Confidence Manifesto

Every time I go home to NJ, a piece of my childhood has surfaced and been carelessly placed in a conspicuous place for me to see. Ribbons from swim meets, sticker books, letters from ex-boyfriends, photos. When I went home this past Christmas there were two photos sitting on the kitchen counter.

It was January of 1996. I was 20 years old. I was a junior in college. These photos were taken at the Newark airport, back in the days when you could still walk your loved one to the gate. I was about to board a 6 hour flight to London. After that I flew to Shannon, Ireland, and then took a three hour bus ride to Cork, where I would live for the next six months. I did it completely alone and without hesitation, doubt, or fear.

Monica and Dad Ireland

Monica Mom Ireland

I kept staring at the woman in these photos. I would go back to them daily.

What happened to her?

I looked at these photos and I was jealous. Of myself.

Granted at 20 years old, I didn’t know that I probably should’ve been a little more cautious and the world in 1996 was very, very different from today. But, beyond those circumstances, where did this woman go? What made her think that she could go across the ocean by herself and travel? Where did she get that confidence?

It knocked the wind out of me. Confidence. And there it was, my #oneword2016.

2016 is 19 days old and I am doing well with my word. I like how it feels on my heart. I like how I feel when I say it to myself. I used to be confident, fearless almost. Confidence made me courageous. I am diving into my word this year and I hope that when 2016 ends, I feel differently than I do today. I deserve it.

This is my confidence manifesto. These are the promises that I made to myself when I chose my word. These are the promises that will guide me this year:

I will talk to and about myself with love.

I will speak and write my truth without defensiveness or explanation.

I will apologize only when necessary.

I will eat food that is fuel for my body.

I will also eat food that brings me pleasure and I will not feel bad about myself when I do.

I will move more.

I will exercise when I can and when I want to.

I will ask for what I need.

I will be kind to myself when I fail.

I will strive to not judge others, especially other women.

I will not believe social media messages that I am not enough.

I will make progress on my book, Dear boys.

I will make progress on my business, Sheldrake Consulting.

I will be kind to myself when I do not make enough progress.

I will love myself.

I know that many of these goals are not specific. Which, according to some research, dooms me to failure because they are too big and not measurable. But here’s the thing. When I set really specific goals, like, “I will write every day for 30 minutes” or, “I will exercise three days/week” I never meet those either. Because they are so specific, if I miss one time, I go into a tailspin and then give up. So this year, I am trying more broad goals that feel more achievable. I am going in with confidence and kindness.

What is your #oneword2016? I’d love to hear about it and why you chose it.

Happy New Year!



The day before Thanksgiving my husband and I were able to visit the institution where we each got our start in student affairs and where we met and fell in love. The trip provided an opportunity to reflect on all we have been through, professionally and personally.

Residence life at a small, private institution was a great place to start my professional career. It was my first time supervising. I learned how to physically manage a new-construction building and all its idiosyncrasies. I served as a judicial hearing officer for the most “active” residence hall on campus and thus, had the largest caseload of all my colleagues. As a young and energetic professional, I also volunteered for any and all assignments that would give me experiences and skills outside of my functional area. As such, I advised funding board and several student organizations. I can budget with the best of them. Because of these experiences I was able to transition to student activities| leadership when I moved to my second professional position. For three years, I worked long and hard hours. I said yes, a lot. I created new programs and events and I took risks.

In the span of a career, three years isn’t that much. But it’s not nothing. Visiting the institution where I got my start reminded me of all of these things. It was wonderful to visit with colleagues and mentors and to chat with the VP| Dean who saw something in me and offered me that first job. I think too often in my work, I am so focused on the next step, the next move, that I underestimate what it took to get where I am today. I would guess that I am not alone in this. Life’s messages seem to be telling us that more is better, that to strive for something different or higher or more prestigious is “the” way to be. It is good to have goals. But, in working towards those goals, I think it’s important to take the time to reflect on where I’ve been.

Nice to meet you! Name tags & lanyards from a career well-lived

Nice to meet you! Name tags & lanyards from a career well-lived

We all have beginnings. I am grateful that my beginning in this profession was a good one. I look back at that time fondly and with gratitude. I would love to hear about your beginnings. Where did you start? How has that position shaped who you are today?

In the second year of my first professional job I fell in love with a coworker. We worked together, we were both Catholic, and he made me laugh. He still makes me laugh. Every day. Since that first date in September of 2000, we’ve been through a lot. More than most couples our age. We dated for two years while under the microscope of a full-time, live-in position. We survived a long-distance engagement and job search process. We have survived eight job changes, graduate school, unemployment, and parenthood. We shepherded our son through a major health crisis, all while staying married and keeping our younger son healthy and normal.

When we began though, we were young, excited, and full of hope. When you think about it, really, we knew very little about each other. I think this is the case for most people. In the span of a married life, there is no way to predict what will come your way. I certainly never thought that I would mother a child through cancer. The only thing that indicates future behavior is past behavior. I think we are lucky and grateful that our past, our beginning, was a good one. We are loyal, honest and we like being with each other. That’s how we started and that is what we keep working for now.

Driving through the small town where we shopped for a coffee table (that we still have), had our first kiss, first fight, first jobs, first everything reminded me of our sweet beginning.

Hope College, Holland MI

Hope College, Holland MI