Gratitude.

Every Monday I receive email newsletters from Sinclair Caesar. This week’s was all about gratitude and feeling thankful. This email came at the perfect time. I’ve had a pretty tough time this week and have dealt with some pretty serious stuff on campus, but after reading this week’s email, I was reminded of how much I have to be grateful for. So, after doing some reflecting I wanted to share a few things that I am grateful for this week.

  1. Colorado. While I definitely miss some things from Michigan and South Dakota, I am happier here now than I’ve been in a long time. I love the mountains, this beautiful little community, and the home I’ve made here.
  2. My incredible Student Affairs team. I could never have gotten through this week without the support of my incredible RAs, RDs, and Residence Life staff. In fact, the whole Division of Student Affairs at Western has been nothing but supportive of me through everything since I arrived on campus in May. So, huge thank you to Shelley, Paul, Brenda, Jon, Ray, Hope, Sarah, Sammi, Amber, Kevin, Andrew, Seth, CJ, Gary and Chris for all that you do for me. Each one of you means so much to me already!
  3. Education. I have grown to love being an educator. I enjoy learning, and I love sharing knowledge with others through telling stories and exchanging meaningful conversation. I can’t wait to complete my masters degree this spring and I can’t wait to see where it leads me in the future.
  4. Opportunity. I am just 23 years old. I am a full-time professional (in a job that I love). I am educated (and will have two degrees in April). At such a young age, I have so much. I truthfully can’t complain, because the world has been good to me and I have so much to be grateful for.

I just wanted to take a few minutes to say thank you to the universe for giving me so much and to those who have gotten me to the place that I stand today.

I just wanted to give a friendly reminder to be grateful today.

In a time that was so tough for me, I know I have it so easy compared to the stuff the rest of the world is battling right now.

Thanks for sharing this humbling moment with me.

With love to you all,

-Joel

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Conversity.

Hello & welcome back to The Adventures of Joel!

It’s been a while…I’ve been terribly busy. I have been in RD training/RA training/Orientation/Welcome week/Move-in mode and it has taken up every ounce of my time and energy. I have loved every second of it, but it’s been a lot more than I ever imagined.

Anywho, with all of that behind me, hopefully I will have more time to do things for myself, things that I love – like writing!


It’s Friday of the first week of classes at Western, and I couldn’t be happier to be wrapping up our first week. I couldn’t be more proud of my RA team and the work that they’ve done to prepare for this week. They’ve been building really strong communities already – it’s only day five! I am so excited to get to know the residents of my buildings and I’m thrilled to watch them pursue their interests and passions in education.

I am also excited to be starting my second year as a #SAGrad! I honestly can’t wait to have my Masters degree. I haven’t thought a ton about this until recently, but being less than a year away from my second degree is super exciting. Overcoming so many barriers to education and fighting my way to something that I never thought possible is something that I am super proud of!

This semester, not only am I working full-time, but I am enrolled in six credits. I know it will be a lot of work, but I am determined and disciplined enough to make it happen.

I am especially intrigued by one of my classes this semester. This class explores the trends and issues in training and development. As a new professional, first-time supervisor and RD leading our training and development committee, this class is incredibly relevant. I’m also stoked that this class has a pretty significant emphasis on diversity.

In my introduction assignment, the professor introduced the concept of Conversity: Similarities that bring us together. I had only heard of this concept once before, but I am obsessed with the idea behind it. Don’t get me wrong, I love diversity, equity, and inclusion, and understand the importance of them in the field of Higher Education, but I adore the idea of finding the commonalities among us.

I feel that so often we focus on the differences among us. Diversity has become a buzzword, and instead of using our differences to find our unique qualities and traits, we use them as immediate barriers and separators. Instead of celebrating those differences, they set us apart even further.

So, I am challenged by this new idea of finding the similarities between me and each of my students, me and my coworkers. I want to focus on conversity rather than diversity. I want to think about the commonalities instead of the differences. Again, it is important to celebrate our differences – I am not discrediting that – but I want to actively seek out our similarities.

I believe in this concept. I think that it’s rooted in love and understanding. I think that it aims us toward community. By seeking out similarities we find sacred ground, a place of togetherness, a connection. Isn’t that what community and love and equity is all about?

Instead of counting the number of differences we have, or focusing on the traits that separate us, let’s count the amount of similarities. Let’s share the things that we have in common with others. Let’s recognize that inherently and fundamentally we are all so much more alike than we are different.


Moving forward with this class and with this semester, I hope to incorporate more of what I am learning into my daily actions as a supervisor and as a Resident Director. I strive to build a strong community and I strive to be a supervisor that includes my team on important decisions. I hope that conversity will bring my residents, RAs and community together and will be a focus point for learning and conversation this year.

I’d love to hear what others think about this concept. Feel free to reach out! It’s new to me, so I’d love to learn more.

Love you all!

-Joel

A Quick Note About Running

A very good friend and mentor of mine posted an angry rant on Facebook tonight about how she was followed by a group of teenage boys while out on her run tonight. They circled her four times while catcalling, whistling and shouting at her. She felt unsafe running near her home, in a city that is incredibly safe – the place I consider home.

I am genuinely pissed off by this act. As a runner, I understand the mental stamina that it takes to get out and run when we are already doing a million and one other exhausting and mundane daily tasks. The act of running is daunting which is what makes running so special.

The running community runs to escape the noise of the world around us, to push ourselves for improvement, to be alone, to enjoy the natural world around us, to maintain physical health, and so many other reasons…but that is stripped of us when we experience actions like this from others.

I have heard many of my runner friends – particularly those that identify as female – complain that they have felt unsafe or uneasy while out for a run because they have been followed, catcalled and shouted at. Rather than getting the needed escape from their run they are made to feel small, scared, and uncomfortable. This is so freaking upsetting.

One of the only activities that makes me feel alive, alone, connected and energized is running, and knowing that my runner friends don’t get this same feeling is something that trips me up and makes me think about this crazy world that we live in.

Why does this happen? Why are men so awful toward women? When did it become unacceptable for female – and male – runners to run in short shorts, no shirt/sports bra? How would you like it if I came to your living room, football game, or other place of solace and shouted, whistled and catcalled at you while you were trying to find your peace? Because that’s essentially what is happening here.

You don’t hear of other athletes feeling uncomfortable in their spheres of practice or performance…so why is running the targeted sport?

Is it because we often do it as individuals? Because, that again is what makes running so cool. We do it on our own, at our own pace and whenever and wherever we want. We’re on our own time and we are being pushed only by ourselves to do better.

Is it because we wear little to no clothing? Because, if that’s the case this gets into a whole different issue. The world hears so often “she was wearing revealing clothing. She wanted it.” from the mouths of alleged rapists, but its the same damn thing when you’re catcalling a runner.

Just because we wear short shorts does not mean we are asking to be looked at…in fact, please don’t look at us…quite often we have snot dripping down our face, spit on our shirts, sweat dripping from every possible inch of our body. We look like we’re dying. We’re gross. I mean come on, running is like the least beautiful and graceful sport out there.

So, I guess what I’m sharing in this post is that the running community needs to have each other’s backs, uplift each other, and support our running endeavors. To those of you that aren’t runners, please stay away from us while we’re running. To the young men in this world…grow the hell up. Be a gentleman, learn some manners, and respect the ladies – and other gentlemen – out there…because you know what they say about Karma. To Sarah – and all of my other runner friends – don’t let this hold you back from running. Stay strong, stay driven, maintain heart, and keep taking those photos and reporting behaviors like this to the police.

Help keep our running community safe and healthy please!

Run happy!

-Joel

Fate.

I have lived in four different cities in the past year: Marquette, MI; Beulah, MI; Vermillion, SD; and Gunnison, CO. Each of these cities holds a piece of my heart, a large chunk of my being. I’ve been formed by each of these places. My path has led me to each of these places for different reasons – some of which were crystal clear, some I probably will never know. Nonetheless, I’m happy to call each place home.

This summer I found my path leading me to this tiny little mountain town after saying “I am done with small town living” for the entirety of the past year. I happened upon this magical place after my dear friend Mandi suggested I apply for an internship here. Well the rest is history. Before I knew it I was in Gunnison.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I’ve learned more in two short months than I have in a very long time. I’ve made some amazing friends. I have found supporters, leaders, mentors, and guides. I’ve landed a full time professional job – my first full time professional job.

I am just 23 years old. I’m halfway through my masters program. I’ve had this internship for two months. And look at where I am. So much has come from being in this tiny little mountain town. So many doors have opened.

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staff golf cart photo shoots

I’ve always been a believer in “everything happens for a reason” and “where you’re meant to be is where you’ll end up” but it’s never rang more true for me than today.

A colleague and I had a conversation this evening about my fit here at Western and how my internship this summer was meant to be. I was supposed to come to Gunnison and am supposed to be working for Residence Life and Conference Services. It was my fate, a God sign, an alignment of the stars…my destiny. I have a specific purpose for being here. Everything happens for a reason, and being here is meant to be.

So whether you believe in fate, destiny, alignment of stars, or whatever…I believe I’m absolutely without a doubt meant to be where I’m at now.

I’m meant to be serving the Western campus, Gunnison community, and myself. I know that there is work to be done and waves to be made here, and I can feel it in my bones that I am supposed to be right where I am now – working with the people I am working with, living in this beautiful mountain town, and taking it one step at a time.

Everything happens for a reason. So, celebrate; life is fine!

-Joel

Making Waves.

My life mantra is “make waves” because I seek to live every day as the water does, ebbing and flowing, trying new things, being changed by the environment and giving back to the community around me.

In the last year, this mantra has become so important to me. I remind myself to live intentionally every day and to make waves in the lives around me, but also to allow my surroundings to make waves in my life as well. Living this way allows for growth, opportunity, spontaneity, and a lot of fun; it’s how I have found myself in so many new and exciting situations and places in the last year. I have made so many new friends, and gone to so many cool places and I hope to continue to do so…

Which brings me to this: I will be moving to Colorado!!!

I have spent the last two months in Gunnison, Colorado and have been serving as an intern at Western State Colorado University. This position has provided me so much experience as a professional. I have moved to a new location. I am working on a new campus. I am adapting to a new culture and community. I am supervising student employees. I am having a blast.

Working in this position has also provided me the opportunity to land a full-time professional position in the same department. That’s right, you heard me, I have landed my first #SAPro position as a Resident Director. I will be managing two buildings during the school year and will be coordinating housing arrangements for camps and conferences during the summer months. What a great opportunity!?

By jumping out of my comfort zone and trying new things, allowing my world to be changed by my environment, and focusing on building relationships and community in all that I do I have made waves here in this small community and it has made waves in my life in turn. I have stirred things up, brought something new, learned so much and am excited to keep doing this work.

I guess it pays to work hard and push through the seasons of life. Sometimes life comes crashing down and sometimes it’s a smooth sea, but if you don’t make a little waves in that smooth sea, nothing changes, and what is the fun in that?

I have only been in Sunny Gunni for two short months, but it has been two of the greatest months of my life. I truly believe this is a “right place at the right time” situation. I was meant to be here for my internship. I was meant to come to this campus. Western is a great fit for me and I am thrilled that my first professional position will be here in the Rocky Mountains where I will be working alongside an amazing team of professionals who will challenge and support me every day.

I’ll post updates as I know more information about my move and what this new role will be like. Stay tuned.

-Joel

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An Unquenchable Thirst

I am a proud Michigander. Raised by the Great Lakes, I have seen the beauty and power of the lakes, and it is this beauty and power that attracts me to them so much.

I have always lived along the shore of a lake. It is more than a location to me, it is a lifestyle. I am infatuated with lakes, with bodies of water.

I believe in water’s beauty. I believe in water’s power. I believe I have a deep, spiritual undying connection to water.

I am learning that it’s more than a connection. I think it’s an unquenchable thirst – a yearning to be by the waters edge.

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My life mantra is “Make Waves” because I seek to inspire just as the water does. I strive to change things up constantly, be changed by my environment, and to give back to my surroundings and my community the way that water does.

Water is my life source. I need it…we all do. Our bodies are 70% water. How cool is that? You can only go a few days without water. That’s even cooler! Water provides homes, food, and adventure, among so many other things. That’s the best part.

I believe in water. I believe in adventure. I believe in making waves.

I am thirsty for this life source and all that it provides. I seek more adventure everyday. I dream of sitting by the water for hours and just watching the waves crash against the land. I reminisce on all of the great times that I have had cliff jumping into Mother Superior’s mighty waves. I think of the countless summer bonfires on the shores of Lake Michigan. I remember the time I spent collecting shells with my grandmother on Crystal Lake.

Water is my cure. My medicine. My meditation. My religion.

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Water allows me to have deep thoughts, meaningful conversations, grand adventures, and soothing meditations.

Colorado is providing me with all of this. It is fueling me with a satisfaction that I never realized I craved. But it is leaving me thirsty for more.

I am ready for big adventures, meaningful relationships, environments and surroundings that ebb and flow, and lots of lakeshore living.

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I had a long day at work today so I spent an hour or so sitting on a rock by the river afterward and I couldn’t believe how uplifted I felt. There is  nothing in this life that a few minutes by the water can’t cure.

This is my ode to water.

-Joel

Elevation.

Elevate: Verb. To raise or lift something up to a higher position.


Moving from the flat lands of South Dakota to the mountains of Colorado, elevation is something that I have had to adjust to in the past two weeks.

I don’t often share with people that I have Asthma, as it doesn’t inhibit me nearly as bad as it does others, and I don’t often suffer from attacks or struggle breathing during every day activities. My Asthma is mostly sports induced or brought on by change in weather. Unfortunately, being at a higher elevation means that I have had a much harder time breathing and my Asthma is something that I am much more conscious of. I have to make sure that I have my inhaler with me wherever I go, just in case.

It’s weird how something that I have lived with for most of my life is now suddenly a much bigger deal simply because of my surrounding environment. It’s weird how one simple change has altered my way of thinking and the way in which I do my daily tasks.

Another way in which I have had to adjust to elevation is through my job as a Conference Services Intern. Western State Colorado University’s slogan is “Learning, elevated”. These two words drew me in so quickly. I’m not sure why, but the concept of learning elevated intrigues me. Working for the university and representing this brand is something that I am proud to say that I am a part of. It has made me think further about what elevation truly means.

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My challenge for the summer is to elevate. I strive to grow as an individual, to grow as a professional, to learn as much as I can and to uplift the people around me.

As an educator and a leader, I have the opportunity to impact thousands of people everyday. I create thousands of experiences in a day without even realizing that I am doing so. In a customer service related field, I have to make sure that the experiences that I am creating are uplifting to those around me. I can elevate my students to their highest potential by giving them the tools that they need to be successful, the resources to make that happen, and the support that they need at any given time. I can elevate my guests by providing great service to them and creating experiences that they remember as positive.

Life is all about the experience and the impact that our surroundings have on us. It is all about environment, community, and elevation. If we strive to uplift rather than to tear down, we will all be stronger, more successful, and happier individuals. This is my dream for the summer. I hope to ensure quality service experiences for my guests, learning and growing opportunities for myself and for my students, and a desire to continue to elevate as I move forward with my life.

Life’s a climb, hike on!

-Joel