It was just after midnight on a beautiful Friday night, not unlike the one we had just last night. I wasn’t sleeping – I had a paper due that following week for a research class I was required to take, so, naturally, I was watching the X-Files on Netflix. The tapping on my door made me jump – did I imagine that? Was it something that had happened in the show? Was the Cancer Man outside my door, ready to take me out for wanting to believe? – so I carefully tiptoed over to the peephole in my door and peered outside.
It wasn’t the Cancer Man – it was one of my residents staring back at me through the tiny, warped hole. I had been an RA for a few months now, but no one had ever so much as responded to my overly-cheery emails, let alone come by to talk. As I opened the door, the smell of DC spring hit me, along with something else – very, very cheap beer. With a sheepish smile, he looked up at me, and said, “I know it’s late, but do you have a second?” And so I let him in.
We talked for hours, what exactly about, I couldn’t say. I know he was having a rough time with his two roommates, who had once been his closest friends but now chose to rush a fraternity and seemingly, left him behind. I know he was struggling with his parent’s divorce at home, and that the girl next door who I’d seen sneaking out his door late at night was now seeing a senior off campus. It didn’t really matter what the issue was – he had come to me to talk, and I was there to listen. It wasn’t until I found a handwritten note underneath my door the next day, explaining how much it meant to him that I was willing to let him in at such an ungodly hour and just talk for a few hours, did I realize how much my residents meant to me. And slowly but surely, I found that more and more of his friends, my kids, my people, would swing by to say hi, or ask me a question, or talk out their latest freshman-year drama.
The same sentiment rings true for a particular group of young gentlemen I spent the better part of my college experience with. During my sophomore year, my two best friends rushed the same fraternity and (at first) unwillingly dragged me into a foreign world of Greek life – parties, philanthropy, you name it. It took almost a year, but I found myself knowing the name of every single brother in the organization; and beyond that, I found myself calling them friends. These were the boys who taught me showed me that men can still have virtue, and honor, in the way that someone always offered to walk me home from a friend’s apartment without fail. These were the boys whose diligence and devotion to their chapter was evident in the way they held themselves to a consistently higher standard. And these were the boys who taught me that brotherly love extended far beyond their own chapter – they were willing to open their hearts and their arms and share that brotherly love with a couple of lucky ones, just like me.
I went to a barbecue for those graduating seniors last night and couldn’t believe how many intelligent young men I had been so lucky to watch grow up were now ready to cross the stage. I sat and chatted with one of my best friend’s “little,” who I can distinctly remember meeting four years ago as an eager, sarcastic freshman ready to return the sass at any opportunity. I hugged a friend who managed to graduate a year early and had to remind myself that the first night I met him, playing cards in one of the apartments as he got to know the brothers, was over three years ago. I met the parents of a young gentleman who used to keep me company during my late-night desk shifts, writing his papers and joking with me about the failures of our mutually-adored sports teams. I told a younger girl that I met last night that these were the boys I knew I could call no matter the hour or the problem. I told her that they were wonderful, and caring, and I wouldn’t have made it through my four years without them, without my people, and that’s when her boyfriend (a new brother) interrupted me. “It’s funny,” he said, his arm draped effortlessly around her. “Several of the guys, when pointing you out, have said the same thing about you.”
And of course, that’s when I teared up in front of two virtual strangers and quietly excused myself to go bury my face in the back of a friends shirt to stop the flow of feels, but that’s neither here nor there, now, is it?
My people, though – my talking about my people really wouldn’t be complete if it weren’t for the multiple staffs I’ve worked with in my 5+ year stint with my current department. I loved befriending the new kids on staff every semester, teaching them how to best procrastinate on your homework at the desk; the little tricks and shortcuts when it came to patrolling the buildings on duty; the best places to go study when you just couldn’t handle another resident knocking at your door; the best off-campus hideouts where the residents DIDN’T go. I’ll admit, some of these kids I might have groomed for bigger and better things, and I take pride in seeing them accomplish huge things both in-and-out of the residential life aspect of things. I’m going to miss talking to the desk receptionists in my office about the scandalous shows on TV. I can’t imagine certain staffs without certain student leaders taking charge when a crisis hits, whether it be that there’s a fire drill on campus or there’s a potential armed gunman on the loose. They understood what it meant to have Halloweekend duty calls or why it was absolutely imperative that you end up laying upside down on my black futon at least once after a particularly stressful staff meeting, and play with the blue pig until you felt better. These were your staff, but they were your friends, and more importantly, your family – and to see them grow up and move on is more than I could have ever asked for.
A year out from my own graduation, I’ve spent the better part of this weekend in complete denial as I watch these residents, these gentlemen, these staff members, this family I’ve grown to love and loved to watch grow cross the stage and ceremonially turn into real people with real jobs and real futures ahead of them. I couldn’t list all of the people I’m so proud of this weekend, because I could write post after post about every one of you and each individual accomplishment you’d had, every dream I know you’ll succeed in. That’s why I decided to congratulate you all – you know who you are – and remind you how genuinely happy and proud I am that you’ve made it this far. Every single one of you has made such a distinct impact on my life, and I wish you the best in all that you decide to do.
Best of luck, Class of 2014. I love you!