My elementary school bully renamed me, “Gay Boy.”

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While my upbringing was drenched in a place of privilege and love, it was also one where I quickly learned the importance of navigating through the trenches of bullying.

At 30 years old, I am still navigating through these trenches.

Where I come from, “gay,” was a horrible thing. A curse. A sin. “A perversion,” some still argue. Needless to say, I resisted this reality for years, dodging any bullet which flew my way. And in addition to dodging metaphorical bullets, I also denied this reality by swearing up and down that I, Michael Anthony Goodman, was straight.

My elementary school bully disagreed. In fact, he never once referred to me as, “Michael.” Instead, “Gay Boy,” would become an identity. I accepted it.

And I avoided him at all cost.

My first encounter with homophobia appeared in fifth grade. From a social capital lens, I was a top tier elementary school attendee. Other kids copied my fashion (JNCO jeans), listened to my stories, and showed interest in the things I was interested in…everyone, expect my elementary school bully. My bully hated me. For two solid years, every time my bully saw me, he referred to me as, “Gay Boy,” pushing me into walls and imitating my, higher-pitched-though-not-yet-hit-puberty, stricken voice.

At some point, I even started to respond to this new identity. I was Gay Boy, no longer Michael Anthony Goodman, minus the “out gay” part, and in major fear of the repercussions of disagreeing with my bully. You didn’t disagree with your bully.

You couldn’t disagree with your bully.

You see, back in the day, there was something charming and rewarding about being a kid who had yet to hit puberty – no voice issues and no size issues. But when you hit puberty and one or both of these things had yet to change – all hell could break loose. And it did, on me. I avoided my bully at all cost, and made a conscious decision that I, Michael Anthony Goodman (or, “Gay Boy,” according to my bully), was not gay.

This moment still terrifies me today.

It terrifies me to remember the feelings of half-knowing who you are, yet half-knowing you couldn’t possibly be that. And my elementary school bully would not be the last bully I encountered through adolescence (and unfortunately, even adulthood). Just last night as I was heading home from dinner, and in preparation for the State of the Union, I watched a man drive through Logan Circle and shout, “FAGGOT,” at a guy who was trying to cross the street before the signal gave way.

Connections to our past (and our memories) are all around us.

On a cabinet behind my desk, I have a Post-It note that reads as follows:

Bullying has no place in our schools and communities.
Speak up for those who can’t.

This specific note was created for last year’s #DayOfSilence, however it was something that re-caught my eye last week as I walked into work. Furthermore, it’s something that has been on my mind as I continue to work in a world (specifically, the United States) and industry (education) where this kind of address is needed.

“Faggot”

“Fag”

“Gay Boy”

“Gay”

These words will not appear in an elementary school text book, however they existed as a giant part of my upbringing. Knowing the impact, how are these words still appearing in school environments across the country? Is this something we’re addressing? Of course, we can surmise multiple variations of how to answer these questions, however the truth remains as such:

Bullies continue to hold power over kids without. 

How does an 8-10 year old understand the idea that gay = insult? What example are you living for your kids, students, or communities? How do you approach bullying and oppression, from in-person to web-based violence? Are you even paying attention?

I’m reflecting on this part of my life journey today, as I was recently reminded of the power that bullying has over people. And in the spirit of living more authentic in 2016 and beyond, I am pushing myself to share more stories of who I am and how I’ve learned and developed. Here’s to all those gay boys out there (and gay boys-adjacent), just trying to evade their elementary school bully. March on.

Releasing, “Gay Boy,”

Michael

“The son who finds the courage to come out as who he is and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught.”
– President Barack Obama, 2016 State of the Union

Hundreds of thousands have now shared these sentiments online via social media. This son, who President Obama references, is all of us, in some way.

Do you have the courage to override everything you’ve been taught?

The Instagramification of 30

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“Michael, you seem really happy right now.”

“No, no. I mean, you actually seem really happy.”

“Are you really this happy?”

While I value happiness to be purely subjective, over the past two months and more times than I can count, friends and colleagues have contended that I am in one of the best states of wellbeing than they have ever seen in me.

“Michael, you seem really happy right now.”

At first, this was haunting.

And then it was sobering.

Should I be? Was I? According to whose standard? What is, “happy?”

As a skilled Instagram filter-user and twitter wordsmith, I chalked up initial concerns to be associated with the reality that social media and other tools for self-promotion (that’s all it really is, right?) reveal only what we want from them.

We control the keys, we sketch the answer, we move the dial.

Initial investigations lead me to believe that this all might actually be more than just a few Facebook posts and well-lit photos of my dinner. Perhaps, I was actually doing pretty well. Perhaps, I was, in fact, living in the murky waters of, “happy.”

What the hell happened to me? 

It was just one year ago that I was living in China, playing OneRepublic’s, “I Lived,” on repeat. I was begging for a sign that what I was doing and where I was living were more than just, “a wanderer wandering.” I was begging for a sign that ‘happy’ would come, and that it would be a seamless transition from the dissonance I was enduring. I was begging for an objective response to ‘happy.’ I was begging for a roadmap.

Alas, happiness is subjective.

It was a dear friend asking me the initial question yesterday that resulted in a bit of clarity around my conundrum.

“Michael, are you as happy as it seems?

Where does that come from?”

It was the second part of these questions that resonated with me most.

What had contributed to this change of pace?

According to Instagram, I love my new Fitbit. According to twitter, I’m moved by the Campbell Soup two-dads commercial. According to multiple platforms, I’m elated that fall is here. I love my community of friends in DC. I love food. Doughnuts on doughnuts on doughnuts. #NoFilter sunset. Photo of my super handsome partner.

These assertions are all so much more than a social media declaration. Each of these arguments ring very true for me – some just have a better filter than others.

So, what has contributed to this change of pace from the questioning and fluid state I was in just one year ago?

Instagram.

Okay, I’m kidding. It’s much deeper than that.

For starters, I found love. And I found it in the most striking of ways. While I’m not a perfect partner, I am learning to be loved even as a result of that lack of perfection. And this is absolutely okay. Accepting that I am not perfect (and may never be) is one of the biggest places of peace I have relished in as a young adult.

For years, I sold myself on the idea that if I worked really long hours and juggled dozens of tasks and to-do lists, someone would find me to be talented and successful and utterly appealing. This was not the case whatsoever.

I was left resentful and frustrated with the work I was doing, and in a lot of ways, I’m still surviving through this “ah-ha” moment. Instead, I have found joy in being present for my own life and the lives of others. Specifically, being around others who are living joyously or contributing to a joy-filled world is more important than a list of accolades or wins. This is my current win, and the unapologetic opportunity to be fully present is a new and exhilarating feeling.

While I valued being challenged at work, I assumed success to come in my personal life via the same method as I received as a professional. I lived in a space where I believed I had to always be facing some type of adversity. And then, beating it (whatever, “it,” might be for each journey). This was (is) exhausting.

I’m vowing to live a less exhausted life. And I hope you’ll do the same.

Finally, embracing 30 has informed much of my current outlook on life. A lot of people were actually nervous about this rite of passage for me. So much so, that before, “Happy Birthday,” sentiments, they inquired, “Are you okay?”

Making decisions for my person rather than my profession has become a new life mantra. I have come to realize that learning is not exclusively found in a classroom or office. Learning will happen in your personal life. Once we accept this reality, we are left with the opportunity to learn and grow.

Vulnerability is scary, but we’re all better because of it.

Whether it is the instagramification of 30… or 25… or just simply the instagramification of being happy, I challenge you to choose you. I implore you to be true to yourself in revealing how much or how little you need to be in your current here and now. “The only way upward is onward,” and all of that…

I’m thirty years old. How rad is that? I have a world of life and living to unearth, and in the times of good, bad, ugly, favorited, reblogged, and retweeted, I’m going to keep pausing on the good stuff, and breathing out the bad.

Will you do the same?

Here’s to something great…

Regramming,

Michael

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What kind of world do you want?

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”

I believe it was Malcom X who coined this provocative and relevant thought (and if my citation is inaccurate, I’m sure Malcom X said this at some point, while living this philosophy as his truth). And it’s so accurate, right?

I am obsessed with great content, and especially when that content assists in creating real and raw perspective. For example, when Kerry Washington accepted the Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Awards this past weekend. Pause and listen to her speech. This speech is incredibly valuable, and something which should be replayed over and over – there is a lot more we can be doing, and a lot more inclusion we should be observing. I’m curious to see how Kerry continues the dialogue.

Outside of this speech, and, of course, the previous posts I have used to articulate my thoughts on activism or the current reality in my home state of Oklahoma, I want to pause and show some appreciation for my alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma. This past week, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UCO launched a campaign, advertising The Tunnel of Oppression, which is a phenomenal simulation to help students better understand privilege and oppression, and how these concepts impact everyone. Check out the posters below:

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Asians..

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Black Men...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Disability...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Muslims...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Gay Men...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Native Americans...

First, I want to thank these brave students for “coming out” in these posters. Whereas many people of color are already “out” as noted by race (being, “color blind,” is not a thing, and all of that), sitting with these search items is a heavy and intense moment – a reality faced by any oppressed or marginalized individual. Next, I want to highlight that these, “Societal assertions,” are very real and are played out for people every single day. And this should not be a surprise. In fact, if you gasped at the items listed in the search bars above, I challenge you to think about your surroundings a bit more critically. This is certainly the case following the OU SAE incident, and has been a theme in a lot of the conversations I have had with friends and colleagues now two weeks after the release of the video. We must challenge a little harder, and push a little deeper.

And this starts with inclusion. How are you integrating inclusion into your conversations and into your personal and professional engagements? As Luke Visconti argues, and I tend to agree, it is so much more than simply asking (expecting) baristas to talk about race in the 20 seconds they have with a customer at Starbucks. If we want inclusion, diversity, equity, multicultural understanding, etc. to be something that is espoused and enacted, it must be something that is integrated through every fiber of an operation. As Visconti points out, it must start from the top (and in the most, see-someone-to-be-someone, kind of way).

One year ago, I was a cluster facilitator at LeaderShape, a leadership retreat for college students. The university where I was working did a campaign to advertise this opportunity, and passed around various flyers reading, “I see a world where ______.” Individuals could write in what kind of world they see. For example, “people have clean water,” “cancer is fully treatable,” “we find peace,” and, “everyone has a puppy,” were a few of my favorites. When I filled out my own flyer to be hung on my office door, I thought long and hard. What kind of world did (do) I want to see?

And, today, I ask you this same question, among others:

How do you see the world? What kind of world do you want? What kind of contribution can you and will you be willing to make? Do you dare?

Engaging,

Michael

*I see a world with liberty and justice for all.

Pick 10 Friends

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Last August, I emailed a group of ten friends with the following sentiment:

Hi friends,

I hope you are all doing well, and that the fall is nice and crisp for you.

Since I’ve been in China, I have been thinking a lot about my support system, and also the ways in which I need or seek validation. With each thought, one or all of you have come up at any given moment in making me feel good about myself, my decisions, my (#)perspective, and my future. In honor of this, I’m asking that you ten serve as my personal Board of Directors. And contrary to other designs of BOD-like support-systems, this one is purely based on people who fill my cup – people who make me feel important, and loved.

I have always struggled with the idea of a professional board of directors, because to me, these individuals are hiring, firing, or constantly evaluating. In this case, I’m looking for love, and for people who, at the core, have my best interests at heart (not, at head, if that makes sense). I won’t require much of you, just constant vibes and positivity (though, you’re already pros at that).

Sometimes I could give two shits about what people think. But most of the time, it’s everything to me. Please let me know if you’d like to go on this journey with me.

More to come…

With much sincerity,

Michael

To my surprise, each of these friends agreed to be on this journey with me, and have been life warriors on the front lines of my multi-month transition. To pause and diversify my support system, I went beyond, “my best friend from college,” or, “my people who ___.” I wanted to be intentional, and add a more structured layer of support to my weekly/monthly routine (after all, I’m still a Type A personality, which is certainly not changing anytime soon). To do so, I examined my personal and professional network, and identified the following individuals in my life:

A very intellectually-stimulating person

Someone who “gets the bigger picture”

The most empathetic person I know

The most authentic person I know

Someone who knows my journey, my heart

Someone not afraid to cry with me

The most loyal person I know

Someone who values my voice, my opinion

Someone who has known me longer than most

Someone who is comfortable challenging me

Of course, I am thankful to have considered multiple phenomenal humans under each of these expectations, however the ten individuals who I asked to be part of my personal Board of Directors (BOD) are ones who have provided me with a different experience than I would have had if I simply asked the handful of friends I talk to or see everyday. And more than that, these friends come from all parts of my life – including various points within the many lives I have lived up to this point. This is much bigger than my “right now.” This is the heart of perspective for me, and a chance to honor voices in my life who push me to grow, hope, believe, be. Do.

My first post in the new year challenged people to engage, connect, and collaborate. If you didn’t read it, here’s the gist of my growth-suggestion:

And this has become my challenge for all those reading today’s note: capture your growth.

Sure, I previously referenced resolutions and my belief and advocacy for such dreams, however this is different. This is real and raw, and, in-the-moment, learning. Capture these moments. Get a notebook, email yourself and create a special folder to file these specific emails, and share with yourself any and every learning lesson you experience in 2015. When you get chills, document it. When you have the, oh-shit-ah-ha, moment, save it. Bottle these up, and let them guide you, teach you, train you, and prepare you for the next round of life’s simple gifts. You owe this to yourself.

And if you’re willing to take your learning to an even higher level, share these moments with a friend. Find someone who is dedicated to growth, and use them as a means for processing. Set a bi-weekly coffee meeting (or, “coffee,” for those anti-), and swap notebooks – ask questions, challenge each other, support each other’s ah-ha’s. If you want to grow, and learn, and develop, be about it and do something to elevate your perspective. Be held accountable.

Grow.

In honor of my continued belief in this sentiment, I want to encourage you to also set up a personal Board of Directors. Who cares about you so much that it scares you? Who cares about you so much that you know, if anyone, they have your back, your voice, and your heart? Who matters in your life? Take this, and run with it. In 2015, ideas are shared like wildfire, and it’s up to us to take the ones that mean something to us… and run with them. Run steady. Run fast.

How are you connecting with your friends, your community, your “network?” Are you merely a click and favorite away from your people, or are you engaging with them in a way which truly makes for change on both ends? Are you being challenged? Are you open to challenge? Are you self-disclosing? Are you connecting?

I dare you to grow. I dare you do go. Do. Be.

Watering roots,

Michael

*photo stolen from somewhere on social media

Some things I learned in 2014.

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And just like that, a new year is here.

Happy New Year. Happy 2015. Happy Thursday (that last one is for all those who went to bed at 10:00PM last night).

Before I even word-vomit all the things I learned (or can remember leaning) this year, I should first and foremost assert that, above all else, I learned, I don’t know it all. And, furthermore, I never will. For the first time in my life, I have absolute peace with this humbling reality.

Somehow over the past year, I managed to quit two jobs, travel through nearly a dozen states, live in two different countries, finish writing a book, and reflect longer and harder than ever before. I have said this time and time again, and although dramatic, I swear by the fact that writing has been more than just a form of expression for me this year. Writing has been therapeutic, and an opportunity to be still. Writing has contributed to the clearest mind I have ever experienced in my entire life.

As I sit here on the dawn of a new year, I am both nervous and anxious for what exists in the twelve undiscovered months ahead. For starters, I turn 30 this year. Yep, let that sink in for a moment. And while this is only the beginning of a beautiful love/hate relationship with the rite of passage associated with turning 30, I am also taking this time to pause and memorialize the phenomenal year I have had. To do so, in some form or another, the following ‘ah-ha’ moments exist as my knowledge nuggets for the year:

10.  Forgiveness only works if you actually forgive. Until then, own the dissonance.

9.  Choosing to avoid certain topics with family can be just that…choosing to avoid certain topics with family. You don’t owe anyone anything, ever.

8.  A dog will make me happier in life. In 2015, I’m going to rescue a dog.

7.  Spending money and time to make friends matter is always worth is. Travel, is always worth it (whatever, “it,” might mean for each of us).

6.  Sometimes telling someone, “Thank you for sharing,” is enough. Pause, listen more, let people tell their own story.

5.  You can place “home” in quotations, and yet it still doesn’t make it any more or any less of your actual home. Be free, go your own way.

4.  Good, confident, and/or happy is/are enough. And that’s enough, too.

3.  Some of the best people are the best friends. Consequently, some of the best people are also the worst friends.

2.  When you choose your self, you win, always. Sure, people will shit on you, but you’ve still won, because you matter.

1.  You don’t know what you don’t know. But when you do, you do, and there’s no looking back from there.

Before I moved to China, a very dear friend of mine gave me a beautiful notebook to capture my journey. Just before finishing the packing list, that specific notebook was one item which unfortunately did not make the cut. Just as I arrived “home” (see note above, re: “home”), I found said-notebook and was instantly overwhelmed by a sudden and urgent need to use every line from such a thoughtful gift.

And before I could even dream up the endless opportunities fostered by the blank space provided, I realized this special notebook deserved something more active and engaging. And that is what I am going to do, be more active and be more engaged with my learning. I’m going to document everything. And this has become my challenge for all those reading today’s note: capture your growth.

Sure, I previously referenced resolutions and my belief and advocacy for such dreams, however this is different. This is real and raw, and, in-the-moment, learning. Capture these moments. Get a notebook, email yourself and create a special folder to file these specific emails, and share with yourself any and every learning lesson you experience in 2015. When you get chills, document it. When you have the, oh-shit-ah-ha, moment, save it. Bottle these up, and let them guide you, teach you, train you, and prepare you for the next round of life’s simple gifts. You owe this to yourself.

And if you’re willing to take your learning to an even higher level, share these moments with a friend. Find someone who is dedicated to growth, and use them as a means for processing. Set a bi-weekly coffee meeting (or, “coffee,” for those anti-), and swap notebooks – ask questions, challenge each other, support each other’s ah-ha’s. If you want to grow, and learn, and develop, be about it and do something to elevate your perspective. Be held accountable.

I have a friend like this, and yesterday as I crawled out of bed, we shared about two-dozen texts regarding the biggest learning lessons we had acquired over the year. And, since she so graciously shared her vision with the twitter community (you can follow her here), I decided to capture them for all those tuning in today. Please see her individual ah-ha moments as follows:

10. Reflection is good for the soul. I need to do it more often. So is learning/reading.

9. The golden rule is not lived by everyone. Values and morals are individualized and are able to change. Change is good. Don’t steer away.

8. Don’t be ashamed of who I am. Life has made me this way and there is an explanation for my characteristics. I need to remember that when engaging with others, and stop expecting change from an old dog who can’t learn new tricks.

7. There is more to life than a job and social media. I need to live in the moment, disconnected, make lasting memories and spend time with those I love.

6. Money does not buy happiness, but it does contribute to a happy lifestyle. Finding the balance is hard to do and takes time.

5. Conflict is inevitable. I will always work through conflict with someone I love and appreciate. But if they can’t do the same, it’s not worth the trouble.

4. You can’t help who you love. When you love hard, it is hard to let go. When you love hard, logic is non-existent.

3. It’s my life. When I think I’m fucking up bad, I’m sure my closest friends even have skeletons in the closet. #dontjudgemyself

2. Learn to do, be more free, and live in the moment. Right and wrong is subject.

1. Race will always be a factor in my interracial relationships: platonic, intimate or acquaintance.

BONUS. Relationships change and grow, but can remain the same if both individuals accept that fact and have realistic expectations of one another.

This is just one additional perspective. And the great thing is, just as my friend and I, you, too, are learning. Now, go. Do. Be about it. Grow, develop, change. And most of all, march on.

Thriving,

Michael

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Wondering about wanderers, wandering…

Many summers ago, I did a photo project, capturing a few friends holding up photos of specific words from one of my favorite quotes, “Not all those who wander are lost” (Tolkien). It was 2009 when I discovered this quote, and I was in one of the biggest in-between moments of my life. I had just left my job at TOMS, and was gearing up to move to northern Michigan.

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This line became a mantra for me, and one which guided so much of my personal affirmations and self-efficacy. I even blew up the photos as large mats, placing them over the desk in my room/office (I worked in residential life, for all those who understand the reality of a, “room/office”). In many ways, this quote still exists as a personal exclamation. Hell, scroll up – it’s the title photo for my blog. I live this. I genuinely believe that we are never truly lost. And more so, I believe there is a plan and a purpose behind everything we do or can do (and not even as much in the religious context, but more so that there are little bits of life and love and learning which exist at every, even random and unplanned, corner). Learning is essential. Dissonance is learning. And wandering is real, and raw.

This summer I was introduced to the Slow Club song, “Wanderer Wandering,” and of course I wore the song out on repeat. It became a badge of honor, and contrary to the belief that, “Pompeii,” was played while taking flight to China, it was actually this song which resonated with me most in the initial moments of international risk taking.

Just before I left for China, a very good friend of mine introduced me to one of his very good friends who is also abroad right now. This particular individual is in Morocco, working for the Peace Corps, and doing much larger and more impacting things than I could ever imagine. He and I will email a few times per month, process out some of our experiences, and provide support to one another. He frequently blogs about his experience, and one of his most recent posts really struck a chord with me. One specific paragraph reads as follows:

“However, a dear friend once told me earlier this year, ‘Sure, not all who wander are lost, but how beautiful is it to be lost and have the chance to wander.’ Beautiful words, and throughout my simultaneous belonging in the lost and found box in this crazy overlapping phenomenon of pure joy and pure chaos, those images I dreamed of sure began to look different when wandering.”

Gasp, right? Real, right? I would add, raw and relevant, as well. And I would further argue, people are part of that chaos. And with each location, endeavor, job win/loss, challenge, barrier, and gain, people take up space in the beautiful, “lost and found box,” of life. And with each person we meet, a new and unique perspective is added to our repertoire of curiosity and knowledge. For example, I spent the weekend in Beijing (as you know, I’ve been living remotely two hours east of the city), and on my first day in town, I met a man in the elevator who was, ironically, from Morocco. In my attempt to connect this new elevator introduction with my electronic Peace Corps pen pal, I actually ended up making a new friend. Nearly four hours later (and five glasses of wine for me), we talked through the American preK-12 education system, diversity and racial dynamics, perceptions of the United Staes, travel, family (he and his wife have a precious 10-month old), and a myriad of other engaging and thought-provoking topics. And following this conversation, I was tired. My mind hurt, and I was intellectually drained. But all I could think was, This is growth. This moment reminded me of the power others hold to truly grant us perspective. Again, This is growth. It is important to be around people who inquire about our values and beliefs, and more so, ask questions which challenge us to know why it is that we know and believe what it is that we believe.

So, a new week is here. And there are millions of people out there with different experiences, perspectives, and life lessons ready to be shared and learned. How can you capitalize on that growth? How can you maximize your own story, thus letting others share in that learning and growing? Are you even sharing your story? You have one. We all do. And as you wander, wonder, or ponder, my challenge is to look up. Meet a stranger on an elevator. Give an honest and raw answer when someone asks how you are doing. Be open and honest about the current status of your heart. Embrace unknown. Accept unknown. Accept your most authentic and raw self. And then, be okay with the unknown that comes with that acceptance.

Still wandering, ever accepting,

Michael

“Soak up today. Ask someone, ‘How is the state of your heart today?’ Ask yourself the same question. Strive to be a human being rather than a human doing.” – Janine Myers

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The Young-Professional Sabbatical

Why is it that sabbaticals and/or visiting fellowships are solely reserved for older and more seasoned professionals?

This is a rhetorical question, of course. I understand the value of research, fellowships, and the general, make-us-proud-and-look-good-and-you’ll-benefit-too, thing happening. I have a lot of former faculty members who are taking sabbaticals this year, and it has me thinking a lot about this concept. Most of their journey is to write and do research (or vacation a bit, or do said-professional tasks while vacationing, or not), and also find knew knowledge across the globe. It’s great, and in the end, we all benefit from their discovery (of self, and of knowledge).

In various disciplines, it appears that the older one is, and with more tenure (not to be confused with academic, “tenure”), the more opportunities one has to spread their wings a bit. Freedom. When you’re a new or young professional, these freedoms are limited to begging to attend a one-week conference, or using personal time-off to develop and grow and learn.

But what if, within the first five years as a professional, individuals were allowed 2-3 months (or even 2-3 weeks) to go and do something impacting within another functional area?

Bold, I know. But this is the internship concept, right? Why reserve internships solely for those individuals who are still studying? If we can all get to a place where lifelong learning is accepted and executed, what would be stopping us from allowing young professionals to spread their wings in a facilitated and boomerang-like manner?

“Because there is still a job to be done, Michael,” you might assert.

And, “Because an individual’s development takes a backseat to organizational objectives,” you might further argue.

Listen, I get it. I do. These are sentiments I have heard in previous jobs and/or through colleagues and friends at various institutions (in various functional areas). And more than my own understanding of the easily articulated rebuttal to this dream-sequence, we can all agree that there really is a job still to be done. First priority. But this “getaway” is not as dramatic as it initially comes off, and I would further suggest that, “That Professional,” ruins it for us all.

Yes, “That Professional.” Social media in all forms reveals to us the inner-workings of those few souls who are part of 32 different tasks forces, committees, boards, and associations, all outside of their actual job. All in the name of, “learning,” of course. And to those professionals, I say, “SIMMA DOWN, NOW.” You’re ruining it for the rest of us.

But then I am forced to pause, because I know it’s not their fault. Education is a field where asking people for more and more is just part of the daily operation. Furthermore, we raise most graduate students this way – go, get experience, pursue ten practicum opportunities, write papers at 2:00AM while working most days from 7:30AM-11:00PM. It happens, and I would argue most are better because of that exposure. All in the name of, “learning,” right?

But what about the countries around the globe who pause for months at a time in honor of, “holiday?” What about gap years (which, don’t get me started on my belief in and support for individuals pursuing this option)? These are virtually untouched by young professionals in the United States, and instead, summers are sold solely to those current students who want to advance their professional foundations. And to add, any area with confusing transferability then fights to assist all those who elect to engage. Learning.

Again, “…there is still a job to be done, Michael.” And again, I get it.

I hear many professionals advocate through good and bad, “Do your 1-2 years and then move on to the next job. But is this fair? I have even advised young professionals and peers to think this way, and at times, will stop myself when really evaluating their current situation or status. What if the current gig is a great one for that individual, or what if 6 months is all they care to give or have interest in giving? What if they need perspective? How are they gaining perspective? How are they learning, developing, growing? If going to conferences teaches me anything, it reminds me that some professionals really suck (like the idiot advisor who crashed one of my workshops last spring, among many other examples), and that not every young professional has a supportive or engaging supervisor who cares about their best interests.

Of course, the, “sabbatical or fellowship opportunity,” quest for veteran educators is well-researched and supported, however this post is about finding similar moments for all those up-and-coming educators who are eager and excited to pave their path.

Let’s be unconventional for a moment.

To the supervisees… My charge today is to pause on your current “now.” Reach out to your supervisor. Engage a conversation about learning new tricks and seeing new sites. Dream up other tools for your kit, and draft a one or two month plan which will allow you to be truly drenched in, “learning.” The least your supervisor can do is say no, and at that point, you’ve lost nothing. Hell, show them this post, and ask for their thoughts – if they think this is insane, agree and make some snide remark about how bogus I am. If they’re down, have a plan, a dream-session, a moment to think, feel, and believe, “what if.” Gather new skills and frame those needs in a way that benefits the students and communities you are serving. Everybody can win here.

To the supervisors… Find a way to help make this happen for your employees. Try a summer pause for your people, a winter exchange with another department, campus, or organization (or whatever variation exists for those in whatever field or area of employment), or some way to professionally develop those serving under you. If anything, carve a, “go do whatever, learn, see, inquire, dream,” opportunity. Remember, you don’t know it all, and sometimes others can help your people be a better person for you and for your community. And finally, make sure you are modeling the way. Be learning, seeing, doing, engaging, and let your people see that this, too, should be a value of theirs while working for/with you.

When it comes to someone’s personal and professional development, meet them where they are. Their process is their process. A new month is ahead, and exists as an opportunity to start planning and scheming and growing. So, grow. We’re only all better if we’re all becoming better.

Pausing,

Michael

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