NEW SERIES: Higher Ed Plus-Back to School Supplies and Essentials!

Hello friends!

I’m excited to introduce a new series to this blog-Higher Ed Plus. Being plus-sized or fat within student affairs and higher education comes with its own unique set of challenges. Even though I’ve wrote about it a little on this blog, I realized I have a lot more to say on this topic. However, I realize I come with my own set of privileges being a white, able-bodied, cisgender, heterosexual, middle-class woman. I can only speak to my experience with all of that in mind. However, I think it would be great if I someday have contributors to this blog that come from different backgrounds to speak to their experience being plus-sized in the field. I think this is something that is not spoken about often enough, and we do a disservice to ourselves and to our students by being quiet about this issue.

But for now, I’m going to start this series with a Back to School haul of sorts, if you will.  Our Resident Assistants moved back in for training this week…the summer flew by! Therefore, this past Saturday was the last day I would be able to go clothes shopping before the semester started. I believe it’s time to amp up my wardrobe, and so I wanted to  get some things and be a little more prepared for my semester. However, as I will describe later, it proved to be VERY difficult, as per the usual, to find some things that I wanted.

But first, let’s start with the “wellness” items I bought.

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This year I know that I need to be more focused on my overall well-being. My work/life balance was a little out of place last year. I’ll talk more about this later but I’ve been slowly taking steps to ensure that I am in a good place to focus on that. So I stopped by Bath and Body Works, and they were having a sale on candles-$10 off! I smelled the Autumn Day one and I couldn’t resist, and candles actually help me relax. Next, I was running low on my body scrub and couldn’t find the one I love which is upsetting (it’s a summer scent though so I guess not surprising).  A Thousand Wishes is a really nice smelling scent and it can be used in all seasons. Next, I was also running low on the Stress Relief shower gel that I am in love with. They recently came out with new scents for Stress Relief, and I got the cedarwood and sage scent. I also bought two car air fresheners-one fall scented (Leaves) and the Stress Relief one (because hi, it’s August in Higher Ed). The Stress Relief one I put right in my car and it’s SO good.

Next I went to Lush. I have been wanting to try a bath bomb for a while, especially since I’ve taken to watching bath bomb demos on YouTube…don’t ask. I bought one that would be really relaxing and luxurious, so I bought one with cocoa butter in it. I’ll probably use it either right before or after opening.

Finally, not pictured here, I went to Sephora and got the sample pack of the Glam Glow Supermud mask. If you haven’t heard of Glam Glow before, you should really look it up. It’s a mask that pulls all of the dirt, oil, and impurities in your skin…and you can see it on your face as it dries. Some people may find that gross, but I find it fascinating. It also works extremely well. After I use it, my pores are smaller and extremely clean, and my face feels so good. It’s not pictured because I put it on my face as soon as I got home, as I’d been sweating a lot lately and wanted to clean up my face.

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Next, I bought a whiteboard, some markers, and magnets. I wanted to create a vision board out of these items. I’ve created vision boards before, but nothing has seemed to stick. I wanted something that I’d be able to update and change easily if my vision changes. I believe this will help me be more focused on balance and wellness, and remind me of the things I want to accomplish this year.

 

 

 

 

But now, let’s get into the clothes.

torrid

Don’t mind my foot…

I picked a few things up from Torrid. They were having a really good sale, buy one get two free on Clearance items, but honestly I didn’t find anything. It was really disappointing, but I did find a couple of staple items that my wardrobe needs!

First of all, I bought a really colorful peach blazer. It’s so pretty and goes well with my skin tone. I bought the flowered tank top to match with it. I figure once I get some other jewelry I can also wear some solids with it, but for now the flowered top will do. I also got a jean jacket because I love the look of a maxi dress with jean jackets in the fall. Then I bought this really gorgeous purple chiffon top. It looks great under sweaters or just by itself. I was disappointed I couldn’t find anything in clearance and hated that I was about to pay full price, but the cashier took pity on me and used a code so that I got $50 off! BLESS YOU, AMAZING CASHIER.

I tried on a few pairs of pants, and I also wanted to find a skirt, but I wasn’t able to find anything. It was a little disappointing, but for some reason the styles that I tried did not fit me. However, this trend unfortunately continued.

lane bryant.jpgAt Lane Bryant, I found some items that I have been looking for since last year! I got a sports bra because I have recently joined the local YMCA. I also got a chambray shirt, and another gray blouse that could go with the peach blazer I bought. Again, I struck out with pants or skirts. I don’t know what’s going on! It could be the styles that I am trying in the stores but I know my size hasn’t changed because I have other pants the same size that still fit me. This is the struggle, not just with plus-size brands but with all brands. Sizes mean different things at different stores, or even within the same stores. It makes shopping that much more frustrating…especially for plus-size people. To make matters worse, everything is so expensive, especially for plus-size people looking to buy work-appropriate attire. There are not many plus-size brands that have business casual clothes either. I struggle a lot to find things, and I know I’m not the only one.

But, I know that I found a lot of great items and I’m excited to use and wear them all. I am still on the hunt for more pants/skirts, but will have to look online for them apparently…and I need to wait until I get paid again to shop some more.

If anyone wants the prices of anything I bought feel free to reach out! I kept all of the receipts.

If anyone would like to contribute to the Higher Ed Plus series, you can contact me on Twitter at @dani_a_johnson.

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.

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.

 

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.