The Pragmatic vs. The Idealist

It would seem fitting that a few mornings ago, prior to the first day of my new career in California, I spent a good deal of time reflecting on where I have been in the past few years.  Indeed, I have come to the realization that I am exactly where I need to be and that it has been no single chance nor choice that landed me here.  I believe that, instead, my desire to succeed, work hard, and do good in the world has guided me, perhaps with a little bit of luck and faith in the process along the way.  Those who have been my supporters, whether friends, family, colleagues, or otherwise, are also largely to praise for providing direction, a mold from which I have taken shape, and steps to take.

It should be appropriate, then, for me to know exactly what is coming next.  As I grow (because I know I will never truly stop growing), how can I make sure that I maintain the direction I’m going?  And perhaps just as importantly, as a student affairs practitioner, how I do ensure that I pass along the proper wisdom to those after me?  I can only hope to help others at least as much as I have been helped, and perhaps with continued wisdom, a bit more.  Much like the transition from middle school to high school, high school to college, and then college to a graduate program or a new job, it’s difficult to be the new person all over again.  Reassuringly, being new is a process of stepping into a growth opportunity where one can learn (and once “learned,” perhaps comfortable).  I have already begun to unravel the “invisible tapestry” of my workplace and will grasp it quickly enough for work and my development.

I want to argue that transition forces an individual to balance being pragmatic with one’s ideals.  I argue this only because it has been a theme of my own transition and seemingly, the challenges of others.  I’ve started reading a few student affairs blogs as part of my desire to continue learning as a new professional, and Beth Triplett’s Leadership Dots has been an easy-to-swallow pill of thought-enabling and thought-provoking knowledge.  She posted recently about pragmatism, timely enough for me to ponder over while thinking of the themes of Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father, which I have also just read.  No doubt, the president, the blog entry, and myself all have had in common the challenge of maintaining a sense of pragmatism in balance of one’s ideals.  I see President Obama’s struggle both in his search for identity and meaning as he navigates what it means to balance an often romanticized notion of his life and the reality of his environment.  No doubt, it’s a challenge that many face.

While pragmatism and ideals are not necessarily in contest with one another, I can’t help but wonder which of my ideals are and aren’t coming to court as I make my own transition.


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