What We Found in the Woods

"So, what exactly do you do?"

I'm surprised how often I've been asked this question.  

Is it that hard to tell? Don't I wear my job description on the sleeve of my navy blue polo-the one with the words "Gordon Residence Life" stitched in white over my heart? Can't they see that of all the neighborhoods in the world, my husband and I chose a worn-down dorm because we care?

It takes time to reveal a life's work, even to the ones you're working for. 

(Even, especially, to yourself.)


I went for a photo walk with one of my RA's. He is tall and smart and full of good questions, and I'm not exactly a fountain of insight, so I thought a stroll through the woods would do us both some good: to calm our hearts, steady the pace of our racing minds, and for one little hour, to share the same view of our world.

We talk about mathematics of all things, and he kindly keeps the conversation to a level I comprehend. He's majoring in this stuff, and I can't even conjure what sort of leverage it would take to get me into a Physics class. I snap another picture and thank God for two minds that don't think alike.


There is so much talk of dreams. Students write essays on them. Disney princesses devote whole songs to them. It's always en vogue to dream big and dream often. I feel like a slug if I don't maintain my own dreams, piling them high like books on my nightstand, all worthwhile but only half-read.  

It's one thing to create a dream, but what happens when a dream comes true?  How quick we are to turn them into accomplishments or tasks-things we check off our mental (or tangible) to-do lists, rather than savoring them as the gifts of hope that they once were. How apt we are to forget the way we held them: tenderly, gently, patiently, knowing each moment added to the strength we'd need to fly.


As one who's dream job has become her reality, I must confess: it's hard to be here.

In my dream, there was no failure. I never forgot to hang visitation signs. I never sent a private email to the wrong group of people. I never showed up late to a meeting. I never slept through an emergency.

In my dream, I was perfect.  

And-interestingly enough-in my dream of Resident Directing, I was alone.  

It was just me, sauntering around a beautiful campus wearing TOMs and a jean jacket, sipping Starbucks and waving to beloved students. The dream hinged upon serving others, but it couldn't give shape or form to who those "others" might be.  I was the only character of my story.

Looking ahead may be important, but it matters far less than looking to my right and my left.

We reach the end of the trail, and another RA from our staff comes running around the corner. We are delighted to see her, and despite her protests, we turn into paparazzi. I snap a blurry photo as her long ponytail rushes by.  


For all its rough edges, it's a joy to see this dream come to life.

Granted, I'm tempted to move quickly to the next possibility on my list, and it takes advice from a friend over dinner to remind me of a dreamer's danger. "The people I respect most are the ones who can wait; The ones who are content to be right where they are," he says, stirring another cup of chicken stock into the risotto.

Sometimes I need to be called away from my dreaming. A thing imagined may be perfect, but it isn't real. And at the end of the day, I'd rather have one real and holy imperfection than a thousand dreams that never came true.

A flower, a feather, a butterfly, a friend. So much beauty from one small hour spent in the woods. Imagine what a year could bring! Our walk reaches its end, but the work of RD'ing has only begun. Maybe someday I'll know how to describe it.

For now, "a dream come true" will have to do.