I am 26 years old, and I live in three adjoining dorms rooms that have been converted to the loosest definition of “apartment.”
I have my own kitchen, my own bathroom, a bedroom and a living room. It is well-furnished, passably-appointed, and yes, there are cinder block walls.
I do not pay rent. I have free digital cable that includes more channels that I’d ever, ever want and free high-speed internet access. I only pay the taxes of my cell phone bill, which includes more text messages and minutes than one person could possibly use in a month. I do not pay for utilities, most of my furniture is new or nearly-new, and I’m provided with an ample meal plan. If I don’t want to, I never have to cook. Ever.
I do not deny that this is certainly The Good Life, or some version thereof.
With the current state of our nation’s economy, I’m sure there are many of you out there who are jealous of this description of my life. And you should be, because it’s pretty dang sweet. I recommend it to anyone who is willing to put up with living side-by-side with 18- and-19-year-olds, eat in a college cafeteria, and handle the ups and downs of running a residence hall.
Funnily enough (to me, at least), it’s not as tantalizing when I describe it that way.
Working in Residence Life (“Res Life” to us pros) requires a special kind of patience and a sometimes infinitely-high threshold of, well, I guess tolerance is the right word. But at the same time, I contend that it’s not an occupation reserved for those hyper-involved undergrads who just loooooooooved college so much they never ever wanted to leave (omg omg omg!). Sure, there are the diehard folks who seem to take some kind of sadistic pleasure in getting woken up at 3:00 am for fire alarm (or at least they get pleasure from bitching about it to everyone who will listen) or who succumb to a full-on grand mal seizure when they hear someone call their place of residence a “dorm” as opposed to the more pleasant-sounding “residence hall.” I fear that these folks sully the reputation of this kind of work, because we’re not all crazies, I swear.
As I’ve been trying to illustrate, there is no better way to extend your college glory days indefinitely than by working in a student-affairs-related capacity at a college or university. Taking on a position as a live-in (or even live-on) staff member gurantees that you are at least somewhat of a “people person” who at least begrudgingly accepts the responsibility of being a “first responder” of sorts when the shit hits the fan (this is not always a metaphor. College kids be nuts).
But the greatest aspect, and the one that I fear the hardcore “lifers” just don’t get, is that you can seriously have your cake and eat it too. The “masters in higher ed” flock seem to have the tendency to become so enveloped in their work that it starts to define them. And that’s okay, to a point. But what some of these folks don’t get is that they have the most bitchin’ opportunity in front of them: play with the college kids (be silly, do stupid–yet legal–shit, spend money that isn’t yours on dumb stuff like building a 40-lb ball of play-doh), but then go home. Be an adult (okay, so you might be an adult who has an extraneous pager or cell phone occasionally on your person in case The Call comes, but just go with me here), because you are one. Don’t stagnate in the lives of your residents, go out and create one of your own: one where you get paid to Jell-o wrestle (or at least document it), but one where you also go home some nights and relax (maybe watch some CSI: Miami, for example, or write in your Web log) and have “you” time, or, alternatively, go out with pals that you don’t work with, or if you do, have conversations where the words “resident” or “meeting” or “hearing” or “incident” never ever EVER come up.
As Miley Cyrus might say, it’s the best of both worlds.