Behind Closed Doors

Truth - There's a big difference between who we are in public versus who we are private. The complicated part of that dichotomy is that we're always told be ourselves no matter where we are and we're with. The problem though with being yourself is that others may not care for who you are. The simple response would be to say who cares but in actuality we do care on some level. It's why we change who we are or at least how we show up in certain spaces. Why are sometimes understated and at others over the top? Why do we pretend we're okay when we're not and continue to smile when we're sad? Are we really different people when we're out in the open or just another version of ourselves behind closed doors?

"People behave differently now matter what period we're looking out. People stand up straight in public, but can slouch behind closed doors." Brenda Blethyn

To be quite honest, I really don't think we become other people when our settings change. I think the context of how we must adapt and show up relative to the environments we find ourselves in forces us to put on display the various versions of ourselves. Who we are, that is our identities, histories, and experiences do not change but how we present them and what we choose to bring forth does. Our stories remain the same but how we tell them changes. Some things become more relevant while others fade to the background as subplots or underlying themes as opposed to main point of conflict. There's nothing wrong, fake, or insincere about it. It's how we have to be to preserve not only ourselves but some of our relationships with other people. It's dangerous to let everyone know everything about you (he says ironically as he shares his life publicly on a blog).Not all you go through, what you think/feel, or who you are needs to be shared. Choice is power, and it's something that shouldn't be given up frivolously. As long as you know your truth, those that need to will as well.

If you've worked a campus job (usually with orientation, residential life, admissions, etc.) you've probably gone through this harrowing simulation ordeal called behind closed doors. Basically the premise is other students/staff play parts of situations that may arise of various difficulty, intricacy, and emergency. For me, It's always a little too real. I've been on both sides of the charade and still get swept up in it. Last week the house directors joined in the action and were challenged to deal with potential occurrences that may arise. I volunteered for two scenes that arguably may have been the most difficult but seemed to be about emotional intelligence which is something I often find I succeed utilizing effectively. My first one was the processing of a blackout & sexual assault. Even after spending a whole year on education, programming, and conversation around sexual assault I still found myself apprehensive to get where I needed to be. This added duty of being private but not confidential ups the stakes as well. I also tackled suicide ideation which left me visibly shaken for the hour afterwards. I knew it was all just acting but it still was terrifying nonetheless. The reality of it though is that these are things that people deal with either in front of us, or in the privacy of their own homes. Behind closed doors who knows what we do but regardless others have an obligation to demonstrate care.

This week has been all about self-discovery and understanding. Slowly but surely I've come into contact with some students and a few that I'm responsible for helping. Outwardly I've shown up as fully engaged, highly passionate, and genuinely authentic. Internally it's been lots of floundering, panic, and nervousness. You should see me literally have to physically tell myself to muster up the courage to go to talk to brothers who moved into the house I help oversee. It was a solid 5 minute pump up session telling myself I could do it, that it was okay to be nervous, and that if they didn't like it wasn't the end of the world. I did it and it awkward as hell but I did it, nonetheless. I met with some of the executive board members of a student group I've been tasked with advising and within 5 minutes I gave up the façade that I knew what I was doing. I leveled with the two of them and came clean that I was absolutely terrified, felt wholly unprepared, and had self-doubt. From there we just talked as people especially since I'm only a year older than them for four hours. The entire time though I was enjoying getting to know them but wondered if I was being ethical, if I needed to put up a barrier of "professionalism," or was obligated to step back. They ended up teaching me (which is the best thing that can happen) so much more than I had to offer them but I figured out as well what I could be useful for.

The aftermath though behind closed doors was less picturesque. I don't know what it was but I think the lack of having friends nearby, being away from family again, and the overwhelming newness combined with my first official student interaction and I had a minor melt down. Actually it was miniscule because I realized I was overanalyzing, obsessing over minute details, and hyperbolizing all at once. I was worried that I hadn't shown up the way I wanted to but it was painfully obvious that there were conflicting ideals at play. On one hand is the social pressure to be "put-together" and have an air of mystery about myself as a professional with students, but then there's the real me which understands that I know no better than these students (just different) and that my way of advising is purely emotion/relationship based. It's funny because as soon as I stopped trying so hard to have it all together everything feel into place for me. Yeah, I'm still young and inexperienced but I'm also well-prepared, highly knowledgeable, and exceptionally resourceful to be the kind of vulnerably authentic person to navigate the line between advisor/friend for my students. I Facetimed my sister who checked me real quick as I needed and consulted with my old advisor, Drake, who pointed out the cyclical nature of how we had gone through the exact same thing with me when he was in my position. I'm going to be scared, but I'm also going to be confident. I'm going to ask questions, but I'm also going to do my research. I'm going to be myself, but also be willing to grow into an upgraded version. That's what's going to happen behind closed doors.

What has worried me so much is the campus culture here being the complete antithesis of that I learned, am, and know. I've been struggling with wanting to fit in but also knowing that I never will and that's exactly why I'm needed here. Things may be more logical and analytical but they need heart, passion, and emotion which is what I have to bring. I'm picking up the lingo fast and learning the ins and outs of how to be get utilitarian responses. Today I spent subtly bonding with my supervisor. It may be too early to say he's my favorite but I really want to. He started off our morning meaning by expressing just how afraid, nervous, and excited he was to be there which immediately let me know I could always be honest with him. I can tell I'm going to learn so much from him and he might get some things from me as well but it's going to be a memorable two-years (this campus isn't ready for us). I finished off my day with a fulfilling student meeting planning a retreat for a campus organization and going door to door in both my fraternity houses to meet the brothers who had moved in already, and give out popsicles & ice cream. I'm going to always do things differently and my own way. That's who I am in front or behind closed doors. X


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