Wake up, go to work, go home, sleep. Wake up, go to work, go home, sleep. The monotony was starting to wear on me towards the end of my second year as Director of Housing. At first I thought that it was because I was working a job and a half for nine months. Instead of filling a position, one of my team members was asked to move to half-time and fill that role. But I began to realize that the apathy I was feeling was something else.
My previous institution was not going to support me or my department in the way that we needed. We were understaffed with very little support from upper management, overworked, and underappreciated. I supported my team, but was quickly burning out. It was assumed that I could handle the workload and did not need the support.
At this same time, my husband had completed his graduate program and was job searching. He could tell that I was burning out and was unhappy. We also knew that we were not going to want to live in Seattle past another two to three years. We talked about what was best for us, and decided that moving closer to friends and family was the right move. While this was the right move, it was also the scariest move to take.
I knew that I needed to leave my job, but the idea of being unemployed was scary. Student Affairs is a competitive field and I know that there is a stigma regarding applicants who are not currently employed within the job process. Still, I needed to leave and make the move or risk burning out and become an apathetic colleague and supervisor. So without having a job lined up for my husband or me, I gave notice. Two weeks later I was in Oregon.
All that occurred in mid-July. Since moving, I have spent time settling into my new apartment, applying for many positions, playing Pokémon Go, board games with friends, and trying to sit comfortably within my choice. While I know that this was the right move, there are days that I struggle with it. We are told within Student Affairs that we should be putting in long hours, working thanklessly, and be happy that we have a job simply because jobs are fleeting. As I rest and critically examine these messages, I reflect on the pain and stress it causes within our profession. Continuing the narrative of over working, under appreciating, and being thankful for the job perpetuates a cycle of self harm, disrespect, and disenfranchisement that I always thought Student Affairs battled against.
While the profession puts its heart and soul into supporting students, we need to do a better job supporting ourselves and one another. This isn’t a new idea or experience, but one that I hope my voice can highlight. We believe that we are adaptable and progressive, but are hardly able to take care of our own. This leads to massive turnover, student debt (because we require a master’s degree to be competitive for entry-level positions), and creating a competitive field instead of one that reaches out to others and supports them while we support ourselves. Worse of all, this reflection has shown me how I have implicitly supported this cycle of violence instead of standing up to change it.
So, back to the topic at hand… transitions. What this break has meant for me is the opportunity to take the aspects of my professional life that I like and hold them close, while getting rid of the garbage that I have learned as well. This transition is an opportunity – an opportunity to emerge as a better professional, fight against the negative aspects of our profession, and raise up the great parts of the work that we do. My transition is one of hope, vigor, fight, and hard work; not only for the students that I support, but my colleagues, and most importantly for myself.
September is the month of transitions, especially on the college campus. Follow #SATransitions to read as the community reflects upon transition and change, personally and professionally. Have ideas about a future series for the Student Affairs Collective? Contact Nathan Victoria on Twitter at @NathanVictoria or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.