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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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

Southern Exposure

This past Wednesday, I took off for Savannah, Georgia. I was headed to the NACADA Administrators’ Institute where I would join the advising divisional managers at my school to draft up some plans to do what we do better.

The trip was one of the most fun I’ve had, and that says quite a bit. From watching Lincoln and Argo on the flight over, to playing tourist in historic downtown Savannah, to finding myself at a country bar talked into riding a mechanical bull (a.k.a., “The Buffalo”), to playing spokesperson as we outlined our detailed plan of action, to making newly-friends… it was truly re-energizing.

I took back some of that new energy today, trying my best to draw out some more depth in my conversations with students today. Our advising model may not be perfect and we definitely have some challenges that come with growing pains, but even though I was dead tired (thanks to an all-day travel day yesterday), I got through it.

I’ve got to keep this up, keep this momentum going. Yes, that sounds like a good plan of action.

Again by the Atlantic

Again by the Atlantic

Buzz Words

“Passion.”

We hear/say/read that word a lot in student affairs. Most of us are in this field because it directly relates to what we feel is a larger purpose in life. We’re in the field because we love education and working with students. We’re passionate about what we do, and we hope that it comes out in the work that we do.

I came across a great article that doesn’t have to do with student affairs in the slightest, but its moral has everything to do with jobs and passion. Via Pithypants, the article “When applause means more than, ‘You didn’t kill us!'” is simply a wonderful read about a job done well.

Also, there are airplanes involved, and I love airplanes. (And I’m especially happy that the airline involved was Alaska Air, since it’s a PNW-based business.)

My Transcontinental Quarter-Life Challenge and Whatnot

Roz Savage wrote a recent article, “My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis.” It’s an interesting and somewhat inspiring article in which the author explores her transformative midlife crisis, which led her to row solo across both the Atlantic and Pacific. She’ll tackle the Indian Ocean next month, and if successful, she’ll be “the first woman to conquer the Big Three.”

Now that’s stuntin’.

But after reading the article, I thought to myself, “Thank goodness I had my breakdown and my ‘ah-ha!’ moments so much earlier.” Savage worked for about a decade in a job that was stable and predictable; basically, she took the safe way out to figure out what she wanted to do and didn’t get out of that phase.

When I realized what I was doing was not what I wanted to be doing–months after graduation–I took immediate action. Yes, it was a difficult year and then some that followed, but I had no husband, no mortgage, no set, established life to upset. I had a turbulent life that I proceeded to make even more turbulent.

And it made all the difference.

I’m studying a subject that prompts me to click on a flashlight and scribble down thoughts in a notebook at 1AM. I’m trying to secure an internship for the summer, and it’s stressing me out because there are so many options and approaches to get where I want to be–that’s better than feeling resigned. I’m attending conferences and connecting with people not to get ahead but to push myself to keep learning so I can be the best at what I do.

I said so long ago that I wanted to see the world, and through utilization of my networks (new and old), I am finding ways to make it happen. Someone said to me a few months ago, “I love traveling. It’s too bad I’m at that point where I’m just not going to have time to see much more.” He said that because he was resigning to the working world, making it a burden. I couldn’t have disagreed more, considering where I stand in life.

I’ve only explored the metaphorical tip of the iceberg when it comes to travel or my career or even life. I’m twenty-five years young, and the only things that can hold me back are finances and my own ambition.

“The ocean is scary and it’s daunting, and most of the time I wanted to give up” (p. 23, Savage, 2011). I’m sure we’ve all felt that way; just replace “ocean” with another word like “the job search” or “traveling by myself” or whatever scares you. I’m just thankful I didn’t give up when I wanted to because here I am, two terms into my grad career, with a whole slew of new cities and adventures I’ve conquered, and a whole bunch of possibilities in front of me.

That’s not daunting–it’s beautiful.

Once

I finished my paper for Monday’s class. It should not have taken as long as it did, seeing that I wrote half of it two weeks go and another big chunk last weekend. But it is what it is.

This quarter is picking up in pace, but I am so excited for Thanksgiving, my birthday, and winter break. I will be taking the train up to Seattle after finals, then heading to Wenatchee a few days before Christmas, and then back again to Seattle for New Year’s. I am very much looking forward to quality TUBFE time and The Nest time. And maybe some quality Super Ninja time. šŸ˜‰

I am particularly excited, however, for a recent development in life. I realized that I finally have a dream job. A realistic one, one that matters and impacts others. And I also realized that my dream job sounds very similar to the jobs my parents had while they were overseas.

What do I want? I don’t know if I’ll disclose everything right now. But do know that it’s very inspiring to finally have that.

I’m a lucky one, figuring out that there’s a field I belong in.

Anyway, it’s late dinner and a movie time. I have earned it.