My parents love to dance. I remember when my sister and I were little they would periodically take an evening for some dinner and dancing while we played board games with our favorite babysitter. Watching them dance was amazing, the way they would glide across the floor together, feeling the music. It was an expression of them, drawing energy from the music, and something they enjoyed. Shaking their hips and moving their arms to the beat of a Mexican polka or a cumbia. Even though they no longer dance as a pair, I still love seeing each of them start to dance when a song is playing on the radio or a familiar tune is playing in their head. Much to my dismay, the dancing gene was not one that I inherited. In fact, I really don’t like dancing. My body and soul do not feel the music with the same ease as my parents. It doesn’t come naturally.
A couple of months ago, my father asked how I was enjoying my “new” position. It had been a little over a year that I had started as an Assistant Vice President. I pondered the question for a while. I could tell him about the challenges working as the Title IX deputy and trying to make sure we are following the requirements and recommendations of the Dear Colleague Letter and other legislation. I could talk to him about the joys of working with and supporting new directors. I could talk to him about the trials and successes of convening our threat assessment team helping students, faculty, and staff who are exhibiting concerning behaviors. My father is a Mexican immigrant who didn’t finish college, yet, he is a wise man who would have understood the trials and tribulations of my position. Instead, I replied, “it feels like dancing”.
Now by dancing I don’t mean the “razzle dazzle” from the music of Chicago or the “sidestep” from the music of the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas…though I must admit sometimes we see plenty of that in our jobs. For me dancing is the expression of oneself, moving naturally, and feeling free. That is the feeling I get from working in my chosen profession. I love my work. Don’t get me wrong, as with any position, there are definitely challenges and stressors. Dealing with politics, student deaths, and budget reductions are never enjoyable. However, when everything is in sync, even in the midst of challenge, to me it feels like dancing…so many moving parts all moving in unison. Much of my work is collaborative in nature and there is no better feeling when great minds come together to analyze an issue and propose a solution or course of action. I enjoy navigating the political waters and finding synergy between areas in order to support our staff with the end result being serving students. Years of experience, education, training, practice, and some natural instinct allow me to express myself on a daily basis in my work life.
As with any dancing, I know breaks are required. No matter how much I enjoy the dance my body and souls need time to rest and recuperate. Unfortunately, many times at work the “song” never ends, so the breaks have to be self-imposed. Outside of work, I enjoy running, exercising, spending time with friends and family, volunteer work, and my favorite pastime…watching TV. At times, during these activities I do find myself “humming a work tune” in my head but I try to minimize these occasions especially when I am with friends and family. All of these activities help prepare my body and spirit for the next “dance”.
So it seems I might be more of a natural at feeling the energy and twirling around the room to the tune of SACS accreditation and learning outcomes more than P!nk or Bruno Mars. I have accepted, and welcome, this fate. My work fills me with energy and makes me feel alive. As I explained this to my Dad on that cool fall night I could see that he was thinking about the joy he derives from dancing. After I finished, he looked at me, smiled, and said, “Keep dancing Mija”.