Tag Archives: work

How To Make Sure You Never Forget How Old You Are

Wow! I remember my WordPress password. So now that I’m here, let’s write a blog, shall we?

People often ask me if working on a college campus keeps me young or makes me feel ancient. I always tell them it’s a little of both.

I work directly with students and sometimes they actually like me. They stop by my office just to say hi, compliment my outfit, or friend me on Facebook. Now and again they might even “like” one of my status updates. And that small click is “fountain of youth” worthy! Feeling young doesn’t mean I’m their best friend. I don’t have the desire or energy to feel 19-years-old again. It’s more like the cool aunt who because I am slightly younger than their parents, I am deemed acceptable to have a conversation with devoid of eye-rolling or texting. It is on these days when I think to myself, “Caryn, you are still hip!” I give myself a little high-five, pop up my collar, blast some T-Swift, and so very quickly, any youthful vibe is erased (but that liked status update lasts FOREVER).

But lately I have just felt old. Like “maybe I should take down my diplomas so they don’t see the year I graduated” old. Thinking back over the years of my career in higher education, I have pinpointed the following reasons why this may happen:

Pop Culture Differences

Every generation has their Beatles, their New Kids on the Block, or their Justin Bieber. And I love talking about who or what was popular “in my day” with students because sometimes they have heard of Nirvana or watch The Cosby Show on Nick at Nite. But everyone now and then, there is a disconnect that will leave you deciding that since you don’t even remember the 2.5 years you spent in the seventies, you will just tell people you were born in 1980.

I’ll never forget discussing the demise of Saturday Night Live with a student a couple of years ago. Generations have been having this conversation for decades, so there is nothing new here. And I felt a commonality with her as she lamented that she missed the “classic” seasons when the show was groundbreaking and funny. I thought, wow, here is a teenager who gets it and understands the legacy of sketch comedy people like Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd created. And then she added, “like when Will Ferrell was on it.” Okay, we’re done here.

Blank Stares

The Blank Stare is an important signal that you are about to feel like your grandmother. It is not uncommon for one to say something to a college student on any given day that will be met with an expression of concern that you may have just suffered a stroke because the words coming out of your mouth made no sense.

In a few weeks, I am taking a group of students to New York City for a study trip. I couldn’t wait to tell them that I had secured tickets for us to attend a taping of the Late Show with David Letterman! And there was plenty of excitement. But all I could focus on were the couple of Blank Stares in the crowd. “Who is this David Letterman of which you speak”, their faces said to me. Geez, it’s not like I said we were going to Jay Leno. (That would be less cool, right?)

Similarly, a classic story I like to tell is when, as a career counselor, I was explaining to a student the importance of using LinkedIn. I told her it was like an online rolodex. What’s a rolodex, she asked? Enter my own Blank Stare.

Memory

Assuming it has nothing to do with an action item I may has assigned them, the memories of these kids are amazing. They can tell me in detail about their weekend, semester-long study abroad, or four years of high school (and I’m glad they do, I love hearing their stories!). Meanwhile, this morning, I spent a good five minutes in the shower trying to remember if I had already shampooed my hair or not.

Look, I am nowhere near ancient. And I think one reason I enjoy my work so much is because I am youthful and can relate to students, developing relationships with them that allow me to feel like I might actually make this transitional time in their lives just a tad bit easier, more enjoyable, or supported. And if I am being honest with myself, the times when I do feel old, I am really feeling a twinge of jealousy. For the unique friendships they are forming, the new experiences they are having, and the adventures ahead of them.

Luckily, we all have new experiences and adventures awaiting us at every stage of life, and if we can go after them with the same zest and energy that college students tackle theirs, I think we are in good shape.

But first, a nap. I’m exhausted and I think I need to wash my hair again.

A Freshman Again

Just like the children popping up on my Facebook news feed in their proud parents’ pictures that I skip past totally love, I, too, embarked on a first day of school this week (though JB surprisingly did not feel the need to capture this moment in photo).

After five years at the same university, I was part of the energy and excitement of a fresh school year at my new employer. While students start trickling in prior to the first day, seeing a campus turn overnight from the quiet of summer to the buzz of college life is like stopping by a bar at 3 p.m. and then going back at happy hour.

There is a vibrant rebirth for sure, but there are nerves too — from freshmen, transfer students, and new professors getting ready to face a group of 150 18-year-olds with the expectation of being enlightened. And for the first time in five years, from me. I was the new kid just like everyone else, so I thought I would share some tips for me and all the others feeling a little out-of-place as they head back to school:

Don’t rush home the first chance you get. I have never felt so alone and homesick as I did the first (maybe also 2nd, 3rd, 4th….) week of college. If I hadn’t been 1,000 miles away, I’m sure my laundry and I would have been tempted to seek the security of home as much as possible. And in a new job, before you develop a sense of community, it’s easy to leave when the work is done.

But so much of college (and working at one) happens outside the office or classroom. It happens at residence hall move-in, the welcome back barbecue or the volleyball game (What? Some schools don’t have football!). And you have to be there to experience it. Besides, the washer and dryers in the residence hall now text you when your laundry is done. They TEXT you.

Remember there was a time you felt lost and confused in high school, too. But by the end of that first year, you were a pro. And eventually, you will be at college too. No one starts out Van Wilder.

At my former employer, I felt comfortable walking into any meeting and answering student questions (why yes, I do know how to get to that building). I walked across campus and the faces were familiar, if not friends. But if I really think back, I remember the first year when I never wanted to go to anything alone and was hesitant to speak up at a meeting because I didn’t trust my knowledge and ideas yet. If you give it time, freshmen students quickly become next year’s orientation leaders and freshmen employees become veterans.

Be in the moment. Finally, don’t start counting the days until winter or summer break. My wedding date has been set and it’s basically a school year away. I’m so excited, I find myself wishing it was already June. But life is way too short for that — I need to enjoy everything leading up to that time just as much.

Students take so much AP and dual credit these days in high school that by the time they get into college, they only have a couple of years left. And I totally understand this for financial and other personal reasons. But sometimes I wish they would just slow down a little and take it all in. Your “first day of school” moments are numbered.

New Job, Old Friend

First of all, thank you to everyone for your well-wishes on my new job. I’ve now completed two weeks and I have yet to be fired or promoted, so my strategy for keeping under the radar and letting other people do the dirty work while I unassumingly win it all has paid off.

(Why do I watch so much reality TV in the summer?)

But seriously, it has been an exciting two weeks and I’m starting to shake off the “new kid in town” feelings. Being clueless has also left me pretty exhausted, which explains my lack of blog posts lately. When I have had a free moment online, it’s shamefully spent catching up on the live Casey Anthony trial. I can’t miss game-changing tweets from Nancy Grace like this:

Investigative legal reporting at its best.

Amid all of the new experiences these last two weeks, however, there was one that stood out because it… wasn’t.

From a simple Facebook status update and a friend’s comment, I learned that a once close mutual friend from growing up who I had lost touch with had just moved back to Dallas and started working at the same university. (So that, Facebook haters, is one of the reasons people are on it even though you might “already keep in touch with everyone I want to keep in touch with.” It’s time for a new line!)

Even though we hadn’t spoken in years, I immediately felt like I had a buddy on campus.  We quickly set up a lunch which happened this week. It was wonderful catching up on life: the big — I heard she had gotten married, but it wasn’t until I got in her car and saw the car seat that I discovered she had a child! — and the small.  Had we not both ended up at this employer, I might have never known she was a mother. That seems weird to think about after being so close for so long at such formative times in our lives.

Long ago, this dear friend’s dad coined the phrase “I Don’t Caryn” to denote my indecisiveness fickleness fear of confrontation agreeableness when asked what I wanted to eat or what I wanted to do.  And while certain people would probably argue that I’m overly more confident now in sharing my preferences than I used to be, I’ve thought about this nickname often when I would hear myself say “I don’t care.” It always reminded me of how close I was with this friend and her family. Of course, almost 20 years later, she still had to make the final call of where we ate lunch.

I know I’ll make new friends at this job, but it’s especially nice to reconnect with an old one.

What has been a big (positive) surprise for you at a new job?

To The Left, To The Left

Everything I own (in my office) is in a box to the left. And to the right. And some of them are still flat because this doesn’t help me:

But the point of this post is that Beyonce, infinitely wise, said it best“Don’t you ever for a second get to thinking you’re irreplaceable.” 

In her song, Beyoncé is of course referring to her no-good ex-boyfriend she is kicking out for being untrue and not appreciating the Jag she bought him. Since JB doesn’t buy me Jags (rude), I don’t relate to that part. However, leaving a job is an astute reminder about just how replaceable we all are.

Clearly, I never believe my absence anywhere is going to shut down production. I am pretty sure my bathroom floor is learning to self-clean due to months of neglect. But there is a humbling feeling when you realize the meetings, the plans for next year, the committees, and everything else will be going on just peachy without you. And colleagues are excited about these plans — even though I won’t be there!

Even while cleaning out my files, I find it so hard to throw away old documents. As if, surely, at some point, someone in the office will need my notes about the random meeting I attended two  years ago. Won’t they?? As I fill up the recycle bins, I know the answer is that they have their own notes and the paper trail proof of my existence is diminishing. (You also never know what you might find when you clean out your office.)

Obviously, the meetings, the committees and the excitement of plans to come should absolutely forge ahead. Any first-year Psych 101 student could tell you that this is about my own feelings of leaving my professional nest. Of wondering what I will be missing, of already feeling like an outsider. Luckily, I have a great new opportunity to look forward to. Soon enough, I’ll be part of new meetings, making new plans and wondering why there are so many committees.

But for these last few days, I’m just going to enjoy the familiarity and the goodbyes. I’m also going to enjoy the ocean because I’m going on vacation, in case you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me. Remember, I’m fragile, I have to pretend you will notice my absence!

In other news, I have realized in writing this post that I can’t wait for a Beyoncé greatest hits album.

Have you ever been reminded that you are “replaceable?” Where do you feel irreplaceable?

New Year Jitters

I was a little greedy and took an extra day off work this holiday break. My colleagues are back in the trenches today, but I knew that I wouldn’t be ready to come back so I attempted to prolong the inevitable return with an additional day.

I’m not sure it was the best idea.

Sure, I’m finishing up some errands, sitting at a coffee shop working on my blog, and when I’m done, I’m going home to DO NOTHING but catch up on my DVR (something I have yet to do this break). It all sounds perfectly relaxing, no?

But instead, the day has an anxiety cloud hanging over it. I’ve had such a wonderful holiday break, but I feel now like there is a countdown clock in my head to 6 a.m. tomorrow and its “tic-toc” sound is quite loud. Let me be clear, I have a great job that I enjoy and I work with wonderful people — this has nothing to do with job satisfaction and for that, I’m grateful. I think it is just about having a break. The novelty of a lifestyle that is so different from your normal routine. I’m worried that going back to reality will mean the end of these peaceful feelings.

But I have control over this, right? So I’m going to look back (via my less-than-spectacular photography skills) on a few fond memories of the break and how I can maintain these good vibrations when normalcy comes a-knocking tomorrow.

What I was feeling: Warmth and coziness in the picturesque holiday setting of Ohio.

How to keep it going: Well, I’m not doing a snow dance. I prefer to only visit the cold. But spending time with JB’s family was comforting and my own family is all within 10 minutes of where I live. It’s easy to take this proximity for granted. Perhaps a little more time spent with all of them in 2011 is in order.

What I was feeling: I mentioned in an earlier post how I look back on my college days and remember them as the least stressful times of my life. While I received some very honest feedback from that blog leading me to believe that perhaps I have extra-strength rose-colored glasses, when I had the chance on New Year’s Day to cheer on my alma mater in my hometown at the TicketCity Bowl, it was exhilarating to sing the fight song, see the band, and feel the purple pride among the crowd. We didn’t win, but it didn’t matter.

How to keep it going: I guess I could donate to my school. *pondering this* Ok, I’ve thought of something else. The real happiness of this day was the camaraderie among the Wildcat fans — even more so given how outnumbered we were playing a Texas school with 55,000 local alumni as opposed to our 2,000. And I do believe we cheered louder. Consequently, I would like to be a more active member (or at least a member) in the local alumni association this coming year. Being around people with whom you share a common thread — whether it’s a school, a love of movies, or the sick desire to do something crazy like run a marathon — can be a great way for adding some new activities to your routine.



What I was feeling: I’d like to end this look back with pizza. But not just any pizza, Chicago-style Lou Malnati’s pizza, as displayed above by JB and his oven mitt. We (but not so much of me) cooked this up, along with some black-eyed peas for good luck, after the bowl game. Besides feeling satiated in a way only cheese can do, I felt so excited that we had nothing to do but eat this pizza and watch that other team in purple make Texas proud. Falling asleep on the couch at 8:30 p.m. also didn’t hurt.

How to keep it going: Should be pretty simple, if I can only remember that it’s not necessary to schedule something every weekend night.  I feel selfish and guilty when I don’t make plans with friends, like I’m wasting an opportunity to catch up and develop those relationships. But man, that pizza at home tasted GOOD!

I could continue with this stroll, but I can’t believe how long this post has become. Besides, I think I’m ready. The “tic-toc” sound has lowered. The to-do list is completely checked and the Google Reader is empty. My mind should be prepared to enter back into reality.

Or maybe I need just one more day…

Have you taken the plunge and headed back to work? Did you survive? Assuming you did, what’s on deck for 2011?