Endurance

Truth - Those who succeed may not necessarily be exceptionally talented but they do have the persistence to reach their goals. Sometimes waiting it out and chugging along is all it takes to make a breakthrough. Whereas others may give up or fall by the wayside, those who have that extra oomph in life keep going no matter what. Those who distinguish themselves from others do so by just doing what they need to longer. It may just very well be as simple as that. This is endurance.

"Wondrous is the strength of cheerfulness, and its power of endurance - the cheerful man will do more in the same time, will do it; better, will preserve it longer, than the sad or sullen" Thomas Carlyle
One of the most valuable traits a person can demonstrate is endurance. It's that ability to keep going regardless of what comes their way. It's those that can wade through the deepest waters that emerge not only stronger but on the other side of tidal waves. Those that able to weather the storm lead efforts to rebuild and progress. It can be all too easy to give up, abandon ship, and acquiesce. Sometimes it seems like the circumstances we face are too difficult, or they last too long, or we have doubt in our abilities. It's those times where we have to have faith in who we are, what we are made of, and what we capable of doing. It's those times where we just might surprise ourselves and others around is if only we believe we are more than who we are. The actuality is we have and will always be enough but it takes thinking ourselves to be greater, mightier, and stronger on occasion for us to accomplish the feats that challenge us most. Our minds are powerful things. Managing our emotions in tough times can make all the difference in our completion of our trials and tribulations. The ways that we perceive situations and choose our attitudes guide the entire experience. Not all things have to be perilous if we look for the benign in them or find ways to make them exciting, entertaining, or even easier. Be innovative, be grounded, and most of all be positive. That's what gives us endurance.

This summer for me was spent working incoming first-year orientation as a graduate supervisor. It was an amazing experience from start to finish. Being an orientation leader was the catalyst that helped me decide that I wanted to pursue a career in higher education and student affairs because of how impactful I realized it could be. With that being said, it is also one of most physical, emotionally, and mentally exhausting jobs I have ever had. Over five weeks, two teams of 12 orientation leaders, a supervisor, and our small support staff successfully oriented over 4000 students, and their accompanying guests through 22 separate renditions of orientation sessions. Our days started promptly at 6:45AM and realistic didn't end until 11:00PM weekdays on our day & a half schedule. I was used to going longer actually but not doing so much back to back. Each and every morning I would arise and turn it on, and just go. I had to remember that each sessions was a first for the incoming students and their guests. That meant that I had to strive to bring my best, my fullest, and my most authentic self to my work daily. I could make or break someone's first real impression of campus and their college experience. My work realistically was trying to make substantial connections with strangers in order to make them comfortable or even excited about starting their first of year of college. Essentially that was it. I smiled, I laughed big, and cracked jokes. I was larger than life, animated, and charismatic just as much as I was reserved, approachable, and relatable depending on what someone needed from me. Emotional intelligence was the biggest skill I used beyond being mindful of my endurance. I had to keep going, regardless of how I feeling or my exhaustion. This was of the utmost importance. I was able to endure simply because of the people I had the privilege of working with (another post to follow) and the amazing people I came across in the work. It made it truly enjoyable. I looked forward to each and every day. The positivity that surrounded me is what propelled me through a long and arduous summer that felt nothing like it.

It was all the inside jokes. It was the hilarious ridiculousness that would ensue on and off-stage when entertaining guests. It was the late night food runs after midnight, Wal-Mart scavenging trips, or gas station loitering that made it so magnificent. It was living in the moment, being present, and allowing myself to not just be an administrator but someone who was also being affected by what was going on around me. It was getting on the makeshift dance floor, belting out awful karaoke, and making fun of myself that made it pleasant. It was going there emotionally whenever people needed me to. If people were quiet, so was I. If they felt sick, cried, or were anxious, there I was bringing it back down to Earth at a moment's notice to be most accessible to them. It was the yelling, music, and the food. It was the people. It was the glorious people. It was the truly one-of-a-kind people. I didn't even realize I was working until I would deal with serious issues or remembered I was wearing a uniform. It was just something I was able to do and loved doing. This summer reaffirmed that I am in the right career field. It refreshed my endurance and showed me that I can go harder, and go longer than what I ever knew.  

Endurance can be a thing of necessity but it has to be balanced with self-care. As a secret but blatantly obvious introvert I would spent my weekends sequestered in my room playing video games, reading books, or watching TV in the solitude of myself. It was so necessary. I could recharge my inner well before I would go back out and give myself to others. I could go the whole day without seeing another human being, and for me that was perfectly fine. I struggle with this expectation of doing excellent work. Let me explain. I think oftentimes I go above and beyond, as do others, and then people around us come to expect it constantly when it's not specified in our job duties but rather comes from who we are. It becomes the new baseline for our work so when we do what are called to do every once in a while it appears as if we are doing less. In fact we are just doing what we are supposed to. It can be absolutely toxic to our self-care and efforts to incorporate some semblance of order to our work's place in lives. We can't just work all the time. It's not healthy. It's not fair. It's not okay. We require more to be whole. We need our connections to others (especially when our needs us to do so regularly). We need time to just be. Our endurance cannot last forever and it should not have to.

I would be remiss if I didn't go out to my car yell into the emptiness of it and then blast some oldies before pulling off to retrieve a sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin at 1AM during the summer. Especially for those who are often the emotional refuge or energizers for others, there's this self-perpetuated and reinforced notion that you can never not be okay. You aren't allowed to have moments of weakness. You are not allowed to need help. You are not permitted to be tired, drained, or disengaged. Add that common expectation of always performing high caliber work and it amplifies some unhealthy behaviors. Higher ed and so many other career fields throw around self-care as a top priority but in reality fails to give proper time or space to let people practice it. I get this feeling that if you actually need a break you're perceived to be less than. We get to be exasperated, lethargic, and languid on occasion. As long is it does not persist or negatively impact our work, we get to have chill days or at the very least moments. Let us bring it down. Let's just sit. Let's just be. X

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