I'm lucky. I'm a white male who grew up in a middle class family. I never had to worry about my parents not having income. I've never had to worry about someone singling me out due to race, faith, orientation, or any of my beliefs. The only time I remember worrying about anything as a kid was one time when I played Twister with my Mom and Sister. My Mom won the game, jumped up in excitement, threw her arms in the air in celebration, and then fainted and fell on us — probably due to a quick blood pressure spike. She was fine. We were fine.
And very rarely my Dad would leave home for a night or two for a business trip. I've been told that upon his return, I'd refuse to talk to him for 24 hours to punish him for leaving us. That's the worst I ever had it. Pretty great childhood, huh? If life were a video game, I am lucky enough to play it in "easy mode".
I grew up surrounded by people just like me. White, middle class, lucky. In my entire 16 years of schooling, same deal. I was surrounded by people just like me. I never watched the news. I never sought out the opinion of people not like me. I was able to ignore the world outside of my bubble. Nothing affected me — why would I care?
My first taste of Student Affairs was when I was a first-year student at Marquette University. Back in the day, 18 year olds often used some pretty insensitive words. I never used them, but I did allow people to use those words around me.
Until I met my RA, Mike. Whenever anyone used any insensitive words around him, he quickly told them not to do that and explained why it was important not to. (He also corrected people if they ever used the word "dorm", but that's a different story.) After a few weeks, the residents on our floor stopped using insensitive words. After a few more weeks, the residents of our floor started correcting other people on campus whenever they used insensitive words. It spread like wildfire.
It was one of the first times I've seen one person's actions affect so many others. Mike taught us that it was important for us to stand up for others, even when they're not around. And that if you don't, your inaction is almost as bad as the offense itself.
A little more than 4 years ago, I started working on Roompact. I was fortunate enough to find myself in an industry full of kind people doing important work. Some may think otherwise, but I very much consider myself a Student Affairs Professional. And it's been one of the best, most impactful things to ever happen to me.
I've befriended people who are not like me. People who have had to work harder to get where they are. People who aren't playing on "easy mode". I listen to and read every word I can from people who are different than me. It's important to pay attention to those outside of your bubble. It's important to step up and stand for other people. And it's important to simply listen in discussions about topics that you cannot and will not ever fully understand.
4 years ago, there was a fork in my road of life. If I had not joined Student Affairs, I think I would be a different person. A less educated person. Someone with less understanding of people who are not like me. Happily living with blinders on. I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm thankful that my journey took me down the path of Student Affairs. It's a start.
I'm thankful for everyone in this industry who pushes humanity to be more understanding and to be better to each other. I'm lucky to be surrounded by people who strive for the improvement of humanity, day in and day out. Student Affairs has made me a better person.