7th month check-in.

Yup. Perfectly on schedule.

My graduate program is notorious for being affectionately called “Two Years Of Sitting In Your Shit… And Becoming A Better Person Because Of It.” One thing I know I have mastered in my masters program is how to do an ugly cry while screaming about institutional systems of oppression… while using theory, of course.

There’s something about being deprived of comfort to show me a clearer picture of how I want to live my life– both professionally and personally. When my friends and colleagues ask me what I want to do after I graduate, I confidently answer…

“Dating. I want to be dating.”

R reminded me tonight, “Sorry, Trina. Life doesn’t stop just because you have to write a paper.” And he’s right. Life just keeps happening, and meanwhile, I’m just trying to make sure this is all worth it.

1. Don’t be afraid to evolve.

It’s only been seven months and my everything has changed. My definitions of certain words mean something very different now. I am growing, and it sucks. My values gets challenged all the time, and I’m asked to think critically all. the. time. 

But isn’t that the point?

The point of going into my grad program is not to get everything I already know validated– it’s about expanding my range of knowledge, understanding where others are coming from (or in my case, TRYING to understand), and unlearning systems of oppression. And sure, at this point, my brain has a few stretch marks. For those who have seen me recently, I let this evolution physically manifest in a slight change in my appearance (the cut will get its own blog post, in due time). But this is why I’m here. I’m not going to be the same person I was entering this program, and I’m learning to embrace that.

 

2. Take ownership of your learning and honor what excites you.

I have other interests and dreams that have nothing to do with my career… and those are sacred to me. Find ways to learn about them too OR how they “neatly” tie into student affairs.

List of topics I’ve used in assignments so far:

Filipino-Americans and hip hop (student affairs twist: recognizing the complex intersectionalities of students from immigrant families)
Interracial relationships (student affairs twist: supporting students of color in interracial relationships in their racial identity development)
Gender dynamics and cisgender privilege in a Beyoncé film concert (oh, yes I did. No explanation needed)

I’ve spent way too much time learning things that bore me to do it again in a masters program. Envision your ideal life– all of it. Not just your career at the end of the program.

3. Take care of your spirit.

Too often, the student affairs field gets labeled “warm fuzzy,” and while I have no problem with that, it has the potential to devalue the magnitude of our work.

Working in education can be one of the most stressful jobs in the United States, but how often are we honoring that? As I learn more about indigenous perspectives of teaching (another topic related to #2), too often the spirit is ignored in a traditional school/work setting. Emotion is not considered “professional” in the workplace, and then we wonder why the nation is having a mental health crisis… but I digress. #hegemony

So often as educators, we’re expected to have buckets full of answers and patience, but how are we sustaining ourselves in this work to keep going? This is especially relevant for folks who work in identity centers. This work is exhausting.

Instead of pushing away negative feelings, pause and understand what is happening. Take notice of a physical reaction… that migraine and increase in body temperature didn’t just appear out of nowhere. On the other end, take notice of the moments that make your soul feel good. Document them. Use these discoveries about yourself to advocate for your spirit… and then communicate this with others. Your loved ones may love you, but they’re not mind-readers.

4. Remind yourself that you’re in transition, and remember to remind your loved ones.

The scariest thing about transition, for me, is the risk of losing or bruising relationships, because I’m “storming” through a transition phase or something (and I’ve been close). Make it a point to remind your loved ones in the beginning that you will be going through adjustments. Think of it as preventative care for your relationships. Find ways to forgive yourself… and to ask your loved ones to be patient with you, too. If you’re having an especially hard day or week or quarter or semester…. do what you need to do to take care of yourself while sustaining your relationships– sometimes that means putting communication on pause until life slows down a bit or running away to Boston for a little while…

5. Cope by creating.

Vermont is the second Whitest state in the nation. I can maybe name two Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) staff who I feel comfortable going to in times of need. If you asked me to name at least three AAPI people in senior level leadership, yet alone AAPI womyn, I would need to do some major Googling.

Needless to say, there are days when this place breaks my spirit, and I can only imagine what that means for the undergraduate students. I allowed myself to feel all the feels (anger, sadness, anger, anger, irritation)… and then I decided to create space where there was none.

And when that wasn’t enough, I reached out to my NASPA family to create something that our entire community can benefit from…

What I needed was to see more people like me. What I also need is an institutional change… but since that takes a little longer, I can at least have a hand in nurturing the next generation of AAPI leadership.

Nothing will happen from me just staying mad about the lack of resources and support– I’ve said it before that emotion, especially anger, is a good thing that should be allowed to be felt, but it’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.

P.S. Yes, all of those events are upcoming. Email me for more details or sign up for the hangout here.

So whatever it is that you’re not getting– maybe it’s academic support or a faith community, consider creating what you need and sharing it with others. This is what we often recommend to our students, after all!