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Hey there! If you're new here, I'm so glad to see you. I'm Amma Marfo- a writer, speaker, and #HigherEd free agent who speaks and presents on issues in higher education. I'm also a constant advocate for creativity, champion for all things funny, and a semi-professional introvert. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy :)
Several years ago, I remember having a conversation with someone (I wish I could remember who) who had sworn off wishing students "Good luck" during midterms and finals season. The idea of luck factoring into performance on tests, the person argued, takes control and agency away from the test-taker. It casually, if unintentionally, implies that the individual isn't in control of the outcome. In truth, I can't argue with the premise. It changed the way I talk to students about demonstrating their knowledge. I try to assure the ones that I know are prepared of that fact, while those who are nervous are encouraged to examine the areas that they're uncomfortable with.

I have been reminded of this conversation a LOT in the first few months of the year, as I stumble through awkward conversations about my new vocational path. "How's the freelance life going?", friends and former colleagues will ask. I won't lie to you, for those who haven't yet gotten to ask me- I love the flexibility and freedom to decide where my priorities lie, but it is an inherently uncertain enterprise. Addressing that uncertainty diplomatically is difficult.
  • Working from home is the way I was meant to work, and not because of the more relaxed attire...
  • I'm doing well, but I'm nervous a lot.
  • I'm confident in my skills and their value in the market, but am scared that I won't be able to show myself as useful.
  • And despite all this...not only do I not regret it in the slightest, if given the choice to do it again I'd have done it sooner.
So if you're prepared for a complicated and honest answer, this is the one I'd give if it wasn't easier and less vulnerable to just fall into the "Fine!" trap.

The answers that I get in conversations about this are...well, weird to me. I completely understand why. Blazing a trail like this isn't something that most of us see as an option. Years of placing people in boxes (starting with asking toddlers what they want to be when they grow up) have done this, and makes it awkward to interact with people who have chosen to do something different. So while I've gotten some less-than-appropriate ones ("What do you even do all day?" or "Do you have insurance, though?") most responses in these conversations include things like "I could never do that" or "You're so brave!" 

Quick aside about that last one: I was also recently called brave in line for the bathroom at the Wilbur when, faced with waiting in an unreasonably long line for the women's restroom or use the unoccupied men's room, I was the first to choose the latter. As I took care of business, I could hear women still waiting outside murmuring to others in line, "She just went in there! She's so brave!" Again, unsure of how to respond, I finished up, washed my hands, and gestured awkwardly to the stall I'd just occupied, saying "You can guarantee the seat's down in there" before buttoning my coat and leaving.

I bring this analogous tale up because what looked brave to a group of people content to stand in line, was actually me just taking care of the business at hand, in a way that [evidently] most people wouldn't. It's not against the rules, it's just unconventional. And it wasn't really an act of bravery, it was just taking care of a need. Me choosing to work in a way that didn't drain me was a similar act- taking care of a need in a way that most people [again, evidently] wouldn't.

But back to our original point: I'm learning that the adult/non school-going version of "Good luck!" is "Hope it all works out!" And unlike the other answers about bravery or an inability to follow the same path, answers that have very little to do with me, hoping it all works out feels...not so great. Choosing to take one's own path already has them in a vulnerable place; hearing "hope it all works out" in response to such a move sounds to me like "Get this out of your system, but you should have a back-up plan for when this doesn't work out." Could that be projection? Sure. I'm not always sure that it will work, and I've answered more questions about my Plan B for my parents than most could conceive. It feels more appropriate for something temporary, like training for a half marathon or aiming to lose 25 pounds...more appropriate for something with a perceived end, rather than a permanent change.

But the bottom line is this: wishing someone pursuing something they're passionate about luck in the endeavor contains a kernel of the idea that they don't have control over the outcome. And while they may seem brave or indestructible to you for their willingness to step out in that vulnerable place, they're also human. If you really support them, as I know the overwhelming majority of people asking these questions and offering this encouragement are, do just that- seek to frame your encouragement unequivocally.

Remind them they're capable of what they've set out to do. Share examples of their work you've been impressed by, with them and with others. And when given the opportunity to call upon their expertise, invest in it: refer them to people in need of their talents, insist on paying them for their services should you elect to retain them. and share recommendations and testimonials if you've already been a beneficiary of it. I've made a commitment to doing this in 2016, as I recognize just how many people need concrete support in this world when supporting their dreams. 

My challenge for you this week: find a friend doing something "brave," something you wish you could do, and compliment them on it. Meaningfully express your support for what they're doing. There's a high likelihood they need to hear it.
In honor of search season, my first book is on sale (and with it's new cover)! Take 15% off THE I'S HAVE IT with coupon code VB4MMGHD. If you're an introvert gearing up for this potentially draining season, click the photo above for a free copy of the Introverted Interviewee chapter!
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What I'm Working On
Last week, I had the opportunity to run a live "office hours" session with my dear friend Marci Walton about the student affairs job search. The replay is available now, and we're sending out a set of supplementary resources to what we shared on air. If you'd like either, this is the place to be. Over for the Niche Movement, I called upon Bob Ross to talk about creating space for "happy accidents" in our lives and work. I've also done some writing in response to the "long runway" that introverts need to warm up to social situations, and its analogous move in extroverts.

I'm also gearing up for two speaking opportunities: I'll be a panelist for the "Getting Published" panel at the The Lady Project Summit, talking about my journey through the self-publishing process. And the following week, I'll be delivering an SA Speaks talk at the NASPA National Conference on Inspiring Leadership in Introverted Students. If you'll be in Indy, I'd love to see you -  Tuesday, March 15th, from 2:45pm - 4pm, in Sagamore 3-5.
YOU, IN PRINT 2.0 is coming! 
If you envision your work in print, and want to take manners into your own hands, this self-paced online course will walk you through the six steps I took to create two self-published volumes in just over two years. 

Respond to this email with code word "SPINE" to be added to a special list with updates on the course, how to enroll, and discounts as the course rolls out.
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Copyright © 2016 Amma Marfo: Creativity | Humor | Energy, All rights reserved.


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