Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Different Prescription

I would like to preface the below by making some statements.
1. I started and wrote this reflection quite late so...
2. It's incredibly cheesy and fluffy...but that's ok because
3. It's pretty much all true to what I am feeling right now.
4. Also, I did put a bit of theory in here-- feel free to skip it.

I have always pushed to be viewed as a competent individual. Timeliness, due dates, and follow through have played a significant role in who I am now and who I have worked to become. While I have been running around ruled by my watch I have missed something. That something is passion, drive, and provision. Though I thoroughly enjoyed the conference in its entirety, the last workshop I attended was of particular importance to me as a growing professional. A word not unfamiliar to me was introduced and stressed, and that word was strategy.
When I think of the word strategy competition often comes to mind. The intertwining of these two words gives me a negative image—one of a selfish individual pushing past everyone regardless of the other people’s current state. The way that Serena talked about strategy, though, put a whole new spin on the concept. She showed me that I can do more—and I need to in order to maximally benefit myself as well as others. I cannot be content with competence…I need to step up my game.
The ten tips and subjects the presenters talked about were as follows: know yourself, network and mentor, résumé and interview, technical and management skills, you better work, managing your supervisor, ethics and professional standards, organizational politics, don’t forget what you learned in graduate school, and professional development. The first one most definitely fits with Chickering’s 5th vector: Establishing Identity. Interesting enough, competence is something he posits will be mastered before identity establishment. I think this vector also spoke to me because I have been thinking a lot about identity development—especially after we read Let Your Life Speak.
In reality, all of their tips fit somewhere into Chickering’s vectors. For example,
1. Competence: Technical and Management skills; Organizational Politics; Don’t Forget What You Learned in Grad School
2. Emotions: Know Yourself
3. Autonomy to Interdependence: Managing Your Supervisor
4. Mature Interpersonal Relationships: Network and Mentor
5. Identity: Professional Development
6. Purpose: You Better Work; Résumé and Interview
7. Integrity: Ethics and Professional Standards
Obviously some, or most, or the tips may be put into one or more categories—or completely different ones. For lack of room and efficiency I will not necessarily cover why I placed each tip into the specific vector. Know though, that I was both impressed and surprised to see how well they each fit into Chickering’s theory; that fact alone was impactful and a prime example of theory to practice.
Though the workshop description said, “this interactive workshop will address the issues and challenges facing new professionals as they move in, through and out of the first three to five years of their career in higher education,” I think it went far beyond the now seemingly trivial description. In fact, I am going so far as to say that it has revolutionized how I will think about my future—whether student affairs is or is not a dominant aspect of said life plans. Both the style of the presenters and the content of the presentation reached out to me and gave me the metaphorical thick, heavy, and possibly unattractive, prescription glasses that I so desperately needed.
As previously mentioned, I have placed a high value on competency. Chickering himself points out that competency is only the first vector and there is so much to be gleaned from developing the other facets of his theory. Since I have arrived in August I have been surviving off of my ability, aptitude, and proficiency. However, little flags (such as the book) have popped up and forced me to reexamine why I am in this program and profession. Through those instances I have slowly become aware of the holes in my development—and this realization reached its pinnacle at the conference. I no longer want to just be viewed as capable—I want to be seen as driven. I don’t want to solely settle for adequate but instead strive for excellence. And instead of being an excellent observer I wish to share my passion with those around me.
I truly think the decisions I have made about myself will carry on into the future. I have already noticed that I look at my tasks and my job in a whole new light, one of excitement—one I have not seen before. This new lens I am currently seeing through has almost a sort of fulgent aspect. Even though I love this new perspective, I still have some misgivings.
First, I wonder how long this new love feeling will last. After a couple of months will I be discouraged once again? Or, what if I find out that I lack the ability to examine these parts of my life? I wonder if I hold the drive to stay driven. I also am curious to see the challenges and struggles that are sure to arise as I attempt to push myself farther and harder than I ever have before. Will my wall hit me sooner than I want it to?
When I think about the qualms I have expressed, I am not too worried. Perhaps this is foolish of me, but I think that optimism is a strong force. I am confident that as I continue to navigate this career of student affairs I will always look back at the Session C workshop with a tender heart. After all, I have been forever changed.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


[I feel that I'm taking a bit of a risk by being painstakingly honest in the below post. Please don't take it personally and try really hard to remember that everyone has struggles...right? Anyone?]
The last couple days were hard on my personality. Where I wanted clarity I was given confusion. When I wanted structure I was forced to improvise. I had to settle for less than ideal. I was late. I was blamed. I was too concerned when I should have just let things go.
In reflection I know I could have handled said 'things' a lot better. I should have been gracious instead of incredulous...but I wasn't. I could have taken the blame and embraced humility...but I didn't.
The more time I spend with these new people the more I learn about myself. I used to think that I could never be annoyed...not true. I once believed that I couldn't believe anything negative about a person...false.
I'm a little excited about this discovery.
I often question if I have adequate critical thinking skills. I mean, if I always go with the flow and am 'ok' with anything and everything...well, should I be nervous?
Over the years I have learned that while embracing a humble attitude and an open mind is generally a positive thing, lines must be drawn and choices must be made. I have very little desire to live my life floating along like an aimless, although beautiful, leaf drifting along in the stream of life. I want to be able to claim my thoughts and ideas with reverence. So take that all you people who once said, "but brit, you like everybody"; let it be known though...I do like everybody:)
Additionally, from looking at my reactions to the people around me, I have realized just how opinionated and strong willed I really am. This realization has been interesting. I'm not sure why it has taken me so long to become aware this fault...probably because my roommate(s) was (were) incredibly accommodating. But now I know what most of you have probably known for quite some time.
So thank you everyone for not only tolerating my craziness, but also loving me through it.
p.s. I encourage you all to check out 'Vampire Weekend' my opinion, they're fantastic.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Banana and Bootcamp

Below is a post that my wonderful sister, Hannah, wrote a little while ago. There are a couple of reasons I decided to include it in my blog. 1. Banana is awesome, 2. She has a lot to offer, and 3. I have blog-writer's block.

note: HA= honor academy. You'll have to check out her blog for more information:)


ESOAL lesson #1

(many more to come!)

Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

-Nehemiah 8:10

About this time last Saturday I was (probably) going on a 2-mile run with a wooden cross slung over one shoulder and a duct tape strap for my water bottle on the other. Picture yourself standing on the sidelines while we march/jog past you. You probably would have smelled us before you had a chance to look into our sandy/muddy/sweaty faces. At this point in ESOAL, about 30% of us probably had plastered permanent smiles on our faces. The other 70% of us had so much joy we were bubbly, giddy, and overflowing with happiness as our dirty tennis shoes pounded along in perfect rhythm.

Last weekend I was able to participate in one of the HA's (optional) Life Transforming Event called ESOAL. Despite how ESOAL has been portrayed by various people or media organizations, it is truly an amazing experience that God used to teach me many life lessons.

Going into ESOAL, I was pretty freaked out. If you know nothing about ESOAL, let me give you a quick update. Picture the HA gone military. Actually, ESOAL is supposedly based on the Navy Seals' Hell Week. I'm not in the Navy, so I really don't know how accurate that is; all I know is what I personally experienced. ESOAL did have certain military aspects to it. For example, we were placed into companies and platoons, given helmets to identify us and crosses to carry, told to respond using "Sir" and "Ma'am", allowed only to say numbers under 10, and taught how to low-crawl. It was completely unlike the military in other areas, such as middle-of-the-night worship, constantly being asked if we were growing, giving our 100%, asking how we could help our company, having to work together to produce unity, singing worship songs while we marched, and reciting Bible verses.

Before ESOAL, I only knew about the military side of it, which is why I was so apprehensive. I couldn't understand why all the 2nd-year students were so excited. I was expecting my experience to be filled with anger, bitterness, and fear as I worked my tail off to please my major. I'm so thankful that this is not at all what it actually was! Instead of being angry at my major and captain for making me low-crawl or do push ups, I realized that I had a choice in how I would respond. Yes, I could have gotten angry and bitter, but instead I was able to "choose joy" (motto!) and respond in a way that was honoring to God. When our company was falling behind and our major was telling us to go faster, we could have all separated and fallen apart, but instead we realized the importance of unity and stuck together, helping and encouraging whoever was struggling. We were able to choose optimism and unity over anger and self-reliance because 1) we all knew we couldn't get through it on our own, 2) we all knew we couldn't get through it without God, and 3) we all knew that the joy of the Lord would be our strength when our physical bodies had no strength left.

One main lesson that really took root in my heart was a common yet powerful asset during ESOAL. One phrase that you would constantly hear throughout the endurance of ESOAL was "choose joy", said with much exuberance. We were made aware at the beginning of ESOAL that it wasn't going to be something we enjoyed. Who thinks physical exertion and no sleep is a fun combination? Not me. We all knew that we would want to quit at one point. It wasn't going to be peaches and cream....BUT (there's always a "but"..) we also knew that we could make it enjoyable. We could make it fun. We could choose what we got out of the experience by what we put into it. This really rang true for me. All my life I had been told this, especially when I chose to not get a positive experience out of something that I thought was a major struggle. During these situations, it never really sank in that being joyful is a choice.

This is an interesting concept. In our lives, the joy that we have experienced is only surface level. For example, when something happens that creates a feeling of happiness within you, your are joyful. You are outwardly joyful as a result of the inner joy. However, that joy fades away with the initial event that created it. During ESOAL, we were taught a new type of joy that never fades. This joy is a result of so many things. I mean think about it, if you have God as your savior, why shouldn't you be filled with joy all the time? Think about your eternal reward. Think about how much God loves you. Think about how much Christ did for you. Think about His saving grace. Think about how well He has equipped you for anything that could ever come up against you. Think about God. The end. Just the thought of God can put a smile on your face, no matter the circumstances. It's amazing. Revolutionary even. Life-changing if you let it sink in. I let it sink in. If I hadn't, man, those nights of sleep/no sleep would have been completely miserable, just like everything else that was challenging during ESOAL. I would have rung out having learned nothing but self-reliance.

Because I was able to rely on God's strength and constantly be filled with his joy, I was able to not only complete ESOAL, but also lean on God and use His strength instead of my own. Not only was I always smiling outwardly (for which I was nicknamed "smiley") but I was also always filled with joy inwardly. I was made aware of just how much Jesus did for me while on Earth living as a man. He went to the cross for me - I can sacrifice my feelings, my emotions, and my physical body to Him. The best part is this: when I gave up my pain, my struggles, my emotions, my feelings, I was filled with even more joy. God wasn't just going to leave me with nothing. No, He filled me up with so much more than I had before. He blessed me. He blessed our whole company. Let me tell you, once we had all grasped this, ESOAL was like a family vacation - no joke. We were all laughing and cracking jokes about the simplest and hardest things. It was so good!

Moral of the story: Choose joy in all situations! You don't have to go through a tough experience like ESOAL to grasp this concept. The next time you feel yourself turning sour as a result of something gone wrong, ask God for His joy. I guarantee He won't disappoint you! Also - you can't always rely on feelings. During ESOAL, if I had waited until something good happened to be joyful, I would have wasted so much time feeling sorry for myself and embracing self-pity (that's a whole different blog post...). You always have something to feel joyful about - let God fill you up to overflowing with His joy, which is your strength!