2014 was a transformative year for me. The challenges and rewards I’ve had and obtained have no precedent for me. The year began with my partner, Kristen, and I becoming engaged and planning the next exciting adventures of our life. Our first major adventure came with our decision to resign our positions in Residence Life at a small college in Colorful Colorado and to head for Buckeye Nation—Ohio. This decision was made after exploring all of our options, including both remaining in the Rocky Mountain region and relocating to another part of the country. Ultimately, the desire to be closer to friends and family at this time took precedence, and we planned and made our move.
Cleveland is a big city, but any city, regardless of size, can be a challenge for a Student Affairs professional. I faced the very real prospect of putting my career objectives on hold. This deeply troubled me. I had known Residence Life and everything that came with it, especially the people, year after year for 7 years. I had and continue to have goals to achieve within this living, breathing field of ours. Yet when August came, I found myself on the sidelines. July, June, and the preceding months had me in phone interviews with search committees in and around the Cleveland area. A few even hosted me for the prized on-campus interview. Much to my chagrin, I did not receive any offers. Now, I find myself working outside Student Affairs, and I am conflicted about this reality. My gut wants to continue the job search full force. Something else tells me that time outside the field will be fantastic experience for when the right opportunity does come along.
The most important lesson that all of this has taught me is humility. During my time in Residence Life, I believed that Ron Burgundy and I had a few things in common, most notably our musks of rich mahogany and our ownership of many leather bound books. Translation: I thought that what I did, both day to day and throughout the yearly cycle, was a big deal. I had become so entangled in the world of higher education, what we find ourselves referring to as the bubble, that I had forgotten about what the rest of the American workforce faced. Each day in ResLife, I was saving the world on a case by case basis. I made a difference, and that knowledge satisfied me on so many levels. I worried about the money in my paycheck more as a means to pay my bills than as a measure of my abilities and successes (or lack thereof). I had focused acutely on how intently and intensely I was working and how some of my colleagues were not that I had become bitter. I searched for a mentor to help me refocus but found only commiseration.
I was lost.
And now…now, I’m not sure. I want to put a bow on this reflection, wrap it up like an old ABC after-school special, but life is more complicated than that. In the past year, I have been pushed both professionally and personally to new boundaries, making new friends and connections along the way and losing others. I’ve discovered more about my identity while shoving myself around in all the space that lies far outside of my comfort zone. I’ve thought over and over about what I would tell one of my students or staff members if s/he was in this predicament.
And that right there is what has made the difference.
I consistently remind myself of the courage it takes to face and embrace all of life. I convince myself of the good that is present and the good that is to come, of the opportunities that lay just past the horizon if only I keep working and pushing and believing, of my strength that will not fail.
What has most changed who I am as an SA professional this year is not being actively employed as one. I have lost and gained meaningfully, and my resolution to serve and educate America’s college students has never been stronger. I will keep diligently searching for my next position while discovering just how much further I can now reach. In the meantime, I continue to feel inspired by my colleagues and former staff members who champion student development each and every day.
Save a seat for me in the new year.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles