Last week, I said goodbye to my favorite college professor. Ordinarily, either I’m too excited to say goodbye, or I approach the whole interaction as a “see you later.” I guess I always try to approach farewells as temporary, but this goodbye for one reason or another seems far more permanent. I have said on more than one occasion that I would not miss anything at Smith, or rather that I am not particularly sentimental about my time at Smith. But now that goodbyes are being said and gifts exchanged, I feel like the things that I thought I would be applauding to be eliminated from my life are things that I will miss most about my time in college.
His classes have been the most challenging I’ve faced, and he’s pushed me more than any other professor at Smith. I’m not sure why I will miss him so much – I think it is more that my life will be anything but predictable the way it was here at Smith next year.
It makes it even harder to leave his classes, seeing as he recommended me for a fellowship next year, and I ACTUALLY GOT IT! Who would have known? I’m the type of student (and the type of person) that flies quietly under the radar, doing well academically, even to the point of being the top of the class, but ultimately doesn’t call too much attention to my gifts and skills. To be recognized for all the hard work that I have put into my studies, to be called out in front of my nearly 700 classmates for my academic achievements flies in the face of my introverted personality. It says, “you don’t have to be a “that girl” or the loud-mouthed, outspoken Smithie to succeed and be recognized for your accomplishments.” I applied for the scholarship with the understanding that I wouldn’t be chosen. But I knew that I wouldn’t be given the chance to win the money and prestige if I didn’t try in the first place.
Ultimately, the important part is not that I won the money or the recognition, but rather that I applied and fought to be recognized in the first place. Four years ago, I was the quiet, shy kid who diffused my insecurities with humor. By making others laugh, I felt that not only did people see me, but they wouldn’t see my insecurities, my frustrations, what have you. But now, I don’t need the validation or recognition of others the way that some of my classmates seem to desire so desperately. Do I still enjoy being commended? HECK YEAH! Everyone likes to receive complements and encouragements, but will I melt down if I don’t receive the necessary amount? HECK NO. I feel validated when I do well in a class, or when I master a difficult subject. For me, my success makes me happy, my endurance makes me happy. Not the validation that comes as a result of my success.
It feels so nice to be recognized by my professors for all the hard work I have put in over the past four years. It feels incredible to be recognized in front of my entire class, alums, parents, professors, for what I have done. I don’t need it, but it makes me feel EPIC! Especially when I have been overlooked or forgotten at times by professors because I’m not the first to volunteer my feelings or opinions about a given topic. This is not to say, however, that I have missed out on opportunities. Rather, I don’t have the desire to voice my opinions and concerns about every topic that comes up for discussion in a class. Rather, I save my words for when I feel they are going to be heard and received most. It is not important for me to speak in class for the sake of speaking. I feel that my voice is valuable, but shouldn’t be abused. My power to speak – to voice my opinion – shouldn’t be over-exercised, to the point that no one respects what I say anymore. I prefer to talk about something when I have a put together point available.
This fellowship also serves another purpose – it seems to validate my path, my goal for my life. With this fellowship comes $6000, which God knows I could use to put toward next year’s tuition. While the money is really important and instrumental in my going to seminary this summer, having the money come from where it did and when was just the support and sign that I needed. I know deep down in my heart and soul that I am doing what God intended for me to do, but this just serves as another sign, another source of validation that I am headed in the right direction, that I am listening to God. That I am following God.
I am aware of how much I have changed over the last four years, but the fact that I was awarded this fellowship (and the money…that’s huge too) speaks volumes regarding these changes. Four years ago, I wouldn’t have bothered to apply because I worried that I wouldn’t get it, and didn’t want to face the resulting rejection. But now, I am strong enough to take anything that comes at me, and am strong enough to continue when the cards dealt are not in my favor. But fortunately, this time, the cards were for me. I won this time!