I am writing this from a courtyard on my new campus as I wait to go into my first of three days of orientation for graduate school.
There is still 35 minutes before registration begins, I got here an hour and ten minutes early just in case I got lost during the 7 minute walk from the T stop to the school. Don’t laugh, I’m capable of getting lost no matter how seemingly insignificant the distance. But of course I didn’t get lost. So now I’m just sitting here, killing time. Imagining that even though I’ve checked my 13 page orientation syllabus 678 times, I’ve somehow gotten the time wrong. And that everyones been getting oriented since 8.
But no, it starts at 9.
I know because I just pulled the paper out to check for the 679th time.
Yep, 9 am.
I should be excited, but I’m not.
I historically loathe everything that orientations typically represent. Getting to know you bullshit and ice breakers and a lot of information and that inevitable one person more neurotic than you who stops the lecturer a trillion times to ask endlessly clarifying questions.
I have a grand plan that I’m going to be SUPER warm and try to strike up conversation the second I see an opening anywhere. I don’t make friends that easily because my bouts of shyness in these situations make me appear cold and unapproachable.
I’m wearing jeans and sneakers also and this has caused me a considerable amount of anxiety. Too casual?!? I dunno.
I have done all of my pre-assigned readings but again, I’m terrified that I’ve somehow missed one and I’ll be cold called like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. I fear this even though I’m beginning a touchy feely program in guidance counseling or “professional psychology” as it says on the yellow sign on the door and not something terrifying like law school.
Someone just asked me if I was here for the orientation because the door I’m sitting outside of is locked. She seemed nice and much older than me. She has dark hair with blonde streaks. I keep watching people try that stupid door. Poor people.
Still 20 minutes to go…
I guess I’ll go in….
I had planned to finish this post during lunch but I didn’t have time because I was too busy chatting with a group of friends!
OH BABY THAT’S RIGHT!
The woman with blonde streaks in her hair that I mentioned above turned out to be incredibly cool and I’ll refer to her as M.
I walked into the classroom and saw her sitting in the back, pouring over her orientation binder. I decided I’d be brave and go sit next to her. I smiled widely at her as I approached and she lifted her head to make eye contact with me. I said something about being tired and she sort of smiled at me but didn’t say much else.
I figured she didn’t want to be bothered and went about looking at my own binder. I heard someone in the doorframe, a girl who looked to be about my age with a beautiful afro. I tried my tactic again and smiled at her. She walked over and said “You look like a friendly face, do you mind if I sit next to you?”
SCORE. We chatted for the hour while we waited for things to start, midway through our conversation a middle aged woman sat down with us, turned out she and afro girl had been in the same interview group. The three of us had a great conversation, and shared a lot of the same excitement and anxiety. Immediately I was feeling better.
Later in the orientation we broke into “dyads” (why they can’t just say partners I’m not sure…) and I turned to M, hopeful that maybe she’d be up for it. She crinkled her eyes and asked if I wanted to pair up with her.
As we worked on our assignment, I learned a lot about her. She used to work in the teach industry in Seattle (hello things in common!) I know she’s older than me by at least a decade but she treated me like an equal. She explained how she’s really shy and suddenly I felt ridiculous. And also finally understood what it must have been like for that girl in high school, who admitted to me on the last day of senior year that she found me “really cold and intimidating” when in reality I had thought I wasn’t cool enough to talk to her.
High school man, it never ends.
In the end I can only call the day a success.
I feel hopeful for graduate school.
I feel positive I can handle it.