I will never forget the first time I made eye contact with my professor. My notes sat on the desk in front of me, and I sat anxiously answering his questions in my head. Finally, after much debate, I slowly lifted my hand into the air. He turned and looked me in the eye, and I felt all my confidence slide to the floor. It was like being in high school again.
I sat in the seat that I’d eagerly taken in the front row and suddenly wished that I was sitting in the back, or better yet, in a closet somewhere far away. I just sat there gaping like an idiot, and when I finally spoke up I barely touched on my freakishly extensive notes. The night before, I had analyzed Chaucer’s knight from the top of his rusted armour down to his battle-worn boots, and yet I sounded like I’d barely read a word.
As I brooded over this for a completely unreasonable amount of time, I made a promise to myself: I came to university to grow and learn so that I might one day use my education to pursue my dreams and teach others. With that worthy pursuit in mind, my courage grew. My hand, and my confidence, rose to new heights. The contact list grew on my phone as I made new friends, my heels grew higher as I let out my inner Carrie Bradshaw for the world to see, and I found myself getting so much more out of my classes.
I still have moments when I wish I could give a more sophisticated answer to an inspiring professor, or that I would stop over analyzing the meanings of meaningless things. The difference now, though, is that I no longer dwell on it. Instead, I remind myself of my promise and my progress. I am slowly growing into university, and as a result, I am growing into myself.
When I met my favourite author Deborah Harkness, she said that true power isn’t the magic in her books, but instead is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and not only accept who you are but appreciate it. I want to spend the rest of my life analyzing texts in order to learn about people who lived centuries ago. I have come to realize that if I want to stand in a lecture hall full of students and talk passionately about medieval manuscripts, I first have to get up the gall to ask my own professors my burning questions and give the answers I studied so hard to know. I have to raise my hand in class.