Tag Archives: #sachat

Complaining vs. Commiserating

Let me set the scene: It’s Friday at 5pm, you’ve had a really rough week and a trusted colleague invites you for dinner or drinks and a little destress session from a long five days. You join them and a few other co-workers at the local bar or restaurant and the stories of the week start. Who had the worst student interaction, who had the worst duty call, who experienced the most ridiculous request from a parent, or perhaps the worst interaction with a supervisor.

We’ve all been there. We’ve commiserated and felt the sense of relief about having conversations with people who get it. Not with your parents who perhaps don’t really understand your job or a partner who empathizes and supports you, but doesn’t share your world, or friends who are still a little confused as to why you haven’t technically left college. There is something liberating about commiserating with people who simply understand.

I must admit that I am a member of this club. I have a group of six former colleagues who have since moved throughout the country, but we share a group text that has been going for the better part of two years. We’ve shared joys and sorrows, engagements, pregnancy news, the adoption of a wide variety of pets, and job search woes. What I love the most about this group of friends is the diversity of our conversations. Are there moments of pure steam-letting about colleagues, co-workers, supervisors, or University politics? Of course, but that is not the main connection to one another.

This leads me to question, when does commiserating in a healthy, reflective way border on complaining for complaining’s sake? I can’t help but think of all of the Twitter accounts that are based on the idea commiserating (or complaining), depending on your lens. Some of those accounts include SAProblemsBadSAPro, BadHallDirector, SAProSarcasm, BadSAPro, BitterSAPro, ResLifeSpouse, BitterHD, and the list goes on and on and on! Combined, these accounts have thousands of followers.

Are these accounts, and more specifically, conversations that in reality are complaining, moving our field forward? Are they doing us a service by pointing out the areas of frustration and tension or are they simply a way to play the “one up” game and think your woes are the worst?

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It’s About Time

That’s it. I’ve been lurking for far too long. I’m leaning in or jumping in or any other analogy you would like to use about leaving fears behind and just doing.

Whew, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business. I have been intrigued by the #SAchat community for some time. About a year ago, I found the hashtag and for many Thursdays after that I would scroll through posts and nod my head in silent agreement. This was all within the safety of my office. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I decided to participate. I must say it was one of the more immediately rewarding professional development opportunities I have experienced. There was no “conference high” to come down from, no stack of business cards to follow-up with, no sense of “Sure, that was great on YOUR campus, but it would never work here.” In short, it was a reflective dialogue within a community of colleagues, most of which I have never met in person.

This initial experience made me want to explore even further. It turned on a light somewhere and made me realize what a wealth of knowledge exists from the comfort of our own computers. I was also particularly inspired by the Student Affairs women bloggers who quite simply put.it.out.there. (I’m looking at you Stacy Oliver, Becca Obergefel, Ann Marie Klotz, Renee Piquette Dowdy, and many others.)

I was fired up and ready to post. But then the voice in the back of my head started nagging me with sentiments like “Will anyone actually read anything you post?” “What could you possibly have to offer the field?” “You are in no position to share ‘wisdom’ with others.” It was at about this time that Cindy Kane posted an excellent post on the “Imposter Syndrome.” In a rare moment of seeing beyond my own self-imposed limitations, I realized I was talking myself out of blogging, of sharing my point of view, of contributing to this field that I love so much.

So here I am. Blogging. Posting. Worrying more about content and less about format. Realizing that I’m making a commitment to reflection and contribution to the conversation. If nary a soul ever sees these posts, as least I will have quieted that voice in my head that says I wasn’t able to do it.

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