Robots, Creativity, & Confidence

“I’m not very creative.”  I cannot possibly count the number of times I have said or thought this statement in my lifetime. When asked on the spot for ideas, I often feel as though I don’t have anything unique enough to bring to the table and thus neglect to share.  I’ve been reflecting on the recent article about the confidence gap between men and women, and how this lack of confidence is detrimental to women’s success.  This particular quote stood out to me:

“Perfectionism is another confidence killer. Study after study confirms that it is largely a female issue, one that extends through women’s entire lives. We don’t answer questions until we are totally sure of the answer, we don’t submit a report until we’ve edited it ad nauseam, and we don’t sign up for that triathlon unless we know we are faster and fitter than is required.”

I have experienced these perfectionist feelings constantly not only in my career, but my personal life as well, going through countless hobbies, DIY projects, even sports – just because I felt like I wasn’t good enough at them to be successful.  I held back on experiences because I wasn’t confident enough in my own abilities.

I’m here to challenge that today.  Since embarking on my DIY journey, I’ve used power tools, learned painting techniques, installed door hardware, hung frames, and more.  Starting a major creative project at home that doesn’t involve student development, service learning, or anything work-related, has made an incredible impact on my confidence in my work, at home or in the office.  As I was contemplating a blog post about this (and an awesome robot puzzle project, which I’ll get to in a second), I stumbled across this article about how being creative outside of work actually makes workers more productive, as well as provides them opportunities to restore and fulfill themselves. Researchers said this, which spoke to me:

“A lot of organizations carve time out where they talk about physical heath and exercise and eating habits, but they can also include in that a discussion of mental health and the importance of recovery and creative activity,” he said.

Physical health and exercise are both important.  However, I feel the need to ask: when do we make time to pursue our hobbies outside of fitness, especially if we spend all our spare time working?  How does this lack of creative work affect us, if these projects are making us more productive and more relaxed?  Shoutout to those writing books or creating art; it’s harder than it looks.  It has taken a lot of time and practice (about six months now) for me to develop confidence in my creative abilities, and this blog has been one of the best places for me to share my love for DIY, as well as express my professional opinions.  I can have a life outside of work, and it’s making me a better professional, a happier person, and an even better gift-giver. Let’s time travel to the moment I realized how important my creative outlet is to me.

About a week ago, I was shopping for a birthday present for a colleague of mine at Michaels.  I recognize that when shopping for a 26-year-old’s birthday gift, a craft store is not normally the first choice, but it’s my go-to for awesome finds.  I stumbled across this beauty for $1.20: a robot, alien, and superhero puzzle.

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While I picked it up, I thought, “this is awesome – and cheap”, but I put it back on the shelf.  After a few minutes of perusing, a creative lightbulb turned on, and I thought about how great this would look in a frame mounted on my friend’s wall.  He has a love for superheroes and comics, and I have a love for personalized DIY projects, so this was a win-win.  A brief conversation with the custom framing staff taught me that it would be way too expensive and time consuming to wait for the perfect frame.  So, I scooped up a shadowbox, some Elmer’s glue, and went home to finish the job.

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I was so proud to frame this puzzle and give it as a gift to someone who truly deserved to be the beneficiary of my creative process.  The next time I think to myself, “I’m not that creative”, I’m going to think of this puzzle and how robots gave me confidence (aww, I’m such a cheesy nerd).

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What are your creative activities outside of work? I’d love to hear about them and how they’ve impacted you as a person or as a professional.

 

 

 

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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.

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.

Window Shopping

Ever the procrastinator, I’ve had a major DIY project brewing since spring break of 2012.  It all started when I was working on a house with 12 amazing students in Ansted, West Virginia on a service trip for Rutgers University Alternative Breaks.  Aren’t we a good looking group?

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While rebuilding, I came across a diamond in the rough that I had only previously seen on Pinterest: an old window.  If you’re a frequent pinner or DIY aficianado, you know what I’m talking about: repurposing an old window with fabric, colored paper, and photos to turn it into a gorgeous picture frame.  I was determined to take this baby home and turn it into a masterpiece, so I packed it up into our Suburban and brought it back to New Jersey.  Little did I know that this window would sit in my basement, untouched amidst hundreds of other wedding-related projects.

A year later, I finally brought the window out of hiding. I set it up in the garage on a jawhorse and used WD-40 to remove all the residue and dirt from the panes.  This took a lot more elbow grease than I was expecting (meaning: I need to work out more).  The window was already missing a piece of the pane, but I thought it added to the charm and rustic feeling of the project.

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Next, I ordered 8×10 photo prints to place inside each of the four intact panes.  I chose Mpix after reading reviews about their quality and price, but I’m sure that Snapfish or Shutterfly would work too.  Four large prints came out to $12 and I paired them with several 4×6 prints from the wedding to make a collage.

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 Dan and I also had to decide what kind of material we would use for the mats.  Fabric, cardstock, and linen paper were all options that came to mind.  Given that our wedding was nautical-themed, I came up with the idea to use cork as a mat for each photo.  I bought some 8 1/2×11 cork sheets from Michaels for 99 cents each and laid out a few options on the floor.

After unsuccessfully attempting to back the cork with cardboard we had lying around the house, we decided to use foam core ($4 from Michaels, with a 40% off coupon) as the backing behind the cork sheets.  After carefully measuring and re-measuring the space between each pane, we decided to use Elmer’s glue and a roller to adhere the cork sheets to the foam board.

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Next, we laid out the photos to be centered within each pane.  They needed to be centered on each cork sheet, but more importantly, they had to be centered within each pane itself.  So we would lift the frame over the foam core to check that our measurements were correct.  Here’s Dan laying out some of the photos.

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We soon realized that it was nearly impossible to accurately measure each pane separately, and we ended up having to scrap the entire project and start over.  Ahh, the life of a DIYer-in-training.  We carefully unpeeled all of the photos and Dan bought a full sheet of cork from Amazon for about $11.  This time, we only had to measure out the spacing of the photos and just adhered the entire cork sheet to the foam core board. Much better.  The photos were glued down smoothly as well. As for our finished product?  It’s mounted proudly above the fireplace.

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The window frame came in at about $33 for all the materials and photos, not including what we already owned.  Just call me the DIY Queen, with Dan as my loyal blacksmith (I’m only kidding, he did a LOT of the work on this project). The craftstravaganza was definitely worth it as we now have a one-of-a-kind focal point for our living room!

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.

 

 

What Tina Fey Taught Me

I’m three years late to the party, but on a long road trip to Baltimore this weekend, Dan (my husband) and I listened to Tina Fey’s Bossypants audiobook.  It was my first audiobook experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending six hours with Tina (especially because Dan was there with me) as she spoke about the challenges facing a professional woman in today’s society.  At times, I imagined that it was me reading my own stories out loud (Tina, I just love squirrels that eat food with their hands! I also have no idea how to decide when to have kids and when to focus on my career! I’ve been asked that exact same question while stuffing my face with cake!).  Other times, I just listened and soaked in what Tina Fey taught me.

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“Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.”

Tina shared a story about how she casually joked in an informal dinner with a reporter friend that she would “leave Earth” if John McCain and Sarah Palin were elected to the White House.  It was interpreted seriously and blown out of proportion by the media, but Tina didn’t leave it out of her autobiography – she owned it.  Maybe she shouldn’t have said it out loud, maybe she shouldn’t have trusted her friend, but really: she did her thing, regardless of what anyone else thought.  It made me think instantly about times when I “humble bragged” on Facebook and some acquaintances rolled their eyes, or times when I tweeted something that was perceived as too emotional for my professional persona.  Maybe these behaviors were interpreted in a negative way, but that’s me: sometimes too proud, and sometimes too vulnerable for my own good.  I am owning it.

“This is what I tell young women who ask me for career advice. People are going to try to trick you. To make you feel that you are in competition with one another. “You’re up for a promotion. If they go for a woman, it’ll be between you and Barbara.” Don’t be fooled. You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone.”

I found Bossypants extremely valuable for the way that Tina addressed serious social issues through storytelling.  Rather than sharing statistics about gender equality, she used her life experiences to address the challenges that women face on a daily basis when it comes to being in a competitive career with men.  I particularly loved her perspective on body image and how women are constantly told to use what limited minutes they have in the day to look/act/be perfect.  In the spirit of dealing head on with societal pressures, I’m going to ‘fess up and admit that I actually Photoshopped my own Linked In profile picture (embarrassing, but true).  Thanks to Tina, now I’m questioning why I felt the need to do that in the first place.

“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”

This quote is perfect: visual, meaningful, and also pretty relevant to anyone who spent summers at a water park.  It brings me back to my one word resolution: do.  I can’t be waiting my turn on the slide any longer.  This goes for my personal life (DIY projects, blogging, health/fitness goals) and professional life (finding the next step in my career, developing supervisory skills, spearheading programs).  I’m going to go down the chute.  Something embarrassing could happen on the way down, I could get a few elbow burns, and the chute might take me down some dark and scary tunnels.  But if Tina can go down the slide, so can I.

That’s what Tina Fey taught me.

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?