No, I don’t mean Kurt Cobain (specifically), though I will begin with a favorite lyric of his.
Though one certain historical and religious icon never actually said the words directly (as cited in the Christian Bible), these Nirvana lyrics are attributed widely to Jesus Christ.
The words are, “Come as you are.”
Though not all student affairs practitioners are religious or listen to Nirvana, I think this phrase greatly resonates with so many of us. This speaks to us at our core: simply to greet incoming students and provide support services, to fulfill needs—simply to HELP others—is why so many of us joined the field.
We get caught up in tolerance, rather than acceptance. Usually, the connotation this idea holds is that more conservative practitioners are unwilling or slow to receive more liberally-minded students into their countenance. But often, more liberal practitioners have just as much a journey as others to receiving more conservatively-minded students. We all possess internal biases and preconceived notions that weigh us down in treating every student exactly the same. (This raises another question of whether to treat every student the same, but that discussion’s for another time.)
As student affairs administrators and service providers, we look forward to serving students. We don’t distinguish between which specific students we hope to help and those we wish to see fail (if we’re any good). We may want to work with intellectually-gifted, differently-abled, underprivileged/underrepresented, or athletic students, but, deep down, we simply want to serve.
I believe that, in the same vein, with that pure mindset of service—to be of use, as Angelina Jolie recently said—we make way toward nirvana.
Nirvana (n.): a state of being; an idyllic place; a transcendent state in which there is no suffering; the final goal (of Buddhism)
Nirvana—a dear happiness, spiritual, holistic, healing. I may not be religious, but I can respect the concept of a state worth achieving. I may never reach a prolonged state of transcendental wisdom, transformative, and secure, but that does not mean I will not journey toward it. Nirvana is most certainly a final goal, for me.
As a student affairs graduate student, I work daily toward finding comfort, a home, in my own body and mind, as I may not have it in the physical places in which I find myself. I believe it mature and wise to gain perspective on my social status, my professional experiences, and my personal wellbeing. I am not always conscious of myself, but I strive to make myself aware of my routines, reactions, and thoughts. I work toward normalizing positivity in my life, something vitally fundamental for me to not implode, and for others to receive whatever good spirits I can pass on.
We carry weight; we work hard and long and underpaid and under-valued and out of habit, even, sometimes. We deserve personal reflection time. Students have constant needs, usually—and at the same time, many. We need to break for mental health so that we may inspire others to value personal time and space, something I wish had imprinted on me in my undergraduate years.
Do you work toward that fake smile? Diplomatic phrasing? Sympathetic tone? Likely. How often? Probably too often. Take a moment later to Google compassion fatigue.
For students to receive our aid, we must set the example by achieving our own aims by our own standards. We must work toward something meaningful, something that gives back. Achieve nirvana, however that looks for you: gardening, traveling, baking, reading, cleaning, and, of course, meditation are all great ways to connect with yourself to achieve that moment of silence, peace, and self-intimacy.
Nirvana is much more than a state of rest, however rewarding or temporary—it is a foundation of rejuvenation.
I encourage you all to reflect on what it means to meet students where they are, to find a way to assist them on their journeys, and to invite them into yours. To be pillars of strength in their hour of need as those who have gained perspective on their own hardships, and can pass on tools for action and affirmation.
“Come, as you are.”