This past weekend was the ACUI Region 1 2013 Conference at Wesleyan University in CT. As usual, it was a great experience, and it is hard to keep saying that I felt like I was with a large extended family and feel like I’ll be taken seriously, but honestly, that is what these weekends feel like, which is why I always go ACUI.
I wrote recently about passion and student affairs, and then, Sunday, during our keynote talk from Hannah Brencher (who is amazinggggggggggg), I tweeted this portion from her talk:
Passion’s root word in Latin means to suffer. We overuse that word and cheapen the sentiment that is within us. #acuir1
— Joel Pettigrew (@therealjoelp) November 17, 2013
I did not know this prior to Hannah’s talk, and I think it puts the discussion about buzzwords into another lens, especially passion. I wrote previously that student affairs is not a passion of mine, and with this new context, I maintain that sentiment. I have a passion for the strategy and work around event planning, because the challenge of that in particular causes frustration and stress that I enjoy.
The ‘suffering’ that is caused by student affairs does not match the ‘suffering’ that I feel is worth enough to call something a passion of mine, but I think it does inform other aspects of discussions our field loves to have, things like work/life balance (which I have also railed against in previous posts).
We enjoy what we do, and what we do causes us stress, and we need to get rid of that stress somehow. That’s why we encourage taking off every now and then for a mental relaxation day, not coming in until 11am if you were on campus late the night before, and finding a work environment that is comfortable and enjoyable (the old You are interviewing them while They interview You phrase we throw out during a job search). It’s why we encourage figuring out some sort of hobby (team trivia at a local pub, drawing classes, etc.), it’s why we talk about things we enjoy over the water cooler (soccer, the new Thor movie and how Chris Hemsworth needs less chest clothing, etc.).
This isn’t a balance thing, this isn’t a passion thing… this is a responding well to stress and ‘suffering’ thing. Things get wrapped up and bogged down in buzzwords like work/life balance and passion, when really our focus should be on enjoying the things we do, giving ourselves time and patience to figure stuff out… basically, as Hannah Brencher encourages in her talks and her organizational work, we have to be ready and willing to write a love letter to ourselves and to be the comma.
Hannah introduced us to the call of writing our life stories with a comma, punctuation that does not stop the train or cast doubt on our path, but encourages us to keep careening forward to explore more ideas and find new paths. I don’t think I stopped smiling during that whole segment of her talk, because I think it encapsulates well the ideal of continuing on in your own way. Each person is going to have their own pace, their own limits, their own ways of getting things done, and so each of us needs to write our own story with as many commas as we can handle. Some folks need to break things up into paragraphs, while others are able to rely on run-on sentences. As long as you are true to yourself and your community, and you are working on making the world a better place than when you arrived, then I think your story is going to be A-OK.
This post ended up being much more touchy feely than I anticipated. Meh.