Reflecting and Renewing

Happy Holidays!  

After completing a November of appreciative “thankfuls” (once-a-day Facebook statuses detailing something you are thankful for that day), it seems December is the month for reflecting and refreshing, as we gauge how the year has gone and look forward to a new one.  This is certainly the case for me.  It’s been a big year!

This semester, I lost track for a short while.  Within one month of being in Kansas (still adjusting to the new apartment and city), I learned that two of my supervisors were leaving for new positions, and the program with which I hold my assistantship is ending in May 2013.  Cue the downward spiral and sad trombone sound effect.  For someone who invests a lot of energy in constant improvement, the news presented a unique challenge: once an event was over, there was no reason to reflect on what we could do better next year. I found myself feeling depressed and pointless some days.

Sometime during the semester, in the throes of challenging coursework, a centipede-ridden apartment, long-distance struggles, and pinching pennies for groceries, I decided that I needed to make the most of the disruption.  On one hand, I could seek out a new position that included as many elements of my current one as possible, thereby ensuring I had a full two-year experience of what I had signed on for.  But that wouldn’t really be my style.  So I started pursuing opportunities that are way out of my comfort zone, in the hope that cramming as much learning and growing into my graduate school experience as possible will make me a well-rounded practitioner.  In January, I will apply to new offices and ideally, one of them will offer me a position and I will finally have next year’s plans nailed down.  Who knows what I’ll end up doing?

But this whole semester has been a waiting game–and as a planner, I have struggled.  Some nights I go to sleep praying that just one thing could finally go the way it’s supposed to, finally work out the way it does in my head.  Looking around, it seems like everyone else’s lives are stable–they are keeping their jobs, their programs still exist, their bosses aren’t going anywhere.  But so much of my character has been formed by the challenges I’ve faced, so I’m not sure why graduate school would be any different.  I have my ups and downs, but generally, I’m thankful I wake up each day a stronger person because of what I faced yesterday.

At the NASPA Region IV-W conference in South Dakota this year, I attended a session all about “mindfulness” in student affairs practice.  This field is full of such dedicated people that we often put our students before ourselves.  The session emphasized that being “mindful” (constantly present and engaged in our surroundings) can help us to focus on our own health and well-being, making us better practitioners.

January is a big month: hearing back from assistantships and internships, applying for scholarships, making permanent plans for next year.  Regardless of how it all works out, I know I’ll breathe a sigh of relief knowing that I finally have some kind of plan.  Then, I’ll make it my goal for the new year to be more mindful: relaxing and engaging in each day in a new way, trusting that in the process the future will work out.  I promise to share all my news with you here.  Until then, I’ll be spending my time reflecting on where I’ve been this year, where I want to go, and how its all helped me grow as a person.

How about you? How have you grown in 2012?  What will you do to be more mindful in 2013?

Peace, joy, blessings, and love this wonderful season-