primarily by my bicycling milestone. Can you believe this 31-year-old learned to ride a bike in three Sunday sessions? My goal was to be able to ride a bike at a reasonable speed on reasonably level ground, and I'm tickled that I met it. Now, clear the road and get out of my way–mostly for your own safety, because I'm still not fantastic at riding in a straight line.

*Full disclosure: I have a list of 100 dreams I created during a challenge issued by my work. The 11 items here are just a sliver of the whole. I would also be lying if I said most of my 100 dreams aren't travel-related… More to come.

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.

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 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

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

It’s Friday!

Graduating from University, June '08

On Monday, I start graduate classes. Consider me anxious.

Yesterday was University Day at my school. I went over with the rest of my office’s staff to listen to several speakers, enter to win sweet prizes, eat a delicious lunch, and peruse the various informational booths.

I had the chance to listen to Dr. Jillian Kinzie speak about student engagement. During her speech, she went over several key points I anticipate to learn more about as a student affairs grad. However, what struck a chord with me was the fact that several of the points were observations I had casually made over the summer and as I’ve tried to narrow down my ideas for a specialization.

A few people have recently heard that I wish to work in international programs and multicultural outreach. Ideally, I want to work in a role that encompasses both, as I personally noticed that programs like study abroad don’t seem entirely accessible to all students– read: most of my friends that studied abroad were white. Like I said, it was a casual observation that made me go, “Hmm…”

Dr. Kinzie mentioned that populations like first-generation students and students of color, among other groups, were least likely to engage in high-impact learning practices, which include things like class discussions, undergraduate research, and study abroad. (Not an exhaustive list, by any means). As she said that, I felt like jumping up and saying, “I knew it!” Now, of course, I’ll have to delve into how to change this trend– something I feel as if I’m capable of tackling.

Beyond that,¬† Dr. Kinzie said that college is a time of transformation, and that as professionals, we can encourage students to develop and think differently by placing them in situations which are “disorienting.” As she gave a few examples– one as simple as living with a roommate, or moving to a new city– what I had experienced, what I have known without being able to put into words, came full circle.

As a first-year student, I was restless because my old ways of thinking were continually challenged by new experiences. Luckily, I let these experiences shape me though, and I allowed myself to see new perspectives, see the world in different ways. College did transform me– I say it gave me the tools to ask the right questions, not that it gave me the answers to life.

Embarking on this student affairs journey is exciting, and yesterday gave me a glimpse into the work that I could potentially be doing. I, too, can help identify and provide opportunities for students to think in new ways, and as such, grow into a new level of consciousness.