When Alex asked me to contribute to the #SABeginnings series, I wasn’t exactly sure what I would write about. There have already been so many great pieces in this series—so I decided to write whatever came to mind when I thought of the word, “Beginning.”
To me, the idea of beginning something often implies some sort of risk being involved. At the beginning of this year, I jumped on board with the One Word initiative, and coincidentally, my word was “risk.”
I like to think of myself as a risk-taker.
And I believe one of the ultimate risks in life is leaving home.
For incoming grad students and/or new professionals— I strongly believe that if you want to be a well-rounded professional in this field, you need to experience as many new environments as possible. And that means, at some point, you need to leave home. Home—as in your home city, state, undergrad institution, comfort zone, etc.
It’s scary, I know.
I did it.
For those who don’t know, I am originally from Oregon. I attended Oregon State University for both of my undergraduate degrees. As a first-generation college student, I had really no understanding of where I could go to college. Luckily, ending up at OSU was an incredible experience for me.
I love Oregon State. I wouldn’t be in the field of student affairs if it weren’t for the administrators at OSU showing me the light and the way.
However, after six years in Corvallis, I learned that I was becoming too comfortable. I was becoming a bit of a nuisance. Worst of all, I was becoming bored being in the same environment day in and day out.
So I needed to shake things up a bit during my gap year when I applied to graduate school. In fact, I didn’t apply to any programs anywhere near Oregon! This was terrifying—however, I knew I needed a change of scenery in hopes of revitalizing what inspired me to enter this field in the first place: Risk.
I came to the east coast to attend UMass Amherst for my #SAGrad, and this summer I obtained a job at Towson University in Maryland. Both of these environments are NOTHING like Oregon—culturally and geographically. And that’s exactly why I feel like I thrive out here. I needed something fresh, something new. Something that made me uncomfortable. Something that made me feel like I was learning.
I interact with students that are nothing like me and I love that! I learn something new every day. Especially since being at Towson—which is the first non-PWI I have experience—I have learned more about supporting and interacting with students of color than I would have if I stayed in Oregon or Massachusetts.
And for this, I am thankful.
I am glad I left Oregon. I miss it, but I needed to leave. And the administrators around me knew that as well—I explicitly remember Don Johnson (at OSU) telling me that there was a whole world outside of Oregon for me to conquer.
So here I am.
Over 3,000 miles away from home—thriving.
I know if I would’ve stayed at Oregon State University, I would’ve become stale. I needed to do something different with different people in a different environment so that I could learn more tricks of the trade and experience more than just what makes me comfortable.
Comfort is stagnation.
Risk is invigoration.
Let this be a cautionary tale for anyone looking to enter a #SAGrad program—or seeking their first job: place yourself somewhere that will challenge you to grow in unexpected ways. I genuinely believe if you live in fear of discomfort, you will never grow. And that’s not the type of experience you should bring into your interactions with your students.
And I don’t want this to read as though I am condemning anyone who made the decision to stay close to home—I completely understand people’s circumstances. [Note: I have a 73 year old father who just beat lung cancer for the third time. So I recognize the risks involved with moving cross country.] This piece is simply a suggestion to try something new.
To take a risk with your life.
Beginning something takes risk—it also takes courage.
Being willing to leave your comfort zone is so important. And I will admit that I get frustrated when people in our field literally land-lock themselves to one state or region. BRANCH OUT! I know some folks have families—yet, for most of us just starting out, we are generally fairly young and have so much time to explore what the world holds for us!
I am about to head home to Oregon for a week before my work at UMass picks up again, and instead of opting for the easy route and taking a flight out to Oregon, I’m going to take a bus!
A Greyhound bus. For THREE days.
Just reading, resting, writing, and meeting all sorts of new people along the way!
If you want to follow along, I have created the tag #CrigXC.
[Note: My trip is from Aug. 4 – Aug. 7]
It’s going to be an interesting trip!
Like I said, risk.
If you aren’t trying something new—what are you doing with your life?
Here is my call to action—
Take the next month and begin something new!
Set a goal—a measurable outcome.
And do it.
I don’t honestly care what it is.
So long as you are challenging yourself in some way, that’s all that matters.
And then notice how much it changes you.
You may surprise yourself.
Alright, I think I’ve done enough damage!
Stay hungry. Stay humble.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles