One of the best parts about being an RA in college is also one of the worst things. And no one can tell you or warn you out of it. You just have to go through the good (total apex high) and the bad (deep, valley low, so deep that no cellphones receive signals). You experience it first in the fall when you are fresh from training, armed with pristine door decorations and a bazillion and four ideas for programs. You are so ripe for meeting your ruddy-faced residents.
The rooms of your floor are all open, the floors are the cleanest they will ever be, and each open cellblock speaks of the real learning that will transpire here, nevermind the textbooks and lab reports, it is here where the hearbreaks and breakthroughs will go down, all of which you will experience, albeit sometimes tangentially, simply because you are RA. In loco parentis.
This is the best. But this is also the worst.
Because the same emptiness that was so pregnant with promise then in mid-August is the emptiness that you will meet again in May. When all the door decs have been defaced and discarded. When all the rooms are once again vacant. You will see the ghosts of your residents and hear the echos of their cries and their laughter.
And you will be left behind.
I know college has been over for a long, long time for me. I know I am no longer an RA. And thank God because drunk people pushing shopping carts up and down stairwells? Not as hilarious at 3a as they once were.
But I can still feel that emptiness. Like all of my residents had come for an extended stay in the hotel of my heart and then had ceremoniously checked out at the same time. VACANCY.
If there is one thing I hate, it is being left behind. I am a firstborn. I will try everything first, I will do everything fast. I will drop you off at the airport but then I will go do something fantastic just so I can feel that while you are readying for take-off, I will not be the one waiting back at Terminal A.
I have said goodbye to so many friends leaving Boston. But this time, I will not be left behind. And that is also the worst part. With each box packed, I am reminded. We are leaving nothing behind....
Fall 1999. Sophomore RA. My residents Kate and Leah snuck up and took this photo. They couldn't believe I wore that ugly coat in public.