Gratitude Challenge

What a week

Today, I’ve been attempting to find the best way to show my gratitude. Even when I’ve been at my most stressful, most challenging, and most blue points in Oklahoma, I’ve realized I always have something or someone for which I am grateful, thankful and full of gratitude.

To be fair, this has been a weird week. However, because I refuse to count my hours, I will simply focus on all the wonderful experiences I have had. I was able to see my Royals sweep the Angels (in-person) to advance to the ALCS. I spent an entire weekend with my sister, brother-in-law, and adorable nephew. I took Monday morning off. Had three meetings Tuesday evening and then caught the end of tech rehearsal for Miss OSU. Helped with and watch dress rehearsal for Miss OSU on Wednesday. And helped set up a program, welcome our guests, and run ballots for the Miss OSU judges this evening. Today, I had a full day of work and will soon be sleeping under my desk during my students’ lock in retreat.

So while it’s fair to say I’m more than a little smothered, covered, sauced, and fried, I still have so much gratitude to share this week.

And sharing that gratitude has been the most empowering, calming, and centering activity I have done.


Why this week?

While this week was jam packed with things to do, I was completely taken aback at how long it has taken me to find my gratitude. I spent much of the week frustrated with my situation, impatient with others, and generally not a happy person to be around. Meanwhile, throughout the week, great things were happening to me and all around me.

First, my dear friend Allison posted my #MyStoryIsBeautiful guest post to her blog, which was amazing. I had struggled with how to find the right voice for her blog without losing too much of my sense of self in the story, but I can see now by the response I have received that everything worked out just like it should. Last night, after a particularly long day, I laid on my couch in tears for about an hour because I was just so overwhelmed with the love I’d received. In case I haven’t expressed it, I am grateful to Allison for asking me to share my story and so thankful to call her a friend.

Much of that love came from friends and former teachers whose words were so touching and loving that I couldn’t hardly bear it. I was completely overwhelmed at the way these people responded. I don’t know if any/all of them have read my posts here or not, but the response to that post was just so bucket-filling. To know that these people I know, I love, and I call my friends were moved by that post or felt compelled to say something to me was just so astounding.

And then I realized that if they could express something like this at the exact right moment, then it’s time for me to begin expressing my love and gratitude to others as well.



A Challenge to Myself

So I decided. I refuse to let myself get bogged down in the challenges I face at work, in how distant I am from my family, or in how frustratingly slow of a process social justice is. Instead, I will use my time to recognize those who have brought some kind of joy into my life and express my gratitude for knowing them. Much like the “bros” in the video above, I realized that I really do not tell the people around me how much I care for them and that I love them. Whether that is some curse of the hegemony and patriarchy around me or simply a mental lapse, it is something I intend to correct.
But I want to be clear. This challenge is not about spreading something around like wildfire. I’m not trying to create a movement wherein millions of people across the globe post videos and give to a cause they know nothing about.
This is a challenge to myself. Whenever I’m struggling to find the happiness around me, I will take a step back and begin giving thanks and gratitude to those who have brought some lightness into my life.
I invite you to join me, but I won’t call you out and publicly shame you into participation. Instead, I ask you to help keep me accountable. See me posting something incredibly negative on Twitter? Empathize, but remind me to give gratitude to those around me. Did I post an entry focused on negativity? Empathize, but remind me about all the wonderful people who surround me.


#GratitudeChallenge

Let me start here: This week, I am struck by the knowledge of how much my teachers throughout my K-12 years have impacted me as an adult. From kindergarten with Mrs. Mesler through the most challenging days with Señora Ramsey as a senior, each and every teacher gave me part of themselves that I have taken with me into adulthood. The best part is that not all of my teachers were actually in my classrooms. Some of these folks didn’t start at one of my schools until I was well beyond that grade level. But I’ll never forget what they’ve all done for me.

Craving the Research Rush (Or, Is This Normal?)

I promise to not link to my thesis often, but at least knowing what I researched might be helpful for understanding what I’m discussing below. I also just feel like making a shameless (SHAMELESS, I tell you) plug to up my views and downloads because I’m superficial like that.


I make a lot of plans that don’t really pan out.

I’ve mentioned previously that I graduated with my Masters degree in May 2014. While grad school was incredibly taxing, it was among the most incredible two years of my life. When I left my undergrad career choice (Atmospheric Science and meteorology…we’ll discuss my path to student affairs at a different time) behind to start at Nebraska, I was petrified that I would get halfway done and realize I was on the wrong path.

Fortunately, that never happened. Sure, I struggled at times – like learning to write multiple high-quality papers every week that required an exorbitant amount of critical thinking whereas my undergraduate experience was far more concerned with understanding equations.

Then came time for thesis work. I’d been awaiting the day we’d work on theses with an equal amount of dread and excitement. I was finally going to be able to research something important to me, but I was also going to be asked to conduct professional research, write what is essentially an academic textbook, and become an expert in something I was just barely beginning to understand fully.

But I jumped in. Head first. I started meeting regularly with my advisor for thesis work in August and put together a strong plan. After receiving IRB approval, I was raring to go. Unfortunately, I woefully underestimated the population available on my campus and was soon faced with the challenge of finding more participants.

I had three options: continue with just one participant and attempt an ethnographic study; attempt to receive approval through other institutions and listservs and then recruit there; or scrap my idea and start over. After considerable panic and many, many conversations with my classmates, I decided to go for option two. And I’m so glad I did.

With the help of my incredible friends and colleagues, I was able to create something I am incredibly proud of. But the idea of beginning another research project or even taking a formal class within the foreseeable future sounded like a fate worse than death.

So I made another plan (because all my previous plans have worked out so well. I could probably fill an entirely blog with posts about my “best laid plans”). This new plan was to give myself two years at whatever job I found before considering another degree. That would give me one more year of validity for my GRE scores to apply to new grad schools. Whether I would work full-time and be a student part-time or vice versa was to be determined later.

My plan seemed perfect. I could get a break from school and get some excellent experience as a practitioner before restarting my academics and pursuing a career in the faculty.


But really…is this normal?

I’ve been at Oklahoma State for just more than four months. And while the summer was rough (new place with no friends, no hobbies, and no programs), the start of the school year has been phenomenal. My students are incredible. I am constantly in awe of their creativity, their sensitivity, and their dedication. They make me want to work harder.

But lately, I’ve been feeling the itch to get back to researching. I truly miss reading articles, reflecting critically on them, discussing them with colleagues and mentors, preparing a research methodology, and writing. Oh, how I miss academic writing! I feel like such a freak! I want nothing more than to write something new.

Maybe it’s the act of listing yourself as an author. Or maybe it’s seeing people google topics and download your thesis. Or maybe it’s the prospect of someone thinking you’re an expert.

Whatever it is, I just can’t shake the feeling that I need to be conducting some type of research.

The first time I mentioned to a friend that I was considering starting a new research project, I got a tremendous amount of side-eye (it was through the phone, but still – I can recognize shade from more than 200 miles away).

I’m wondering, if I have any colleagues reading this who have conducted research, is this normal?


Other terrifying thoughts

There’s a lot that goes into a research project. To conduct research at OSU, I’ll have to go through CITI training again (which is terrible and boring and just…ugh). This project would also essentially be unsupervised and would be my first professional work.

Another terrifying thought is attempting to narrow down a single topic enough to the point of being researchable. In my readings currently, I’m discovering a boon of new ideas and theories, which means my head is swirling with possible topics.

Right now, I’m reading up on sexual aesthetics and their use in “new masculinity.” I’ve also got some reading to do from Kimmel (my masculinities hero) on masculinity as homophobia. I’ve also got some interesting articles focused on the intersections between sexuality, gender, and other identities like race (how homophobia differs between white and black heterosexual men) and faith identity (how homophobia presents itself in the Bible Belt).

I am a firm believer that professionals in student affairs need to be constantly reading and learning about their students and at the very least, I hope to live up to my own expectations. I’m also seeing a pretty clear theme emerge among the articles I’ve found interesting enough to download in the past week.

In any case, I’m actually really excited to read these articles and begin a new research process. There’s a very real chance that I’ll be posting article reviews here just as a manner of safe keeping (look forward to that…). Or maybe I’ll just chronicle my attempt at creating a catalog of what I’ve read.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Coming Out (Part: Thank You)

First, I want to thank each and every person who took the time to read Coming Out (Part 1.5). I hadn’t intended for the post to be some kind of announcement, but the support I received (including people from whom I had vigorously hidden my sexuality) was overwhelming. And it has further proven to me that it is incredibly important for people to understand their identity, live it, and share it when necessary.

When I created this blog, I specifically wanted it to be more than just a place where I talk about my identity. I wanted to share the experience of being a first-year student affairs professional. I wanted to talk about my successes and struggles as I navigate an entirely new system and bureaucracy. I wanted to discuss my ever-evolving search for a PhD program.

But I also want to continue sharing my story. Because I know there are people around me who are still hiding a part of themselves. I want others to know there is nothing wrong with them, there is nothing to hide, and there is always someone they can talk to. 

So anyway, thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m so happy you all were here and I hope you’ll stick around. 

Week One…Down – Sort of

Or: How to drive yourself crazy and question every decision you’ve ever made.

(Author’s Note: In my exhausted haze, I apparently forgot to post this at the beginning of this week. So…whatever.)

Classes at Oklahoma State start ridiculously early. Like, not even high schools start this early. Which means this was really my first week of work.

Yeah, I’ve actually been at Oklahoma State for three months (almost exactly…terrifying), but this is the first week that I’ve (steadily) had students and had major events going on.  I have never been so tired in my whole life.

Nothing can prepare you for the first week of events when you’re in campus programming. Not thesis writing, massive projects, nor the horrifying prospect of job searching requires this much energy with this little amount of sleep.

If I were honestly tracking my hours, I would already have about a week’s worth of vacation saved up. A whole week.

(HashtagSAPro Rule #1: NEVER, under any circumstances, count your hours. If you’re working overtime, estimate, take your flex hours, and move on)

Unfortunately, I didn’t follow my own advice. Between August 8th and the night of 23rd, in which I would have normally worked 80 hours, I worked more than double.

It was at that moment I realized the importance of self-care. I also realized just how difficult it is to practice.

I am not one to just leave early because I can, but I’ve realized I should leave early because I can and because I need to. 

I have never been this tired outside of actually being a college student, so I really need to make sure I’m taking plenty of time for myself.

I also have realized just how badly I need a hobby. Thankfully, I’ve got this blog. I’m also hoping to get a full-size keyboard soon so I can once again release some stress on the keys. But I want something more. I’m not a good actor and definitely not a good singer, so theater is out of the question.

I’m considering finding a couple local non-profits like a PFLAG group or AIDS awareness and prevention center.

My goal for next week’s post is to have explored at least three different options for some outside-of-work-yet-still-with-people hobbies.

 

 

P.S. I know there’s not some big important lesson here, but that’s not really the point. I’m more concerned with chronicling my first year as a student affairs professional. But if I had to find a lesson, I guess it’d be that taking care of yourself is just as important as working for and taking care of others. And forsaking yourself is never going to be as helpful as you think. Maybe? I don’t know.

The best TEDx talk I’ve ever seen

I know I included this video in the previous post, but it’s important enough that I think it deserves its own post. 

I’m not going to say much about the video this time around because I want you to watch and come to your own conclusions. For me, this video is defining my first year as a student affairs professional. I’ve used it in a professional retreat setting, a student retreat, and with my officemates as a conversation piece. 

 

 

 

P.S. to Ash Beckham: If you or your management ever see this post, I would do basically anything to have you speak at Oklahoma State.