February.

Part two of a monthly series on observing the human experience in all of us. Every month, I’ll reflect on the past, observe the present, and cast a vision for the future with a word that guides me in all that I do. The first word for January can be found here.

My Project Wednesday article that inspired this small project, published January 6, 2016, can be found here.

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“I am not a strong boy. But I am trying to learn what it means to build.” –Phil Kaye, Poet

January served me well. The word that guided me was build. As it was the first month of the year, my mindset revolved around building — physically, emotionally, figuratively — the areas of my life that needed to be strengthened. Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favorite metaphors of life is this idea that we get to build great big things with people around us. This is something that I subscribe to every single day.

Here are some ways that January helped me understand what it means to build:

  • Multiple important people in my life experienced some sort of heartbreak. Relationships lost. The breaking up of two people in a love that is shared. Sometimes we just don’t really know at all what tomorrow brings. But if we build a love that inspires us every single day, we’ll be on our way.
  • January 15 was my birthday. I was reminded of how many wonderful people I am surrounded by. Each person submitted a picture and a note with words of encouragement, hope, and love as they wished me a happy birthday. Building means relationships. (See below.)
Grateful for those who took the time to tell me how much I mean to them.
  • Presenting (and secretly nominating colleagues for awards) at a conference is always a building experience. I was able to build networks, presentation skills, and my knowledge base as I listened to others and gave others something to listen to. (See below.)
The University of Akron’s team of presenters, award winners, and professional developers. (OCPA, 2016)
Someone who challenges me and supports me in all that I do.
  • It’s the beginning of my last semester of graduate school. Nobody ever tells you how short these two years go by. Building comes in the form of students I get to work with, projects assigned (or not assigned), and experience in different functional areas. More on this to come in a later post.
  • Building my portfolio of experience has become important in 2016. Job searching is a challenging and rewarding process. The more I put into it, the more I seem to get out of it.
  • My comprehensive examination is less than a month away. Building my study materials hasn’t been much of a challenge; I keep everything from every class. Identifying what is useful to know for the exam is the challenging part. I’m actively building my materials with pieces of information that will help me stay prepared. (See below.)
Policy, Student Development, Finance, Curriculum, Student Services, Administration, Law, and History.
  • These last two years have been hit or miss with my writing; some months I’ve really put forth effort, other months I’ve missed the boat completely. There’s something, though, about waking up early on a Saturday morning, grabbing my writing materials, and heading up to Denny’s to people-watch, write, and reflect. A poem or two may have found its way out of me that morning. Potentially more to come there soon.
  • People. My whole life revolves around people. Family, friends, a significant other, and finally, myself. So when my lifelong best friend says, “I’m coming to Akron,” you move some things around to welcome him. (See below.)
We didn’t take too many pictures while he was here, but here’s the goodbye.
In case you needed evidence of what a real smile looks like.

January has been bursting at the seams with opportunities to build. Sometimes we don’t realize that we are building until we take a step back and reflect on the day-to-day moments of our lives.


For February, my word is feel.

Part of being a human being is experiencing some of life’s most intense, jarring, unfiltered emotions. What I have come to realize in my (short) time on Earth is that feeling so many things can be a blessing and a curse. Knowing what you feel is so deep and complex and vivid, but not feeling as if there is anyone that can understand or relate to us, we are sometimes stuck in this box that we place ourselves in. We limit ourselves. We put parameters on the things other people see in us. We cover ourselves with pretty wallpaper, a mask of confidence, something heavy that hinders any light from warming us at all. And there we are. Stuck in this cycle of what we are and what we allow others to perceive us as.

In February, I will be guided by the idea that feeling what I feel is important. Good, bad, or ugly: I will feel whatever it is that is inside of me and is trying to withdraw itself from my heart. I will observe it and I will move forward.

February, I will feel.

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