WSP Winter Quarter retreat. 8PM. We are crowded around a tiny table in Cafe Elysee. It has been a full day, with plenty of walking and thinking. I can almost touch the exhaustion hanging from our shoulders. But we bring our scattered thoughts together, and we share. We share about a time when we felt out of touch with our respective communities. We share our worries. Our struggles. Our wishes. Our accomplishments. As the murmur in the cafe builds and starts to die down again, we listen to each other’s stories. This is the moment in which I realize I can count on these people to be there for me.
Last fall, we were asked to write down some goals for our personal, academic, and professional development in something our assistant director JoAnna called a Vision Book. We were to break our goals into small steps and create a plan of action to track our progress in these specific areas of our development.
Cover page of my Vision Book. I may have gone slightly overboard.
One part of myself that I hoped to achieve throughout my first year at WSP was being more open with people. I have a tendency to bottle up my emotions or not vocalize my opinions, and because of this I have been called a variety of things: “shy” or “quiet” when they were being sensitive, “cold” or “rude” when they didn’t care about the niceties. I wanted to change that about myself – and I did. Whether through countless sessions with students or simply by being around so many people who were so open and caring, I learned how to show who I was. I forced myself to greet everyone I met on my dorm floor, and shared experiences with people that I had never thought I would say before.
Another thing that helped me to open up was writing regularly for WSP’s blog. In a way, it kept my storytelling engines running in my mind, ready to engage people. I have always written for myself before coming to WSP, but the knowledge that I was now writing for others – that people I had never met before would read it and take a part of my piece into themselves – that was incredibly liberating.
One of my other goals I wrote in my Vision Book was getting back into my creative and artistic interests. WSP has really pushed me forward in this regard, and I have reconnected with many creative outlets throughout the year, not the least of which include painting and music.
Totally 100% unstaged photo of me counseling a student.
I am not sure how I feel about the year coming to a close. The end of the year signals three things to me:
I am especially not ready for that last one. With four graduating seniors in a staff of seven, I feel as though the people I have worked with and looked up to for the past three quarters are going away. But I know Pegah Mahmoud, the other not-yet-graduating counselor in WSP, Layhannara Tep, our director, and the newly hired staff will be there to push me to strive for the best possible 2016-2017 year.
Just me looking off into the “future”. You know how it is.
To new counselors coming on for next year:
You have been presented with a great opportunity — no, you shaped that opportunity for yourself by submitting your application and earning the position. Take advantage of it: the workshops, the training sessions, and the connections. Prepare for a heavy workload and prepare to put in work after hours to get your tasks done. Putting in your full effort will speed your learning and diversify your experiences, which may not always be easy or pleasant. By the end of your first quarter, you will have an expanded world view after talking with dozens of students from different majors, backgrounds, and countries . By your second quarter, you will know how to outline any essay within thirty minutes. And, by your third, you will feel calm and secure in any type of session with the knowledge that you know what to do and how to do it. This year’s training will suit you up with all the professional tools and knowledge you need to succeed in any career.
But, know that this is not just an opportunity — this is a community. You are a writing counselor, but remember that this is not a one-way dispersal of knowledge from you to your students. You will learn just as much from them as they will from you. Take the time to develop yourself. Throughout this year, you will be exposed to people very different from you or from a background like yours. You will make many new relationships and find people who deeply care about you and your growth. Trust and invest your strengths into them, and they will return your efforts. Treasure this opportunity, this community, this position. I promise you will not regret any of it.