Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Sweet Spot

This blog post has been a long time coming. I’ve been thinking on some things over the past few months; stewing on something, but I wasn’t quite sure exactly what it was that had me so restless. I just knew whatever it was, I wanted to write it down. 

And today is that day. Today is the day I write down what’s been brewing in me for the last few months, and here is it:

I like who I am.  

How many of us can really say that? And better yet, actually mean it? I feel like for so long, I’ve felt like I’ve been suffering from the “imposter” syndrome. You know, where you’re old enough to be working a “real” job but still young enough to feel like you’re “playing adult”. Like, you keep hoping no one figures out that you really don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, and for the most part, you feel like you’re playing dress up when it comes to work and life as an adult. You keep wondering how long it will take for the other people at the table to realize you so do not belong there. 

I remember the first time I felt this way. It was my first year in graduate school, and my boss at the time (Patty) brought me to a planning session in the Twin Cities of about 5-6 people from various colleges in Minnesota; we called ourselves “The Partnership for Safer Communities Consortium”. It was a group of head honchos from higher education and the Department of Corrections, and our goal was to find ways to continue providing higher educational opportunities to incarcerated students. Funding was running out, and our programs were at risk of closing down. And all I could think was, “Do they know I don’t belong here? That I am pinching myself as I sit here because I can’t believe I’m even in this room right now? Who said that I had any kind of insight to provide on this huge, important topic of social justice? Do they really think that I, a twenty two year old grad student, can change social fabric in this state I’ve lived in for 6 months!?”

And thank God for Patty who brought me to that meeting, because she saw something in me that I certainly did not see. She saw the potential and drive that I brought to my work, and she showed me that although I was young, what I had to say was important. That my thoughts were valuable and meaningful. That I had every opportunity to change my world, even if it didn’t seem like I had the power to do so.

And seven years later, I’ve presented at national conferences with her, contributed to a published textbook on emerging technologies in higher education, and been adjunct faculty at the second largest school in Minnesota, teaching incarcerated men in a level four security prison.  I’ve started educational programs on my own, and quite frankly, made shit happen in regards to serving unprivileged students in Minnesota and beyond.

So you know what? I like who I am. I like who I’ve become, and I no longer feel like an imposter. My experiences and what I think, matters. Do I still have a long way to go? Absolutely. Just ask my new boss; I feel like I know nothing there. But I don’t care. Because I’ll learn. Not knowing doesn’t make me any less valuable of a member of our team, because like everything else in my life, I’ll give it everything I have. Why? Because I know why I’m here. My focus is on helping students change their lives through education. Nothing else matters to me except that fact. I don’t care if I don’t know all the answers today; I’ll figure them out. I don’t care if people think I’m crazy because of how much I work with students on stuff they “should know” or “be able to figure out on their own”. I do what I know is right, and that’s enough for me. It’s an awesome feeling, to finally be comfortable with who you are and what you believe enough to stand behind it even if the world thinks you’re crazy.