READY. SET. GO. | PART 2

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Eighteen months had passed and I was finally back working. I never thought that I would be back at the same university that had laid me off just eighteen months before. I was the First Year Resident Life Coordinator/ Assistant Dean of Women. I basically was a real life Whitely from A Different World, one of my favorite shows till this day! “Dwayne” (In my Whitely voice)…lol Ok, I digress. So, I went into this position with great anticipation and ready to connect with the ladies of the dorm. Little did I know that some of the ladies viewed the Deans as the enemy and wasn’t interested in connecting at all. Well, I couldn’t allow that to stop me from connecting with those ones that had a total different mind set. I made friendships with the ladies that wanted to be friendly and hoped that the other ladies would come around. In fact, some did eventually come around but there were ones that never did.

They ranged from 17 to 27 years old. A building full of ladies. 200 plus. Ones with smiles and ones with frowns. Ones with great attitudes and ones with stank attitudes. Ones that were respectful and ones that were not. Ones that obeyed the dorm rules and ones that lived to break dorm rules. Ones that were super spiritual and ones that couldn’t care less about spirituality. Ones that were lesbians and ones that weren’t. Ones that liked to get drunk and ones that liked to get high. Ones that would fight and ones that were quiet. We had every kind and I wanted to get to know them all so I hit the ground running hard.

In order to get to know more about the ladies I created my “Get to Know: Let’s Chat” session. The ladies could sign up individually or with a group of their friends for a 15 minute time slot or longer so that we could talk. I wanted them to tell me who they were and really just get to know them. My office was arranged nicely with comfortable seating that later on became many ladies spot to just come hang out in and talk. As ladies warmed up to me we talked about everything and anything. There was no topic, question or issue that I would turn away. From homosexuality to house parties, academics to alcohol, relationships to religion. We talked about it all. I’m sure many of them weren’t having these conversations with their parents nor were they doing half of the things that they did at school at home. The ladies they were at school were not the same ladies they were at home with mommy and daddy. See, for some of them they grew up in a home and church were certain topics weren’t discussed and people put on airs. Well, that wasn’t my upbringing. Many of them expressed that they were comfortable coming and talking to me. That’s how I wanted it to be. Even if they broke the rules I still wanted them to come to me. Yeah, they would have to deal with the consequences which weren’t always easy to swallow but I still wanted them to know that I was a friend. Some ladies owned up and accepted their consequences with no grudge held and our friendship deepened. On the other hand, other ladies felt as if I was wrong for not taking away the consequences thus the friendship dissipated. My goal was to be open, honest, transparent, real, a good listener and more. This is my natural personality so there was no struggle there.

I grew to love many of those ladies. Others were a different story tho. There were many days that I had to pray for God to constrain my fist. Some of those girls were so rude and disrespectful and the crazy thing was these were the 23 year old and up students. I was informed that one of ladies the year before had shoved one of the deans and I’m sure there were other stories like this.

As the days and semesters progressed I realized that my position was more demanding than what I had anticipated. I no longer had the time to build my ministry therefore, I stopped working on my website, my book (which I started a few months before accepting the position) and even stepped down as youth leader at my church where I had worked with the youth and their parents for seven plus years. Stepping down from that position was difficult especially since my team and I had spent years building that ministry. Thankfully tho, I was able to find solace in the fact that I could still plan ministry programs such as dorm worships and seminars for the ladies. However, I found myself handling more minuscule issues, such as clearing up a curfew violation and having to place ladies on 9pm curfews (and there were oh so many), around the dorm instead of planning dorm worships and real life seminars that were needed. I wasn’t feeling this 9pm curfew consequence at all but enforcing it came with the position. It was things like this that took up a lot of my time. There were many rules on the books that were extremely outdated but still enforced just because it had “always been that way”. However, I continued to fulfill the duties that came with the position.

I was working late nights and early mornings. Some days I would be in my office for 12 hours then retreat to my apartment, which was in the dorm, only to continue working by answering ladies calls when they called or knocked on my apartment door. Some of the ladies didn’t have the know how in order to handle small disagreements with their roommate. Some ladies would run to the dean for every single issue. I’m not talking about issues such as stealing, fighting, etc. I’m talking about issues such as “she keeps the light on” or “she leaves the door propped open when no one is in the room”. All the issues that could have been resolved just by having a conversation and coming to a compromise. My first question to them was: “have you talked to your roommate about it.” Their response, “No. I don’t want to be mean or make them think that I’m not their friend.” WHAT?

Many of the ladies thought that it was my responsibility to talk to their roommate for them. “Uh, girl no” was my response, “I’ll teach you how to do it.” This is when I decided to create the Roommate Diaries seminar. It was so needed. With so many ladies running to me about these small issues allowed me to realize that they had not been taught how to approach conflict nor handle conflict. Many of them would suffer in silence just because they didn’t know how to approach conflict. I wanted to help them come out of that child like behavior. I’m sure since they were old enough to party, get drunk (not all were 21 though) and such that they were old enough to talk their issues out. As more and more ladies came to me with complaints about their roommate I realized that not only did they lacked the skills to approach conflict but they were used to someone else handling their conflict for them. It was evident former deans and others on campus perpetuated the ladies childlike mindset.

One day while I was sitting in my office an upperclassman came and asked me to write her a sick note so that she could give to her professors. I scratched my head because I found it odd that she asked me to write a sick note to her professor. “Uh, you need me to write you a sick note? Girl you grown.” I responded. She was 20 or 21 years old. To my surprise she informed me that the deans wrote sick notes for dorm students. Why would a college student need her dean to write her a sick note? Was I supposed to also write a note to her boss since she was sick and couldn’t make it into work? This was one task that I allowed them to take care of on their own. I felt like she and every other lady in that dorm was responsible enough to connect with their professor in order to communicate if they would be missing class. So, I instructed her to email her professors and cc me on the email. See, there was an expectation for the deans to parent the students but this was not at all helpful for their growth. Instead I saw fit to allow these students the chance at being more responsible and start walking in adulthood.

Coming into this job I had great hopes and big ideas. By my third semester, fall 2014, I wasn’t liking the way many things were run. This job was literally becoming 24 hours and I felt like a prison warden more so than a dorm dean. The expectation was that I was always on call and to always be there no matter the time of day or night nor how small the problem was. There were many nights my apartment phone ringed well after midnight for issues that could have been handled during my office hours. I would handle the issue but I quickly realized that I had to strike a balance before I burned out which I knew was coming on quickly especially since I lived at work. My daughter also complained a lot about me not being home with her and always having to run to rescue an adult. She absolutely hated living in the dorm. After hearing my daughter complaints I recognized that not every issue was an emergency even though someone else might have thought it was. These were young adults not children.

After I realized that I was not the dorm superwoman I managed to find that balance which helped me to have clarity and structure in my personal life therefore, in my work life. I felt more effective and connected with the ladies even more. Now, the balance and boundaries that I had established for myself wasn’t really what other’s liked simply because I was no longer available 24/7. During my off day (I had one official off day) I was actually off and away from the campus. I no longer answered my phone 24/7. Every issue was no longer an emergency and I had to communicate that to some of the ladies (and the parents) that felt as if they were entitled. When I first arrived I had no balance and no boundaries therefore, I was pulled each and every way allowing those I worked with to set boundaries for me. That didn’t work for me at all. Someone said to me one time “well what if there is a fire, I call you and your not available.” I responded “call 911.”

I was excited about the start of the the 2014-2015 school year. Still very much irritated with the unrealistic expectations of the position but none the less excited about a new year. My boundaries and balance were in place. The beginning of the semester and the end of the semester always required more work hours which was not an issue since I knew this was our busy time. I was ready to do great things this year with the ladies. I had connected with the majority of the incoming freshmen via our new Facebook (FB) page I had created at the end of the previous spring semester. The Facebook page was a success! Nothing like that had ever been done in the dorm. The page allowed the incoming freshmen to get to know more about the dorm, other incoming freshmen and myself. By the time the majority of them arrived on campus they were acquainted with one another and able to transition from living at home to dorm living easier than what it would have been had they not had the opportunity to meet on FB.  This year was going to be better than any other year . I had planned more interactive activities for the ladies as well as more real life seminars. I focused less on those minuscule task that some made out to seem life threatening. Each new student received a welcome bag. I had implemented this idea the previous year and decided to make it a tradition. Each bag had a few snacks, a bottle of water and a handwritten welcome message from myself. The bags were placed on their beds for their arrival. The ladies appreciated the welcome bags and many of them tapped the personalized message to their mirror for inspiration. This was just one of the many things that I enjoyed and was able to think of after setting my boundaries and gaining balance in my life.

However, those not so enjoyable things still lurked around and it only seem to get worse. I was frustrated many nights, talking my friend ear off of how decisions were handled by Administration or something stupid, illegal, or crazy one of the girls did in the dorm. I was really sadden when one of my resident assistant’s (RA) decided that she and her good friend would steal text books out of the rooms of freshmen residents. These were the same freshmen residents that she lived among and who she had built friendships with. Security had estimated that more than $1000 worth of textbooks had been reported missing and many of them were found in her room. I couldn’t believe it. Criminal charges were not pressed against her however, the school placed her on probation and she could not live in the dorm during the spring semester.

As part of her probation she had to have mandatory weekly meetings with myself and/or my supervisor . When I was informed that we would have to have weekly meetings with her I wasn’t sure what we would meet about. She was already very upset with me because it was at my recommendation that she not live in the dorm for the spring semester. I thought it best that she spend a semester away from the dorm because of her decision and just in case some of the girls decided to retaliate. I don’t know what the committee who decided her punishment had in mind as to what we should meet about but I decided, after much prayer, that I would focus on helping her to root her spirituality deeper in Christ as it is outlined in Galatians 6:1. Needless to say she ducked me for a month in a half.

During the time that I was trying to track her down for our weekly meetings I was also trying to track down the lady or ladies that were smoking weed in various parts of the dorm. After a week or two another RA had caught the “weed smoker”. Security was called to come search the room. In there search they discovered that the lady had cut the wires in the smoke detector so that the smoke would not set the alarm off. The wires had been cut for months and on top of that she was stealing from her own roommate. The roommate had come to me several weeks before the weed incident with complaints that her money and other items were missing. I informed her that she should file a report with security but she refused because she didn’t want the roommate to hate her. What was wrong with these girls???? All she wanted to do was switch rooms. So we switched her to another room. The other girl was suspended from school and had to pay for the damages done to the smoke detector. She was lucky because she could have gotten into a lot of trouble with the court had the Fire Marshal known about her tampering with the smoke detector.

My supervisor and I sat in many “interrogations” with security as they intensely questioned students about their reckless behavior. Security would go in, yelling and cursing just to get the students to confess. Of course the students would break down because they were afraid of the criminal consequences; however, in the end security did not call the authorities in, at least in most cases.

The guys did crazy, illegal and stupid stuff too. This behavior wasn’t nothing new to college campuses and it wasn’t isolated just to this campus. My issue wasn’t with the poor choices of the students per se as much as it was with: students still being allowed to remain in school semester after semester with extremely poor grades and no intention of pulling them up; dorm students that continued to break the rules and causing hell but still allowed to live in the dorm (other dorm students were frustrated with this as well); the budget cuts each year and the facade that the administration was trying to put on for the parents and the fact that it was expected of the deans to be parents to these adult students. Honestly, they didn’t need parents. Some guidance, most definitely, parenting no. I had become extremely frustrated with these things and more just within the two plus years I had worked there.

At the close of 2014 I started thinking more about my ministry I had placed on hold just to work at this institution. It was time for me to start back working on my ministry. After working there for 2 years I realized that working for this institution was giving me more headaches than happiness. Therefore, I decided that the year 2015 would be the time that I would dedicate daily time to reviving my ministry. I would update my site, network in order to secure more speaking engagements and work on my book. With the experience I had acquired I not only wanted to speak in churches to youth and young adults but I had a desire to become a motivational speaker and writer. I had gained experience in training leaders and teaching team building skills as well as teaching college courses. I wanted my ministry to inspire and encourage youth outside of the church walls so I expanded my audience to include public and private schools grades K-12 as well as colleges and universities. I wanted to reach women, singles and single parents. The past 10 years I had done all of this, now I was ready to develop my ministry into my full time work.

Each day as I worked on my ministry I grew more and more excited about one day transiting out of my position as Assistant Dean in order to be my own boss. I was fueled just thinking about speaking full time and teaching full time and working with women and singles. Although being dean gave me a platform which I used to build great relationships I no longer wanted to deal with the administration side of things.

I was excited, inspired and getting things done. My website was coming together after a few years of neglect and I was writing more often. The ideas of where I wanted to go with this were flowing and with every word I placed on paper I was more motivated to see this come to fruition.

Sometime during the month of February 2015 my supervisor who was also interim VP for Student Life since VP “Patti LaBelle” had retired at the end of the previous school year, expressed that new changes for my position would come for the school year 2015/2016. What that meant exactly? We didn’t really know but I felt even better that I had started back working on my ministry earlier that year. I wasn’t going to wait around to see if the university was going to lay me off again or just cut my position from full time to part time. This fueled me even more to get my ministry off the ground as well as to establish a business.

 


 

You’ve just finished reading READY. SET. GO. part 2 of 4 . These 4 blogs depict how I started Living The Life Ministry and my brand Linda D. Lowe.

Read READY.SET.GO. | PART 3

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