The Student Affairs New Professional

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 28

Quote of the Day:
"It's so much easier to talk when the lights are off."
- Me

Quick update since the last post:
I did end up moving. I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a Housing staff member, who was working over the weekend, and was able to have a bed put in my new apartment. No clue what's gonna happen to the far, nothing's happened yet. Surprised? I'm not.
Am I still mad? Of course. But is anyone going to care? Nope, of course not.

So I've been thinking and here's what I've come up with:

1) I don't do well with mediocre goals.
Remember how I was thinking that working out 3 times a week was a realistic goal, so I'd stick with that (rather than saying I'll work out every night or so)...well, somehow I've been using that "only 3 times" as an excuse. I keep thinking, "Oh, I'm tired tonight and I don't really have to do it because I got enough other days left this week"...but then something comes up those other days and then I do nothing at all. It's like in school when I wasn't able to just study for a "B"...even when I knew that a "B" was enough to get me an "A" overall in the course. I mean, how do you study for a B? What if you think you've studied enough for a "B" and then it turns out to only be a "C." Or worse, you totally miscalculate and end up with a "D." Okay, that probably wouldn't happen, but still.... I've just never been able to not go all out for something. The only help was my talent in procrastinating...when I started studying enough, I ended up only studying for an "A" (and possibly panicking the morning of the exam) instead of studying for an "A+." But it was never because I didn't have high goals.
So I guess I'll have to reevaluate those goals, huh?

2) I take it, take it, take it and then I blow up.
Okay, I may have to explain that one a little better...
It's like this: Things don't go my way and I deal with it. I try to find a way to live with it. I may vent to a friend or on this blog, but then I make the situation work and I won't say anything to anyone...most of the time, I won't even admit to myself that it's bothering me. I'm pretty good at ignoring my own feelings and convincing myself that they don't exist. Like I pretended for the longest time that the whole apartment-not-being-ready thing in the Fall wasn't that big a deal. Yeah, at times I'd get annoyed, but overall, I just accepted it. That's what it's like working in Reslife, right?
I convinced myself that I was okay with all these "interventions" people had with me in attempts to stop me from working so hard because they came out of concern about me. Deep down I knew that I thought they were annoying and stupid...after all, if you know me at all, you would know that these talks don't work with me...that they only throw me in bigger disarray and I end up staying up all night thinking about what I should do and what consequences these talks would have on my career and my goals...and in the end, I slept less, worked harder and worried more. Not exactly an improvement in terms of having balance in your life, huh?
Anyway, I've gotten sidetracked...
So all these things, I've just kind of accepted them, dealt with them, not said anything.
And then something happens, like the stupid thing with my move last weekend, and I blow up. Fortunately for my colleagues, I was all by myself in my apartment, so nobody had to witness my blow-up this time. But for a very long time, I've been feeling ready to the smallest thing can push me over the a ticking bomb....
I guess it'd be healthier to express my feelings a little more often and not to let it all build up so much. So why don't I do that???
Hmmm, there's definitely fear...fear of it hurting my career if I actually say what I think and the wrong person hears it; but also the fear of nothing being done about it and me feeling even more disappointed and frustrated afterwards. There's also the lack of a forum to ever really express your thoughts. An "End-of-the-Year" survey is a nice thing and I'm sure makes department heads feel better about themselves, but is that really enough???
I'm sure there's a million other reasons I could come up with, if I think about it a little longer.
But it's almost my bedtime (remember, I have to get up early this summer for work...and the first Orientation session is tomorrow...AHHHH!!!) and this has gotten long enough already...
And there's one more thing I wanted to talk about...

3) The one thing I learned from being a journalism major is to forget about your audience's reactions/feelings when you start writing.
(I'm not sure if that's something I was supposed to learn....)
But seriously: I used to write these columns and I would sometimes write slightly controversial things...and I'd totally forget that people were actually reading this column and that my name was attached to it (as well as a picture). And when someone commented on one of my columns, I was always shocked...suddenly remember again that people actually read them. But I think that really helped me. If I'd been worrying about what people thought, about the consequences of my writings, I would never written half the things.
Similarly with this blog...
Some people, who know me and know that I'm writing these posts, have asked me how I can put myself out there so I can be so honest about how I feel/what I think, etc.
Well, to be honest, half the time I forget that people actually read this. And I'm kinda glad I do, because otherwise all you'd get to read would be politically correct but horribly boring little stories about how wonderful this job is and how well things are going.
it's kind of like when my friends and I, or my sister and I, used to have sleepovers and we'd turn the lights off and talk for hours and hours...because it's so much easier to talk and to be honest when the lights are off, right?
Maybe we should have feedback sessions at work with the lights turned off...haha.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 27

Quote of the Day:
"The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes."
- Thomas Hardy

So I am really annoyed right now. Not just annoyed, but I don't think I can say how I really feel on this blog...

Here's what happened:
I am supposed to move this weekend. I planned it into my schedule; decided not to do anything for the long weekend and instead use it to get move and unpack and get totally settled in, so that I wouldn't have to worry about anything afterwards.
So I picked up my key on Thursday because I meant to go over to the suite and check it out before actually moving...but then things came up and I just didn't get around to it. And I figured, why be paranoid. How about just trusting that people are actually going to do their job and do what they promised to do? I mean, why wouldn't the suite be ready for me since this has all been set up and was a done real?

So tonight, I got back from work and was pretty tired (since I stayed up late last night...went to see Pirates). I decided to take a nap first...after all, moving was gonna be easier anyway once it got cooler out. And as we all know, I'm a night-person.
I own this huge bookshelf, so I pack that in my car. I debated for a second whether I should squeeze other things in there. But then I decided to just go over there and check out the suite first.

And guess what...
the suite is NOT ready. There is no bed in it (because the staff member who lived there before had her own bed). The paint is peeling was supposed to be painted but clearly hadn't been.

I'm so mad, I don't even know what to say. And you'd think that the coordinator, who checked out the staff member (only two days ago, actually...even though that staff member had moved out a couple weeks ago), would have said something. Maybe even gotten the Housing Manager to get his act together...or at least give me a heads up. But no, why would anyone care about me and my happiness in this department?

I know I'm making a bigger deal out of this then it is. But it just feels like this is just another one in a long line of disappointments that I've had to deal with at this school and with this department.

And now I don't know what to do....
Should I just move and accept the fact that the apartment will never be painted and fixed up; and that I'd have to sleep on the couch?
Or should I wait? But then, how long would I have to wait? And I had this weekend planned to move and next week Orientation starts and I won't want to deal with moving anymore. And all my stuff is already in boxes!
This is SO frustrating!

I want to like this department; I've really tried to be patient and supportive and to try and see things from their perspective. But whenever something goes well (like when I got the living learning community I wanted for next year), ten other things go wrong. And I spend more time worrying about what they'll do to me next then focusing on my job.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 16

Post 16 from Tryin' to Get Paid

On the Radio: The Jim Rome Show
On the Mind: Wish it wouldn't rain anymore

Well, since things finally calmed down, I can blog for ya'll (I know, I're happy to hear from me). Since we don't have summer school out here, hardly anyone is here, except for full-time staff. It's eerily quiet around here (I'm used to students stopping by my office all the time, using the computers outside my office, stealing candy from my desk), so I've had time to finish my last-minute paperwork and budget details before the fiscal year ends. I also did my summer calendar, so I created some timelines for my major projects and scheduled vacation times, so I know when I deserve a break. My mind runs so fast that I forget little things, like going home to eat dinner, do the laundry, and get the occasional nap, so I've gotta write those things down.

Anyways, graduation was phenomenal! I thought that the ceremony would be boring and the standard fare graduation, but it was excellent. When the procession started with a Scottish drum and bagpipe band, followed by the flags of countries where graduates came from, I literally had goosebumps from the excitement. Add the fact that graduation was outdoors on a beautiful day, and it made for a picture-perfect scene. I only wished my graduation was outdoors, with a gentle breeze on my face and lots of people there to celebrate with me. There weren't too many outlandish outfits (one student wore a plad suit and bowtie), but some came with their own fashion in mind. When I left, I was really proud to have been there, seen some of my students cross the stage, and proud to be working at such a place. Also, the keynote speaker was great. She does non-profit work helping disadvantaged children across the United States, and it was inspiring to hear her words of encouragement to the graduates. She was waaayyy better than my graduation speaker (he told us if we didn't become entrepreneurs, we would be failures in life).

Since the summer is really starting (it's getting a little hotter outside), I've really got to start thinking about how my first year went. The months of April and May were extremely fast-paced, so now I have the time to really think about this past year, and really read my performance review. It wasn't sterling, however I did well enough to keep my job and for the Dean of Students to tell me that my work has had an impact. There were times this past year that I felt that I wasn't doing enough, or I wasn't having an impact. I guess it's tough to see all the time when you're always moving around and have your hand in various projects and don't have the time to take a timeout to savor your efforts. Now, I can sit around and ponder "What would I do differently?" and "What do I need to make positive changes for students and my colleagues?" I'll definitely keep thinking, and I'll share my thoughts, hopefully tomorrow (wow, 2 posts in 1 week, aren't you as suprised as I am?)

I have to run to a going away party for a graduate intern who just got their first job. Hmmm...what advice could I give him? I'm glad I have a blog to reference to...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Learning to Fly - Post 26

Quote of the Day:
"That's what a ship is, you know. It's not just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that's what a ship needs but what a ship is... what the Black Pearl really is... is freedom."
- Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean

Summer used to the be time for adventure, the time to celebrate your freedom. I remember the excitement of the last day of classes. Not so much anymore....

Okay, I'm once again being a drama queen. Summer's still pretty nice. First of all, it's nice out and that always puts me in a much better mood. Then, there's work but not as much. Now, when I get home at 5 PM (I don't think I've ever gotten home that early during the academic year), I'm actually done for the day and don't have three more evening meetings. Okay, there's still my to-do-lists (getting things ready for my living learning community for next year, taking care of some RHA stuff, preparing for Training Sessions for the Fall) and then, of course, the move. I haven't made it through one summer in the seven years I've spent in this country without having to move. Crazy, huh?

I've spent this weekend organizing/cleaning/packing. I doubt this'll be a surprise to anyone, but I have a really really hard time letting go of some things. I still have a bunch of door decs from undergrad, have my two favorite bulletin boards saved (even though I'll never be able to use them again) and lots of postcards, old calendars, pictures and and and. And of course that doesn't make moving any easier.

It is kinda nice though to come across all these old things when you're packing and to remember all the fun I had. Still, I'm not looking forward to next weekend when I actually have to move. Well, this weekend was somewhat productive and if I get a few more things done this weekend, it shouldn't be too painful.

So last year, I came up with this fabulous list of goals for the summer and I did a decent job at trying to accomplish them. So here we go with my list for this summer:

* Re-read all the Harry Potter Books and mentally prepare for the release of Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows. I know, this may sound weird, but seriously, Harry Potter's played such a huge part in my life these past few year that the release of the last book will be a quite emotional event for me. So I'm allowing myself to really get into the hype around this Harry Potter summer; from the countdown for the movie and the book on my computer to checking on a daily basis to reading all the books again (I've actually spent quite a lot of time trying to figure out when I should start reading them; because I don't want to get done too early but I also can't afford not getting through all of maybe 6 weeks before the release? This is a tough decision!).

* Get in shape again. I'm going to try and set some more realistic goals this summer though: I'm planning on working out at least three times a week. I can do three times. Sometimes, I'm just too tired at night after work; and there's no way I'd ever get up early in the morning; but three days a week are doable.

* Organize some of my old files and documents; preferably even type some up, so that I can keep electronic copies instead of all those papers. Hey, that'd even make moving easier in the future! ;)

* Get ready for next year: I'm working on this pre-test that I want students in my living learning community to take, as well as a newsletter (that will include the link to the pre-test) that'll be sent out prior to them coming to campus, a type of residential curriculum for my living learning community, a leadership portfolio program and and and. Yeah, I won't get bored this summer.... But hopefully all the hard work will pay off and maybe even make next semester a little less stressful.

* Have some fun and treat myself to something once in a while. I'm thinking about a Carvel ice cream cake...hmmmm...for some reason I've had a craving But I also want to do some other fun things...maybe just lay out in the sun one afternoon or drive somewhere and do something. We'll see; but I clearly don't want to spend the entire summer locked into my apartment.

I think that's least everything I can think of right now. And it's also way past my bedtime (since office hours start at 7:30 AM here in the summer...CRAZINESS!!!).
Hopefully, next time I post, I'll be able to report that I have finished moving and have managed not to break anything. And hopefully, I'll also ahve seen the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie (I'll definitely take a break from moving for

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 25

Quote of the Day:
“Follow effective action with quiet reflection. From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.”
- Peter F. Drucker

Today was one of those nice, lazy days. I woke up late, stayed in bed for a while and read ("What is the What" by Dave Eggers...pretty good book so far), then had a late breakfast, called my family, read some more, watched some TV, read some more, downloaded a couple songs (legally, of course...i paid for the downloads and all), checked my e-mail, checked my Facebook, read some more. It was one of those days that is pretty nice as you're going through it but at the end of the day, you'll ask yourself, "Where did today go? What did I do all day?"

Oh yeah, I also looked at my blog from last year, when I was going through the job search. Wow, I was quite the drama queen...haha. It's really weird looking back at these posts now. I can still remember the emotional rollercoaster, but it seems so far away, like it wasn't really me who was going through all that. I have a very selective memory (I'm serious...this is the only way I can explain this)...I generally only remember the good things; or I make the mediocre things a lot better in my memory. Once they're in the past, things just don't seem that bad to me anymore. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Anyway, I cracked myself up reading what I was thinking last year, especially when it came to my job offer and what I anticipated my first year at this institution to be like.
So let's do some reflecting...

1) I thought I'd have a lot more free time and that I'd have a life again.
Hmmm, not really. Haha. Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm just a hopeless workaholic. But this year was definitely a lot more stressful than I anticipated it to be. I rarely noticed that I wasn't taking classes anymore. I didn't really have time to think about it.
This job is stressful...and I know my colleagues would agree. Okay, some of them are definitely better able to find a balance and to have a life outside of work. And I know, partially, it's my own fault. I just can't turn my brain off. I'll come back to my apartment and watch some TV show but in the back of my head I'm still thinking about the job and about what I need to accomplish the next day and what I want to do differently and and and. I constantly make to-do-lists in my head. I think about different community development models. I ponder if I could have handled a situation better. I wonder how my staff is doing and if I am supporting them enough. How do you turn off your brain?
You say, I could think about different things. Yeah, I do, sometimes. I think about my friends from home, remember the fun times we had, write e-mails and read theirs finding out about what's going on in their lives...but being so far apart, I can only think about them so much. Then, I think about Harry Potter and what will happen in Book 7. I can obsess about it for hours, reading Fan Web sites, analysing various theories, coming up with my own theories, looking up paragraphs in old books to see if my theories could work, rereading the books in general, taking funny Harry Potter quizzes online and and and. But again, you can only do that for so long. So then I start thinking about the jo again....
Yeah, I know I need to learn how to have a life again. That was my goal last summer and this year. I failed. So I guess I'll have to work on that again next year.
But you know, sometimes I just really enjoy spending time with my students (RAs or RHA or even some of my residents) so much more than hanging out with other professional staff members (and I don't really know anyone who doesn't work here, so it's either them or my students), ...
I don't know. It's just not that easy. But I'll work on it, I promise.

2) I thought I'd fit in well with the staff here and make some good friends.
Hmmm, again, didn't really happen. I guess first impressions from a one-day campus interview don't tell you everything...haha...big surprise.
There's a few amazing individuals I've met and that I really enjoy spending time with. But not that many. And there's definitely been a lot of times when I felt pretty lonely and isolated. I just didn't feel like I fit in with many of the other staff members. I wasn't really interested in spending my time with the things they were doing. Okay, I probably also didn't make the best effort at reaching out to others and asking them to hang out; and in terms I wasn't often asked to come along. But then again, sometimes I just enjoyed spending time with my staff and students much more than hanging out with other professional staff.
Oh well, there'll be a lot of new staff members next year...maybe I'll find some friends then...and at least, one of the staff members I really enjoyed hanging out with is staying in the area (even though she won't be working here) hopefully we'll get to hang out next year.

3) I was so excited about working here and thought that I had found a school that fit my values and beliefs perfectly.
Well, perfect was maybe a little too much to ask for. There's a lot of things I like about working here. There is a lot of things I like about how we do things in this department. But there's also lots of things I don't like. Mostly, the politics in our department.
You know, I'm really starting to think that there isn't a "perfect" department out there for me. I don't think I'll ever like absolutely everything about a place I'll be working at. The question is just how much do I have to like about a place to be able to work there successfully and to be happy...
And there's enough here to make me feel like I can do least for another year or two. As long as I have the opportunity to work with my student leaders and try some new things, I'll be okay.

Alright, enough rambling for today.

But here are some coming attractions... ;)
- setting goals for the summer (I did that last year and while I wasn't that successful at accomplishing all of them, it did help a little)
- reflecting upon what I've learned in my first year as a new professional (this seems to be the new question everyone's asking me)
- setting goals for next year, my second year as a new professional

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Learning to Fly - Post 24

Quote of the Day:
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
- Dr. Seuss

Easier said than done. I'm one of these people, who hate saying goodbye. You'd think I'm good at it. I've left my hometown, my home country, my family, all my friends, everything I knew...twice actually...once in high school for a year (I was an exchange student), then again for college and that time for good (even though I wasn't sure at that time whether it was for good or not, but I kinda expected it to be...). It wasn't that hard back then. I was excited for the new things to come. To be honest, I couldn't wait to get out of there and start my own adventures. Start new, in a new place, with new people, doing things I'd never even heard about before.
Now, at times, I feel like my life is string of goodbyes, some harder than others but none of them really fun. That's when I have to remind myself that my life is also filled with hellos. Especially in our profession...working with a new staff each year (new professional staff members, supervisors, as well as new student staff members), meeting new residents and student leaders, and and and. But somehow it's easy to forget that and get stuck on the fact that we constantly have to say goodbye.

I just found out yesterday that one of my favorite coordinators is leaving our department. There's four coordinators in our department. Two of them are clearly my favorites (well, I also worked with them more than the others, so maybe I'm not being fair, but what's fair about having favorites anyway)...and those two, my two favorites, are leaving. As my RHA members would say, "Uh uh, not cool" (quote from the movie "Bring It On). Yeah, there'll be two new coordinators ( never know how those searches go) but maybe they'll be fabulous, but you never know. And right now I just want to be a stubborn little kid that's whining and complaining and doesn't listen to logic and reasoning.

You know, it also makes me wonder. If these two coordinators, who obviously did a fabulous (fabulous is my new word by the used to be amazing, then wonderful, now it's fabulous...i've noticed myself using it like ten times a day) anyway, if those two, who did a fabulous job (or otherwise they wouldn't be my favorites, of course), are leaving after just one year at this institution, shouldn't we ask ourselves "WHAT ARE WE DOING?" And maybe central staff is asking themselves that, but I don't know that for a fact, so of course I'm wondering.
I mean, there's two fabulous coordinators leaving after one year, there's three professional staff members leaving after just one year...yeah, we have a big department and there's always a lot of turnover, but we all know that you usually stick out a new job for at least two least that's what I was told to do.

You know, sometimes I really wonder what central staff thinks. Here's another thing about working at a big institution: there's a lot of things you just don't know. I'm sure there's conversations going on (or at least I hope so), but it being such a big department, we, at the bottom of the totem pole (actually that'd be the grads...or the student staff members...but at least in terms of full-time professionals, we're down there), we just don't know about a lot of these things and then it's easy to think these things aren't happening. And it's not like I would need to know all the details of these conversations (I admit, I'm a naturally curious person, so I would want to know...but I'm realistic enough to realize that I don't need to know), it'd just be nice to know that there are conversations happening. Is that too much to ask for?

Okay, I'm done with my little vent session for the day. Some other time, I'll spend some quality time reflecting on what I've learned this first year and where I'm going from here. I just had my evaluation meeting with my fabulous coordinator (haha...i'm cracking myself up by saying "fabulous" every two seconds...I just said it to one of my office workers...I'm working with Orientation this summer...anyway, you all probably think I've gone insane...well, maybe I have)...but yeah, more about that some other time; once I've gotten over the large number of goodbye's I had to say in the past few days and will still have to say in the next couple weeks...Did I mention that I hate goodbyes?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Post 15-Tryin' to Get Paid

Post 15 from Tryin' to Get Paid

I'm sitting here in my office, and it's eerily quiet. Yesterday was the last day of finals, and most students have already left for home, summer jobs, internships, and vacations to exotic locations (which I'm extremely jealous of). I finished my summer planning calendar, so I have all my tasks planned out for the summer. I know, I know, how ambitious of myself, but if I don't plan a calendar for all the things I need to get done, it'll be opening next August and I'll be rushing to get all my tasks done. I was also able to plan in vacation time (i.e. sitting on couch, watching baseball on TV, walks around the block to get fresh air) and when I'll be heading to summer conferences.

Commencement is on Saturday, and I'm really excited, for it's my first graduation at my new institution. From what I've heard, the ceremonies are vastly different than when I graduated last year. Our school has Scottish ties, so instead of "pomp and circumstance" there will be a bagpiper leading the procession, followed by faculty and students. And, being the liberal "bucking the system" school, graduations gowns are optional. I've been told by staff to be prepared to see students crossing the stage in shorts, t-shirt, and sandals, and being proud to do so. At first, I thought it would be silly to take part in a big event in casual clothing, but the more I thought about this place and it's environment, the more I could understand why so many seniors aren't buying the cap and gown and going for the Che Guevara t-shirt for commencement wear. It's part of the aura of attending this school, and I'm even thinking about attending the ceremony in a t-shirt and shorts...but for professionalism's sake, I'll go somewhat formal.

Well, I guess I should probably start reflecting (ugh...I still don't like that word) about my first year as a professional. Let's see what happened my first year:

-Involved in my first orientation
-Staffed my first protest (and subsequent incounter with semi-clothed protesting student and obviously irritated member of Board of Trustees)
-Used student development theory to diffuse situation involving drunk woman...on a Friday night...on the Light Rail Train coming back from a basketball game in downtown
-Handled my first major campus crisis incident involving several of the student organizations I advised
-Worked on task force to program non-alcoholic events on campus
-Staffed first annual founding celebration (and played bouncer to obviously inebriated students wanting more alcohol)
-Took part in intense discussions involving race and ethnicity with students, staff, and faculty
-Got involved in really heated talks with my colleagues about race and its impact on our work

I'm sure there's more things that happened this year that I just couldn't think about off the top of my head right now. When I get to thinking about what else I did, I'll let ya'll know.