Five scenes from last week

My view from walking to work on a Tuesday evening

Three weeks into sophomore year! (Three down, thirteen to go? Time’s moving too fast.)

It’s been an interesting set of weeks; at some points, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been at college thus far, whereas at some I’m too busy trying to keep track of everywhere I should be to feel anything other than a strong sense of fear of the future. So for my first blog post, I’m going to take to personal/reflective blogging and look through the last five days, trying to figure out what it is about each day that I ought to remember in the future.

Monday: how much self-questioning does it take to establish yourself as an English major?

I think this week has been one for tracking exactly how it is I feel about myself and my place in a classroom setting, particularly during my discussion-based literature classes. It’s not that I want to single-handedly arrive at the unifying meaning of what a text means; I like these classes specifically for their discussion-based collaborative aspect. But I do feel an overwhelming sense of inadequacy whenever I feel like I haven’t lived up to the ‘standard’ of comments made in class. The self-criticism I experience whenever I say anything that I feel doesn’t elevate or hold up to the level of discussion we live in class is not observed or noticed by anyone else, and it’s its own form of self absorption. So, sophomore year lesson #1: cut it out.

Tuesday: Bread?!

I hate my Tuesday writing center shift. I took a lot of effort to sign up for ones that weren’t all booked, because I assumed this gave me a greater likelihood of getting appointments. Here’s what I did not consider: not a lot of people want to go to writing center appointments at 8 pm. So it certainly feels pointless sitting there sometimes, and my job almost never feels pointless.

But when I arrived back, the nighttime campus was pretty, and two friends who happened to be in the HCC had walked me home, and when I finally showed up on the third floor of Ball, my suitemates were baking bread. Baking bread in college! A consideration: baking bread isn’t difficult once you know the rules, but the process itself seems daunting enough that plenty of people (myself included!) have never bothered to give it a shot. Continued consideration: how arbitrary are the boundaries between what we can and cannot do?

Wednesday: Late to fencing club, in jeans.

“I kind of don’t want to go to fencing club,” I said, by which I meant “Gene, please tell me you also don’t want to go to fencing club,” by which I meant “I am so tired, and I am preoccupied with everything I’m doing or should be doing, and as exciting as holding swords sounds, I also really hate doing things I know I won’t be immediately good at.”

Gene said, “I don’t know, I’m really invested in this,” which meant, “Suck it up and give it a shot.”

Then I was thirty minutes late anyway, because a writing center appointment got held up. (Side note: I kind of love saying that. I kind of love loving my job.) Instead of sneaking in, I walked in conspicuously; instead of standing back and watching, I had to ask permission to join a group of beginners, I had to watch them have to stop and repeat their introductions to the basic steps of fencing. At one point, their leader looked over at me and said, as a side note: “By the way, jeans? Not recommended next time.”

And somehow there was no mortification. In part it was that I was there with friends; in part, that the entire fencing club seems to consist of the nicest people on earth. But a good portion of it was that I was finally working on something I’d realized a few years back. In Diana Wynne Jones’ Fire and Hemlock, I first encountered the idea that embarrassment was one of the most potent destructive forces in the world; one that led us to sabotage ourselves, and to hurt the people we loved. I wouldn’t have done any of this just a year ago. This contains some element of hope.

Thursday: Unrelated things impact one another. Who knew!?

That’s a very general statement. But consider this: on a whim, I left work a few minutes early to attend honors meditation for the first time. I had a lot of things I needed to not think about: work, and social life, and whether I was worthy of being in the classes I loved most, and the fact that my approved honors service project had changed times to conflict with work. And then at meditation, I ran into Dr. Slunt, cornered her afterwards, and walked away with the email address of the director of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library, and ideas for a service project I liked much better than my original one. I’m not even sure what this one means. “Do one thing you wanted to do, and you’ll end up doing something you needed to do but were scared to”? Or, better: don’t be scared of doing things. Thursday is when I actually set up my domain, too. I hate looking at it right now because I know it looks nothing like it’ll look like in the future; however, look back at Tuesday and Wednesday. Sometimes you have to make bread, or go to fencing practice, or maintain an ugly domain knowing you’ll one day maintain a pretty one.

Friday: lessons applied.

I got up a half hour earlier than I wanted to to do a little speech for some freshmen (some freshmen who didn’t seem to want to be there very much) about the value of making writing center, and walked away knowing that, at the very least, I had done a good speech. I heard Dr. Scanlon talk about the things that punishment methods say about the drive (misguided drive?) to reestablish society and pretend it was never disturbed in the first place. I heard Dr. Haffey introduce us to critical theory surrounding A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which somehow made me like said book a little bit more. I wrote a blog post (hi!) and I went downtown with two dear friends, where I bought two three-dollar dime store Star Trek novels. And I went the honors service learning reflection, and said very corny but sincere things at the risk of everyone else assuming I was a very corny and insincere person.

Things about sophomore year so far: it moves fast; outside perceptions of you are uncontrollable; new things are scary; the possibility of failure and rejection is scary too. Things about today: none of these things got to me today on a level that stopped me from enjoying it. Things about the next year: hopefully, this pattern will carry on.

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