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.)


  • The student affairs field is a curious thing...Many of the people i talk to don't understand the passion I have for field, specifically res life. It's hard to explain the love you have for it and why work doesn't necessarily feel like work sometimes. My first res life job was a job where I was involved in everything and barely got any sleep...but i loved it! However, I got burned out and ended up taking time off to take care of me. Through all the craziness and stress people still wonder why I want to work in this field. Sometimes you just can't explain the things you love in a way that makes logical sense to others...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:58 PM  

  • Thank you so much for putting into words the way I so often feel. Just last week I had a supervisor tell me that I would be required to get off campus. I love hanging out at my front desk learning about my students answering questions and spending time with my staff. I got into this feild to spend time with students and help change lives not get off campus so thank you for helping another professional feel like she's not crazy for loving her job and thinking it is the most honoring thing I could do to help out society this point in my life.

    By Blogger yulievite, at 12:22 PM  

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