Objectively, using my new position as Commentary Editor to write a personal reflection about my college essay may seem like an extraordinarily narcissistic way to kick off the first issue of the year. But bear with me, because I think I might be onto something.
Five long years ago, I wrote my college admissions essay about overcoming my debilitating childhood shyness to become the leader of four clubs, three extracurriculars, and two sports teams at my private all-girls high school. It was a triumphant story about how I started off kindergarten so shy that my friend used to raise her hand to tell the teacher I had to go to the bathroom and ended with me graduating high school as an unstoppable, fearless leader.
The irony was, as soon as I got to college, none of it was true anymore. Faced with a new environment and new people, I became shy and introverted once again, the exact opposite of the girl I had said I’d become.
In some ways, this was inevitable. I did learn how to speak up but only within the walls of my tiny and relentlessly supportive high-school. Anything outside that was a new battleground, and I’d left all my weapons at home. It turned out the real challenge wasn’t that journey I wrote my essay on; it was doing it all over again when I got here.
In the second week of my first year, I surprised myself by being bold enough to audition for Experimental Theater Company, a tight-knit acting group on campus that meets twice a week to write funny sketches and everything in between. I surprised myself even more by getting in. I had been in an acting company at my high school and I loved it, not necessarily because of the acting itself, but because of the people who did it with me. They were funny, weird and exquisitely smart. ETC seemed like an obvious extension of high-school me, an opportunity to meet the same hilarious, genuine people. And that was exactly what it’s been for me every day since.
A lot of things changed when I got to college, but acting didn’t. It was the tiny piece of an old me that I held onto. When I stepped on stage, my voice came back out of me like a reflex. It didn’t matter to me if that voice was hidden behind a funny character or a really obnoxious accent. It just felt good to hear myself again, to be the person I had said I’d be when I got here, even if it was just for a few minutes.
As time went on, I learned two things: First, that it was almost impossible to be quiet when you’re in a comedy group. You can’t laugh without making any noise. Not to mention, it’s a lot more fun that way. But I also realized that the more I spoke up in the group, the more comfortable I felt with the sound of my own voice and the more I saw how the things I said and did could matter here.
In many ways, this was a cycle. It’s hard to love an environment where you don’t have a voice but it’s harder to have a voice when you don’t love the environment. I found my voice through the places I loved on campus and the people and groups that helped shape me. The more I cared, the more I had to say, and the more I didn’t care who heard me say them.
Today, the vast majority of people who meet me are surprised to learn that I am the co-president of a sketch comedy group on campus. I do not take offense to this. I am objectively the least funny person you have ever seen. But underneath my horrible resting face, I’m someone who finds my voice through my ability to laugh and maybe more importantly, in knowing that I’m a part of something that brings the same voice to others.
I never became that same version of high-school me again. But, I would argue that I became someone better. Our college essays may get us here but they don’t decide the person we are once we arrive. In many ways, my college essay is still being written. And I’m incredibly grateful that my four years here have given me the opportunity to add on to it.