So I was looking through some journal prompts earlier today, just to get my brain juices flowing a little bit and I came across one that inquired: “What is the best advice you have ever been given?” I tried to think about it for a few minutes and was like whoa, that is way too hard. No way. There are so many insightful, wise people in my life who have given me loads of great advice, I can’t possibly choose one. However,this whole thought process got me thinking about my college experience. It just ended, like two months ago, so I am still very much processing it all. To be honest, I already miss it. I love thinking about it all. Anyway, it just got me thinking about all the amazing conversations I had with my professors and how just insanely intelligent they all are. Then that lead me to remember a particular conversation I had with one of my favorite professors and I instantly knew this was a story I had to share. This was one of the most moving and motivating conversations I probably have ever had.
First of all, a little background about me and my education. I have always been SUPER hard on myself in school. I have no idea where it comes from because my parents have always been super supportive and encouraging. It just was always that way. I never thought I was smart enough, and always compared myself to my classmates which I thought much more intelligent than I. I remember in high school I was talking to my English teacher at the time and I said something along the lines of, “Well, I really like English, but I just really don’t think I am good enough at it to major in it.”. Um, 4 years later I graduated with a B.A. in English with high honors. Yes I feel like an ass for putting that in here but I promise I am not trying to brag, only to show how ridiculously insecure I was about my brains. So now you can get a little bit of a feel for how hard I was on myself throughout all of it.
Fast forward to my junior year in college. I had two years of an English degree under my belt and so I had gained a little bit of composure, or so I thought. I was in my professors office one day chatting about an essay I was gearing up to write. I already miss talking to my professors during their office hours. I would always go in with like one question about an essay and end up getting super deep and personal with all of them. I couldn’t help it! I just have serious respect for them and wanted them to tell me everything they possibly could in the short hour or two they had. Yeah, just thinking about it is making me miss it.
Anyway, back to the story. So my prof (Let’s call him Dr. X) and I had finished up our essay chat and were getting into our normal casual banter and Dr. X says “Alright so I am apologizing in advance for this”… And then he stopped.. He looked like he was having a really hard time figuring out how to say whatever it was. I am thinking um, okay this is weird. That was a weird statement. So finally I say,”it’s fine, what is it”? Still struggling for words, he says “Well, I have found this thing, with previous students of mine that come from blue collar backgrounds, that they are constantly second guessing themselves, and I have noticed that you do a similar thing.” He was referring to how I said “I don’t know” after EVERY point I ever made in class. Then he goes, “You need to stop that. Sure, there are kids here that come from huge lines of college-educated people, but fuck them. You are just as smart as them. Stop doubting yourself”.
So here’s the fun part, I start bawling. Like seriously crying. This made Dr. X super uncomfortable, I am sure he was not anticipating this reaction. I just was so incredibly touched that I just couldn’t stop crying. I just put so much pressure on myself, and give myself such a hard time that hearing someone tell me to stop being a dick to myself, that I was worthy, it felt so good. It felt reassuring. He wasn’t just telling me that he believed in me, he was telling me to grow the hell up and stop being scared. It made me feel strong and intelligent, like my ideas and insights meant something. And they do. They do mean something and they have merit and for the first time in I think forever, I gave myself some serious credit for that. Ever since then I have really started to take myself seriously as a critical reader, thinker, and writer and I will always thank him for that. I tried to explain to him why I was crying, but it just didn’t really work. Although I scared him by blubbering all over his office, I think he knew how much that moment meant to me. I mean, I hope he does. It changed me.