Rear View Mirror

Coming into the CSSA program, I was nervous about my assistantship. I was hired as an academic partner in-residence (read: the liaison between the residence hall and the University Honors College). The job description was fairly extensive; I was to wear many different hats.

My problem(s)? I had little experience putting on events on my own. I had moved out of the residence halls at Western Washington University after a year and not really participated in residence life. I was a liberal arts student not entirely confident in my ability to relate to studious, primarily science-based Honors students. More than that, most of my interactions with my RAs and RDs at my undergraduate institution had been because I was breaking rules (hi, Mom). And to top it off, I was stepping into a position that was not brand-new; I had shoes to fill.

Well, Tuesday evening my hall staff had its last meeting of the year. It was a night of appreciation and reflection. What I learned was truly inspiring.

We did a round of both written and verbal affirmations for each member on the staff. When it was my turn to sit and listen to what others had to say, I was able to find out what they thought of me and the job I had done.

I am reminded of a quote that I first came across in a communication course: “I am not who I think I am; I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.” Over the past year, I’ve struggled with wondering if I was doing a sufficient job or doing things “right” compared to graduate assistants that previously held my position. I’ve been very insecure in that, to be quite honest. I thought that what I was doing was being held up to a certain standard and that I was most likely failing, especially since I was stepping in after a veteran assistant–one who had wrapped up her second year.

But what I learned was that I’ve been wrong. I learned that my goal of creating community was approached and possibly reached in many different capacities. I heard that I’ve created a welcoming atmosphere, that students see me as a welcoming representative of the Honors College, someone they can approach and talk to. This is exactly what I had talked about in my graduate entrance interviews–I wanted to create that sense of welcoming, of open doors, of no intimidation.

I learned that I’ve put a new spin on several aspects of the job. I heard that I have good ideas for programs, drawing on both creative and unconventional thinking. I was also told that I am an inspiration to be more balanced. Dragon (he asked that be his alias) said he appreciated my ability to remind others that we’re all working on important projects, no matter how different they may look. I heard that I’m a role model in terms of pursuing academics.

What I heard is that I am meeting my goals and expectations. What I heard is that in light of insecurities and anxiousness, I have stepped into my emerging professional role with my personality and outlook and am shaping it into something that impacts people around me.

I did not know what to expect before coming into this role, but what I have found out is this:

…This is why I do what I do.

Please, No Pictures.

Living in a residence hall is taking a toll on my immune system. I’ve officially been sick more often than I’ve been well in the past two months. Ugh.

“Are you taking vitamins?”
Yes.

“Are you exercising?”
Yes.

“Are you eating right?”
YES.

There’s only so much a girl can do when living with 350 other people, using the same elevator, touching the same hand rails, opening the same doors. Agh!

But this is what I signed up for. Sometimes, building community isn’t all fluffy and sunshiney. Sometimes, I have to remember that I’m hopefully making a difference in someone’s day or life, even when I’m resentful that I caught another cold.

This isn’t a field of perfection, and my future career doesn’t come without its challenges. It just happens that my biggest challenge at the moment is how to keep myself well short of bathing in Lysol and rolling around in a bubble. 🙂