Last week was one of those weeks. You know, the kind of week when I said things like “I miss grad school, when things used to be simple and easy”. Which must mean that I was delusional, because grad school was neither simple nor easy. I returned from the beautiful lull of a three day weekend, with fresh memories of  sand, surf, seafood, and late summer sun, and BAM. Tuesday was basically a brick wall. And the rest of the week followed suit. I wound my way through a labyrinth of mental health concerns, conduct meetings, roommate conflicts, confrontation, awkwardness, and tears shed on my university-issued office couch. Even when I was just trying to do an innocent door-to-door program, I found students smoking pot.  By Friday afternoon, I was making wagers with colleagues about how long building improvement projects would take (which is obviously a form of reckless escapism).

But guess what? I DID IT. I did it. Issue after issue, and I just kept going. It was like a whack-a-mole game and I nailed every single one of those moles right on the head. I know that’s a really weird analogy. And yes, things happened that are outside of my control. Not everything ended up rainbows and unicorns last week because my job is about real stuff that happens in young people’s lives. Human emotions, impulses, conflict, identity crises, transition, transformation, and life are never going to be clean and pretty.

My job is not clean and pretty. Sometimes it seems thankless. Other people in the “outside world” ask me if I want to be doing what I’m doing, as if it’s impossible that I went to grad school with the goal of becoming a residence hall director. Yes, I went to grad school so that I could do this challenging, time-consuming job that requires I live in a residence hall at age 24.  And last week was the kind of week that makes you ask “Why exactly am I doing this, again?”. Thankfully, I have answers.

After dealing with a mental health concern, I told a colleague “I went into this field for a reason; because I want to help people.”  I said it off the cuff, as an explanation for my calm and focus under pressure, but in that moment, I realized that is my explanation. That’s my reason. When the chips are on the table, when I’m tired, when I’m going “above and beyond”, I’m not doing it because I think it’s going to advance my career, get me recognition, or even a thank you. I’m doing it because I feel an intense obligation to make other people’s lives better. I’m doing it because there are people who helped me in college, who listened to me when I was upset, who offered me opportunities and hope. I do it because I don’t want anyone to ever feel alone. I do it because I want these students to make it through college. I don’t want anyone who feels like they need help to not have help.

I’ve said many times that my philosophy in life is to ask myself at the end of each day if I’ve helped someone. And that’s it; at the end of the day, after all of the student development theories, history, law, organizational context, educational philosophy and what have you, it’s about helping people and doing the right thing.