Live…from Afghanistan, it’s a post from the Patron Saint of reslifegeek.com, Ryan McRae. Take it away Ryan:
While living in Afghanistan, I have some strange amounts of downtime. What I mean by strange is that, I might be sitting in a terminal from 3:00 AM – 6:00 AM, waiting for a flight. I can’t sleep and I’m so tired that I can’t write or read (at least coherently.)
So I watch videos.
Now, I’ve been blazing through Doctor Who. He’s a time-traveler who brings a companion with him, to various places in time and space. One day he’s in World War 2 and the next day he’s in the year 1 billion watching our sun explode. And everywhere he lands, hijinx ensues.
It’s not the deepest show you’ll watch. It’s no Breaking Bad where after that show you need to look at cat videos for an hour or fall into an abyss of despair. It does explore humanity and issues of diversity (there are some where I think, I have to show these to my RAs and then I think I don’t have any RAs. I’m in Afghanistan.)
I’ve learned some valuable lessons from The Doctor and his companion and how they relate to the world I used to live in, but I’m million miles from: residential life.
Embrace Uncertainty. The Doctor never knows exactly when and where he’ll land. He will aim for tomorrow and land 15 years later. He might meet a friend, and know her well, but she hasn’t met him yet (due to time travel.) It gets complicated. But when The Doctor opens his TARDIS, he flings the door open and leaps through. He does not fear what’s on the other side. There is no plan. He wings it.
Sometimes in Residential Life, we have to wing it. We have to leap through the chaos. Sometimes it’s a flooded building or a fire, a riot or a scandal. Sometimes it’s a 5150 call and sometimes it’s a whole bunch of Resident Advisors being fired. But sometimes, the chaos is awesome. Once our power went out and we assembled the Resident Advisors to do a barbecue, slip and slide and when the students’ power died in their cell phones and they unplugged, we all had a great time.
Have a Companion. This companion (always female) is the conscience of The Doctor. She keeps him grounded in the quest for humanity, not the quest for judgement. She reminds him of who he is and where the “line” is.
I have been fortunate to make friends across many campuses through networking at conferences and committees. I have a select few I would check in with. I would give them a scenario whether a political minefield or a conduct meeting that just went south. I would call my “companion” and debrief on what went on. I would always have this be someone at another campus and use as much anonymity as possible. I needed to be reminded of many truths that get washed away from my heart from the waves and waves of disappointment or frustration.
I’d recommend making connections with your local organizations and find a mentor or a peer who can help see you through some rough times.
I was telling my friend about a conflict I was having with my supervisor. I explained the situation and all the parts I thought I’d gotten wrong and she looked at me and said:
“You know what the real problem is, Ryan?”
“Your boss is a complete nutjob.”
I laughed hysterically and all the tension and burden lifted off my shoulders.
Enjoy the Ride. No matter what, The Doctor has fun. There is something to smile about, something to find joy in. I think one of the reasons I burned out of my job is that I faced it like a list of problems to fix everyday, a list of tasks to complete. I didn’t get to see the joyful part of the job at times and that was entirely my fault. I just seemed to deal with the dredge and not the fruit of my labors. Make sure you are finding joy in your job, celebrating accomplishments and feeding your soul.
And if the Doctor ever shows up and offers to take you to a far away land—do it—send me a postcard.
Ryan McRae is the creator of Geek Week, a week on college campuses that celebrates the geek culture. He writes a blog called geekinafghanistan.com and has left the comfort of the United States to reboot his life in Afghanistan. He has written a book: A Quick and Easy Parent’s Guide to College and it premieres November 5th! Sign up today!