I’m about to graduate with my Master’s in Educational Leadership, and so lately I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting…especially with the many job interviews I’ve been having. So what better way to start my Higher Ed blogging journey than with the story of how I got here?! Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
(I wish this would scroll like the beginning of the Star Wars movies.)
IN THE BEGINNING….
There was little old me.
Well okay, I wasn’t old. Or little really. But I was younger! I was nineteen, to be precise. And I had just decided to make the wonderful decision to become a Resident Assistant. It was a decision that would change my life as I knew it. Up until that moment, I had been set on becoming a second grade teacher. I had already declared my major and was completing classes in my degree, and that was what I thought I’d be doing. I hadn’t made it into the classroom yet, but I just knew I’d love it. I enjoyed children, and I loved helping people. If anything, the RA job would be great experience to put on my resume…and to help me pay for room and board. But what I didn’t know is how wrong I was.
I’ll admit, my first year as a RA was a little rough. I made a common mistake of first-year RAs, and basically told my floor “If I don’t see it or hear it, it’s not happening.” Eeep. Bad. Very bad. That statement basically declared “I’M A PUSHOVER” and boy, did they take advantage. I struggled that year with keeping my floor in line…but the strength of the connections I made with the residents and my staff members really surprised me.
I knew I would make new friends on staff, but I didn’t anticipate my new friends “replacing” the ones I had made my first year. My first-year friends were great, don’t get me wrong…but my old roommate ended up transferring, and the rest of my friends wanted to do what some college kids choose to do…drink and have “fun”. At that time I was not in a position to lose my job, so I could only hang out with them when I either was not on duty, working the desk, or when they were not making choices that would put me in jeopardy. So I ended up bonding with my staff members. They were a really great group. Many of the older ones took me under their wing, and the rest of us bonded because we were new. There were many ups and downs, but I remember coming out of my first year thinking wow…this is actually fun!
Even though I had made strong bonds with many people, I knew that my relationship with my residents needed to be different the second year. I decided to come in for my first floor meeting and laid it all out for my residents. I was honest, and told them I would be holding them accountable for any policies broken. But I also told them that I was there to help and that my door would be open whenever I was around. Based off of feedback from my first year, I also told them the first night would be tough as first-year students and if they felt homesick to come talk to me. Well. At the end of the year my residents told me that they did not like me that first night and said they thought I was way too strict…but I also know that I had residents come to me that night and say they needed to talk because they were homesick.
That really describes my relationship with my residents that year. I got to know them, but I did what I said and I held them accountable, and in the end I think I had a really strong bond with most of my residents on that floor. They got to know me as a person and I have really fond memories of hanging out in my room at 2 in the morning, watching a movie and eating pizza with them, or hanging out and talking about life in the common room. They were a special group, and I am glad I can now call some of them my best friends. They’re graduating this year, and I could not be more proud of who they grew up to be!
While my relationship with my residents was stronger, my relationships with some of my friends were failing. It was a product of a lot of different things, one of them being my own insecurities. I wasn’t really sure who I was or who I wanted to be. I began to question a lot of things going on in my life. I also started going into the classroom that year…and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. This should have been a big sign of what was to come, but at the time I had no idea.
That summer for me was a time of reflection and of change. I really thought about what I needed to do to be happy, and started to do those things. It was the best that I had felt in a very long time. So I started that year on the note, with some of my old friendships dissolved, ready to finish out the year.
I quickly discovered that something still was not right. I made a lot of new friendships, but I was working two jobs while also going into a classroom three times a week and I felt spread way too thin. I was miserable, because I really did not like the classroom I was in and really felt robbed when my friends could hang out and I had to go to bed because I had to get up early the next day. Right around Thanksgiving, I got sick, and it really threw me off. I felt like I couldn’t catch up with my work or my programming. Everything was suffering, and because of the summer I knew I needed to do something about it to get back my happiness. Towards the end of the fall semester I had a breakdown and knew I needed to give something up. I didn’t want to give up my two jobs, because they were my only source of happiness lately. I felt better when I was working or talking with my residents…and I also didn’t want to let my staff down. The only thing I could bear to give up was…teaching. It was a shocking moment for me when I realized it, but now it really makes a lot of sense. Hindsight, as they say, really IS 20/20.
Luckily my alma mater required education majors to have a concentration area, which was essentially another major, which I had already completed all the requirements for. I knew I could graduate, but the question is what would I do for my career? I had been toying with the idea of working in Housing while I got my Master’s in Education…but now I realized I could do Housing, or Student Affairs, full time! It was perfect, and it seemed like a no-brainer.
The next semester was filled with applying to graduate school after graduate school, hoping and praying I would get an assistantship. Through a Higher Education interest group, I received a scholarship and decided to go to the Oshkosh Placement Exchange to interview for assistantships. I went by myself, and what. A. Trip. It was overwhelming and I was honestly ready to go anywhere. I interviewed with schools across the country, and thought I had a few leads. I pursued a few of those but with no luck.
I was starting to get nervous when I received a call from my current institution asking for an interview for my current position as an Assistant Hall Director. I had interviewed with them at the conference but they hadn’t stood out at the time. As I did more research I was like…WOAH! This school has everything I was looking for! It was medium-sized, Division I athletics, in metropolitan area in the South. How did it pass me by the first time? I wasn’t sure. All I knew is this was it, this was definitely where I wanted to be.
I passed that interview, and went on to the next one, and then the next thing I knew they were offering me the position! I was ecstatic…but then I needed to get into the school. I bit my nails off my hands and worked my butt off for two weeks but I applied to the school…and got in. It was official! I was moving to start my new career.
To be continued….*StarWars scroll*