That Was… Interesting.

Week 7, in a nutshell, was interesting. It was interesting in that “I’m not sure if I’d want to do that again, but whatever” kind of way.

Monday I’d gladly do all over again, but that’s because I got to sleep in, spend all day in my jammies, and do laundry. I’ve tailored my winter schedule to allow for a lot of PJ-clad portfolio writing, so I’m looking forward to that!

Tuesday through Thursday was jam-packed busy. I’m leaving tonight to fly to San Diego for the NASPA Western Bi-Regional Conference, so naturally, I was rushing to cover my bases. A combination of delegating more event-planning responsibilities to my trusty students and only taking one academic class has left me feeling like I’m forgetting something. According to my to-do list, though, I’m okay.

However, I spent Wednesday night onwards trying to process a lot. I’ve been up in my head and spewing out verbal nonsense here and there.

I came to a few conclusions, or at least reaffirmations of what I already knew about myself.

I am not an activist. I am not an activist in terms of racial equality nor gender equality nor anything else. That doesn’t mean I don’t care. I am, like we discussed in Multicultural Issues, a “tempered radical.” I do my best work by seeking to understand the context of my environment and making subtle shifts and changes here and there. I am proud of my heritage, and I am frustrated when my mixed identity confuses others. I am sad that I haven’t found a support network like WWU’s FASA here at Oregon State, but I fault myself for not being proactive in some ways. I don’t blame OSU for the make-up of its student body or its staff or its faculty. They are working towards becoming a truly multicultural institution, and that comes with hiccups and uncomfortable stops along the way. If change and progress were easy, well then, why would we even care to try in whatever capacity we can?

I lead by example. This is something my former cheer coach told me. Maybe I was the worst stunter on the team, but I did the work I needed to do. I networked with other members of Athletics, and I did my best to keep a program I cared about on the path to being great. No, I was not a perfect leader, and there are many instances I would go back and alter. I wasn’t necessarily loved dearly by everyone, but I can tell you that I cared about all my teammates and that I saw potential in every single one of them. I tried to provide positive feedback, reminding individuals, “Hey, you’re really skilled at x. I want you to take charge of this because you’re great at leading, too.” We all have our strengths. We are not all perfect. Some of us are better at seeing the big picture and putting smaller pieces into place, and that’s my style. I don’t lead by establishing myself as an expert. I lead by trying to show others how to cooperate and move towards a common goal.

I’m not done developing. You can snicker a bit at that sentence, since it sounds like I’m talking about puberty. Regardless, I recognize that I still have a long ways to go. I still feel like a 25-year-old child. (Turning 26 rather soon, too.) Like Robin Scherbatsky, I have this cool-girl attitude that masks the fact that there is a lot of confusion and some hurt that I still need to work through. In a recent episode, Robin says, “I’m such a mess. Why do you even like me?” She gets two very different answers when she asks that question. The second response affirms her, stating, “I am constantly amazed by the things you say. Entranced by the things you do… I hope that one day you see yourself the way I see you.” I think I’m pretty rad, don’t get me wrong, but I need some time. I am still becoming. (Sometimes we forget the “students in transition” thing applies to graduate students, too.)

There’s where I’m at in my program right now. I don’t do things “perfectly,” whatever that may be. I am still getting the most out of this experience, though. I came to this program to make my experiences, not to just get them.

Rear-view Mirror: Week Six

I started this week in Vegas. I’m ending it early in Corvallis, although I just read a particularly narrow-minded “Letter to the Editor” on a friend-of-a-friend’s Facebook page. “It hits the nail on the head!” (If you like one-sided polarized babble, it sure does.)

I’m going to try and not discuss the ensuing comment thread, in which backwards application of the perspective lends resulted in the conclusion of “My life experiences are different, and saying that only white people can be racist isn’t true, and liberals are mean.” Political polarization is really driving me nuts, so I’ll just continue in my brain-washed, overly-critical analysis of my actions and how they affect the world around me.

ANYWAY.

Week Six. Like I said, I started it in Vegas. In a nutshell, I took a vacation to the desert, completed an assignment ahead of time so that I could fully enjoy my vacation, dressed up as Scar from the Lion King, and laid out in the sun on Halloween. I got away from some of the stress I’m experiencing in Corvallis, and other than send a few emails and polish my paper on the plane, I was focused on the art of relaxation. It was wonderful. I even discovered my new favorite bar/nightclub, which is CatHouse, located in the Luxor Hotel.

Of course, I had to return to my “real life” on Tuesday, which meant hopping back on an airplane, driving back to Corvallis, and then attending a meeting and a three-hour class. I was surprisingly alert and ready-to-go, which meant I was able to glean quite a bit of insight from Tuesday’s lecture. We had a guest speaker talk about application of Jim Collins’ Good to Great to a community college context, as opposed to its original application to the business world. One of the biggest take-aways for me was the concept of the flywheel. Flywheels are apparently really difficult to get going, but once in motion, they really stay in motion. They’ve got a lot of energy behind them, in other words. (It’s also incredibly hard to get the thing to change directions once it’s going.) Applied to the concept of organization and administration, the flywheel demonstrates that it can be hard to get new ideas to catch on or for change to happen. However, it’s an optimistic view in that once something is in place and starts gathering energy behind it, it can be powerful.

The opposite of the flywheel is the doom loop, which is basically the depressing spiral of “oh nooooo” that can happen when something goes wrong. Simply put, avoiding thinking in doom loop ways. When I’m in a not-so-great state of mind, I do have a tendency to gravitate toward the worst-case scenarios and then spiral down from there. Usually, though, I feel as if I do a good job of finding other perspectives, allowing myself to reframe situations. (Thank you, communication degree!)

On Wednesday, I traveled to Salem to work on my internship project. I began interviewing student organization advisors, trying to understand what their experiences and current roles in advising student groups look like. Overall, I’m trying to compare the institution’s approach to advising student organizations with other colleges’, and from there, I’ll devise a set of best practices. I’ve only conducted two interviews so far, but they’ve both been great. It was particularly interesting because the two advisors I met with are so different. One has advising student organizations built into his job role, and he’s been in the field for many, many years. The other advisor advises one group on a voluntary basis, and he’s fairly new it, especially considering he took an unconventional route to working at a college. I’m excited to see where the rest of these interviews go.

Thursday was one of those days that wrapped up on a warm and fuzzy note. I teach a orientation class for transfer students, and over the off-week (we meet every other week), groups of students were assigned to interview a staff or faculty member. The goal was to get a better understanding of what that person’s role at the school was, where they came from, and how those staff/faculty members view themselves in relation to students. There was a good range in who was interviewed (one group even interviewed me), and what they shared with the class was just really cool, simply put. One group interviewed someone who had held nearly every kind of position possible at a college–including a custodial position. Other groups reported back about the advice their interviewees gave them. The emergent theme centered around how personable these folks were. Seeing that one of my major draws into student affairs was giving students the chance to relate with people–and not a faceless institution–I was very happy to see that some of that came out in the assignment.

And today? I cross-trained with my supervisor, sitting in on three academic advising appointments. As honors advisors, my colleagues have the unique role of working with students from different disciplines, figuring out schedules which will satisfy major requirements as well as UHC requirements. It can be confusing! However, advising appointments also allow some check-in time, which I could see serves as an important way of not only getting feedback on current courses, but a way to make sure a student is just doing okay. It was encouraging to see my supervisor fit in scheduling and well-being conversation into each appointment.

Speaking of well-being, I took a power nap this afternoon, and then I went to my last counseling (or “talking it out”) session for the term. Things are looking up, and my counselor encouraged me to get a jump start on job applications. We talked a lot about my vacation, as well as some of the conclusions I’ve come to. I told him that I had a break-through a few weeks ago when I found myself telling someone, partially out of frustration with my own situation, that “I came to Corvallis because I wanted to do something for myself. I didn’t want to follow a boy. I wanted to get an education for myself at the school that was the best fit for me. And that’s Oregon State. If I wanted to make dating a priority, I would have stayed in Seattle no matter what. If my relationship had failed there, I would have had plenty of other boys to choose from.” But it wasn’t my priority. My priority was myself.

It still is. It’s hard feeling isolated in Corvallis. I know this is a chapter that will close, though. And I know great things will happen in the next few months. Patience is my theme.

I used to tell people that when I grew up, I wanted to be great.

This is my chance.

I’m growing up. I will be great.

This has nothing to do with Vegas, but it's still amazing.

Some Boys

Some boys don’t know how to love.

Ain’t that the truth, Mr. Gibbard.

Tonight, out of the blue, a friend asked me, “Do you feel genuinely valued?” We chatted about how feeling valued is so important, but people just sometimes don’t know how to really show it. 

Whether my friend knows this or not, I struggle with the issue of validation and value quite a bit. The most common issue I seem to have in relationships is not feeling like I’m thought about, which is a very big problem when every relationship I’ve been in since starting college has had a distance component.

To be honest, I have never felt completely valued while in a serious relationship (which explains partially why those relationships are no longer). I’ve had moments where it feels like I am a priority in someone else’s life, but as I started to explain, that feeling tends to die down as comfort levels for the other party increase.

It’s an assumption that I know completely how much I mean to someone else.

False. I don’t.

It’s a known issue. Whether that’s normal or not, or it’s something that should or can be fixed, the fact of the matter is that this is what I live with.

Of course, you might too, if  you had your trust invalidated multiple times. These last couple of rounds of trust-breaking have been so intense that I am irrationally suspicious of intentions now.

Sometimes I still cry when I think about how awful it felt to be told that I was flawed in this way or that way, to be toyed with, and to ultimately learn that I wasn’t even important enough to not only not be a priority, but that I was actually one of a handful of “options.” That was the ultimate invalidation; I was disposable and interchangeable. Immediately after that, I was deceived by another person.

And then my dad died. I was at a very low point when it happened, and I’ve struggled in getting through the event and processing things on my own.

Basically, I’m an emotional wreck when I let the weight of the world get to me. I’m usually fine being my normal happy self, but then there are still moments when I think, “Am I doomed to get myself into situations where I don’t seek out validation and value?” It’s scary to face that unknown, and it’s a daunting issue that I’m coping with.

Another problem is that I love the thrill of the chase, and the guys I’m attracted to seem to be the same way. I, however, also enjoy the fun in sharing dumb jokes and funny stories throughout the week, connecting over little conversations here and there. I’m not a, “Tell me what you had for lunch,” every day type of lady, but I like to feel included in little ways. I just tend to see value in sharing stories, and especially with distance, I want that other person to know he’s still in my thoughts.

I don’t like to be the initiator all the time, though. Most of the time, my relationships tend to morph into me always initiating–conversation, plans, whatever, you name it. And if I like the guy, I’ll go with it, even past the point where I realize I’m putting in a billion times more effort.

Then I get sad because I haven’t felt valued in a long time Then I try harder. Then things fall apart because I’m emotional and insecure and clingy. It’s a rightful mess that I’d like to avoid for, oh, the rest of eternity.

So, if you were my partner–how would you plan on keeping me around once you’ve got me on the hook? Like I’ve said before, I’m not some trophy one gets to show off every now and then. I’m a real human who needs to know she’s wanted and cherished.

Conversely, though–dating isn’t one-sided. So, as a lady, what can I do to be the best possible partner? How do I show someone he is valued in my life?

How does something shiny and new keep its luster in the long-run?

It's simple, really...

In other news, I am making some pretty rad playlists on Spotify. Username: ardithlaverne