I missed #sachat yesterday, one in which I intended to participate after our staff Halloween Party, simply because of the headline: “Is Passion a dirty word in Student Affairs?” How could I resist participating in a #sachat that snarks itself with buzzwords?
I got into the buzzword snark a bit earlier this week in the #satech chat about disruption, which is a current buzzword in the student affairs world (disrupt the ivory tower with world-saving moocs, disrupt the residential campus because MOOCzilla is gonna change everything, disrupt your normal office routine by getting a stand up desk, disrupt innovation by disrupting disruption while doing a hack to achieve work/life balance because passion).
Just like Reddit kills memes, I feel like Student Affairs loves to obsess over and kill words that have value but become surface level buzzwords. A prime example is work/life balance, which I think got touched on yesterday during the chat, where we spend so much time debating what work/life balance is and how we should make it happen. We don’t talk about often enough that work is part of life, that there is no / there, its more like LI (work, family, friends, video games, Red Sox, etc) FE. There isn’t a balance, there is just figuring out how to make your life as awesome as possible, and each of those little factors contributes to that, but work is not separate from your personal life, because there isn’t a Work Joel and a Personal Joel, I’m one and the same, and I would hope that everyone else tries to do the same.
Passion is another one of those situations where we get distracted by the surface level ideas and details rather than getting deep down into the actual meaning, because it is a buzzword for our (every?) field.
The thing about passion that I’ve never gotten though is I don’t have a passion for student affairs. Yup, I’ll say it, I don’t have a passion for student affairs. When people ask me about what I’m passionate about, in whatever context, my answer may contain: collecting soccer scarves, Guinness, strategizing the politics and intricacies of making large, complex events occur, food, among others. I was also passionate about The Matrix for a week my first summer in Japan, when I watched it twice a day.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I like my job, I like the college union idea, I love ACUI, and I love event planning. I also really like my students that I work with, because I get to develop close bonds with them over the semesters. But, honestly, I could do event planning for the city, for a museum, by myself, with other adulty people, with high schoolers, with 60yr old Irish immigrants, with green eggs and ham. But, I can’t say I’m passionate about student affairs and be totally honest with you. I like it, because I wouldn’t stick with it and try to figure out ways to do it better if I didn’t enjoy myself.
But, when I see this picture on TexAgs for this week’s end zone designs:
and then I spend the next hour researching what the heck field I need to get a degree in so that at the end of my career, I’m the Fenway Park Field Operations Director, I cannot honestly say that I am passionate about student affairs. I like students affairs and it’s my job. And because it’s my job and I like it, I am going to give as much as I can to my students and my colleagues, because they deserve that and that’s my responsibility. But, I would be lying if I said my passion was to transform lives, transform higher education, etc. I just want to make it to that next event, and hope that all my work pans out into that high that I get when an event goes off without a hitch. Event Planning is my drug (that was a weird thought).
Getting back to my opening, but all too often it seems like being passionate about student affairs is a prerequisite for our institutions and our positions, which may or may not create a false notion of what we are really all about. Passion for me though is not going to determine my career, nor will it make me super extra better at my job. Passion gets too definitive sometimes, and other times it gets used the wrong way. All I want is for you to enjoy aspects of your job, and the things that suck and you don’t enjoy, express those feelings appropriately and get support and allies. That stuff, to me, doesn’t require a directly correlated passion. And, if someone were to say that they disliked student affairs but liked event planning/counseling/accounting/maintenance scheduling, I would believe them much more than a person who says they are passionate about student affairs.
Until then, I’m Dug from Up, and I don’t know you Assistant Director of Campus Activities position but I love you and…
I haven’t blogged in over two months because I’ve been in a very bad headspace about student affairs, higher education, and other things and I fear that if I blog, all that comes out way too much and I just start whining. I am whining. But that’s ok. I fear that my reputation will be just whining, and that the fun I’ve had in doing good things and planning neat events will be consumed by the whining, and I’ll never get a job again because my middle name will be Whiner (it’s Bryan btdubs). But that’s ok. I only snark tweeted student affairs hashtags three times this week. It’s a banner week in the Joel Whiner Pettigrew household.