Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Big A - Ambiguity

When I was a newer professional, a Director in Student Affairs said to me, "People who can't work in ambiguity don't last long working with me." I was quite overwhelmed by the boldness of the statement. I mean, really, my entire life had been a search for solid answers and detailed responses. She shared her statement with a snarky smile and a sense of joy. Joy? She was describing my worst nightmare!

My life plan had included ambiguity in many areas... Friendships, job, graduate school plans, dating. But, I had fought the good fight and beat back the unknown to a manageable place. I worked and battled to be sure of things. I was certain that my career was what I wanted. My new husband met the criteria on my mental checklist. I had friends that I chose - and that were fulfilling relationships. Even faith was an area that I was sure of... And, trust me, the irony of that statement is not lost on me now.

To have a seasoned professional embrace living without definitive answers around every corner puzzled me. As I worked at USD longer, student conduct responsibilities were added to my job. A seeming match made in heaven - rules are black and white. Did people/groups break the rules? Yes or No - no ambiguity there. Little did I know that the answer is almost always "maybe". As I sought clarity, direction, definition I realized that in the midst of the "maybe" was often understanding, grace, and people's lives. I learned to lean into the discomfort of not knowing all of the answers. More importantly, I realized that the beauty of my life was in that discomfort. A colleague of mine called it, "the space between fear and faith, everything is fine and nothing is fine, maybe so and maybe not; the space between I am sure and surprise!"

Where is your heart when you consider ambiguity? Mine still starts pounding when I don't have all of the answers, but I know that it is a part of the ride. One of my pastors often talks about the excitement of the messiness of life. She parents, shepherds, teaches, mentors, loves - all without needing firm answers at each turn. She models for me the beauty of embracing the unknown.

If you've made it this far in, you may be asking - so what on earth does this have to do with the fraternity and sorority experience? Over the next two months we will be having conversation about the See Action, Take Action program. Some of the questions rolling through my head are: Is it working? What happens if we stop talking about personal responsibility? Are our members safe in the context of the events we plan? Are our members cared for by others to the point where their friends will step into the ambiguity with them and challenge them to be better?

Ambiguity. It's beautiful. It sucks. It is where I have to rest and know that the work we do matters.

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