The Glorification of Busy: My Follow Up

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.

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2 thoughts on “The Glorification of Busy: My Follow Up

  1. Hey Mairead,

    Looks like this one got you thinking and hit a nerve! Good for you! It’s important to think about this issue, because many in student affairs do in fact burn-out. I think, however, you’ll find that in any field where you go to work but are still on-call for work when you’re home and still may need to go back to work for an event or program in the evening or weekend. But, because we spend so much time at or “in” work (i.e., doing work when not at work), we become insulated.

    We see the burnout as a student affairs thing. In reality, it’s everywhere! It’s any place where the amount you put it begins to and consistently exceeds that amount you are comfortable and able to do. Think about getting a pile of mulch delivered to your house. A pile, or 3 or 4 cubic yards in my case, get dumped on your driveway. I get my shovel and wheelbarrow and start loading and spreading the mulch throughout my yard. Each time I go back for more mulch, there’s a little less. I can see progress. If, however, every time I went back, I found that the truck dropped the same or more than I just took, each time, there comes a point where I say I just can’t keep up. I need to stop and find something else to do.

    What’s my lesson here? Well, in student affairs and a lot of fields, the mulch just keeps coming. We need to keep spreading it because, if we stand back and take a look, sure we have a pile of ugly mulch, but we’ve done a lot of great stuff with the amount we used. Are we able to see the good things? If not, then it’s time to take good look and decide if the field is right. If you can see the good things, and still feel okay about getting more mulch, knowing more will soon show up, then you’re doing okay.

    The more you stop to take a look at the good you’re doing, the less likely the mulch will feel like work. It will be something you look forward to doing.

    Good luck finishing grad school!

    1. Hey Eric!

      I love the mulch analogy and the idea of really being able to find the value in what we’re doing. I hope all is well with you and the family and the (not so new) job! I’ll be coming home for a bit and finishing my job search from home this summer. We should grab coffee or something in that time 🙂

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