Who Needs a Door, When You Have Windows?
Another academic year has begun and with the start of a new year comes much excitement. As professionals in our field, we are filled with joy, witnessing the return of our students to the campus, and ultimately returning to work normalcy. A lot of planning takes place in preparation for the fall semester. For many of us, the summer was our peak season – the management of orientation, bridge programs and residence hall conferences – while others benefitted from much needed down time. Regardless of what area we work in the summer is a time for self-reflection, recharging and goal setting.
As I welcomed our freshman cohort during our residential orientation program, my career choices and professional experiences crossed my mind. As Latinos, we tend to follow the path paved before us. Yet as a Latina professional, I have recognized some roads have yet to be built. By taking the advice of others, I ultimately have paved my own path. However one lesson remains true: taking a look at the bigger picture while taking a leap of faith will often lead you in the right direction.
Growing up in the Bronx, I fondly remember the embarrassment of hearing mamí yell out the window to get my attention. Vanessa, get closer to the building. Go to the bodega. Que haces por ahí? Subes pa’riba. The reality is that as a child this was common, especially when I yelled responses back to her or even called for her from the street to ask a question. Yet I often recalled wondering why couldn’t mamí come downstairs or send one of my siblings. As an adult, much to my surprise, her communication from the ventana allowed me to analyze opportunities that have been presented to me differently and form decisions that would impact my career.
We grow up learning, cuando una puerta cierra, otra abre, (when one door closes, another opens). We hear it both in English and in Spanish. The images are endless and the dreams of opportunity are deeply rooted within us. But why must we always focus on the door? Doors are solid objects with only one small peak hole to see what is on the other side. Who needs that when you have a window that can provide a different view? Ever consider that after staring at the door or waiting a minute too long for that door to open that another part of the house can serve you better? Who knew that all the times mamí yelled out that window she was making another area of the house serve her purpose. She was always able to get my attention. Despite how “ghetto” or embarrassing it may have seemed at the time, she was on to something.
While facilitating the welcome session, I took in the view of the faces of our future leaders. I was proud of the accomplishments that led me to that moment and all that I could teach this next generation of college students. Upon arriving home, as normal student affairs professionals often do, you recap the day in your mind and gear up for the weeks ahead. Three weeks immediately go by. The program has concluded and the down time begins. Then it happened. In that moment of stillness, I heard mamí’s voice yelling “Vanessa donde estas? Que haces?” as she often did from that 3rd floor Bronx apartment window. The voice wasn’t about security or protection. More so, she was questioning what was next. What do you want to do in your career? What is your next accomplishment going to be? Where do you see yourself in the next 3-5 years? My ventana moment has arrived!
In any profession, review and revise your resume often. Keep your resume relevant and ready for any opportunity that may present itself. In addition, remain aware of trends. Even when students have us beat in the realm of technology, we must stay abreast of current issues so that we ourselves remain innovative. To be complacent in our roles, we are doing a disservice to ourselves and the students we serve. It is for this reason, I had a session at the ventana regarding my career. Recently, I was made aware of an exciting opportunity – a potential door moment! In my mind, I quickly closed that door. I was unsure if it was necessary for me at this time in my career. Would it assist me in what I am currently trying to accomplish? Was I ready for such an opportunity? Later that week, though in my mind I closed the door, I decided to take a lesson from mamí and peaked my head out the window. What did I have to lose? My conversation started with, que haces, que quieres, donde vas!
As Latinas and women in general, I noticed that at times we allow opportunities to pass us by; not because we are under-qualified, rather because we may over think the situation. We incorrectly believe there is no time to complete the requirements or that we would not fit in or that we may not meet all the desired criteria. As I thought about this wonderful opportunity, it was in that moment that I decided to take a leap of faith. The door that I closed in my mind was actually possible to open, due to the conversation en la ventana. We are our own worse critics. However when we take a moment to be still, speak with ourselves and realize our worth, great things will come before us. Although the semester has begun, I challenge you to take a moment and think about whether you are ready for the next exciting opportunity. It could be a new job, chairing a committee, completing an application for a specialized professional development or implementing an event/initiative that is award nomination worthy in your field. If not, then I call to you from my ventana. Donde vas? Que quieres y que haces?
Ms. Vanessa Gonzalez-Cruz is the Assistant Director of the Educational Opportunity Program at Farmingdale State College. She has 14 years of experience in higher education in the areas of Advising, First Year Programs, Orientation, Residence Life, Student Life and Student Support Services. Ms. Gonzalez-Cruz earned a B.S. in Criminal Justice and an M.S. in Student Personnel Administration from Buffalo State College.