I was thinking about the last week and a half, and how I’ve been training for my new position as a Peer Minister at my university. In case you don’t know what a Peer Minister is, it’s a position at my school, Regis University, that was designed out of a joint effort between University Ministry and the office of Residence Life and Housing. Essentially, I work and live in the residence halls (in my case, a First Year hall) alongside traditional RAs and the First Year residents, serving a role of a sort of “professional friend,” or a first line of support, whether that be emotional, spiritual, or otherwise. I design and execute programming like an RA, and I also work-study in University Ministry, helping with programs in that office, in both planning and advertising. My role is super exciting and after our last session of training today I feel confident and supported.
But I’ve been thinking a lot, mostly about how I haven’t posted (my days, to be fair, have been essentially from 8 am to 9 pm almost every day), as well as how my Freshman/First Year residents will be arriving in just over 36 hours. I’m not sure what exactly I can impart on them. I know that I want them to arrive fully supported, feel that they can reach out to me for my experience and for support, and that if they have a question or an issue that I can’t help with, I will help with connecting them to the appropriate resources. But above all, I want them to know that this place that they’ve decided to begin their studies is a good place.
Regis is a good place. It’s not the place for everybody, that’s for sure, but it’s welcoming and full of lots of opportunity. The campus is small, and it’s hard to be “lost in the crowd,” but I love knowing that my professors know me by name, and have, on occasion, been mentors, confidants, and my biggest supporters and friends. We might not be in the nicest neighborhood in Denver, but there are so many awesome opportunities for growth and diversity and adventuring in the community, which is rich, vibrate, and full of many lovely, varied, hardworking, beautiful people. Regis might be a Catholic, Jesuit university, but the Jesuit mission of the University is one that challenges us all to grow and to question, regardless of race, color, gender, creed, nationality, orientation, or otherwise. I might be a Peer Minister, but I’m not going to try to get anyone to change religions, or be anything they don’t want to be, or simply aren’t. My goal is to build community, to uphold policy (not in the way a traditional RA might, but still to uphold the spirit of the law in action and word), and to support individuals. I am here, not to judge or to punish or to assert my own practices or beliefs, but to be a mentor and leader: a servant to the people I have the opportunity to work and live alongside in community.
Things may seem daunting, but things will be okay. Classes might be tough, but with enough work, diligence, and possibly some tutoring, you’ll be tough enough to face the challenge head on. Finding balance between classes, a social life, sleep, chores (laundry, feeding one’s self, etc.), hobbies ,and extra curriculars is difficult, but eventually we all find a rhythm (through planning, initiative, and learning how to say no). Navigating majors, social spheres, and being away from home can be daunting. But no one, not even the most successful senior, has all of the answers. Everyone is searching. And that’s fine.
Eventually you’ll find your own place. You and your roommate will learn to communicate efficiently enough as to not constantly be at each other’s throats. You’ll figure out how much is too much food, and how much is just enough gym time. You’ll figure out how to nap (though I still haven’t figured that out…). You’ll find something to study that suits you, even if it takes a while. But most importantly, you’ll figure out that you’re still learning about yourself, and you’re always going to be learning about yourself. It’s a process.
So, when your parents drop you off for college (and remember, not everyone has that luxury, because I sure didn’t), let yourself be okay with what might happen. Your mom might unpack your stuff (or even your roommate’s stuff), and that’s okay. Let her. Your dad might introduce himself to everyone on your floor. That’s okay, let him. You might feel your own heart anxious and heavy and excited. That’s okay, let it. This new world has a lot in store for you. If you have any questions, look to yourself, to your RA, and if you have a Peer Minister, also to them. Don’t cling to them for everything, and don’t take their word as Gospel. But always feel free to ask things, even if it’s how to iron a shirt, or do a load of laundry. I’ve been on my own since my Junior year of High School, but you might still feel uncomfortable with how to talk to that boy or that girl you think is cute, or how to bring up something uncomfortable to your roommate, or maybe that you’ve been to Catholic grade school, or Catholic High School, or both, but you still don’t know how to pray, and you’d like to learn how.
Maybe you’re unsure of where the Fieldhouse, or the Beach, or where Claver are. All of this is okay. Take a breath, exhale slowly, and understand that you will change in ways you weren’t expecting. You will grow. Maybe you’ll get a “crazy” new haircut, or start wearing more preppy or less preppy clothing. But you will grow. You will begin to change. But you’ll always be you. And we’re here to support you.
Just a few extra words: Call your parents. Don’t call them too often, but also don’t wait to call them only when you need money. Give yourself time in your schedule to decompress, take care of yourself, and do the things you enjoy. Don’t feel afraid or ashamed to take advantage of all of the resources available (Gym, Counseling, Tutoring, etc.). Take an opportunity to learn about the clubs you’re excited about, but don’t be surprised if you stop going to meetings for some clubs. Though partying happens, don’t let your life revolve around it. If you see a program or an activity on campus or through the university in some capacity, and it’s different, or exciting, or interesting, make a point of going, and being fully present. If you are coming to college in a long distance relationship, or with any sort of romantic relationship, understand that dynamics change with college. It’s okay that you may stop talking to the people in your orientation group. Free food is always good, but also know your limits. Support your friends, roommates, classmates, and otherwise as you all begin to grow and branch out and try new things. Above all though, don’t be afraid, because the only thing that is certain is the uncertain, and there’s something beautiful about that.
Now, will everyone on the floor please remember to flush when they’re done in the bathroom? And remember, we’re all walking to Mass together 15 minutes before, at 7:15 pm. We’re meeting in front of the hall, by the rose garden, if you’d like to join us. You’re always welcome.