When I was originally writing for this blog series, I was organizing my thoughts on the tragedy in Orlando. Since that unfortunate situation, there have been more than three horrible tragedies that have occurred due to gun violence. I have expanded my reflection to consider how my identities as a student affairs professional and cisgender woman of color have given me further insight into how I can work strategically to create change. The energy it takes to process everything going on in the world, get up in the morning to go to work, and then be present for others is draining.
For those reasons I have organized the way I will manage my identity with the work I do in student affairs moving forward.
1. I choose to feel my emotions and process them effectively.
During the aftermath of Orlando I made a post on social media about how devastated and upset I was about the lives that were taken at Pulse Nightclub. I also expressed my thoughts about the media and its irresponsible message that further condemned an entire religion based on the hatred and actions of one individual. The thoughts I chose to share on social media led to a close friend of mine coming out to me and expressing the pain they felt for a community they belonged to but were unable to openly share with their family. I was able to not only work through my emotions but also process them openly with my friend.
2. I choose to challenge myself in ways I did not know were possible.
Within weeks of the Orlando tragedy there were new cases of gun violence. This time it was at the hands of police officers where men of color lost their lives. Then shortly after five police officers lost their lives trying to protect a community in pain due to an unjust system. Why condemn violence with violence? Could this have been me or my partner in the car or in front of a convenient store? What if I was an officer? Do we condemn all who share a badge based on the actions of the individuals abusing it? Why are black bodies being discarded at the hands of a system charged with protecting and serving everyone? We must challenge and proactively change systems that support oppression. I will continue to explore ways I can do this within my community. We all should.
3. I choose to balance my life.
In our profession we constantly pressure ourselves to do more to help. That occurs to the detriment of our work life balance. We must take time to decompress, recharge and reorganize our thoughts so we can be effective. It is alright to check ourselves and say “hey I need to take a second.” I confess I share guilt for wanting to enjoy life knowing there is still work to be done. I also choose to let go of that guilt and tell myself that if I can’t check out, how can fully be present and check back in? We have to balance choosing ourselves more to increase our quality of life. Workout. Journal. Turn off social media for the day. Something constructive to give quality time to yourself. The work will be there when we get back.
4. I choose to spread love and not hate.
In the midst of all of this anger and hatred, I choose love. If we take more time to listen, understand, and love, we would probably see less violence happening and more space for dialogue. I have run through every emotion possible during these last few weeks and at the end of it all I have to learn to let go of the bad emotions and embrace the good ones. That is the only way we can keep doing the work and help our communities.
As a society we have a long way to go but we do not have to lose ourselves during the journey. We need to take more time to breathe, love, and talk to one another instead of reacting and impeding positive change. That is how I will continue to move forward personally and professionally.
This post is part of our #SAprosContribute series, which aims to answer the question: How can you contribute solutions or actions when a tragedy like Orlando occurs as a Student Affairs professional? We will hear from Student Affairs Professionals of all backgrounds on their take on contributing to make positive change on campus after a tragedy. For more info, please see Mehtap’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.