by Grant Batchelder
For the last month, I have been terrified almost every minute of the day. I started showing reoccurring symptoms not common to most people and was very nervous about it. I saw a specialist who told me that it could be one of four things: one was something I would have to live with (Essential Tremors), but wouldn’t affect me much and I would be healthy and fine, another would mean brain surgery, the third would mean that I had had a stroke, and the fourth would mean that I had early onset Parkinson’s. My doctor ordered some tests and set a follow-up appointment for a month later to go over the results. She reassured me that I had no other symptoms for the three worse potential reasons, but that these tests were to rule them out and make sure that I didn’t have them. She also told me what would trigger my symptoms if it was the lesser option. I found that conversation very helpful and avoiding those triggers helped. When I couldn’t avoid them, the symptoms became worse, so I was confident that my doctor was right.
Doubt is part of human nature. We doubt everything and think about the worst possible outcome. I kept thinking that these same triggers could also be triggers for some of the others diagnoses. My grandfather died exactly a year ago due to problems from Parkinson’s and I know how painful it is and how much it hurts your family to watch it. I was terrified of what I might soon be putting my family through. Doubt crept in. I dreamed about the doubt and the pain. I stayed awaking worrying and wondering. I had no reason to be worried. Even if I did have one of the more serious diagnoses, I would still be fine. I have a good support system and could manage any of these. I have friends and family going through worse and suffering yet they remain faithful in their doctors and life. Why couldn’t I do the same? I had been so fixated on work, wedding planning, and life, that I had not taken the time to focus on trusting. Maybe I would have after the initial shock, I don’t know, but the experience did get me thinking about Faith.
I would always get annoyed in Grad school when my classmates would talk about Faith, not because I didn’t believe in it, but because they used the word in place of Beliefs: “my Faith is Christianity,” or “that is part of my Faith.” I would get annoyed because you cannot have “faith;” you can have faith in something, but faith is not something to have in itself. I still maintain that difference and think that the distinction should be made. “I have Faith” shouldn’t be a statement. We should encourage that statement to be followed up with a simple word: in. We in Student Affairs focus on the wellbeing of our students, but often we don’t talk about what they have faith in. It’s a touchy subject and most of us don’t want to be perceived as pushing an agenda, but I think it’s important that we do ask the question. If we don’t encourage students to think about and define what they have faith in, when things go wrong doubt takes control. As a Student Affairs professional, I have encouraged my RA’s to discuss this with me if they would like to, but I don’t ever bring it up myself. Yet, it was upon defining what I had faith in along with my beliefs and morals that I truly understood who I was. We and our students cannot move forward in our own self authorship until we examine these aspects of our lives. This line of thought lead to many questions: When is it appropriate to discuss these topics with our students? At what point are they ready? Is this our responsibility?
I still don’t have the answers to these questions and maybe never will, but, as every question needs to be, we should examine these questions. What do you think?