Elaine Welteroth is a maven of wisdom I didn’t know I needed in my life. It’s funny how books come with a message you need at the exact right moment in your life. I’m definitely at a point that I needed to hear her words in More Than Enough: Claiming Who You Are (No Matter What They Say).
A year and a half ago, I thought I was well on my way to stat my full-time professional career I my passion area of interpersonal violence prevention. I found my niche working with college students and I love it… most of the time.
Higher Ed is a beast. You would think universities are a hotbed of liberalism, but nah. It’s still very much an institution. Student Affairs is something else. They talk all this talk about supporting students but… never mind. That’s a conversation for another day and let me reiterate, just so I can keep my job, my views do not reflect my affiliation with the institution I worked for.
Working for a higher ed setting feels a lot like what Elaine experienced at Teen Vogue. I was working in a place that has the mission of improving the lives of students, but I didn’t feel like we walked the talk. I was constantly at odds with carrying out the objectives of the department but feeling like so many students were being left out and that our approach isn’t best practice.
I also got quite frustrated at all of the “professional development” I didn’t ask for, nor did I find it valuable to my own experience. I felt this pressure to shrink myself and my passion to fit in with the culture, or at least what I felt like our director wants and expects us to be. I understand how being well-rounded in that department can benefit the students I want to impact most, but I can’t keep neglecting my passion (why I took this job in the first place) and be happy. This world was telling me to shrink and I need to expand.
And I didn’t trust my leadership. I feel like they are narcissistic and lack integrity. I want to work for a department that believes in the work they’re doing, not one that just does the work to keep up appearances.
I was a first/only/different (thanks Shonda Rhimes) in my office and that comes with a lot of pressure to shrink myself and leave my values out of my work. I wanted to rock the boat, but I had been so gaslit in the past, that I just didn’t bother.
Like an unhealthy relationship, I saw the red flags, but I didn’t feel like I could just leave. Signs in my life have shown me that this place has served me in the moment, and now it is time to move on. I’m happy to say I will be moving on to new things and starting a new position tomorrow.
“When your dreams are bigger than the places you find yourself in, sometimes you need to seek out your own reminders that there is more. And there is always more on the other side of fear.”
I’ve got to a point where I dread going to work. I didn’t want to get out of my car in the mornings; I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t feel motivated to do anything when I got to my desk.
And this was supposed to be me working with my passion. There’s so much other BS I have to deal with that I feel like I’m not allowed to pursue my passion.
My advice to you all echoes Elaine’s: When the world tells you to shrink, expand. This will be my intention word for the new decade.