I almost didn’t show up to the last info session (I made sure I sat all the way in the back).
I almost didn’t turn in my application.
I almost just said “F*** it” and wasn’t going to show up to my first (let alone, my second and third) interview.
But, third times the charm, right?
Right, even though I accidentally missed that charming call telling me that I was, indeed, a Summer Welcome Leader and that I needed to begin my journey tramping around the campus grounds to reveal the collective of humans now known as SWondoro.I went into this attempt at what is know as one of the “most coveted positions at Mizzou” with, to put it nicely, a lot of sass. First time around, I was much like the overly eager, still very lost freshman that joined me for my first round interview this past January. I bounced back from not getting it fast because I knew I was a baby still. Second time around, I had been told that this time was for me, that I knew exactly what they wanted and I made myself that way. Everything was calculated, everything was mechanized, and everything was done after a second round interview, one round shorter than the year before. This past year, the third time, I had become hardened to the Mizzou-rah-rah exterior to the involvement hierarchy that I knowingly was a part of. So, I told them that in my interviews. I emphasized my feministic side and weirdness and how I didn’t play into what it took to be Mizzou famous. I quite literally bitched about the University. But, it worked. Enough about me, because that isn’t why I wanted the job. The job is about the incoming Tigers and their families. The job is about me being my awkward, strangely old in comparison, Mizzou-loving self for students to feel comfortable around and learn from. It is about calming the fears and slowing the rotors of the helicopter parents and guests and reassuring them that yes, me, the tiny female in front of them in a khaki skort, felt safe on campus. It is about representing just one little corner of Mizzou but opening the doors to all the other ones, prompting them to take a peek and find their fit. It is also all about being the little cogs that complete the machine known as Summer Welcome, from the glamorous job of whipping a golf cart to the sometimes mind-numbing desk duties. But, we are the faces that they would see first, the faces that (cheesy, I know) welcomed them to Mizzou. It allowed me to continue to extend myself as a little black and gold resource with a nice dose of substance behind the gleam of the gold name tag. The biggest perk of this job wasn’t the visibility, the room and board, or even the dancing, pizza and ice cream every night. It was the 33 people I got to work with everyday. Though I scoffed at the former Summer Welcome leaders coos about “meeting your best friends” through the training and Summer, they were sort of right. Sure, you bond better with some people over others because human differences and similarities and all that personality jazz, but these leaders truly became the dysfunctional family that I needed this summer. They elected me their “VeronMom” and they taught me a thing or two about how leaders come in all different forms. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry during all the sappy end of the summer videos, pictures, etc. and I didn’t. But, here I am, rereading 33 notes of encouragement and love while listening to the song that has been passed down throughout the years for SWithdrawal and crying when people say cute things in our GroupMe.
It’s been a week since our last Freshman Session and it’s been weird being outside of the Summer Welcome bubble, the one I knew I was stuck in all along. It’s hard to explain the hours, pace or environment of the job, though fellow leader Steven tried with a Snapchat story. Through the stupid arguments, annoying guests and uninterested students, there was still a lot of light in our days because of our mission, because of each other and because of our crazy schedule that shoved us into rooms, hallways and napping under tables together. I didn’t cry when I packed up my things from the ResHall room I had been living in since the end of May or when I gave hugs to people in the circle driveway. I didn’t cry then because I knew we weren’t ever saying goodbye to each other. What I am (and probably 33 others) struggling with is how I have to say goodbye to the experiences and opportunities of “Welcoming” that are only created in that bubble and the environment of 34 people interacting so deeply. But, none of us have to say goodbye to the impact that those experiences had on the people with served through the program, as well as each other.
As we all continue to chirp on our GroupMe, SnapChats and other social media outlets about the experiences we had over the past months, remember how lucky we were and what presence we hold on campus. I realized that even with me being slightly out of touch (#Classof2019 taught me a lot about Internet sensations, though), students looked up to me and my role meant a lot to them. Though I don’t know if I will ever completely feel as big as maybe they thought I was, that just pushes me to take those feelings, encouragement, goals, and missions with me for my final year at Mizzou. I can’t welcome thousands of people to a huge transition in their lives and not be able to welcome myself to move on and continue to grow and strive to be the best I can be. I challenge the rest of SWondoro (and my fellow Tigers and friends) to do what we do best–Strive.