To Make You Feel My Love: This Generation, Love, and Marriage

Let me just start this blog post by stating two things:

1- I am an eternal optimist. I can’t help it. It seems to be engrained in me…I always look on the bright side.

2-I believe in love. Even though I’ve never been in love myself, I have seen others in love. I have seen it work, I’ve seen the magic. I’ve got a taste of it, and I want it for myself.

So I’ve been pretty disappointed by some of the articles I’ve seen floating around the interwebs lately that state that this generation, my generation, is incapable of being in love and being happily married. These articles claim that this generation is too focused on bettering themselves, and that we prefer instant gratification due to the technological age. These articles claim that the “dating” culture has ruined us, and we’re far too selfish. One article that I read outright says “Most of us are really bad at loving”, as a reason.

I’m sorry, but that’s RIDICULOUS.

I guess I’m lucky in that I get to see love in action every day. It’s not romantic love (most of the time), but it leads me to believe that this generation is as capable as every other generation of loving each other.

I see students hold doors open for one another.

I see people pull together to contribute to their community and to give back to others.

I see Resident Assistants help a staff member in need.

I see community, students hanging out in lounges, laughing and talking with one another.

I’ve seen organizations reach out to a member who is hurting and offer their support.

I see relationships and bonds form every day, without the use of technology (or sometimes using it to add to the relationship).

I think that these things that I am able to witness prove that this generation will be just fine when it comes to love and marrige.

Do we as a generation sometimes get caught up in our technology? Sure, we do. Nothing makes me feel worse than when I see a group of individuals out together…on their phones. And yes, we have become accustomed to instant gratification. And I will be the first to admit that dating with the technology we have today is…interesting. But is this generation incapable of love and marriage? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

We’re not the first generation to be considered “selfish”. We’re not the first generation to be admonished for “dating around.” And we are certainly not the first generation to encounter drugs and alcohol or money problems. I think the issue today is that these problems are magnified for us. Technology makes it capable to see things that happen around the world. These issues that we face are NOT new…they’re just different for us and broadcasted in a different way. There are certain obstacles that we have to face that are different from what generations before us had to deal with…but hasn’t that happened with every other generation?

And PS…who says that we NEED to be in love or married to be fulfilled? The tone of the articles that I’ve read have stated something along the lines of “It’s great that we’re all independent, but it means nothing without someone to love.” I think that is ridiculous as well. I may have never been “in love”, but I have known more love in my life than I deserve. I have family and friends who show me grace and kindness every single day. I have students, staff, coworkers, and colleagues that I know I will never forget and never stop caring about. Even if I never get married or fall in love (even though I want to), I’m more than okay because I have love in my life and a career that is fulfilling and I know that I make a difference.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that those articles don’t give our generation enough credit. Love exists in many forms…it’s just up to us to recognize it and appreciate it for what it is. And if we do fall in love and get married, it’s on us to cultivate that love and care for it. It’s definitely hard, scary, and not easy. But I think we can do it, because I see it happen every day, and I haven’t written off our generation just yet.

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Yakkity Yak: Talking Back

Professional conferences leave me feeling so refreshed and reenergized. I recently attended NASPA in New Orleans, and I had a great time. I’d never been to NOLA and so I enjoyed exploring the city as well as attended some great sessions on important topics. It was during some down time that I decided to look at Yik Yak to see what the content was like in a different place. That is when I saw all of the controversial Yaks that so many of us in the field have been talking about.

Initially, I was appalled. People who I consider colleagues were talking openly about their judgements on the appearance of others, about how they wanted a “conference hook-up”, and how they were partying on Bourbon street. In my mind, conferences are a chance to learn new things about our field and better myself professionally by networking and bringing ideas and suggestions back to my campus. I don’t know if it’s my status as a new professional or my naievete, but I was shocked to think that some professionals go to conferences for other, maybe not-so-professional reasons. A lot of the things I saw certainly did not align with my values, and so I began to wonder why people were posting these things that they knew would be controversial.

And then the responses to the Yaks came pouring in. As a new professional, I was offended (and still am, as I recently saw another response that said this) that so many people seemed to think that these Yaks were solely coming from grad students or new professionals. I read many responses from mid-levels and up responding directly to the Yaks…who went on the app themselves. I know many mid-level professionals who use Yik Yak on their campuses…and so I would hesitate to think that it was JUST new professionals and grad students who were posting. And apparently (as some of the Yaks stated) the behavior being discussed is not a new thing at conferences. If it WAS all new professionals posting at the conference…where did they learn that the behavior was acceptable? I feel as though a lot of people responding were hesitating to take some responsibility…

Which leads me to the next point many people were bringing up. A lot of people discussed how Yik Yak is a safe place for people to voice their opinions without being judged for them, and that the larger picture is that there is some discontent within our field. I know personally I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be “professional” lately. We have professional standards for our field, ranging from everything to behavior to dress to how we interact with our students and others. Are there some parts of our standards that  marginalize people? Who set the standards for professional dress? Are our standards stifling people? Are they outdated? There have been a lot of conversations about this type of thing on #sachat, and a lot of people believe that standards need to change. Perhaps they are right. But I just wonder if using Yik Yak was the best way to voice that discontent. We may never know who posted those things and why…and that’s a shame. It was a chance to start a conversation…and that chance has been lost to those who posted.

And then ther’s another small part of me that thinks that people knew those posts were going to get some type of reaction, and were doing it just for that. Maybe these people wanted to bring to light some of the hypocritical behavior that professionals engage in at conferences. We teach our students about healthy drinking habits and objectifying others and safe sex practices…but it would seem that some choose to forgo this during conferences. By posting it, some people could be saying “What we’re doing and what we’re saying are two completely different things.”

All I know is that, admist the controversy it caused, the conversations that have stemmed from this incident are fascinating and pose some overall larger questions about how we want to act and be portrayed as student affairs professionals. Some people have said this behavior needs to stop while others say it’s a chance for us to change. I think we need to look more closely about what “being professional” exactly is, how it affects us, and how we can hold each other accountable for that even admist professional standards.

Fat is not an insult-it’s who I am. And I am worthy.

Today I came across an article called My Boyfriend Loves Fat Women. It really struck a chord with me. I have felt so many of the feelings that the author has felt. One of the quotes really got to me:

 As a fat woman, I have been taught that there is an order of operations for love: First, you get thin; then, you can date who you want. Until you do the first thing, the second thing is impossible.

Until recently, as in, like, two years ago, I was truly unaware that people could be attracted to fat people. Really. I have heard for my entire life that fat people are not deserving of love, that I would never find love unless I became less fat, and that no one could ever be attracted to a fat person. Therefore, I have walked around for 23 years on this Earth thinking that I needed to be something different because no one would ever want me. Jeez. No wonder I’ve struggled with my self-confidence.

In this article, the author describes a similar situation. She thinks that by winning the affections of someone who is, shall we say, NOT fat, that she has beaten the system. She has overcome. She even states, “In my mind, I had done the impossible.” Suddenly I realized: it’s not just me. Other fat people have felt the exact same way that I have: that we are not capable of finding love because that is the message that we have always been told.

How TERRIBLE. Shame on us. And I say “us” because I do fall into that category myself. I have told myself that. I have had thoughts about fat people myself. I have judged before I have known what was going on. I am a contributor to this problem.

I have begun to surround myself with more body-positive and fat-positive images. I have recently begun following EffYourBeautyStandards on Instagram and have become an admirerer of Tess Munster. Tess runs the site, and, as you may have heard, has become the first plus-sized model to be signed to a major agency. One of the things that Tess has to clarify over and over again is that she is healthy. She works out with a trainer and eats healthily. She just so happens to be plus-sized. And she has SO much confidence. She’s gotten a lot of backlash because people believe that having plus-sized role models “glorify obesity.” Newsflash: FAT PEOPLE CAN BE HEALTHY. Shocking, I know. But one of the lies that society spreads is that fat people are always unhealthy and that it is not good to be fat. In fact, a lot of people believe it is the WORST thing to be fat. Everyone is always afraid of it. I can’t tell you how many times a day I hear “I ate this today. I am gonna be so fat.” or “Ew, gross. I feel so fat today.” or “I’m gonna be fat and eat all of this!”

I always struggle with what to say to these comments. First of all, many people who say this are not fat. Second of all, it’s like people are subtly saying “Fat is bad and I don’t want to be it, but I’ll continue to act this way because I know I’m not actually fat.” How insulting to people who actually are fat. Because let me tell you from experience: I can do all the right things, eat right and exercise and blah blah blah, and at the end of the day I will STILL be fat. It’s just me. Could I work to become more healthy in my daily habits? Absolutely. And I know I do need to work on it. But I know I won’t ever be a “skinny” person. And that doesn’t mean that I won’t be healthy. Nothing is guarunteed when it comes to health. Someone who could be considered healthy just by their appearance can suffer from heart attacks. Like so many other things, you cannot base how someone is just by how they look. And yet, we continue to do that with fat people AND tell them that they’re disgusting, lazy, and worthless. This is not okay.

It’s made me think a lot about my work in student affairs and how I’ve let this affect my life. I’ve spent far too many years thinking I’m not good enough. This has definitely translated into my work. I’m always afraid that people don’t like me, that my words and ideas don’t matter. On my worst days, I think I’m going to be fired over nothing. Part of that is because I really want to do my best, but part of that is also because I’ve always believed my best is not okay. Sometimes I think people don’t think I’m capable, that I can’t handle certain things. I fear that my colleagues think I’m not a good role model for students. I wonder if students whom I discipline or who don’t like me call me “fat” behind my back because to them, it’s an insult with a capital I. And I feel for the students who are overweight, and I wonder what they go through on a day-to-day basis and if it’s anything like what I’ve gone through.

So many of us in this field have made a commitment to being healthy. And that is wonderful. But with that, we also need to make a commitment to destroy the stigmas of health and fitness-one of them being that fat people absolutely cannot be healthy. If people want to lose weight, they should do it because they want to, not because they feel they have to in order to be able to fit in or be considered worth something. And we should also be open to considering the fact that fat people could potentially actually be healthy despite their size. We should make health more personal. It is a person’s own business of whether or not they are healthy-we shouldn’t be telling other people they need to do this or that in order to be healthier. You can say and share what you’re doing, sure. But no one should be shaming anyone into being what they consider to be healthy. And for the LOVE of ALL that is good-please stop using “fat” as an insult, even towards yourself. By doing this, you are telling people who are fat that they are themselves an insult. You therefore cannot fully help your students that are fat, because you believe that they have something wrong with them. They may have NOTHING wrong with them. It’s not for you to judge.

As for me, I will no longer continue to believe that I am not worthy of love, and that no one will ever be attracted to me. I know this is not true. I will continue to work on my confidence. I love my job, and I’m good at it. And I will work towards achieving justice and equality for my students of every shape, size, and color, because we all deserve to believe we have a place in this world.

 

Judgments and the Job Search

I recently had the opportunity to present to undergraduates, graduate students, and new professionals at a conference. My presentation was about the job search and little tips and tricks I learned along the way. One of those things was regarding professional dress.

“Does anyone follow #SAChat on Twitter?” I asked. A few people raised their hands. “This has been a really hot topic lately.” .

“Here’s the thing: you are going to be judged based on your appearance during your job search. Is that right or fair? I don’t know. But it’s going to happen. So you really need to put some thought and effort into how you are going to present yourself. My suggestion would be to get a second opinon. I’m all for expressing yourself and feeling comfortable in what you’re wearing, but I would think about what outfits you want to wear prior to the conference and ask a colleague or mentor what their opinion is.”

A little while later, I could see some raised eyebrows in the room when I talked about color choices. “My mentor told me that for an initial interview, don’t wear red. Red is bold and bright, sure, but some people could see it as agressive subconsciously. That would be a more appropriate color to wear at a second interview.”

Honestly? It sucks that I had to say all of that. But after a lifetime of being judged based off of my appearance, it’s a fact that I’ve come to know pretty well.

PEOPLE JUDGE.

And honestly, it’s not all our fault. We are hardwired to recognize things about other people because, way back in the day (like caveman times), humans had to make split second decisions about whether or not someone or something was safe based on their appearance. And unfortunately, we still do it today. But, that doesn’t mean we necessarily have to follow through with what we initially think about people. I know that, because of my body type, people may initially look at me and think that I am lazy and do not care about my appearance. My hope is that, while people may think that at first, they get to know me and see that it is not the case at all. I work extremely hard for what I have, and I know that I am beautiful and a really good person. My other hope is that soon our profession will be able to judge not on appearance but also in quality of work as well.

The reason I told that to the attendees at the conference is because I want them to do the best they possibly can in their job search. As it stands right now, I do not think that the Student Affairs profession is ready to look past the way people present themselves as an initial judgement of whether or not they want to hire candidates. But you can bet that I will be challenging those who judge potential candidates based on how they present themselves. And slowly but surely, maybe we can change this culture around. It starts with us!

25 Things I’ve Learned in 25 years

Today is my birthday! I had such a great day. It made me realize I truly am in the right place and in the right time.

I read an article yesterday that was supposed to describe “The 25 Things You Should Know Before You’re 25” or something. Some rang true…but some did not. Therefore in celebration of being on the Earth for a quarter of a century I decided to share some of the lessons and things I’ve learned in 25 years.
1. Growing up is no fun.
2. What other people think shouldn’t matter so much.
3. Funerals are not for the dead, they’re for the living.
4. There’s no way you can know what you want to do with your life when you’re 8. Or 12. Or 16. Or 19. Some people do, and that’s great. But you have to explore some options first!
5. It’s really fun to surprise people…when you do something no one ever expected you to do.
6. People can also surprise you. Be open to them.
7. It’s okay to ask for help.
8.  Some people have to work harder for things than others. Doesn’t make you any less smart or worthy.
9. Change is actually…good.
10. People usually show their true colors if you give them enough time.
11. It’s actually a good thing to be single. Don’t have all those embarrassing memories of the people you dated in middle school or high school. And heck, I’ve learned so much about myself by being single. Living by yourself is INTERESTING, to say the least.
12. Sometimes your greatest friends are the people you’d least expect.
13. And sometimes the people you thought were your greatest friends turn out to be not so great. But they teach you lessons.
14. True love is letting someone go, and wanting someone to be happy regardless of what it means for you.
15. Going to see a counselor is not a bad thing.
16. Everyone makes mistakes. Even…shocker…your parents.
17. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and go with what you believe in.
18. Everything happens for a reason.
19. Starting over is the scariest thing, and the hardest…but it’s so rewarding.
20. The people who put on the biggest “acts” are sometimes the people who need you the most. (Ex. I’m so cool, I’m so macho, etc.)
21. People just want to be listened to, and want their voice to be heard.
22. You can’t control other people’s actions. The only thing you can control is how you respond to them. And people can only go off the information that they know.
23. Most misunderstandings come from miscommunications.
24. NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU. NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU. I REPEAT, NOT EVERYONE IS GOING TO LIKE YOU.
25. Believe in yourself. Because sometimes all you have is you, and if you don’t think you’re enough, that you’re worthy, then no one else will.

The Developer in Me

Recently at a RA In-Service, we began talking about our Strengths (based on StrengthsQuest).  We broke out into our staff groups and were asked to share with each other the Strength that you really identify with.

My Strengths, in order, are Positivity, Empathy, Developer, Includer, and Consistency. When I first took the test two years ago I thought…okay, this makes sense. I’m definitely an optimist, and I love making others happy. Empathy and Includer relate to my love for people and my passion for treating them all the same, which also fits in with Consistency. But I did not really know what Developer meant. Once I read the description and looked back on my career, I thought, wow. This is really cool. It is the Strength that I have grown to admire the most about myself.

My StrengthsReport reads:

“People who are especially talented in the Developer theme recognize and cultivate the potential in others. They spot the signs of each small improvement and derive satisfaction from these improvements.”

I feel as though this is the reason why I’ve gone into Higher Ed and why I love it so much. I can see what my students can be before they even realize it, and sometimes they just need a little push in the right direction. I love being able to say I was the one who helped a student realize their true path, since I admire and appreciate those who have helped me in my path. I love helping students figure out what they’re meant to be. My StrengthsReport also says that I enjoy when my words of encouragement push other people to excel. This is so me, to a “T”.

The only problem with having the Developer skill is that I place the needs of others ahead of my own way too often. My report states: “By nature, you sometimes throw yourself into your work even when you are personally inconvenienced.” It is, unfortunately, very true. I sometimes feel like I’m not doing my job if I don’t go out of my way to help a student. However, it’s important for me to realize that A) I can’t help everyone and B) I need to take more time to myself and not devote so much time to others. I love helping people, but I should not be willing to put my own health and sanity at risk for them. For me, there is just no better feeling than knowing I’ve helped someone…but I should realize that I can’t help others if I’m not in a good enough place or if I’m not helping myself.

A few days ago I recieved a message from one of my former RAs asking for help in her graduate school search. I was thrilled that she reached out to me and was happy to provide her with information. She then posting a status on Facebook thanking me and our former supervisor for helping her. It’s situations like that that absolutely make this job worth it. The fact that I can keep connections with former students and am able to help them even while living on opposite ends of the country makes me the happiest I have ever felt. It’s just the Developer in me.

 

“The Power of Vulnerability”-A guide to “Wholehearted Living”, and Confidence

Almost as soon as I published my last post…I began to struggle with my one word: confidence. Ironically I began to feel less confident. We were going through professional staff training and some of the sessions were really hard for me. I began to question whether I was good enough to be doing my job. I was frustrated and wondered why it was so hard for me to let my guard down. I thought about how I could be more confident. But still the thought of “I’m not good enough” kept running through my mind.

Surprisingly it ended up being a theme within our staff, and so our supervisors decided to show us the video above. Everything began to make sense.

I hate being vulnerable. I feel like because I am a woman, because I am young, and because I have a different body type, I already feel like I’m more suseptible to vulnerability. As mentioned in previous posts, I have never felt very confident. I think because of this, I have a hard time initially making connections with people. It’s funny because I’m an extrovert and I love people, but it is the hardest thing for me to let new people in and for me to trust them. In addition, I cannot stand crying in public. Even though it’s a natural thing, I feel like I’m showing others that I’m weak, that I can’t be strong, and that I am not capable of handling myself.

Brene Brown talks about how people who were living “wholeheartedly” embraced their vulnerability. They saw it as something that is necessary in life, “the way to live is with vulnerability”. And after viewing this, I understand now that vulnerability and confidence are connected.

I can’t have “confidence” as my one word unless I embrace my vulnerability, until I realize that I am worthy, that I am capable, and that I need to show others who I really am. This means showing my feelings. This means telling people about who I really am. This means that I need to let my guard down and let people in.

Now, as a supervisor and working in Residence Life, I’ll need to be a different kind of vulnerable. Some things are not appropriate to share with staff members or with residents. However, if I make a mistake I need to own it. If I’m struggling with something that affects my work life, I need to make others aware. I need to role model how to properly and healthily deal with emotions, and not make myself numb in order to look strong or capable. I need to ask for help and input. But I also need to believe that I was hired for a reason and that I am capable of doing this job and that I am worthy of everything I’m achieving. I need to put myself out there.

So now, the “One Word” movement has another, additional step for me-but that’s okay. I believe everything happens for a reason, and so I needed to see this video in order to fully be able to be and think confidence. And if I can both embrace vulnerability and be confident, I think I will be a better individual, professional, and citizen of the world.