The Women in Housing series is a month-long project featuring the voices, stories, and experiences of women who currently or formerly work in housing and residence life. Today's post was written by Lisa Ortiz.
I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a meme on a Hockey Mom page. And since all inspirational information comes from a meme, this one stuck with me in the heart.
"Resiliency is the power to be able to recover readily from adversity or challenge."
As a professional in housing, a single mother of two amazing little people, and a woman, resiliency has been at the core of my being since birth, one that is often reflected in the work I do and who I am as a person.
Resiliency is not always feeling or being a whole person, but it is being a person who is willing to continue to put one step forward and know that you are attempting to do your best. It's understanding that every day is not easy but you need to continue to move forward. Forward for your students, forward for yourself and forward for this that are looking towards you for reassurance that the world around them is not static, but in fact dynamic.
There are days in my career when I haven't felt resilient. I have felt stuck, static, and questioning if what I am doing is fulfilling for myself or beneficial for those around me. Yet, I always found my personal power to move forward.
Twelve years ago, I was pregnant with my first child working as a live-in professional. I had just found out that I was pregnant and having a casual conversation with a group of woman mentors about being in residence life as a mother. One turned to me as the youngest in the group and said, “Just know that if you choose to be a mother, your career will be over. You will always be characterized as a mother first, professional second". I remember going numb and the voices in the room became the sound of any adult from the Peanuts cartoon. And I began to question my abilities as a professional and balancing pregnancy. Could I truly be a good mother and have a career?
Fast forward four years in the future, when I was at a new institution. I had a student who looked to me as a mentor, one of the students that you truly felt you were making a difference with and you were looking forward to seeing them accomplishing their goals and dreams. Until the morning that I received a call that a student staff member had opened their door and found them dead. The student had taken their own life that night. I remember going into crisis mode and running to the scene and seeing their body on the floor. I didn't have time to have my heart break in half; I had a community to support. The grieving came later and the pain of the losing the hope that I had for the student's future. The pain was deep and cutting.
Then three years ago, my personal life imploded. I began the process of a very long and chaotic divorce. Along with the divorce was having to come to terms with the fact that I was in a long term abusive relationship, one that hurt myself and my children. I am the person who is a resource for people in abusive relationships, not the one who should be seeking support. My divorce began to leak into my work due to the chaos of a public arrest of my ex on campus, harassing phone calls at work, an injured hand, and the amount of time that I was away from the office to be in court. Each day was long and my to-do list became longer. The chaos made it difficult to be the professional that I wanted to be along with being the mother that I needed to be while still searching for my personal power.
Each of these times in my life, personal and professional resiliency is what keep my life and outlook dynamic. Like a slow freight train, each of the times did pass. Slowly, sometimes painfully, but it moved forward.
Each one of us has had to define resiliency in a different way during our careers. Each one of us has had times of hope, questioning, brilliance, and feeling like an imposter. Sometimes all of these feelings occur on the same day. It is the world that we live and work in and the hats that we must negotiate wearing.
As a woman in housing, you will need to define resiliency for yourself. Decide how you will continue to put one step forward. To become the person that you need to be to get through any storms that are around you. It's breaking up the chaos into smaller, manageable pieces that you can have ownership over to move forward. It is acknowledging what and who you need to be to own your personal power.
Each one of us has power. It is your choice how you use it, when to use it, and how much of it you use. Resiliency is at the core of this power. When you feel the wet wool blanket wrapping around you, just know that you have the power to dry it out and make it less heavy.
As I continue to be a residence life professional and a crazy hockey mom, my resiliency continues to be one of my core values and strength. Resiliency is reflected in each moment of joy, pain, struggle, and pride in my daily life, whether it is at work or at home. My hope is that each one of you learns the personal power that you possess and have the ability to be a person that continues to put one step forward as you negotiate your career as a woman in housing.
Lisa Ortiz is the mother of two hockey players (Maya and Freddy) and three fur babies. Along with being a hockey mom, Lisa is an Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life at Ferris State University, a proud alumna of Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University, and has the ability to organize any level of chaos.
The Women in Housing series is sponsored by Adirondack Solutions.