Several around #sachat have been discussing their “one word” of 2011, that one word that captures the goals and expectations for the new year. When asked, I suggested that my word was “determination.”
Earlier this year, at NASPA’s Institute for Aspiring Senior Student Affairs Officers, my mentor described me as ambitious and driven; I balked at the words. My first words were that she “meant that as a good thing, right?” Ambition, for women in particular, is a challenging concept. Ambitious women are bitchy, selfish, and difficult. Ambitious men have a different character all together, but for women, these words have too often been used to describe those who step on their competition, on their friends, and on strangers to get ahead. Seeing myself as collaborative and as the “get the job done” person, ambition and drive ran in the face of what I viewed as my leadership style. Despite identifying as a feminist from a very early age, I struggled with the view of being viewed in what I saw as a potentially negative way.
On the other hand, determination was a word I could embrace. I could be determined without being bitchy. I could be determined without stepping on others. And I am determined. I strive to be my best. I strive to make my work and my world a better place. Determination is my way of coming to grips with the challenges that the world places in my path.
Part of the “one word” conversation was the “one word necklace” which could be personalized with that meaningful touchpoint. But for me, this touchpoint already exists. Years ago, I trained for and completed a 26 mile overnight walk for suicide prevention. As a part of this transformative experience, a close friend sent me a necklace to wear on the day of the event. She remarked that it would keep me focused and remind me of why I was walking. In the middle of the night, when I thought I couldn’t go any further, I held on to this small piece of silver and remembered that I was capable and could accomplish anything on which I set my mind.
To this day, I wear this necklace through good times and bad, any time when I think a little extra support will be beneficial. It reminds me that my determination allows me to reach my goals, whether they be for work, for my community, or for me.