Some of you, perhaps, have noticed that I’ve largely been absent from Student Affairs twitter (#SAchat, #SAgrad, etc.) and blogging for awhile. I’ve popped in and out for a stray thought or response, but on the whole, haven’t engaged the way I used to. There are a multitude of reasons for my hiatus in the past months, but as I near a return to greater activity in these spaces, sharing the primary reasons for my absence seems appropriate.
1) I Wasn’t Listening Well Enough and My Voice was Amplified… Too much.
I have a few problems with Student Affairs Twitter, primarily the groupthink that tends to occur and the over-amplification of certain voices. We have lots of great people with great ideas – but I tend to think that we amplify the same people too much sometimes and I was feeling like one of those people. I became aware that my voice was not part of a dialogue – but a monologue. This isn’t anyone’s fault – but it got to a point where I felt like I wasn’t listening well enough and that people were not challenging my ideas or engaging in dialogue with me. This isn’t to say my ideas don’t have value – but I fail to understand why my voice should be amplified more than others just because I’m a recognizable name. I wasn’t comfortable with it. I’m wrong. A lot. And it bothered me that no one else seemed to see that or challenge me on my ideas. So I removed myself and did a lot listening instead. I learned way more and am better for it. I may have added an occasional thought or asked a question, but on the whole, I sought to listen more than speak.
I’ve worked through my feelings on this and realize that this problem may not subside, but that I can take an active role in changing it by knowing when to listen, when my voice would be an asset to the conversation, and asking questions instead of answering them all of the time.
2) I Needed to Focus on Creating Change in My Daily Work
I love that we talk big picture in Student Affairs Twitter. I love that we tackle big topics and have big ideas. The reality is that my day-to-day work is not always rooted in the big topics. Sometimes, I need to balance my Pro-Card. Sometimes, I need to tackle my inbox. Sometimes, I need to stay at a student event until 2am. Sometimes, I need to console the student sobbing at my desk. In short, I need to live in the moment with my work sometimes. I’m happy to take a crack at the big topics in our field that need change; but the conversations we have don’t always help me be the professional I need to be in the moment. Sure, let’s talk about what we’re missing out on in our #SAgrad programs or how to better manage up – but how about the practical topics that help us do our day-to-day work? I know I could benefit from us grounding some of our discussion topics – I wonder if others feel the same? The big topics are important, but how about something that doesn’t require a major campus culture shift to enact? Why don’t we talk about things like effective programming board models or retreat curricula? In essence, I struggle to take an hour (or more) of my work week to talk about things that aren’t helping me develop in the work that needs to be done NOW. I’m not asking for that every week – just sometimes. We shouldn’t have to go to a conference to get practical professional development information – we have a great network that could facilitate that sort of learning and dialogue. There’s a happy medium somewhere, I know it.
3) I Needed a Damn Break
In light of today’s #SAchat on Work/Life Balance, I took some of my own advice for a change. The past 12 months have been challenging outside of work and I decided that I would spend my time outside of work and my commitment to ACPA focusing on me. I’m unapologetic about this. I was biopsied for cancer last May (the type of cancer is unimportant, but it was benign, for those curious. I am well.), I lost two grandparents, and I broke up with a significant other. To be frank, I wasn’t really feeling my best and I sought solace in other places.
Throwing myself into my work and career has been a traditional escape for me, but this time around, I said “No,” and removed myself from career-related things that I didn’t need to be a part of. My habit of busying myself with work when things get tough isn’t healthy and I finally owned up to that. I get plenty of satisfaction out of my career, but my struggles taught me this past year that I need face my challenges head on and stop using work as an excuse to hide. I find great community in Student Affairs Twitter, but it wasn’t the community I needed this past year.
All of this to say, I’m back. This post is probably a mess. But so am I. I look forward to hearing what you have to say, learning with you, and finding a way to ensure that my voice does more good than harm in our little community.