For a few days now, I’ve been thinking about how to write this blog, what to write in it, whether or not to name names. Because we work with so many outstanding people, I’m afraid of leaving someone out. Because words fail sometimes, I’m afraid of not really truly conveying how grateful I am to work here at GCC. I mean the courses-through-your-body kind of gratitude. Surely, the climate here in the Valley of the Sun is grand, and it’s springtime, and life is gorgeously budding right now, filling the air with the sweetness of jasmine and orange blossom. It’s true that we have a library which boasts some unbelievably world-renowned artists.
But it’s not only the environment or the students, it’s the people–our co-workers–that inspire my gratitude daily. I’ve never in my life worked with people whose integrity is so high that it makes me check mine to make sure it’s equal. I’ve never worked with people who care so deeply about their co-workers while still being respectful of personal space. I have always enjoyed teaching and have been thankful that I found a place in higher education. Coming here four years ago from a smaller institution that was out of state, it took longer to get to know people and find my niche than I thought it would. But what I learned has been most important: it was worth the wait. The connections I have made here at GCC have been invaluable to me as a person and a teacher, allowing me to grow in so many ways.
The older I grow, the more things I learn about myself with clarity:
- I am a lifelong learner, and allowing myself to be one is vital to my well being.
- I am an absolute introvert, only playing an extrovert when working with students and co-workers. Work takes most of my extroverted capabilities, and I’m otherwise likely to avoid being social, especially during this past year when life has been more challenging for me personally.
This is how I realized these very essential things about myself in the fourth decade of my life: though working here at GCC where I have found so many opportunities to belong, better myself, and become the best me I can. I can take fitness classes and be supported by those whom I work with (thanks Louise and Margo!); I can attend Weight Watchers meetings right in the middle of my week and be supported by others who are endeavoring towards a similar goal as I have; I can take weekly Wednesday CTLE walks (thank you Dawna and Meghan!) and have interesting and fun conversations with co-workers while stretching my legs. All of these opportunities have allowed me to grow in small but steady ways and, over time, to make meaningful connections with the people I work with. I imagine that if I worked somewhere else I might eventually have these self-insights, but working at GCC has allowed me overt opportunities to find this clarity, and these opportunities come from you– those whom I work with and who are reading this blog. That is a mighty big gift to receive from one’s co-workers and place of employment.
Tuesday of this week felt unseasonably cold for swimming, which is what I often do on Tuesdays at 11:30. I thought to myself: If you’re not going to swim, you better get out and get some exercise. So I took a walking tour of campus. I made myself leave my office chair, go away from the virtual piles of papers waiting to be graded on Canvas, and walk out into the sunshine and 72 degrees.
As I walked about campus, I noticed all kinds of things I don’t notice when I’m rushing to a meeting or to class. I noticed, for example, the tree that has fuzzy round blossoms that smell like peaches. I was surprised by the line of cedar trees by the Fine Arts Center. And I kept running into co-workers who said hello, who gave me hugs, who greeted me with warmth and appreciation for my just being at that very place at that very time. Certain people whom I don’t get to see very often inquired about my well being with great concern and specificity (Mark V. and Lori W.) This is when I’m reminded that my introverted self is so at home here at GCC because I am welcomed and appreciated just for being who I am. I don’t know how an organization creates this environment. I don’t know how to replicate it. I just know that it happens here and that I get to be a part of it daily. I receive encouragement when I need it. I have support problem-solving if I need it. I have company for exercise and encouragement (with concrete opportunities) to pursue my passions–writing, creativity, and teaching. Take this blog, for example. Ben and Jerry’s aside, it gives me great satisfaction to contribute in this way to our community and also to read everyone else’s writing. And if I want to be quiet and just put by head down and work, I can do that too.
So this blog ends with immense gratitude. Thank you, each of you reading this, for being a part of the place where I get to learn and develop into my best self every day. Thank you for being caring co-workers. Thank you for giving me, in just the three days I’ve taken to compose this entry, more meaningful experiences and interactions that I can even recount or record in writing. But even if I haven’t mentioned them here, be sure that I have taken them all to heart.