Tuesday, April 26, 2011

voice of inquiry

This morning at work, several coworkers surprised us all with awards for everyone - creatively made on decorated paper plates. Some were serious - the "Strength" award for a coworker who has been battling a serious disease; some were inside jokes - "The Spooning with Rotter Award," many were quite funny; and all reflected some aspects of the person's character or personality. There were plenty of laughs and smiles.

I received the "Voice of Inquiry" award, complete with a medallion and red, white, and blue ribbon that allowed me to hang the award around my neck. "This person always asks questions in our staff meeting, and voices the questions that I often would want to ask," my coworker said before presenting me with the award. I laughed when I received it - because it's certainly true, I do ask a lot of questions in our staff meetings! I'm always seeking to understand clearly, and have no problem voicing questions to receive that clarity.

To be honest, after the initial laugh, I felt a little disappointed with the award. Do I really want to be remembered when I leave this job as the girl that asks all those questions? I'd rather be remembered as someone who was caring, positive, encouraging, etc. But if I'm really honest, I haven't put my all into this job. I've done an adequate and at times very good job with it, but it's not where my heart is. For many of my coworkers, this job represents the beginning of their career in student affairs, but for me, it's a means to a different end. I've got some great coworkers and believe that I work well with everyone, but I've felt like an outsider at times. Which is ok. I lived here for three years before starting this job, so I already had my life, my academic program, my community. This job has never defined me, nor should I let one award define me.

Thinking about it further though, this award does reflect one of my greatest strengths - communication. I'm constantly using verbal and written communication to be understood and to understand. And in this job, part of that is asking a lot of questions to make sure that, and others, understand. It's also something I tell the RAs I supervise to do - "If you're not sure, just ask! It's better to ask about something you think you should already know than do something that you're not sure about." I value questions in my job, in my relationships, in academics, in my spiritual life, because maybe questions don't always lead to clear answers, but they can lead to better understanding.

After our meeting, I thanked my coworker who made my award. He thanked me and said, "Thank you! You've shown me that it's ok to ask questions." Which I guess is a good thing. In a meeting room of 30 plus people, including our supervisors, asking a question could be intimidating for someone who's more shy than I am. But I'm not shy - I love to talk, ask questions, of anyone, anywhere. Being the voice of inquiry for a team is a good thing.

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