It’s been too long since my last post and even though tons of stuff has happened over the past few weeks, I’ve struggled to pinpoint a new topic to write about. I began working as a Resident Director (RD) in the middle of last month and just finished up my first week training RAs. I’ve learned an incredible amount – both things I expected and things I did not – since starting this new job.
Below are some of the lessons and realizations I encountered unexpectedly these first few weeks.
1. Being older doesn’t necessarily make transition easier.
My transition from high school to college was rough. Even with the rowing team as a source of instant friendship, it took until my second semester of freshman year before I felt 100% comfortable. Going into this new chapter of my life in Indianapolis, I thought the transition would be easier; I was used to living away from home and had already started to familiarize myself with the area and with the people here. However, about three days after moving in, I became shockingly homesick.
I didn’t long for my childhood house in the same way that I did at the start of undergrad; instead I desperately wanted to be back in Oxford, which had become synonymous with “home” over the previous four years. At first, I felt embarrassed for being homesick at 22, but I’ve come to reason that there are huge changes happening and I have every right to miss what I left behind.
2. Human connection is critical.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have Nora, my friend and former roommate from Miami, living in the area. I can’t fathom moving to a place without knowing anyone and it’s been great to spend time with someone with whom I already have an established friendship. I was also lucky that my first and second weeks brought visits from my friends, Ingrid and Katie, who provided some familiarity amidst the change.
Still, it’s been tough not having a large group of friends…..or even people who I can spend a couple hours with for coffee…around. I know I’ll find my people once classes begin later this month, but in the meantime, I’m dealing with a severe hug shortage.
3. Support systems are vital.
This relates closely to the previous point on human connection, but is worth its own subheading because it entails a step further than simply connecting. Know who you can rely on to be there for you when you need it most. Include people you work with (it’s nice to be able to talk to someone without having to re-explain your job), but branch beyond that. Friends from work can be great, but sometimes it’s nice to have outside perspectives.
I’m beyond thankful for the support I’ve received from college friends, mentors, student affairs professionals, former supervisors/professors/colleagues, people I met during grad school interviews, and family as I work to orient myself, find connection, and understand my new role.
4. Mistakes are not tattoos.
The mindset that mistakes are permanent marks against us is something I’ve struggled with for a very long time. I rarely believe another person’s mistakes tarnish them permanently, but I often tell myself that my mistakes are there to stay. I once explained this to my therapist, saying I imagined my mistakes and wrongdoings like little black tally marks that appeared on my skin and could not be removed.
But mistakes are not black marks on the skin; they’re not the first things people see when they look at one another. And they’re not permanent. I’ve made hella mistakes during my first three weeks here and there are many more to come, but I’m blown away by the power of forgiveness. People are okay with (and actually prefer) me being a human. The biggest slip-up I had was trying to be anything but.
5. It’s okay to say what’s on your mind.
This is another big one for me because I was raised in a family that doesn’t spend much time talking about feelings. The correct answer to “How are you?” is almost always “Good” or some variation thereof. It’s taken a lot of conscious thought to get into a headspace where I share exactly what I’m thinking and feeling with colleagues and other supportive people who are genuinely interested in knowing those things, but I’m getting better at it.
6. God is there and He listens.
This is not unsolicited religious advice; it’s simply relevant to my journey and my experience. Some parts of these past few weeks have been amazing and some parts have been rocky, but God has been there through all of it. He has provided love, guidance, and patience beyond measure. He’s been with me at my loneliest and has forgiven me when I’ve messed up. Despite all of the changes happening within me and around me, God remains constant.