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.
“If at first you don’t succeed…you’re normal!” –Kid President
After an unintentional 5-month blog hiatus, I’ve finally decided to write again. I guess it’s taken me this long to process through my year, to decide what I need from the upcoming year, and to finally come to terms with the fact that it’s already July (and I literally have no clue what happened to the summer).
In January of 2016 I attempted to begin my student affairs grad search. Despite my acceptance to the institution I wanted to attend, I did not get the graduate assistantship I hoped for. Essentially, I put all my eggs in one basket and made an “all or nothing” decision with this program. After a lot of processing and reflecting after my assistantship rejection, I decided that the best decision for me would be to continue a third year as a Residence Hall Director here at Saint Mary’s College while picking up my grad school search for the Fall of 2017 semester. Although rejection was difficult, I have come to realization that it was absolutely the best decision for my SA career and for myself on a personal level.
Initially, I hoped to attend the grad program because I absolutely fell in love with the city that it was in (mistake #1) . I didn’t take the time to process and reflect on the pros and cons of the institution and what it had to offer. Although Residence Life is my key focus area, the institution did not really offer other structured practicum experiences in other departments. I also did not reflect on the difficulties that a cross country move would be for me (financially and personally). Also as a Pittsburgh native, I feel more and more called to return back home each time I visit. How would I feel if I moved thousands of miles away from my family, especially my 87-year-old grandma?
Although I really enjoyed what the program had to offer and decided to put all my eggs in one basket, I have to admit that the grad assistantship rejection was a blessing for me. Here are a few of the positive things I’ve reflected on and gained from this experience:
I’ve learned that I really need to search for a program that is not quite as far from my family and friends. Yes, I understand that they will always be there to return to when I am finished with my education, but this experience has really helped me to realize where my support system lies. My family and friends are everything to me, and I truly believe that my grad school career would be much more enjoyable with them by my side.
I need to reflect on what I need from both an assistantship and practicum experience. Although I know that I want to advance in Residence Life to a Director-level position, I understand the value in exploring other areas of Student Affairs. A few areas that I would love to gain more experience from are student activities, power-based personal violence prevention work, and multicultural student services.
I need to accept this third year at Saint Mary’s as a finalization of my development here in this position. Through a lot of processing, I have determined some more of the skills that I need to build if I want to be a Director of Residence Life someday. Thankfully, I work at a small, supportive institution where my supervisor and Assistant VP of SA want to work with me on the experiences and skills that I need in order to make my dream job happen someday. I’m looking forward to developing more of these skills and experiences this year, especially co-advising our Residence Hall Association.
In closing, I want to offer some advice to some of my fellow colleagues that are starting their SA Grad search right along with me:
Make a list of what you need from your SA Grad program and what you can do without. Also look at your assistantship and potential practicum opportunities (if the institution offers them) and reflect on which ones will help you to get to that next point in your development.
Don’t be afraid to look at institutions that are close to your support system. I had a long conversation with my Assistant VP of Student Affairs about my desire to look at a program closer to my friends and family at home. I initially thought that I would be judged for wanting to move back home, but she truly commended my decision and said that we need to reflect on what is the best for us personally. If there is a phenomenal student affairs program close to home, don’t run away from it just because it’s near home.
On the opposite end, I strongly encourage you to look at living away from your home in another state for a few years, whether that is during your SA grad career or if you decide to work in higher education before grad school (like I decided to do). I have grown so much as a person by living away from family and friends in another state for the past 2 years and I definitely don’t regret that decision. I have personally gained more independence, have learned to find my niche in the community on my own, and have taken the time to realize that Pittsburgh is where I inevitably want to end up someday in the near future. I have also had the opportunity to affirm my passion for Residence Life and student affairs overall.
I would love to hear back from other SA Pros who are starting their SA grad search or for those who have already gone through their graduate careers! Hopefully I’ve sparked some reflection for those of you starting the search with me (and have reassured you that the SA grad search process isn’t easy for everyone).