Jeffrey_Noya_PresArmstrong9-19-14.jpgWritten by Jeffrey Cabanez, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-16 CSU Chancellor’s Office Center for Community Engagement

When a specific song comes up on your Pandora playlist, what do you think about? What kinds of emotions come to mind? I have headphones in my ears approximately 20 hours of the day. Whether it be from listening to music at the gym, playing a video game with my friends online, or falling asleep listening to a podcast, headphones are weirdly enough a substantial part of my life. The idea of having headphones on and being able to get lost in whatever I am listening to is important to me. It gives me a space to reflect and focus on what I need to do and provide me with “me time.” With my second year of service coming to a close, and a third one on the way, I wanted to try and express some of what I have learned through different song lyrics. So, here it goes.

“In our darkest hours we are not invincible, but we are both stronger than we know, in our bones.” –Against The Current: In Our Bones

I struggled a lot with being on my own, and worrying about everything working out in the end. There have been days where I come home from work and ask myself, “am I strong enough to continue doing this type of work?” I’ve talked a lot about self-doubt last year at our in-person trainings, and a little at the beginning of this year. Being in this role, I have had the chance to truly overcome that; my mindset shifted from “am I strong enough?” to “I can definitely do this.” The CSU STEM VISTA Program has given me so much over the past two years, but I think one of the biggest things has been the opportunity for self-reflection. I am a stronger individual having gone through the program, and hope to inspire the ideas of resilience and self-reflection that VISTA taught me to all of the students I hope to work with in the future.

“When I love someone, I’m loving all the way.” –Timeflies: All The Way

Jeffrey Strong Self 1.jpgI would say that “wearing my heart of my sleeve” is an accurate representation of my interactions with others. Relationships with other people mean the world to me. This year especially, I learned that if a person is meant to be and stay in your life, you will both make the effort to do so. My old roommates from San Luis Obispo gave me a key to the house, telling me to come whenever. I constantly communicate with them and get updates about how their lives are going. My best friend from SLO is currently serving with the Peace Corps in Ukraine (you can read about her experience here). We have made intentional efforts to still stay connected, even though there are about 6,500 miles, and 10 hours, between us. My friends from high school still play video games together after work and catch up whenever everyone is in town. Being physically separated from them all forced me to actually think about how to sustain the relationship. I put my whole heart into all of the relationships and connections I make with people. I already knew that about myself, but moving to a new city, essentially knowing no one, just reinforced that for me.

“You can take me anywhere the wind blows, ride into the great unknown.” –American Authors: What We Live For

Being in a VISTA Leader role has confirmed my understanding that change is inevitable. I moved to a brand new city; that’s a huge change! Our webinar training series got a huge overhaul that we will be implementing in the fall. Heck, this upcoming year, I will be
supporting a whole new corps of members. One common fear that I had growing up was
whether or not things end up working out. I always think about the future and what fork in
the road IMG_0408.jpgwill take me where. Now, I’m comfortable not knowing where my immediate
future will take me. I’m confident that I will find my footing and make an impact in this world. I’m ready to “ride into the great unknown.”

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In my immediate future, I will be attending graduate school at CSU Long Beach for a Master of Science in Student Development in Higher Education (SDHE). I will also be continuing as one of the VISTA Leaders for the CSU STEM VISTA program (3 years in the program: what, what!). Reflecting on my life up to this point, I am no longer scared of moving forward and not knowing what the future holds. I know I can tackle any challenge that I face because I am stronger than I know. The relationships I have, along with the ones I create, will support me through thick and thin. And, at the end of the day, everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

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