All summer, I’ve been in a state of mentally realigning myself with a new role this academic year. I have a non-administrative role now but in a larger sense, I stepped down and away from something that wasn’t serving me and into the great unknown of re-making myself. I equate that with standing at the bottom of a waterfall, looking up and thinking “Great, time to get back up to where I started!” Great idea, but getting from one place to the other is daunting and counter-intuitive.
I realize that, in going back to what I love, it is helpful to put into words just what it is that I love as I make this uphill climb back to water where I want to be swimming. So, I thought I would compose a list of what I have loved about this trial-by-fire first week back in my “new” old role.
- I love being able to have someone stop in my office and be able to say, “Come in!” wholeheartedly, and mean it.
- I love being in a classroom with 26 diverse, young, smart, funny undergraduates who are willing to trust me just as I trust them to engage with me in a joint process of learning.
- I love eating lunch. Eating a real, healthy, calm lunch…not stuffing a granola bar in my mouth as I fly down the hall between meetings as a sorry excuse for lunch.
- I love that I was able to say “yes!” to a new opportunity that inspired me instead of feeling a pit of “I want to, but I can’t possibly…”
- I love that when something unforeseen came up on my research project team, I felt confident that it would be OK.
- I love that I have been able to meet people for coffee and lunch who are outside of my usual group and have given me interesting and challenging ways to think about my research and teaching.
- I love that I am laughing again, regularly and from my heart.
- I love that I bumped into a student on the campus quad and she excitedly told me about a new service project that she and her friend decided to do after our last night’s class. Hooray! I LOVE that.
- I love that I was able to retain the aforementioned student’s name after only one class, something I cannot do when my mind is racing on overdrive.
- I love that I had time to develop a placement and supervise a student in a community field placement where I myself invest my time and service with people that I love working with and an organization I am deeply committed to serving. Win-win-win.
- I love showing up to one of the field sites with the aforementioned student today and being able to work carrying food into the food pantry for 20 minutes without feeling like I needed to text an excuse about why I was late for a meeting. I could just be where I needed to be.
- I love it when people tell me I look happy, that “I’m back again” and that I can walk through the hallways and tell people good-morning.
- I love scouring the web and finding inspirational things to share with my students so that they begin to see diverse people and oppressed groups in new ways.
- I love it when a class ends and a student says, “Wow, that three hours went by so fast!”
- I love feeling like I am my authentic self as I move through all of my day.
- I love being able to devote time to this vocational work, and to my formation for new vocational roles that are emerging. I no longer feel “root-bound” in my container.
- I love that one week in, I can still see the surface of my desk (that may change, but it’s nice for now).
Final wrap up advice to my friends and readers: whenever you can, follow your heart. It is a beautiful thing to be able to invest yourself fully into work that you are called to do. It isn’t about the social advancement, or the paycheck, or someone telling you they really need you to be in a particular role. It is about following your heart and being willing to admit failure, to bow out gracefully (or even, not gracefully) in order to regain your footing. Sometimes we are not in a place where we can follow our heart, or at least not right away. Last year, that was how I felt. A wise mentor told me, “Sometimes you have to say yes to something you need to do, but don’t want to do. But, you are in control of how long you keep saying it.” So, when the time is right, be brave and be bold. Do what you love and small points of light will find you.