Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Ph.d Chronicles: Re-Evaluating life plans

I can be a bit of a control freak at times. I like to know where my life is going, the steps it will take me to get there, who will be on the journey with me, and any other critical pieces that may come into play. I never imagined being on this doctoral journey with my partner would create such turmoil with the controlling and planning part of myself.

In an effort to maintain my cool through these overwhelming times, I have been reading a blog titled, The Graduate Wife. As I have been recently struggling with the notion of not being in control of my future, and needing to take every day, every week, every month one step at a time, I knew I needed to hear how others have tackled this. I needed some support. I needed to read some stories that resonated with my own.

As I perused the blog site, I stumbled across an article in the advice and support column. It was of a woman seeking some advice because her husband's PH.d journey was delaying her dream to start a family. She was struggling with the idea of moving across the country and away from her family while her husband started school. Along with this they both juggled with the idea of having a baby. This woman wanted to know how she could be supportive of his dreams while still remaining focused on her dreams and needs as well.

This was ME! Maybe not specifically, but at the root of her concern were mines. How do you maintain the support that you need to have for your spouse while also not losing sight of supporting yourself?

As I begin the read the post, the first sentence resonated so strongly with me that I had to take a moment and reflect on it. It stated "The first rule – and the last rule, and every rule in between- of the grad student life is this: to survive this adventure, you have to be willing to accept that this journey will ask you, at different times and in different ways, to let go of your expectations for how your life will be."

So your asking me to do probably one of the most difficult things in the world? Let Go.

 In order to be a supportive partner and be successful in this journey together, I am realizing that I have to let go. I have to be willing to let go of all the plans I had when we first started dating, and be prepared to develop new plans with my partner based on the uncertainty of this graduate school journey.

To take time and go through all the goals, dreams, aspirations, and visions I have had for life in these next few years and decide which ones will we focus on, which ones will we put on hold, and which ones will we let go of seemed like such a daunting task; however I am certain that this will allow me to begin to build the new life with my future husband that I seek.

The article went on to state that "Sometimes being stripped clean of everything you hold tightly leaves your hands empty, wide open, and ready to receive something new and beautiful, something greater than your imagination would have allowed. In other cases, the things that are closest to our hearts are meant to be protected, cherished, and cultivated; and the most difficult part is identifying what those are, then working out – together [with your husband] – how to bring them to life.

So although I am feeling a bit overwhelmed and trying to find the balance between being supportive and maintaining a sense of self...I know that the next stages of my life will require me to let go of some of that control that has been a major part of my identity all of these years. I can not say it will be an enjoyable task, but in the end, while on this journey with my partner, I am confident that we will be much stronger for it.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Are you the go-to person?

Sometimes you attend conferences, workshops, seminars, etc...and you hear things and then you never think about them again. Sometimes you attend these same events and you hear something and you chew it on for months and months, or every once in awhile you think about it.

This happened to me after the 2013 NASPA IV-E Women in Student Affairs Drive In Conference. During the Senior Level Panel discussion, Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin of Northwestern University posed the question: "Are you the go-to person? If not, how do you become the go-to person?" This question and this thought has been constantly going in and out of my mind since June. As I think about this notion of being the go-to person, I ask myself a series of questions along with that:

Do I want to be the go-to person?
If so, to whom do I want to be to go-to person for?
What am I the go-to person for?
Am I prepared to be the go-to person for whatever that is?
If not, how do I prepare myself?
And all importantly, how the heck do I position myself to be the "Go-To" person?

I know, call me a thinker, a reflector, a worry wart, but two of my top 5 strengths are futuristic and strategic, so my long lists of questions seems to make sense; at least to me anyway.

Over the summer, I really begin to process what this meant to me. What is my definition of being the go-to person and how will I know that I am successful in becoming it. I wanted, well actually needed, to make sense of this for myself. I did not want to use anyone else's definition of success because I wanted to set realistic expectations for myself based on my goals. Trying to achieve another person's version of success can sometimes be a daunting and impossible task especially if they are not based on your values.

Being a go-to person to me means the following:

1. I have a solid reputation and individuals see me as having some level of competence and expertise in a certain area.
2. I have a strong support system and individuals will speak highly of me and advocate for me even when I am not in the room.
3. I am looked upon to serve in a variety of capacities specifically being a change maker.
4. I am trusted to create and implement new initiatives and strategic priorities.

As I continue to grow as a professional, I am confident that I am achieving in these 4 areas. I constantly review them and adapt accordingly, thinking about ways I can be better and how I can continue to move forward in each of them.

How do you define being the go-to person? As you recollect on your professional journey, have you been the go-to person? In what areas? If this is a desire for you to become the go-to person, what steps do you need to take to get there? How will you measure if you are successful?

I hope that my thought process has sparked you to take time and chew on this for yourself. Feel free to tweet me @Bdenisecole and tell me what being the go-to person means to you, and/or comment on this post as well.