When I was asked to write a reflection on what my first month as a Graduate Assistant in the SCSJ has been like, I really didn’t know where to start. I could talk about moving across country (from Texas back home to Chicago then back to Creighton, where I spent my undergrad), and all the transitions that go along with that. I could talk about what it feels like being a returning new person–someone who worked in the office for the majority of my undergraduate time at Creighton, but had been gone for two years after graduation and is now back in a new position. And I could talk about the mixture of nervousness and excitement at diving into three new roles and learning a little of what each demands–lay chaplain in a freshmen dorm,Graduate Assistant, and graduate student in Creighton’s Master in the Arts of Ministry program. From the family road-trip and move-in adventure, to being welcomed back to the office, to two weeks of grad school orientation, a lot has happened in this last month, some of it challenging, all of it good.
But I think the heart of the story lies farther back in the way that previous Grad Assistants inspired me, in the way I felt a calling on my heart that would not let up. Somehow, as I reflect on my first month back in the SCSJ, the events and people that led me here are what I’m most mindful of and grateful for.
A little background before I dive into said gifts: I can remember being a junior at Creighton, working as a Student Coordinator in the SCSJ, and beginning to dream about returning as a Grad Assistant. I had fallen in love with doing social justice work and was starting to consider what that might translate into as a career. I’d wake up every morning excited to go to work, excited to be in an office of people authentically, excitedly, tirelessly working for justice in the world around them. I felt so lucky to have found a job and a community that inspired me and lit the fire in me so well. I probably spent more time in that office than I did anywhere else, and I don’t regret a minute of it. Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ’s prayer, “Fall in Love” comes to mind here. That was it: I’d found a place–a calling–that I’d fallen in love with , that I wanted to give my life and heart.
As a journalism and theology double-major, I didn’t know exactly how to translate that passion for social justice into a career that tapped into my fields of study, but the more time I spent in the SCSJ, the more I began to feel that that was where it could be done. The examples that Patrick O’Malley and Molly Dellaria, Cat Keating and Mike Rios all set, as Graduate Assistants, had a profound impact on me as I discerned this calling. I looked up to the four of them so much. I admired the way they seemed to be able to balance life, work, school and relationships so well. I loved the passion and energy they brought to the teams they supervised. I wanted to be as authentically committed to justice as they were. Furthermore, their genuine care for me and interest in my life made me feel like I was important to them, like I brought value to our work in the office. I always felt like they were the “cool kids” I wanted to grow up and be like some day, and it was such a gift that they wanted to spend time getting to know me and mentoring me.
The more invested I became in the SCSJ and the closer I came to graduation, the more certain I felt that I wanted to return, some day, as a Grad Assistant.
I spent my two years after graduation working at The Pines Catholic Camp in Big Sandy, TX (the middle of nowhere, essentially). I spent my two summers there as a camp Counselor and Media Team Member, and the rest of those two years as a Missionary, doing retreat ministry. While there was a lot that I enjoyed about that job, my heart always seemed to be back in the SCSJ. There was an ever-present thirst to not only teach the kids I encountered about God’s love for them, but to also challenge them to translate that loving relationship into action in the world, particularly through service and justice work. It was that thirst–that calling on my heart to do social justice work–that lead me to apply for the Graduate Assistantship and return to Creighton.
Those two years seemed to fly by, and it’s a surreal feeling being back on campus again. During one of my orientation classes last week, I shared with my cohort that I feel beyond lucky to be working my dream job at the moment. It’s funny describing this two-year Assistantship as a dream job, but it’s true. I think back to how long I dreamt of being in this position, to the excitement I felt when I realized maybe social justice work was my calling, and if so, the SCSJ would be a great place to continue growing in that work. I’ve never felt stronger feelings of joy, energy and passion to be working somewhere, or committed to a kind of work as I do now, and that feels like a gift. There are definitely moments when things get stressful or busy, but overall, being given the opportunity to return to working somewhere I love, doing work that I love, with people I love, makes it all worth it.
These last four weeks have been filled with so much joy, among other things. I’ve felt a warm welcome from Residence Life, the SCSJ and from old friends still in town. I’ve felt the challenge of jumping back into the kind of work that I did and loved as an undergrad but haven’t done for two years (kind of like riding bike again after a long pause), and I’ve felt a renewed sense of passion and affirmation that this is the path I’m supposed to be on. I’ve felt nervous and eager to do a good job in the roles I’m in. I’ve felt excited to be a part of a graduate-level learning community, and challenged (in a good way) by the wisdom and experience of my cohort. I’ve struggled, at times, with doubting myself. I’ve worried that I won’t be able to give back as much as I’ve been given here. But I’ve also felt the warmth of renewed confidence as friends, coworkers, peers and even God remind me that they believe in me, so I should believe in myself, too.
This month I’ve jumped head first back into the Communications Team world of designing posters and digital media, of running social media and blogging. I’ve helped reorganize the office, I’ve gotten to know our summer student staff better, and I’ve sat in on planning meetings (a cool feeling to be included in something as important as that). All this while beginning my graduate program and getting settled into Kiewit.
To be sure, it’s been a busy month–at times stressful, but more often than not, joyful. The love and warm welcome people have shown me means the world to me. And as I embark on the next month, and the month beyond, and all the future months I have working here, I know I won’t forget the gratitude I feel towards the events and people that made it all possible.
The SCSJ blogs are meant to be a place for Creighton students, faculty, staff, alumni/ae, and friends to reflect on their experiences with programs sponsored by the office or related to its mission. The views expressed in these reflections, and all other blogs found on or linked to from this website, are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of Creighton University, the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice (SCSJ), or any of the University’s affiliates. The University and the SCSJ are not responsible for the actions, content, accuracy, or opinions expressed in these blogs.