Embracing the Single Life.

*snaps*

I’ve got a confession to make-I’ve never ever ever been comfortable with being single.

I’ve been single for my entire life, but I have always hated it. (Well, hate’s a strong word I guess…regardless). I’ve always wanted to be in a relationship, wanted someone to share this life with. I’ve been so impatient, believing that someone’s going to come around the corner one day and then I’ll be able to say Oh, there you are.  Here’s the thing: I’m afraid of being alone for the rest of my life. Not many people have really shown an interest in being with me, and that has contributed to my fear. I can honestly say it is the thing that worries me the most…because I’ve done the single thing for my entire life and I’ve never been satisfied by it. To face an entire lifetime of it FREAKS ME OUT. I know that there’s more. I know that I have so much love to give. I just don’t know why no one wants it.

This fear started very young. Every single place I’ve ever gone, I think “Oh, maybe I’ll meet someone there.” It doesn’t matter where it was-the mall, the grocery store, even church camp-I found myself fantasizing that I would meet someone and I’d live happily ever after. What a crock. Not the fact that that happens, but the fact that I literally would fantasize about it every. single. time.

Name the dating site, and I’ve tried it. I’ve gotten NOTHING. NADA. Well, I actually shouldn’t say “nothing”. I got one date with someone who I was not very attracted to, but wanted to give a shot because hey, he was willing and he seemed nice. The most recent try has frustrated me to no end. I feel like most of the people I come into contact want one thing and one thing only…and that’s not something that I am going to give them right away. I want romance. I want to be wooed, for God’s sake. Are there no men who want that as well?!

Do I have too high of standards? No, I don’t think so. I think the man that I want and need in my life is out there…just not anywhere around me apparently. I used to be afraid that no one would want me because of the way that I look, and sometimes I still think it turns some guys away, but I think that everyone has their “thing” that they’re not attracted to, and I can’t fault people for that. I can fault them for not being open-minded enough, but anyway.  Am I too independent? I mean, here’s the thing: when I show interest in someone, it’s not because I need them, it’s because I WANT them. I haven’t necessarily said that aloud to anyone, but do I give off the vibe of not needing anyone? Is that turning people away? I’m not sure.

So why does this all matter? I mean, I know that I can be happy being single. I am the happiest I’ve ever been right now. I’ve done so much growing over the past three years. I’m more confident, more sure of myself, and I’ve done things I never thought I could do. I’ve been able to travel a lot, and discovered I love it. Living by myself has been a really great experience, and I’ve learned to depend on me. I freaking packed up and moved my life to Virginia for two years, for goodness sake. I would have never been able to do that had I been in a relationship-or it would have made my relationship ten times harder if I had been. Actually, it was one of the reasons why I decided to go to Virginia: besides family and friends I had nothing holding me back, so why not take the opportunity?

Even though I’m so grateful for everything I have in my life right now, and I know that I am so incredibly lucky to be where I am, something still feels like it’s missing. I don’t feel right, and I don’t feel whole. I’m not satisfied. I don’t want to believe it’s a relationship. I don’t want to think that I need a relationship in my life to feel complete. I know that in order for any relationship to work I need to be complete and whole first. But something feels just off-kilter for me right now. I want to fill the hole…I just don’t know what will fill it.

Therefore, I have decided to stop disliking my single-ness and just embrace it. I don’t think I’ve ever really done that before-as much as I want to believe I have, I know it’s not true. I’ve constantly looked for a relationship, or I’ve thought about being in a relationship, or planned for what I want my future relationship to look like, or thought about why I’m not in a relationship yet. I will say that I have adjusted to being single-moving to a new place with no one else I knew around me forced me to get used to doing things alone. I’m now comfortable shopping, eating in restaurants, and even taking mini-vacations by myself-and I know not many people can say that.  But I don’t think I ever fully enjoyed it-I always wished I didn’t have to be or wondered what other people thought about me while doing those things.  I just need to become more comfortable with my single-ness and truly enjoy it, and not worry about being single. I tell people all the time-“You’re still so young! You’ll find someone!” But I have never told that to myself-partially because I never believed I would. But I know that someone is out there who will be everything that I want…yet perhaps I’m not quite ready for it yet. It could have to do with this discomfort I’m feeling. I may think I’m ready for a relationship, but maybe I still have more work to do. Maybe that’s what Life is trying to tell me. So you know what, Life? I’m going to listen.

I’m making a commitment to not focus on relationships or dating, and just focus on me and myself. I will probably still feel lonely sometimes. I will probably still wish that I had someone next to me. But I’m not going to hone in on those feelings. I’m going to feel them and let them pass-because I have a different focus right now. And who knows-a lot of people say love happens when you’re not looking. Well, I won’t be looking-but it’s not the reason why I’m not looking. I need to figure out what will satisfy me, and become my own person without wondering who I’d be in a relationship. And maybe in embracing my singleness I’ll find I’m truly and finally ready to enter into a relationship-but at the end of all this if I’m not, I also need to know that I’ll be okay.

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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!

One word: Confidence

I want to feel brave enough to do anything I put my mind to!

Recently I came upon the “One Word” Movement. I was reading through some old documents and saw that the building I’m currently running had decided to do this as a staff. Essentially people who choose to do this will pick one word that they want to live up to for the entire year…kind of like a New Year’s resolution, only more manageable. I found this a profound idea, and from the documents I was reading it seemed like the students and staff really took to it. Not only that, but they said it helped them set goals and they actually saw a real improvement in themselves.
Then, yesterday, I read this article that essentially stated the same thing, with a twist-a man decided to change his password to something he wanted to accomplish-forgiving his ex-wife. He found it very healing, very cathartic, and over time he began to set goals for himself by changing his password. It was a reminder every day to do the things he wanted to do-and he found these one word phrases to be very powerful in his life. To anyone who says words can’t hurt or do nothing, I beg to differ. But anywho…
I’ve decided to join the movement. What better time than my first professional job than to come up with a “New Year’s Resolution” of sorts? And so, for me, my word is going to be one of the things I find to be the hardest: confidence.
It’s hard to say when my struggle with self-acceptance began, but I think it started when I was young. I’d always been chubby, and my family has always been very body-conscious. I’ve struggled with that my whole life. Then to top that off, my brother and I are 14 months apart, with me being the elder. He did well in school while I struggled. He was athletic while I was more creative and musically inclined. Even though it was unintentional (or at least I hope it was), there was definitely some competition and rivalry between us. I think it’s these factors that made me self-conscious. I just wanted to be accepted and loved by everyone…and I still do. It was a hard thing for me to realize that no matter how nice I am, no matter how well I sing, no matter how I look, no matter how much I try to make other people happy, not everyone is going to like me. However, that didn’t stop me from trying. It got to this really unhealthy point where I realized I was only doing things because other people told me to, not because I truly enjoyed them. That’s when I started doing things for me.
It has been a rocky road. I almost didn’t go to grad school. I had trouble finding an assistantship, and then when I did I was lonely. But I grew. I grew so much that I was honored as the Graduate Assistant of the Year. Then the job search struggles happened. I learned to just be myself and that it wasn’t always about me, it was about fit. That was hard, wondering if I fit somewhere that I really liked. But eventually I’ve found my new job, and like my last post mentioned, I’m unbelievably happy. But I still struggle with confidence, and wondering if other people like me.
The thing is, I know that they loved me here and that’s why they hired me. They believed I would fit in with the other people and that I would make a great addition to the team. I am going to try my best and my hardest to make sure that I am a great addition, but I also need to believe that I already am. I have what it takes. I’ve got skills. I’m competent. I can do this. As for other people liking me…well, if they don’t, at least they respect me. Again, not everyone is going to like you. People naturally bond with other people. But I’m here to do a job, and as long as I have my colleague’s trust and respect, that’s all I need.
So my word for this year is “confidence”. Every time I feel unworthy, I’m going to think this word. Every time I question a decision, I’ll remember to trust myself and my abilities. Every time I feel like I’m feeling vulnerable, I’m going to remember to be confident. And in the end, I hope I really will feel confidence in myself without having to try. I want it to come naturally. I believe in the power of one word, and I welcome the changes this word will bring.

The Importance of Being Happy

As previously mentioned in this blog, I had a really hard time adjusting to my last institution. It took me a long time before I felt comfortable there. But, also like I mentioned, I learned a lot. I grew. I now understand what I do and do not want in an institution where I work.

Recently, I was hired at a new institution. I was anticipating a similar transition. However, to my surprise and delight, it has been smoother and better than I could have imagined. I feel at home here. I’m excited to be here. I am looking forward to all of the different possibilities this institution has to offer. And, I have good work life balance for the first time in what feels like a very long time.

I’m so happy.

It could be because I have been so stressed out for so long. Trying to graduate on top of completing my assistantship, my internship, and job searching was absolutely exhausting. To finally be settled into a professional position where just a few months ago I was wondering if I would even have one is a relief. But, truly, it doesn’t matter why I’m happy. It’s just great to know that I am and feel it.

Ever since I’ve arrived here, I have felt confident, self-assured, and feel like I belong. I have noticed that I am more productive, more willing to go out of my way to do different things, more willing to jump into different aspects of the position. I have already begun to see the benefits of doing so, and I feel like it’s because I’m truly and utterly happy.

Imagine what we could all do if we were happy most of the time. It’s unrealistic to think that I’m always going to feel this way-there will be hard times, and I will face challenges. However, I feel like if we capitalize on the times that we are happy, we will be able to navigate the difficult times easily. I don’t need to be happy 24/7 but when I’m in a good mood, watch out world! I feel as though a lot of times in this field, we capitalize on the things we are doing wrong, and the things that are going badly. We are a very reactive field. My top Strength from StrengthsQuest is Positivity which means that even when bad things are going on or something happens, I try to look for the positive angle and see what needs to be improved from there. I think I need to learn how to better use this strength so that I can channel my “happy energy” like I’ve been doing this week!

Making Choices as a Female in Higher Education

Recently I’ve been recieved pressure from my father to get my PhD. And honestly, he started talking to me about it on my graduation weekend. I hadn’t even gone to the ceremony yet! It has just got me thinking about the difficulty of making choices for females in higher education. I’ve been reading a lot of great books over the past year that talk about the struggles that only females face, and about how we plan out our lives before they even happen. We want to get married and have kids, so we don’t necessarily take all the leaps and jumps that we could or should. I’m proud of myself that so far I haven’t limited myself to anything. I’ve done what I wanted when I wanted to. But will I do that in my future? Should I be considering my PhD?
In a way, I’m glad my dad is pushing me to go above and beyond. He has told me before that he didn’t think I’d do so well in school…which honestly is a little bit of an insult, but I guess it’s a product of the world he grew up in, and the fact that I was a little flighty and dreamy when I was younger. But I also think my father has realized that women are still treated differently, and in order for me to progress and excel in my field, he believes a doctorate is necessary. I don’t really agree with him, since it will depend on where I want to go in higher ed. Yet, I can see his point.
It should feel like a choice, not a sacrifice or that I’m being forced into it. Females shouldn’t feel like martyrs for the sake of our careers. I shouldn’t have to “wait” for a perfect time to do anything-if I want to do it I should be able to. These are things that I have to think about that my male counterparts may not.
I don’t know what my career is going to be like. All I know and all I can hope for is that when the time comes to make any decision, I will be supported and encouraged by everyone…including my father.