Reblog from my post for the studentaffairscollective.org. This post is part of the month-long series #SAConnects, focusing on the relationships between great humans that make up the field of SA. For more information, check out the intro post by Sabina De Matteo. Check out other posts from this series too!
When I think back to what originally connected me to this field, I can’t help but smile at how cliché of a beginning I had. Like so many of the students I work with or interview during our department’s selection weekend, the answer is simple: I became interested in this profession because of an RA.
Disclaimer: I did not plan on working in students affairs when I first became an RA (who does?!). And my reason for joining this field had no intention of embarking on a full-time career in student affairs, either. Funny how these things work out, right?
Unlike the students who sit across from me at an interview table talking about their floor community and how instrumental their RA has been in making our school feel like home, I didn’t stick around my Community Living department because of floor socials and roommate connections. Instead, I stayed because my support system was rooted in that department.
I didn’t have the best junior year of college. Instead, I was working through a lot of suppressed emotional issues that resulted from past unhealthy relationships, which had started impacting my ability to be an RA, let alone a good one. There were times that year when I felt that I would drown from everything that I was thinking and feeling. As someone who does not talk about her problems or emotions well AT ALL (not a big fan of the #feels), this was indescribably difficult. There was a lot to process, a lot to consider, and a great deal to come to terms with. But through it all I had my dyad, Christine.
Part of RA training at my undergrad involved choosing a dyad, creating a pair out of two people who did not previously know each other well. Dyad pairings then spent some time together throughout training getting to know one another in order to build a rapport that could turn into a mutually supportive friendship. At the time I never would have expected my dyad would become one of my best friends. Five years later we have survived two graduate school searches, personal loss, and the demands of maintaining a long distance friendship. It’s a friendship I hope to never lose. I can say with all sincerity that if it wasn’t for my dyad, I certainly wouldn’t be in this field. I’m not even sure I would still be here at all, for that matter.
Christine has helped me come to terms with my least favorite parts of myself. She encouraged me to pursue a career in student affairs, saying that my ability to survive difficult situations and empathize with others having similar experiences would make me an asset in the field. As someone who transitioned from being a fellow RA to a supervising Hall Director at our undergraduate institution, she taught me what it meant to be a good supervisor who could possess and sustain personal relationships with those under their supervision while maintaining appropriate professional distance as necessary. She is everything I look for in a student affairs professional; I hope to be half as good at all of this as she is one day.She is the first person I go to for advice, to share my triumphs with, or to mourn my losses. She’s my rock.
As a professional and a soon-to-be professional (can I get a HURRAY! for graduation in May?!) , we are no longer at the same institutions. We’re not even in the same state anymore. But despite the distance, our friendship is still rock solid and we continue to actively invest in each other. I’m so thankful and fortunate to have her in my life.
Now I don’t even mind sharing most of my #feels with her.