Since nearly day one of my college experience, I have been involved as a student leader on Indiana State’s campus. While I have grown immensely as a result of my involvement and could talk at length about all that I’ve gained through it, it also involved a lot of service to others and caring for others’ success at ISU. What I didn’t necessarily get right away was the importance of taking care of myself to make sure I could be successful. I didn’t get the idea of self-care.
Now, I have been very successful throughout the last four years and am about to graduate magna cum laude in just a few days. I am incredibly proud of all that I have accomplished, but until senior year, I was far from the best at practicing self-care. Freshman through junior years I was planning events and advocating for other students. I had connections on campus and was known by many people – students and professionals. What I lacked, however, was genuine friendships.
Senior year, when I took a staff role in residential life as opposed to being in student organizations, I had an opportunity to get out of the job and enjoy my last year. I was motivated to do that because it was my senior year and I knew I’d be leaving in nine months. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be moving over 12 hours away, but that would have only added to my motivation.
This past year, I have taken advantage of the friendships within the organizations I have been involved in all along and I wish I would have done that before my last year. I feel like I have been happier and have enjoyed the year so much more because I practiced more self-care and went from just being co-workers and acquaintances with other students I’ve known since we were freshman to truly being friends.
As I prepare to go to grad school, I realize that I don’t have three years to make new friendships since my grad program only lasts for two. I might be starting over in terms of who I know, but I’m starting new in terms of experience and comfortability. I can jump right in a lot easier than I did four years ago when I was an incoming freshman. I have the last four years to thank for that.
Self-care is a major topic of discussion in student affairs and a lot of it stems from the fact that our jobs consist of doing what we love and provide us so much joy that we don’t want to leave them. No matter how enjoyable it is though, we have to step back every now and then to recover. As an introvert, that rings truer than it does for many others.
There isn’t an undergrad major for student affairs, but I believe if anything, the major is everything you do out of class that teaches you and prepares you for this work – including learning about and practicing self-care. I’m confident my grad school experience will be more positive as a result of having a grasp on this concept now.