So I haven’t written a post since before school started again, and my first thought on such a revelation is: “That makes sense, when was the last time I had time to take a fifteen minute shower?”
Regardless, sophomore year so far has been hectic and exciting and filled with good moments and sad moments and overall, a whole lot of growing up. I got lots of thoughts about future career planning and voting in my first election and so so many thoughts about money (hey, if you aren’t here to read my rambling thoughts then what are you doing here?), but I want to start this round of sophomore year introspection with something else: Being legit.
Sophomore year, for me, has been largely defined by a sort of freedom and flexibility that’s vastly different from the hand holding that seems to dominate freshman year. And honestly, it’s been great. I love getting my ass kicked in graduate school seminars and planning out my law career on Excel spreadsheets and learning how to be a fully formed human and all that. Unfortunately, along with this change comes a new question of authenticity, and whether or not I’m even remotely qualified to be doing whatever it is I’m doing. The freshman label is gone, I’m a year over eighteen, it doesn’t seem like it’s good enough to say “Sorry I’m new at this” anymore if I mess up.
For the past two months, I’ve been, for the lack of a better word, obsessed with whether or not I am qualified to do basically anything I’ve been doing. At some point, I’m going to have to just suck it up and keep doing things despite intense impostor syndrome, but for now, here’s my thoughts.
So, I tend to pre-emptively panic, which is great sometimes because it means I finish papers 3 weeks in advance and do my laundry way before I run out of panties, but it also means I’ll do things like watch my CS major friends apply to summer internships early (because they’re actually supposed to) and panic and think I need to be doing something with my life and rabidly apply to things and end up with a fall internship I didn’t plan to have. I’ve been doing business development with Percolata, which is a start-up in Palo Alto that creates technology for optimizing retail scheduling. It’s been really fun sitting in on conference calls, working on CRM reports and emailing clients (REAL people who do REAL things in the REAL world!!), but it’s also been absolutely terrifying, because I am so unqualified. Like, it’s ridiculous.
I’ve never done anything business-related before in my life, I have no idea how technology works (I asked my friends for help reading code the other day in this troubleshooting problem I had at work, only for my friend Tucker to tell me that it wasn’t even code it was just data written in computer-y font), and I’m also just plain scared of talking to strangers. On one hand, I’m grateful that I get to learn so much, but it’s also like… why did you hire me?? I don’t really have anything insightful to say, I just really feel out of my league.
In perhaps the most un-Juliana fashion ever, I declared my major a quarter into freshman year, and am actually still happy about that choice. I love Linguistics, and this fall has been so good for figuring out how I want to apply it in my future career and life. That being said, if you think declaring your major is some magical process that suddenly makes you knowledgeable about your academic field of choice, it’s not. I’ve taken a solid number of Linguistics classes, and this quarter I’m taking this really wonderful graduate seminar on bilingualism, but I still don’t feel like I know anything. Even now in my seminar, sometimes I’ll say something, and then spend the rest of class questioning what I said and wondering if everyone thinks I’m the dumb undergrad who didn’t know what “translanguaging” meant. I’m learning a lot, sure, but for some reason it doesn’t feel like I should be qualified to graduate with a Stanford diploma that says Linguistics on it in two years. Maybe it’ll get better as I get into more higher level classes/get older/learn what “translanguaging “means.
I started writing poetry by writing these terrible, rhyming love letters to my first boyfriend in 7th grade. As my poems have (hopefully) gotten better and less rhymey, romantic love has continued to be a prominent theme in my writing. I’ve started to take writing more seriously this quarter, declaring a Creative Writing minor and working on a chapbook in an Independent Study with one of my favorite teachers here at Stanford. In doing so, I’ve started to think a lot more about what other people think of my writing.
Love poetry has a reputation for being overly sentimental and silly, and reading some of the things I wrote as a 13 year old, I understand why. As much as I enjoy writing love poetry, I can’t help but think that doing so somehow…illegitimizes my craft (I wonder if making up words like “illegitimizes” does as well). I worry that because I write love poetry, the poetry I produce and the poet that I am aren’t as legitimate, and that writing love poetry reduces me to some unqualified teenage girl with no writing ability and too many feelings.
I want to be a good writer. And I don’t know how to reconcile that desire with the sort of realm in which a lot of love poetry exists. There’s a lot of good love poetry out there (I say with a collection of Pablo Neruda on my lap) but when you hear love poetry, you don’t automatically think “ah yes, the pinnacle of good writing”.
My creative writing professor keeps telling me to not be afraid of writing my obsessions (mostly because I keep apologetically pulling out more poems about my mom during our sessions lol), as long as I am sure I have something new to say on the topic. Which I think I do; when was the last time you read a poem about watching your lover blow his nose?
Dance and choreographing:
Of all the things I do with my time, nothing that makes me question myself and my ability quite as much as being a choreographer. I’ve written a lot about starting dance in college and how I’ve struggled with being clueless and being a beginner. But now, it’s even worse because I’m not much better at dancing but people actually watch me during practice now. Sometimes they even try to learn the dances I make up, and that’s SCARY!!! Here’s how a typical exchange will go during practice:
Nice random dancer: Hey Juliana, can you show me how to do that move from your piece again?
Me: Yeah sure, it goes like this (in my head: But I mean I’ve never actually learned dance before so maybe it shouldn’t be done like this, this is just how my silly idiosyncratic body does it and I’m sorry the structure of team dances means you need to try and copy my unqualified weird dance moves, maybe you should show me how you do it first there’s a chance it’ll actually look better that way, okay you’re starting to look at me funny now I should probably do the move) *does the move*
It’s weird being a choreographer, because on one hand I really really want to be a good role model and seem like I know what I’m doing, but on the other hand, I keep wanting to preface everything I do with a preamble about how I’m not good at this dance thing. I want people to like my dances and to think I’m a good choreographer, but I also want to tell them it took me weeks to come up with that tiny 8 count and I had to choreograph it at 25% speed and slowly teach myself to do it faster because the music was way too quick.
I’m still trying to figure out how to navigate this weird mental space, because I think it also gets at how you want to characterize the role of technique and formal training in something that is simultaneously so regimented and so expressive as dance.
TO WRAP THINGS UP
Overall, I think I’ve started moving into spaces where the things I make and do are beginning to matter, and more importantly, to affect other people. That’s scary, and it makes me think I need to do a lot better than I am currently capable of doing. I am trying to figure out how to resolve feelings of inadequacy while also being the best poet/dancer/intern/linguist/person I can be. I am hoping that that will be enough for now.
Sophomore year has been good for growing up. Unfortunately I haven’t gotten any less verbose, but that’s an issue for another time.