I have a problem. I’m borderline obsessed with the new Netflix series, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I am on my third round of watching the series and I am unapologetic. This has been incredibly easy to do since there are only 13, 30-minute episodes and the writing is so fast, and so funny, that it is easy to lose yourself in the series. Throw in the incredible Ellie Kemper in the lead role as Kimmy, amazing supporting characters, and the series being the brainchild of Tina Fey, and I was hooked.
There is so much to geek out about this little gem of a series. The pop culture references, the hilarious turn of Jon Hamm in the most unexpected of roles, Tina Fey doing a spot on impression of Marcia Clark (one of the lead attorneys from the OJ Simpson trial, for all of those people not of age in the 90s), plus Kimmy’s roommate Titus Andromedon being one of the most entertaining characters in recent history, the series makes for pure fun. The premise of the show puts Kimmy as one of four women who were locked in an underground bunker as part of a doomsday cult since 1990. We meet Kimmy and the other women as they are rescued from the bunker and attempt to start their lives after being without TV, internet, phone, magazines, or music from 1990-2015. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues with the “Indiana Mole Women.”
Kimmy moves to New York City to start her life again. She is 30 years old, has missed everything from the past 15 years, and has to unlearn so many things about how the world works, but her positivity never wanes. Kimmy has a lot to be angry, resentful, and depressed about after being locked away for 15 years. She missed the Clinton era, Hurricane Katrina, *NSYNC, purple ketchup, and more. She thinks her boss’ MacBook was a giant iPhone, calls hashtags “hashbrowns,” and is thrilled that her closet of a room has a window.
If you haven’t seen the series, all you may know about the show is the catchy as hell theme song that [fair warning!] will be stuck in your head for weeks. While the jokes are funny and storylines are ridiculous, the best part of the series for me is Kimmy’s unbreakable spirit. She is positive, in the face of horrific circumstances, and that is what makes her simultaneously relatable and aspirational.
I have found my professional home in student affairs, particularly within residence life. There are lots of things that I love about my work, but there are so many things that are hard, jarring, depressing, and life-altering about the work of supporting students. On a typical day, we deal with physical altercations, or students who come to our campuses with severe psychological issues that only intensify once the added stress of classes and independent living descends. Students come to us experiencing gender-based violence, extreme financial stress, unrealistic family expectations, citizenship challenges, food and housing insecurity, and varying levels of parental involvement, ranging from suffocating to non-existent. And, on our worst days, we comfort families and friends in their shock and grief when members of our communities pass away.
Meeting students in some of their hardest moments takes a toll. It can be hard to find anything positive in a hard day, and yet, very much like Kimmy, student affairs has the opportunity to be unbreakable. It seems like every day there is another expose, talking head, or article pointing to the demise of higher education. Where the hell are we supposed to start? The ballooning student debt crisis? The rampant racism running throughout campuses? Gender-based violence finally seeing the light of day? Those in the academy who blame student affairs administration for the financial bloat which is contributing to these problems? It’s overwhelming.
And yet, I find myself enjoying my work. Having fun, laughing, taking moments to appreciate the moments of change and challenge. Does this make me a Pollyanna? An ostrich with her head in the sand? Hopelessly naive? Or does this make me like Kimmy, albeit it on a smaller scale? Could it actually be possible to hold both of those concepts simultaneously, that awful things happen on our campuses every single day, but we still have the choice, and perhaps the responsibility to approach our work with a positive attitude?
In one of my favorite episodes, Kimmy stands in her truth, fully aware of her traumatic history, in the middle of Times Square, and says to her roommate, “Life beats you up. You can either curl up in a ball and die or you can stand up and say, ‘We’re different and you can’t break us.’” Student affairs, take a lesson from this Indiana Mole Women: Let’s be unbreakable.
Marci Walton is a student affairs professional interested in residence life, social justice, service, and the intersectionality of identity. Passionately curious about social media, women’s leadership and finding the perfect spot to admire the Pacific. Current Californian, but a Buckeye through and through. Connect with her on Twitter and at her blog.