The Grass Isn’t Always Greener…

By Mairead Kiernan

Coming back from an ACUHO-I internship this summer, my plan was to fly below the radar for my last year here at Texas Tech, attend TPE, get a job, and get out of Texas ASAP. It wasn’t that there was anything in particular about Texas Tech that I didn’t enjoy, I just felt detached and was ready to be closer to home.

So great, we got back and started training and while the department felt a lot more positive, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t totally buying it. It felt like we were just waiting for something to happen that would bring the atmosphere down. When we left for retreat about 3 weeks ago, I still didn’t have my hopes up. I had no idea how the following 3 days were going to change my way of thinking.

We started almost immediately with some deeper level sharing than we usually did. The first night, we did a large group sharing activity that answered questions from, “What was the last book you read?” to, “What is something you’d lay down your life for?” Much to my dismay, people shared really deep experiences, myself included. I am a talker, but I don’t usually share in-depth experiences about my life with people. During this activity people shared so deeply that we had to stop twice to allow people to process a bit. Learning about the family situations of my peers and struggles with addiction as well as sharing my own past with an abusive relationship left everyone a bit shocked. I think we get so used to everyday interactions with people—either positive or negative—that we think that’s all there is to our peers. This activity made me realize that (as cliché as this sounds) just because I think I know someone, doesn’t mean I know who they are after 5pm. This was probably the most impactful activity of retreat as far as sticking with me after we left.

On the last day, we were asked for 2 people each from the 3 different levels of our professional staff to sit on a panel. After agreeing to be on the panel, we were asked to share one life-changing event that shaped how we lead people. I don’t want to out my peers, but my goodness, it got emotional very quickly. I shared about the death of my grandfather and how having to watch my mother and grandmother pick up the pieces made me far more compassionate than I ever thought I could be. Unfortunately, I was so unwilling to share this my first year at TTU (among other things) that I came off as cold and closed off.

At the end of this activity, we did a Head, Heart, and Feet wrap up. Head was something we learned, Heart was something we felt, and Feet was something we were going to take away. For Head, I quoted our director who once said to me, “The grass isn’t always greener, sometimes it’s just different grass.” I decided to write that I like my grass. Heart I said I felt exposed because as a non-sharer, I had put a LOT out on the table. Finally, for feet, I said I wanted to remain more open with my peers during the course of this year.

Like I said, I went into retreat just a little bit jaded (cue the Aerosmith). Coming out of it, I realized that opening up to people without being cynical isn’t that hard. The experience you’re going to have at an institution is solely what you make it. If you choose to dwell on the negative, even from one year to the next, you’re only hurting yourself and those around you. I realized that I needed to share in order to find a family here and to change my outlook on what this year holds. Needless to say, I’m now looking forward to the next 10 months here!


Student Affairs - the First Years

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