Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I Rocked It!

Working on another #reverbbroads11 post. I like this one!

Today's #ReverbBroads11 prompt: What are three things you are better at than most people? via Catie at catiecake.wordpress.com


(1) I am an excellent editor. This is one of my favorite times of year. Finals mean final papers. And I love editing. Punctuation, flow, especially spelling (2 time regional spelling contestant!)- that's my bag. I have been given a gift of being able to sniff out clarity in writing, and I like to use it to help others if they'll let me. Granted, it makes me very sensitive to when things are written poorly, but I like to look at it from the side of good.
Ever need a paper edited? I'm your girl!

(2) I'm a good listener. One of the best examples of this, for me, came at Space Camp in the summer between seventh and eighth grade. My camp counselor Shaun shouted above the ambient noise in the cafeteria on our final morning, "So, I forgot to pick the Camper of the Week this week. Who wants to be it?" I raised my hand. Four hours later, I was Camper of the Week for the whole camp. Why? I was the only one that heard him.
When people speak, I listen. I don't take notes, I don't pull out my phone, I pay attention. I do my best to affirm what they're saying and show them that I'm with them. And I do my very best to offer advice only if asked. If you've got something to say, I promise I will listen.

(3) Tetris. This is a nearly useless talent. For some reason, ever since I was little, I've been able to play for hours. Literally hours. In high school, I used to split the screen on my parents' TV and play while I was watching movies. But I'm learning now there's a benefit to me being so good at such a positively primitive game: it calms me down. Tetris has been proven to have a significant calming quality on people with anxiety. It occupies the part of your brain that ruminates (circles thoughts, a big issue for those suffering from anxiety). No wonder I can't think about much else while I'm playing! So I'm happy to be good at something that also has proven to help me immensely. And if I'm playing Tetris at work or while I'm supposed to be completing something important...give me that time. It's essential to me getting to a point where I can work.

Honorable Mentions:
  • Reading: I've always been an inexplicably fast reader.
  • Memory: I remember what I read, too. Often I also remember where I read it. It's straight up weird.
  • Wordplay: I love a good pun. And I love when I make a good pun without realizing it.
  • Trivia: It goes along with memory.
  • Flavor Profiles: Need to know what spice is in something? I can probably tell you.
  • Handwriting: I can't explain this one. I really can't.

What are you good at? Go ahead and brag about it :)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Declared "Never Again!"

Continuing with the #reverbbroads11 theme, I am a big fan of today's prompt:

List 10 things you would never do.

This has been a big year of making intentional changes to be the best version of myself. And no one word better embodies that than my one word for 2011, "balance". Some of my choices will be inspired by that, others will just be things I will never do.

(1) I will never run a marathon. I ran my first half marathon in 2011. In fact, I ran my first 4 half marathons in 2011. And I have become a big fan of that distance. It is liberating to be able to push myself that hard, and rewarding to cross the finish line knowing that my body has achieved such a feat. But as I'm learning now, in yet another stage of recovery, that liberation and that reward comes at a cost. I don't want to pay the price of achieving that feat twice over. Additionally, running for that long gets boring. If at mile 12, I'm starting to wonder what else I could be doing, I don't think I have the focus to go twice as long.

(2) I will never sleep with my phone on again (without just cause). A tremendous part of 2011 has been conquering my anxiety, and a few of these items will relate to that theme. One of the best things I've done is to turn my phone off when I'm ready to go to sleep. I realized once that I was terrified of missing a call or a text, so I left it on. Now, I don't even sleep with it in the same room. I sleep infinitely better, and feel much more relaxed as a result. That being said, there will be cases in my life- kids at a sleepover, sick parents, an unlikely but possible move into res life- that could change this for me. But as it stands right now, I like the arrangement. One small way I'm better for the small choices I make.

Other Anxiety Related List Items:
(3) I will never have a TV in my bedroom. Same reason, really.
(4) I will never be afraid to say how I feel. Sometimes, voicing your opinion on a matter isn't always appropriate, and sometimes can even get you in trouble. But more often than not, there's nothing scary about saying how you feel. One of the grads in our office said it best: "Fear of the thing is always scarier than the actual thing. Always." And one of the best things I've done for myself this year is stop being afraid. I like how its turned out, to be honest.

(5) I will never close myself off to opportunities. As my last blog post stated, I am ending 2011 in a place that I never thought I would- a large public institution in Florida, rather than the small public institution in the Mid-Atlantic or New England that I envisioned myself working at. And I love it. That lets me know that I should absolutely be open to anything that comes my way. No fear, right?

(6) I will never stop learning from my students. I have no immediate plans to go back to school- it'll probably be about 2 years before I start doc work. That said, I learn so much from my students, about everything. I really appreciate the opportunities they give me to learn- about the institution, about them, about the world- and I don't ever want to stop being so curious.

(7) I will never grow up. I have watched more kids' movies this year, I truly believe, than in my entire life. And I've never been more okay with that. I am, at times, mature for my age. But as evidenced by my obscene knowledge of Disney and my extreme enjoyment of cartoons, I also have it in me to be silly. My dad has taught me that you can be as old as your age says, but you should always have fun with life. And I intend to continue, Disney movies in tow.

(8) I will never be a "girl's girl". As I've said so many times before, I have a very special relationship with the guys in my life. I have developed an equally important and meaningful set of relationships with women in my life. But at the end of the day, I love dresses and sunglasses, and sparkly things; but I will love sports, sneakers, and all those other stereotypically boyish things more. I'm throwing out stereotypes. I'm not girly, I'm not a tomboy, I'm me. I'll watch hockey while wearing heels, and run for miles in a pink T-shirt. I'm the most comfortable with myself I've ever been, and it's a great feeling.

(9) I will never stop smiling. One of the greatest unexpected side effects of getting over my anxiety issues is a newfound sense of nearly constant positivity. I don't think it's Pollyana-esque, because I understand that there are bad things that happen, and they will be difficult. But I'm no longer watching the sky, waiting for it to fall. I look upward and "Watch the sky" (as the tattoo on my foot says in bold script) because I'm excited for the opportunities that lie ahead of me. I didn't expect to be called a "positive" person, but I like that I can uplift people by being happy, and I love that I'm not afraid anymore.

(10) I will never stop setting goals. This year was a big year for goals. Run 400 miles, read 50 books, get a job, create a new home for myself, make new friends, conquer my anxiety, fall in love. I have accomplished or am dangerously close to several of those things, and did that in just under 365 days. Imagine what I could do if I work as hard as I have this year, and believe as strongly as I have! I'm excited for the possibilities ahead of me, and to see where the new year will take me.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Settled in the Sunshine State


This month, there is a Twitter hashtag known as #reverbbroads11, asking questions for consideration. I've seen a few and not been sure how to respond, but this one struck me differently. Here we go!

What is the one thing you finally did this year that you always wanted or said you were going to do, but in your heart of hearts never thought you would actually do?

This will be a fun one!

As you may or may not know, I started a job this past July at The Florida State University, in student activities. What you may not know, however, is that I had very few intentions of staying in Florida after grad school.

I still remember sitting with my parents at our house on Malloy Road in Ohio in 1991, as my dad explained to 4 year old me and my 2 year old sister about our impending move to Florida. He had accepted a position there at the University of South Florida, and we were going to be leaving. So much about that move sticks out in my mind. Our visit to campus and staying at what used to be the Holiday Inn on Fowler Avenue, arguing with the moving guys about whether or not my shoes were on the wrong feet (they were, despite my vehement claims to the contrary), and trying to bargain with my parents for a house with a pool. But my two most vivid memories of the move are as follows:

(1) Telling my sister, "Oh we can go to Florida. That's where Disney is," and envisioning myself playing outside all day because it would never snow.
(2) Flopping down inside after my first 5-minute play session in the driveway, realizing it was going to be too damn hot to play outside all day.

I've grown up in Florida, and absolutely love the sunshine, the ability to surf often, and yes, even Disney World :) However, a part of my heart was left in the Northeast when I went there for college. There's something about the North, with its history, its intellectual intrigue, its four fully formed seasons, that has always appealed to me. That desire to experience the North drew me to Brown when I was 16 for a summer program, and was enough to return me there the following summer to start my college career at the University of Rhode Island. Add to that the second family that I formed while attending college, and that was enough to draw me away from a place that I've called home for so long.

However, when it came time to buckle down and do the job search, the switch wasn't quite as simple. While the lion's share of the jobs that I applied for were in the Northeast, and I had good opportunities at a few of those, I also went fairly far in the search process of a few jobs in the Sunshine State. When it came time to make a decision, I was torn in a way I didn't expect to be. Was I ready to leave? Absolutely. But I also had the chance to make my mark in a prestigious position at a very good school, with ideals they were instilling in students that truly resonated with me. So, fighting against what I had believed for years, I chose to stay. I decided to make Tallahassee my home for the next few years.

Will this be the last choice I make like this? No, I don't think so. And will this mean I'll stay in Florida forever and ever? Doubtful. The Northeast and the people in my life who are there are still tremendously important to me, and will be a place I end up eventually. But for now, this is a good fit for me. I love my students. I'm close to family. And I feel like I'm doing good work in a supportive department, with a supportive division of student affairs behind me. Trips north a few times a year are enough for me right now- when they're not, I'll reassess and make moves. But in the meantime, I'm happy with where I am.

So for those about to make job decisions, think about your make-or-break factors. Think about them hard. And then think about whether those alternative options really would "break" you.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The First Time I...Had a Real Runner's Injury

The verdict is in on the cause of my knee shenanigans yesterday, and I'm pleased to report that I don't have to hang up the Activelites just yet.

Diagnosis: the common malady with the oh-so-descriptive name..."runner's knee". The result of a combination of things (for me, overuse and a VERY tight iliotibial band), runner's knee results in pain around the kneecap. I'm predisposed to this because my kneecaps naturally turn outward, but this is the first time it's ever caused me to not be able to run.

Thankfully, it's fairly easy to treat. Physical therapy will be the main means by which I get better. I need to get athletic insoles, and make sure to ice more often and take anti-inflammatories after running. But most importantly, AND most difficult for me, I have to rest. Did it help that I went right from the doctor's office to work race registration for the Clearwater Turkey Trot? No, because it just made me more antsy to try and get back out there :(

So the goal here is to get myself to a point where I don't have any pain when using my knee. That probably won't be by Thursday, but I'm going to put in the work it takes to get better and keep running. Then, I'll run less. That makes NO sense. But I know what's wrong now, and I know how to fix it.

Mystery solved, and rehab is officially on!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The First Time I...Got an "Incomplete"


Today, I ran a 40% marathon. Now, you may be asking, "Amma, didn't you set out to run a 1/2 marathon when you left the house this morning?"

Very observant. Yes, I did!

However, I am starting to learn a big lesson about trusting my body. Possibly bigger than the time-honored refrain from my gymnastics coach, "Bend your knees when you land!" These may turn out to be related, actually...

So I started out the race pretty fast. Far faster than I knew I was going, actually! And I had a few pretty great moments during the first half of the race. Downtown St. Petersburg is beautiful. I mean, I've known that, but getting to see it as the sun rose, running along the water, was the best reminder I could have gotten. Around mile 6, however, my knee started to hurt. Pretty normal for me- I wasn't wearing shorts, so I didn't Biofreeze during the race. Moreover, I have trouble with my knees sometimes. They're old lady knees, but generally not an issue.

Today, it was. As I kept running, I needed to stop a few times to walk. I NEVER do that. And finally, right before mile 11 (And I mean right before, I could see it!), I stopped to walk, and couldn't start running again. Tried, more than once, but couldn't.

So after a great race- getting to run with friends, seeing other friends in the race, the first race my parents were able to cheer me on- I ended up crossing the finish line in the golf cart of the St. Petersburg Police. Not the way I would have hoped to finish. I didn't even take a finisher medal- it didn't feel right.

So now I'm listed as "day-to-day", as they say. The medics at the finish line say it's either a contusion (less serious), or torn meniscus (as you might expect, more serious). I don't know yet what it all means for the rest of my race schedule. I should know more tomorrow if I can get in to my orthopedic doctor.

So what did I learn? When your body says yes, as R. Kelly said, nothing wrong with it.
But when it says no, listen to it.

More to follow as the situation develops!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I Ran For Something


This past weekend was actually a few firsts for me- first 1/2 as part of a group, first out-of-state race, first race in Georgia...but I had a big realization as I was running, and I want to honor that as the title of this blog.

I surprised myself this weekend. My previous fastest half time was 2:09:57. Pretty fast, and that was my first half marathon. My last two have been significantly slower than that, so I didn't expect anything impressive yesterday morning. But I felt good as I ran, so I paced myself with my music and sped up a few times. The end result? 2:05:10. WHOA.

But I also let myself drop back a few times to look at my surroundings. I love race signs. I love reading them, and seeing what people have to say to their friends and families. Some of my favorites:
  • "Smile If You Pooped Your Pants!"
  • "Something Inspirational"
  • "Go, Complete Stranger, Go!"
  • "Staying Up All Night Making This Sign Was Hard Too!"
  • (for the full marathoners) "26.2 miles- because 26.3 would be CRAZY!"
I also really love reading the backs of the shirts of fellow runners, and seeing what they're running for. Some do it for fitness, and that's awesome. I know I got started to keep myself from gaining weight in grad school, and it turned into something that I love more than I ever thought I would. But so many also do it for other things- for faith, for charities, for those who they've lost or can't run. And I got to thinking about why I run. I want to run for more. I want to run for something bigger than myself.

When I thought about everything I could run for, I landed on this irreversible fact: I am a preemie, as is my sister, and want to run to help those like my sister and I. Both born at 28 weeks, we were in a lot of danger for the first six weeks of our lives and spent that time in incubators. And while my sister has asthma that is likely a result of that, I suffered no ill effects. I'm incredibly lucky. I want to do something to help other parents see their premature children grow up to do things that amaze them.

So here's my challenge. My goal for 2011 was to run 400 miles. For every mile that I run past that goal, I'm donating a dollar to March of Dimes. But I want to do one better. If you run (or even if you don't, even better!), let me know how far you run in December. I'll donate a dollar for each of your miles too :)

I can do something with all the miles I put on the road. And I'm committing to this now because it's something I believe in, that I understand the power of, and that I want to support. Will you help me?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I Wrote About Student Affairs and Pop Culture

Once upon a time, I was a film student. I minored in film studies at URI, in hopes of doing something that would allow me to work in film criticism.
Years later, I became a student affairs practitioner, and fell in love with applying theory. I merged the two loves while studying for my comprehensive exams, applying theory to films and TV shows featuring college, helping me to visualize the concepts I had been learning about for the last year and a half. I've done so again here, as I realized while watching The Nightmare Before Christmas that Jack was suffering from some serious career dissatisfaction. Seriously, that's what I said. Out loud in my living room. By myself.

In any case, I present to you:

I, Jack, The Pumpkin King: Jack Skellington’s Journey to Self Authorship

Introduction

Aside from the deflection of a few complements, and his thanks to the denizens of Halloweentown for a successful holiday display, the first words we hear from Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas are an impassioned lament about his boredom with his stead as the Pumpkin King. My critical eye immediately traveled to my years of schooling in student development theory, and my heart went out to this man for his deep dissatisfaction with his work. Ultimately, I concluded that Jack’s identity crisis portrayed in the film is an excellent exercise in Baxter Magolda’s theory of self-authorship. Over the course of nearly ninety minutes, Jack takes a journey from disillusioned, to re-energized, to defeated, and finally to enlightened. Baxter Magolda’s stages can be applied to this sojourn to help us all find the joy in our work, be we student affairs practitioners or pumpkin kings.

“Just Like Last Year, And The Year Before That…”: Following Formulas

Our first journey through Halloweentown is jauntily shown in the opening song, “This is Halloween”. But while the town’s yearly display of holiday spirit is new to us each time, it is not new to Jack Skellington, the lead purveyor of these terrifying tidings. As the rest of the citizens celebrate the occasion with prizes and togetherness, Jack steals away to a graveyard to contemplate his state of affairs. He is concerned that being the scariest of them all has lost its meaning, and displays a remarkable sense of dissatisfaction in his accomplishments:

Oh, there's an empty place in my bones

That calls out for something unknown

The fame and praise come year after year

Does nothing for these empty tears (Burton, McDowell and Thompson, 1993)

While there is no indication that Jack feels he put himself in this position, he clearly feels that the expectations of others play a significant role in his continuation as the Pumpkin King, not unlike “young adults [who] follow the plans laid out for them” (Baxter Magolda, 2001). In the film, this step overlaps significantly with Baxter Magolda’s second step, that of the crossroads.

“Oh Could It Be I Got My Wish?”: Crossroads

The first inkling that Jack might have a change in his future comes when he falls through the door to Christmastown. As he sees the world of holiday cheer for the first time, he is fascinated and mystified by his surroundings. Moreover, he starts to feel fulfilled where he previously felt boredom and emptiness:

The sights, the sounds

They're everywhere and all around

I've never felt so good before

This empty place inside of me is filling up

I simply cannot get enough (Burton, McDowell and Thompson, 1993)

The crossroads stage of self-authorship goes a step further from following formulas, in that the dissatisfied party realizes that a change needs to be made. Much as any student may realize that he or she needs to pursue a new passion, Jack’s crossroads are reached when he finds something new that he wants to undertake.

At this stage, Jack’s self-authorship very much resembles an innovative career counseling theory known as happenstance theory. Criticisms of earlier forms of career counseling include a lack of regard for chance, spontaneity, and the course of life influencing career choice. In looking at a newer school of career counseling, Mitchell et al. (1999) “emphasize the importance of chance in one’s career, and helping clients become ready to take advantage of beneficial, unexpected events” such as Jack’s arrival in Christmastown. What results is a career choice he never could have dreamed of or pursued in Halloweentown, because he had never encountered it before. What results is a journey of self-discovery that spans two holidays and unexpectedly bridges two worlds (not unlike my desire to work in film criticism, as well as student affairs J)

“This Year, Christmas Will Be Ours!”: Becoming The Author of One’s Life

Jack throws himself enthusiastically into preparations for his town’s rendition of Christmas, even going so far as to kidnap Santa from Christmastown to ensure authenticity. He is rejuvenated with a new sense of purpose, and excited to redefine himself as the King of Christmas. Even in the face of doubt from his best friend and aspiring girlfriend Sally, he perseveres to set his own new beliefs and chart his new journey, however misguided it may be. A cornerstone of authoring one’s own life is the ability to sustain “a solid sense of confidence that [one] can direct [his] life”; Jack not only embodies that confidence, he instills it in the rest of Halloweentown. This transformation is evident in the cooperative spirit of the “Making Christmas” number that features the whole town packaging toys, learning new songs and generally supporting the new direction that their fearless leader has taken in his life. It is only on his maiden voyage, as he is shot down from the sky after “mocking and mangling this joyous holiday” (Burton, McDowell and Thompson, 1993) that he starts to realize that his journey was misguided and ultimately poorly informed.

That’s Right! I Am The Pumpkin King!: Internal Foundation

As Jack sits in the graveyard where he landed after his sleigh was shot down, contemplating the course that led him to a tattered red suit and a world filled with fear, he realizes that he was meant to be the Pumpkin King. He acknowledges that while he did the best that he could do, he ultimately was needed to preside over Halloweentown and be its leader. According to Baxter Magolda, the reprise of “Jack’s Lament” demonstrates the point at which individuals become “grounded in their self-determined belief system, in their sense of who they are, and the mutuality of their relationships”. And indeed, it is at that point where Jack determines his rightful place is in his old job, albeit recharged with new ideas on how to be a better Pumpkin King. Moreover, he realizes the mutuality of his relationship with Sally as he rescues her from Oogie Boogie in hopes of restoring the sanctity of Christmas. In a moment of despair for most, Jack sets the stage for his triumphant return to power. And as snow falls over Halloweentown, and Santa rushes off to rectify the madness wrought by Jack, he is gratified in his construction of his internal voice.

Conclusion

Jack Skellington starts and ends The Nightmare Before Christmas as the Pumpkin King, but takes a whimsical and harrowing journey to arrive at that point. Just as many of us have explored different paths to find ourselves, the undead are not immune to such crises of confidence. Jack’s journey to self-authorship through a happenstance trip to another world gave him the boost he needed to be better at his work. And whether your work is as the leader of Halloweentown, or working with students each day, perhaps we should take such journeys to rejuvenate ourselves each year!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ran a Race in Tallahassee

I've run several races since moving to Tallahassee. But I hadn't realized until well after I crossed the finish line of the FSU Family Weekend 5k that none of those had been in my new hometown. This course was a great one for me- somewhat familiar in that I passed through areas that I had seen before at work each day, but also still an adventure! Thanks to my atrocious sense of direction, I don't always know where I am in relation to other things. So in running on a planned course, I got to see how close some buildings were to others, found a few new ways to get to buildings I've heard about, and generally got a better feel for my new place of work.

And the TIME! My previous fastest mile split was 8:53, thanks to the encouragement of/my intense competitive spirit with Ken Getty, and that was for a 5 mile race. Fueled by inspiration from my sometimes running buddy and best friend Jeff Parker, I went in with designs on beating that milestone. And, without being a braggart (because I had no idea this was going to happen, and CERTAINLY did not expect it), I crushed it.

25:07 (8:06/mi)? Are you kidding me?

This is the fastest 5k I've ever done, and fastest mile split of my life. It's encouraging that I can still surprise myself. I don't plan on making a habit of running races that fast, but it puts a smile on my face and some added strength in my heart to know that I can.

So why isn't the picture for this post of me crossing the finish line? Because the little lady you see above stole my heart not too long after the race. After finishing the face and heading back to work at the registration tables, I saw one of our staff members walking around with her on an improvised leash made of two lanyards. Crafty! She had a collar on, but no tags. She was the sweetest dog, very happy but clearly without an owner. A few of the other staff members and I stayed with her for a bit until our union director said that she had to go. He wanted to call Animal Control or the Sheriff's office to come get her, moves that would have undoubtedly resulted in her being put down. NO GOOD. So I volunteered to take her, and figure out what the safer option for her was.

As an avowed aspiring dog owner, you can only imagine how excited I was. I walked with her to the car, and drove in the direction of the animal hospital on my street. I knew they were open, and knew they'd help me decide what to do and would make sure she was safe. She never barked once, only whimpering a few times as she tried to get comfortable in the car. But she sat once she had sniffer out her surroundings, and even lay on my lap for a bit as I drove. Positively adorable.

I did the responsible thing and left her at the hospital so they could transport her to the shelter, but I've been checking in to see how she's doing. Once they transport her to the shelter, I may even go visit if she's not claimed right away. But it gave me some perspective. Do I still want a dog? Absolutely, maybe even more so now. But I've got some work to do to make sure I'm ready for one. Here's hoping that's something that can come into my life in the not too distant future.

Monday, October 24, 2011

I Celebrated Careers in Student Affairs Month


We are in the final week of Careers in Student Affairs Month, an annual time to educate students about our work held each October. I have not yet had the opportunity to participate in Careers in Student Affairs Month as a professional in the field. Last time I was a pro, I had no idea what NASPA was, and was flying mostly blind coming out of undergrad, doing unrelated work, and had just dived into the world of student affairs Pete Rose style.

This year, I'm starting to look more closely at how we recruit student affairs professionals to the field. And it fascinates me. It recalls the #sachat about Intentional Recruitment to the field, the full transcript of which can be found over here. The chat talked a lot about what we as pros do when students express interest in student affairs, how we support them, and how to react.

The truth of the matter is, while I'm always excited when students decide this is the work they want to be doing, I'm tentatively excited. It is not to say that I don't think we should welcome everyone with open arms. In fact, that's a lot of what this work is about. But I do think that there are questions that should be asked, and discussions that should be had, when a student approaches you and says they want to do your job. The first, and biggest, should be "Why?"

In my experience as a student leader, a graduate student, and now as a professional, there are a few types of students who I am skeptical to blindly shepherd into the field. Here are examples of a few.

The "Protecting My Legacy" Leader:
A friend of mine once told me a tale of a graduating student leader who met with those following him, to share his "secrets" of success. That story concerned me quite a bit. I think that wanting to do the work that we do, and wanting to continue the work that he/she is doing, are very different.

To a certain extent, I felt that some of the Tweets that NASPA published in conjunction with CSAM failed to do this. I understand that 140 characters is not the venue to explain the difference! But to say "Like being Greek? You should work in Greek affairs!" is incomplete. The understanding that being a student leader is different from advising and developing student leaders should be clearly made, at the risk of allowing our students to enter the profession under false pretenses.

The Perpetual Student Leader
: When a student who holds such ownership over his/her work in an organization that he or she doesn't want to leave it, I feel we have an obligation to share more about what we do as advisors, educators, and supervisors, and how it is different from the student leadership that he/she is so comfortable with.

Similarly, if a student is choosing a student affairs career as a means by which to prolong or avoid altogether leaving college, it is incumbent upon us to help them manage those feelings, and find ways to help him/her transition into a world outside of our walls/gates/doors.

The "If Not That, Then This" Student Leader: I have heard many stories from students who started out in other majors, and then decided to pursue student affairs instead. And I think that's fantastic. If we're doing such impactful work that we inspire our students to want to do the same, that means that the work we do is being noticed, and that they want to make an impact on the world doing what we do.

It is important, though, to make sure that student affairs is what they want to do, and not just not what they DON'T want to do. That is to say, a business student shouldn't move into student affairs just because he or she doesn't want to do business anymore. I wouldn't feel comfortable aiding and abetting the escape of a student from a path that he or she didn't like, unless I knew that he or she truly wanted to meaningfully contribute to student affairs as well.

Sometimes we place such value on qualities such as teaching, inclusiveness, developing people, and understanding, that our students might feel like we're the only field that values them. But we're not. We just talk about it more ;) Part of our job is to help students realize those lessons in their intended line of work, not just to select those who exemplify those qualities well enough to have them work alongside us. So one of my big goals for this year is to make sure I build that into my interactions with my students- what are you learning here, AND how can you apply it to what you do in class?

I would never say "don't encourage students to go into student affairs!" We should welcome those who want to join our ranks, and help them succeed to the best of our abilities. But I would encourage those who do talk to these students to ask questions. "What do you like about the field?" "Why do you want to work in it?" "What do you know about it?" Be a resource first, and a cheerleader second.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It Got Deep Between Food and I

As I write this, I'm watching hockey and concocting away in the kitchen. Rice and garlic vegetables on the stove, salt and vinegar kale chips in the oven, and I feel the most serene I have all day. More and more often, I've been finding myself going to the kitchen to settle down if my mind starts racing. I've found that a finite task when I'm feeling anxious helps far more than sitting and worrying would.

Woody Allen doesn't look like he agrees.

But this is the latest stage of a very long relationship that I've been in...one with food. In my life I've gone from expecting it to be there, to taking what I ate into my own hands (by relieving my dad of lunch-making duties at the age of 9 after continued dissatisfaction with his strategy), to building an admittedly unhealthy relationship with it late in middle school and into high school.

Then, I enrolled in Principles of Food Preparation in my sophomore year of high school. Cooking to me was something that always sort of just happened, and it was never anything I was going to be particularly good at. But something changed that quarter. For the first time, I started to love cooking, and love discovering new foods. I remember finding a foolproof apple crisp recipe, learning to make bananas Foster on a Foreman grill (that dish needs to make a comeback, now that I can use rum instead of rum flavoring), and made some pretty good friends in the process.

That interest has expanded into a few other areas. I took and fell in love with cake decorating. I love to bake, and find healthy ways to do it. I have learned so much about nutrition and how to stay healthy, and now share what I've learned with the readers of MyStudentBody blogs. And in this latest stage, learning how to eat gluten free, I'm making a very important connection between what I eat and how I feel.

So Woody Allen, settle down. Drop the lobster in the water. And relax :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Got "The Itch"

Let me make it sufficiently, abundantly, and unabashedly clear: I love my job. Absolutely love it. I have so much fun in the office every day, even when I'm exhausted or dealing with angry club patrons or having to catch up on office work after a long night at an event. I love the work, and I love where I do it. I don't want what I'm about to say be overshadowed by the fact that I am SO happy with where I am right now. I wouldn't have it any other way at this point in my life.

That being said, I'm starting to get the itch. The itch to learn more. The itch to do more. The itch to do something different.

To a certain extent, this is normal. Especially for me. This is the most of a unitasker I have been for quite some time. Working only in an activities capacity is abnormal for me, as someone who is accustomed to doing that, AND committee work, AND some form of research project or presentation, AND school! I'm not in school at all for the first time in several years.

As much as I love what I do, I've questioned it a few times. Hearing about the programming initiatives that friends in other areas and at other schools are presenting, occasionally a voice in my head says "we only put on the fun stuff." Which isn't really true- only last week, I was humbled and amazed at the outpouring of students who fought to see Elie Wiesel as part of the Golden Tribe Lecture Series. And we give our students the opportunity to learn each day in planning all of these events, and I love watching them learn about themselves as they deal with vendors, manage budgets, and train volunteers. But when your day consists of grocery shopping; unpacking boxes from Oriental Trading; or adding "T-Pain" or "Spintacular" into your Outlook dictionary, it's sometimes all too easy to overlook those triumphs.

So what would I like to be doing? I have a pretty substantial, but thus far largely unresearched interest in wellness promotions. It strikes me as a means to integrate my interests in personal wellness (physical, nutrititional, and mental), while also being able to put on programming. The difference is, attendees walking away from the event would absolutely be able to incorporate lessons from the programs into their daily lives. As as much as I loved seeing a near sold out crowd walk away from a comedy show last night, I'm never as confident that equally impactful learning is going on. I think that's okay, but I'd like to be a part of some of the learning too.

So to sum up: love my work. Love it. But I want to do more. Both do more in quantity (A dangerous request, I KNOW), and do more in impact. Here's hoping some opportunities present themselves for me! And if you know of any, you know where to find me...on the Internet anyway :)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Was Called "Amma From Twitter"

Today's NASPA-FL Drive In truly was like coming home. It was a trip back to Tampa, I got to see so many friends, classmates and colleagues...it was a wonderful way to start a weekend at home.

However, I got to make new connections as I presented with Kelley on her 52 in 52 project and the spinoff assessment we did to help advise graduate students on their transition into professional life. I joked leading up to the conference that I was presenting with "Kelley from Twitter", as many people have come to know her.

At one point, Carolyn, one of the FSU grads that I have gotten to know and really enjoy, mentioned that she had heard me mentioned the same way! That blew me away. My Twitter feed is a mess of ramblings about sports, encouraging words to Biggest Loser contestants, running, and food. But I do also love to use it to interact with student affairs pros- to hear that I'm the one saying things that are worthwhile? Whoa. And I had a great time today meeting some people I knew only through a Twitter handle, a tiny photo, and clusters of 140 characters. To hear that people care about what I have to say on my feed, and learned from what I had to say in my presentation, was humbling. No matter how long I'm in the field (hopefully a long time), no matter how much I do this (hopefully a lot), it always will be.

To be able to share my knowledge, and know that people got something from my ramblings, has me all the more energized to keep reading, keep researching, and finding new ways to talk about what I've learned.

Thanks for a great conference all, I'll see everyone next year! And keep in touch in the meantime- here, on email, and especially on Twitter :)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ran 300 Miles


As of this evening, I've run 300.21 miles this year. The goal for this year is 400 miles, and I am 3/4 of the way there! It's a big deal for me.

Running has become a big part of my life this year. It's been the way I clear my mind and actively get rid of anxiety. It's been how I first started learning my way around Tallahassee. It's letting me travel (I have races this fall in St. Pete, Orlando, Savannah and Memphis). And it gives me a way to keep balance from work. I have me time when I run, in a way that I can't always make time for when I don't run.

It's a part of me now in a way that it has never been before. And in the distance I've gone this year, I could get to Jacksonville, FL; Birmingham, AL; or Savannah, GA! When you put it that way, think of the amazing places I could go on foot!

I can't wait to see what else I can accomplish, where else I can go :)

I Quit Facebook

No, I'm not quitting Facebook. Quite the opposite. But I will say, I have once. And having been there, I can speak to the reaction that is firing up the Internet right now.

Think back to the original version of Facebook. You know, "thefacebook.com". It was a profile, no status updates, didn't hold pictures beyond the one that identified you, and there wasn't a mini-feed. One day, there was. And it was impossible. I didn't want everyone knowing my business. Moreover, I really didn't want to know everyone else's. As was the fashion at the time, I created a group expressing my extreme anger. "Mini-Feed = Mega Creepy". I was so proud of the name. If it hasn't been archived, it may still exist. But then I took the next step. I quit. And for my final year of college and a few months afterward, I didn't have a Facebook.

I was incredibly productive, I spent far less time on the computer, and had no quick venue by which to share quips that I and a few select others find hilarious. But at the end of the day, once I left college, I missed the ease with which it allowed me to communicate with friends.

I'll continue to use it for that. Will I lose hours on it the way I have up until this point? Probably not. I don't like the constant stream of information. I like to learn about people from people, not from a screen. Mark and I have never really agreed on that.

So catch ya on Facebook, but look for the bulk of my act on Twitter, folks. Shorter but to the point hilarity, punctuated with hashtags.

The First Time I...Went to the Watercooler

Monday was a rough day at the office. Nothing particularly crazy happened, it was just a very draining start to a week. So it was a relief to get a phone call from a co-worker at 10 til 5, to go out for happy hour after work. Which is a water cooler, but tastier, and makes me sleepy.

Anyway, I guess everyone had had a day like mine. There were five of us at happy hour, and gradually talk turned to work. As is customary with gatherings of people who work together, this is a slippery slope. Before long, the frustrations, concerns and issues about our department and institution sprung forth. Being fairly new, I've hung out with this group before, but something about still being in work clothes made it all the more easy to talk about. Evidently, the degree to which we were speaking freely was noticed, and a few apologized for their negativity.

But the way I see it, this was okay for a few reasons. In a different time of my life, I might have been scared about what I heard. Not now. I think that rather than using that as signs of cracks in the facade of an institution that I really enjoy, I see it as a sign that no place is perfect. On the whole, this is far better than my last professional experience. By leaps, bounds, and a cross-country road trip in a really nice car. Is it ideal? Probably not. But is it a great place for me to be right now? Yeah, it is.

It also shows a dramatic shift in the degree to which I can be close with coworkers. Yes, my first happy hour did feature some frustration about work. But it also featured a lot of laughing, a lot of fun (as our gatherings always are), and plans for the future. I have friends in my coworkers. Again, this is a rapid shift from my last professional job. We can share frustrations with each other as well as have fun. I like having friends at work, glad to know I can have that as an adult :)

And lastly, I think it's a sign of my own growing maturity and confidence in my own professional identity. When I first started finding out things I didn't like about my last job, I took them to heart, and it affected my work. But I've taken a hard line at being positive this year. That extends to how I behave in my surroundings. Nowhere is perfect. No person is perfect. But I can choose to do what I want with the information I have. It doesn't have to affect me deeply enough to change how I do my work. The bottom line is, I trusted my instincts in coming to this job in a way that I didn't before. I didn't feel right about my first position, but took it anyway. And before I even left FSU, I knew it was right. That instinct counts for something. And I'm going to let that carry me through.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's Been 10 Years

I needed to look at 9/11 another way today. After 10 years of seeing the World Trade Center alongside its fiery corpse, and hearing it mentioned in the same breath as tragedy, catastrophe and attack, I wanted to see it as a sign of inspiration.

Maybe it's a way of me mitigating all the anxiety I felt from the floor of my AP European History class, where we sat in a circle, silently, heads bowed 10 years ago today; maybe it was my way of making sure that I could look at it positively. That's been a big part of my 2011- trying to make sure that I don't always feel like the sky is falling around me. And, in essence, that's exactly what 9/11 was.

So after my morning run, I sat down and watched Man on Wire for the first time. It is a beautiful documentary about Philippe Petit, a French wirewalker who hatched a plan to illegally string a wire between the two towers and walked between the 104th floors. On August 7, 1974, he pulled off the task with the help of a group of friends and collaborators that spanned 3 continents. It's an amazing story, and was beautifully told by the filmmakers. It was footage of him practicing, interspersed with stories of his previous wirewalk attempts at monuments like the Sydney Harbor Bridge, and Notre Dame, and interviews with his collaborators.

There were two parts of the story that really got me. One, the story of how he decided he wanted to do it at all. Petit was in a dentist's office at 17, reading a magazine, and saw an article about how these towers were going to be built. And the idea of these towers, the dream of these buildings that would tower above the heights of monuments that he knew like the Arc d' Triomphe and Eiffel Tower, was enough for him. He knew he had to walk between them. I positively loved this anecdote because it shows that this is bigger than we think. When the Towers went down, it was seen as an attack on America. And it was. But it was bigger than that. It was an attack on the dreams of so many others around the world who dreamed bigger than the place they were from. For so many who dreamed of coming to America to find a safe place, a happier place for their family. For my parents, who came here for new opportunities. And for Petit, who literally came to America with a dream that was based on an unfinished pair of buildings.

And the second was seeing the pictures of his quest to conquer this feat that he so many times called impossible, yet made happen anyway. Pictures of the acrobatic Petit balancing on corners of the roof, of the pylons and support beams that held the building up, and this one, of Petit doing a handstand on the still under-construction building. But maybe the most breathtaking for me was one that depicted Petit's own mark on the building. Because the Towers were not yet fully complete when he completed the walk, he spent a lot of time in the stairwells rather than elevators. And between the 84th and 104th floors, he illustrated his career on the walls of the stairwell.
Amidst the rubble of the South Tower, there was a crude rendering of Notre Dame with the date that he walked between its towers, one of the Sydney Harbor Bridge with the date that he crossed it from midair, and of the Two Towers, with a tightrope drawn between them, with a question mark, as he was unsure when he would fulfill the goal. And even though the story of Petit and his wildly inspirational walk was immortalized in a book and on film, it broke my heart that Petit's most simple depiction of the event is no more.

Today is a day that will be filled with images of screaming, of fire, and of the intense fear that we felt on this day, 10 years ago. I worry all the time that the World Trade Center will be remembered more for the impact of its destruction, than for the good work that was done within its walls, or the inspiration that it provided for so many. So I offer the images and story of Phillipe Petit as an alternative, as a call to an earlier time when people looked up at the Towers and saw beauty, hope and inspiration, instead of smoke, fire, and the loss of their innocence.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

REFLECTION! The First Time I Ran 13.1

I slept through this morning's training run with the training group for the Savannah Rock and Roll Half, so I set out on my own this afternoon. It was a TERRIBLE run. They happen, but I hate them :( It's discouraging and demoralizing. But I decided to look over an account of when I finished my first 1/2, to remind myself I can do this, and to rejuvenate myself for the rest of the training season.

Brutal honesty time: I quit things I'm not good at. The fact that I excel in the things that I do right now is no coincidence. There's hard work associated, sure, but if I don't feel like my hard work is yielding me what I think I should be getting, I've quit. It was true on the AP Calculus exam, it was true with softball, and to a certain extent it was with gymnastics. I loved it, but I got injured too often to make the progress I needed, and in the absence of being "college scholarship" good, I gave it up.

Running is different. I ran for two years in middle school- cross country for Terrace Community School (GO TORNADOES!), but was always toward the back and didn't like to do it. So I gave it up. And by the time I decided I wanted to try it again, injuries from gymnastics (namely knees) made it hard.

So I went to physical therapy and worked through it. I had always avoided working through things that were hard for me, but this time I did. And after months and months of running, pushing for longer and longer distances and pushing myself past where I was comfortable, I came to today. 13-14 months in the making, and didn't quit once. I surprised myself.

The race today went better than I ever could have expected. I blew one side of my headphones, but kept going. And despite being terrified I'd have to go to the bathroom and not know where to stop (legitimately my biggest fear on any running course I've ever done), I made it the whole way through. And faster than I thought I would. The official chip time was 2:09:57. Whaaaat?

Highlights of the race:

(3) My bib number was my birthday! (823) As soon as I got it, I looked around frantically to see if anyone else's was their birthday, and then realized it was sheer coincidence. I was sooo excited!

(2) My friend Sarah from elementary school's father has been a distance runner for years. I remember seeing him run through the neighborhood every morning for years. He ran the race this morning and he passed me around mile 7 or 8. Coming over the bridge during mile 12, I managed to catch up to him, and stayed behind him for a bit, not thinking I could pass him. But I managed to, fully expecting him to pass me back and get ahead of me. But he didn't. Granted, he's a lot older now, and I had an unreasonable level of adrenaline going at that point, but being even close to him in the distance running realm blows me away.

(1) As I turned onto the straightaway to the finish line, dizzy from the spiral ramp that comes off the Clearwater Bridge, I saw a familiar face. Jeff freaking Parker came to meet me at the finish line! I was soo excited to see him- sore and exhausted and so incredibly happy to see a familiar face, and that he would take the time to come and be there for such a big moment in my life. It meant everything to have a friend there, and my heart was unbelievably happy- Jeff, thank you for making the experience for me. You amaze me :)



The best part of the whole race- having the best friend I could ask for at the finish line :)

Today was a great day, the result of more hard work than I've put into anything, and I can't wait to see what else I can do when I put my mind to it!

When I really think about it, there's a lot I know I could change about today's run, to make it go better next time. But the best thing right now is to remind myself I CAN do this.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Debated Guys v. Girls v. People


No, not like that.

My friend Sam drew my attention to this article about the dynamic of female relationships on social media, and how to address comments that are, in a way, solicited. It speaks about "honesty" platforms like Formspring, wherein the user can ask other users/"friends" what others think of them. Presumably this is done with the hopes of getting glowing reviews or encouragement. However, the platform is being used increasingly as a means to anonymously hurt each other. This article is actually an update to the book "Odd Girl Out," a well publicized chronicle of the covert but comprehensive bullying techniques of teenage girls.

For the better part of my childhood, my best friends were boys. I interacted with girls in dance classes and on sports teams, but for the most part, would choose to hang out with the guys. I wore shorts or pants all the time, the result of having my skirt lifted unwillingly in kindergarten (these memories stick, people!). I was what you would consider a "tomboy," and wouldn't have had it any other way. Still wouldn't!

Sometime around high school, I managed to find a group of girls that I could socialize with and didn't feel forced to be catty, hurtful, or judgmental all the time. One of the things I valued most about my male friends was their ability to be open. When one was mad at the other, they would talk, they would yell, sometimes they would fight...but they would address it. I always saw girls defer to rumor-spreading or mudslinging over talking things out, and always hated that. Guys had it right, I thoughts. But in meeting this circle of friends in high school, several who I still am close with today, I realized that I didn't dislike girls- I just hadn't met the right ones yet.

As I continue to mature, I'm still more comfortable with men. Some of my best friends in the world to this day are men. But I've also come to a point where I can count several women among my best friends too. I've shed my propensity to hide behind shorts and pants, in favor of heels, skirts, and SO many dresses sometimes it makes my head spin to see how far I've come.

But I see the hurtful things that girls say to each other, on platforms such as Formspring, and I yearn to determine where such mindsets come from. Where is this socialization coming from? So much is said about the deplorable and hurtful ways that men treat women, and rightfully so. That said, we should be equally outraged about how women treat other women. In both cases, the root causes of such socialization need to be addressed, and aggressively combated.

I suppose my dream would look something like this. Improv Everywhere recently placed a megaphone podium in Times Square with the directive "Say Something Nice". Very few people took the opportunity to advertise, self-promote, or demean. But some did. And in the best case scenario, the directive wouldn't be needed. People would walk up, clear their throats, and uplift each other.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Lost a Former Student


Rebecca Hawk was the biggest advocate for Chick-fil-A I've ever met. When we had extra time during group interviews that she helped to leave, her favorite question was "McDonald's or Chick-fil-A?", and was VERY attentive to participant responses. She always let me know when there was a sale at Old Navy (it was dangerous information to have as a grad student). She made a pact with me to not cut her hair when I was trying to grow mine out. And as of yesterday, Rebecca is no longer with us.

The victim of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning from a car left on under her apartment overnight, Rebecca was pronounced dead when she arrived at the hospital. The news reached me at work last night, just as one of our first events with my present students was getting going. It shook me in a way that I truly didn't expect. I'm notorious for my reputation as a "robot"- for not crying when something sad happens- but realizing that Rebecca won't be someone that I see when I visit Tampa, fully coming to the understanding that she really is gone, has really shaken me.

Rebecca, and the other students that I had the pleasure of working with either directly or incidentally in the Center for Student Involvement that year, met me at a really important time in my career. Coming from working at the community college, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted my relationship with my students to look like. I was still struggling with the boundaries between being an authority figure and a resource, while also letting them know me as a person. I settled on my current style because of Rebecca and students like her. She was personable and open, but was also professional enough to get her work done and understand that working with young professionals didn't mean also being friends with them. She made me unafraid to let students know me, and for that (along with every trip I make to Old Navy for quite some time), I'm always going to remember her.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I Catalogued My "Smile-Makers"

Inspired by a blog post from Becca Obergfell, I wanted to share some of the things that make me smile. Particularly in times of year that are busiest, it's good to remember what makes us happy, what carries us away from stress, and what else we love besides our work :) I encourage you to take a few minutes, maybe in the infrequent quiet moments of late August, to do the same.

  1. This scene from An American in Paris. If love at first sight could be captured in dance, this would be it.
  2. Waking up to a particularly good text message from a friend or my family. I turn my phone off before I go to bed, so it's a complete surprise.
  3. Hearing a great song on the radio on the way to work.
  4. That slight ringing in my ears after a fun concert.
  5. Fall weather. It's a rarity in FL, so anytime I feel it, I love it.
  6. Any and all things Disney (of course!).
  7. Watching small children who can't read, appear to be reading.
  8. Related: small children in really fluffy winter coats, or in tiny sports wear (baby sized jerseys).
  9. As millennial of me as it is to say, when I'm retweeted. I write whatever pops in my head, and it blows my mind whenever someone finds enough meaning in what I say to publicly post it.
  10. A particularly good first kiss :)
  11. Being able to share something I've learned that day in a conversation with someone.
  12. Realizing I love a song on a first listen.
  13. Baby animals. Puppies, kittens, pandas, and this video.
  14. Getting a new haircut.
  15. A really great run.
  16. Mail from a friend. Cards, gifts, letters...snail mail is underrated, and always a welcome find in my mailbox!
  17. Finishing a favorite book, no matter how many times I've read it.
  18. Realizing that a student really "gets" something we're working on, or has learned something from an event or conversation that we've had.
  19. Compliments. I never fish for them, and am always taken aback and blown away when someone gives me one.
  20. Thanks to Jeff Parker, this noise.
So, what makes you smile?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Retreated with UP

This isn't my first retreat. Far from it. I can't even say that it's the first retreat I've gotten to lead, or the first where I was working with such a competent group (because the CSI group is an amazing one, and I've loved working with them for the two years that I got to do so!) None of those things are true.

But I can already tell that this is a very special group. Union Productions and Club Downunder are entities that have a reputation that precedes them favorably not just in the music world, but in the world of student activities and student affairs. In two days with this year's staff, it's easy to see why.

These students wrongfully get a reputation for programming for themselves, for bringing only indie music, and in neglecting the interests of the campus as a whole. In watching them brainstorm, watching them teach each other, and make plans for the year, I saw a group of 24 (or so) insightful, inclusive, and professional young adults. I am so excited to work with, and learn from, all of them.

They're funny (with such personal goals as making a 4 lb. grilled cheese, adding 3 inches to a vertical leap, and eating the aforementioned 4 lb. grilled cheese), they're hardworking, and they take care of each other. I led a session on relational leadership (based on Southwest Airlines, in true Amma Marfo fashion), and I can already see that they'll take many of those suggestions and the ideas we brainstormed to heart.

This retreat had the desired effect. I've learned more about this group, we've set goals for success for the semester, and I am so energized to get going with them!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Forced Myself on the Charging Dock


One of the biggest ways for me to deal with my anxiety is to make sure that I create a sense of balance for myself. Running and yoga have been big parts of that, but I've also learned that sometimes my line of work feeds that anxious energy. So I'm being intentional in living my life in a way that doesn't perpetuate anxious feelings.

I'm about a month and a half into a new job, and thus far am putting a great deal of effort into creating a line between my work life and my home life. Prior to this point, I let the two worlds blur, bringing work home and spending time at work tying up loose ends on personal projects. But in making this transition, I opted to take a natural transition and turn it into an opportunity to make a change in my life.

Here are the rules:
(1) Be accessible to students...for emergencies. My customary response to a work call if I'm not at work: "Are you on fire?" "Is someone near you on fire?" If the answer to neither is no, chances are the issue can wait. The nature of my position here at FSU, with such an empowered group of students, makes this distinction significantly easier. Lori, my associate director, said we intervene in the event of "blood, flood or fire." I like that. It's less of a matter of trying to shirk work, and more a matter of preventing myself from jumping in all the time.

(2) To prove I don't wish to shirk doing work- stay in the office for as long as it takes to get it done, but once you're home, you're home. I try as often as I can to complete projects, and divide my day by addressing the most urgent of those pending projects. My anxious nature makes me worry that I'll forget something if I stop mid-task, so I know I have to finish what I'm working on. Sometimes that means staying in the office until 6 or 7, rather than leaving at 5. But for me, it saves the stress of worrying about forgetting details, and allows me to maintain a separation that I know that I need.

(3) Create physical boundaries. In the month and a half that I've lived in the new apartment, I've taken my computer to my bed with me one time. Similarly, I've opted to not have a TV in my room and turn my phone off when I go to bed. This is less about creating a separation between work and play, and more about making sure that I rest. The less sleep I get, the more anxious I feel. In making my bedroom a true place of rest, I've felt far more refreshed in the morning, more recharged and ready to tackle all the aspects of my life with the energy that sound sleep gives me.

(4) I schedule free time. I know, it sounds so type-A and counterintuitive. But it keeps me in check, reminds me that I need to have my own time. The biggest way that I've done that is by scheduling races. I have, on average, a race a month for the fall. I know that I'll feel pressure to work all the time if I don't have days where I don't go to work. In scheduling races for myself, it gives me time to be away from work, and also gives me a forced opportunity to do one of the most rejuvenating and reflective activities in my life- RUN. Moreover, it forces me to make time to run before or after work, to make sure I'm prepared to do my best in those situations. For someone for whom running has become a great form of therapy, this has been the best way for me to calm myself down, relax, and escape from my thoughts.

(5) Forgive yourself. Will I slip up on these things? Sure. I probably will. I may need to get something off my mind by sending an email, or work on a presentation or committee project in time for a meeting. The key for me will be to let that be okay, as long as I have an overall level of balance. And I recognize that my balance may look very different from someone else's idea of balance. But in accepting that these things aren't going to be perfect, my mind can stop ruminating about wanting to change how I've done things, or worrying preemptively about letting the scales tip in one direction or the other.

How do you recharge your batteries, whether in student affairs or any other field? We all need it, do you make time? If not, what do you wish you could do??

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Got a Mentee


I've just returned from a retreat with the Student Activities Center staff, and am so energized about making the work that we do better, collaborating closely with my fellow staff members, forming good relationships with all of the grad students in our office, but at the same time honoring a commitment that I made to a USF student when I left.

I remember the first time I met Leah. She was one of a few students that we have that wait at our Winter Wonderland event for long periods of time (read: 6pm for an event that started at 9pm). I was excited to see that there were events that could draw such passionate followings. I was also curious to see where else such commitment could
manifest itself.


Sure enough, Leah came on our staff the following year as our Director for Special Events, which included the same event I had seen her so excited for the year before. Although I never directly advised Leah, it was great to be able to connect with her periodically, learn more about her as a student and RA, and to see her grow as a leader in the office. A few weeks before I graduated, she came to be and asked me to be a mentor for her. I was blown away by the request, and am so excited to help her through her senior year from afar.

However, I'm nervous about cultivating that relationship with her. I'm nervous because I know I'll be diligent in keeping up with her, being a resource for her, and making time to catch up with her. But I also know she has another mentor on campus at USF, someone with a very different style from me (a style I've actively chosen not to model my own career after), also advising her. It makes me apprehensive because I'm not sure what impact my advice will have from afar, or how my advice will be absorbed in comparison to that of the other mentor. One of the stages of learning how to deal with my anxiety is getting more comfortable with ceding control. And I'm taking this opportunity to challenge myself not to try and assert myself overly. I know the best I can do is state my case, offer my help and support, and leave it to Leah to interpret and pull from my words.

For those of you with more experience being a mentor, how have you cultivated that relationship from afar? What advice do you have about mentoring a student? And do we ever try to filter the information that students get? Or should we let them make those decisions on their own?

Monday, August 8, 2011

Advised a Grad


How often does the first day of work involve a serious game of Harry Potter Uno? And I mean serious--there was talk of office wars and shifting of office hours...

Today was the first day in the office for four new grads: Alyssa, Karli, Cassidy, and Sendi (the graduate assistant who I will directly supervise). Of the hats that I'll get to wear in this position, I've already decided that this is one that I will take the most seriously. Yes, advising students is also important, and I know I will take that role seriously as well. But given the fact that I am so grateful for the mentorship and opportunities that I had as a graduate advisor (they're a major reason for me being in my current role!), I want to be able to provide a similar experience to Sendi, as well as the rest of the group.

Sendi is a wonderful personality to work with. She's smart, cognizant of her role within the organization (for which I have Tyler Steffy, her predecessor, to thank!), and excited to make her mark on the role. Moreover, I can tell that she's ready and willing to learn. This might seem redundant, as she's a student, but I know of so many students who haven't come into a position with the thirst to learn that she has. I look forward to cultivating a good relationship with her, and learning along with her.

This is going to be a learning process for me, I can feel it. I want to be able to make sure she's getting the most out of her experience, without neglecting other duties. I want her to feel as though she knows me as a person, but still keep those boundaries that are necessary for a working relationship. And I want to be able to keep learning, but also know that she is learning from me. Like she said during our first meeting last week, "we'll learn it together." I'm encouraged by the understanding that we'll both be learning from each other, and am excited to have that opportunity!

Anyone have tips on how to cultivate a good relationship with a graduate student, both personal and educational?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Got the Call About the Hokies


Like much of the higher ed world (And likely much of the rest of the country), I was transfixed on surrounding TVs and my computer with word that a gunman had been spotted on the campus of Virginia Tech this morning. While we had so much fear the first time such a notice was published, today was no less scary, despite my knowledge and immense respect for their clearly improved emergency notification system.

I remember being in the car with my roommate on the way to Panera Bread in Wickford, RI when we started hearing on the radio about a shooting that occurred on Virginia Tech's campus. I called my dad to have him turn on the news and update me. Like the religious CNN watcher I know he is, he already knew. And he was sobbing. I've only ever seen my dad cry once, and to hear him so overcome with emotion, being so far from home, absolutely broke my heart.

But the best thing about it was, the next call I received was from a friend of mine, reporting the whereabouts of our one friend who had gone to Tech for school. The friend was off campus that day, and thankfully was in no danger. I had been in a quiet state of terror thinking about this friend, but had no way of reaching him. It amazed me that our high school network was so strong that I got a phone call within 30 minutes of the announcement, letting me know that my friend was okay.

I thought about that connection today as I was glued to my computer, trying to find news about the goings-on at VT. Sprinkled among the concerns of my friends about the campus community, were well wishes and notes wishing to catch up from members of my grad school class. We've had an amazing and incredibly strong bond from the beginning of our journey together, and I'm heartened to know that we're still taking care of each other, despite the distance. While I hope to never have to get that call about any of my friends or colleagues, I'm encouraged to know that I have friends and colleagues that will go out of their way to stay connected, to think of each other with the care and concern that we all had for the VT community this morning.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Questioned My Own Niceness


I consider myself to be a pretty nice person. While I have my missteps, my moments of "bucket dipping" as they say (as do we all!), I hold doors for people, bless strangers when they sneeze, am a chronic thanker (I say thank you ALL. The. Time.). But one thing that I've noticed at FSU is how courteous and helpful the people are. A hallmark of this I've seen is asking people who look lost if they need help. I am the first to admit that I'm far from competent enough to be able to do that. And possibly, even after I learn the campus, still a flight risk to direct someone somewhere. But that's the sort of culture that exists here, and it lets me know that I really am in the right place.

In light of my surroundings, articles such as this one, posted in the Chronicle this morning, make me upset. Well, not upset. Sad, and a little confused.

The point of the article, for those not ambitious enough to read it (which is OK!), is that there has been a consistent drop in college students' ability to empathize with others, to see a situation from someone else's shoes and be able to feel accordingly. This to me is very interesting, given the rise in civic education and the general rise of activism in our generation. Stories of students who entered the Peace Corps and engaged in similar projects in the 60s are mirrored in today's organizations such as TOMS Shoes, Teach for America, CityYear, and AmeriCorps. And yet, our empathy is dropping.

Is it possible we've missed a step?

The only explanation that I can think of for such a chasm between our desire to help others, combined with a drop in empathy, is the division that is drawn between helping those who are less fortunate, and helping those who are viewed as "as fortunate". That is to say, we help people who appear to need help. But those who are in the same surroundings, to appear to be of well enough means to help themselves, are left behind.

I saw an example of this last night in our intramural kickball championship game. During the game, one of our players got hurt while baserunning. I watched an entire team of med students (as well as "Cheerleaders" also in their program) not only watch as he writhed on the ground, but several of them were encouraging the person holding the ball to tag him. It absolutely disgusted me- not just because it showed a lack of civility, another value that I hold in very high regard, but because it seemed to be wholly missing the empathy piece- how would you want someone to attend to you, were you in the same situation?

Those who work in civic education may be able to refute this, and I welcome more perspectives on the phenomenon- I'm admittedly an outsider in that area, and want to learn more about what you've seen from students in this regard.

What can we do to make sure that students don't just take care of themselves personally, and take care of those who are less fortunate, but also take care of each other?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Came Close to "That Line"

Let me say first, that I hold a tremendous level of pride in my relationship building skills with students. I think that I've learned how I like to be in the office, how to relate with students in a collegial manner, but at the same time have avoided gray areas of what's "right", "ethical" or "appropriate."

However, I'm running into a question that I haven't really had to deal with before: what should my relationship with my students look like after I no longer supervise them?

I'm home this weekend for the first time since I left, to tie up a few clerical loose ends in my life. I went to the mall to celebrate being done with my old apartment complex, and I saw one of my students there. I asked her how she was, and she told me about life at work, and a few other things- standard sorts of things that would come up in our one-on-ones.

But then she told me information, gossip I suppose, that was uncomfortable for me to hear. Aside from how that information affects me personally, it was unsettling to hear because it made me feel that I had cultivated a relationship with her that made her think such talk was okay.

This is as much of a recount of my day as it is a call for advice, so I'll throw this one to committee: how do you keep up with students after you no longer advise them? What does that relationship look like? What do you feel it should look like? What's off limits?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Learned We Were Special


The day after my kickball team's first victory (GO STUDENTS OF HARES!), I learned something special about the field on which we played, from my boss Lori. Lori told me that the intramural sports complex at Florida State is the largest intramural sports complex in the country. I was amazed- I love learning factoids like that about places I live and work. Here are a few other notes about my new place of work:
  • The Florida State University is the home of the NASPA Journal on College and Character, and hosts the Jon C. Dalton Institute on College Student Values each year. Their commitment to moral and ethical development of college students is a big part of the reason I wanted to work here :)
  • It was declared a "Budget Ivy" by Fiske in 2010. Fancy!
  • It is the birthplace of the anti-cancer drug Taxol.
  • Famous alumni of FSU include Alan Ball (Creator of True Blood and Six Feet Under), Burt Reynolds (there's a Burt Reynolds Hall apartment complex not far from the stadium- I really hope they require a mustache to live there), and Richard Simmons, the fitness guru
I love learning things like this about places I live. Try it out- what's special about where you live or work?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Beat AMC To the Punch



AMC showed The Shawshank Redemption at least twice today, possibly three times. I finished watching it on DVD roughly five minutes before it started on TV. There are some movies I don't own because they're on TV so often...didn't realize Shawshank could be one of those!

Thing is...*deep breath* I'd never seen it.

There are many movies that I've never seen that are in the general consciousness of the public. Having been a film minor, and a general movie junkie, some of these are surprising. Henceforth, I'm starting a list: common movies I should have seen. Please feel free to add ones in the comments (or marvel at how I haven't, i.e. "Seriously? You haven't seen [insert film here]?")

  • Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back/Return of the Jedi
  • The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (I wanted to wait until they all came out, and then I didn't get to them!)
  • Friday
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Fatal Attraction
  • any Indiana Jones after the first one
  • Silence of the Lambs (in full)
  • Se7en
  • Meet Joe Black
  • Apocalypse Now (in full)
  • Amelie
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey
That said, there are LOTS of movies that I have seen that many others haven't. I guess it evens out. But here's me being authentic...I may just nod when you talk about these, but I'll see them one day!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Said the A-word

Like so many other Thursdays, I participated in the Student Affairs Collaborative's weekly #sachat. Today's discussion was on Mental Health of Student Affairs Professionals. As someone who's looking at this topic (or as I later learned, some version of this topic) for her dissertation several years down the road, I was really interested to see what others in the field had to say on the topic.
Admittedly, I was disappointed in the discussion in some ways. Yes, I did get a lot out of talking about how to approach co-workers who we might feel are burning the candle at both ends. But many other aspects of the discussion frustrated me. Two issues that arose were:
  • whether or not out field has worse issues with work/life balance than others (in my estimation, lots of people have this issue- student affairs professionals worry about it because we're helpers and we're taught to monitor it), and
  • whether or not it's our responsibility to approach co-workers if we see they're having problems (I am a firm believer that if we are taught to address it without hesitation for the students we work with, why in the world shouldn't we take the same care for each other?)

But the biggest issue I had was the lack of ability of the group (and I think it's just a matter of the size of the group, and the manner in which we assembled) to come up with a definition of mental health to talk about. Many were referring to mental health in terms of work life balance, while others were referring to mental health for those with clinical mental health concerns (depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, etc.). The discussion landed on the side of the former, but I would really like to know more about the latter, both to inform the field and to help myself.

I am an anxious person. I worry about things far more than most people, and things that bother me, do so for longer than they do most people. I've been that way for as long as I can remember, but it became debilitating at the end of 2010. 2011 has been a year of making this better for myself, to be able to go to bed without my thoughts racing, or go to work without worrying about getting things done, or to cultivate relationships with people without being terrified of how I'll be perceived.

It started with counseling, and then a lot of reading. Thanks in large part to The Chemistry of Calm (a book recommendation from a friend, and a great example of that outreach that people in the chat today were so concerned about doing), I came up with a plan of attack that works for me. It incorporates making time for myself, taking care to shut out things that I know make me anxious, and changing my diet. For those who don't know, I've been following a gluten-free diet for the last few months, and plan to continue it for as long as it makes me feel better.

This is an ongoing journey for me, and I want to keep learning about myself and how to keep this from being something that stifles who I am, who I can be. But I realized today in the chat that I need to talk about it. I need to be okay with saying it, so that other people aren't afraid to approach me about it. And I need to be open about it for the sake of my students and coworkers, so that they feel open to talking with me about their concerns for themselves and each other.

Guess I got more from today's chat than I thought...