This job will wear you down sometimes. There is a constant sense of responsibility for the well being of the people around you that you can never really let go of, not even when you are with your best friends–but at some point, random moments will remind you that it’s worth it. There will be times when that very vigilance, and the constant effort you put in to reach out to every person, may pay off in odd and profound ways.
My first year as an RA, I became good friends with one of my quads of my first year boys. All four of them are great guys–and I’m still somewhat in touch with each of them. But what I didn’t know was that one of the biggest impacts I would have would result from meeting their friends.
One of their very good friends was a guy I’d originally thought was a concert attending, drug-taking rebel who would hate authority figures such as myself. I was right on all account but the last. He became a huge supporter of me, specifically chose to live in my hall the next year, and became a good friend of mine, as did his roommate, who I would also never have met otherwise. As an RA, you become a visible figure in the community. Sometimes, random people will find out about you, and decide that they want to be in your life. It is amazing.
We have a facebook page where people anonymously post scandalous things. Originally lighthearted, things had started to become more serious. I responded carefully and with feeling to a recent post confessing that the poster was struggling with depression, and even worse, suicidal ideation. I asked in a later comment if the poster could keep us updated on how they were doing, and offered to take them to coffee at the school cafe.
To my absolute shock, I got a message a few days later. “You might be shocked to hear this, but I was poster XXX,” the message read, “and I’d love to go out to coffee with you.” It was from a guy I vaguely knew, a close friend of those first year boys from the year before. He had attended one of my community builders, which we had bonded over, but other than that, we’d hardly talked.
We went out for coffee and talked for three hours. It was an amazing conversation. When we first met, he seemed shaky and on the verge of tears. When we left, he was almost chipper, laughing. There was relief in the air. I don’t want to pretend our conversation eliminated his problems–his suicidal ideation continued, even got dangerously worse at points–but I developed an amazing connection with someone who was struggling to connect. He still sends me messages asking me what’s up and inviting me to coffee.
And that is why I do this job.