ACUHO-I. NODA. NACA. Oh, My!

It’s about that time of the year. The best time of the year. Job search season is right around the corner and you can feel it in the air. There is a heightened sense of pressure, intensity, and stress all around. Conversations are being overtaken by topics of resumes and cover letters. LinkedIn profiles are being updated and social media profiles are going through major changes. It’s a thrill. Everyone is on edge and there is a nervous excitement that seems to envelope everything.

If you are a soon-to-be graduate, you know exactly what I am talking about. Finding a job after high school/college/etc. is terrifying. If you are a first year #SAGrad, you probably are looking for an internship right now. You too know this feeling being described. I know. Because just a year ago I was in your shoes. And, a year before that I was going through this process for my first time.

Whether you’re on the search for the perfect grad school/program, job, or internship you’re feeling the same way as many many people out there right now. Look around, I am sure you see it too!

This process is exciting and scary at the same time. Your body almost can’t handle the emotions and stress that you’re putting it through. But, I promise you will be just fine!


I’m going to give you some advice – now I can’t really talk about the job search – because I’ve never really been on one. But I can tell you the grad school/program search is a wild ride. But, you will end up where you’re supposed to be. Just be patient. Have a little faith. And, don’t be afraid to jump out of your comfort zone! I can also tell you the internship search process is perhaps even better. I LOVED my experience!

I wanted to share a little about my experience and talk to you about the internship process, as I think it can be a little tough to navigate.


So, if you’re a #SAGrad and are freaking out about your internship search right now, here are a few things that I think you should keep in mind.

Location: Are you geographically bound? Are you willing to spend three months anywhere? Or do you have a specific destination in mind. Consider this when applying and making final decisions.

Institution type: This is important. Are you interested in working at a public institution? Or do you want an experience at a private institution? Some institutions are religiously affiliated. Do you want to work at a predominantly white institution? Or are you looking for a historically black college or other minority serving institution? Do you want to work at a community college? Trades school? Or four year university?

Keep this in mind. Are you willing to work for an institution that doesn’t align with your values? I’m not. This is perhaps the most important characteristic for me. I WILL NOT work somewhere that doesn’t align with my values or provide me the support that I seek in a professional setting. So, know if the institution that you’re applying to work for is religiously affiliated or has different values than you. Read mission and vision statements for the university and the department you’d be working for. Ask these questions in interviews.

Size: Large institutions. Small institutions. Mid-sized universities. There are so many options. For me, I needed a new and different experience. I attended Northern Michigan University for my undergraduate studies and the University of South Dakota for grad school. Both had student populations right around 10,000. I needed something smaller or larger…but knew that I didn’t want an internship experience at another mid-sized university.

Experience: Go into your internship search knowing what kind of experience you want. Do you want to work in Housing & Residence Life? Orientation and New Student Programs? Conferences? Student Activities? Do you want to work at a national organization’s headquarters? Or do you want an on-campus experience? What do you want to learn from your internship? What skills/strengths can you bring to your internship experience that will set you apart from other applicants?

Be mindful and intentional when applying for internships so you wind up finding something that you really want to do, and something that you’ll gain a lot from.

For me this was simple. I wanted out of the Midwest. I wanted to work at a really small or really large institution. I wanted to do something with Residence Life. I needed to be supervising student employees. I wanted to find something in a city that I would enjoy. I needed both opportunities for adventure and exploration as well as socializing and networking.

I highly recommend researching not only the campus and institution community, but also the city you’ll be working in. What is the population? What are the demographics? Does the city have a nightlife? Young professionals network? Is there public transportation? Is it biker/walker friendly? What are the food options? Is there a coffee shop or a brewery? What is the shopping like? Where is the nearest mall? I live in a pretty remote area and that was perfect for me, but I know some people can’t survive without a mall, a Chick-fil-A, and a couple bars.

Use your interests and needs to help you narrow your search, but don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.


What is it that you’re looking for in an internship? Not sure? Give it some thought. Ask your supervisor, staff members, and peers what they think your strengths are and what you’d benefit from experiencing. Use your head and your heart when making a decision. Don’t accept something that you know you won’t enjoy.

Sometimes internships lead to full-time jobs (mine did!) so do something you’ll enjoy and go somewhere you will want to be. Put your all into this process and have fun!

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to hit me up. I would love to share my input and experiences with others.

Good luck!

-Joel

 

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A few Thoughts on Social Media.

Yesterday I received the sweetest text message from one of my (writing this made me realize for the first time how possessive this sounds. Ugh. They are not my RAs but are each amazing individuals. I don’t own them. Oh my gosh!) the RAs on my staff saying that she needed to block me on Twitter. She went on to explain to me that it was nothing against me or the way I used Twitter, but rather that she uses Twitter as a personal space and that she didn’t want to mix work and personal life on this platform – especially given that she was connected with her boss.

This exchange led to the realization that social media is deeply personal and that everyone uses social differently. While, I think that I’ve known this all along, it took this conversation with a staff member to really put things into perspective for me.

Here’s what I’m thinking.


We live in a world that is constantly connected. Pretty much everyone has some sort of internet/social media presence – In my personal opinion everyone should. The way of the world is changing and if you don’t have a digital presence you’re going to be left behind. You don’t have to be posting and sharing constantly, but rather simply have an understanding of the popular technology and platforms being used and the benefits and costs associated with them.

Social media serves the purpose of connecting one another. It was created so that communities could be built. Given that it was meant for relationship building and connections, it makes sense that social media is deeply personal. Why wouldn’t it be?

I believe that social should be deeply personal. I think that for social media to serve its purpose, you must use it authentically. This requires personalization, intimacy, and shared trust in other users.

Everyone uses social media differently. Some people only use one platform. Some people use all the platforms. Some people lie somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – like me! Some people use different accounts in different ways. I’ll use myself as an example.


I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and obviously, WordPress. I use each of these platforms very intentionally – and I created each account with the purpose of using them intentionally and positively. I will never post/share/say something on social that I wouldn’t do or say in person, or wouldn’t be willing to back up/support if questioned by someone who saw it online.

I use Facebook very irregularly. I check it once a day – if that. I’ve had a very on-and-off relationship with Facebook since I created it when I was a freshman in high school and was hiding my profile from my parents. I didn’t really use Facebook because I didn’t have a smartphone or WiFi at the time…but I felt I had to have one to fit in at school…what a joke. I started being pretty active on Facebook in college – sharing photos, posting status updates, sharing things my friends had posted, joining groups, etc. This continued until my junior and senior year. I deleted Facebook for over a year because I just needed to take a break from the negativity, focus on school, and disconnect for a while. Since reactivating my account after college graduation, I now use Facebook just to share these blog posts and the occasional news article or happening from an organization that I follow. I pretty much just have Facebook to ensure my family members that I’m still alive.

I use Twitter very professionally. I created my Twitter account my senior year of college because I was in a social media communications class and at the time only had an Instagram account. We focused on digital and media literacy in this course and what it means to be a user of new media. When I created this account, I told myself I would only use it to connect with others positively and professionally. I have stuck to that. I share glimpses of myself, my personality, but also use this platform to connect with Higher Education, Communication and Public Relations professionals, musicians, and companies and organizations that I love. I participate in Twitter Chats regularly and follow news and current trends on this platform.

Instagram is the most personal of my profiles. I think photo sharing is a great way to be deeply personal and authentic – perfect for my intentional use of social. I use this platform to share my adventures with you all and to be more fun, lighthearted, and carefree than on my other profiles. You will see my personality shine through photos of my educational/professional endeavors, coffee dates, random runs around lakes or fields, hikes through the wilderness, and other completely random musings.

Lastly, LinkedIn is a very business professional profile. I created this account my senior year while I was on the job/grad school search. I now try to keep this profile updated as an online resume of sorts, but don’t do much sharing or posting on here. I connect with people I meet on Twitter, at conferences, through work, and socially, but I connect with people on this account more to keep a constant flow of circles and networks growing than anything else.

Obviously, y’all know how I use my blog. It’s basically just a space to share my ever constant flow of thoughts and ramblings…but also because I really love writing and I hope to share snippets of my life with others so that it may make waves in their life in some way. Hopefully that’s happening to some of you.


That’s my social media presence in a nutshell. Was it personal enough for you? Do you think that my profiles capture what I just shared with you? I hope so, because that is my intent. I really want to use my accounts to be personal and share my life experiences with others so that you get to know me in a deeper, more meaningful way. That being said, I also acknowledge the fact that others use social in far different ways and that is perfectly fine. Who am I to judge what someone else posts on social? Because I don’t have a clue what their life is like and what they’re experiencing. Why would I judge a stupid fricken social media post? After all, if they’re being personal, authentic, and can back up something that they post, I think they’re doing social media right.

All of my social media accounts are unprotected, meaning anyone can follow me at any time. I do this purposefully. I want people to connect with me. I want people to feel comfortable connecting with me. I want people – like future employers and students both – to see that I don’t have anything to hide or be ashamed of posting and if they have questions about something that I have posted on social that they believe is questionable, it is my hopes that they challenge me on it and bring it up in conversation.


Another thing that I want to point out about this awesome text message is that it made me realize that I am very transparent with my (ugh I did it again…) staff and students about social media use – especially when it comes to following me and other professionals.

I tell students that they can follow me on social, but that I am hesitant to follow back. I also tell them, that if I do happen to follow them back or their account is open and I see something that is questionable or concerning that I will have a conversation with them about it. I challenge any student or staff member that follows me to be conscious of the fact that I may or may not follow them back and that they need to be aware of the things that they post because of this. I encourage students to think about what they’re posting/sharing/creating and how it may impact the people who may see it. I remind students that perception is far greater than reality when it comes to social media and that social only shows certain viewpoints of life and we can’t get so caught up in that.

I realized from this text message that I am having these conversations about social all the time, but it took a simple text message from someone on my staff to make me think about the importance and relevance of self-care and self-preservation in this connected world.


Social media is crazy and can be destructive if not used properly. That’s why I think it is so important that we are thinking critically about social and how we use it. It’s also why I am so impressed by this RA and her willingness to confront me and express her concern for our connection on Twitter.

Someone that I care deeply and genuinely about and work with every day isn’t comfortable connecting with me on a certain platform because she knows herself well enough to know that the way she uses this channel is not an appropriate way of connecting with me. That is so cool! I’m really proud of her for that. I think we all should be thinking about this when connecting with others on social. We must be thinking about the messages that we are conveying to the world online.

Think about it y’all. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts and perspectives on this. Feel free to reach out!

-Joel

My #CSAM17 Story.

October is Careers in Student Affairs Month which means its the time of the year to focus on and celebrate all of the weirdos (like me) in the world who chose to pursue a career in Higher Education (more specifically, Student Affairs).

Like most people who wind up in this field, I stumbled into it unexpectedly while in college. I had no clue what I wanted to do with my future, but I loved every moment of college. I thrived in college!


I quickly became involved on campus my freshman year at Northern Michigan University, serving as the Vice President for my Residence Hall Council, joining different clubs and organizations on campus, and attending every event I possibly could.

After my great experiences in Hall Council, I knew I wanted to apply to be a Resident Adviser. The selection process was pretty intense and competitive, but I managed to survive…and was hired for a position my sophomore year. I worked as a RA in Meyland Hall for two years and had the best supervisor in the world – we’re still best friends today!

The summer before Junior year I was hired to be a New Student Orientation Staff Assistant and I spent that summer falling even more in love with Northern Michigan University.

Junior year I was a RA again and got super involved with the organization Marquette Ending Hunger! This group would soon become my Marquette Family and the “friends you meet in college that you will have forever”.

The summer before my Senior year was my second summer working with New Student Orientation and would be an even better summer than the first because it was my last summer in college and I lived up every moment!

Senior year I worked in the Center for Student Enrichment as a Coordinator for the Volunteer Center and the Superior Edge leadership program.


After four years of campus involvement and a growing passion for this work – and no clue what to do with my communications degree – I knew I had to go into Student Affairs.

I applied for graduate school, GA positions, and entry level full-time positions at universities across the nation. It was intense and scary, but I knew I was making the right decision.

I attended the Oshkosh Placement Exchange and interviewed with many institutions. I loved OPE – and found a GA position because of this great experience!

I was accepted into the Adult & Higher Education program at the University of South Dakota and was offered a graduate assistant position with Sorority & Fraternity Life.

While at USD, I was provided the opportunity to attend the NASPA regional conference in St. Louis and it was here that I became obsessed with professional conferences, networking with other Student Affairs professionals and deepened my love for this work.

Seeking even more work in this field, some time away from the Midwest and professional development opportunities, I applied for summer internships at other institutions through ACUHO-I. This search led me back to my housing roots when I was hired for a position with Residence Life and Conference Services at Western State Colorado University.

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In one month’s time, I gained more experience in this internship than I had the entire first year of grad school and when a position opened up in this department, I jumped at the chance to apply and stay in Colorado.


This all leads me to today. It is mid-October. I am laying in my hotel bed after just completing the ACPA Residential Curriculum Institute. I landed that open position that I applied for during my summer at Western and am still happy to be in Colorado! I am finishing my masters degree online through USD while working full-time!! It is a challenge, but is so worth it.


This is my story so far.

Here’s to writing more of it as I continue my way toward graduation and a bright future in this awesome field – with an even more awesome team!

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Residence Life staff
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My RAs and I
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Residence Life Professional Staff (minus Paul)
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Resident Directors

-Joel

*All photo credits: Western State Colorado University Social & Digital Media Coordinator, Taylor Cull.

*If you’re interested, I wrote a post last year for this same topic.

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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Simplicity.

As I mentioned in my Goals for 2017 post, I am trying to minimize and focus on living a more simple, and meaningful life.

I am wildly intrigued by minimalism and the thought of doing more with less. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, check them out.  Their documentary is viewable here as well as on Netflix and they have authored three books that share their journeys into minimalism (I recently purchased Everything That Remains, if anyone would like to borrow it).  I also subscribe to their podcast and I love it!  If you commute to work, prefer stories over songs when working out, or just need to change up the pace, give them a listen.

The thing that I love most about minimalism is that it’s different for everyone.  Every person has a different definition of minimizing, living simply, and what is valuable to them.  For me, being a minimalist is all about finding value in the possessions that I have.  While, I hate clutter, and don’t want to ever live in a way that allows clutter to rule my home, my journey is most importantly about building a relationship with the stuff that I do have and recycling-tossing stuff defeats the purpose of minimizing waste and impact, so donate, repurpose, etc., please-the things that don’t add value to my life.

I’ve always been a pretty simple liver, but I finally started my adventure into this minimalism thing when I was living back at my parents house over Christmas break.  Being home for almost a month gave me ample time to sort through the junk in my room at their house.  I haven’t used most of the stuff in that room for a large portion of the last five years, and I know they’re not using any of it.  My twin brother, Adam recently moved out of my parents house too, so our room now felt awkward, like somehow it was no longer ours.  It was weird to be sleeping in a room that now felt lifeless.

My door was still covered in pictures from high school cross country, and old Runners World magazine snippets that I had cut out for inspiration.  Clothes that no longer fit littered my closet floor.  Posters hung limply on the walls-with the exception of my autographed Switchfoot poster, which definitely adds value to my life, I realized these posters no longer represented the person I am today-so I tore them down and tossed them.  Cleaning my room and sorting the stuff that is no longer needed from the stuff that will be kept felt so good.  It made the space feel a little more like mine-if even only for a few more days.

Since coming back to Verm, I have tried to make conscious decisions as far as my relationships go.  Is this person, thing, or activity adding value to my life?  Am I happy with this?  Is this just taking up space-even though I have literally nothing in my apartment, it is still a thought that I have?  I love that The Minimalists define living minimally as living with only the things that you value.  To me that is the perfect definition of how I prefer to live.


I recently downloaded a book on my Kindle that is written by a worship group that I love.  I have been a big fan of Rend Collective for quite a few years now, and they just released a devotional book that supplements their latest album-I just had to download it.

What I love most about Rend Collective is that they release Campfire albums every few years.  They unplug from the world, pack up their bags and instruments, and head into the wild.  There they are able to get back to the basics and produce simplistic and meaningful music that reflects who they are as a group as well as focusing on the things that really matter to them.

The first devotional in this book is titled Simplicity (also a title of one of the songs on the album) and talks about the reason why they go into the wilderness to write music.  It talks about the beauty of nature, the wonder of the stars, and the fact that today’s society is so focused on things that distract us from simplicity-from what is really important.  There is a quote in this reading that I am absolutely in love with.  It reads:

Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter.

This quote struck me because it really defines the emphasis on value and relationships in the minimalism movement, and the reason that I am so intrigued by minimalism in the first place.  Removing distractions and going back to the basics-stopping to smell the roses, if you will-helps me to realize the things that are important to me and why I value them.


I am also reading a book called The Longest Race by Ed Ayres.  I chose this book because it is written by an iconic ultra-runner, and as you all know, I love running.  Ayres articulates how I feel about running and minimalism in a great passage from his book, which is actually the inspiration for this post.  It reads:

As the world gets more complicated, people become more appreciative of the things that remain simple-and few things do.  Running is in some ways the simplest of all sports.  All you have to do to run, is open the door and go out.

Ayres explains that one of the great appeals of running is it’s simplicity and I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I am attracted to the simple sports-the ones with few rules, little to no equipment, and those that require very little coordination, competition, and grace, but lots of attitude, stamina, and heart.  It’s why I love running, swimming, and hiking…and have enjoyed dabbling in yoga recently, too.

Each of these sports requires strength of mind and character.  They are not for the faint of heart.  But they are simple, independent, and can be done by anyone who is able.  They leave minimal impact, require minimal conditioning, and can all be done at your own pace.

There are very few distractions in these sports, and because of that I am able to think, breathe, and focus.  I can focus on the things that truly matter such as spiritual growth, reconnecting with my environment, and listening to my body.

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Another huge aspect of simplicity for me is always remembering to #LiveLikeMike.  Check out this link to read his story.


I look forward to continuing this journey into minimalism and exploring what that means for my relationships with material possessions, food, activities, and people, and the value that I place on each of them.

If you have thoughts on minimalism, feel free to reach out and share.  I’d love to connect.

-Joel

Goals For 2017.

Honestly, I can’t believe how fast the year flashed by.  I feel like 2016 just started…and yet here we are, on the second to last day of the year.  I think it’s been harder for me to keep track of time this year because of all of the big life events that happened during the last 365 days.

Just to recap, 2016 brought:

  • my final semester of college
  • a stressful and exciting grad school/job search
  • an offer (and acceptance) for a graduate assistantship at the University of South Dakota
  • the creation of this blog!
  • college graduation! #NMUAlumni
  • a move back to my parents house for the summer
  • a new summer job at the local cafe
  • my first big adult purchase-my 2011 Chevy Impala!
  • a cross-country trek to my new home, Vermillion, South Dakota! #FromNoMiToSoDak
  • my first semester of #SAGrad
  • new friends
  • an interest and focus on holistic wellbeing
  • meditation
  • an unforgettable roadtrip and hiking adventure to the Badlands with my best friend, Monica
  • trips to exciting cities-St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • more time spent in airports than any year prior

and…

  • lots of new adventures!

So, as I ring in the new year, I can’t help but to think back on all of the positive and negative things that I experienced in 2016 and the things I look forward to in 2017.

I am not really big on new years resolutions because I don’t believe they really work.  I don’t ever stick to them and neither do most people…it’s just a fun trendy thing to do so we all hop on that bandwagon.

However, something that I am pretty big on is goal-setting (cue all student affairs related programming).  So, rather than creating a resolution each year I try to make a few reasonable goals for myself.

This year my goals are:

  • land a summer internship.
    • I am currently applying through ACUHO-I  but am also looking into other internship hosts and campus locations.
  • read six books.
    • I am working on knocking off some books on my To-Read shelf on Goodreads.
  • #RunTheYear2017.
    • I hope to run 2017 miles in the year of 2017, which equates to 5.5 miles a day.
  • Build a mostly plant-based diet.
    • This one I am still unsure of but really interested in!  
    • I am shooting for 75-80% of my diet being plant-based but am not sure how I will track this yet.  Because of my running goal, I want to focus on filling my body with nutrient-rich foods right from the ground in order to provide the energy needed to reach this lofty fitness goal.  I have been thinking about and researching plant based lifestyles for a long while now but have been scared to try it.  I hate the idea of dieting and restricting myself to only certain foods, but I wholeheartedly believe that a mostly plant based lifestyle is the way to go for me.  Being mostly plant-based will allow for me to consistently practice positive physical wellbeing and monitor the foods that I am eating while still being flexible enough for me to feel unrestricted and still have fun too…aka ice cream, french fries, and craft beer.
  • minimize.
    • The idea of minimalist living has always intrigued me.  I hate living in clutter.  I hate having things that are unused or don’t bring me happiness and positivity in some way.  I would like to be able to pack up the items that I have and move easily when I am done with grad school, so it makes sense to start minimizing now.  The less I have the less I have to worry about, right?

As of right now, these are the goals that I have set for myself in the next year.  I am sure I will add, subtract, or alter my goals, but I think that I have a great foundation right now.

I will be sure to update my progress as I go along.  Good luck to everyone else on their 2017 endeavors!

-Joel

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