Connecting with your Students: The 8-Week Plan

Originally posted on Involvio.com.

Programming in Residence Life is typically a challenge when it comes to student attendance and sparking the interest of the residential population. Despite the challenges, it is critical that student affairs professionals find ways to engage the student population early in the semester. According to multiple studies, it is critical to “catch” students in the first 6 weeks of their semester. As a Residence Hall Coordinator in a new professional role, I wanted to test a first 8 weeks programming structure that implemented one program of a different “style” every week. I decided to make this model 8 weeks, rather than 6, for the sake of creating space for the adaptation of additional types of programming.

Throughout this plan, I created a range of programs. My first event was a traditional large-scale social program called the “Housewarming Party,” which welcomed first-year students to their new home and offered a variety of crafts, such as West Virginia state backpack pins that they could decorate and mod-podging tile coasters. This event was intended to also create space for first-year students to engage with one another, and overall, it was highly successful. In addition, I provided opportunities for on-site community service, a selfie photo scavenger hunt on campus, a football away game watch party, and others. One of my favorite events that I plan on implementing regularly was the “Coffee & Tea with your RHC” program. During a few of my office hours during the normal 9-5 class day, I set up a table with a Keurig outside my office. I also laid out coloring books and just hung out there for a few hours while waiting for students to either grab a coffee to go or stay to chat. I loved this event and although I did not necessarily have the highest attendance, I would say that it was successful based on the space that I created for some engaging student conversations. My plan is to implement one in the next few weeks focused on National First-Generation Student Day.

Overall, this strategy to step outside of my comfort zone and provide a range of activities went exceptionally well. I found that sometimes it was exhausting to plan an additional event per week on top of my routine student meetings, staff meetings, hall council meetings, and other evening event obligations, but it was completely worth it. I also appreciate that I now have some personal data on which types of events reached my student population. Although I have a building that is very community-service oriented, the care package drive was a huge flop. I believe that a lot of this was due to poor scheduling of the event and competition with another service event that week. This also gave me a good perspective on what times worked well for students to stop by programs (i.e. evenings, 9-5 school day). The final triumph was that through these events, I was able to connect with my student population in a positive way early in the semester. I have found that a lot of my students know who I am and have a positive perception of me, despite the fact that my role often requires me to serve as a disciplinarian. In addition, I was able to connect with a number of leaders who inevitably joined my Community Council executive board as a result of conversations we had at early programs. My goal in the future is to create a plan next semester which focuses on “experimenting” with additional programming styles within the first 6 weeks. I also hope to create some programmatic traditions every fall as well and know that the “Housewarming Party” is one that I will continue every year.

I challenge you to seek opportunities to engage with your student population and to test these opportunities. Within our profession, we are often disappointed when programs lack attendance or are not as successful as we had hoped. Through this plan, I found ways to reflect on small wins and opportunities to make the events better going forward. This was also a great way to understand what my students were attracted to in programming opportunities in order to plan additional events for the rest of the academic year.

Here is the full list of programs and descriptions!

Week 1: Housewarming Party

Crafts included painting a wooden WV state backpack pin and creating a beverage coaster with a bathroom tile and mod podge. In addition, we had some “throwback” snacks, such as juice boxes, and had an RA baby picture board where residents could guess who their RA was based on the baby photo for a prize. The goal of this event was to welcome residents to their new home while creating space for socially engaging with their peers.

Week 2: Resident Selfie Scavenger Hunt

Residents were provided with a list of landmarks and important locations on campus. Students then submitted their selfies with these landmarks via email for the opportunity to win a gift card. The goal of this activity was to provide a program that residents could do on their own time while also creating a space for them to learn how to navigate our large campus.

Week 3: Coffee & Tea with your RHC

During this event, I set up a Keurig coffee maker at a table outside my office and sat there with coloring books. This was an event where residents could stop by for a cup of coffee or could spend some time hanging out. The goal was to provide some hospitality to my students, which is a personal value that I attempt to implement in all aspects of my life. In addition, the hope was that residents would make time to stay and engage with myself in a positive environment.

Week 4: Care Package Drive for a Local Homeless Shelter

During this event, I set up mini toiletry items that I purchased from a dollar store and invited students to create care packages and to write notes to individuals at the shelter. The goal was to create a simple on-site service opportunity that promoted community responsibility.

Week 5: Away Football Game Watch Party

During this event, I ordered a lot of pizza and wings from popular local restaurants and invited students to watch the away game. This game was more successful because it was not televised on cable, so I had to purchase ESPN+ for the event. We had a large number of attendees and it went very well. The goal of this event was to implement an alternate-alcohol event for students to watch the game.

Week 6: Coffee & Donuts with Facilities

During this event, I ordered donuts and provided a Keurig with coffee for my residents and our facilities staff. We set up a table outside my office so students could either stay or stop by in passing. The goal of this event was to create space to thank our facilities staff while providing our students the opportunity to engage with the staff. This event was coordinated as a result of community cleanliness concerns.

Week 7: Pizza & Pumpkins Alternate-Alcohol Event

During this event, I collaborated with 3 of my colleagues to create an event for all students in our residential complex. We offered pumpkins for students to paint and ordered a large number of pizzas and wings. The goal of this event was to create a healthy space for students to engage because it was the weekend of a popular football rival game. The event was extremely successful to the point where we ran out of food 30 minutes in!

Week 8: Halloween Door Decorating Contest

During this event, students were invited to decorate their doors and to submit their decorations via email for the chance to win a gift card. The goal of this event was to foster a sense of community within the hall.

Finding a Professional Home: My Reflection on the 2019 MACUHO Annual Conference

As professionals it is critical that we find ways to incorporate professional development into our careers. This year I had the privilege to attend my 3rd MACUHO Annual Conference in Atlantic City, NJ. In addition, this was my first year on Leadership Council. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conference:

Find your people in the field.

Over the past year on Leadership Council, I have had the privilege of connecting with a network of some of the most competent, caring, and dedicated professionals that I have ever met.  I have found a sense of family in the MACUHO organization. My advice to all professionals in student affairs is to find an organization that focuses on an area that you feel passionately about. Find ways to get involved in that organization and embrace the incredible network of people that you connect with.

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My lovely friend Tiffany, newly elected VP of MACUHO! I am so grateful to work with this amazing woman.

 

Get involved. 

As mentioned above, getting involved with an organization is critical not only at an annual conference, but throughout the year as well. I volunteered and presented multiple times as this conference. When you get involved, you add an additional way to network with colleagues in the field. This is also a great way to give back to an organization.

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My amazing friends & co-presenters! Brandon (left), me (center), & Heidi (right).

Network when you can (even if you have a job).

One of the most critical parts of being a professional or aspiring professional in the field is networking. Although I currently have a job that I love, I created space to engage with other professionals and to network with vendors that contribute to the organization. Networking with vendors is great practice for those who want to become directors of Residence Life & Housing someday like myself. This is also a simple way to practice networking with someone that you may not necessarily be interviewing with for a job. I cannot stress this enough to new professionals and graduate students.

Create space for fun!

One of the most important things I learned early in my career is that conferences are also a time for self-care. Although I was running around constantly, I still made time to nap before long evenings and signed up for the fun excursion, which included a trip to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum! Yes, this is a professional development experience, but it is also a time for growth.

Stay committed to growth post-conference.

One of the greatest things that we struggle with is staying motivated after that post-conference high goes away. It is critical that we use what we learned at the conference to continue to develop ourselves. In addition, since I have a leadership role in the organization this year, it is critical that I continue to create space to work on the big ideas that came from the conference. I am feeling energized now, and I need to create ways to keep up that energy.

Although I am sad that it is over, I am eternally thankful for the relationships that I’ve developed within the MACUHO organization over the past few years. I work in a region with an incredibly passionate, dedicated, and competent group of professionals. I look forward to continuing with my Leadership Council role in the organization and cannot wait to continue to develop myself through this organization. I am thankful to have found my professional home.

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MACUHO is always a time to connect with new friends & old! Thankful for my lovely friend Elizabeth who graduated from the IUP SAHE Program the year before me.

Book Review of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, by Francisco Cantú

Originally posted on the MACUHO Diversity Blog.

Recently I had the opportunity to read The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, by Francisco Cantú. As a member of the Campus Read committee our goal is to read texts that continue to enrich the educational experience of our student population. Further, our hope is to select a book that can be interwoven into many elements of campus programming, such as Residence Life. This text was selected by the committee because the topic of immigration is critically important, especially with the upcoming 2020 presidential election. I cannot praise Cantú’s work enough.

The author worked as a Border Patrol agent from 2008-2012 and shares his personal account of the horrific incidents that migrants face both at the border, and in their home country of Mexico. The first part of the book talked about the beginning of Cantú’s career as an agent. One of the most disturbing stories described an incident where Cantú’s fellow agents found the belongings of migrants who were crossing the border. What many Americans may not realize is that the Mexican/American border is a desert, which naturally serves as a dangerous barrier for those who attempt to cross countries. The agents destroyed the belongings by kicking them around and urinating on them. The migrants who owned the belongings would face possible death without water and clothing. This is one of many accounts of unnecessary cruelty by Cantú’s fellow colleagues. The author consistently describes his struggle to maintain a sense of humanity throughout the duration of his career, often describing night terrors of the incidents that he witnessed.

The second part of the book described the part of the author’s career when he worked in intel from an office. Although he was away from active duty on the border, Cantú speaks about his cravings to return to the border where he used to serve. This again was a point where the author struggled with his sense of humanity. Although he recognized that many Mexicans crossing the border faced treacherous conditions, possible death, and additional horrific conditions after they are potentially caught by Border Patrol, the author still desired to return to active work on the border. The author did return to more active duty before stepping away from his role in 2012.

In the third part of the book, Cantú is working as a barista in a coffee shop and befriends a man named José, who he later learns is an undocumented immigrant. José went to Mexico to visit his dying mother after living in the United States for over 30 years and was detained when trying to cross back into the country. The third chapter paints the challenging process that many undocumented Americans face when they are detained. Although José had a good immigration lawyer who collected evidence to prove that he was a dedicated American and loving father, he was still deported to Mexico. The author concludes the book with an afterward about the current political climate in relation to his experience; he summarizes this perfectly with the following: “Today, instead of looking back on an uglier time, we see a border that has become ever more militarized, ever more deadly for migrants, ever more dismissive of their lives and indifferent to their suffering. (251)” Cantú also speaks to how critically important his story has become with the current fixation on “building the wall” and ostracizing our fellow humans from the south.

As student affairs professionals, it is critically important that we understand our student populations and their stories. Many students are undocumented on today’s college campuses or have faced stories similar to the ones shared by Cantú. The Line Becomes a River has moved me more than any book I have read in a while and I cannot recommend it enough. I have also learned a lot about what the border genuinely looks like and the horrific challenges that are faced by detained undocumented individuals. The unfortunate reality is that many Americans remain ignorant to the inhumane conditions of the Mexican border due to deeply rooted xenophobic beliefs. It is critical that Americans deepen their understanding of how inhumane the conditions are in detention centers and how challenging it is to become a United States citizen. Our system has failed so many and it is time for us to do better.

The author concludes the book with a number of sources and information on how to become more involved with immigration reform. As responsible citizens of this country it is our duty to learn about all social issues that are faced by fellow Americans and aspiring Americans daily. It is also critical to understand why many of our neighbors from the south seek refuge in our country. The book talks about the drug cartel in Mexico and the terror that many face in the wake of the cartel as they try to live their lives in Mexico. In the final section, José says that he does not want his children to grow up in Mexico because growing up in the midst of the cartel is a way of life: “I realized that, as a good father, I could never bring my boys here. I think a lot about the environment here in Mexico. Here it is normal for children to hear of murder. There’s a school just down the street from here, I walk by it every day. I see the children in the schoolyard play at killing. (234)” José also shared a story of how the cartel murdered 43 educated college students in Mexico because they were simply trying to be politically active and make positive changes. So many people fail to check their privileges when it comes to safety. They fail to recognize that many come to our country to live a safe life, one that they may not be able to live in their homeland.

My hope is that this book will inspire others to become more educated on immigration reform and that those who express hatred toward the Mexican community will understand why many are faced with no other options than to cross the border illegally for the sake of their families. My hope is that those who read the book will create space for empathy; To think about what they would do in the shoes of our migrant siblings. My hope is that as student affairs professionals we can do a better job to understand the stories of our students and to understand the extreme challenges that they may have faced to get to where they are today. Again, I cannot recommend this book enough and I encourage you to make time to read it before voting this upcoming fall. When we vote, we vote for all Americans. We vote for those who may not have the space to vote. We are responsible for all our fellow humans in this country and those who aspire to walk among us as citizens.

 

Cantú, F. (2018). The line becomes a river: Dispatches from the border. New York: Riverhead Books.

MACUHO Networking Tips for #SAGrads

With the upcoming MACUHO 2019 conference, I wanted to create some tips that helped me to navigate my conferences as an #SAGrad.

MACUHO Networking tips for SA Grads

Step outside your comfort zone!
The first step to networking is to get outside of your comfort zone. Networking is super awkward at times, so it’s important that you challenge yourself. Ask a professional colleague to grab coffee at the conference or go introduce yourself to someone from your dream institution. You’ll never know what may happen from these valuable connections.

Always keep business cards on you.

While we know that not every institution provides their grads with business cards, it’s still a good idea to have something. You can get them made at a reasonable price online or through a vendor like Staples. Having business cards allows you to easily provide your information to fellow grads and professionals. Don’t be afraid to hand them out like candy.

Use your connections to help other grads and colleagues.

Don’t be afraid to introduce your peers to your network. Remember that as grads, you’re all in this together. Someday you’ll be job searching. You never know if a friend will get a job through a connection that you helped them make. Also when you’re an SA pro, don’t hesitate to connect grads and fellow professionals to others. The world of housing is very small, so these connections may help you out someday.

Go to fun things at the conference!

Yes, we plan fun excursions and activities so that we can enjoy some down time at the conference, but these are also great networking opportunities. Affinity group meetings are also a great way to connect with peers in the region. Plus it helps to build connections in a more casual setting.

Get involved.

MACUHO provides a TON of ways to get involved, from joining committees to writing for MACUHO magazine to getting involved with Engagement Coordinator programming. The list is endless. If you have more questions about involvement, come see one of your engagement coordinators!

#SAGrad Wrap Up: Lessons Learned & Life Moving Forward

“She believed she could, so she did.”~Anonymous

I am still processing the fact that I am finished with my graduate school journey. My classes are done and I have the degree. I am officially Angela M. Delfine, M.A.. What an incredible adventure the last 2 years have been, from crying over assignments to being so exhausted that I went to bed at 7:30PM to somehow managing to wedding plan in the midst of it all. This journey has made me stronger. I am more confident in my abilities. I feel capable and worthy of this degree. And for the first time, I feel motivated to continue this journey to pursue my doctoral work in the near future.

Going forward, I realize that I’ve learned a thing or two from my time as an SA Grad. Here are a few of my key lessons learned:

Celebrate the small wins. Life is too short to stress out about doing everything perfectly.  If you got a solid ‘B’ on that really difficult paper celebrate it. If you went to bed early for once celebrate it. Sometimes it’s the small things that add up to success.

Take time to get to know your cohort/colleagues in some capacity. One of my personal goals was to have some sort of positive relationship with everyone in my cohort. I knew that it wasn’t possible to be best friends with everyone, but I knew that I didn’t have the time or energy to have a bad relationship with anyone in the program. It is essential not to burn bridges with colleagues. Yes, there were moments of frustration with some individuals but at the end of the day, I genuinely feel that I have a solid professional network out there from those that I’ve met in my program.

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Make time for fun. Yes, academic work is the reason why I was in the program, but building relationships, making time for friends and family, and having fun is essential to living a fulfilling life. Make time for fun. You don’t have to do homework every single day to do well in graduate school, I promise.

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Don’t beat yourself up. It’s so easy to be hard on yourself for not living up to academic expectations or not scoring a job interview. Know that you’re awesome and everyone has rough days. Don’t beat yourself up over the losses. Pick yourself up and try again tomorrow.

Make time to reflect on your mistakes. Know that everyone makes personal and professional mistakes. That’s how we grow. Make time to reflect on mistakes, both big and small either on your own, with a colleague that you can trust, or a mentor. Reflection is the key to growth, especially in this field.

Take advantage of experiences without saying yes to everything. This is a tough one. It’s so important to step up and take advantage of experiences during your SA Grad career while also knowing when you need to step back and say no. A balance between the two is necessary. Also, take advantage of things that you know that you’ll enjoy. It makes things a bit easier.

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Chaperoning is a super easy & fun way to get some professional experience in the field! This is me with some of the UPJ College Democrats during a trip to Philadelphia.

Make time for self-care. Yes, my usual go-to. The greatest thing to remember is that self-care isn’t always bubble baths and spa days (although those are both great). Self-care is drinking water every day or going to bed at a decent time. It’s having a healthy meal instead of grabbing take-out again. Self-care is self-preservation, especially in grad school. It’s so easy to lose yourself at this time, so make sure that you always recenter yourself and focus on your wellbeing.

The girl writing this today is not the same one who started her student affairs journey at Saint Mary’s College 5 years ago. That girl had no confidence in her voice or in her professional abilities. She had no clue who she was or what her place was in this world. After a life-changing three years in Notre Dame, IN and 2 years in the IUP SAHE program, it’s safe to say that I am prepared for this world. I understand my calling to this profession and I’m motivated to do good things for the field of student affairs. I am an educator, a friend, a colleague, a resource, and a scholar. I am a strong female leader. I am confident. And for the first time, I feel prepared for the success that I deserve.

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Picking Myself Back Up #SAGrad #SAJobSearch

I’m writing this blog post for those who, like me, are also feeling a little beaten down today. Who aren’t on their “A” game. Who are struggling to stand up and say “I’m awesome and I’m going to get through this.” I like to practice what I preach, and even though I really try to find the good in everything I still need to be realistic. Sometimes life gets the best of me and drags me down.

Like many other SA Grads out there this job search feel endless and completely defeating at times. I’ve worked so hard, yet the uncertainty of my future is still lingering. Where will I be two months from now after graduation? Why aren’t half of these jobs calling me? What is wrong with me? Although I need to keep my head held high, I still have moments where I wonder whether or not I’m going to be jobless. The job search process in the field of student affairs is, to be blatantly honest, terrible at times. Yes, I know that everyone says “trust the process,” but in reality, the best that we can do is keep reapplying for jobs and surviving.

Of course, moments like this come with everything stressful happening all at once. A million assignments. Personal family issues. Anxiety. Complete exhaustion. When it rains, it pours. Always. And even though it’s cliché, I still have to keep reminding myself that it can only go up from here in these moments. Because it can. And it will.

So if you’re also on this SA job search journey like me, know that there are others out here struggling. My last blog post was about maintaining positivity throughout my journey,  and I’m going to commit to just that. I am deserving of the opportunities I have been provided. I will end up somewhere where I am meant to grow. I am strong, confident, and competent. I will not let rough weeks when life, family, and everything else goes wrong destroy me. I can do this. We can do this. You’re strong, confident, and competent, too. Now let’s show them what we’re made of.

My Positive #SAJob Search

I’m sure that many of you 2019 Student Affairs grads can agree that the tedious, exhausting job search process is not necessarily one that we are looking forward to. Yes, we’re excited to graduate and move into the “adult” world, but I know that I personally would rather have the option of just automatically having a job handed to me instead of doing all-day interviews. The student affairs job interview process is extremely mentally taxing and exhausting, especially to all my fellow introverts, which is why I decided to step back and reflect on how I plan on surviving the search over the next few months. As some of you know, I worked professionally for 4 years before returning to grad school. I’m no expert (and I’m just as anxious as everyone else about getting a job), but I did learn a thing or two the first time I searched for a student affairs job. Hopefully these “words of wisdom,” hacks, or whatever you want to call them will help to bring some peace and organization to your job search process as well.

Everyone’s job search process won’t be the same. Try not to compare yourself to others.

The first thing to keep in mind is that we are going through this process together, but none of our processes will be the same. This is why I hate the phrase “trust the process.” By saying the process, there is an implication that all of our job search processes are the same. Based on our functional areas of interest, skill sets, locations of interest, etc. our job processes will all be very different. I know that I’m personally conducting a location-bound search, so I won’t necessarily have as many options as my peers who are comfortable moving all over the country. We will all end up where we are meant to be at the end of our individual processes.

Try not to compare your skillset to your peers as well.

This is especially important to keep in mind if you are applying to the same jobs as your peers. Know that we all carry different skillsets and have different personality types that may be a better fit with certain institutions over others. Try not to be discouraged when you don’t receive an interview with an institution, but a friend in your cohort does. You just may have a skillset that aligns better with another role or institution.

Support your cohort members and build each other up.

Yes, this is a competitive job search process, but we need to accept and to celebrate the achievements of our peers and cohort members. There is no reason to disregard the relationships we gained over the past few years in order to be combative during this competitive process. This process is also very mentally draining (and disappointing at times), so we need to move forward into the next few months with kindness, support, and encouragement.

Take Care of Yourself.

Again, this is a mentally draining process for many, if not all of us. It’s ok to take breaks from sifting through job search sites and postings (even though I’m currently struggling to stop doing this). Make time for you. Schedule specific times to job search and complete applications instead of allowing it to dictate your entire life.

 

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Celebrate your small wins.

Remember to keep your confidence during this process and to celebrate the small wins. Even something as simple as getting your first phone interview is exciting! You have a lot to bring to the table, so try not to bring yourself down when you don’t find a job right away. The first time I completed my process, I only had my bachelor’s degree. I had maybe 20 phone interviews and 8 on-campus interviews before I scored my first job. It’s easy to become discouraged (and completely okay at times). The important thing is to bounce back and express gratitude for the good things happening during this process.

Stay Organized.

Keep a spreadsheet of every institution that you apply to and every institution that you are highly interested in. It would be extremely disappointing to complete an application and then to finally realize that you already submitted one to that institution. Something else to keep in mind is that some institutions do not post to hiring platforms like higheredjobs because of the costs, so it’s a good idea to check HR websites of institutions of interest as well.

Remember that institutional fit is just as important to you as it is to the hiring committee.

Always keep in mind that you are also interviewing the institution when you have an on-campus interview. You want to make sure that the institutional fit is a good one for you as well. Don’t settle if an institution gives off “bad” vibes or something doesn’t feel right. It’s also important to make sure that the mission of the institution aligns with your values for the most part or if there are some policies that you do not agree with, that you can still work with them and maintain your personal values. Also, ask about the basic requirements of the job. Not every “Resident Director” position, for example, is the same. You want to make sure that you are aware of all of your requirements before going into the position.

Be as genuine as possible during interviews.

It is just as important to be as “real” as possible during interviews as it is to be on our professional “A game.” You can still let your personality shine through while maintaining professionalism. During my first job search I would make a joke about not judging my professionalism based on my dining habits when I would share a meal with interviewers. For the most part, the individuals would laugh. When I interviewed with the institution that ended up hiring me, a colleague (who later became a good friend) accidentally spilled water on her shirt during the meal. We all laughed, and I knew at that moment that the institution was a good fit for me. When you’re genuine with colleagues during an interview, it shows.

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Me right before attending my first job placement conference at MAPC!
The reality is that many professionals in our field don’t find their dream job right away. The important thing is to keep searching. Hold your head up. Try to continue to build your skillset wherever you end up so that you can continue to that next professional step in the near future. Every day we can do something to better ourselves both professionally and personally. To my fellow class of 2019 grads and others who are job searching right now: I’m rooting for you. I hope that you all get your “dream jobs” (or something close enough) where you’ll continue to grow and bring a lot of amazing skills to the table. We’re going to get through this. Keep your head held high every step of the way and to remember that you’re not alone in this.

My 19 for 2019 Goals #19For2019

If you follow Gretchen Rubin’s podcast and blog, you know that she does a “19 for 2019” list instead of your typical new years resolution list. Every year you set a realistic number of goals for yourself, instead of making an unrealistic list and spreading yourself too thin. This year I decided to do a “19 for 2019” list that focuses on developing my mental, physical, spiritual, relationship, and social health. I realized that I let myself go at times in 2018. My anxiety got the best of me a number of times and unfortunately (like many grad students) I let my social life with my close friends fall by the wayside. Despite this, 2018 was an incredible year full of new and exciting adventures. Here’s to a fabulous 2019 full of love, laughter, and peace with my world and with myself. 

My 19 for 2019 Goals

1. Do not apologize for your mental health or for stepping away to take care of your mental health.

2. Read 2 “fun” (i.e. not school related) books per month.

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3. Dress nicer when you leave the house (i.e. try to avoid sweatpants and old tee shirts unless you’re going to the gym).

4. Do not let your family contribute to your anxiety and depression. This includes finding healing and peace with family relationships.

5. Do not give up what makes you happy/what you want just to make others happy. Say “no” right away if your heart tells you that you’re not in the mood to do something. That’s okay.

6. Do not make excuses for avoiding things you want to do OR for stepping away from things when you’re burnt out. 

7. Be more unapologetic in general for doing things that benefit you. It’s okay to focus on yourself for once. You don’t have to do it all for everyone.

8. Save more money, budget efficiently, and spend less money. Determine a plan for this.

9. Graduate with your master’s degree in May and get a job (woo!).

10. Achieve your goal weight and continue with WW for the sake of your health and wellness (even after you lose the weight).

11. Walk every day. Even if it’s only 5 minutes. This is good for your body and your brain!

12. Go through your belongings and donate what you don’t need. Focus on the fact that you’re moving in with your fiancé in May!

13. Create time and space for your friends monthly. Even if that’s just catching up on the phone or having a meal with everyone together.

14. Make time for my sister every week. Whether it’s spending time together or calling on the phone and talking for an hour.

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15. Do one date night “out” per month. Nothing fancy is necessary every time, you just have do to more than just staying in and going to bed early.

16. Go to mass regularly and pray every day. Do not abandon God because of your frustrations with this world.

17. Stop drinking pop (again). It is SO bad for you.

18. Do yoga more regularly. For your body, your mind, and your soul. You need this.

19. Do one new fun thing every month. Whether it’s trying a new coffee shop, going to a new workout class, or doing something fun with your fiancé. Life is not fun unless you pursue new adventures!

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It’s Ok to Step Away: Why I Decided to Say “No” & to Create Time for Myself

Vulnerable confession time: I’m admitting that I took on too much & need to step back. And you know what, that is completely okay.

This past October, I took on a part-time job in retail for the holidays. At first, I thought that I could handle this on random weekends and then during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I quickly learned that yes, I could handle this job when things were great, but struggled deeply when additional issues, projects, and other things were put on my plate. I really was hitting a breaking point a few weeks ago and after getting sick (again) because I’m not taking care of my body, I stepped away from my part-time season job yesterday. And you know what, I feel GREAT. 

Sometimes we need to say no to things in order to heal, to recover after a very busy time, and to recreate time to care for ourselves. If I worked one job and had very few additional responsibilities, I may have been able to handle it. This semester I’ve been balancing 2 classes and a practicum, an assistantship where I supervise 17 RAs and can only be there 2 full days a week, supporting my family through ups and downs, wedding planning, and managing other things (i.e. leadership roles, extra responsibilities). I. Am. Drained. My work ethic is also too strong to half-ass my job (which is what I was doing). If I can’t put my 100% into something, I need to prioritize and reflect on my decisions.

So now, I’m creating time for self-care this winter break. I’m prioritizing myself and my family. I’m also mentally preparing and getting organized for the SA Job search early next semester (AHHHH). I will be reading young adult books in my jammies and getting coffee with my sister. And honestly, that’s what I need for my sanity. If you can cut back in an area of your life to take care of yourself, DO IT. I recognize that many aren’t always in this privileged position, especially with a second job, but there are still ways to create space for you. Even if it is just saying “no” to taking an extra shift at work or an extra project from a coworker. Here’s to making 2019 a year of saying “no” when I want,  saying “yes” to opportunities that grow me, and focusing on my physical, mental, and spiritual health to the best of my ability.

Sometimes I Have Off-Days (& that’s okay)

Vulnerable confession time: sometimes I still struggle with my mental health when my life is going exceptionally well. I am a successful and confident young woman pursuing my Master’s degree. I have a fiancé who treats me like a queen. My body feels better than it has in ages because I dropped over 18 pounds in the last few months. I should be on top of the world right? For the most part yes, I am. Over the past few days, however, I struggled to hold it all together. This is what depression looks like, people. I wish I had a dollar for every person who told me that I don’t look depressed. Or for those who told me that I have nothing to be depressed about. You’re absolutely right: depression doesn’t have to be situational. It comes and goes. You can have the most incredible, exceptional, extraordinary life and it will still be there. This does not make me weaker than anyone else. Also, I’m NOT faking it just because you can’t see my depression as much as you may see others.

My advice to you is to consider the invisible struggles of others. Know that mental illness is very real and must be accepted and perceived the same way that we look at physical illness. I am not insane. I am a fully functioning human being who sometimes has off days. And that is completely okay. If you have clinical depression or anxiety (or any mental illness), know that you are capable and strong. This illness doesn’t define you. I am competent, confident, and live a pretty extraordinary life.  I will never let anyone tell me otherwise.

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