Why I Want to Be an RA, Plus a Healthy Dose of Recovery
Prepping for an interview can be a great opportunity to take personal inventory.
Good God, I’m speaking like a guru, like I’m all-knowing and almighty.
You there, let me teach you, let me give you advice, I’m worldly, wise, and cool.
That’s conceit if I’ve ever seen it.
And that’s not what I’m here to do.
I’m here to share my experience, strength, and hope – not to make broad statements about the way we should live. I’m here to be myself – fully, authentically, respectfully, boldly, confidently, unapologetically, [insert synonym here] – and by doing so show others that they can, too.
So let me reframe my opening.
Let me share my experience without qualifying it.
This winter, I applied to be a Resident Assistant for the 2019-2020 school year. I opened this post the way I did in order to highlight its connection to my recovery – to make it obvious, rather than “trusting the intelligence of audience” and letting the recovery speak for itself.
“This isn’t the cool part of your experience, Bella,” said my head. “Write about your hardships, write about your struggles; write about the things people want to hear.
“They want your darkness. They want your demons. They want provocation, controversy, and edge. They want to hear you say you wanted to be anorexic. What you’re about to write isn’t deep or dark. It’s not a secret. It’s day-in-the-life-of-a-college-student stuff. It’s typical. It’s boring.”
Write about your darkness. Write about your demons. Write about the things people want to hear.
AHA! Caught you. Nice try, Rex. That’s anorexia speaking, loud and clear.
Rex assumes she’s the life of the party, that she’s the brightest in the room. She assumes she’s the thing that makes me special.
It’s astonishing how a simple statement like “Prepping for an interview can be a great opportunity to take personal inventory” can be the speech of an eating disorder. It seems so innocent – so clean, so pure – so recovery-oriented. And yet, it’s rooted in disease and fear.
Going out of my way to justify how this post will relate to my recovery before giving it a chance to speak for itself, and doing so in the form of a blanket statement which takes the focus off myself, is the disease, not the recovery. It’s an act of self-protection so subtle I almost didn’t catch it. But, the act of identifying it and exposing here brings me back to recovery.
Bella, you’re in good shape, Girl. Don’t question. Just share.
Truthfully, what I’m about to share relates completely to my recovery, as it reflects how I’m choosing to show up in the world. Each moment that I live, I live disease or recovery. Thus, each moment in my life is fair game to share.
Ok, Bella, that’s enough. You’re cut off. Stop rambling. Share what you came here to share.
The RA application process consists of 2 group interviews as well as 1 individual interview sandwiched between the two. Below is a letter that I wrote to my mom in advance of my individual interview. I have yet to actually send it, but that’s beside the point. It contains heartfelt truth about myself and my desire for this position, which I believe makes it worth sharing. Read it, and we’ll go from there.
February 4, 2019 – Dear Mom:
I’ve decided to keep a journal of all the things I want to share with you from my college life, during this period of separation and individuation. To begin, I had my first round of RA interviews on Friday. It was a 3-hour group session held in a conference room at Palladium Hall. I had a great time. My peers were engaged, and energetic, and we all really bonded. One of the guys in my group was a game design major named *Pete* (alias) who knows my freshman roommate.
During the first half of the session, we discussed leadership qualities, such as
February 6 – Sorry, got cut off before.
This morning I went to an Al Anon meeting and now I’m at Think Coffee prepping for my individual interview at 1. I’ll let this letter serve as my interview prep. I’ll learn about the program by sharing the details with you. Here goes:
“RALI” stands for “Residential Assistant Leadership Institute.” According to my syllabus, “these sessions are structured to give each of you the opportunity to demonstrate your abilities and potential to be an RA. After each session, the facilitators will record their observations in a log, which will become part of your application portfolio. The facilitator role will be to obverse and record the interpersonal dynamics of the group.”
“The facilitators are looking for the following qualities: teamwork, administration skills, engagement, respect, risk-taking, willingness to learn, and problem solving.“
Do I possess all of those? Yes. But among them, my strengths are engagement (which I would call passion), respect (which I’ve learned in my theatre classes), risk-taking, and willingness to learn. I’d say that my weaknesses are teamwork and administrative skills. Problem-solving lives between those two tiers.
My strengths as a human are creativity and originality, which is why, while I’m competent at administration, I dislike it. It’s also why teamwork can be hard. I like to move at my own speed and do my own thing – my work at Gallatin exemplifies that – but this independence can and does get lonely, which is one reason – if not the reason – I want to be an RA.
I want to introduce more teamwork into my life. I want to cultivate a sense of unity and, more importantly, a sense of humility. I believe this will make me feel balanced and whole.
I want a community. I want brothers and sisters and non-binary siblings who I will gather and commune with every Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:30 PM. I want that family. I want that consistency. I want to share a common purpose with the same group of people.
I want to make memories together – to impact one another’s experiences – and I want to help and serve others (ie, residents) in the process.
My genuine desire for the job for those reasons makes me excited to do the administrative work that comes with it. This job would do so much for me; it would be my pleasure to give back by helping with administration.
Plays are about people – that’s what my writing mentor says. In taking a class about the city of Detroit this semester, I’ve come to expand that definition to cities, and now, in the process of applying for this position, I’m broadening it to include college campuses, from classrooms to dining halls to dorms.
Our bodies result from a collaborative effort among our many cells. Every person in a community is like a cell in a bigger body; each one serves a purpose, no matter how big or how small. That said, what’s a residence hall without its residents?
We’re all in this together.
I love that phrase.
On a macro level, as humans, we’re all together on this planet. On a micro level, as residents, we’re all together on this campus. But we often get so caught up in our own lives that we forget this. I forget this.
But I want to remember this. I want to live this. And I want to remind others of this, too. Not by preaching, but by leading: by greeting peers with an open face (by which I mean a smiling one), an open mind, and most importantly, an open heart.
I want to give residents a place to call home.
Dammit, Mom, I knew this would be helpful for my interview prep! I found everything I need to say, and you are my witness. In fact, these words ring so true for me that I want to share them on my blog. That said, you might have seen them already by the time you read this letter, but they were intended for you first, which means you’re special to me. If this post were a book, you’d be on the dedication page.
I only write honestly and directly to people I care about. If the words end up on my blog, it’s an expression of gratitude, not an act of exploitation. It means that inadvertently you have pulled something out of me, something I value enough to share.
Because that’s my purpose, Mom. Sharing. Not sharing secrets, but sharing love. It’s how I honor my experiences and the people in them. I write to give love to everyone who reads my words, and the more who read them, the merrier.
I am not exhibitionist. I really hope this proves that. But ultimately, I don’t have to prove that, to you or to anyone else. I’m just here participating in life, one day at a time.
Pictured Above: A Bella Florence Original
I finished this letter moments before my interview, which I wound up nailing. Writing, especially to another person, really does allow me to tap into my subconscious. In fact, the more I write to others, the more I learn the importance of having a recipient.
In my performance classes, I’m always told to pick a scene partner – pick a person to lock eyes with, a person to talk to. If I’m rehearsing alone, I’ll use an object, like a chair. Point is, I’m finding parallels between effective performing and effective writing. I’m learning that in every medium, I do my best work when I have a recipient.
Let’s shift gears. I’ve been meditating lately on output versus outcome: the former we can control, the latter we can’t. Often, I only put 80% into my output because I’m afraid of a negative outcome. If I don’t do my best, then the rejection hurts less. Right? Wrong. I normally wind up more upset with myself.
Last semester, I walked into a theatre audition I was deeply excited for and held myself back out of fear. I wound up not getting it. I was so upset. I was afraid to admit to myself in advance just how much I wanted it. I was afraid to put my all into it, because I feared the shame of rejection.
In applying to be an RA, I operated differently, and it’s here that I see the recovery. I admitted honestly to myself, to the universe, and to other human beings how badly I wanted this job, and I put my all into it – writing this letter is an example of that. After writing the letter, I turned to my journal and wrote the following affirmation at least ten times over:
I admit that I am powerless over the outcome of my RA application. I fully surrender to the outcome of my application, and I fully accept the results.
Weeks later, I got my results – I was placed in the alternate pool. At that point, I had not published this letter, and the shame of being wait-listed told me I shouldn’t. However: the real recovery is sharing my hope, sharing the outcome, sharing my disappointment in the outcome, and sharing my recovery from the disappointment. The real recovery is letting go of the fear of “jinxing” outcomes. The real recovery is the balance of effort and surrender, practicing both in that order.
The journey is not defined by the destination. The journey is defined by the journey. Rather than keep this post private, I’m choosing to publish it anyway to honor the energy I put into it at the time. I’m honoring the value of my output, rather than giving power to the outcome.
The journey is not defined by the destination. The journey is defined by the journey.
How grateful I am for this opportunity to practice owning my disappointment. How relieved I feel from all shame! How grateful I am to practice putting my all into something, fully detached from the outcome. How grateful I am. How grateful. How absolutely grateful.
In closing, I would like to say that the opinions expressed here are entirely my own; take what you like and leave the rest. If you liked what you read here, I invite you to share it, as these messages are for all.