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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Home.

Happy December 24th (whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, something else, or nothing at all, I hope you all had a fantastic day)!


For me, it’s Christmas Eve and I am home for the holidays.  As I have grown up and have moved away it has gotten harder for me to determine where “home” is.  This year especially, I am struggling to find this feeling of “home”…but my best friend Monica helped me realize that home truly is a feeling and not a place as it is traditionally defined.

I grew up in Beulah, where my entire family was born and raised…and never left.  I love the Lake, the closeness to family, the abundance of nature, and the fact that I can hike or run wherever I want in this county…and know exactly how far away from my house (and a public restroom) I am.

When I moved to Marquette for college, I gained a new “home”.  I fell deeply, madly, wildly in love with the upper peninsula, Lake Superior, the small-town feel in a mid-sized city, and my alma mater.  I fell in love with the new experiences and opportunities that I was offered in Marquette, and I felt welcomed by all of the amazing people I met in my four years there.

As you all know, I have been in South Dakota for the past six months, and I am struggling to find my place there.  I am far away from all of the people that I love.  I am no longer a walk away from a Great Lake.

It’s been tough.  But what I do have there are a few great new friends, an amazing job surrounded by some of the most driven and determined men I have ever met, and a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have ever been offered had I stayed in Michigan.


So, while I am more than excited to be back in Michigan for the holiday season, I also have had this weird sensation that something is different this year.  Something seems off.  Something is missing.  I am not sure what this is, but I haven’t been in the holiday spirit as I usually am.  I can’t seem to get excited about anything.  I don’t care to go out and play in the snow.  I don’t like the cold weather (thankful for the 40 degree warmth we had today!).  I don’t want to party or celebrate.  I actually just finished wrapping gifts only for them to be opened in less than 12 hours, and I haven’t put a single ornament on my family tree.

The closest I have felt to myself since being back in Michigan was earlier this week when I made the trip to Marquette to see a few people before we all got too busy with family gatherings and year-end parties.

Those digits are not only permanently on my arm, but in my heart as well.  I was overwhelmed with that feeling of “home” the entire time I was there.  Something about Lake Superior seems to do that to me…

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Photo Credit: Senja Spelman

I was able to catch up with some of my Marquette Family.  Spending time with my breakfast buddy, dear friend, and former supervisor, Alexandra was a highlight of my trip.  Thanks for the place to stay, the cat cuddles, and the constant laughs.

Thank you to two of my greatest mentors, Josh and Sarah for grabbing pizza and drinks with me and for sharing all of your insight about grad school, moving away from home, and all things life.

Jeff, you will always be one of my biggest role models.  You welcomed me back with open arms and I was pleasantly surprised by your support and encouragement in my endeavors as a blogger as well as the obvious support you’ve given me in the last few years as my boss.

I love knowing that Senja will drop whatever she’s doing to grab Third Street Bagel with me and catch a hike up Sugarloaf before sunset and that Ryan is willing to extend his stay in Marquette just to sit at BabyCakes for a few hours with me because we are the same human and both require meaningful conversation, endless amounts of coffee, and great muffins for survival.

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Catching up with Rory and Nick and hearing about their crazy first semester this year both as RA’s and as science majors was a ton of fun.  I give you both props for being able to balance the work of a RA and that of a person studying anything in the medical field.  You both amaze and inspire me daily.  I am grateful for the time that we spent together while I was still in school and loved seeing you this week.  I can’t wait to see what this next semester brings for you!

And last but not least, Erin, the one who is always as equally a mess as I am.  You woke up late for our breakfast date, and probably skipped a shower so that you could at least grab coffee with me before you ran off to work.  Always thankful to Monica for introducing us…because we’ve been the three amigos ever since (mostly when we are drinking margs at Sol Azteca, but still…).

Every moment in the company of these great pals was another reminder of what it means to me to be “home”.


So, instead of focusing on the place that I am headed and trying to make that place “home”, I want to try to focus on those simple moments in life in which I already feel it.

As Switchfoot once said: This is home.  (That reference was for you, Sam Red!)

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Happy Holidays!

-Joel

“My Great Place”.

IMG_6025If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I just moved to South Dakota from my home in Northern Michigan.  What you may not know though, is that South Dakota is home of many great faces and many great places.  So many in fact that they adopted “Great Faces. Great Places.” as their state slogan.

I’ve been thinking about this slogan since deciding to embark on this journey to South Dakota.  I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes a place great and even more so, what makes a face great.  This is a tough thing to think about, actually.

The more I thought about it, these three things kept coming to mind:

  1. Sense of place
  2. Sense of belonging and connectedness
  3. Community

In order for a place to be considered great, I believe you must feel connected to it.  You must feel some sense of belonging.  Once you feel connected and you feel that you belong here, a sense of place may develop.

I believe that many things contribute to your connectedness and belonging in a place.  First is your own willingness to become connected, meet new people, try new things.  Next is opportunities.  Obviously, in larger areas there are more opportunities to do more things, find your niche, and thrive.  But this does not mean that you can’t find a sense of place, or have an abundance of opportunities in a small town, just simply that you may have to look harder for them.  Lastly, I truly believe it is the people who make the place.  If you aren’t finding people that you are compatible with, it is much more difficult to get a groove and to make a place home.

For me, I have never felt a greater sense of place than I did when I lived in Marquette, Michigan.  So I’ve been reflecting on what it is that makes Marquette so great.

These are some of the things that I came up with:

  1. Lake Superior
  2. Northern Michigan University-My alma mater!
  3. Nature-Never more than a five minute walk away-For me this means trail running and hiking, cliff jumping, swimming, and many other things.
  4. The people I love live there-Shoutout to my Marquette family!
  5. Small town mixed with a big city vibe-While there is not a mall, I can get anything I need in Marquette, while still having that small town, close-knit community feel.

After coming up with some things that make Marquette great, I reflect on my values and interests and what is important to me and how they factor into my love for Marquette.

The things that are most important to me are:

  1. Love-family, friends, partners, pets, community, etc.
  2. Adventure-I am a sucker for trying new things and experiencing something for the first time.  Lump running, hiking, and nature into this category.
  3. Water- I have a deep connection to water, and feel most alive when I am near it.  I have never lived more than five minutes away from a Great Lake, so you can imagine that my move to South Dakota is a pretty big one.
  4. Education-Obviously I would not be pursuing a career in Student Affairs if Higher Education didn’t mean something to me.
  5. Coffee-No explanation needed.  Just coffee.

So friends, what made Marquette my home?

The fact that it offered me everything that I desired.  Everything that I truly can’t live without, I can find in Marquette.  This is why it is such a great place in my eyes.  With that said, I do however, know people who really don’t like Marquette, and could never live there.  This is because their values are different from mine.  The things that make a place great to them are probably different from those that make a great place for me.

Everyone is different.  Everyone has a different experience with people and places.  But it is all about what you make of it.  You must be flexible and find the things you value in every place you are, or learn to bring them everywhere you go.  Make that connection.  Find that gym.  Join that club.  Go on that date.

Fall in love.  With both new faces and new places.

This is what I’m determined to do.  Because in the two days that I’ve lived here, I have already come to believe that every place and every face is great.  You just have to adjust your perspective, step outside of the box and learn to appreciate it all.

As a #SAGrad, I must be able to show my students the positives of their new home, while still being real, raw, and transparent, knowing that every student may not love USD.  I need to be able to help them enjoy their time here and if I am not making this home and enjoying my time here, how the heck will they?

This is my newest goal for living in South Dakota.  I want to make this place home.  I want to feel connected.  I want to belong.  I want to explore my community and dive into the local scene.  I want to get everything that I can out of my GA position.  I want to learn as much as my brain and body will allow in each of my classes.  I want to make great new friends, and carry these friendships with me forever.

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Here’s to making Vermillion My Great Place.

-Joel

A New Wild Everywhere.

“There’s a new wild feeling dancing in the air.  There’s a new wild everywhere.” -Great Lake Swimmers

Tomorrow is the day.  I start my move to South Dakota.  I am making a little bit of a trip out of this move, so I won’t be arriving in Vermillion until Thursday, but tomorrow is the beginning of this journey. The start of the next adventure in my life.

I guess I never really anticipated this day coming.  I just always thought that I would keep saying “I move the end of July” to people when they asked, and that the end of July would never actually come.  It seemed surreal to me that I would be leaving Michigan so soon-yet the time has flown by, and tomorrow is the day.

I have been packing, and cleaning, and throwing out junk.  I bought a car.  I had my last day of work, and said goodbye to my friends and family.  So why is it that now, tonight, I feel so unprepared?

I’m nervous and excited all at the same time.  I know that I have a lot to do, yet I am sitting on the couch typing away.  I’m not sure how much more I can prepare.  I think I just have to say “This is it” and just go.

It is time for my next adventure.  That’s what this blog is all about; my adventures.  It is time to go out there, attend grad school, learn a ton, live my life, and share my story.  After all, there’s a new wild everywhere.  It’s time that I go out and find my new wild.

If anyone has any advice about moving away, starting grad school, or anything else of that sort, feel free to comment or reach out to me on social media.

In search of a new wild,

–Joel