Like the robin that guards and nurtures her nest and then must set her hatchlings free, so must we as professional women. We feel the calling to enter the field of higher education, specialize our talents in student success, and mentor those we recruit into the field. We gladly accept the role, we nurture, we mentor, and we even “push” them out of the nest. It should be easy to watch them fly away knowing we’ve done our job, right? Not for this old bird.
For the past two years I have been immersed in the world of “other duties as assigned”, essentially holding down two full time positions while the institution realigned reporting lines and worked through organizational efficiencies. It was a promotion after all, leaving behind the Director title and moving up the organizational ladder to Assistant Vice Chancellor. You can all relate, I know, so I should have been ecstatic when the opportunity to fill the Director position was cemented, right? On the surface I was, underneath I was filled with anxiety and apprehension. My professional identity has always been aligned with Campus Recreation and Student Unions. I struggled to answer the question of who was I to become if I left that behind and handed the reins over to the next generation. I struggled to reconcile in my own head the question of professional value. I didn’t want to think of myself as one of “them”, the administration, or the stuffy pencil pushing personas that we all made light of as young professionals. A wise old (as in the longevity of our friendship, not age) friend took me to lunch to celebrate this new found freedom that I would soon enjoy, and upon the completion of our lunch, the fortune cookie revealed what I had been longing to hear and very apprehensive to accept.
“Be careful what you wish for – You just might get it”
So why was I struggling to accept that the years of hard work had finally paid off? Why could I not see that my value to the institution was not tied to one identity? I am after all a woman, a spouse, an aunt, a student, and a lover of life and adventure first and foremost. This is all before any title that identifies me on my campus. I am more than the title I hold in this one small microcosm of the world. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
“What we must decide is perhaps how we are valuable, rather than how valuable we are.”
Like the mother bird that protects and encourages her nestlings to fly, I am valuable in the lives of those I mentor. Because of the strong women in my life, I have always known how valuable I am as a contributing member of society. What I, perhaps like you, have struggled with is how I am valuable. Just a subtle change in the structure of the sentence but monumental in how I perceive myself and the impact I have. This is a growth area for me, one that will continue to evolve and grow as I settle into the next chapter of my adventure in higher education.
Today I am moving forward, claiming my value to the institution not through a title or a professional affiliation, but as a strong competent woman who now understands how I am valuable to others and the world. I trust as you read this you too will identify and embrace how you are valuable.
So with the publication of this blog, I am setting the young bird free to fly without so much as small push from the nest. She has stepped to the edge and is ready to take the first of many solo flights. I have handed over the department and will cheer from the sidelines as she takes flight and soars high above the mountains.