Postcards of Gratitude

by James Luckman

The first couple of years of professional life within student affairs can be draining. The constant demands of social, academic, and professional commitments can be hard to navigate, although those are important elements to value, it is important to acknowledge the individuals that helped you get to your current position. Often times you might think of what is next on the to do list, but do you take the time to thank the individuals that helped motivate you to impact the lives of your current community? A simple thank you postcard or phone call, can brighten someone else’s day and it could even reenergize your commitment and vision within the profession.

In addition to writing a blog post every week, I also take the time to write a couple of thank you postcards to various key individuals within my life. I have written to former staff members, roommates, mentors, and family members. Although this is typically another thing I add on my to do list for the week, it is something I look forward to doing. For me this is therapeutic process, as I take the time to reflect on the past, while also thinking of the impact I would like to have on others within the future. I make sure to be specific and reference the particular reason why I am writing the letter, which recognizes the significant impact they have within my lived experiences. Writing these postcards focuses on the why, as in why am I writing the letter and why I continue to pursue the career of student affairs, even though I might be having a rough week of my own.

This week I wrote three letters, to individuals throughout my educational journey:
  1. The first letter was to one of my best friends in high school, who I unfortunately grew apart from during college. Currently my friend is going through a rough time as she is moving back home after living in Florida for a year. I hope the letter brighteners her day, because I know she is struggling with the relocation as well as processing her recent break up. Reflecting on our friendship brought back funny memories of high school shenanigans and working at Subway together, which brought back positive vibes. 
  2. The second letter was to my high school teacher and former track coach that helped me gain confidence during high school. This was one of my all-time favorite teachers and I wrote him a letter because his car recently broke down. This seems like an obscure thing to write to him about; however, this was the van that he drove us in to our winter and summer track meets. Writing this letter helped me find my confidence and humor that he installed in me, even though it has been several years since we interacted in person.
  3. Finally, the last person I wrote to this week was the Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs (AVP) at my undergraduate institution who was able to be a friendly support system during my senior year. My former AVP is an upbeat and energetic individual who was always willing to attend various campus events and socialize with undergraduate students. I thought to reach out to her, because earlier this semester I interviewed the Vice Present of Student Affairs at my current institution, for a class assignment. While writing this paper I thought back to her professional style and how much I appreciated her support and professional development. This quick reflection was what encouraged me to reach out and send her a quick thank you post card, and to congratulate her on a big accomplishment she has been working on all year. 
The purpose of my postcard initiative is to send a quick gratitude to the people that helped me along my educational journey. Some weeks are longer and harder than others, however taking the time to write these thank you cards help improve my spirits and help me focus on the future. I thought to write this post because I find this to be personally beneficial, as well as an interaction I recently had with some of my RAs. After completing my postcards last week I went to put them in the campus post office, and the RAs on desk stopped me and asked about the postcards. I explained to them what they were about and who I was writing to last week. The RAs were able to learn about me as I shared humors stories about my former roommate, how influential my past supervisor was, as well as hearing about some of my family members. At the end of our conversation, one of my RAs joking asked if I could write him a postcard in the future. This interaction gave me an opportunity to open up to my staff while also acknowledging the long lasting impact I will have on my current staff. Although I had a rough week, this interaction made brightened my day.

Can you name a couple of people you would want to reach out to, and how do you plan on thanking them?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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