This field that we are in, this life we have elected to lead, it’s not something that one generally plans on or even knows about until well into their undergraduate education. Few and far between are the courses and programs for framing student affairs as a career path before hitting graduate school or your first entry level position at an institution. So how do so many of us fall into this weird, gaping crack in the pavement of academia? Is there some magnetic force drawing like-minded and diversely experienced individuals towards a critical mass of challenge and support, identity development, holistic being facilitation and chaos management?
We all come from different corners of the world, some early in their careers, some later on in life. I came from a world of test tubes, fish counting, fire fighting and international ecotourism. Colleagues of mine floated into the field from the White House, restaurant management, punk rock bands and tennis coaching. While I don’t know what brought and kept all of them to knock on the door of student affairs, I know what placed me on the welcome mat: silence.
Silence. Emptiness. Serenity. Whatever phrase you use to explain those moments when the world stops, even for a mere moment, and your internal compass is given a second to realign itself, that’s been a driving force for me as I’ve begun my journey in the world of Student Affairs.
It initiated with a long pause in life. Living in a tent counting fish in the middle of Alaska with one other person and no electricity makes for many long, silent nights, and in many cases, equally quiet days. It lets the chaff of years of overexertion and overextension wisp away into the abyss, and leaves behind wholesome nuggets of digestible intrigue and free thought. I spent over three months in this space of my life. My thoughts tumbled, my hopes and dreams waxed and waned. But it did finally strike me right between the eyes, deep within me, that recollection of the times in college I felt most impacted. The people that pushed me forward and laid a buffet of opportunities at my table. Those were my points of inspiration and guidance, and in reveling in those memories, became my initial plots on a map towards entering the field.
Making that initial decision was easy, next it came to actually following through and putting some rubber on the road. While the busy work of job applications, grad school planning and working to make ends meet took up 105% of my time and energy, I still found a need to carve out those points of silence; my daily moments of meditation. Each session of silence provided minute flickers of inspirational guidance towards my end goal of becoming a successful student affairs professional. Ranging anywhere from a mere 16 second breathing session to a 30 minute full on, bell ringing, brain freeing meditation workout; these silent moments helped me retain my focus, guide my vision, and infuse my planning with intentionality.
So here I am now, having survived a masters degree program and 3 full years now in the field (so I guess I’m no longer a new professional) and I have arrived a new beginning derived from silence; the initial toe dipping into a PhD program. Rocks were slippery though, so I’ve taken a full plunge it appears. Yet silence is my solace. It’s my moments of personal Zen right after waking up in the morning, the hour at work before anyone else arrives and I work in purse silence save for the typing of my keyboard, the 10 minutes of perfect sun-setting glory that I watch with pondering eyes at dusk. These little breaks, seconds of intentional thoughtfulness about nothingness, these are what helped me begin this journey, and will be what take me through it to the end.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Amma Marfo on Introversion in Student Affairs