Commencement

My first literary publication was a poem I wrote in 4th grade entitled, “I Hate Math”.

It was included in a book of poems written by kids across the country that were submitted and chosen by teachers. Maybe that was the great childhood event that spurred my big writer dreams of wanting to someday write my own published books?

The hard truth is, I was not a great student! I barely skated by with my grades growing up. I didn’t even get to graduate traditionally along with my class, and barely made THAT even happen at all.

School was a struggle for me. Especially when it came to math and science, and the more logical and concrete subjects that required disipline and focus to memorize and learn. This probably comes as no surprise to those who know me in real life, but I tend to lean in the direction of more of a creative, and “free” path of expression. Which may just be a fancy way of saying that maybe there was a strong argument that I could have been diagnosed with ADHD?! Who knows.

My report cards always had the additional curt, written comments from teachers alerting my parents that I would prefer to socialize instead of finsihing and turning in my work.

To this day, I absolutley feel more confident and confortable staying in my own lane of social interactions and appreciating the many nuances of “people smarts”…over a reliance on any “book smarts”.

The more I unpack and learn about myself as I get older, the more I can see and understand the many factors that contributed to, what was clearly one of the deeply rooted and harmful limiting beliefs that I’ve held about myself, which was…”I am not smart”.

I guess I had learned from an earlier age than I thought to be the first one to acknowledge, and poke fun at my various collection of insecurities to control the narrative.

Anyone else?!

The math poem was just that- a way of telling the truth about something I felt I could not do, but somehow made it acceptable and removed the target of shame off of my back by making it funny.

The art of calling myself out before anyone else could, as a means of social survival.

Of course this would be most commonly seen later on in my life, as I would jump to avoid the inevitable fat jokes of some of my peers by yelling them out about myself first! Creating the illusion of confidence and self-acceptance that would disarm any potential verbal or social assult. I began to notice that people would just laugh right along with me, almost relieved to see that I “wasn’t bothered”. Marveling at how “easy” I made it look, and move onto the next thing.

That was enough to continue to fuel and rely on this behavior for decades to come.

Turns out, “fake it till you make it” (or at least, “fake it untill they leave you alone and assume you’re legit”) is my own personal superpower that has served me well.

ESPECIALLY well in 2014 when I had mustered up the courage to wander into the gym and join for the first time. And, it served me once again last year, when I began my job in higher eduacation as an administrative assistant at the UNR School of Medicine.

The culture shock of transitioning from the fast paced fitness world into learning the in’s and out’s of an admin job at a medical school, was an ajustment.

The irony of feeling signifigantly more out of place in the university setting than I ever did as a plus size woman in the fitness industry, kind of cracked me up! I was almost annoyed at myself for how intimidated I felt despite my tried and true method of “fake it till you make it”. There just didnt seem to be enough “fake it” within me to “make it” when it came to my discomfort in dealing with the financial and accounting skills that were required for the job, in addition to the other administrative tasks.

Math, (my nemesis!) had struck again!

Shortly after I began, the whole world shut down in response to Covid, and I found myself even more intimidated attemping to continue learning a new job and work from home, while trying to navigate all that 2020 would yet have in store.

The good news is that now, more than a year later, I can report that under the right leadership, (and being given the opportunity to return to campus for work which made things SO much easier for me!) I was able to slowly start to conquer my self doubt and loathing, and find my stride in the job.

The bad news is that due to budget cuts and a Covid hiring freeze, the University was not able to renew my position into a permanent, full time one.

So, as this last month of March drew to a close (and also marked a full year of living within this new, crazy covid/quarantined world…) so did my job at UNR, and what I realize now, a year that served as my own personal, concentrated “college career”.

In hindsight, I’ve actually realized a couple of very special things during my short time there.

First off, I still hate math.

And that’s ok.

Sometimes it’s just as important to be able to fully admit, accept and OWN what actually AREN’T our strengths…to free us up to really SEE and own what our BEST qualities and true strengths really are.

Secondly, I am proud of myself for the way I showed up. Despite the anxiety of feeling dreadfully out of place as someone without a degree, and the fear of being the weak link of the chain on my team…I am so proud of myself for leaning into my discomfort, and facing the hard things. Having the realization that under all my confidence, I still had a lingering fear that I was not smart and would be “found out”.

But also realizing that it WAS my own curated, “fake it till you make it” confidence that even got me in the door, and gave me the balls to speak up and be honest with myself and my team about where I was at. Helping me to be able to clearly communicate and ask for help. At some point along the way my “fake” confidence had morphed into being REAL, and I began to slowly start to trust myself again.

It almost felt as if my time spent working in the gym was meant to help me gain true confidence, love and acceptance for myself physically…and my time at the MED school was to help me gain confidence, love and acceptance for myself intellectually.

To show me that those with certain degrees and credentials are still just simply people at the end of the day, just like me. Being “smart” is relative, and comes in many forms. I am proud of the kind of “smart” I bring to the table, and for the leadership I had there who saw it too, and helped me feel valuable in a team setting again, and helped me to begin to flourish.

Lastly, the healing.

This last year spent pushing and stretching myself to learn all the “scary” finance and accounting things, and various “big girl job” things…was also a crash course in heart rehabilitation in disguise.

I didn’t realize this whole time I was being led back to myself, after wanting to run away from the world.

I had truly lost all faith in myself as a leader after all that happened before, (please read this if you have no idea wha I’m talking about: https://www.mandiholden.com/i-am-here/ ) but was given the opportunity to regain trust in myself, and my intuition again.

I was respected for my honesty, transparency and communication skills. I was constantly affirmed and appreciated for what value I DID bring to the table, and was encouraged and offered solutions in the areas where I had struggled. I really got to practice creating and honoring healthy boundaries, and got to re-learn a healthy work/life balance that helped me feel empowered to properly prioritize my life.

Some people go to college to earn a degree that they will take with them out into the world to become who they are supposed to be…but I got to go to college to be reminded of who I already WAS.

I never got to experience the tradition of walking across the stage for a graduation, but in a very small way…this comes pretty close for me.

I feel nothing but absolute gratitude for the past year that I’ve had and the genuine friendships I have made that I get to take with me.

And, I could NOT be more excited for where I am heading. 😎

So, please stay tuned!!