How I Stopped Comparing Myself

I’m 29 years old and I feel like I should have it all figured out by now. You could blame this thinking on a few things:

1 – The Mark Zuckerbergs of the world who start and do cool stuff at young ages. I can just see my self-esteem melt away after every 30 before 30 list I read.

2- All this potential I have that people tell me about.

3 – There are so many things that need improving and fixing in this world, and I’ve finally accepted what my strengths are. So, now I’m like: “Let’s do the darn thing already and make this huge impact I’m supposed to make.”

Can you relate to any of this?

Do you feel like you have the resources, skills, talent, insight, and energy to help others, but feel frustrated because you’re not Oprah, the President, or in the position you feel was created for you?

Perhaps your negative feelings stem from elsewhere. Maybe you’re in deep with imposter syndrome. Do you feel out of place no matter where you land? You get the promotion or the new job, but you don’t feel like you deserve it. People come to you for advice and perspective, and all you can think to yourself is “Who do these people think I am? I don’t have what they think I can give. I’m just average.”

“Who do these people think I am? I don’t have what they think I can give. I’m just average.”

You find yourself wishing that you were there. You cross your fingers and hope for that time machine to be invented, so you can be the person you’re meant to be – whoever the heck that is. This struggle is too much. The feedback you get on the work you do hurts. You’re supposed to be good at all this. The feedback hurts a little more when you take on this thinking.

Some of your friends are living the life you wish you had. They’re going places you wish you could go, but you’re not. Success feels like a word only reserved for everyone else. You’re upset with yourself.

Truth is: You’re not alone.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had people telling me that I’d be an influential leader one day. I was sure I’d grow up to be a pastor, teacher, or well-traveled person who touched lives. I didn’t know how I’d get there, but that didn’t matter in my childhood mind. I had some real rough patches as a kid, and one day I decided that I’d take those hardships and use them to help others with their hard stuff. I was content with this thinking, I knew what my purpose was and what my impact could be, and I left it alone.

I’m 29 now, and I feel like a failure on some days. I’m so thankful to be able to do things like write my Sinclair.ity weekly emails and I appreciate the ability to be able to share messages on social media. But, I get upset when I see others my age (and younger) blow right by me. How are they getting booked solid for gigs? How are they starting these amazing things that end up on the TODAY Show or Ellen? How is it that they seem to have their dream job already? What’s their secret?

You know what, that last questions has been tripping me up for far too long. And, I’m over it. I have a new focus and I’m going in a new direction. Now, I want to:

See who I am and what I can offer more clearly. Appreciate the impact I’m already having. Identify the fears that are keeping me from stepping up my efforts.

You are already enough.

I’m exactly where I need to be. Are you?

I’m confident that you or someone you know is going through the exact same thing. It’s as if some unspoken charge was put out into the world for everyone to measure up, step up, and do more. That’s all well and good, but if you’re already doing the best you can, if you’re already trying to improve some parts of yourself, and if you’re showing up a little braver each day, it’s enough. That’s right it is enough. You are already enough.

It’s a myth that our efforts need to viral. You don’t have to create the next trillion dollar app, have your PhD, or be the CEO even the director. You don’t have to do it right now. You don’t ever have to do it.

You still matter. Right here. Right now.

Now, if the time comes when you’re called to do it, that’s a different story. But, if that’s NOT where you are right now, there is so much richness and opportunity right here where you are. You could be working at the worst job in the world, and you still can be making something better or someone’s life better. You could be surrounded by the meanest people in the world, and you could still hold fast to what you believe in and show up as who you truly are. You could have only five people who know about the good you are doing, and it still matters. You still matter. Right here. Right now.

It’s hard for me to believe all this myself. But it’s imperative that I do for the sake of hopefulness, gratitude, and every person in my immediate circle who is counting on me to be who I am. People are counting on you too. You might be aware who some of those people, and I guarantee that you have no idea of the other people who adore who you are and what you do. They could care less that you aren’t there yet. They are happy and supported just because of who you are and what you bring.

An Open Letter to Anyone Who Identifies as a Woman

This is to anyone who identifies as a woman.

I’ve been hearing things that aren’t okay. They shouldn’t have been said.

It’s not okay that you’ve been made to feel unsafe. It’s not okay that you so often feel unsafe.

I’ll admit, I was slow on the uptake. I should have gone to the march. I should’ve encouraged my wife, Tynesha, when she told me she wanted to go to the march.  I was afraid for her safety.  But, I’ll handle my regrets some other time. This letter is about the unacceptable, that which breaks my heart, and what I now see needs to be done.

It’s not okay that some have written these things off as “locker room talk” or “just the way things are.” Apathy and lack of honesty are significant parts of the problem.

I, too, used to say terrible things. I still slip at times and I probably will again. But, I’m clear that your bodies are not objects. They belong to you.

It’s more than okay if you don’t want to be approached by a stranger on the street.

It’s more than okay if you ever say no. It’s more than okay for you to feel empowered to make decisions you feel are right to make. No one else gets to make those choices for you. No one.

I’ve been seeing things that aren’t okay.

But, know, that these actions are on watch – indefinitely. Too many of us are too awake to let anything go. I’m not letting anything go anymore.

They’ll tell me I’m oversensitive. They’ll tell me it’s not my fight. They’ll tell me I’m making something out of nothing. They’ll say they don’t believe me. You’ve heard similar messages.

We’ll here’s my response to those messages: thanks for sharing, but there’s work to be done.

I’m not here to tell you anything you don’t already know. I’m not here to re-explain anything you’ve already said.

I’m just here to let you know that I’m one day closer to better understanding how I can better support you. I’m one moment closer to learning about the violence of my own actions, and how to hold others accountable when they cause harm – intentionally or unintentionally.

I’m not perfect. But, I’m trying. And, I’m committing to give it more than I have in the past. It’s time out for the foolishness. No one gets to make you feel small, inferior, or less than. When they do that, they affect us all. Hatred affects everyone.

So, in every way possible, your liberation is my liberation and my freedom. I’m committing to work harder for it by listening more, speaking out more, and being their more when you say: it’s time to fight.

Know that you have one more person who takes you seriously. I know you matter and are worth it because you are. I know there is nothing you need to change to be loved. You have one more person that realizes that this is an everyday thing.

So, I’m here every single day, right alongside of you, to do the next right thing as best we can. And, when you need space – because there are some spaces that I don’t need to occupy – I’ll back off.

I want to do better.

Thank you for your continued patience with a continuously imperfect ally.

With Eyes Wide Open,

Sinclair P. Ceasar III

Finding a Reason to Smile

It seems like the week before a break is always the hardest. So, naturally, I felt like our campus community could use a little boost. I headed to Canva and created a business card sized design to deliver a simple message:

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Next, I challenged myself to randomly hand several of these positivity cards to people I came across while heading to meetings on campus. I wished each person a nice day, and kept it moving. There’s no way of telling where the cards ended up, but I’m happy just knowing this spontaneous project could have:

  • made someone’s day
  • helped someone feel less invisible
  • done a small but important part of creating a sense of belonging

Like what you’re reading? Well…bring this to your campus or wherever you are. Download the template here! Print it. And spread joy!

 

 

How to Start a Successful Campus Wide Note Writing Project

Last week, we launched a note writing project called Hound Notes, here at Loyola University Maryland. It’s really taken off, and has added a positive buzz in our college community! While this project can be a lot of work on the front-end, it’s not so bad once you get started.* Plus, I’ve outlined most of what we’ve done, so you’re already halfway there. I’m hoping the following guide will assist you in bringing this same project to your campus.

*If you’re wanting more tips or information after reading this, send me a quick email to hello@thesapronextdoor.com and I’ll get back to you!

I. Highlights of the Project

We emailed a link to a sign up form to our commuters, residents, and administrators in our division. Then, we had information about the project posted in the online campus bulletin that’s emailed to the entire campus each week.

  • Within the past 6 days, 200+ students, faculty, staff, and administrators have signed up to receive anonymous and positive notes in their campus mailbox. 65 first year students have signed up. Commuters will get their notes mailed home.
  • One goal is to write 300+ notes during the 2016-17 year. 20+ students, faculty members, administrators have officially signed up to be note writers on a weekly, monthly, and semester basis.
  • Another goal is to form a student club by May 2017, help them to raise funds for material costs, and continue to have an organized recipient database and system.This adds sustainability and added potential for growth for the project.
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The first few notes we sent!

II. Boosting Engagement, Inclusion, Retention & More

Our division of Student Development has been charged with connecting and engaging with “every student”. In addition, our institution is moving towards being an university that  is more intentionally anchored in its surrounding community. Hound Notes hopes to meet these aims by: 

  1. Engaging students who are and aren’t part of other student organizations by inviting them to write notes to other students.
  2. Fostering a more inclusive environment on campus through late night on-campus letter writing parties at our on-campus Starbucks (between 8pm-11pm) and bundle nominations. Note: Our on-campus Starbucks stays open late if we request it in advance.
  3. Discovering ways to give back to the Baltimore City community through letter-writing campaigns for local agencies and organizations.
  4. Helping students who study abroad for a semester or more, to still feel connected to campus through a post-card letter writing campaign in collaboration with International Programs. Note: A large amount of our students study abroad during the second semester of their junior year.
  5. Creating and cultivating a sense of belonging with first year students, and other class years.
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Notes on their way to commuters and employees at satellite campuses.

 

III. What We Did

Hound Notes was largely inspired by Hannah Brencher and More Love Letters. We made it our own and gave it a name our university community would love (our mascot is a greyhound). This section will outline everything you will need to get started. The most important things to know are to be organized, get your office’s/department’s buy in, and to be careful not to over-complicate things. After all, it’s supposed to be fun and meaningful. 

Materials and Supplies Needed: Each note writer receives a Hound Note Pack that includes a sharpie, pre-labeled envelopes (saves time and prevents the campus post office from having issues with legibility of handwriting), notes, and a note writing guide. Target had a great deal on notes + envelopes: 200 count for $14.99, Spritz. 

Note writers can sign up to write on a weekly, monthly, or per semester basis. To make for easier workflow, we send each note writer their Hound Note Pack through campus mail. Next, the note writer completes each note, and returns the finished and unsealed notes to our central office for review. Once that’s done, someone will seal each envelope with a sticker and send them to the recipients via campus mail or outgoing mail. Here’s a preview of the note writing guide. You can see the rest here.

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Organization + Files: We used a system called Qualtrics to create our form and download all pertinent data. But you can use Google Forms, Wufoo, or Typeform to capture the information you need. All data is stored in a Google Drive folder so any Hound Notes team member can access it.

A few tips… 

  • Make sure to have separate forms (or use skip logic if you’re fancy like that) for students and for faculty, admin, and staff. Also, make sure there is a way for you to accurately attain each commuter’s mailing address. Here’s are some key snapshots from the form. You can see the rest here (just make sure NOT to submit it): 

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  • Test the form several times before you send it.
  • We used tinyurl.com to shorten the link to the form. This was great because it looks good (tinyurl.com/houndnotes), but some students had issues when they clicked the hyperlink in their Outlook email. So, make sure to add something like: if the link doesn’t open, copy and paste this URL into your browser, or sign up on your laptop. 
  • Create a new folder in your email specifically for this project, and then create rules for each folder. For example, I have the following folders: Hound Notes Form Submissions and Top Secret Note Writers. 
  • Make your Excel spreadsheet work for you. Here are the fields we use to keep us organized:

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Bundles and Letter Writing Parties: Each person who signs up, has the option of submitting a nomination for someone to receive a bundle of 20-30 notes. Recipients of the bundles are typically people who are experiencing a tough time, are sick or injured, or who are just really in need of a pick-me-up. As of the time this posting, 50+ heartfelt and detailed nominations were submitted by students, faculty, staff, and admin. Each semester, we will hold 1-2 letter writing parties. During this time, attendees will have the chance to hear the nominations, and write notes specifically for the recipients (people who sign up for to receive just one note typically only get a generic but uplifting message; bundle recipients get something that caters more to them because the writer knows more of their story).

Marketing and Getting the Word Out: Before this project launched, I spent several months getting my co-workers on board with it, asking students if they’d be interested in this project, working with our marketing/communications office (who provided over 200+ temporary tattoos with our school mascot – they had extra), and learning the culture of the school. If you already know the culture of your institution, and are confident that your community will enjoy the project, you can move a little faster.

Things to note…

  • The subject line of the email blast to the campus was: #HoundNotes: Happiness in Your Loyola Mailbox. It’s super catchy and probably helped with our email open rate, though we didn’t track this.
  • We created a simple powerpoint slide to be shown on the digital signs that are located in our student center. The advertisement is simple: “Make Your Loyola Mailbox Happier, Sign Up for Hound Notes Today at tinyurl.com/houndnotes”
  • We designed our logo (below) on Canva. I use this website for most simple graphic design projects because it’s super user friendly and it’s free to sign up. Here’s the logo:

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Funding: I recently submitted a proposal to get this project funded…and it worked! Here’s what helped, as well as what to do if you don’t get any funding:

  • We started by launching the project, then asking for funding after were able to show that a lot of students were interested in it. Plus, we used some of the stories from the bundle nominations to show how much of an impact the project could have.
  • Develop and create a clear, succinct, and thoughtful proposal that speaks to your institution’s/department’s missions, goals, and aims. We are focusing a lot on first year engagement, late night programming, inclusion, and our investment in Baltimore City.
  • If you don’t get funding, don’t sweat it. Get creative. Have students write positive quotes on post-it notes and stick them around campus. Encourage a student organization to pick this project up and use some of their funding to purchase envelopes and notes (it could just be a one time writing project). Write notes to you co-workers and leave them in their work mailboxes (smaller project but still impactful).

Next Steps: If you’re ready to get started, do it! Think about how good it feels to receive something handwritten in the mail – that’s the feeling you get to re-create with your campus community. It can be a one time thing, a semester long project, or a year-long initiative. Workshop your ideas from people in other offices. Have coffee with various student leaders to see if they’d be interested in a project like this, and then go and make awesome happen!


If you’re stuck, have questions, or would like to talk through your ideas, contact me anytime at hello@thesapronextdoor.com. I’m here for you, because we’re all here to help our students live a better story!  

 

 

Share Something Series #3 : Meet Kody Schneider

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MEET KODY SCHNEIDER

Head Resident Assistant | Office of Residential Living | Drexel University

FOR WHAT IN YOUR LIFE DO YOU FEEL MOST GRATEFUL?

One thing that I am grateful for in the life I live is my family. Family to me is not just defined as my blood related family, but also defined as the people I hold close to my heart. Throughout my life I have had the privilege to develop many meaningful relationships with the people I have met. Without the family I have developed over the years, I would not be the person that I am today, and for that I am forever grateful for them.

If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

I have to go out into left field with this one, and say that I would love to wake up tomorrow morning with the ability to teleport. Over the course of the past few years, I have worked at two different colleges (one in Virginia and the other in Pennsylvania) and my family still lives in California. Despite family being one of the things I am most grateful for, I have enjoyed traveling and exploring different places and meeting new people. Given the ability to teleport, I would be granted the freedom to see the people I care most about anytime that I would like.

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Big thanks to Kody for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Follow and connect with Kody on Instagram here!


This post is part of the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. Each participant has the option of responding to a set of questions that come from this article. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

Share Something Series #2 : Meet Juhi Bhatt

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MEET JUHI BHATT.

Assistant Director of Student Affairs Compliance & Title IX Investigator | Rutgers University | New Brunswick, New Jersey

 

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I am most grateful for my family. I am lucky enough to say that my mother and my sister are my best friends. They have supported me through everything and truly do know everything about me. They have laughed with me, cried with me, and struggled with me as I have come into my own. My mother specifically shows me every day what selfless love looks like by leading by example. I am truly blessed.

Is there something you’ve dreamed of for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

For years I have been talking about visiting Europe. I have wanted to go to Paris for ages. I want to see the Eiffel tower. I want to eat the food! But finances, time, work, and my educational pursuits have held me back. I keep thinking there is still time but each year I lose more time. Now, with current attacks and such it makes it harder to plan a trip such as this but my desire to go has not changed. I have given myself a new deadline. My gift to myself once I complete my doctorate will be a trip to Europe.

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Big thanks to Juhi for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Connect with Juhi on Twitter @jbhatt12 and make a new friend!


This post is part of the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. Each participant has the option of responding to a set of questions that come from this article. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

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Share Something Series #1 : Meet Christine Adam

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Meet Christine Adam. 

Dean of Students | Thompson River University Kamloops, British Columbia

For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

I am most grateful for a log cabin on a lake about three hours from where I now live. It’s a place we (me, my siblings, my parents and all our various children and partners) built six years ago to honour our grandparents. It’s a place where we all land on weekends and for extended vacations. It is full of physical things that are meaningful to us, but most of all, it’s full of all the people we love most in the world.

 

When did you last cry in front of another person?  

That’s hard to pin down, as I cry often! A recent time was on my birthday in May, on the first day walking the final 250 kms of the Camino de Santiago. I was surrounded by an amazing group of people, some of whom I barely knew, and some of whom I knew not at all. Someone in the group asked me about a tattoo I have, and I just fell apart, realizing that the star tattoo that I got many years ago represented the first step of a journey that included walking to Santiago de Compostela – Compostela being the Spanish “field of stars.”

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Big thanks to Christine for sharing honest and heartfelt words. Connect with Christine on Twitter @trudeanstudents and make a new friend!


This is the first post in the Share Something series. The idea behind it is to learn more about the Student Affairs practitioners in our field beyond our titles and the work we do. We have no idea of where this series will go, but some awesome people have already submitted heartfelt and fantastic content. Each week we’ll post one to two articles. If you’re interested in being a part of the series, go here today.

Share something (1)

Introducing the Selfish Self-Care Box

Update: This was a fun, challenging, and growth-filled adventure that has come to an end. Thank you to everyone who supported the efforts. If you’d like to chat more about self-care, email me at hello@thesapronextdoor.com These conversations make my life! 

Educators work hard to serve others, but we are terrible at taking care of ourselves. What’s worse is we don’t have the time to gather resources, and treat ourselves. It’s time to stop the excuses, take a deep breath, and open up a box of everything we need to relax and re-center. For a limited time only, you can order a Selfish Self-Care Box that’s made with you in mind.

EACH SELFISH SELF CARE BOX INCLUDES:

a super fancy coloring book + colored pencils

modelling clay

nutritious snacks

the unofficial guide to self-care

a few surprises

Total Cost: $20 + Shipping

BUY IT NOW

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How soon will I get my order? 

All orders are shipped within 3-5 business days. You will receive a USPS tracking number in the shipping confirmation email that you receive, once the order has shipped. Please click the link in the email or go to www.usps.com and enter your tracking number to see where your order currently is in the shipping route. Contact Sinclair Ceasar at hello@thesapronextdoor.com if you don’t receive an email with tracking info within 72 hours of placing your order.

Can I order a Selfish Self-Care Box for someone else? 

Yes! How kind of you!

Is the Selfish Self-Care Box a subscription service? 

Good question. For now, it’s just a one time thing. But you can order as many boxes as you like. They make fantastic gifts!

BUY IT NOW

Need more assistance? Email Sinclair at hello@thesapronextdoor.com

Say Something: Just One Way to Be a Better Ally

You hear the news. It’s not as shocking as it should be. It’s the same trending topic you heard about a month ago. Too soon. Too soon for another Black body to be gunneddowninthestreet. Another life gone. Another family member slain. Another fundraiser to support the children left behind. Another trial. Another uproar.

It’s not just another anything. Every single life is significant. Every story deserves to be lived, yet pages are torn away. Chapters left unfinishe

What do you do? You try to process this and wrap your mind around it all. You want to help. You believe that your liberation is directly connected to that of those you stand beside. For some reason, words don’t come easy.

What do you say when you and your Black colleague are face to face?

What do you say to your Black friend?

How do you broach the topic with the Black employee you supervise?

I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I don’t want to break anything. 

Let me tell you something: It’s already broken.  It’s not helpful to ignore it. Your silence – though well intentioned – is not helping to soothe the pain. Say something. Say something from the bottom of your heart. Be there. Ask, “How can I be someone you can count on right now?”

And then listen.