Self-Care and Vocation Through a Student’s Eyes

My good friend and fellow religion professor, Dr. Sonya Maria Johnson at Beloit College, once reminded me, “You have to have your praise singers.” Translation: current students could sing the praises of my classes to prospective future students. This was such a wonderful moment to realize the power students hold. It also countered the idea of “student as client” by instead bringing to mind the beauty of nature and songbirds. It was about the power your current students hold and how that relationship is sacred in and of itself. Like me, she teaches at a small liberal arts college and knows how students hold power in how and who might sign up for your next class. 

In this light, I am honored to have my former student Caysi Lewis take on singing the praise of my work on self-care by expanding it to incorporate her own perspective, interviews, and in-depth writing on the subject. After Caysi took my class (Caring for the Self, A Global Guide) she decided to make her senior capstone project a blog on the value and importance of self-care, called Caring for the Self.

What began as a way to share what she had learned about self-care quickly transformed. This semester Caysi completed her own interviews with other self-care and well-being experts. She interviewed other students. She did her own research on topics that she wanted to highlight pertaining to self-care. Inside her blog is praise but also promise—the promise of a student taking on a subject explored together in class and making it their own. I wanted to highlight her work this semester to show a student’s perspective and approach to the topic of self-care. Now it is my turn to sing Caysi’s praises.

For Vocation Matters readers, you will specifically enjoy her entry on self-care and calling titled “Self-Care in the Real World.” Caysi makes the point that as a senior she is always getting asked the question “So What’s next?” and points out that “vocational journey has led me to pursue a deeper understanding of myself and my expectations for my future through mindfulness in the present.” She writes: 

As a college senior, no question has plagued me quite like, “So what’s next?”… People seem more concerned with the destination I have chosen to pursue, my career, than the path I am taking to achieve it. Having a society that largely bases performance around measured success, i.e. landing a dream job, attending graduate school, or joining the armed forces, reinforces the need for self-care to achieve the everyday victories. In other words, my vocational journey has led me to pursue a deeper understanding of myself and my expectations for my future through mindfulness in the present.

Caysi goes on to talk wisely about being an English major and the projects undertaken as “resumé-fillers,” in order to be competitive.

Self-care is recognizing the things that challenge, inspire, and stimulate us as individuals. While for a lot of people this will ultimately be our career, it is just as important to put that same devotion and discovery into the process of vocational discernment as it is to perform the career itself. For me, this led to an understanding that I was suited for something a little more unconventional than a traditional digital marketing or communications position. It was a process of understanding that I don’t have to know the answer to “So what’s next?”, but I should try to strengthen the tools that allow me to achieve a “next” centered around my personal desires and gifts. 

Based upon this on-going introspection, Caysi offers some advice for her peers, including advice about what kinds of questions to ask during a job interview in order to discern the culture and health of the organization.

Practicing self-care in the present also sets a precedent when you have achieved placement in your ideal vocation. There will always be a, “So what’s next?” being asked. Self-care is being present in your successes and acknowledging them not as a mechanism to get to the “next”, but to affirm your achievement in the now. More than that, it’s recognizing those times in which you are being spread thin, when your work has taken precedence over your mental and physical health. Self-care is a continual journey in much the same way that a career path is. Your relationship with yourself changes as does your desires to achieve, perform, and create a “next”. 

This blog by Caysi has been, with each entry, a new lesson for me to bring back to my next iteration of my self-care class. Thank you Caysi—you have breathed new life into my class and taught me new ways of seeing self-care. Take a moment and learn from Caysi through her mature and clear voice.

Other blog posts by Courtney Dorroll: Self-Care Workshop for Care-givers, A Call for Care in the Academy, Care in the Classroom, and A Global Guide to Caring for the Self. See also Trina Jones’ Caring for the Care-givers: A Plea.

Courtney Dorroll is an assistant professor of Religion and Middle Eastern and North African Studies at Wofford College, where she co-coordinates the MENA Program and is currently the PI of a NetVUE Program Development Grant that extends self-care pedagogy across the incoming student curriculum. She has a 3 year old who keeps her playing with paints, crayons and playdough. When she is not teaching or playing she is taking care of herself with yoga, meditation and listening to  awkward comedy podcasts (her favorites right now are I Said No Gifts and Everyday Decisions). 

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