In a blog post that will be little more than a public diary entry, allow me to explain to you what my experience has been like becoming an RA at Sarah Lawrence College. A resident advisor, for those of you who don’t know, is the person who lives in your hall and solves every problem that might arise. Within reason.
I am a liaison for the students and the administration. I am an extension cord, making me the only extension cord that students are allowed to have in their rooms. I had to prepare for this within two weeks, coming off my three week tenure as a three job holder and a tumultuous college move-in during a hurricane. I spent the days in 11 hour shifts becoming an expert in fire safety, Title IX, campus security, bias, LGBT safe zones, online bookstores, conflict management, event planning, resume building, community engagement, and boundary setting.
It all became worth it on the second to last night when we all got to have a dinner party at the president’s house. Cristle, our beloved president, had a buffet on her terrace and badminton and croquet in her backyard. I tried out croquet, because I couldn’t not take advantage of being at her house, and found that I could barely move the ball an inch. I stayed until the end of the party, once again taking advantage of an invitation that won’t come twice, and still did not end up in a single picture.
As an RA, I have to pick a theme for my floor. The theme for my floor is sexy Shakespeare, although I have yet to bring the sexy. I also have yet to bring much Shakespeare to the hall. I finished setting up my hall the night before first year move-in, which also happened to be the night that Hurricane Ida nearly washed away all of Bronxville. All throughout the night I received tornado and flash flood warnings, while I put thumb-tacks into bulletin boards and water slooshed into the lower floors of my building. I also ordered a few pizzas before the hurricane hit, which ended up getting delivered when the streets were flooded. God bless that delivery driver. What a hero.
The next day the storm had ebbed, which meant that move in was calm for the residents, even if it wasn’t calm for me. Living in Hill House, I mostly had first years, which places me in charge of the freshies.
I thought that I would feel like a high priestess atop her tower, overlooking her subjects. Yet, when they arrived on campus and expected me to tell them everything they needed to know about living here for the next four years of their lives, I suddenly didn’t even feel qualified to teach grade school kids how to jump rope.
I ran around the first day with a core of poorly tamped down anxiety, which was sometimes comical even to me, like when I was doing my weird run across campus, screaming out loud when I meant to only do it in my head. Moments later, I’m randomly crying mid-sentence, an amalgamation of the sleep deprived week I’ve had and the need for all of my stress to escape my body in some capacity.
A couple of minutes later, I’m well aware of how phenomenal I am at this and I’m ready to crown myself the most fabulous RA that’s ever lived.
Those around me assured me that I’ll be great and that this is only the start of everything I’ll be able to do. Meanwhile, I’m dispensing with random issues as they come up and disseminating any and all information they could possibly need, making my underarms smell like onions, the way that only deep stress can.
This all begs the question of why I subjected myself to this. I have friends that I like, I am now old enough to understand what I like to do in the city, and I finally have enough work experience to move up on the company ladder to a decent, higher paying job. As a junior, I would have had my pick of campus living and ease my way through a smooth junior year, but instead of being surrounded by my friends all the time and focusing solely on school work and jobs, I decided to do this.
The simple answer is that I did this because I thought it would be good for me. I believe that I am a highly creative person. In my mind the hall decorations and events I planned to put on would make the Met Gala look like dinner theatre. I thought I would have loads of fun picking a theme for my floor and seeing it through for the remainder of the year. Then there was the perks of money, a single room, being the big man on campus, and being able to put on my resume that I had done this.
But most importantly, I thought it would allow me to grow as a person. It would force me to meet more people, both by meeting my fellow RAs and by interacting with my residents in meaningful ways. I would learn how to mediate conflicts, an important skill no matter what I do in life. I would come out of this feeling more like an adult, having grown more confident and able, to the pleasure of everyone around me.
After hosting several floor meetings, in which I told my residents everything that I could remember from my training, I had had several ice breakers in which I asked them to recommend for me either a book, film, tv show, podcast, or fun thing to do in the city. Then I compiled a list and passed it out to each of my residents. Now we all have a list of books to read, shows to binge, podcasts to listen to, films to watch when bored, and fun things to do in the city to see us through the school year. We all have a better understanding of who our fellow residents are and a common language together.
I know that I can be good at this.