This post is adapted from a previous post written at higheredgeek.com, expanding on the sentiments written there.
Something I think a lot about is the past. I was a history major as an undergraduate student so I appreciate the story that every person has and the fact that everything that happens around us has some sort of context through which it happened. A professor shared a fun anecdote that explains this. He described the discipline of history as a “turtle on a fencepost”, as to say that turtle could not have gotten up there on it’s own so there is some story there to explore. History is the same way. Whether it is something that happened yesterday or two hundred years ago, there is a story there to learn and grow from.
Another great quote is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It applies to the history of us as humans but also our own personal stories. To simply forget whatever came before deprives us from an amazing learning experience. Granted, one has to be comfortable enough to take a hard look at themselves, but I think the results are very powerful. Being able to analyze and scrutinize our own behavior and choices, especially with the help of a trusted confidant, is really one of the only ways to constantly grow and develop to be the most good, prudent, and self-aware person we can be.
To give a personal example of how I’ve progressed and failed forward through self-reflection, last year, during my graduate program, I decided to put myself out there and jockeyed for multiple volunteer opportunities in the field. I wanted to be president of our graduate student organization for our student affairs program, an ACPA ambassador and/or a TPE ambassador. To make a long story short, I did not gain any of these positions. On top of all this, I shortly thereafter also struggled to find a NODA internship for the summer. I was pretty bummed out. It made me feel stupid for even trying and as if I was less than somehow. My ego was checked and I was humbled further than I usually am, feeling as though I don’t deserve anything because I’m not good enough for anything. Looking back on it now, I know I needed to be humbled a bit and I also was able to get some awesome experiences in spite of whatever I thought I should have gotten. I worked at Rutgers for the summer, having a lot of fun and meeting amazing people (namely my partner) and realized the only reason I wanted some of the opportunities in the first place was to just say I had them.
So, in order to be the best professionals and best people we can be, I think we all need to stop every once in a while and take a look back at where we’ve been in order to better get where we’re going, especially if that means coming to terms with our “failures”. Success is what we make of it and so is failure. Success can be falling down and picking ourselves back up, enduring a storm, or just keeping positive even when we’ve been overlooked. Failure can be staying safe, resting on your laurels, and keeping quiet. I never give up, no matter what obstacles come my way. I’m impressed with myself in this regard, the courage to keep going comes up from somewhere deep inside me. When I look back, I didn’t get what I thought I wanted, but in the end, through broadening my view of what failure truly means to me, I was able to grow from the experience after looking back on it all. I encourage everyone out there to do the same and role model the behavior to mentor our students. By starting with ourselves and redefining our definitions of failure, we can give some powerful life lessons for our students, which is what all this is about when it comes down to it.
Thanks for reading my story, I hope it has been of some help to some of you out there.