Truth time: Sometimes my job sucks
I work in Student Affairs, specifically within the area of Residence Life. I’m an Assistant Director, which means I work with our learning community programs, academic support initiatives, supervise full-time RDs, serve on committees, attend a lot of meetings, and deal with even more emails. Before this, I was a live-in Resident Director for seven years.
We are in the midst of Careers in Student Affairs Month, a time when we promote our field, tell our story, and jumpstart many an undergraduate student leader to join our ranks. I have been seeing a great number of engagement opportunities, from webinars, to an Instagram contest, to an essay competition, to the ongoing #CSAM hashtag on social media and within blog posts. I love this. Seriously. I think all of these offerings are incredible ways to showcase our work, but in the effort to “sell” Student Affairs, something gets lost in translation.
What gets lost for me is that sometimes my job sucks.
Not all the time, and I would argue not even most of the time, but sometimes, yes, my job sucks. And that needs to be part of the Careers in Student Affairs Month narrative too. Sometimes I have to deal with duty situations at 3am when I would rather be asleep. Sometimes I have to listen to two students argue about the most ridiculous details of living together when I just want to yell, “Grow up already!” Sometimes I gets angry calls from frustrated parents who decide I’m the reason their child isn’t thriving. Sometimes I’ve sought the help of a professional counselor due to a tumultuous relationship with a supervisor. Sometimes I felt guilty for not attending my RA’s programs or worse, felt resentful when I was in attendance when I would have rather been doing anything else. Sometimes I’ve been so frustrated with campus politics that I questioned how progress could ever occur. Sometimes I’ve gone blurry-eyed from the seemingly endless amounts of emails when a good portion of them could be addressed with a simple phone call, or even better, common sense. Sometimes I compare myself to friends in other professions who are purchasing homes or taking incredible vacations because their salaries provide for such luxuries. Sometimes I’m asked to do unthinkable things to support students, including being present when they are told their roommate has passed away. Sometimes I feel totally out of my depth. Sometimes I wonder why I’m trusted to do this work at all. Sometimes I’m exhausted. Sometimes I’m reminded that this is indeed a job, and sometimes it’s a job that sucks.
But most of the time? Most of the time this work feeds my soul. Most of the time I know, at my core, that this work matters.
Most of the time I know that being present at 3am means I can support a student at what may be the worst moment of their collegiate career. Most of the time I’m reminded that the skills students learn during a roommate mediation may influence business, romantic, and friend relationships for years to come. Most of the time I hear the pain and worry in a parent’s voice who really just want to know that their child is going to be okay, and I can help be part of that process. Most of the time I’ve cherished the time I’ve spent with RAs and residents at programs, and the conversations have helped to shape my practice. Most of the time my colleagues and supervisors have helped me navigate campus politics to better serve our student population. Most of the time emails help us take a team approach to solving problems. Most of the time I know that while my friends are buying houses or going on vacations, they’ve never seen the growth of a student or staff member that fills you with so much pride, you can’t help but grin. Most of the time students in crisis thank me, genuinely, warmly, and usually more than once. Most of the time students make me laugh and help me reflect on my place in the world. Most of the time this field makes me examine both my privileged and marginalized identities. Most of the time, this job is not a job at all, but instead a vocation.
So yes, sometimes this job sucks, but I know this job always matters. Always.