Last week’s #SAChat (for my non student affairs friends, that’s our weekly student affairs twitter chat) topic was about the glorification of busy. How do we as professionals take the idea of being busy and blow it out of proportion? As I participated and thought about the conversation later on, I realized that I probably sounded really cynical throughout. I also had a tweet that got lots of attention when I questioned the fact that we’re in a field that preaches about “work-life balance” yet we lose people in 5-6 years.
Let me first clarify by saying that I don’t think we lose ALL the people we do because of burnout. As one of my lovely conduct bosses put it once: Life Happens. I can promise you that when I move out of housing, it will be because I am ready to move on…whether there’s burnout or not will be irrelevant because I already know housing isn’t my forever home. People move out of the field because life happens; they move, get married, find a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…all very viable reasons to move on (or off).
But we do lose some people to burnout. Coming from a housing background, it’s very easy to see how this can happen. Personally, I hate when someone says that I am having a bad day because I’m busy. No, I work in housing…a punched out window, puppy in the building, and follow up with domestic violence is (regardless of how unfortunate) all in a day’s work some days. Then there are the days where I finish my daily to-do list by 10:30am and end up putzing around on a few projects and taking a few BuzzFeed quizzes about my ideal mate and the Disney princess castle that fits my personality (it was Ariel’s beachside castle, BTW).
But does us glorifying our “busy-ness” lead to the burnout? I think yes. If I allow myself to get worked up about everyday activities, I’m going to let them stress me out. Now, in the heat of the moment when a student is profusely bleeding all over my lobby—yes, I’m going to get a little stressed. Now, if I allowed myself to feel that stressed everyday (which I personally think is what a lot of professionals do), I’d be ready to hit the road from all things student affairs.
Have I seen small signs of burnout in myself? Maybe a little. I don’t see them so much as burnout as I do an excitement for new opportunities. Hell, in my job search that’s moving slower than molasses uphill in a Syracuse, NY, February snow storm, I’ve started looking at non-housing positions and it’s like someone is cuing “A Whole New World” in the background music that I make up for my life! You mean I could live somewhere WITHOUT 500 students sharing my space? You mean I won’t have to be on-call? I can do whatever I please with my weekends? SIGN A SISTER UP! Realistically, I’m going to likely end up in a housing position, but I’m okay with that because I haven’t allowed myself to reach burn out.
I guess where I’m going with all of this is that when we glorify what we do everyday as “busy,” it gets into our heads and we burnout faster. Are there busy days? Without a freaking doubt. But guess what, y’all? That’s our job. It’s my job to be there when the student on the top floor punches his window out. It’s my job to respond when there are 11 cop cars outside my building on a Friday night (on call or not). It’s my job to let students come in and tell me about their roommate situation even if I know I can’t move them. Does that mean my job is “busy?” Yeah, I guess so, but I think this is where my grandmother comes out of my mouth: If you can’t play with the big dogs, stay on the porch.
I recognize that that’s not a very nice thing to say: “If you can’t handle busy, then leave.” I won’t apologize for it, though. I want to say that as a professional, you know what you got yourself into, especially in housing. If you didn’t, that’s all well and good, but I’m guessing you’ve got on quickly to the pace at which we work. If it’s not going to work for you, bow out gracefully. Talking about how busy you are isn’t going to change anything and is only going to stress those out around you. We can’t all work in housing—or student affairs—forever. Don’t let yourself be the person who talked about “busy” like it was the end of the world and ended up being bitter when you left.