by Haleigh Zurek

Associate Director for Campus Programming, Marywood University

Vice Chair for Programs – Webinars and Convention Social


In early August, while on my morning walk, I took some time to reflect on my role and how life has changed since accepting my first professional role and how different life is now that I am entering my late twenties. Ironically, my position in Student Affairs is at the same institution that I did both my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Although I’ve been in a professional setting for just over three years, I have been on this campus in some capacity since 2014. My twenties are so much different than what I expected them to be, especially since I spent most of them in a pandemic! 

Balancing work, taking masters courses, my home life, as well as a new puppy is HARD! Student Activities work has its own unique challenges: unstable hours, seasonal busy times, and planning for huge events. More, now than ever, it is important to settle into a mental routine and prepare for the future. I put together the following tips to help my fellow twenty-somethings navigate their “terrible twenties” in Student Affairs:

Build Your Self Care Tool Belt

Your twenties are a time to learn about yourself: the environments you thrive in, the foods you love, and the type of people you like to surround yourself with. Building your tool belt can be hard when you’re still working on finding your footing. This is a great time to collect those important skills to add to your tool belt, like learning to be confident in your abilities, how to be healthy, how to be a good listener, and just how to be the best version of you that you can be. As someone who is constantly working, I never thought I needed to practice self care until I overloaded myself– so I am late to the game when it comes to building my tool belt. Over the past few months alone, I realized how important it is to build those healthy habits like slowing down, journaling my thoughts, and making strides to become more comfortable in my body.

Understand That It Is What It Is

The past happened, I learned from it, and it’s time to move on. There is no point in dwelling on the things that I cannot change or the mistakes I made. Sit with the thought, forgive yourself, and move on. Sometimes things happen, and that is okay. No one is perfect- including myself.

 Realize That No One Actually Cares

It’s only been recently that I realized literally no one cares about what you do. What you wore, how you spoke in a meeting, or maybe even a stupid comment that you cannot figure out why you said it- no one remembers. Literally no one is thinking about it, no one is fixated on what you said, and the transaction is over. If you are not taking the time to over think what other people said, it is very likely that they are not taking the time to over think what YOU said! Once I realized this, it was a lot easier for me to speak to others in a way that truly allows me to be myself!

Take Care of Your Health

It’s been far too long that I have actually taken a step back and reassessed my health plan. Just this summer alone, I’ve rescheduled a dentist appointment 4 times just to squeeze in with my work schedule. Our bodies are not indestructible, and it is important to learn to take care of ourselves and be proactive for decades to come. As someone with an intense autoimmune disease, I am still working on putting my health first, but the awareness of the disease is enough to keep on top of appointments and understand that some foods and drinks just don’t work for me or my body. 

Presence Is Better Than Presents

Time is a thief. Take the time to be with your loved ones, be present in the moment with your students, and take it all in. Get off of your phone, talk to those around you and make memories. Before you know it, they are gone. Show up, be active, and stop filling your happiness cup with materialistic things. Your cup should be filled with memories of your favorite people- after all, stuff is just stuff.

Social Media Isn’t Entirely Real

I am guilty of spending hours scrolling through tik tok and looking at beautiful people, immaculate houses, and perfectly placed travel photos. These videos are manipulated- people are not flawless, houses do not look like that, and that photo of them in Greece probably took them HOURS to edit. The sooner we stop comparing and stop working to live like that, the closer we are to finding true, real happiness within ourselves. Authenticity is key to a fulfilling life.

Be A Role Model For Your Students

Our role in Student Affairs work is always student first. How can we, as professionals, put our students first if we are not putting out our own fires before we attempt to put out theirs? Our students watch us. They watch us show up at 7pm for 9pm Bingos- hours before the event to help set up, they see us eating lunch at our desks, and they certainly see when we are on campus long after our 9-5pm is over answering emails. We are mentoring our future leaders, and we are normalizing extreme burn out. There is absolutely no way we can provide for our students when we are not providing ourselves with basic needs. Students want us to be ourselves, and provide them with a safe place for them to do the same. We are actively building up the next group of dentists, veterinarians, journalists, and other community members, and we need to properly communicate to them that they are human, they need breaks, and that their lives matter more than their 9-5.