If Office Walls Could Talk…

Authenticity.  It’s a student affairs buzzword.  We talk a lot about being our authentic selves on social media.  True, it’s important for us to accurately reflect ourselves through our professional profiles, interacting with colleagues and in job interviews.  However, I spend a lot more time concerned with being my authentic self in my own office, sharing my personal stories and experiences with students.  My advising style revolves around sharing my vulnerabilities and challenges with students as much as I share my successes.  Myself and three colleagues led a weekend-long training with a group of Rutgers students and each presented a talk on “What’s Your Space Jam?” (inspired by this Kid President pep talk).  They were five minute snippets about something that we were passionate about, and it ranged from DIY projects to violence against women, service, and a favorite among our students, “letting things go”.  Sharing our personal stories inspired tweets like these which helped us connect to our students on a different level.

Tweets1

It got me thinking about other ways that I represent my authentic self in the workplace, namely: my office.

Does my office accurately represent all aspects of my life (and should it)?  This is where my students see me in my element, where I spend the majority of my waking hours, and where my best connections are made. If my office walls could talk, what would they say?

“We’re pretty happy she decorated us with awesome green polka dots.”

I put effort into my personal spaces.  Obviously I’m a little DIY crazy, but it means a lot to me to actually invest effort into the place where I spend most of my time.  I love being hands on and getting creative, and I want my students to see that.

 “There’s a lot of complaining that happens in here.”

I know that I spend way too much time expressing my frustrations to colleagues in my office, which in turn spreads negativity.  In fact, any amount of negativity is too much, in my opinion.  I needed to admit it here so that I can move past it.  My office walls should be focused more on the positive.

“She’s neglecting us, always running out of the office in a rush.”

Ah, this could be the problem for the complaining in the office.  Does anyone else feel like they live in their car, driving from meeting to meeting?  We have five campuses to travel to on a given day.  I once got a superlative from my students that said “Most likely to be in a meeting or in the bathroom”.  Funny, but what message are you sending to your students if you’re always out of the office?

“It’s weirdly awesome that she has so many bobbleheads and action figures.”

Let’s face it: my office walls love me and my quirky weirdness.  Putting myself (and my love for Game of Thrones) out there for my students to see is helpful in making connections and shows my authentic self as relatable.  Any geek that comes into my office is going to feel right at home, and that’s just the way I like it.

If your office walls could talk, what would they say?  And what does that say about you as a person?  Or as a professional?

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Hands On

For me, personal is the new professional.  Since participating in the fantastic Big Ideas in Higher Education conference almost two years ago, my outlook on professional development has completely changed.  I rarely benchmark my programs (moreso on Twitter than anywhere else!), I yawn through “best practices” workshops at conferences, and to be honest, I often don’t find professional development articles to be that interesting either.  Not to devalue any of these examples, but I truly learn the most from the personal: blogs, stories, TED talks, and most recently, looking inward and creating personal challenges for myself.  In the past month, I’ve embarked on multiple personal challenges that may or may not be considered professional, including #52in52 (reading 52 books in one year) and #100happydays (posting 100 pictures of things that bring me happiness for 100 days in a row).

That brings me to the title of this post, Hands On.  Of all the things that have brought me joy in the past six months since my wedding, the one that has benefited me the most, personally AND professionally, is my very first hobby: DIY.

DIY

I know what you’re thinking. Really?  You found your first hobby at age 27?  Sad, but true.  I’ve always been so focused on tasks, goal-setting, and my career, that I’ve actually never embarked on a hobby that was purely for my own enjoyment.  When the wedding dust settled and reality came crashing down around me, I knew it was time to get creative.

Embarking on my first DIY project helped me keep my hands (and mind!) busy while also creating a final, tangible product.  It’s enabled me to stretch my comfort zone by utilizing new tools and developing new skills.  In the past six months, I’ve changed door hardware, wallpapered a bookshelf, and arranged frame walls.  I’ve also become familiar with a screwdriver, learned painting techniques, and repurposed a windowframe from an old house into a piece of art.  That’s just scraping the surface.

Windowframe

What does this have to do with my personal or professional development?  Finding inspiration from others, creating visions for projects, and seeing them through from start to finish is relevant to any profession – whether it’s an event layout, social media strategy, or training program.  In addition, I’ve found that I am more skilled in balancing multiple projects, more confident in my creative abilities, and just generally happier when engaging in hands-on work in my spare time.

I can’t say enough about how much joy I have discovered through this hobby, especially in the spirit of “do” it yourself (there’s my pesky one word resolution again).  Even the simplest project has helped change my perspective.  I’m looking forward to sharing more of what I create on this blog, but I am already sharing through Twitter and Instagram, so you can see it for yourself in real time!

Taking the Twitter Leap

Just a month ago, I was doing the “Krista”: lazing on the couch in my Rutgers snuggie, mindlessly scrolling through Twitter posts, and most likely watching Property Brothers.  I thought about how much I love writing and connecting with people, and how frustrated I was that I was sitting on the sidelines of Twitter conversations happening all around me.  For someone who hadn’t been engaged in Twitter much over the past three years that I’ve had an account, it all seemed intimidating.  I had never participated in #sachat or watched Higher Ed Live.  I tried blogging and only made it to three posts last year.  I attended conferences, tweeted feverishly in a session or two, and then my posts came to a screeching halt when I fell back into my office routine.

As you probably know from reading this blog, my one word resolution is “do”.  This means pushing myself to do things that cause me discomfort, things that don’t come naturally.  I don’t think I’ve ever started a debate in my life.  I do the awkward turtle when things get heated.  I’ve read some passionate, intense, and critical conversations on Twitter, which were all great – but, to be honest, they scared me.

With a new resolution in mind, I decided that this would be the year to  get off the Twitter sidelines and into the game (I love cheesy sports metaphors).  I decided to be myself without being afraid of someone judging me or thinking of me as soft or not challenging enough.  So here I am.

DoNotStop-e1362503983806

No matter what anyone tells you, using Twitter is not easy.  It takes work.  I received a supportive message from Chris Conzen who told me tweeting is like a marathon.  We need to pace ourselves and make the intervals count.  Now, I’m not a runner, but I can understand the importance of prioritizing and really identifying times to tweet active content, respond to others’ posts, and work in this blog to create content of my own.  It takes practice.  It requires thinking critically, which is hard when my brain can barely think beyond the next advising appointment.  It means sometimes making the switch from 30 minutes of House Hunters  and dedicating it to professional development time on Twitter (okay, I’m also a little HGTV obsessed).

I’ve only just begun scratching the surface of what Twitter is all about for me as a student affairs professional, but I am proud to say that I’ve jumped right in.  I’m determined that when my students come back to campus, I’ll keep up with this newly activated part of me.  I feel engaged, refreshed, and I honestly feel smarter after getting into the conversation.

Thanks to the support of the student affairs Twitter community, I’m doing the “Krista” in a different way:  I’m finding the balance of being my authentic self while also contributing to the conversation in an engaging and informative way.  And don’t worry, I’m still wearing my Rutgers snuggie.

Fresh Start, Fresh Paint

Sometimes, making a small change in your personal life influences your success and happiness in all aspects of your life.  In the spirit of “do”, I enlisted Dan in a project I’ve been aching to do for the past two years: we painted our bedroom.  (Note the special guest appearance by Wallace Klein).

This may not sound like a big deal to most of you, but living comfortably in our white-walled, unspackled bedroom for two years made it very difficult to temporarily move out into the guest bedroom just for a painting project.  The thought of being displaced from our bedroom crippled us for the past two years and prevented any changes from happening.  Here are the before shots.  Note: as part of my “do” resolution, I’m currently working on my iPhone photo taking skills.

Jan 5-5

Jan 5-6

Since this is the year of “do”, we took matters into our own hands.  One coat of primer, two coats of Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, and two coats of white ceiling paint later, I am a very happy homeowner.  It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint can do to completely transform a room.  Not only that, but having a completely empty room inspired me to wipe down hard-to-reach windows and vacuum every corner.  I also got to stand on a really tall ladder, which is always exciting for a petite (re: short) person.

For me, the most important part of the painting experience was feeling confident enough in myself to complete the task.  I’m not a particularly steady handed or graceful person, and I didn’t even trust myself to do more than roll paint onto the walls.  After some thought and shaking off some anxiety, I took on the task of trimming and cutting (without tape!).  Just using my two hands, two eyes, and continuously encouraging myself that I should take the risk and complete this project.  It required a lot of patience, honestly more than I thought I had, but in the end it was definitely worth getting off the couch, taking a risk, and doing it.

Jan 5-3

Jan 5-1

Jan 5-4

A simple task, with great results – both for the room and for myself.  I am proud that I took on even a small challenge, and I look forward to seeing how these small things add up for me this year!  Let’s “do” this.  What have you done so far this year?

One Word 2014: Do

It’s New Year’s Day. Today is a time for many to reflect, move with intention, and look forward to the future.  Last year, I made a #oneword resolution for the first time and tried to live it out as best I could.  With a wedding/honeymoon, pressures at work and home, and other factors, I did not follow through on the reflecting half of that resolution.  While I could make excuses for the past, I will instead state my #oneword for the future: do.

I am an often introspective and reflective person.  Though I’m not necessarily blogging about my thoughts, I am constantly dwelling on future projects, worries, and stressors in my life.  I spend a lot of time thinking about myself in comparison to others.  I think that if only I could do something different, I would be happier, more successful, or calmer.  Many of us have these thoughts, and it’s okay to have them once in a while.  However, I found myself in a constant state of comparison this year, spending too much time on social networks watching everyone else’s lives play out from my couch (in my Rutgers snuggie, drinking Arnold Palmers, with HGTV in the background).

No longer will I “want” or “hope” for something to get better.  While I am a cautious optimist, and always have been, it’s time for me to take matters into my own hands with my #oneword resolution: do.  It’s time to get off Pinterest and actually frame that piece of art.  It’s time to stop looking at other’s blogs and create one of my own.  It’s time to DO.  Act.  Move.  This is my call to action for myself.  I am passionate about creating things: stories, DIY projects, training programs, change.  

The-Thing-You-Cannot-Do

I actually started on my #oneword a little early this year by submitting to present a Pecha Kucha talk at ACPA, a national conference for student affairs professionals.  I admire so many of the speakers (hello out there!) and have often thought to myself, “why can’t I be more like them?”.  The only thing holding me back from being great is me.  Whether or not I am selected, I am proud to say that I have started moving on my professional and personal goals, and I hope you will join me in this journey on this blog and on Twitter @kristaknj.

Krista