Friday, September 26, 2008

Two Thoughts on Reslife

A quick blog about the ups and downs of res life.

The UP:
I watched the debate with my co-RA on duty and a few residents tonight-- threw up a big poster in the front of the building an hour in advance, and there was an outcome. We laughed, we talked, we had a bunch of fun. It was spontaneous and it combined a few elements of the building and a few social groups that wouldn't have normally interacted. The major up, of course, is this is my job. :-)

Ben Folds is performing 2 BLOCKS FROM WHERE I LIVE, and I can't go because I'm on duty. The major down, of course, is that this is my home life. Somebody, though, has to take care of the kids.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Day Dreamin'

On the ride home from K's house today, when I wasn't staring at people's feet and listening to some BU girls ridiculous conversation, I started to daydream about what it would be like to leave class or work and just have to go home and have myself as my responsibility. Forget worrying about programs, the guilt of not being around for my residents all the time, having to be back most nights in my room just to be a presence. Not eating dinner in a cafeteria, but rather making my own food, with ingredients I like, according to my dietary needs. Visiting with people when I choose to visit. Maybe going out and getting drunk every once in a while without worrying that my building is going to burst into flames and I'll have to be a point person.

Maybe when I sauntered in from my responsibilities, as late as 7pm (to be charitable), I could take off my shoes, close my door, and breathe. Be as selfish as I want. Perhaps I'd be coming home to a pet, or sharing my home with a significant other. I could turn on the TV and have some time to unwind. Maybe if I were taking classes, I could sit down and do some reading and let myself get absorbed in it. Or just not have to talk to anyone for a while.

I don't think this is selfish-- but I also don't think this is going to be a realistic experience until May... and perhaps later.

I have to reiterate that I love my job-- my girls are incredible, I'm learning lots of things, and I kind of like the thrill of the unknown that comes each time I'm on duty. In fact, I even like our 3 weekly staff meetings, because my supervisors/peers are amazing and brighten my day. As much as I might complain about 3am lock outs, there is part of me that knows how grateful that person is that I woke up and am helping them out. Maybe I need to be needed? I prefer to think that I'm responding to doing something worthwhile.

That being said-- the way I live is not normal for someone going on 23. I would also be lying if I said that I didn't look for other live in jobs in Boston from time to time. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't ready for more of a challenge. I'd be lying if I said that sometimes, I just want to be an adult again. But I'd be lying if I thought I'd act on a job offer or trade what I'm doing now.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What I Learned In School Today...

I wont lie. I didn't come to grad school for grad school. Is that ridiculous?

I applied to Suffolk on the strength of a colleagues recommendation about the assistantship programs. She had been an assistant in student activities, and worked with residential life in some capacity as well, and her recommendation about the working programs was stellar. To wit, I do not remember her talking about the academic program at all. That wasn't my interest at the time, though. My interest was getting on campus, keeping my position on the Regional Board, and getting the preparation to take on serious roles in Student Affairs.

To date, I feel like the most important things I've learned here HAVE been through the assistantship and work experiences I've taken within the University. I've had incredible instructors in my supervisors and peers. The things I'm learning from my direct supervisor, my co-adviser and others in the program is unparalleled. Its a phenomenal education in the ins and outs of residential operation. Granted, no class is going to teach you how to host a successful judicial meeting. There were professional workshops, of course. No class is going to make you adept at dealing with student or parent concerns. It seems, no class is going to attack the practicalities of the vocation. Which I should understand and expect.

What I HAVE learned from the higher ed program is that, to date, it has not been what I expected. The learning has been cursory. Study of theorists has so far been reduced to "You should know about Chickering at some point, but we're not going to talk about him here." I've learned that professors are mostly effective when they are teaching to their interests. Of course, this is understandable. Whose interest is "Organization and Administration"? I doubt there are any readers who can stand up and say 'This is something fascinating'. That should not, however, limit the effectiveness of an educator. It is arguably an important topic (I say arguably, of course, because I'm not yet convinced of its value), and should be addressed as such.

Somehow, this relates back to the readings I've been doing about Service Learning programs. In these programs, students take their theoretical classroom knowledge and apply it to programs that do good in the community. It is practical application, which is meant to enrich the educational experience.

It is the practical application that is most enriching here. Part of me feels like I am going to learn so much more in my job than I will in class. Perhaps I'll be exposed to new ideas, but more likely I will be learning from the office and then applying back when we cover topics in class. In this way, ideas are being learned before the classroom, and merely articulated through their classroom presentation. Part of me wonders, then, am I paying for the job education with the side benefit of a masters degree, or am I getting ripped off with a masters program that has great side benefits that will stack my resume?

These are heavy charges to lay during the first month of classes, so perhaps some of it is just the waiting game. The sense I get, though, is that I'd better just hunker down and get what I can from work.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

On Leadership In Progress

Throughout the 2008 election cycle, I've written about my desire to get into national politics at some point in my life. Certainly, action is not indicative of interest here, since I'm currently sitting on the 9th floor of a residence hall, rather than getting into the nitty gritty and networking with the parties that would connect me to the option of being a political figure. The desire is there, I suppose, but the commitment is not. Or at least, the ability to make the commitment.

Throughout this election cycle, I've also been trying to integrate into my opinions and worldview what is quickly becoming Barack's empty promise about post partisan politics. Let's call it a trope in the overarching theme of my quest for greater personal development. One day I'll be able to look at a democrat and republican and say "no, the republican is the better leader. They are the better choice". As an aside, that almost happened in Connecticut in 2006 when I considered voting for Joe Lieberman (and good lord, I dislike that man). It hasn't happened since.

(As an aside, I established MA residency that year, and didn't end up voting in the Connecticut elections. So I voted for Edward Kennedy that year).

These two ideas come rushing together... here.

Watching Sarah Palin's ABC interview on youtube, I was struck by how ill prepared she was to answer most, if not all, of Charlie Gibson's questions. Perhaps I mean "ill prepared" in the sense that she responded how I might expect someone in the current administration to answer. Perhaps I mean that, if I paused the video and composed an answer and then listened to hers, that they would be comparable in understanding of world affairs or similarly articulate. Perhaps, my definition doesn't matter. Rather, it is the fact that I can apply the term "ill prepared" at all. This is a candidate that will help shape policy for up to 8 years after her potential election. Maybe more... and here is some uppity grad student calling her on being "ill prepared"? I'm sorry, but that is not a phrase I can use regarding Joe Biden. It would likely even be less applicable if I was referring to Jodi Rell. I hate to say it, but even Mitt Romney (although, good lord I dislike him) cannot be called "ill prepared".

In truth, I leave her interview thinking "I could do that just as well, right now".

So it is that sentiment that further inspires me. This is not Hillary Clinton, who made me feel like it was my civic duty to effect a positive change. This is not Joe Biden, who makes me want to prove that some catholic blue collar kid can make a splash AND make it home for dinner. This is not John McCain, who shows me the honor of service and humility and faith a servant of the nation should show, humbling me with his love for country. Instead, this is Sarah Palin, who makes me think "Jesus, that's all it takes?"

I'm moving to Alaska. Moore for Governor, 2020!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Partisanship is the new post partisanship

Once upon a time, specifically just before the summer of '08, I was promised post partisan politics.

Now, either someone has reneged on this offer, it was a limited time promotion, or we've just moved past it. Post-partisan politics maybe got lower Nielson ratings than the Olympics, so we switched back? Maybe John Edwards' affair made it so, no matter what the presidential candidates were doing, at least they weren't having affairs on their terminal wives.

Forget the faux-outrage. Forget the calls that each statement is "the new low". Forget that you're trying to win an election. This is not the model on which electoral politics should be built. Elections are not about figuring out who is the worst candidate, or trying to persuade me to vote for you because the other party is a terrible choice. This is not about pandering to my interests because it might win you the blue collar vote.

Maybe this is a little idealistic, and maybe this is a little naive. Part of the reason I felt so great heading into this election was that there was so much less in the way of attacking the other candidates. It was about "this is how my idea works, this is why my idea works". When the party driven attacks began, it wasn't necessarily snarky or personal. It was "this is why my idea works and theirs doesn't". Its the process of persuasion. This is why I'm the best. Look at my virtues, look at his virtues, and if you like one over the other then you're going to have picked a president based on their value.

Instead, when I ask people why they are voting for someone, the answer is often "McCain is Bush's 3rd term... he's shown poor judgement..." or "Barack Obama is too inexperienced...He's not the reformer he claims to be...".

The time is coming where the electorate needs to call up in one voice, outraged with the course that both parties have set. I refuse to stand by and levy the same attacks used against me. I refuse to degrade opinion for superficial reasons. I refuse to vote for someone simply to vote against another.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Barack Obama is the new Donna Karen

About a week and a half ago, my Obama for President shirt was delivered to my office. Since then, I have worn it two times, one of those times being today. When I put on the shirt, something is different. People see it and they respond.

For example, I wore it the day before 1st year move in, and a half drunk woman on the street yelled out for "an across the road high five". Sometimes, things like that happen to me. Every day, I think I end up with a ridiculous story. So, I don't think its anything too incredible. However, I wore it today, and one of the cafeteria workers, while ringing me through for my veggie burger commented on how she liked my shirt, then remembered who I was later on when I saw her on the Common. Or, at the Elections office today, the director made a point to say that Obama was his boy, and then helped me out quite a bit more than I expected any bureaucrat to help an uppity grad student. Even the lady on the elevator up asked me "So, my buddy Sarah Palin didn't convince you the other night?" So we had a very nice conversation about her, as well.

Maybe its because people are so fired up for this election-- this one means something, we think. There is a change we can make, a situation we can prevent, or a world we can save with our paper ballot and civic engagement. Participation in the grand pageant of civic duty is somehow more relevant than in years past. As though, just maybe, we can effect the change we wish to see, empowered through participation.

This, of course, is the premise of how we run the country. The often imperfect but nonetheless elegant process by which we elect our leadership. It is shocking to me that some might find the fact that my voice is a part of the choice for the national leadership anything other than humbling and a huge civic responsibility. That one might pass that opportunity by is, in fact, heartbreaking. To be entrusted with such responsibility and to cast it aside so easily is a betrayl of the sacred social covenant to which we find ourselved bound. Regardless of your opinion, you must have one. Take the time to present it via your vote.

The other side of the enchantment that happens when I wear this shirt is the assumption of the Obama campaign. Somehow, I worry about the way in which I reflect on his candidacy and operation. If I act imprudently or rudely, does that reflect back on Mr. Obama himself? Thats why I always smile when I walk by the McCain Victory Headquarters. Just in case I run across a vocal McCain proponent, I can smile and make a great conversation, build a bridge and maybe shake hands at the end. This, by no small measure, is surely a result of having worked in residence life, where every action reflects on the department, and every misstep is played out against you in a judicial hearing.

Perhaps this all means that I am wearing a brand. Like any other brand, people make assumptions about your character and interests as a result of who is across your chest. Whether a zinger pushing the envelope or a political icon, there is a representation of self and the values and interests you purport to have. Mine, then, is just an Abercrombie that people have opinions about?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

I can has grownup?

The past few weeks, posting here has been light.
By light, I mean, non existent.

Mainly, I'm going to blame that on my work engagements and getting accustomed to living in Boston. Life is taking off for me in a lot of different directions right now, so I've had less time than I did this summer to decompress via verbalization. My priorities have also shifted-- no longer is watching CNN the highlight of my day.

I've started working in the office at my assistantship, and its certainly been more work than I expected. Students are confused, and while I have access to some information, I'm certainly not experienced at the workings of the office. So, while I have been able to do what I can, for the most part it feels like the blind leading the blind. On top of that, I'm fielding parent phone calls and working on developing a university sponsored organization with a 5 figure budget.

The other day, I received notice that I will be starting my judicial responsibilities as well. Adjudication is part conversation, part confrontation in my mind. It requires patience, knowledge of policy, and professionalism. These are not my strong suits at all. How am I going to be a University Judicial Officer, when my personality is better suited to observation or having fun? Can you host a judicial meeting where you make a student laugh, and still be effective as an official? As an administrator? As a disciplinarian?

Aside from a job bordering on professional with real responsibilities, I've discovered that I've been trying to develop adult relationships with my parents. Today, I invited them up to Boston for a weekend. In short, they are visiting me of my own accord. Not because they're moving me out, not because they're giving me money, but as a social call. I have chosen to host them. I suppose these aren't necessarily large responsibilities or transformations, especially when my mother and I are particularly close. However, the situation and experience of this visit is of a tenor unrecognizable to my past experience.

I've also begun painting again, in an attempt to fill my free time with a worthwhile experience. Perhaps a hobby? An avocation? More likely, a healing experience. My former major, after the experience I had in the academy and the betrayal I felt on the eve of my thesis defense, this is a first step in the process of reclaiming something which was once so important to my life and experience, to my identity and self. It is a healing action, I hope.

I'm currently watching the RNC, and hoping I can one day be the kind of person who can vote for a candidate because they are the most qualified, not because I identify with their party. That requires many things, I think... but first, it requires the kind of adult personal growth I currently am seeking. The fact that I'm watching the RNC is probably also the reason the writing on this post is as low quality as it is. I'm too busy watching the cowboy hats swing back and forth as Cindy McCain woos me with her committment to doing good in a world so beset by tragedy. I may not agree with McCain/Palin, but I can definitely respect Cindy.