President’s Corner December 2020

Everything is all good…Right? 

Custom suit. Fresh Haircut weekly. Exquisitely groomed beard. Purposeful work.  A few amazing friends. Some extraordinary acquaintances. Amazing and beautiful children. These things undoubtedly provide me joy and, externally, may even look like I have a life others want to emulate, but let’s be clear: I AM NOT OKAY.  Being resilient, looking nice, consistently showing up, or having strength should not be confused with being okay. 

The reality is, like many of you, I am navigating two Pandemics!  I am working from home and managing remote learning for my children.  Grieving appropriately seems impossible because the losses are showing as often as days of sunshine in Colorado.  I am worried about family members, the community, staying COVID-19 free, and managing a personal health challenge.  Every day I am thinking about how we stop failing students and truly creating equity; meanwhile, the outlets to blow off steam diminishes more by the day. The list of challenges these days is taxing. They are too tough to dismiss with fake smiles and habitual responses; you know, the ones we use to provide others an out when they ask, “How are you” and don’t mean it!  Well, stop it! Don’t do it. Reconsider your responses moving forward. We must honor what’s really going on internally if we are to heal. We have to admit we aren’t okay, so we have the grace necessary to show up authentically or the sufficient space to deal. No more, “I’m good,” “Thanks for asking, I’m cool!” “All good this way and you”?   

We can’t afford to conceal our pain for others’ benefit; our very existence depends on us being authentic.  So again, I am great letting you know I am not okay! Are you okay with hearing it? 

The truth of the matter is, it’s absolutely okay not to be okay. We are human, uniquely flawed, fragile, and require intentional investment to function correctly. We must invest in our truth, grace, love, and listening. We must not allow fear, pride, or concern for what others think to silence the expression of our psyche and real-time mental condition. Admitting out loud that we aren’t okay is paramount in finding a path back to a true sense of joy and emotional stability. 

It’s also imperative that we slow down long enough to hear someone’s truth when on the receiving end of their expressions. Look, it’s not about solving problems; it’s about seeing people and demonstrating that they matter. Taking a pause to be empathetic and genuinely express your unselfish concern for others’ welfare will go a long way in ensuring we all can thrive.  

I hear the question almost every day what do I do about not being okay? While I am not the authority on pain and transitioning to happiness, I do have some suggestions. 

One of the greatest rouses in the world is the concept of perfection. Perfection, and PLEASE hear me when I say this, IS FAKE. It’s a societal miscue, and its meaningless pursuit guarantees the triggering of mental health challenges, depression, poor decision making, failed relationships, and even suicide. 

The focus my friends, is excellence. Excellence is simply the quality of being outstanding, definitely not the pressure of infallibility associated with perfection. 

What I love about excellence is it allows us to be human. The pursuit of excellence, unlike perfection, is not the relentless obsession to attain omnipotence or a deity like existence. It makes room for vulnerability, being a work in progress, championing asking for help, and growth through good or bad experiences. Most importantly, excellence supports the fact that no matter where we are in our journey that not being okay is not foreign, a weakness, but rather a simple curable condition when addressed appropriately. 

The greatest challenge to being comfortable with not being okay is ourselves. We have to understand that sadness, depression, and not feeling okay are not signs of failure or inferiority. Like the body’s pain sensors, these are notification that we need to focus on us. My advice to focus on you and transition to being okay are: 

1. Admit and verbalize it when you are not well. 

2. Take care of your body by working out, seeing a doctor or healer regularly, and eating as clean as you can 

3. Talk great to yourself every day and realize that another person’s thoughts or opinions have nothing to do with you or any bearing on who you are. 

4. Invest in your mind, body, and soul with reading, mediation, drinking water, daily affirmations, and regular acts of service 

5. Eliminate, from your life, those who intentionally try to assassinate your joy. 

6. Get a Therapist  

7. Believe that you matter 

8. Take a cue from “Alice in Wonderland” and believe in impossible things when it comes to your happiness, success, and joy 

Life isn’t going to stop sending uppercuts to our existence, but we can prepare to take them like a champion while recognizing along life’s journey, we won’t be okay all of the time, and this, my friends, is just fine! 

Dr. Ryan Ross

ryan ross signature

President and CEO
Urban Leadership Foundation

Dr. Ryan Ross

Dr. Ryan E. Ross is the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Equity, and Inclusion for the Colorado Community College System and President & CEO of the Urban Leadership Foundation of Colorado.