Chanting and waving their arms as they chasséed around the bonfire, the shadowy figures beckoned us over. A bluetooth speaker provided the rhythmic percussion sounds. Night time, near the pond, hidden in the woods of Gordon College, I nervously approached wondering how weird this “Passing of the Torch” event was going to get. Little did I know that by the end of the night I would be wiping ashes on my face and prancing around the flames. All in good fun, of course.
After a long application process, not being picked and then being asked to fill a vacancy, I was finally becoming an RA (Residence Advisor). In the upcoming fall, I will take my post as one of six in the Nyland building and do my best to both maintain order and foster community. While becoming the big sister to a bunch of girls excited me, the introductory weeks to learning about the job brought on bouts of severe anxiety. I felt different from the other prospective RAs and I was afraid preferences and perspectives would put me at odds with both my residents and my fellow Nyland staff members. Nevertheless, I persisted with training. Many honest conversations and teary prayers later, I realized that perhaps my distinctions could be of benefit. But still the unknown of next year frightens me a little.
Ushered into various lawn chairs, the current Nyland staff spoke in fluttery voices trying to maintain the eery mood. However, the rising RAs were reassured by the nearby RD (Resident Director – the adult in the building) and his occasional fits of laughter. Myself and the other new staff members had been called out to the Gordon woods to participate in the “Passing of the Torch.” A ceremony where the current resident advisor of each floor bestows gifts on the person taking on that floor and metaphorically or physically passes the torch. I was pleased to discover that they had a real torch for the ceremony. But a bit bummed when I couldn’t find the photos.
Some of the things shared were sweet, some of them foreboding. Many of us were given tissues with explanation that we might need them for ourselves as well as others. Some items passed along were pieces of advice or journals or tokens from the floor. After the scheduled program was over, the night concluded with chatting over s’mores.
New adventures are scary, but even this summer I’m learning there are blessings in the unexpected. So, I press on.