“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