Progress Report: Peace, “Do”, and Happiness

It’s been 100 days since 2014 kicked off, so I thought it was time to dust off the old #oneword2014 resolution and check in on my own progress on the word “do”.  To be honest, I didn’t handle the resolution process with much precision.  I totally forgot to use my SMART goals acronym, not to mention that  I have a habit of making great sweeping statements and not following through on them.  Self-deprecating aside, I’m trying my best to break that habit, and succeeding pretty well with my resolution (unlike my addiction to diet soda).

Progress Report #1:  I know that it’s been 100 days of this year because I am currently almost finished with the #100happydays photo project on Instagram.  Not only that, but I blogged about it on Socialnomics.net, wrote an article for The Jersey Alliance, and presented it to my students as a personal challenge for them to attempt.  I missed just two days, only to immediately post two photos the following day.  #100happydays has actually given me something to be proud of, and it’s helped to put my name out there as a blogger and overall advocate for something positive.  It hasn’t been easy, and one day was particularly painful, but it was all made better with a Brene Brown quote and some self-reflection.  The photo challenge has probably been the most telling action of my entire “do” resolution.  In fact, I’m not stopping. I’m going for a full 365 days of happiness photos.

Progress Report #2: For other measurements related to “do”, I created this website and have written 13 blog posts this year (woot!).  While the blogging has been fulfilling for me personally, I have been struggling with it professionally and debating its future direction.  When I post about professional development, I find myself stretching to make a connection or feel strangely disingenuous. Honestly, I’m just not sure if it’s truly me.  I can’t say if this blog will really move in the direction of student affairs, or move somewhere else – towards DIY, personal development, or more reflections on happiness.  I’ve found that I cannot continue to compare this blog to others.  I should be celebrating other bloggers’ success, all while realizing that I am not the same as them.  I have my own voice, and maybe that voice wants to talk a LOT about The Goonies and cats.  That’s just the way it is.

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Progress Report #3: Lastly, in the spirit of “do” something completely outside my comfort zone, I found peace through service in Biloxi, Mississippi.  I have participated in five Alternative Breaks trips all over the United States, but I have never traveled somewhere completely unfamiliar without a student or fellow staff member that I knew well.  It was terrifying. I tossed and turned on our first night, struggling to find the calm to allow me to sleep.  On our first night of reflection, I cried.  Yes, me, the staff partner – I cried.  I decided to admit my anxiety about traveling alone, eating camp food dinners, and sharing a cabin with strangers. I shared with my students that I, too, am uncomfortable and suffer from self-doubt that nags me, especially when I’m alone.  The results of opening up to my students extended beyond my wildest expectations: I found a group of the 12 most open, engaged, and accepting students that I have ever worked with (we call this trip “magical”) and felt real, true peace through community service efforts.  Not just comfort, but peace, feeling a sense of community that I had not felt in so long.

Laying that all out on the table, I’d say it’s been a pretty good 2014 so far.  I’m excited to see where the next few months take me (Norway! California! Age 28!).  Have you made any progress on resolutions, or had the time to pause to reflect on your progress?  I’d love to hear about it.

All Good Things

So far in 2013, I have been lucky enough to do good across the country.  As a student affairs professional immersed in service learning, I embarked on a trip with 11 college students last week to volunteer with urban youth in the Los Angeles area.  The trip was part of our Alternative Breaks program at Rutgers.

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I had countless opportunities to do good: not only did I spend my afternoons with children in after-school programs, at-risk and abused young women in a residential facility, and families at the Ronald McDonald House, but I helped to facilitate students’ understanding of urban issues.  Beyond just the act of doing good on the trip, I found the process of reflecting on doing good to be even more rewarding.  For example, during reflection, one student recognized the fact that homeless people on the street are not “crazy” or “scary”, rather just individuals who have fallen into unfortunate circumstances.  She began the trip by running away from people on the street, and ended the trip by giving a homeless man her peanut butter and jelly sandwich on our last night in Los Angeles.  Not only that, but we had lengthy discussions about social issues ranging from sex trafficking to the education gap to bullying.  I learned more from my students and the community members on this trip than I’ve learned from reading professional development books.

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I think the best takeaway from my #oneword2013 so far has been that doing good is not necessarily good on its own.  It’s about the conversation, the processing, and the reflection that really makes the act of doing good even better.  From palm trees to street performers, Los Angeles was the perfect place for me to take my one word to the next level.