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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Why I Choose to Fail at Relationships

“You will take a trip, and you will see a glimpse of the self that you hadn’t run into in a while. You will see that you missed that person you always were and still were but had lost track of. You will meet a girl who is interesting but whom you don’t really feel very strongly for and you will continue to see her. You will mistake your lukewarm feelings for maturity, for an ‘adult’ approach to love that allows it to grow slowly and involves a careful accumulation of intimacy that is measured out as if cooking from a recipe card.

This will not work, and it will take you a while to see that you are merely bored and are trying to bolster your self-worth and a space-filler for a lonely girl. You will drift away from her, and you will be surprised by how plainly you can see that you don’t and never did care at all. You will think that indifference is better than being lit up only to be extinguished.” – Anastasia Sasewich – “Here is What Will Happen” via Thought Catalog

“I know someone who is soon marrying his girlfriend of eight years. He admits that he loves her, but isn’t in love with her. He says that they are very different, that they don’t have much to talk about as friends, that they bicker and fight. But time has built commitment, families know each other, and they are used to life with each other now. I said that sounds very sad to me. He said, ‘It’s not so bad. I pretty much do what I want.’ He goes out with friends, drinks and smokes weed, hasn’t really changed anything for her and she has just learned to deal with it. Well I guess that’s good, I tried. ‘It is and it isn’t,’ he said. ‘Because on one hand, yeah, I do what I want, but on another…’ He paused for a long time before he started again, ‘I never learned to love anyone more than myself.’” – Jill Neumann – “Don’t Settle For What Doesn’t Make You Happy” via Thought Catalog

These two articles have stuck with me for weeks on end. They stick with me because I see my past self in both of them. (I replaced the gendered pronouns with my own preferred partner’s pronouns in some readings–and in other readings, I imagined myself as the girls [women, hopefully] in question.)

I see myself mistaking “settling for” as a way to end the loneliness. I catch a glimpse of myself as recent as last summer, and maybe a pang of guilt should surface when I read the passage that accuses me of never caring at all. But how guilty can you feel when it’s so true?

With the advent of social media, it becomes easy to cherry-pick the moments we put forward. “Everything is great–actually, it’s beyond great! We’re over the moon with happiness!” But behind the infinite walls of the Internet, things are falling apart or they’re just barely holding together in the first place. It becomes harder to distinguish genuine happiness and what’s been spun the same way media moguls nip and tuck their every message.

We cater to an expectation of bliss and perfection. We become afraid to reach for something that could be fulfilling because that reach–and the lingering fear of failure–becomes too much. We hold on to failures from the past and let those attempts dictate what we try next. We try what is the easiest.

And when it becomes clear that this isn’t what we ever wanted, some of us won’t leave. Because leaving hurts. And remembering how bad it felt to leave or to be left still stings more than we care to admit.

And those that don’t or can’t or won’t leave will make excuses. For him, for her, for themselves, whatever. They’ll make excuses, and they’ll carry on as if everything is OK. Which it could be. It could be “just OK.”

But if that’s what we’re living for–“just OK”–then I don’t want to be a part of it.

I have made mistakes, but I have learned. I rule out nothing moving forward. I won’t say I’ll never try distance again or I’ll never date a friend again or I’ll never this or never that because that’s not how life should work. I believe in the intrinsic goodness of people and the weirdness of the universe, and yes, I feel jaded a lot of the time. That part is obvious.

But it’s because I have allowed myself to feel–not just happiness, but sadness, anger, jealousy, forgiveness. Everything you can–and should–imagine.

Failure sucks. But I find it worse to roll over, to give up, to never try, than to pick myself up again, even if it means not succeeding. This is my resilience. This is why I choose failure over never trying.

Through all the trials and tests and obstacles thrown at me, there remains hope. I’ve explained that a lot of us–a good portion of my friends, at least–are still trying to figure it all out. Those who are making headway are taking risks, are letting themselves stumble here and there, and are letting themselves grow from it all. There are those who aren’t, but I hope for their best that they see what they’re worth, that they deserve more than they think they do, and that it does take some discomfort to clear those hurdles.

And if and when that moment comes that you realize you need a shoulder to lean on because the weight of the world just seems like too much, I’m here. I’m always here.

One more quote for the night, which just happens to be my email signature, but which also sums up the reality of these stories we are writing:

“Adventure is simply physical and emotional discomfort recollected in tranquility.” – Tim Cahill

So–are you simply getting by, or are you going to live a life of adventure?

Bleary-eyed, but I could make out the start of another grand adventure.

Bleary-eyed, but I could make out the start of another grand adventure.

Attitude. And Lots of It.

One of my strongest attributes as a dancer is my ability to channel attitude. I love being “on” with that much personality. I love feeling larger than life. Maybe that’s my “short girl complex” speaking, but I cannot imagine my life without my charisma and “showiness.”

This outgoing character of sorts is integral to my personality, and it has been for quite awhile. Believe it or not, I was a very shy child. However, I worked really hard at changing that. And by doing so long enough, I became extremely extroverted. Was it influenced by growing up with performance arts? Or was it just a natural development?

Did it happen when I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself all the time?

I used to hate my life. I let naysayers and bullies get to me. I internalized every negative word and couldn’t handle criticism. I was a wreck. Thus is the genius child’s plight.

I made a deliberate effort to think positively, or at least adopt an “I don’t care what you think” attitude. For the most part, it worked–but I still struggle with the not placing a ton of value on what people think. For the most part though, I worry about how I feel.

My current venture in the single lady realm is allowing me to really explore my attitudes and my own needs and wants on my own terms. A lot of this also plays into my student affairs world. I’m thankful for the opportunity to scope out my niche on my own.

I’ve been talking more in class discussions this time around, as compared to my participation in undergraduate discussions. Maybe I don’t have the most articulate thoughts all the time, but that’s alright. I’m getting my thoughts out there, and hopefully, I’m helping others think about things in new ways. I’m not as worried about “sounding dumb” anymore, and that’s awesome.

Anyway, my blood sugar is really low. It’s snack time.

(Drop Dead) Beautiful

Spring quarter just began. I’m looking forward to it, primarily because I got that reset I needed. Thank you, NASPA and my week-long venture to Wenatchee.

Spring break itself was interesting. I was irresponsible throughout the NASPA conference and my following adventures in Portland (a.k.a., going to the Girl Talk concert on St. Patrick’s Day, which basically meant I danced my face off for about two hours straight); by pushing myself for over a week, I eventually got pretty sick. I had been fighting off a lingering virus since the beginning of March, and on the Saturday following St. Paddy’s, I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a freight train.

On Sunday, I still managed to muster up enough energy to drive back to Wenatchee. How I made it in one piece boggles my mind; it rained the entire time–hard–once I got over the mountain pass and onto the east side. And of course, by that point, it had gotten dark out. Sick girl, lots of rain, bald tires, side winds, no light–that should have meant sure death. But I made it, and my mom proceeded to feed me juice and soup.

After days of minimal exertion, I finally started feeling better. Do you know how good that feels when you’ve been functioning with low-energy for weeks? I managed to start feeling well enough that I could go out for hours and stay out late without too many repercussions, and that led to quality time with quality people.

One of my favorite things in this world is having the chance to reconnect with individuals I haven’t seen for a long time. Luckily, with a bit of chance, I was able to do that over break. It’s fascinating to hear stories from people that have been MIA in my life–and I’m talking beyond hearing stories on Facebook and whatnot. Actually sitting down, hearing stories first-hand with all the details, and sharing laughs and intertwining lifelines is absolutely beautiful.

My nerdy side also really enjoys seeing how development theory displays itself in my own life and my friends’. There are so many dimensions to development–particularly in the college student realm–that it’s nice to be able to attach real-life examples to the words I read on textbook pages. We are much more complex nowadays than we were in high school, and we recognize that. I interpret meaning more deeply nowadays, too. As such, I daydream quite a bit about “Why would I be in this place at that time? What does it all mean?”

Maybe that’s why “We are the hero of our own story” (Mary McCarthy) keeps resonating with me. I have a lot to unfold in these next few chapters.

It’s a good thing I’m not a speed-reader.

Go ahead.

Finding a Niche

My blog is about life, plain and simple. When I started blogging after college, I thought it would be a good way to record for potential employers my professional development and thought processes. More recently, I thought it would be a good way for others to explore one person’s Quarter-Life Crisis, which is why I’ve been somewhat active on 20sb.net and been plugging my posts into Facebook and Twitter apps.

Neither of those things have really happened. (At least not to degrees I’m wholly satisfied with.)

Currently, my blog seems to be a general record of my travels and other life happenings. At the very least, and I’ve said it before, it’s a way for my family and friends to have more insight into what I’m thinking and how my life’s path is developing. It’s my preferred method of sharing events, as opposed to weekly e-mails.

I still want to share my blogging with others outside of my family/friend circle. I haven’t really told anyone that I’ve submitted applications to blog for a small company that caters to the QLC (which I should say is still simply amazing!), mostly because I’ve applied twice and been rejected twice and I still handle rejection like a 14-year-old girl with a bad crush. I was really hoping this last time around that I would get good news. Instead, I was turned down for one reason or another, which, no matter how it’s worded, always filters through as, “Your blog sucks, your writing isn’t that good, and your adventures aren’t as cool as other people’s.”

It’s a totally irrational way to feel, and I know the way I’m living my life is just fine. My writing skills are also just fine, but please feel free to tell me if my sentence structures bother you. EDIT: In addition, I still don’t handle things like, “You don’t really have the qualifications we’re looking for in this job position” or “We should just be friends” in totally mature terms. When I got a whole slew of assistantship rejections at my dream school, I was crushed. There was a day where I got rejected from my “last hope” and almost had another melt-down. …I have mini melt-downs a lot, don’t I?

I hope that I can find an appropriate outlet when I get more involved with student affairs. Perhaps my other bloggy callings lie in contributing to SA blogs. Or vlogs. Hmm…

ANOTHER EDIT: I didn’t really tie any of this together, but what I should say is I am still learning to deal with rejection or let-downs by making them lessons. I have often overcome these low-points by not giving up. When I say that I was the captain of my college cheer squad, what I don’t usually tell people is that I was cut from cheer try-outs my sophomore year and dance team my junior year in high school. I came back senior year, made the team, and used the momentum there to make some impressive changes in my life.

Things have a way of working out; I tell myself that one opportunity closing means it wasn’t right at that moment or that something that is a better fit will come along.

Enough of that, though– can I just say I’m so thrilled that Spain won the World Cup? I almost cried when I saw the camera shots of the crowds in Madrid. If only teleportation was an option…