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.

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The Styrofoam Cup: Reflections from Leaders Eat Last

Last week, I was at home while my students ran an event on campus.  I had spent a significant amount of time dedicated to my marketing committee, both in and outside of work hours, discussing with them how to promote this event through social media.  After the event ended, I noticed that social media was silent: they had forgotten to make their posts, a simple task that I had invested my time and energy into ensuring would happen.  I took matters into my own hands and made the posts myself, typing furiously on my bed at 10pm.  My frustration mounted, my chest tightened, and I spent the next day venting to anyone who would listen.  I became all-consumed with my work and my event.

Shortly after the Social Media Crisis of 2014, I was in the process of live-tweeting my current read, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek.  I came across a story about a former Under Secretary of Defense who spoke at a large conference.  The former Under Secretary revealed that the previous year, when he was still in office, was flown to the conference in business class, escorted to his hotel room, and treated to a cup of coffee in a ceramic mug.  When he no longer held the position, he flew to the conference in coach, drove himself to the hotel, and poured himself coffee into a styrofoam cup.  Then came the part of the story that just jumped off the page and slapped me in the face.

“‘It occurs to me,’ he continued, ‘the ceramic cup they gave me last year…it was never meant for me at all. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup. This is the most important lesson I can impart to all of you,’ he offered. ‘All the perks, all the benefits and advantages you may get for the rank or position you hold, they aren’t meant for you. They are meant for the role you fill. And when you leave your role, which you eventually will, they will give the ceramic cup to the person who replaces you. Because you only ever deserved a styrofoam cup.”

At work, I’ve been called a “woman on a mission”, so mired in details that I’ve missed out on meaningful moments with students.  I’ve neglected doctor’s appointments, given myself anxiety (see above chest pains), and snapped at countless friends/family members over my job, and for what?  The former Under Secretary is right: whether we want to admit it or not, we are all replaceable.  We all deserve styrofoam cups.  I spend countless hours dwelling on the all-important community service event (granted, community service can have a great impact on students, as all of our work can have) without even regarding my own health or happiness.  Not only that, but I do my students a disservice as I toil away on tasks they could learn, generating a catering order or drafting a reflection workshop.

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As a student affairs professional, my goal is for my students to do amazing things for Community Service at Rutgers, not me.  It’s not my work and my event.  It’s their work, and they should celebrate their successes and analyze their failures (with my support).  My students are the ones who should be in the spotlight, giving amazing Ignite-style talks at conferences, being quoted in the campus newspaper, and drinking from their ceramic mugs.  It’s their precious and exploratory four years to pave their way into a career, not mine.

As one of my great friends put it, “If we’re doing our jobs right, no one will even know we are there.”  I tend to agree.  I’m shifting the spotlight over to them.  After all, I am only in the background watching them shine, drinking from a styrofoam cup.

Aw, Here It Goes

Welcome to the first official post in my newest endeavor, my official blog: creatingkrista.com.  This is a big step for me in my journey towards sharing my story, both personally and professionally, with the world.  In honor of this exciting moment, and as a result of many conversations I’ve had in recent weeks, I’d like to share my why.  Why I decided to start this blog.

1.  I love to write.  All other endeavors aside, I am a writer, first and foremost.  From the Happy Birthday Mom book that I wrote in pre-school to my self-published novel MapsurneI have always been a writer.  Writing is a core part of my life that I have been missing greatly since I started college, and blogging is the perfect opportunity to return to my roots.

2.  Staying relevant.  As a higher education and student affairs professional, blogging and social media have become extremely important as I connect to both students and colleagues.  Maintaining an active online presence is key to staying relevant in this field and I have been thoroughly enjoying the experience of sharing my opinions and stories with others.

3.  Blending the personal and the professional.  I’ve said this before in this blog, but I truly believe that my personal and professional interests together make up who I am.  This blog will be primarily a place for me to explore professional development in higher education, but it will not be limited to that.  I intend to continue sharing my DIY projects and have a page dedicated just for that topic: Life, Love, & DIY.

4.  Staying connected.  One of the great things about having such a diverse group of friends is that we have spread ourselves out all over the world.  While social media is great, this blog will be an opportunity for me to share more about what I am up to beyond the brief pleasantries of Facebook and Twitter.

Looking forward to learning and sharing with all of you!  Bonus points if you identified this blog post’s reference to the theme song for the former Nickelodeon show Kenan & Kel.

 

 

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.

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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?