I know I am not alone in asking, “Is this year really almost over?” It’s hard to believe, but yet again the New Year is just days away. I have come to accept that New Year resolutions are not my thing. However, an end of year reflection is more of my thing and helps me feel accomplished as I look back at the past year. Rather than make myself think I will accept a new task of losing a few pounds, reading more, or accomplishing something on my bucket list, this year I am looking back on an amazing race I completed. Not only did I complete my first 5K this year, I made a lot of steps forward in becoming the individual and professional I hope to be. 2014 has allowed me to write a few more pages in my story and taught me many valuable lessons.
My Resume Does Not Define Me. In February of 2014 I took a chance on myself and attended the Oshkosh Placement Exchange (OPE). I had not worked in housing as an undergraduate or graduate student, but knew the housing area was the direction I wanted to take my professional career. To my surprise, I had a blast interviewing and meeting so many new individuals. What I realized from OPE was that a piece of paper did not define me. I may not have every single preferred qualification when applying for a job, but I have so much more to offer than simply the words listed on a resume.
Experience Service. In March of 2014, as part of my graduate assistantship, I experienced my first Alternative Spring Break. I was fortunate to travel to Omaha, NE with some incredible individuals and spent a week serving in a different community. I was able to watch 12 students become vulnerable working with homelessness and come to the realization that everyone needs help at some time in their life. Watching these students learn about the impact they can have in the lives of others, and in turn learn more about themselves, was truly remarkable.
Trust the Two-Second Gut. I have gained a lot of meaning from the concept of a two-second gut. You know that feeling when you make a decision, hear something, or see something happen? What do you feel, think, sense, or experience in those first two (or few) seconds? That two-second gut feeling when something just feels right (or wrong) or you have a gigantic ah-ha moment… yeah, that’s what I’m referring to. Well, I had many moments where I took chances, said no to things, shared my thoughts, and stood up for something I believed in. Something I am challenging myself to think more about as 2015 rolls around the corner is how much I am over thinking some of the simple things in life and just letting life happen.
Just Keep Learning. As a student who was initially denied from the three colleges I applied to as a high school senior, I was pretty astonished to walk across a stage in May and receive my master’s degree. Graduate school was one of the toughest, yet rewarding, two years of my life. It is still difficult to comprehend how much I learned in that environment, where the emphasis was on my own learning. I wish I could go back and tell myself some the things I know now, but I’ve come to realize that is what half the fun in living life is about…the learning moments!
There Is So Much Out There. Rather than sit around for two months this past summer, I found a job working in a roofing, siding, and window distribution center. I thought that I could put my student affairs lifestyle on hold for a few months and just make some extra cash. Well…. I was most certainly wrong. I realized that once you’re exposed to something, or experience life in a certain way, it becomes difficult to turn off that lens. I was no longer in Kansas (or in my case Illinois) anymore, and the environment I became so familiar with had shifted. I was now in a different career environment and that was unfamiliar. The people, procedures, environment, hours, dress code, conversation, and tools utilized were completely different. I had a great experience in this position, but it helped me open my eyes wider to realize that there is so much more out there in the world outside of our campuses.
Relationships Matter. Beginning my first full-time professional position after graduate school came with its own excitement and nerves. However, it didn’t take me longer than a day or two to realize that relationships matter and are everywhere. Someone knows someone or has a connection to something connected to everyone. Again, I realized how small the field was. I also realized how big the world is and how scattered I was from the people I grew close with. Relationships come and go as we allow them to come and go. It doesn’t matter if it is 12 miles, 438 miles, or even 1,929 miles away, relationships can foster or flourish when distance joins the game. Relationships may not always be permanent, so it’s up to each person to maintain and continue developing the relationships they value most.
Celebrate and Smile! Anyone who knows me knows that this time of the year is my favorite and is simply joyful. How often do you smile a day? It is a personal value of mine that if you aren’t smiling once an hour, you need to start. It’s incredible to see how brighter things can become when positivity joins the day. Is it necessary to wait for a holiday, birthday, weekend gathering, or another occasion to brighten up the day? As my supervisor’s son would say, “It’s the little things in life that make you smile, bro.” Celebrate and smile at the little and big things you accomplish.
Another year has come and gone. The successes and challenges of 2014 are soon behind us, which means that another full year of opportunity is ahead of us. Reflect on the moments passed, rejuvenate for another great year, and recognize those who helped you get where you are. So, what is your end of year reflection?
> BONUS <
Podcast With Patrick Love on Strategic Planning in SA