The time has come for my final post chronicling my transition from graduate school to full-time student affairs work. That doesn’t mean the transition is over, though. The same way learning never stops, I don’t think transitions ever end. I thought now would be a good time to reflect on those things that helped me the most, in hopes that any reader going through their own transition may find something that resonates with them.
1) Taking the initiative to make friends.
The people I work with are wonderful and welcomed me into their little work family, and it was wonderful. But none of them were the type to make a point to extend a lunch invitation to get to know me better. In some instances, I mistakenly interpreted this as general indifference toward me. So I plucked up the courage to extend lunch invitations on my own. And everybody obliged and after a while, I was getting the invitations. A year later, I consider the people I work with to also be my friends. We don’t see each other a lot outside of work, but the time we spend together each week feels more valuable when I know I can find personal and emotional caring and support.
2) Having a living thing to love on.
Moving to a new place without knowing a soul was really hard and got really lonely. But the day I left for Nebraska, I went to the local animal shelter in Macomb, Illinois and adopted a cat. Now, adopting a pet I didn’t know very well, and then committing to putting him in a car and driving for 9 hours was maybe not my smartest idea, but it all worked out just fine, and even though he’s the most obnoxious and demanding roommate I’ve ever had, it’s really wonderful to come home to a living thing to take care of and love and snuggle up to.
3) Learning to advocate for myself.
I get frustrated with students when they expect me to meet needs or fix problems I don’t know they have. I can’t read minds, and neither can anybody else. It took me a while, but I figured out that if there’s something I need or if there’s a problem I’m experiencing, I should bring that to someone’s attention so those things can be addressed. Go figure.
4) Feeling confident enough to offer ideas.
For a long time I didn’t feel like I could contribute anything new. Not that I didn’t have ideas for anything, but being new myself, I thought it somehow wasn’t my place to just start spouting off ideas. Instead, I waited for others with more experience to have ideas, then I’d offer assistance with doing whatever needed doing to contribute to that idea. But eventually I remembered that just because I have less experience, doesn’t mean I don’t have any experience. I know things, too. So instead of waiting, I started to take the initiative to come up with ideas and do some research and present them when I had enough information to share.
5) Securing my mask first.
Know how on an airplane they do the safety presentation and they always tell you to secure your air mask before helping others around you? There’s a lesson in that. I can’t do the work I do, I can’t care for others, I can’t connect or build relationships or help or learn or explore or do any of the things I love to do, if I don’t do them for myself first. So I try hard to secure my own mask first so that I can help others.
6) Not feeling selfish about caring for myself.
When I have crippling migraine at 1pm on a Tuesday, I will go home for the rest of the day. When I need some quiet time, I will close my door for 20 minutes. When I have a lot on my mind, I will journal. I’m not exactly sure how self-care became this thing that feels selfish and shameful, but it’s hard to get over that. I refuse to feel that way any longer. The truth is, when I take care of myself, I’m simply better. And that self-care applies to a lot of things. For me it means exercising and getting my chores done on Saturday and making time for my friends and family and my Sunday morning ritual of buying a donut for breakfast at the local grocery store. It’s using that medical insurance, flossing every day, and budgeting. And more than any of those things, it’s prioritizing myself. I matter, I’m important, and I’m worth taking care of. Nobody can take better care of me than I can, and I take pride in that responsibility.
It has been a pleasure to reflect and learn and share with you all my process over the last year, and am looking forward to reading more stories and experiences from the next wave of new SAgrads and SApros. Thank you for allowing me into your wonderful community!