Getting to the Purpose

by Tolu Taiwo

Sometimes it’s really hard to remember why you do certain things in the first place. For me, this moment usually comes when I’m running around the block (gotta get 5K ready and body-healthy!), or I’m driving my friends to Sonic that’s 30 minutes away from our hometown (gotta get some ice cream and mozzarella sticks!). Life is hard, and sometimes you need to remind yourself the biggest reasons of why you do what you do when the going gets tough.

Unfortunately, this all happened to me in regards to student affairs during break. After last semester, I came home so burnt out. And not just the come-home-from-break-and-sleep-for-14-hours-straight burnt out, but the does-what-I-do-even-matter-now burnt out? My first semester as a graduate student and student affairs professional was wonderful, but also, as I have stated here many times, so difficult. I started looking at my friends who worked 9-5 jobs, and began to mentally list off the skills I had that could get me into another profession if needed (all I could come up with was home-starter cupcake baker. And my cupcakes aren’t even that great, so…). Contrary to what I promised my supervisor my advisor and myself, I looked at nothing during break, because I needed a chance to breathe and not think about reflections and academic units. It didn’t help, too, that old anxieties crept up during my break—am I smart enough for this program? Am I the best person for this job? Do I really have what it takes to be in student affairs?

Luckily, a couple of things helped me squash these fears and spark some student affairs love in me again. First of all, it didn’t hurt that when I had coffee with one of my oldest friends, she re-validated elements of my personality that worked for student affairs, and told me all the reasons why I would make a good professional. Yes, it’s important to know that yourself, but it was nice to hear that from someone else. Second, whenever I described my students to my family and friends back home (“they’re…so sassy. I can’t even begin to tell you”), I felt a pang in my stomach, a combination of missing my students and wanting to work with them soon. And finally, when I was on the plane home, I heard someone in the row in front of me say that she was in student affairs. As she was trying to explain what a residence coordinator was to her seatmate, it was all I could do to stop myself from going “YES. I UNDERSTAND YOUR JOB. STUDENT AFFAIRS PROFESSIONALS UNITE WHOOP WHOOP!” These were trigger incidents that convinced me that I was still it the right field, and that I love my field.

So last night, I decided that I needed to find some repurpose about my role in student affairs. I reread my old statement of purpose that I used for CSU, and I reminded myself that I do this because I “believe student affairs enhances the lives of students beyond the classroom.” Via “Buzzfeed” style, I made a quick list of ten things I love about being a student affairs professional (which included everything from “working in a field that truly values self-care and human development” to “getting to wear University-themed sweatshirts on Friday”). And when I got to work today, I was ready. I no longer felt like covering my head under my blankets and quitting; I felt excited that I got to be part of an amazing department, and part of an awesome profession.

It’s a new year, and for me, that means never forgetting why I got into this business in the first place, and why I continue to love it. Sure, they’ll probably be times when I feel so frazzled and want to stick my head in the sand and open up my own cupcake store and never hear the word “student affairs” again. But during those times, I just need to take a deep breath, and find some repurpose.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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