#IBelieveinBernie

or “Why the 27 year old women wants to vote for the old white guy from Vermont.”

I am not enrolled in a political party. I am usually moderately leaning left. I hate the political party system that we have in the US of A. I hate that it costs millions and millions of dollars to run for political office, specifically when you are trying to land in the oval-shaped one.

I want a woman president as much as the next feminist, but I don’t want Hillary. I don’t want Hillary because she is part of the system; she is part of the problem.  When you start seeing the same names over and over in the office of power that is called a monarchy, not a democracy. Now instead of just a two-party system, we are moving towards a two-family system: Clinton and Bush. Can we not find a candidate that is not a part of those two family trees?

Now that is not the only reason I support Bernie Sanders. I actually believe in his campaign and what he stands for, mostly because I actually know what he stands for. He doesn’t pander, he doesn’t waffle.  He stands behind his convictions and is willing to challenge his colleagues to real conversations and dialogue. And no, I don’t agree with him on everything, but I don’t think you can ever really find a candidate that you can agree with 100%.

However, I am realist and I unfortunately know that this game show is rigged.  Unless something dramatically changes in the next year and a half and we have a major grassroots movement in this country, Bernie Sanders will never make it out of the primaries, he won’t be able to raise enough money. He won’t be able to raise enough money because the people who believe in him are too poor to donate to his campaign.  They are the recent college grads and the dwindling, blue-collar, middle class folks, and the environmentalists who likely aren’t making any money. And that is the saddest part of all, because the elections are not really in the hands of the voters, they are in the hands of the lobbyists and billionaires who can afford to pay for lawn signs and air time. It’s all very absurd.

And so, once again, I know I may be selecting a losing candidate.  I know I am backing the underdog. But, I am hoping beyond hope that this time is different. That this time my generation gets off its ass and gets to the polls and makes an informed decision. I am hoping that Americans realize that politics as usual is going to give us “results” as usual. I am hoping that people realize that we should leave the religious teachings to the rabbis, preachers, priests, and imams. I am hoping that voters realize that scientists should be trusted, not censored. I am hoping that Americans realize that we deserve better and that Bernie Sanders could be that candidate.

And so I will support the Sanders campaign however I can, until he is sitting in that oval room or until he has withdrawn his candidacy. But I refuse to jump onto a campaign just because that candidate is the front-runner.  Being the front-runner doesn’t necessarily mean you are the right person for the job, it usually just means your donors’ pockets are deeper.

#IBelieveinBernie #Sanders2016

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remember who you wanted to be.

A couple of days ago I found a bumper sticker that my mother gave me when I was in college. It has a simple white background and the words are spelled out on the page in a slightly fancy font so as to not look too plain. I don’t know exactly when she gave this bumper sticker to me, but the funny thing is that I never actually put bumper stickers on my car. They might go up on a bulletin board or get stuck in my mirror or placed on a water bottle with a vague level of permanency, but they are never placed on their intended destination.  Anyways, I found it tucked among other items that I had in a box that once decorated my room. The sticker simply says “Remember who you wanted to be” and while I am not quite sure of my mother’s original intention, the phrase struck me again when I unearthed it.

As I come to the close of the first year at a new job, I was struck by the simple reminder. I stopped for moment and reflected on where I was year ago and where I am now. I paused and thought about the slow transformation that has taken place. While I am far from content with my performance and overall efforts this past year (annoying perfectionist that I am), I did marvel at the changes that have happened. I am, overall, a happier person. I feel as though I have returned home and I am being challenged in a way that is helping me to grow and be better. I love my work, the people and the place. My well being is a little more balanced.

When I think back farther to college and who I wanted to be then, I don’t think that I am that far off now from what I wanted to be. I may not be in the exact field that I thought I would be, but the end result is very similar. Every day I get up and try to make the world a little better. My methods are just a little different. And while I know that you can’t progress forward if you keep on looking back, I think a little reflection was needed as I close out my first academic year in a new place.

So I rehung that bumper sticker; it has reclaimed a place on my mirror. It is a simple reminder every morning of what the goal should be; of what I want to be:  someone who helps to make the world a little better.

50 Shades of Honesty.

Yes. All of this.

hannah brencher.

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I wonder what I will tell them.

I mean, my kids. I wonder what I will tell my kids one day about the world I grew up in. I wonder how their world will look different than my own. I wonder how connected or disconnected this world will be when their hair is long and their knees are scraped and they’ve been standing here long enough to learn that life is both a symphony and a tragic, little poem.

I hope I will have the courage to reach them from beyond the screen. I hope they will see by my own life that I didn’t hide and I didn’t avoid the hard stuff. I wonder if I will have to swallow hard and tell them, “It’s really easy to pretend.”

Because that’s the truth: It really is easy to pretend. It’s easier to hide behind a good story. It’s easier…

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Who runs the world? Girls.

Who’s that girl?? It’s Jess!

On Saturday I went to a day conference on women’s leadership. It was mostly directed towards female student leaders, but the speakers for the day sounded really interesting, so I decided to crash the party (it also gave my inner union nerd an opportunity to see a newly built student center). The conference was focused on “finding your voice” as a woman. The keynote speaker talked through many different pieces about finding your voice including personality type and the use of humor to break down barriers. She discussed not allowing your empathy and willingness to think about every one else first, to silence your own opinion.  Everything she was saying made sense. I began thinking about times that I have actually done that.  Times when I just agreed to avoid conflict or simply remained silent because the room as a whole was moving in a different direction.  My natural tendency to introverted habits may contribute to this, but I came up with several examples of when I could not or would not find my voice.  The speaker went on to talk about career paths and work styles, all of which allowed me to do some self-reflection.  I really appreciated her humor, candor, and understanding of the roadblocks women face in the work force.

But then we started the Q and A portion of her time.  Several young women asked the speaker questions, myself included, to which she provided excellent advice and insights. Then the conversation came around to networking and a young woman stood up and asked the question “how as a young female professional do I network with older men in my field without it being misinterpreted?” The question itself is slightly concerning, but the speaker’s answer was even more so. Now before I explain how she answered the question and express my anger about that answer, I want to say that I completely understand why the speaker said what she said. That being said, I am still frustrated by her answer.

At first, she jokingly answered “don’t dress like a stripper, not that you would, but you know, don’t do that.” The room laughed at her off the cuff answer. But then, more seriously, she answered “Don’t get drunk with your male co-workers. Don’t put yourself in danger.” She went on to explain that it is probably best to meet in their office and to make it known to your co-workers that you are seeking the mentorship of your boss, so that people are aware of your intentions.

This made me mad, not at the speaker, but at society. I also immediately thought of Legally Blonde.

What made me mad is the fact that we still need to tell young women this; that they need to “not put themselves in danger.” How are will still living in a world where people still think that a woman can only get ahead if she sleeps her way to the top, or that she is only meant to fill a quota and satisfy the human resources office. Why is this still okay? Why is this fraternal “old boys club” mentality still running rampant in our major companies in the United States of America?!?!? As campus conversations and the media focus on sexual assault and rape culture in this country, I hope that the answer that the speaker gave will soon become moot. I would hope that soon our conversations will move away from women not “putting themselves in danger” and more towards “impress them with your knowledge and wit and discuss pathways for success.”

While the speaker told a few stories of times where she was in a few extremely sexist situations, a young man at our table was muttering in disbelief. I overheard utterances of “no way!,” “that happens?,” “who really says that?”  While his naivety made me laugh slightly, it also gave me hope. It was clear to me that he is in a place of privilege where he isn’t even aware that this happens. During a break after the speaker, I talked with him a bit about what was said and he couldn’t believe there are men that behave that way. This made me think he would never participate in behavior like what was being talked about; he also wants to become a victim’s advocate when he graduates so I’m not all that surprised at his response.  If a majority of men in this next generation also think and work this way, then perhaps we are making progress. Maybe, just maybe, the next generation will no longer be subject to sexist remarks and behaviors in the workplace, or anyplace for that matter.

Things like bystander trainings, the “It’s On US” campaign and the “No More” campaign make me hope that the culture is changing. That hopefully someday soon women will feel free to be and do whatever they enjoy without penalty or discrimination. That professions and hobbies will no longer be described by a gender dominance. And, I know some of you might be thinking “yeah, but it’s a big jump from a off-color sexist comment to sexual assault.” Well, no, not really. They really aren’t that far apart and both are part of the ingrained societal concept the men are dominant to women.

I say all of this without being an expert and without ever formally studying any of this.  My statements are based purely from observations and personal experiences. My frustrations with the conversation this weekend derive purely from the fact that it is 2014 and women gained the right to vote in 1920. Why are we still dealing with this? Nonetheless, my frustration only fuels my fight. Until we change the conversation and no longer need the hashtag #yesallwomen, I will continue to educate the next generations of citizens from my little corner of the world.

“If you gave me a chance I would take it, It’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it…”

When I started this blog last winter at the start of the new year, I had a goal to write more.  To write a post at least once a month and at best, write weekly.  What a terrible job I’ve done. This past year has been a whirlwind, and as I begin to realize that the holiday season is about to return, I think it is necessary that I return to my keyboard and document a little bit of what has happened over the last 11 months.

I had a few goals for this year and only a few of them have been accomplished.  However, if I had to choose, I think I accomplished the goals that contributed most to improving my happiness and overall well-being. Finding a new job and relocating to a state I’ve always wanted to return to, are the two major accomplishments that I can put down in the record books for this year.

no reason to stay

I would say that I had reached a point where there was little space for me to grow: professionally, personally, socially. I was looking for a new opportunity to do all of those things and as I began my search, I was specific in my choices of institutions and positions, trying to make sure that I found a place that would challenge me.  And I believe that I have found it. I am so blessed to be where I am now and to have found a place that offers me new experiences and opportunities to be a better professional.

Losing two and a half hours off of my commute to see family wasn’t half bad either.  I have always wanted to return to Massachusetts for many reasons, but improving the proximity to my family was definitely an exciting benefit.

The last three and a half months have been a roller coaster of emotions. I have been elated, nervous, anxious, excited, and overwhelmingly tired. But the good kind of tired. The kind of tired that makes you feel like you have accomplished great things that day.  That you put in the effort to make a difference.  Some days I question my performance on the job and then other days I feel like I am crushing it. It’s a strange ride, but I’m loving it.

Since moving and starting a new journey, I have also been reunited with some really great friends. And in tandem with that, I have been able to cross some things off my bucket list. I finally feel at home.  I finally feel like I am in a place where I can reassess my life and set new goals. I have moved forward in two major areas of my life this year and I am excited to figure out what’s next.

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Major pieces of my life have fallen into place this year and until the rest settle, I will continue to laugh at the confusion, live for the moment and continue to remember that everything happens for a reason.  This year renewed my faith in the idea of karma and that you get back what you put out into the universe.

Signing off til smoother seas…

Reset, Restart, Remember Why You Started.

This is has been a challenging year in many ways (keeping in mind that I track years from Sept to May) and I have struggled to commit to the goals that I have set for myself. This is not meant to be an excuses post, but more of a reality check for myself and a means of accountability. As the school year comes to a close, I have an opportunity to refocus and put an emphasis on my fitness goals and truly renew my commitment to becoming #safit.

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“When you screw up, skip a workout, eat bad foods, or sleep in, it doesn’t make you a bad person. It makes you human. Welcome to the club. There’s like seven billion of us. ” — Nerd Fitness

 

As I begin to refocus, I have realized what won’t work. A lot of #safit people are runners. And I know that a lot people say “I was never a runner, but I am now. You can be too.” But for what I believe is a deep mental block, I am not a runner and I don’t know that I will ever get past it. For all the positive encouragement and what not, please stop.  Your fitness is not my fitness. It can’t be and for the record, it doesn’t have to be. If anything, I am a swimmer or a really bad dancer or a kick the soccer ball around the back yard person. And there are new things I want to try like yoga or Zumba. But please, let my fitness be my own. If it’s not mine, I am already setup for failure. Fitness has to be enjoyable or else why get up and do it everyday.

beginner

And so, May will be my reset point and I am going to stay focused on what is important. And I am going to remember why I started in the first place. My health. My ability to enjoy the things I want to enjoy. My self-esteem. And I will try new things and set attainable goals. And I will allow myself to fail, because failure is inevitable when starting a new journey.

“We stand on the shoulders of giants…”

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I love ACUI. I do, truly. The Association of College Unions International is the organization that completely changed my life. And I don’t say that to be hyperbolic or dramatic; I say it because it truly altered my life path in 2008. It is a major reason why I do what I do. A little over a week ago I returned from ACUI’s 100th Anniversary Celebration and I can honestly say I returned home with my heart over-flowing with hope, inspiration, and a feeling of whole-ness.

As a new professional, this organization has been overwhelmingly welcoming. I have been privileged to be selected for two conference planning teams for my region and to have now attended two international conferences. The amount of support and resources that this organization has provided me with has made all of the difference in my career development. The colleagues I have met and the friends I have made through ACUI are amazing.  These people inspire to be a better professional and most importantly, a better person.

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Me & @edegrandpre, friends since 2009 Region 1 Conference 🙂

As I listened to keynote speakers and the “giants” of our past, I sat in awe of all that we have done and all that we can do. Staring at the stage of past presidents of the organization during the closing banquet, I was forced to envision who will someday fill those chairs.  Will it be my colleagues from IPDS that I met last summer? Will it be my fellow Region VIII members? Will it be me? And as I listened to Kim Harrington-Pete tell us “what you do matters” I got chills and my eyes got teary (typical for an ACUI conference).  Then I looked around my table and around the room, and I counted my blessings that I am in a field with professionals who love what they do and love this organization as much as I do.

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Mark & Marsha

I could write pages about the amazing ed sessions I went to, the camaraderie that I felt during the Battle of the Regions, and the historical beauty that was documented in the ACUI museum. But more importantly than all of that were the conversations in the hallway, the introductions over desserts, the stories shared and the laughs conjured. It was statements such as “we stand on the shoulders of giants,” and “to see people not as they are, but as they could become,” and “students keep you honest.”  These are the little nuggets that truly touched my heart; my twitter feed is full of them.  

The future is yet to be seen, but I am confident that ACUI will continue to play a large role in my life. I hope that we can make those giants proud.

   

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“The future of ACUI is in your hands….”

“Am I living it right?” -John Mayer

Today was a snow day for the majority of the East Coast, and for us Higher Ed types that just gave us more reason to participate in the weekly #sachat.  Typically, I follow the chat while I get other work done in the office. Now, I could say that I usually lurk strictly because I have too much to do, but that would be a lie. More often than not, I am really just too afraid to add my two cents. Yes, I am afraid. In a field that I consider to be much more forgiving than others, I am still afraid to insert my opinion into the conversation. Today was a little bit different, but not much.

I’m sure this fear derives from the usual suspects: fear of rejection, of an inability to articulate properly, or of just being plain wrong. And as I begin this journey of blogging about various topics, including higher ed, my fear is evident here as well. The thoughts creep in: “Do I really know what I am talking about? Will anyone even care?”

I am not looking for followers, but to some degree, I am looking for affirmation.  Many SA Folks have been blogging a lot recently about why they blog, what are the driving forces and I am not really going to get into that here. But, what I learned today from the #sachat and from reading other bloggers is that we are incredibly caught up in why we choose to share and why knowing why is important. And I agree, knowing what drives us to share certain things and not others is important. In fact, I think it is an incredibly interesting thing to figure it out.  However, I believe that knowing why shouldn’t alter what we choose to share. If it does, then we are filtering our opinions before they even get a chance to be fully developed.

What I will say is that my blog posts will be an accurate representation of topics I wish I had more opportunities to discuss with other people. I will not have all the information and I do not claim to be an expert in anything that I plan on writing about, except maybe the environment, I have an entire degree in that. 🙂

In conclusion, I have no idea if I am doing this (blogging, #SoMe, my first years as a professional) right. And I guess that’s okay; that’s how I will learn, right? People will either read what I write or they won’t. I want to contribute, I want to add value to the conversation, but maybe I won’t.  Maybe my thoughts will be for me and me alone; a means for me to flush out my opinions. And that’s okay. I will just continue to hum John Mayer’s “Why Georgia” in my head until I figure it out.

My slow sinking Shipwreck…

I have been spiritually lost since eighth grade. In eighth grade, I “graduated” from a Catholic school that I had been attending since I was four years old. I had sat through mass after mass and had said the Our Father, Hail Mary and Pledge of Allegiance every morning for the past 10 years. I had been an angel in the Nativity play and followed the rosary in the chapel. But for all of that Catholicism, I couldn’t articulate one verse from the Bible if my life depended on it. And I still can’t. In eighth grade, a lot happened that made me question my faith and my belief in the Catholic church. First and foremost, September 11, 2001 was a day that I believe shook the faith of every American, regardless of where you spent your time on Saturday or Sunday. Tragedy had struck our country, and many were unsure how God could let something like that happen. I was one of them. Maybe my 13-year-old self just didn’t have the ability to comprehend how political and religious differences, accelerated by extremism, could generate so much hate. At any rate, my faith was already shaken.

The other thing that really shook my faith in the Catholic church specifically, was the scandal that struck the Boston Archdiocese that year. It was all over the news and my parents couldn’t shield me from the now 24 hour news coverage that our country was encouraging.  The “leaders” of my church had sinned and had done terrible things to school children and altar servers just like me. But, thankfully, not me and not in my church (at least, as far as we knew). And so again, my faith was shaken. How could I believe in and attend services at an organization that had deliberately hidden reports of sexual abuse and misconduct? They had blatantly ignored reports and simply used reorganization as means of controlling the problem. How could I ever feel safe inside those walls again? I didn’t want those types of men as my spiritual leaders; that was the complete opposite of what I wanted.

And yet, my father still wanted me to commit to the church. He wanted me to complete my confirmation and acknowledge the Catholic church as my church, as my spiritual guide. And I couldn’t. At 14 years old, I knew I couldn’t. I knew it was not something I wanted. And so I fought it, casually. We were in the middle of a move to Maine and so I conveniently no longer had a church or parish to call my own. And I put it off, and put it off, and put if off. For years.

And during those years, my high school teachers provided perspectives that I had never had before. I was no longer at a Catholic school and so I no longer felt anchored to something I couldn’t really believe in. I had teachers that explained that the Bible was a library of books written by men, and the occasional woman. But that a council of church leaders in Nicaea had decided what was actually going to be in the Bible for mass consumption. And so more doubt crept in, and as I learned more about evolution and more about science and more about the history of the world, I began to question more and more of what it was that I believed in. I had one teacher, one fabulous teacher, named Dr. Jones. Dr. Jones was an English teacher, but he taught us about the Bronze Age and the Druids and the Vikings and the many belief systems that those early people adhered to and how they found faith in the gods of nature. And more and more my eyes opened to alternate ways of looking at the world and of thinking about faith and what to believe. And I was left feeling free and informed, but more confused than ever.

I stopped calling myself a Catholic in college. I started using the phrase “I was raised Catholic but…” and I realized that a lot of other people at my college used that phrased as well. We had all strayed and hadn’t yet found something to replace it. And with the college life being as busy as it was, I found little time to contemplate my religious affiliation and found that I didn’t need it at the time to define myself. I was finding all kinds of other ways to define myself and religion wasn’t a big part of that. And then my father passed away. And I thought, for a very short moment, that I needed to go back to church. That I needed to “come home” as they say. “Catholics can always come home.” But that thought was swiftly snuffed out by the fact that I still couldn’t find something to hold on to in the Catholic church. Nothing drew me back.

And so, when I immediately entered grad school the following year, I was no closer to defining what I believed in. One day during my Student Development course, my professor posed the question: “what do you believe in?” to the class and she started pointing at my classmates. I started silently praying, ironically, that she wouldn’t call on me (to who I was praying, I don’t know). I had no idea what I would say. The only somewhat truthful answer I could muster was Mother Nature and I wasn’t completely sure about that. But as she called on my classmates, they, fervently and without reservation, called out Jesus Christ, Allah, the Holy Spirit, and my Lord God Almighty. I was dumbfounded and more afraid that I didn’t understand my own faith than ever before. This conversation in class had stemmed from our reading about college students experiencing what the author had termed a shipwreck or a loss in faith of everything they had always believed. The idea that they no longer knew what was true and what was not. A shipwreck can wreak havoc on a college student’s education and experience, often brought about by interactions with those who have beliefs different from their own. As a student affairs professional, I would need to know how to help students through this crisis. How on earth was I going to be able to do that when I clearly had been experiencing my own form of a shipwreck for the last eight years of my life? I was at a loss.

Then, sometime before Winter Break that year, I decided that I would believe in doing the right thing and being a good person, and that some form of karma was what made the world go round. It was nothing formal, but I realized that I had to place my faith in something. I realized I clearly needed to define my own moral compass and my own belief in how I should live my life if no organized religion was going to provide that for me.

I have continued to use that type of belief to live my life. And almost every time I go home to visit my mom, we have a conversation about faith and how I don’t know what I believe in specifically. And I think for the most part, she is okay with that (she was never Catholic, so it’s not like I snubbed her faith). And almost every time we talk, she shares the beliefs of my grandfather. She always tells me that he used to say that he never felt more connected to God then when he was out in his canoe fishing in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t believe that his connection to God was held within the walls of the church, but was more evident in the wide open spaces of the natural world. And that gives me comfort. My grandfather was also a Mason and his beliefs generated from that organization were focused on service and being a good member of society. And that makes me feel like I am on to something; that my beliefs are valid and connect me to my past.

I also have a name for my beliefs now. I am a humanist. And there are many others like me; something I never knew before to be fact. I am not alone. I am not alone in not believing in organized religion. I am not alone thinking that it is really hard to believe in creationism when science poses contrary evidence. I am not alone in thinking that man-made faith too easily falls victim to greed, power and extremism. And while I continue to learn more about Humanism and what it means to follow that path, I believe that my shipwreck is finally washing ashore. That I will soon be able to mend my ship, board by board, and set sail toward living my life in a way I can be proud of. 

I don’t begrudge people of faith. I envy them. I envy their courage and sure-footedness in a concept I find so elusive. But I am no longer drifting at sea unsure of my heading. I have my direction and I have found something to believe in: humanity and its ability to surprise, encourage and heal.