The phrase, “Expect for your Mind to be Blown,” were the words that stuck within my head after an all-day graduate studies workshop on Saturday. This was my biggest takeaway from the session. Our day was filled with paper writing tips, examples on APA style, open discussion with other students and professors in the program but those words on being blown away is what resonated with me most.
Our director of the communications graduate program, Dr. Athena du’ Pre, said them. Quickly after she added, “but that’s okay.” Her words meant that we students are going to (and supposed to) feel overwhelmed, confused, misunderstood and even ignorant in our upcoming classes. That’s why we are there – to learn, expand our minds, be challenged and grow!
Oh good, because within minutes of my first class for the semester, looking over the syllabus in Strategic Communications caused my brain to shatter into bits. I felt inadequate listening to the kids in my class introduce themselves. My heart felt trampled on as I heard how this student went on a mission trip and another student knows her precise career goals after graduation. I was worrying over how to clean my minivan and explain to my second grade daughter how to solve that math equation on top of being able to read chapters, compose a paper and conduct a living case study.
My mind was definitely being blown away. I had only dipped one toe into the graduate pool and I was already seeing images of myself drowning.
“Don’t be a freaker,” Dr. du ‘Pre later cautioned. Don’t panic at every turn. Was she reading my mind? “How we handle our stress and criticism is what defines our character. As professors, we remember students’ character over time, not what he or she received on tests or quizzes,” she added.
She reminded us all that understanding the material and being able to discuss it then apply it in life or work is far more important than the final grade. I know this. I reminded that to the small, negative voice trying to rise up inside my head.
I later thought back to ten years prior… The day I sat in the workshop was the ten-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. When I remember the kind of person I was at that time, I was definitely a ‘freaker.” I did not handle the crisis of that storm well at certain points when we were temporarily living in Slidell, Louisiana. If I could go back, I’d tell my younger self to calm down and just do the job. I’d remind me to be more sensitive and supportive to those around. I’d say to naive Mandy to just “work hard” and “be kind” — success will come. Those are Dr. du ‘Pre’s habits to being an effective leader.
I can’t turn back the time though. Worrying too much about the future is rather pointless too. I will focus on today, on this moment, one task that needs my attention. I will apply my past mistakes to the professional and personal aspirations I have.
I will leap, even without faith. I will jump into that deep end of the pool. Even though I wonder if I can stay afloat, I know eventually I’ll be able to swim around in style, in my own time. I will stretch my legs. I will detour when I need to do so. Most of all, I will be blown away and those pieces, somehow, will carry me forward.
(And if I’m a fool or a dork along the way, then so be it…)