It’s been a long few months in my world. I can see the strain in my face, and the struggle in my weight, and the toll in my too-frequent losses of temper. I was beginning to despair. To wonder why I took this job. To wonder if I want this job. To ponder improbable and bridge-burning solutions in my father’s best “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke” tradition, because there were no obvious non-ridiculous solutions other than “Stick with it, and work hard, and hope.”
If I were the praying kind, I’d’ve been praying my way through this winter. I’m certain that the people who know me have seen me struggling.
It’s still snowing outside my window, the cold and blowy kind of snow that makes you curse the cold, but I feel warmer. Like maybe the sun will punch through the clouds and maybe the snow will melt and maybe, just maybe, I remember why I love this work.
I reached out to someone recently, offering a heartfelt explanation of how I perceived their communication style, and offering suggestions of how to make better impressions on others so that their strengths can shine. It was, in some ways, very scary — direct confrontation with even constructive criticism is a socially risky thing to do.
Then I wrote an email to the full faculty explaining a technology decision being made by a campus committee that I co-chair, in the hopes that good information transparency could prevent the issue from becoming a political football. I spent hours writing, rewriting, editing, and refining the message. When it was done, I felt good about it, but it’s never easy to predict how an audience of PhD’d teachers will react to administrative issues.
In both cases the feedback I got was immediate, and positive. Both served as a reminder of what I’m good at. What I can accomplish. What I want to accomplish. Why I wanted to do this work.
Why I still want to do this work.
And then there was an unexpected surprise — a lovely message from a former colleague, sharing reflections on our time working together, commending me on my approach and style.
Maybe I really can do this. Maybe it’s not a waste of my time trying to help other people realize a vision they don’t believe they want to realize. Maybe I can, through persistence and faith and hope and just never giving up, make a difference. Maybe it really is worth it.
So as I sit here, measurably less annoyed at the snow outside my window, I think that I just needed a win. Please, remember that the next time you’re in the position to offer a compliment, an accolade, or a sincere gesture of gratitude: Sometimes people just need a win, and your outstretched hand might be the thing that gives it to them. You can make a difference, too.