I was one of those college kids who changed their majors multiple times, five to be exact. I fervently prayed for God to reveal my calling. When I was junior, I became a Resident Assistant. One night, as I was reading my bible, a couple verses read like a neon sign in the desert:
“Be good shepherds of the flock God has put in your care. Do not care for the flock as if you were made to. Do not care for the flock for money, but do it because you want to. Do not be bosses over the people you lead. Live as you would like to have them live.” – 1 Peter 5:2-4 (NLT)
I swear I read these verses a hundred times that night. I wrote them on a sticky note and placed it directly above my bunk bed, as a reminder of where I’m going.
Near the end of the year, we were asked what our intentions were for the following year. All of my other RA friends were chatting like birds on a wire, “Are you planning on returning? Do you know if Jonny is returning? I heard Kate is returning.” As much as I enjoyed my hall staff and the irreplaceable memories I had formed with the freshmen on my floor, I knew that I was absolutely 100% not returning the next year. Total sleep deprivation? Having uncomfortable disciplinary conversations? Plus, I hadn’t been on a date all year! No thank you. Count me out.
A year later, I graduated with a degree in Social Work and I had successfully held a student leadership position in every office on campus (should I mention that I wrote my thesis on excessive student involvement?). Soon after graduation, I landed my first job and three days in, I quit. I consulted with my professors and after a frustrating conversation where I felt like we were speaking two different languages, I realized social work is actually something totally different than I thought. I sat down and decided to email three of my mentors from college, asking for wisdom and advice. All three recommended the same: a career in Student Affairs.
I enrolled in Grand Valley State University’s College Student Affairs Leadership graduate program. Because I was so late to enroll, I missed all of the assistantship opportunities. The second year of grad school, an assistantship opened in Housing. Based on my wretched RA experience, I was less than thrilled, but still grateful for the opportunity. I soon found that I enjoyed many areas of Residence Life: perfecting processes, planning trainings, mentoring student leaders, and challenging myself in professional development. However, as my job search began, I chose to stick to my specialty in undergrad: student leadership development. I applied for jobs in orientation, new student programs, and student activities. Like most of you #sagrads, I think I sent my resume to every university in the nation at one point. In March, offers started going out and congratulations were in order for many cohort friends. At the end of April, we graduated and I still hadn’t received any job offers. I didn’t even get an on-campus interview. In May, I got married and my spouse and I agreed that I needed to start looking at residence life jobs, as it lined up with my assistantship. Once I started applying to Residence Hall Director positions, interview requests were flooding in. By early June, I had an offer and we were moving to San Francisco.
After a year and half as a Resident Director at the Academy of Art University, I was promoted to Area Coordinator and supervised the First Year Experience Resident Directors. However, we wanted to start a family and our families lived in Texas and Michigan, so I put a couple resumes out there and received an offer from one of my dream schools: Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Baylor was everything I was looking for in a university: excellent academics, unwavering school spirit, a passionate student body, and true to their Christian foundation. Additionally, it was at Baylor University where I learned the beauty of a Residence Hall Director team who deeply cared for one another. However, after five years away from Michigan, I was still unwaveringly homesick and, now with two kids in tow, we decided it was time to settle down in the place we most felt at home. (You can read more about my first attempt at a mid-level job search here.) I accepted another Residence Hall Director position at Central Michigan University this past July. With this being my seventh year as a Residence Hall Director, I’m finding myself back in that place of zealous prayer: “Is this where I’m supposed to be?”
Have you heard that quote, “Life is 90% what happens to you and 10% how you react to it.”? I’m almost ashamed to say it, but I don’t think I’ve reacted in a few years. The moment I realized in my first job search that I was being put in the Residence Life box, I just accepted it and kept moving down the Residence Life career path. Now, a seasoned professional, I’m ready to react. I’m not convinced that Residence Life is the path for me. Well, maybe it is, it’s just that I feel like I’ve never chosen it because I’ve never had other options. In a way, I feel like I’ve been in a long-term relationship and it’s now time to think about marriage. The only problem is, Residence Life is the only one I’ve ever dated. How will I know I’m making the right decision?
My 2015 New Year’s Resolution is to make a choice: Residence Life or another area. I’m going on coffee dates with colleagues in other departments. I’m accepting mentorships by colleagues at other universities. I’m attending conferences. I’m reading books, articles, blogs, anything I can get my hands on to open my eyes to a world outside of Residence Life. In the waiting, I’ll hold on to 1 Peter 5:2-4, selflessly mentoring the students entrusted to my care and modeling a lifestyle of health, truth, and adventure.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Marsha Herman-Betzen on A Story of a Life in SA