12.9.16

Today is my last day of undergraduate classes. I’ve been so excited for this moment, but as I rub my eyes and shift my covers this morning, I notice the excitement isn’t there. I rush to get ready, just like every other morning, and lock the door behind me. I walk out into the cold morning with a sense of finality weighing on my heart.

I go to chapel for the last time (Praise the Lord). I’m not very sad about that. I think I’ll miss the idea of chapel and the idea of worshiping with my peers and professors, but as I think about chapel from a day-to-day stance, I remember the frustration I often felt as I watched man after man assume the lectern, wishing a woman could stand there (just once).

I go to work in the English department. I make copies. I finish a little last minute reading for my class at eleven.

I go to my Victorian literature class, one of my favorites, for the last time. I don’t make many comments. I want to remember my professor’s face as he laughs at the absurdity of our shenanigans – the class gets kind of rowdy on Fridays (sometimes Mondays and Wednesdays, too).

I stay in the room for our weekly English department gatherings, my professors eating their lunches as they talk with us about any and every subject that arises – from Star Wars to how a professor’s sandwich symbolizes his life. Again, I don’t make many comments; I just breathe, feeling the energy in the room that occurs only when professors and students interact.

I go to work again – I grade a couple of things and go on a mail run. Mostly I just sit and enjoy being in the office. The bell rings, signaling my shift is over. I don’t move. As one of my professors comes back into his office, I follow him, promising to only stay for a minute. (I think we both know that’s a lie, but we don’t say it.) We chat like usual. He turns to his computer to send an email, and I look around his office in an attempt to regain my composure as two tears make their way down my face. I finally voice my concerns about the future and my worries about transitioning into a time of change and growth that I know will be good, but still can’t wrap my mind around. And it’s a good last day.

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This is the American Studies building. It’s where I’ve learned and grown and cried and struggled and laughed for the last four years. Next semester I’m going to be student teaching, a time of half-still-in-college-half-in-the-real-world confusion. I know I’m not leaving yet, but I kind of am. I’m so thankful for this building and all of the people in it who have shaped my life so substantially in such a short period of time. They’ve helped me figure out what I love about English and how to share that with the world, something I am so grateful for. As I go out into “the real world” and figure out what that even means, I’ll do my best to repay them for everything they’ve done for me by working, teaching, and learning until this life is over.

Senior Symposium

What a time to be alive.

For the past year, I have worked and worked (and worked) on my Senior Symposium – my final paper for my undergrad in the English program. I have loved every single second of this process. Every second of exhilaration, frustration, and every emotion in between.

Today was the culmination of the process – my presentation. This consisted of condensing my paper (a.k.a. slicing my masterpiece into a million pieces) and presenting it to a room full of my peers, family, and professors. After my presentation, the professors asked me questions, and I had to answer them.

It didn’t seem real until I was sitting in the third chair from the right on the front row. I got that feeling in my stomach that always accompanies nervousness, my right hand clutching my best friend’s, my left hand on the leg of one of my other close friends. We can do this.

I listened to the two people presenting before me, so proud of all of their hard work. Then it was my turn. I listened as my amazing mentor introduced me, saying so many kind things that I’d like to say I’ll never forget, but I can’t even remember because I was so nervous. I looked at the professors sitting on the back row of the auditorium. Each of them smiled encouragingly at me. I thanked my second reader and my mentor, took a deep breath, and began.

I vaguely remember looking down at my phone stopwatch and realizing that eleven minutes had already gone by. My mouth was an arid desert, but I kept going. People laughed at the appropriate places, so that was reassuring. One of my professors laughed five minutes longer than anyone else, so I’m especially glad he found my moments of comic relief funny.

Next came the questions, and I don’t really remember how they were posed, or how I answered them. I just remember feeling confident about them. I closed out of my PowerPoint, moved over so the next presenter could go and sat down.

After all of the presentations were done came a flood of positive reinforcement. My family, friends, and professors were so encouraging, and I felt honored to be able to share my ideas in front of them. A room full of the people I respect more than I could ever express, and they were telling me I was capable and worthy.

I want to remember every second of today, but I know that’s unrealistic. I’m simply so grateful for all of the love I saw today.

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The past three weeks, I have been observing and helping in a high school class as I prepare for student teaching next semester. It’s been such a joy already, and I am even more excited to teach than I was before, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have reservations.

I often have feelings of inadequacy surrounding teaching (among all the other areas of life). I am amazed by the questions students ask, wondering if I am really equipped to answer these inquiries. I think about the diverse backgrounds my future students will come from, and I struggle to understand how drastically different their lives are from mine. I also have the same sense of humor as 10th grade boys, so I wonder if I’ll even be able to keep a poker face when it matters – if I’ll know where to draw the line between fun and seriousness.

I have an hour-long round trip each time I go to the school at which I work, and these trips are filled with self-doubt, excitement, and attempts to process the things I’m learning. I have no doubt that I have the heart to teach, but I’m nervous to put it into practice.

I don’t know whether or not I can do it, but, my goodness, am I excited to try.