…but what they didn’t say is that it would be lonely.

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Let me first say, all is well. I’m good. And I feel loved and supported, and in addition to a partner who treats me better than I usually deserve, I am employed, in a great doctoral program, and have a crew of people in my life who shower me with unconditional love.

That being said, 2017 has been really tough.

This PhD journey has been really tough.

I am one full year into my doctoral studies, and at two different points I almost gave up. Dramatically, I drafted two unsent emails to my advisor, throwing in the towel and apologizing for wasting her time. The first draft was written my third week of class, when impostor syndrome had set in and I was deep in the darkness of, “I don’t think I belong here.” I fell into the comparison trap, and was set off by the most trivial moments.

The second unsent email was drafted the Friday following Donald Trump’s electoral college win, and later revised when he nominated (and elected officials confirmed) Betsy DeVos as US Secretary of Education. If Secretary DeVos did not need a PhD to do her job, why did I?

Of course, neither email was sent, and both times I was left wondering if any of it would actually be worth it. Would the PhD be worth it?

Would it be worth me leaving full-time work (and pay) for a few years?
Would it be worth the hours of reading each day?
Would it be worth the unhealthy intake of coffee and ginger ale?
Would it be worth the 20lbs I gained?

Upon reflection and consultation, I learned these feelings were not uncommon. I found a community of other doctoral students who shared many of these same sentiments. My unsent resignation emails became a benchmark for Year 1 learning. It can only go up from here, right? I soon realized it wasn’t so much that I wasn’t cut out for this program (though, the verdict feels, at times, unresolved), it was that transition, in general, is hard. This transition, specifically, was hard.

This ongoing transition, is very, very hard.

And during this time of uncertainty, my brain will often do tricks on me that I never thought possible. I question my intelligence, my energy, my capacity. Phone calls and texts go unanswered, and the stories I tell myself lean more toward destructive than they do productive. But again, I am not alone, and (unsettlingly) there are many others who feel this same level of dissonance.

Now days away from starting Year 2, I am left contemplating what might exist in the next twelve months of studies.

In an attempt to help ease students’ transition to graduate school, a colleague recently posted on twitter, requesting a series of perspectives on what advice different folx wish they had before their first year of pursuing a PhD. I immediately responded with a practical perspective about the dissertation, something I truly wish I had understood before enduring several months of self-sabatoge. But after responding, I couldn’t stop thinking about an even deeper “wish” I had in relation to those starting the PhD experience, something that contributed to a lot of my discomfort.

Something that went beyond the first-year transition.

Something that went beyond impostor syndrome and the comparison trap.

My ‘ah-ha’ was that this experience is really isolating. 

Being a PhD student is incredibly isolating.

One of the toughest burdens of this doctoral journey has actually been the heavy pain of feeling alone – the countless hours of reading, writing, commuting to/from campus, and “waiting” for the next thing has all been really draining. As a strong E-Extrovert, I didn’t anticipate the amount of time I would be physically and emotionally flying solo.

And as I prepare for Year 2, I’m trying to make a conscious plan so I can avoid this feeling of isolation…a feeling many other graduate students feel, wade through, and fight on a daily, yearly basis. I believe I “survived” Year 1 because of my partner and community of friends and colleagues who love and support me despite the gymnastics in my brain. And still, I’m here, at the edge of Year 2, eager, and terrified.

Hopeful. Cautious.

Cautiously optimistic.

I am here for a reason. And despite the pressure I put on myself, and despite the hours and days of feeling completely solo, and despite the missed phone calls and unchecked emails, I truly believe there is an absolute reason that I am here, pressing on, and making this work. I don’t know what exists in this next year – personally or professionally – but I do know I can do this. And that, despite what my brain is telling me, I am not alone. I am worthy. I matter. This matters.

Simple reminders,

Michael

“You’re going to cry a lot,” they said.

“You’re going to cry a lot,” they said…
Little do they know, I already cry a lot.

“You’re going to be stressed,” they said…
I have had a stress-related eye-twitch for most of my life.

“It’ll break you down,” they said…
Even when broken, I always land on my feet.

“You’re going to cry a lot,” they demanded.
And so, I continue to cry.

In what feels like 1/3-part care and concern, 1/3-part projections of self-doubt, and 1/3-part hazing, the PhD journey has commenced, and I am deep in the waters of my first semester as a doctoral student. In true Michael manner, I jumped in with an Olympic diving attempt that probably looked more like a belly-flop than a gold medal dive. Loosely proud of my belly-flop, I am making new commitments and reevaluating the way in which I maneuver through this journey.

“One day at a time,” they said.
I nod ferociously, leaning into the comfort provided by a one-day-at-a-time mantra.

In addition to being a full-time student, I hold a graduate assistantship and also teach a class for first-year students interested in learning more about leadership (Introduction to Student Leadership). During my first class session, I promised the students we would take one week at a time. Selfishly, a few dozen assignments lurked over me.

I ended the first session and opened the syllabi for my classes, attempting to map out each assignment in my calendar. As I planned ahead for what seemed like a semester of tears, stress, and brokenness (“You’re going to cry a lot,” they said), my inner self-preserver begged, “Resist! Resist! Resist! Slow down!”

I paused, laughed, and whispered aloud, “How do you eat an elephant?”

How do you eat an elephant?

Huh?

Several years ago I had a colleague who completely unraveled during a staff meeting. They were frustrated and overwhelmed. They were grappling with the, “we should be doing more, and with more time and resources,” dilemma that new and para-professionals often unearth in their first few years of working in education.

Following our highly contentious staff meeting, I invited the colleague into my office and engaged the, “what’s going on,” conversation. Through some tears and voice-raising, it was clear the individual was trying to do the best they could with what they had, while making meaning of the politics involved on our campus and in our office.

Drawing on an old adage I used most of my young adulthood, I quickly asked this colleague, “How do you eat an elephant?”

Frustrated, they replied, “I don’t know. I can’t with your metaphorical BS, right now. What’s your point?”

We sat in silence for several minutes, and I gently asked one more time, “How do you eat an elephant?”

Both exasperated and curious, the colleague finally responded, “I don’t know…one bite at a time?”

“One bite at a time.”

One bite at a time. 

Flash forward several years later, my calendar, syllabi, and heart all out on the table (figuratively and literally); I was having my own, “how the heck do you actually eat an elephant,” moment. If I have learned anything one week in, it’s that keeping up is the only option – for better or for worse. One bite at a time.

“You’re going to be stressed,” they said…
“It’ll break you down,” they said…
“You’re going to cry a lot,” they said…

With tears in my eyes, I agree. And in courage, I move forward. A pinned, internal, one-day-at-a-time, banner flies viciously in my brain. And I pause, forced to breathe in a philosophy that has guided much of my work over the past few years.

“They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds.”
–Mexican Proverb*

Universe, build me up.

A seed to be watered,
Michael

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*”They tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds,” is often attributed to a Mexican Proverb, as well as Dinos Christianopoulos. Either way, powerful and important connection, and one that continues to center me.

“You are about to start something amazing.”

This week I started my graduate assistantship, and soon I will begin my new routine as a full-time doctoral student. Ideally, this is my last degree.

“Terminal,” as many will assert. Terminal.

I will continue on to the Metro, where I will walk to campus and better understand this new personal and professional life journey. And as my partner reminded me a few weeks ago, I am about to start something amazing – something scary and terrifying, but ‘amazing,’ nonetheless. Fortunately, from pre-K kiddos to other doc-dreaming souls, I will not be alone.

“The first day of school,” is a rite of passage for many, and for others, it’s the reminder of a reality of education-based inequities.

“Is the student prepared?”
“Does the student have grit?”
“What will the student bring to our school, our program, our reputation?”
“What baggage accompanies the student?”
“Will the student survive?”

The idea of survival connected to an academic endeavor has always left me somewhat unsettled. At a previous institution where I worked, the reputable business school provided, “I survived…,” shirts to all students who finished their comprehensive exams. Related, my college experience housed a fraternity hazing process that reeked of, “JUST SURVIVE,” sentiments, and it has never been hard to see the connection between this survival-mentality and hazing. It’s surely there.

More than, “Will the student (I) survive,” as I start this new expedition, I am forced to navigate my own self-inflicted processing around worth.

“Am I good enough?”
“Is perfection enough?”
“What if I don’t deserve this?”
“Do I deserve this?”
“Surely, I don’t deserve this.”

I previously posted about this when I made the decision to officially go back to school, and packaged it simply as, “A Dark Place Called, ‘I’m Not Worthy.’”

Knowing all of this, and battling the worth-demons that swim through my brain, I continue to recenter myself by answering the following question:

Why am I going back to school to get a PhD?

For starters, curiosity guides much of my current perspective.

In separating a professional aim from my personal understanding, and perhaps more important than any other reason to press forward, I am training myself to believe and embrace the idea that I am good enough.

I am absolutely good enough.

Brené Brown argues, “Understanding the difference between healthy striving and perfectionism is critical to laying down the shield and picking up your life. Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis.” She also posits, “Imperfections are not inadequacies; they are reminders that we’re all in this together.”

“Imperfections are not inadequacies…”

The paralysis of perfection is so real for me.

As scared as I am of my imperfections (impostor syndrome, and all of that), I am more scared that I will lose some sense of myself along the way. This is where I understand the survival component to the academic process (“hazing,” as I previously suggest). And the idea of survival is not always present in the physical context.

Will I lose bits of who I am in this process?
Will I sacrifice my identity?
Will I be vulnerable to the parts of me that do need updating?
Can I truly embrace the imperfection?

This new endeavor is about more than survival, and it is certainly more than a quest for a perfect outcome or journey. This endeavor is about landing on my feet. It’s about understanding who I am, and what role I can and will play in this big world we live in.

For now, that is enough.

For now, landing on my feet is enough.

This is my peace, and I am enough.

Survivalist,

Michael

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Honoring Parentless Students

*video filmed by ACPA – College Student Educators International, via ACPA Social Media

I attended a conference last week where I had the privilege to present a PechaKucha (powered by ACPA) on a topic I care about deeply.

“Honoring Parentless Students”

PechaKucha is, as as you discovered in the introduction to the video, a presentation where an individual talks alongside 20 images and slides, each turning automatically every 20 seconds. 20×20. According to PechaKucha, this presentation format was created by two architects, and initially as a result of the belief that architects talk too much! As a person with an undergraduate degree in communication, I would agree that most people talk too much when given an unrestricted set of PowerPoint slides.

And so, PechaKucha.

Aside from a space to tell a few stories (though, if given the time, I have dozens more related to this topic), I also took the opportunity to share some very personal reflections I have regarding the changing reality of how parents and families show up in education – and specifically, how the concept of parents and families show up in my own life. The landscape is changing.

And this should be no surprise. Over the past twenty years (arguably more), the landscape of families & non-families has changed significantly, and we should all be pausing to consider how parenting structures appear or don’t appear as it relates to children and college-age students. We should all consider adjusting our practice.

For example, “Mom’s Day,” or, “Dad’s Weekend,” The Office of Parent Programs, parent orientation, better funded opportunities for stateside families without including international students, letters home to, “Mr/s.,” or the plural of parent (“To the parents of…”) – these all come to mind, and knowing the list goes on and on.

So, what do we do, you might be wondering?

Furthermore, how do we support students who may not have the family or parenting structure that many of our programs assume? What about those triggered by these programs, or those left out by the simple mission of these traditions? How do we simply pause and honor someone’s actual, lived experience on their campus?

Aside from my hope and plan to research this very topic someday, for starters, you can evaluate your current practices and programs. Challenge exclusive norms, engage your alumni, program around the changing reality of families and students, and include those chosen-family friends and community members who may be supporting an individual just as much, if not more, than any relative could provide. Examine your school’s statistics and build bridges to colleagues across campus. Empower authenticity.

Next, be insistent. Pull students in to help you change the culture of your exclusive programs and traditions. Ask students frequently, “Who are we leaving behind?” “How can we edit or enhance the way we support all students?” “In what ways does [this program] exist as an exclusive body of opportunity for some more than others?”

Help students garner courage as they navigate these ongoing murky waters. Jump in those waters with them. And as you swim (or float or tread or splash) in those waters, invite others to jump in, too. What is not changing on our campuses is that students are showing up – how they show up, and with or without  whom, is, however, truly evolving.

And in honor of this evolution, I hope this will inform your practice.

Pausing,

Michael

DSC01252.JPG*photo provided by Idriss Njike (UCLA), co-host of PechaKucha, powered by ACPA

Retired Extrovert Does Conference Season

I’m going to lean into vulnerability for just a moment.

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Earlier today, I boarded a plane and took a deep breath. I knew that, as soon as I landed in Montréal, I would be hit by a wave of insecurities, anxiety, and fear. You should know, despite initially coming off as comfortable and confident in conference and large-group settings, I am actually typically living in a constant state of fear.

The anxiety is real. The fear of unpredictability is raw.

It wasn’t until I ran into an old friend from a job I held before graduate school that I realized this feeling was actually something others experience as well. In a sea of thousands of people, it’s not abnormal to experience this dissonance.

I received some needed peace in that quick conversation.

Night One of this current conference experience: I find myself nervous that everyone else came with someone else, and that capacity is limited. Even with thousands of attendees, conferences can be some of the loneliest spaces for young/professionals. Even with thousands of attendees, conferences can be scary oceans with every type of fish imaginable – feeling like the tiniest and most fragile fish in the sea is a heavy burden. As a reformed-extrovert living in a nervous state-of-mind, I’m forcing myself to swim. Swim fast. Swim intentionally. Just swim.

Tomorrow is a new day, and today is not yet over. Here’s to schedules and programs, here’s to structure. Here’s to confidence.

Swimming,

Michael

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#ACPA16 in Canada – excited for the learning ahead! 

Request: “Can we talk about race?” Most People: “Can we not?”

I read a book in graduate school, one which probably should have been consumed sooner, called, “Can We Talk about Race?” If you’re in higher education or student affairs, you have probably read this book (which is usually accompanied by, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”), and it was more than likely part of your, “diversity class curriculum.” I hope this is resonating with some of you. For those who have read these books, re-read them – keep learning. For those who have not read or heard of these books, please borrow or order them today – you can benefit from this knowledge. They are so much more than curriculum for diversity class…they are essential in truly understanding the landscape of education, and how it impacts all students and all communities.

Addressing race relations and related issues in the American education system, Dr. Beverly Tatum’s book is a must-read for any person even remotely invested in education (or, simply, anyone who merely gives a damn). I read this specific book around the same time I was having the, color-blind-is-actually-not-a-thing-regarding-race, “ah-ha” moment. And the sentiments within still sit with me today, and especially anytime someone asks, “Can we talk about race?” As a result of social media’s sponsorship of creating dialogue for various groups and individuals, this question appears verbatim, as well as without specifically asking, “Can we talk about race?” Let’s pause here for a moment.

As I have previously shared, my job search is complete. Thankfully, I have found a phenomenal position which will require doing equity and justice work for a non-profit education association (and, of course, the thoughts and feelings in my blog and social media presence are all my own, and not a representative of my future employer). A few weeks back and during an interview for this particular position, I was asked, “Can you share with us your opinion on the current reality of race in the United Staes,” or something along these lines. I knew a question similar to this would be addressed, and I had somewhat prepared for what my answer would be when asked to disclose (of course, while remaining cautious about the fact that I can often come off as a bit too raw – interview etiquette, and all of that).

“Can you share with us your opinion on the current reality of race in the US?”

As soon as I opened up my mouth to answer the question, I started word-vomiting my thoughts on race, race relations, parenting, the perceived experience of young Black men, online micro-aggressions, neighborhood segregation, and the list went on and on. Oops, I thought, after I spent several minutes spewing my scattered thoughts and opinions all over the interview panel. Their response was coy, and they quickly moved on with more questions. Interviews, if done right, can be one big professional development opportunity for those who apply and for those who engage. In fact, during my first interview with this same job prospect, I had the opportunity to dig deep with the hiring manager, who blew my mind about the idea of allies identifying as, “color blind,” in reference to racial viewpoints. Specifically, she noted, “It seems, ‘color blind,’ is the one disability everyone wants to possess.” Now, imagine my reaction.

Yes, if you held your hands up to your head and did an explosion motion, you correctly guessed how I responded. It was brilliant, and I was inspired then and now by the real and raw approach this organization took in interviewing me. After all, if we want real and raw, we have to give raw and real. And learning was (is) occurring either way.

But I want to go back to this idea of “being color blind.” It’s happening a lot right now. Especially as it relates to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon moment at the University of Oklahoma, the, “I’m color blind,” moment is alive and well (in addition to, “My chapter has a Black member,” “I don’t see race,” “We’re not all racist,” “This is making every [historically white] Greek organization look bad,” and, “We do all sorts of other really great things for the community”). I get it.

But a door has been opened (…again, and again…), and if we (you) so choose, we (& you) have unique opportunity to acknowledge our privilege and engage thoughtfully and consciously. To move forward, I’m white. And, if you’ve subscribed to the reality that no one is actually color-blind when it comes to race, you already knew that. This fall, I published the piece on my blog, referencing the diversity of my high school, as well as the need to continue making Black students and Black student experiences matter. Shortly after, I had a piece published in Perspectives, a magazine for Fraternity and Sorority professionals through the Association of Fraternity/Sorority Advisors, called, “Because Race Matters.” Of course, both of these highlights came with a lot of questions, and even a few people asking me to stop dialoging about race (assumably because I am white). Specifically after the post about my high school, I received hundreds of messages, emails, and comments, all with stories and examples of how an individual agreed or disagreed with my sentiments. Dissonance for both myself and the readers. Dissonance which still exists today.

For the most part, people were pretty supportive of the piece, however there were a few individuals who took time to send (some, pretty lengthy) emails and messages filled with anger or hate. Seriously, some people were mad. Of course, I spent more time dwelling on these messages than celebrating the positive notes, however it did remind me that not every person in my social circle (or social media network, for that matter) was willing and open to the/a conversation about race. And many still are not. Sure, some do get it (despite my struggle with the term, “it,” and exactly what it is they are getting), however overall, the hope for dialogue still remains an area where, when asked, “Can we talk about race,” people respond with, “Can we not?” And this is why #BlackLivesMatter. And this is why #OUMatters. In these moments of high profile (and the truth is, this SAE-like incident occurs all the time, mostly when cameras are not around), people throw their opinions in – just as I am doing now – all in hopes that people will, “get ‘it.'”

I brought this up in that same interview a few weeks back,  the idea of, “it.” This happens a lot in education, our hope for individuals to get, “it.” In regard to race, or understanding related to any oppressed group for that matter, “it,” is a hard outcome to measure. And still, we do this a lot. We take our own version of, “it,” and then we project this, “it,” upon others as a standard to live up to. The idea of, “it,” and whatever the hell, “it,” actually means in the context of diversity and programming, is scarily subjective – we should pause more, reflect more, dialogue more, challenge more. More. People will take to social media. People will protest. People will march for some resolve – people will challenge. And this is all okay.

The title of this post alone reveals a pretty common rebuttal between friends and colleagues. More people are more comfortable not talking about race. Hell, I certainly had my own pause before answering the question in my interview. And this sucks. The dialogue has to happen. There are only so many times one can flip a channel or scroll through social media to avoid a message or instance regarding race. Race matters (this, not to be confused with or overshadowing, “#BlackLivesMatter”). And at the core, we need more people talking about race, and why and how it matters. We need more pausing, more dialoging, reflecting. Hell, we need more, “it.” And we can’t sit quietly. I was in my friend’s office the other day, and one of the students she supervises posed the question, “Why do we have a Miss Black,” in reference to a pageant on campus. My friend slid around her desk with quickness, and instantly engaged a conversation with the student. Why? Because, we have to keep engaging the conversation. We have to keep sliding around our desks with quickness, even if it feels tired, directionless, and frustrating. The conversation must continue. The learning must continue.

Eyes will roll. Assertions will be made. People will reveal ignorance. Videos will be made of racist students, only to provoke countless stories of similar hate and bias (which was more than likely not “caught” on camera). The difference between, “why would some idiot film this,” over, “why this is hate and threatening and so horrific,” is a real and accurate description between the conversations occurring in the days following the SAE incident. Keep talking.

I am lucky enough to work in education, and I will continue to advocate for more of this dialogue. People have to feel comfortable, valued, and welcomed in regard to race and culture. Just as we need more than just women fighting for women, more than gay people fighting for gay stuff, and specifically relevant to this post: those who are fighting for racial equality cannot solely be those persons of color who see ignorance and hate right in front of them (often directed at them). The list goes on and on, of course, including groups I am further oppressing by not including them in an example – needless to say, you get the point I am trying to make here.

We all have a part to play in hope to achieving progress. Stand up, make no assumptions, and engage the dialogue. Be uncomfortable. And while digging and diving, teaching and learning, challenge people to be and do better. Just because you assume something does not affect you does not mean it won’t impact you. And just because you have a circle of inclusion around you does not mean bias and hate are not still dripping in other aspects of your community. Trust me, most things that are, “not your problem,” are more your problem than you think.

Perhaps, you might actually be the problem. Are you reflecting, processing, dialoging? Are you allowing others to do the same?

Fighting,

Michael

PS – For some other relevant readings/opinions/perspectives, related to the SAE incident, please see the links below:

Facebook Status from Michelle Guobadia: “OK!!! FINE!!!!”

There Will Never Be Another Black S-A-E

Keith Garcia: “SAE at OU: My Response

Lindsay Ritenbaugh: “Hoping for Change: Sooner than Later”

Najah Hylton: “SAE Just Showed Us Why There’s Not Enough Love For All Of Us”

My previous post about my issues with Oklahoma: “Oklahoma (needs and up)Rising

“Stop dress-rehearsing tragedy.”

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Yes, an, early-in-the-week, shoutout to Brené Brown. And rightfully so. If you are job searching, you know that radio silence at 5:00PM EST on a Friday afternoon is just about the worst thing for an individual’s anxiety and general weekend happiness. You will also agree that there are only so many times an individual can refresh their email before they ultimately close their computer with great frustration. I’ve certainly had my own fair share of computer-closing conundrums.

A watched pot never boils.

Have you ever heard this phrase? Lame, right? True, right? Scary, right? Real, right?

Yes, to all of these things. And similarly, a watched pot still won’t boil, even in spite of this post. Alas, moving forward. I touched on my current job search a few weeks back, and my sentiments are still just as valid today as they were then. When you submit to job searching, you release basically all of the control associated with your current reality. The, “You’re interviewing them just as much as they’re interviewing you,” adage is nice, however the truth is, they still have to provide you with the opportunity. Sure, you can be exploring whether or not there is a fit associated with said-job, however none of this really matters if they haven’t made an official offer.

You just need one offer.

I had this moment around a year ago with a former student who I advised and mentored. This superstar individual was discouraged when the vast majority of peers around her were interviewing for 5-10 assistantships and jobs at 4-6 different institutions. Without hesitation, I pushed back, asking specifically, “How many institutions and schools do you need as a final outcome?”

“One,” she muttered back at me, with great resistance.

Yes, one. Of course, choice is nice, however at the end of the day, choice is basically just a conjured up expectation of the privilege we hold in having most things go our way (speaking generally, that is). How is it that we are at this point as persons and professionals where we have to have dozens and dozens of choices in order to know if one is “the right one?” When I was in graduate school, I was always so turned off by the peers in my cohort who had 15-25 interviews for various jobs. Yes, 15-25. How they did the research alone for each job is beyond me, however I can’t help but just prefer a more limited pool of options. The beauty (beautiful disaster, for some) of a limited choice is that you never truly know if you’re making the right one. And you don’t need a massive amount of options to have this understanding. Ultimately, you just need one – one assistantship, one institution, one job, one opportunity. This was certainly the case for the student I formerly advised, and she would later achieve that post-grad milestone with ease. You just need one.

Now, despite my own advice to former students and current friends and colleagues, I still cannot seem to apply my guidance to my own search. For example, I spend a bit of time every day, trolling through old emails, and attempting to read between the lines of some of the email exchanges I have had with potential employers.

They said, “…end of this week, early next week,” but what the hell does that mean?

What is, “early?” 

Should I reach out?

Do they know I really want this?

Do they know I am so much more than what my resume reveals?

Should I send them a copy of my resume in emoji-form

Am I good enough?

This is typically my thinking as I challenge nearly every aspect of the various processes I am experiencing. Thankfully, I know I am not alone in this delusion. And to be honest, we have to stop doing this to ourselves. We have to stop job searching as a game, collecting interviews as trophies. We have to stop measuring our professional worth by the number of interviews we receive. We have to stop creating choice when we actually have a better understanding of standards and expectations, and how these values play out in our own professional preferences. I discovered this “ah-ha” just before I went to graduate school for higher education. I remember sitting in the interview holding room with other candidates, and overhearing one individual in particular talk of having six assistantship interviews lined up over the course of the weekend. Shortly after this declaration, he also made it very clear that there was only one job he would take, regardless of how well the other opportunities were presented. This pissed me off. I had made friends that weekend with individuals who had just one interview, and some coming to the Midwest to interview from as far as both coasts. And, sadly, this interview-collecting individual would later become shining example of many more annoying colleagues to come.

And here I am, half a decade later, navigating through the murkiness yet again. But this time, the murk feels good. Well, yes, it is scary and unpredictable, but it feels good. Trusting the process feels good. One, feels good. And that’s all I (you, we) need: one. I was affirmed of this recently when one of my best friends posted about some of her own journey. She, too, is sifting through the murky waters with me, dealing with her own layers of transition. I have cited her blog before, and stand by my belief that she is one of the most brave and inspiring individuals I have ever known. She recently posted some specifics related to her own search, a lot of which aligns with many of my own “ah-ha” moments. No process is the same.

For all those job searching, job switching, or anyone who merely lives curious enough to leave their current position and head on to the next, stop dress-rehearsing tragedy. Know that you are good enough, worthy enough, and talented enough. You are enough. Pause and find the good in this moment. Just as my friend is finding a change of pace, I wish you the same solace and understanding. Patience. I wish you patience. Hold on. Breathe. Stress…but not too much. Be invested. Read between the lines. Be unconventional, be passionate. And, above all else, remember you just need one.

One is all you need.

Patiently pausing,

Michael