Man-o-man, what a year 2014 has been. Throughout the year I managed to graduate with a degree in Psychology and Communication, intern over the summer, and successfully transition and complete my first semester of graduate school (albeit difficult). This being said, when prompted to identify a learning moment, experience, or even some sort of maturation I couldn’t quite pin point the “AHA” moment. I fiercely reflected on my time spent at various institutions, interactions with colleagues and classmates, and even personal goals I set through out the process, but still nothing. That was, till the night of December 14th painted my thoughts so clearly, quite frankly the biggest lesson I have learned this year has been finding my voice in the field of Student Affairs.
I know what you are all wondering, what was so impactful about December 14th? I will simply say that it was the moment I realized that not only my voice mattered, but also everyone else’s. After delving into a heated discussion around topics in field, I was taking aback by the narratives shared and simultaneously affirmed over social media, and across difference in identity, functional area, and geographic location. Professionals, myself included, were having discussions around topics we were passionate about, which at the time we had no understanding others felt equally vitalized about. This made me really reflect on my process, what was it that allowed me to find agency in the classroom, workplace, and greater Student Affairs community?
Being that I am a person that strongly believes in providing practical information, I outlined three things in particular that have allowed me to find my voice in Student Affairs.
Broadly speaking, being able to understand what I “bring to the table” every time I occupy spaces, whether online or physical. I think about how much I have changed just by understanding my mannerisms, how I converse with folks, my identity (both socially and racially/ethnically), and what colleagues and friends perceptions are of me. I will be the first to tell you that initially I was a loud, arrogant, and at times a condescending communicator; it was my way or the highway. Now I am just a loud communicator (some things don’t seem to change). I was capable of changing how interacted with spaces and people, by continually being brutally honest with myself, and although it is still very much so a learning process, I am aware enough to understand my habits.
#2 Social Support Systems:
I use social support systems as a blanket term; this isn’t to say that I need folks in my corner all the time in order to find my voice, but rather, I need both affirmation and challenge. More specifically, when I look back on my process I have always been fortunate enough to have a solid group of folks that both validate my experiences and accomplishments, and challenge me with higher expectations. This isn’t to say I can never be satisfied with my achievements, but I am a lot more willing to strike a balance between the two. When I think about my willingness to share my thoughts on a given matter, it is undoubtedly a result of the confidence built from my support systems, and conversely, the challenges I received in my thinking from these very same individuals.
#3 “Speak to What Makes Your Heart Beat Faster”:
Last but not least, speak to what makes your hear beat faster. I learned this from a friend over the summer and it has stuck with me ever since. Simply put, I think about the moments where my heart starts beating quicker because I am passionate, angry, excited, elated, disappointed, etc. and I make sure to share my thoughts. I always try to be purposeful in my language at these times, but I always approach with good intentions. I have come to find that these moments are the moments I learn from the most, because I understand that what I am saying must be shared.
I am cognizant that this is my singular experience and by no means want to generalize it to everyone else, but if you get nothing else from this blog, I hope that you challenge yourself (as will I), to be a more self-aware, supported, and courageous professional. Ultimately, a professional who realizes they are “powerful beyond measure”.
This post is part of our December #SAreflects blogging series, which looks to share the stories from 2014. Contributors from various backgrounds will reflect on the moments that stuck out to them the most this year, and what they learned, in student affairs. What event or moment over the past year will you always remember, or changed you? What knowledge did you gain along the way? For more information on this series, check out the intro post by Sabina.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles