Alright, it’s been a little over a month since my year a a Residence Don came to an end, and my stipend cheque just came in the mail, so I’m in the clear. I think it’s about time I talk about my experience as a don. Because an experience it sure was.
I’m glad I waited so long to write this post because the last few days as a don were full of a lot of, for lack of a better term though this is totally the best term, bitch work. So I imagine an earlier post would be a little too ranty and totally cramp my style. So now that I’ve had time to chill, I am not just going to go off on an 800 word complaint fest (sorry if that’s a disappointment). First of all, that is because the negatives of my year as a don are definitely the minority that sometimes feel like the majority. It was a fabulous job and I want to give credit where credit it due. On top of that, I’m still kind of definitely employed by Student Housing and Residence Life next year so I’d like to save face, because this is a very public blog.
I’ll get the somewhat bad stuff out of the way first, partly to please all of those who are probably only reading this for the scandal.
(There wasn’t much scandal. Okay maybe there totally was. But not like, a lot.)
This job preps you to deal with some pretty crazy shit. Like, I’m talking crazy crazy (though I shouldn’t be using the word ‘crazy’ because it isn’t inclusive language). I was trained to handle conflict, abuse, mental health, injuries, diversity, alcohol, and suicide to name a few fields. During training I thought, hey, look at all these sweet transferable skills I am developing, but will I ACTUALLY use them this year? Residence can’t be that bad, right?
Well, bad maybe isn’t the right word. Unpredictable. I was woken up a few times in the middle of the night (while NOT on duty, might I add), I helped out a number of people who had enjoyed their alcohol quite liberally, and I even handled more than one situation of a student contemplating suicide. You could be trained for these kinds of situations over and over and over and never truly be ready for them when it’s real life. You feel this sense of authority that makes you think you know everything about everything, until it’s three in the morning and you have no idea what you’re doing and you’d really just like to call your mom. Because I’m just a student, too. I don’t mean sound bitter. While every tough situation I faced this year was emotionally exhausting, if I could go back and remove myself, I wouldn’t. I am so glad I was there every single one of those times because I felt like I helped in some capacity. Because that’s what the job is: you help students transition and adapt, even when that goes awry. You help them see that sometimes they fall of the path but it’s okay because there are people there who care, and it will improve.
There is a pretty big part of Residence Life that bothers me, and I’m going to talk about it because it isn’t really the fault of administration or staff, it’s just the way that residence works. Residence is such a contained, exclusive thing that kind of exists as it’s own mini universe, so everything that goes down within is is simultaneously the biggest deal in the world, and not a big deal at all. A lot of the incidente I witness or partook in this year were discussed and dealt with and gossiped about in such a way that made them feel like they were the be all and end all of incidents, that a small part of the world was collapsing in on itself at that moment in time. But when you stepped back and looked at residence from the outside, a lot of them were not as big of a deal as everyone made them out to be. At the same time, when I was directly involved in what felt like very serious situations, they hit me hard and consumed my thoughts, but sometimes I felt like no one else, particularly administration, thought they were as big of a deal as I did, so I felt like I was overreacting. This is a kind of weird and confusing and strange dichotomy so I wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t make sense, because residence doesn’t really make sense. And there isn’t much of an immediate solution to this, because that’s what happens with mini universes. Residence Life is the epitome of a tempest in a teapot.
(If you don’t know what that phrase means, look it up. It’s one of my favourites.)
It was also just a super hard job in general. It is a huge time commitment, because you are kind of a don all the time, even on your off hours. It isn’t just a couple meetings and the occasional social. I mean, it could be. But if you try and care and are invested, there is a lot of planning. I couldn’t tell you how many hours I spent on paperwork alone. It’s a job that never really leaves you and is always on your mind, which can drive you a little crazy. Whoops, uninclusive language again. SUE ME.
Okay enough of that. On to the good stuff!
I have said this a whole lot of times, but being a don has honestly changed my life for the better. I learned an unfathomable amount of things this year, from valuable life skills, to how to communicate with people, to just being a better person. I broke down shyness barriers and didn’t let myself be afraid to put myself out there. I became an even better leader than I already was, and learned how to take a lot of initiative and responsibility. I figured out that the world is much bigger than just me or my program, and I felt much more attached to the school that I give all the dollars to.
I also met a bunch of super cool people. Like, a whole bunch. The staff I was part of was full of people who shared similar views and values as me, and who appreciated and brought out a lot of my talents, which was incredibly refreshing. My roomie was the most perfect level of chill that I could hope for, and provided me with snacks and scavenger hunts when I was stressed (and didn’t scare me too many times). Plus I met some pretty ballin students (literally, because I balled hard with a group of them). My students were all absolute angels and I owe them a lot of making my experience amazing. If any of you 6th floors Loons are reading this, you are the absolute best and I couldn’t have done it without you. I also met so many students outside of my own community who were really interesting to talk to and get to know and just generally be around. Seriously, guys, holla at my next year; I’ve still got meal plan left for Starbucks dates. I am in a very contained program where I spend the majority of time with the same 18 or 90 people, and everyone in the program says to make friends outside of the program, and they’re right. And not just because your class will drive you crazy if you don’t take a break, but because you forget that other humans exist, and you’ll miss out on the pretty wonderful people out there that could affect your life.
I had some pretty silly and entertaining incidents happen this year, too. A group of students asked me to go to a strip club with them, and even offered to buy me a lap dance. Some girls serenaded me with some lovely Katy Perry music at midnight while wearing the most attractive makeup. A student casually hit on me throughout the whole year, and we were both very aware of it. I planked in a student’s room during a game of Heads Up. I was sent too many hilarious snapchats to count. I smack talked hard during heated intramurals. I used uninclusive language. I swore. I sassed. I broke a lot of rules. I had the time of my life.
It’s actually heartbreaking that I won’t be going back next year. Sure, it was a hell of a year and it was a hell of a lot of work, but I would never take it back. You don’t understand what it’s like to be a don until you are one. And even then you don’t understand it. But you just kind of… feel it. Am I getting to cheesy here? Oh well. It was a very big part of my life and I’m still getting used to the whole “was” part. Shout out to everyone who was involved in making my time on RLS super rad.
Forever a loon.