It’s Okay If You Don’t Know It All
Recently I’ve been feeling bogged down by the shear amount of content that I’ve been taking in at school and work. I knew coming in to Loyola’s Higher Education masters degree program that it would not be the same as my bachelors degree program. I knew that I would be doing a lot more reading and critical thinking in my classes. I also knew that when I accepted a position in Residence Life the work would sometimes be on weekends and after hours. I chose Loyola for my studies because I wanted to be challenged to think more and practice what I learn through my actions. I am overall thrilled with my choice and do not think I would be getting such a holistically enriching experience anywhere else. Despite all of these positive experiences, I’ve been struggling.
I’ve been finding it hard to be cognizant of everything I’m learning about. There are so many systems of oppression to keep in mind and language choices to make. After multiculturalism last week I was really feeling this. We had just spoken about ableism and I was preparing for the coming weeks where we’ll jump from system to system talking about oppression in the world and I began to realize how much I had left to learn. I was stuck in a cycle of worry thinking how I may say the wrong thing or come into class with pre-conceptions that my classmates wouldn’t agree with. I felt like I had to know every moving part of every system in order to call myself an educated social justice advocate. I was beginning to question my place in Loyola’s program that is so heavily focused on creating leaders prepared to make positive change. What if I wasn’t cut out for this program? Then I got to my next class, Student Affairs Profession.
During this class one of the second year students, Meghan, said something that I needed to hear at that exact moment. She told us that during her first year she felt the same way as we all did. Meghan told us that it felt like, as higher ed students, we needed to leave our program as social justice experts. She told us how her cohort felt the same way; that the pressure to learn and act on all of the aspects of the multiculturalism class was overwhelming. She told us that we were not going to know everything. That the program did not expect to create experts, but that it’s intention was to produce students who were aware of injustice and who were prepared to be lifelong learners. In this class of mostly first year students the audible sigh of relief was like music to my ears. It was so clear that the other students in my cohort were feeling the same thing as me.
I also realized that when we talk at the beginning of every class about how we’re here to learn from each other, through challenges and differences, and creating spaces where grace is given out that we’re not lying. We all collectively feel the building pressure of the world and our field, but that’s just it; we all feel it. Which means that when one of us needs a break from the endless thoughts and work that there will be 41 other students in our cohort to support them. The family of scholars that we are building and the community we have been invited into here at Loyola will last us far longer than our days as Ramblers. We are learning alongside our future co-workers, supervisors, and change makers. We will enter the workforce in the next few years and find ourselves looking to our peers from this program for answers to new questions and support during new challenges. This bond is something that Meghan and our other second year student, Candice, talked about. They pointed out how excited all of the second years were to see each other when they returned to campus in August. Candice and Meghan told us this was because their cohort had formed a bond over long nights studying, difficult conversations, and assistantship drama. They had become more than classmates in this program, but a professional family. Specifically they pointed out how they could talk to each other about their struggles with close minded family members or co-workers who made their jobs harder.
This was refreshing to hear after a long Monday and looking forward at a long week on duty. Although we are just starting to form bonds outside of the classroom, I know that my cohort is going to be there for me when I need them. Support systems in our line of work are essential and I believe that mine has grown by 41.