Category Archives: My Busiest Year

This is a column written by Michele Elaine Hannon, one very busy college student.

“Three Lessons I Learned As a Resident Assistant”

MICHELE ELAINE HANNON, author of our “My Busiest Year” column, reflects on her first semester as a resident assistant and shares three of the lessons she learned.

The author with her fellow Resident Assistants.

When I applied to be a Resident Assistant my freshman year, I didn’t make the cut due to a very rough first semester. Sophomore year, I reapplied. I had a higher GPA and more determination than ever. I was crushed unlike ever before when I accidentally received an e-mail saying I didn’t get it.

Then, on February 22, 2011 at some point in the afternoon, I learned I got the RA position, and to date, it is one of the happiest moments of my life. I found myself thanking every lucky star I apparently had and didn’t know about.

Later, one of my interviewers told me he wanted me to work in Peabody Hall because I “had the right artistic spirit for it.” I was honored. I’ve never thought too much of myself so hearing a stranger say that really brought a smile to my face.

The training class in the spring came and went in the blink of an eye, and after a really tough summer, I found I’d arrived at August 11, the first day of actual training. Moving in, I found myself more thrilled than I think I even was on my first day of college. I met the other six fellow RAs, my two bosses and settled into my room. I had high expectations for that day, but I don’t think any expectations could prepare me for the journey I have been on since then.

By the end of training week, I felt like a different person. And now, as the first semester nears its end, I find it crazy to think of who and where I was, and where I’ve landed. One semester of being an RA, and I’ve learned more about life, college and myself than I did in my first two years. Of all the things I’ve learned since becoming an RA, these are probably the three most important lessons:

1 No matter who you are, there is someone somewhere who cares. Might sound cliché, as I’m sure all of these lessons will, but I never realized until this year just how many people I’ve had in my life who truly give a crap that I exist. And the same goes for others. I’ve had some people come to me as an RA with some of the saddest things imaginable, and it was my job to tell them how much they matter. I reminded these students that even if it was only me, someone out there who loves her and thinks her life is the most precious gift.

Forget diamonds; a well-organized calendar is a girl’s best friend. It’s often said that time management is one of the most important life tools and saying that to a high school or college student is essentially like talking to a brick wall. The tendency is to think, “I got this,” or “I’ll just wing it.” Face it. Life don’t work that way, sister. I recently started to hardcore use a Google calendar and it’s one of the smartest things I’ve done in a long time. It keeps my head together, lays out everything that must be done and even lets me code it in pretty colors to distract me from how intimidating such a large amount of work is. I honestly look back on my life before my calendar and wonder how the heck I got anything done. [Editor’s note: Before she started using Google’s Calendar, she missed every single deadline we gave her.]

3 Life goes on. This is the simplest lesson but also the one of most importance. This semester, I held a program based on the idea of Post Secret, a community art project started a few years back by a man named Frank Warren in which he sent post cards out to people he knew and asked them to anonymously send it back with a secret. I went about to the whole building passing them out and ultimately about twenty something residents came and we shared some incredibly amazing things.

The strength and courage in these kids completely blew me away. Their maturity, despite being only a few months out of college, and the things they overcome each day was truly eye opening. It made me take a look at my own life. I’ve been through a lot of, well, I’ll be plain, a lot of shit in my life. Lost very close family, struggled with intense bullying from my first day of pre-school to even today, been financially screwed in every which way, and without the housing I have on campus, I technically don’t have a home. But despite all this, I get up every day, and so do these kids who have been through things equally as painful, and in some cases, even worse.

But what I found the most beautiful was that of all the cards, one submitted was left almost entirely blank, and on the lower right corner, someone wrote the phrase, “Life goes on.” It’s three little words that put every other card in perspective. Family problems? Life goes on. Love gotcha down? Life goes on. Feel so stressed you could bash your own head in? Life goes on. No matter what happens in life, things are always going to go on, till one day they won’t anymore, and I don’t want that to be a day where I’m regretting the little things that get me down. Every second is an incredible gift, not to be wasted.

I don’t think if I hadn’t been an RA this year and met the amazing people I’ve met and experienced the things I have, I would have realized what I wrote about in that last lesson. Without the people I’ve met, I wouldn’t be the girl writing this essay. But I’m glad I did meet them, and I’m surprised to say, I’m finally happy with who I am.

From M.L.T.S. Magazine‘s third issue, released in December 2011.

Advertisements

MY BUSIEST YEAR: A Lot to Learn

This past week was utterly nuts. No two ways around it.

As an RA, I had to meet with all of my residents one on one to fill out Roommate Agreements, I had residents coming to me with their personal issues, had my first hospital run and had to fulfill all other more regular duties.

For class, I had a list the length of a full piece of paper detailing all of the work I had to get done, only half of which I actually had the time to complete. I had a lot of planning to do and still have yet to do for Mirrorwall, since we have our first October staff meeting on Monday. I’ve been rehearsing my directing scene, which though it went well, was time consuming for me to look through and really create the vision I want to see come alive in the scene.

I reiterate . . . It’s. Been. Nuts.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel overwhelmed by everything in this past week. I have surely felt like there was much to be done in recent weeks since starting to be an RA/Full time student/Employee/Film company manager all at once, but this past week really did a number on me. I learned a lot about myself from it particularly in terms of how I plan things to get them done. But then, in my attempt to relax while doing not much in particular, I stumbled upon a quote that summed things up perfectly . . .

“The difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson.” -Tom Bodett

This whole year is really going to be one big test for me. Will I crumble under pressure, or will I rise to the challenge and show it who’s boss? Can I truly balance everything as well as I’d like to think I can, or do I sometimes need to throw in the figurative towel and ease back a bit. The tests I’ll endure in this coming year will be far harder than any written exam in my Shakespeare class. But what I take away from that, is that there are still many lessons for me to learn.

One of the things that happened to me this week a lot, was dealing one on one with my residents. I realized from that, that though I may be a few years older than them, and they’re freshmen with a lot to learn, there were things this week I was learning from them. Learning to have patience in the face of ignorance and that a supportive friend can make a world of difference.

Despite all my years of education and academics, I feel like these are the kinds of lessons that really shape who I am and I feel very lucky to have residents who remind me of that.

My residents wrote this next to my door and it made me feel so lucky to have such an incredibly sweet group of girls.

MY BUSIEST YEAR: What’s In A Day?

I’ve always found it interesting to look at how people define their days. Mondays are automatically awful, Fridays are party nights, Tuesdays are the day of the week no one seems to notice, and Saturdays are days where you want to do nothing but relax. These are the socially accepted days of the week. And what I find more interesting, is how strange people find it when you don’t follow the comonly accepted weekly routine.

I say this because both last week, and yesterday, I found myself spending my Friday working, doing homework late into the night. The same for Saturdays. So many people ask how my weekend was, and when I tell them I spent it doing work, they seem utterly shocked. “Why would you be doing all that work on the weekend!?” Well really the answer is simple. When else am I going to have time to do it?

My Monday through Thursday is so packed I scarcely know what to do with myself. Monday and Wednesday  it’s class, work, meetings, Tuesday & Thursday I have four classes almost back to back. So where in there am I supposed to complete my homework? When am I to sit down and make up a meeting plan for my film company? My weekends, which are my only ‘free time’, end up getting consumed by work.

Do I miss being able to kick back and do nothing on a Saturday night? Sure. Though does this mean I never have ANY time to myself? Not necessarily. I may not spend my days lounging about, but I do usually take some time out of my weekend nights (and sometimes weekdays, though that is probably a bad idea) to kick back for two hours and watch a movie with my residents. Movies are always my escape, so it seems only fitting that what little spare time I have is spent watching them.

But those moments of losing myself in a good movie aside, my weekends have become full of work because I have to start getting better at managing my time. All of the things I want to keep myself involved in require my attention, so if I can’t fit it in during the week, I’m really okay with taking my weekend time to do it. If it wasn’t something I loved, I wouldn’t watse the effort when with so much going on, effort is such a precious commoditiy.

So yes, I’ll take the funny looks for studying on a Friday. My film homework might not be a some epic college party, but it is one stepping stone I’m laying down for the road work to a more organized and overal better future for myself, and I think that’s definitely something I can live with.

MY BUSIEST YEAR: I Can’t Stand Still

I have never been good at sitting still. From what family has always told me, I was a fidgety kid. In elementary school I loved making friends with everyone on the playground and even remember starting an unofficial ‘Swing Club’, where I showed the kids how to do crazy things on the swing set. I also was involved in girl scouts, because I just loved the idea of being part of a group. By middle school, there were real clubs to join. Plays to be in, choirs for me to be part of.

Then came high school, and my desire to be involved in everything really started to flourish. By the time I had graduated, I had been part of all five school choirs, did both stage crew and acted in our drama department, I was involved in the telecom department, wrote for the school paper the year they had it, was the co-president of the school GSA and some things I don’t even remember. I was the kid that everyone asked if there was something I wasn’t involved in. It became a big part of who I was.

I assumed college would be just the same, so when I got to the end of my freshmen year and realized I was only in one club for fun and hadn’t done anything else outside of class, I honestly felt a little lost.

Despite the confusion and madness that comes with being involved in everything, it was something I’d grown so accustomed to, and being without it carved a hole in my life. I felt like I was giving up on part a part of what made me, me.

Sophomore year, I told myself things were going to change and slowly but surely, I got involved in more things. I tried doing more with my film company, I started working with Rosella on this little thing called M.L.T.S. (which if you’re reading this now, you know it’s grown to be a lot more than a little thing) and I got something I’d been wanting for years…

I got a position as an RA for my junior year. That was the crowning achievement of it all. I just knew going into it that junior year was going to be the year. I was going to get back to who I was.

And now, three weeks into junior year, I’m realizing that I’m not back to who I was, but I’m actually even better. I’m becoming more skilled at balancing, I’ve become more confident in my abilities, and I’m doing way more this year that I ever have.

This is going to probably be the most hectic year of my life, but I could not be more thrilled. Keeping my head screwed on will probably have its bad days, but I know in the end, when I come out of the school year with a resume that’s made of rainbows, that it will have all been worth it. So what am I up to? Let’s list:

1. I’m an RA

2. I take 16 credit hours

3. I work at my building’s front desk

4. I am the photo editor (and most recently, a blogger) for M.L.T.S. magazine

5. I’m in a paranormal investigative society called T-Lights

6. I am joining the Temple Film Collective

7. I’m starting a show choir with a friend of mine

8. I run a film production company that this coming year has two feature documentaries, one narrative feature, a web show, and several short films in the works.

Phew. As you can see, I’ll be keeping myself occupied. Which brings me to my close. Why am I even writing these blog posts when I’ve got so much going on? Because the written word is a passion for me, a passion unlike any other. Writing keeps me together.

In addition, I’m really realizing that life is a balancing act, a balancing act I am ever learning more about. This year, with so much going on, I’m going to need to find a way to get everything done while not losing my head, and I think sharing what I’m going through trying to do it all will be good for me. And on top of that, I feel with that sharing my venture to balance it all with young women who are in the same boat as me can prove beneficial for them too.

Many of us who are in college, especially those pursuing creative endeavors, are always working to better ourselves. We’re all trying to get through life without just going through the boring motions of a routine. We’re all trying to find joy in what we do, trying to find piece of mind in the fact that all of the insane amounts of work we do now are going to pay off in the long run.

I think by chronicling that adventure for others will make what’s going to be the busiest year of my life, a year worth getting through.