I had a long summer. Not in a bad way, but not in a particularly good way either. I was teaching swimming at a day camp for about 40 hours a week. I've never worked full-time before for more than two weeks in a row, and that was a lot to get used to. I was also taking Integrative Studies 2, which is a fantastic class--tied with Nat Sci 1 for my favorite so far--but that tied my neurons in knots.
And, strangely, I was largely alone. Especially at the beginning of the summer, after all my Shimer friends had left and before a handful of others had come back, it was lonely. This was strange to me, after a year of living in the dorms, eating meals in the Commons, having class with the same people I saw in the elevators and dancing in my living room at 2am on random Wednesday nights. Living in the dorms was too close for comfort, but living in solitude made me hold conversations with the cat.
And now I find myself back again, still living off-campus but in a hustle and bustle of people, classes, and trips to tiny Chinese bakeries. I don't wake up to an empty house, there's a swarm of familiar faces and the stellar new first-years when I get to Shimer, and it seems like there's something happening somewhere every evening. Among all the casual gatherings and boatloads of reading, I'm hoping to participate in an IIT one-act play (mainly because I don't have the time to do justice to being in Shimer's production of Endgame), I'm working at the campus coffee shop, and I'm drowning in Soc 3.
Oh, did I forget to mention that? Yeah, Soc 3 is putting me through the wringer. I'm doing the reading, and I love it. De Tocqueville and Mills are fairly easy to read, although the assignments are long, and I like the way they present ideas. But unlike Sara, my confidence is failing me. I'm hesitant to speak up, I rely too strongly on extended direct quotes, and sometimes I can't manage a coherent sentence. No, really. But I'm getting better.
The first class was disastrous. I could hardly focus, my ideas were half-formed, and my sentences always seemed to stop somewhere in the middle. The second class was better, I spoke some but felt awkward and somewhat terrified. The third class was better yet, and today's class was the best of all. At this rate, somewhere around next week I should start feeling fairly comfortable. But right now, it's all I can do to push forward and say anything.
This was my fear, as a prospective. That I'd come off like a moron, that I wouldn't make any sense, that I'd be so far out of my league a facilitator would kindly take me aside and tell me to go home now. Except, despite how hard this class is so far, none of that's completely happened.
I mean, okay, I feel like a moron, but I suspect that's a confidence issue. And, yeah, I'm not speaking up much, but that's largely because I'm listening. The discussions are fascinating! And my other classes are better. German's great, I love studying languages. And Nat Sci 1 is superb! I love the Presocratics.
And when I talked to Stuart, my Soc 3 facilitator, he didn't tell me I should go back to high school or that he was recommending my Early Entrance be revoked. (Can that even happen?) He said yeah, you're fine, and it'll get better. He said try to distill authors' ideas to support my own points of view, rather than simply reading quotes. He was glad I was so connected to the text, and thought I could move forward. He wasn't worried about me. After the meeting I promptly dissolved into tears onto two other students, but I did feel better.
It's just hard, you know? When the primary issue is confidence, not taking risks, not speaking up, it's harder to fix than when I'm simply not finishing the readings or I'm falling asleep in class. This isn't just about getting my act together; I need to be bold.
Ah, well. I know it will improve, partly because it always does and partly because I can see each class getting less and less terrifying. It's just a stretch. And, when I think about it, that's why I left high school: I had no room to stretch.
So, okay, here I go. Let's stretch.