I meant to write a column while I was in Indiana. I even imagined what it would be like to sit on campus, enjoying the sunshine and pleasant bustle of the counseling center with my new Pixelbook sitting on my lap tray. The reality of the thing, however, was far different. Professors expect you to throw together an entire presentation in less than a week, with no warning and barely any time for research, because that’s graduate school and, really, I should’ve seen it coming, you know?
It turned out OK in the end. I somehow managed to put together a decently in-depth presentation on perinatal mortality and crisis counseling in less than four days, and even got full points on it. My professor uploaded the grading rubric a few days ago and, in a chicken scratch that reminded me of my tenth-grade English teacher, wrote that my presentation was “polished and well-rehearsed,” which is funny, because I really only practiced it once. But I’m proud of myself for more reasons than one.
Presentations are hard for me. They always have been. People have a hard time understanding me when I talk. Strangers end up asking me to repeat myself, over and over and over again, until eventually I just give up, because it’s obvious that no one’s going to make heads or tails of what I’m saying anytime soon. Combine that with social anxiety and a pretty traumatic experience with public speaking in middle school and you get my desperate, almost pathological avoidance of assignments that include … well, talking, in any format.
I’ve gotten better. And by that I mean I no longer feel like I could throw up at any given point in time. But this was my first presentation in years — in fact, my first presentation since high school, if memory serves. And graduate-level presentations simply are a different beast altogether.
It was nice being on campus. Indiana is flat — flatter than Iowa, which is saying something — with cornfields stretching every which way. But as much as I love online school, I do miss the people. I miss their laughter, the bond that forms between students when a professor throws an assignment in your face last-minute. I miss the community, and as much as I hate to admit it (I’m such a nerd), I miss lectures. The atmosphere of it, I suppose. I don’t know. It’s hard to explain.
It was nice, but nerve-wracking all the same. I don’t feel like a graduate student; I certainly don’t feel like a professional. I’m just a girl in her PJs listening to tabletop podcasts while writing discussion posts. But being around people who work in the profession — counseling people with substance addictions, for instance — really drives it home that I’m doing this, that my life is about to change, that my life is already changing in small, significant ways.
It’s a good feeling. Terrifying, but good all the same. I feel invigorated. The things I’m doing feel vital, important, life-changing. The past six months have been less than great, thanks to depressive episodes and sinus infections and general life craziness, and the thought of living out of a hotel room for a week wasn’t exactly alluring. But I made it through. I even aced my presentation. And now, looking back, I can see that it imbued me with something unnameable but … vibrant. For the first time in half a year, I have momentum. I’m moving forward.
I turn 23 this week. Apart from Dungeons & Dragons, my book, and mental health vlogs, I have no plans for the rest of the summer, and I could not be more excited. I’ve been going nonstop for six months, and now I finally get to slow down, check in with myself, catch up on everything I’ve missed (i.e., all the podcasts I fell behind on), and prepare for the future — which, from what I can see, is looking pretty bright.
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