There are numbers in life that people remember: birthdays, social security numbers, how much they have in their bank accounts, or how much Sally Mae takes out of it each month. For me, June 14, 2014 stays permanently in my mind. My new life started on that date in my brand new home in Riverside, CA. It took 3,574 miles, 52 hours on the road, 12 states, and 10 days to make it to my new home in Riverside, CA from Fairfax, VA. A few weeks later, I began my full-time career as a Student Affairs professional at the University of California-Riverside as a Resident Director for a first year community. The journey was long and arduous, but offered an extensive amount of time to reflect on my career, graduate school, and this new path that I am embarking on within Student Affairs. As current graduate students are preparing for The Placement Exchange (TPE), I am forced to reflect on my short eight months here in this new place called home and how I got here.
I go back to that time when I made the final decision that I’m going to commit fully to California and stop searching for jobs elsewhere after consulting with my partner who was more than supportive about the decision compared to other people. According to many, I was making an illogical choice considering the competition in California is heavy especially in housing positions and it’s far from family and I didn’t know anyone. Yet it was a challenge that I loved to embark on. To be honest, I was scared. As many times as I’ve moved over the years, this felt permanent and there was no end-date in sight. I was committing to this new life, job, and building on a foundation with my partner that started two years prior. She played an integral role in this decision and I thank her profusely for encouraging me to take a leap of faith to make it happen.
The last eight months have been a whirlwind of obstacles. Thankfully I have a support system, no matter how far away, that continues to be there for me. When I first got to California, I did not have any transportation and my partner/ friends lived quite the distance from me, so I started to get lonely. I started to believe that I made a mistake coming out here “because it’s not like DC” or “because I have to depend on other people”. That was the first major struggle that was thrown my way. It took a lot of humbling and stepping out of my comfort zone to get comfortable in this new space.
I reflected back on my previous life in the non-profit realm and the many successes and mistakes that I made in my first full-time job after undergrad. I thought about the feelings of inadequacy, wondering if my colleagues would like me, and if I could survive on my salary while living in Washington, DC (it was tough, but it sure was fun). I spoke to my mentors, friends, and read books about how to best prepare for this new position and this new life that I was creating in California. Many questions arose: Will I be successful personally and professionally? What if I’m not good enough? What if this was a mistake? However, something happened on the roadtrip as my brother and I sat atop one of the many cliffs in the Grand Canyon. Maybe it was the stone cold silence that permeates throughout the canyon or the feelings of being one with nature, but a silent peace consumed me. We only had 7 hours until we reached our destination and I reflected about the week thus far in Greensboro, Tallahassee, New Orleans, and more. I realized that the trip was symbolic of what my personal and professional life would entail. Here are three points that I hope with resonate with you:
*Patience: Driving across the country with someone is not for the faint of heart. You have to enjoy the person and be comfortable with silence at times. The longest leg of our trip was driving from Austin, TX to the Grand Canyon. We were in the car a minimum of 16 hours, but it was a great time. It made me think about #SA and this need to get to the next level quickly. Life isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon so why not enjoy it? Take time to be in the present and enjoy the moments for what they’re worth. Put the phone away and connect with that student, laugh about Orange is the New Black with your new coworker, smell the flowers (seriously!).
*Take Risks & Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone: While in Austin, I told my brother about this delicious Canadian dish called poutine (if ever in Canada, you should definitely try it!) and he was not too keen on trying it. Even though it was Americanized, I convinced him to just give it a taste with no costs to him and he loved it! I was reminded about the importance of stepping outside of your comfort zone and stepping into that discomfort that comes with it. I know that assessment is not a strong suit for me, however, I want to learn it. I decided that I will choose three competencies from the NASPA/ACPA Competencies list to enhance during my first year as a full-time professional and I am excited to see what the results will be. Whether in your personal or professional life, give the “try-angle” a shot!
*Relationships Matter: When moving to a new location, you’re basically starting over. New place, new people, new organizations: everything is different, but do not forget to keep in touch with that support system that got you there. We all know that our field is small and it is imperative that you keep in touch with those mentors, role models, and colleagues to receive guidance or pass along good news. Send them updates on your personal and professional life. Send pictures of your new office. Keep that door of communication open because you never know what may lie on the other side of that door.
This post is part of our month-long series #SAmobile, a look at the stories of SA pros who picked up and moved for their career. This series is about the struggles, the successes, the hurdles, and the emotions involved in such a life changing decision. For more information, see the intro post by Juhi Bhatt. Check out other posts in this series too!