Saving Energy

September 30th, 2015

I should start this post by letting you know that I’ve been in student affairs a long time – over fifteen years now (damn, I’m old). Many of my revelations didn’t occur as a grad student or a new professional, but as a seasoned professional who took many years to figure things out – as it is with this one.

I have come to discover that, by nature, I am a low-energy person. What does this look like? It means I need to/can sleep a lot more than your average person, I do not tend to be peppy – ever, and in general, it requires that to do what some other people do, I have to work harder at it.

What does it not mean? It doesn’t mean I can’t be productive at work, that I can’t still be a high-achiever and motivated. It doesn’t mean I can’t care about people or causes or even my relationships. It doesn’t mean I can’t be successful at whatever I want to do. It just means I have to work harder at it sometimes.

Some of this is most likely because of my struggles with depression – I mean, I’m fighting a sickness all the time while trying not to let it take over my life on top of just facing the day – that’s bound to suck the energy out of even the most high-energy person. But some of this is just part of who I am – I’ve never been a cheerleader or someone who people think of as the life of the party. And I’m okay with that.

But in student affairs – in fact, in a lot of work places – that can be problematic.

It tends to mean that people don’t think I care as much about my work as I should. It means I sometimes look selfish and bitchy. It means that, though I want to help all the people all the time, I sometimes can only help myself. And in a field where we’re supposed to be all about others, that’s almost a cardinal sin. But I don’t think it should be.

How can we give to others when we have nothing of ourselves to give? And why do we continually ask this of others? I think it’s time to re-think what we’re asking of ourselves – and each other – when we talk about caring for students. It’s time to stop judging each other when we take time for ourselves, it’s time to step away from work when we step away from work, it’s time to recognize that we are people first, and student affairs professionals second (or even third or fourth, depending on what other roles we have in our lives).

I think we’ve all heard the Plato quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” This is really what I ask of others – be kind to each other and to yourself. There are battles of which we know nothing, and we may all be saving our energy for those.

  • JenniferKeegin

    Preach. I WAS a cheerleader and have found as I get older with more responsibilities at home I cannot absolutely be this high energy person all the time. In fact, most of the time I am exactly as you describe it. “It tends to mean that people don’t think I care as much about my work as I should. It means I sometimes look selfish and bitchy. It means that, though I want to help all the people all the time, I sometimes can only help myself. And in a field where we’re supposed to be all about others, that’s almost a cardinal sin. But I don’t think it should be.” EXACTLY.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Jennifer! And yes to the more responsibilities at home – like I said, sometimes my job comes after me, my role as a parent and my role as a partner – that means I don’t have 100% to give some days. It doesn’t mean I don’t do a good job, it just means I have other priorities.