Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Timeline: Eighteen and a Half

The first decade can be found here. Then it's eleven & twelve, here's thirteen, this is fourteen, and here's fifteen, and sixteen, and seventeen and eighteen.

Spurred by the fact that their room and board are paid for by the university, my mother convinces me to apply for a Resident Assistant position for my sophomore year of college.  “But I really don’t want to be a Resident Assistant!” I protest.  I’m alarmed by the idea of, at 19, being in charge of so many other people when I’m still figuring out basic things for myself, like how to grocery shop or do laundry.  I like the anonymity that living in a building with 1,100 other people affords.  Still, I gamely fill out the application and, to my great surprise, am granted an interview.  I don’t own a suit (I am, after all, an 18-year-old college student) and so my mother and I piece together what she deems an acceptable outfit: black wool sweater with buttons down the sleeves, no-nonsense grey silk skirt, sensibly short heels, and, much to my chagrin, pantyhose.  I feel like a frumpy schoolmarm.  

Interviews take place in January, before school starts for the spring term, and I drive back to the eerily empty campus in my uncomfortable outfit, determined to bomb the interview so that I won’t be offered the position.  Then, as I’m waiting for my name to be called, a strange feeling comes over me.  I size up the other students in the room, mostly bored-looking boys slouched sloppily in their jeans and rumpled polo shirts, and am determined to beat every single one of them and get that job.  I walk into the interview room with a huge smile on my face and am more gregarious and outgoing in those two hours than I have been my entire first semester of college.  When quizzed later, I truthfully tell my mother that I gave it my all.

In February, once I’ve comfortably settled into my spring second semester classes and nothing feels scarily new anymore, the letter comes that I’ve been given a position for next fall in an all-girls dorm clear across campus, a building I’ve never even actually set foot in before.  I’m overcome with that familiar gut reaction of “but I don’t want to!” and start crying right there in the mail room.  A friend on my hall who also applied didn’t get a position; I see her in the bathroom later and she is genuinely upset.  I feel bad for her, and want to give her my spot, as if that’s how it works.  I don’t tell my mother the news for three days.

I accept the position, turn in the paperwork, and then forget about it, and the semester chugs merrily along.  Summer arrives and I move out of the dorms and back into my childhood room at my parents’ house.  It is the last time I will ever live at home, although I don’t know that then.  I go back to my old job at a clothing store at the mall, hang out with my high school boyfriend and others from the class of 2002 who are around town, home from college or still just figuring their lives out, and things feel almost steady, almost the same.  
This brief tranquility is interrupted, suddenly and forcefully, by the arrival of an official-looking packet from the Division of Housing & Food Services.  It contains reams and reams of documents to be filled out and instructions to memorize before training starts at the beginning of August.  The day I move into my new dorm room it’s 107 degrees in Austin and we’re all sweaty and panting by 10am. The halls are completely empty, and it’s a strange contrast to the year before, when thousands of other freshman moved in on the same day and campus was a bustle of activity.  My family leaves and I am painfully, completely alone.  All the doors and bulletin boards are bare, and everything echoes strangely in the empty communal bathroom.  There is nobody else on my hall, and only 22 people in the 800-capacity building.  For that entire week of training, whenever I return to my room at the end of the day I feel like I’m living in the Overlook Hotel.

2 comments:

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

Awww, I loved this post, because I was also a Resident Advisor in college. I did it my junior year, but was also assigned to a dorm and part of campus where I had never lived. It was honestly one of the best years of my life - and my only regret was bailing on that opportunity my senior year in favor of living in the sorority house (gotta do everything once, but let's just say I wouldn't make that same choice again!)

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

See now I kind of wish I had been an RA but it never occurred to me to do it because I was in a sorority. But I think it would have been a cool experience!