The Student Affairs New Professional

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 35

Quote of the Day:
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
- Albert Einstein

This word, "balance," tends to creep up on us working in StudentAffairs. I've been thinking about it a lot; it's hard not too with everyone talking about it all the time. And I have a confession to make...I hate the word "balance." It's not that I don't think having a balanced life is important. I've already admitted that I've worked much more this year than ever before and that one of my goals for the upcoming year is to find some new hobbies...but I just think, we go about this whole "balance" thing the wrong way.

I think, first of all, many people forget that balance is something that looks different for everyone. For some people, balance may mean seperating your personal and professional life; not thinking about work after hours (unless there's one of those late-night emergency phone calls). That doesn't work for me. I was never able to "turn off" my brain. I have had many brilliant ideas while watching my favorite Disneychannel shows. But I'm also not going to stop myself from checking my personal e-mail while I'm at work or call my sister from the office.
There are also aspects of work that just don't feel like "work." If I go to an event of a student organization I advise, that's not really work. I know it's work-related, but I just can't make myself think about it like that. And yes, one day I may have a family and then I'll think about it differently and have different priorities. But right now - to be honest - a lot of times I enjoy hanging out with students at an event much more than sitting at home in front of my TV or hanging out with colleagues. Or working on something for a professional organization is like a hobby for me. I don't think about it as work. It's something I choose to do because I enjoy doing it. What's wrong with that? If my supervisor knew that I'm writing this blog, she'd probably count that as part of work. I mean, I can't help it that many of my interests and hobbies are somehow related to Student Affairs.
Also, I just like to be busy. I can't do the sitting-around-doing-nothing. I get bored too easily.

What bothers me the most is that I often feel like supervisors are using "balance" as an excuse to tell you how to live your life. I mean, I'm an adult - we talk so much about treating our students as adults - what about ourselves? I can decide on my own how much sleep I need at night. I can decide what I can handle, what extra tasks I can take on and what I don't have time for. Of course, if it starts affecting my job, a supervisor has every right to start questioning my outside commitments. But if I'm doing what I need to do - even go above and beyond my job description - then who gives them a right to try and run my life for me?

As a graduate student, I was encouraged to try new things, to explore, to get involved! Presenting at regional or national conferences was seen as something positive, something great.
But last year, as a new professional, I suddenly felt like I had to fight for everything I wanted to do. I understand that we need to ask for permission regarding conference attendance because not all of us can leave at the same time. But why can't I participate on a committee during my free time or work on some task force? And to be honest, all those conversations about balance just led to me being worried and stressed about what would be taken away from me or what I wouldn't be allowed to do...I couldn't sleep anymore because I was worried over things and I started putting 120 percent into every aspect of my job because I didn't want anyone to have the slightest reason to take anything from me.

Maybe I'm weird. Maybe I'm obsessed with work. And yes, maybe I'll look back at all this in five, ten years and think, "Hey, you were crazy for working so much." But that's something I need to learn on my own.

Sorry for rambling, but this is something that's really been bothering me lately and that I can get very very emotional about.
Hmmmm, yeah, so the moral of the story is: As a grad I felt like I was being encouraged to try new things; as a new professional I had to fight for what I wanted to do. And I did NOT like that. ;)

More to come soon.... (yes, once I start talking/reflecting, I won't stop quickly.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 34

Quote of the Day:
"There is only one road to human greatness: through the school of hard knocks."
- Albert Einstein

Training has started...yes, already. Thanks to the academic advising aspects of my position, I have to go through regular ResLife training as well as academic advising that makes our training program extra long. My roadtrip was FABULOUS and way too short and I'm having a hard time believing that the new year has already started....

But before we start talking about next year, let's look back at last year.
I've made it through my first year as a full-time professional. "Going pro" - as one of my friends from grad school liked to call it - was definitely a learning experience, but I have to say, it wasn't as different from being a grad student as I anticipated it to be. Yes, I had no more classwork to juggle with all my other responsibilities, but that extra time was quickly filled with other commitments. And while I definitely didn't spend as much time at home reading and writing papers, I still tried to pick up a Student Affairs related article here and there or I instead of papers I developed new initiatives and programs and wrote up proposals and things like that.

It definitely wasn't any less busy than grad school...but I had a little more control over what I was busy with and even how busy I was, as many of the things that took up much time were additional tasks I volunteered for. In other words, in grad school, you are forced to be a workaholic...after "going pro," you will still be busy and you will still be expected to do a lot of things, but you do have the option once in a while to say "no" (even though that's not always easy).

The main difference I noticed between grad school and being a professional was that I had a lot more autonomy in the decisions I made and a lot less guidance. I had to seek out help more actively instead of someone always looking over my shoulder. Partially, that may have just been a difference in supervisor's style between my grad assistantship supervisor and my coordinator here, but I think that also had a bit to do with me being a professional now. The help was still there, but I was also trusted to make decisions on my own.

"Going pro" wasn't all positive. I feel that it's been harder for me to maintain balance this past year than it was in grad school. You may think that's crazy, but let me explain. In grad school, I was at least forced to leaver work once in a while to go to a class or work on a project, write a paper or read. Even though that was still Student Affairs related, it was something different than work.
Now, I work and then I work and then I work some more. I am single and I don't have that many friends in this area, so there is really no reason to leave my office ever. Or when I'm sitting in my living room watching TV, it's very easy to pull out the laptop and work on some project or check e-mails or whatever else it may be that day.

I also miss having those "intellectual" conversations. Yes, I am a dork...haha. No, seriously though: I try to read professional literature once in a while, but since I don't have to, I just don't often get around to it. In our office, we sometimes have conversations about different topics, but we all get so caught up in the day-to-day work that it's hard to find time. So I really really sitting in my grad class around that conference table and talking about various current issues, things that were going on in our assistantships and so on.

Okay, I'm off to dinner at our director's house, but I still have some more things to say, so I will continue my little reflection about my first year as a professional later.

"To be continued..."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Learning To Fly - Post 33

Quote of the Day:
"Yeah, take it away, Ernie. It's going to be a bumpy ride."
- Shrunken Head in the movie: Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban

Orientation ended; we moved our office back (we have a temporary location that we use in the summer, since we need more space and its in a more central location); I updated and handed in the Summer Orientation Iffce Manager Manual; and now I'm enjoying my 10-day vacation.

I've taken off on a little roadtrip. Right now, I'm staying with a friend from grad school and then I'll be visiting some friends from undergrad. And then, way too soon, I'll be heading back to my current institution just in time for ResLife Training to start.

It's really nice to be away. :) Being the workaholic that I am I brought some books to read with me (well, I want to at least read the book for the class I'm teaching next semester) but other than that, I'm really trying to take a break. I miss those days when I got the entire summer off. I know, having a 10-month position, I had the possibility to take that summer off, so I really can't complain. Maybe next year, I'll take the entire summer off and actually go back home to Austria for once. My sister is getting married next summer (not till the end of the summer though), so I would be able to help her get ready for the wedding. That'd be fun!

On my little roadtrip, I've had a lot of time to think. I'm probably going to stay at my current institution for another two years, especially now that I have the living learning community I wanted and am changing a lot in the community and trying a lot of new things. But after that, I really want to move to a different area. I grew up near a big lake, the Bodensee or Lake of Constance (part of it is in Austria, part of it in Germany and part of it in Switzerland), and I miss being near such a big body of water. There's nothing like sitting at a shore or beach and staring out over the water and daydreaming. And I really wouldn't mind living in a warmer climate. I love skiing (hey, I am from Austria after all), but I could always go home over winter break and go skiing then. And I don't enjoy the cold and snow when I have to walk across campus.
But again, I won't be searching for a while (even though I may start looking selectively...I mean, it never hurts, right?), so I really shouldn't spend that much time thinking about it. I have a tendency to focus too much on the future and forget to live in the present.

Okay, I'm going to head out, but I'll add another post or two to wrap up this blog once I've gotten back from my roadtrip.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Tryin' to Get Paid-Post 20

Post 20 from Tryin' to Get Paid

Music: "Like This" Kelly Rowland w/Eve
Mood: Enjoying the good weather

Now, I promised updates from the Social Justice Training Institute, but our schedule was so full I barely got any time to check my e-mail, meaning I have hundreds (well, more like tens) sitting in my inbox. But, I wanted to break away from doing laundry to dialogue on my experience.


First off, if you're considering SJTI as a possible experience, you'll need to remember three things:

1) You ain't perfect...nobody is, so get over it, or learn to get over that quick, fast, and in a hurry
2) Your world view will be challenged and molded within a week, so get ready for an experience
3) Even though you'll be enlightened, you still won't be done with learning after SJTI is over

A lot of people are asked what their experience was like, and all I can say is that I was blessed for the opportunity. I honestly thought, regarding race relations and my knowledge of power structures, that I was ready for the depth and breadth of the discussions we had. Man, did I get a kick in the ass! I realized that I had underlying issues that I had to deal with, being a person of color and working with White colleagues, and that I needed a lot of help handling issues that occur, such as a colleague wanting the "White perspective" included in every discussion. I got a deeper handle on privilege, and where I fell in many arenas, such as being able-bodied, hetero, and a male, and how that impacts interpersonal dialogue and group dynamics.

The most important piece I got from SJTI was the friendships I created there. At my workplace, I rarely get a chance to talk about things that are important to me, and to just shoot the breeze with like-minded folks. However, during the last week, I talked with just about everybody about a variety of things, and it felt great. And, with the SJTI listserv, Facebook, and MySpace, those conversations can continue. I've made so many great friends, and it was extremely sad to see them leave.

I have to run to do some more reflecting, since I learned so much my mind is still running in circles. Until later...