I’m going on my eighth year living in a college dorm. Those of you who were itching to sign a lease September of sophomore year may not understand the allure. So I went to Calvin for four years and lived in the dorms all four years (two in RVD as a resident and two in KHvR as an RA). Then I lived in dorms as a Resident Director at Geneva College for three years as I furthered my education. I never expected to still be living in a dorm at twenty-six, and I especially did not expect that my path would lead back to my alma mater. I know dorm life is not for everyone, but I love it. I am energized by students’ initiative, optimism, thoughtfulness, spontaneity, curiosity, and pursuit of congruence between what they value and how they live. I live among students who prompt me in continual learning and the pursuit of wholeness.
It is a beautiful and strange thing to be back in Grand Rapids and especially to be back at Calvin as a Resident Director. In my three months back, I’m often asked the same questions:
“Is it weird returning to Calvin but not being a student anymore? Do you ever feel like an imposter?”
Yes. Yes and no. I don’t feel like a college student anymore. And while I don’t feel like an imposter in my role as an RD in BHT, I do sometimes feel like an imposter when I enter spaces that I once frequented with familiarity.
Last night I walked through the fifth floor of the Hekman library at ten o’clock in pursuit of something “fun” to read (because I have time for that now). In a space I once foraged gracefully, I now plundered self-consciously. Every squeak of my shoe disrupted the silence of the studious nearby. They stared me down, the backpack-less twenty-six year old invading their sacred space at prime study time. (I’m sure that analysis is irrational.) (But still, I’m not going to the library that late at night again.)
Last week, Third Bolt and Third Heyns gathered in the lobby for a floor outing to somewhere very fun – probably Art Prize. Their venture started with dinner at the newly renovated Commons (which now includes a specialty pizza oven, high top tables, and LED lighting, in case you were wondering). I could hear the laughter and excitement building in the lobby as I left my office. I used to thrive off that kind of extroverted energy, but now the vitality in the air was too much for me to intake. I quickly skirted past the crowd and keyed into my apartment for solace.
I tell people that being an RD keeps me young, and in many ways it does. But in other ways, living among college students is a constant marker that I’m growing older.
”What was your experience like at Calvin as a student?”
Hard. Hard and good. My memory of college is a haze of sleep-deprived days, emotionally-charged conversations, confused feelings, existential crises, laughter, and tears. Every emotion seemed heightened. All the time. And it’s no wonder; I survived off five hours of sleep a night and a steady diet of bagels and bananas taken out of Knollcrest. I wish I could tell my nineteen-year-old self that a regular eleven o’clock bedtime, well-balanced meals, and daily yoga truly can bring stasis to life.
”What advice do you have for college students?”
You don’t have to be as busy as you make yourself. Put away your phone for a few hours and take a solitary walk. The major you choose does not necessarily dictate the path you’ll take, so take classes you’re interested in. Remember to sleep. Sleep is always most important. But try not to oversleep too much; mornings are too precious to continually miss.
Don’t feel rushed to find your future partner. Remember: You are strong. You are capable. You are complete.
Get off campus. Go on adventures. Hang out in Grand Rapids. Explore. Attend (often free – or very inexpensive) concerts, arts events, and lectures in the community. Make friends at coffee shops and listen to their stories. Learn how to ask people thoughtful questions. Learn what questions are just bad questions. Ask for feedback often. Seek out perspectives that are different than your own, but not with the goal to prove your own as best. Engage fully in one main cause you care about instead of trying to spread yourself thin over ten different passions.
Find your belonging in communities that push you toward wholeness.
“Where are you from? Where is home?”
I’m from a lot of places – Kanawha, Iowa; Wellington, New Zealand; Randolph, Wisconsin; Brooklyn Park, Minnesota; Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania; Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Home is where I can return and feel known. Home feels both familiar and new. Home is both ordinary and extraordinary. Home always stays the same. Home always changes.
Often, I’ll walk past those significant spaces on campus that graciously held my tear-filled conversations, all-nighters, hilarious pranks, Calvin walks, and breakups. I see new students carrying on life; these are their spaces now. It is their turn to have tear-filled conversations, pull all-nighters, enact (from an RD perspective, not-quite-so hilarious) pranks, go on Calvin walks, and endure breakups. They get to remain unaware of the thousands of students who came before them, inhabiting and creating meaning in the spaces that are now theirs to embrace. They are Calvin College.
I’m from many places, and I currently inhabit a familiar and new space that is both ordinary and extraordinary. It is always the same, and it always changes. Currently, I live off the lobby in Bolt-Heyns-Timmer hall. And right now, I’m content to call this place home.
”So, like, what do RDs do after they’re RDs?”
Well I’m obviously going to live in a dorm until I retire.