I’m writing now not in the booths in Clemons Library but instead in a hammock around which squirrels are busy burying their treasures for the winter. My body is somewhat chilled from the sudden 35 degree drop in temperature, but the aforementioned company makes leaving unfathomable.
Surrounding a small T.V in an even smaller (!) dorm room, fifteen or so Wahoos of various years gave their opinions on the current political climate while the Democratic candidates espoused theirs.
Despite the crowded space and nearly inaudible voices emanating from the television, there was nothing that could pull me from the room in those moments. I felt so at home even though I had met some of those people for the first time. Joking with them was as easy as longtime friends, and I’m really quite thankful to have found myself in the community that I’m in now.
It was the third week of Arabic, and we’d been taught the entire alphabet. That day in class we were going in a circle and reading words off of a paper.
Every time it got to me, I froze. I couldn’t read them. I hadn’t grasped the last half of the alphabet, and struggled to read the letters that I did know.
My personal worst nightmare went on for ten minutes as every time my professor came back to me, I had to stutter that I didn’t know and she would read it out for me, continuing onto the next person who would read it perfectly. I wanted nothing more than to disappear.
Everyone else gets it, why the fuck am I the one lagging behind?
One evening I found myself accidentally at the beginning of a poetry open mic instead of the club meeting I was expecting (I had the wrong date). They had bagels, so I decided to stay.
The sheer talent and raw emotion showcased by those who shared was staggering. I had never met most of these people, yet there they were, bleeding their heart out to me through extended metaphors and holy shit I feel like I’m in the room imagery.
They were so supportive of each other, so positive, and I felt that I belonged despite having never been to a meeting before. Lost in poem after poem, drowning in other people’s experiences, I found myself once again not wanting to leave.
Sitting in a 400 person lecture, I received my first college exam score. Below average for the class, and way below average for me. I sat there as the professor went over the questions that I had missed, each one drilling a thought further into my head: I’m below average here.
I’ve found my identities and goals conflicting once again here at UVA. I’m expected (both by others and myself) to be a really smart and high performer academically, but my ultimate goal is happiness and not a high GPA.
What’s been hard is finding the balance between these two opposing goals. I’ve found myself relying more on (over)confidence than hours of studying, and more drawn to parties than the love that I have for learning.
Surrounded by so many genuinely wonderful people, I’ve become more social than ever before while also spiraling downwards in confidence after comparing myself to those people.
I don’t know if I’ll ever find the perfect balance, but I think I’m starting to. I’ve found that, for me, I don’t need a basement party every Friday night to be happy so I can at least spend some of it studying.
I’ve started performing better, so come Spring I think I should be at least average. I’m less scared now and more optimistic, because I’m confident now that I have the ability to bounce back from failure if I try my best.
I said nothing of studying on Saturdays, so it’s time now for a movie with good company.