I’m Re-New. Brand-spankin’ new. Amateurish. Green. Inexperienced. Why? Nine months ago, I was given the chance to relocate within my institution to a job and an office that are new to me. This sounds like a pretty common occurrence, and it is, so why have I been thinking about it so much lately?
To give some context, I am 9 years out of grad school and had worked, with progressive responsibility, in the same general concentration of Student Affairs throughout my career until my role changed. A position in a new office meant Re-Appreciating sensations of transition. Nine months is about the length of an academic year, and it was as if I was a transfer student who just completed her first year at a new institution. She feels like she’s got the whole college thing down, but not at this particular school, so she’s starting over in a way.
What’s so wrong with being new? “Well, nothing, if you’re actually new,” is what I told myself. Nine months ago, I had to Re-Feel all the emotions that come with being in unfamiliar territory: the frustration of feeling as if a don’t know anything at all, the anxiety of making a mistake or giving a parent or student the wrong answer, the pressure of needing to produce work while learning what I’m supposed to be doing at the same time, the sensation of absorbing the culture in a very different realm of Student Affairs, and the gravity I placed upon myself to be perfect.
At first, it was like my job and I were honeymooning together in the South of France. It was an exciting and refreshing time! I got to tell my friends and family I’d been promoted, and I felt ready for a change of pace at work. Um, well, mostly ready. I quickly realized that I wasn’t actually so sure if I was capable of succeeding in this new position the way others thought I could. For me, it wasn’t an option just to do my job; I expected myself to excel immediately. “After all,” I thought, “I’ve been at this place a while.” I had forgotten that it takes a considerable amount of time, of making mistakes, and of asking questions and listening to get to that point in a new job. (And really, who knows if I was even that great in my former position!)
After being hard on myself for a little while, I Re-Membered that my “one word” resolution for 2012 is Kindness, and in all this self-doubt I wasn’t being very nice to myself. I Re-Discovered the wonder of Hope. I chose to see the potential in myself to find or create skills so that I can work in a different way. Asking my mentors and trusted colleagues to help me gain perspective was imperative; I needed to hear the truth about the way I was interpreting myself in this role. Allowing myself to sink in and remember how to be new then became even more exciting rather than daunting.
Re-Learning how to succeed during times of transition has brought back these lessons, and I have been:
- Reading everything that comes my way within the university, e.g., the daily broadcast emails to all faculty and staff, and departmental newsletters and updates;
- Going to things: attending seminars and workshops to which I am invited or which I seek out, being present at interviews for new faculty candidates, having brown-bag lunches with colleagues I don’t know very well, and joining committees that are attended by professionals from across the institution, as opposed to only in my division;
- Accepting that I won’t be an expert right away (I noticed I was explaining to everyone with whom I encountered, “oh, I’m not new to the institution, just to this particular job” – as if I’d lost all credibility by working in a department where I’m no longer the authority on all office policies, procedures, and the history of how those each came to be);
- Letting go of what I thought it looked like to be successful; since when did success have to equal knowing the correct answer to every single question at every single moment?
- Developing new connections with colleagues while maintaining the relationships that helped me grow to this point;
- Taking responsibility to ask questions, to take initiative, and to seek out and take advantage of many resources, including people, from whom I can learn; not relying on anyone handing me a training manual (‘Cause really, are there ever enough seminars, conferences, or books to tell us everything we need to know? No, we learn by doing!);
- Reflecting and processing: learning from my mistakes, and admitting when I’m wrong.
Doing all the above has not been a burden; it is my job to do those things. It’s how I become my best self in life both at work and at home.
This Re-Vision has brought Re-Acceptance; and the process of being Re-New has allowed me to evaluate and appreciate what really satisfies me in life. Student Affairs is a funny thing: we have to learn in order to teach, in order to learn, in order to teach… I remember why I really love what I do.