Sometime in late March or early April of 2013 I helped organize an event for the Diversity and Programming Subcommittee, or simply DAPS. We invited several students to share their reasons for coming to SLC. Attendance was sparse, but it was one of our most successful projects. Several students came up to me the next day and requested us to create a similar event in the future. I was happy with the overall turnout. However, not one student answered why they decided to return. I dwelled upon the question myself and realized, and this may offend several people close to me when I say that, not one student prompted my decision to return to SLC.
In high school I won the superlative of “friend for everyone,” but the title should have really been “decent human being”. I learned very early that people are inherently interesting, if only someone gives them the time of day. I showed up to school at approximately 6:15 AM, every morning, and entered the dining hall waiting for first period to begin. Until then, I would engage in conversation with passer-bys or students that didn’t have a choice in what time they arrived at school. I could tell you the things that come out of a person that early in the morning, but I would break the confidence they held in me. I’ll tell you that every person was happy to have someone listen. People thought it was me being nice, and I sure as hell tried to be, but I was really just being a decent human being.
When I first arrived to SLC I was overwhelmed by the amount of comradery among the Green Team and the RA’s. It was jarring, however, when orientation was over and that all faded away. Some said it felt like camp. I’ve never been to camp, so I don’t understand that analogy. I just know that no one could have prepared me for the amount of alienation I would later endure.
The fact that I was ridiculed for being an extrovert infuriated me the most. I would overhear people saying, “Why the fuck is that kid always smiling?” I smile because I’m tired of seeing everyone else moping from class to class. What irked me more was that some thought that I had ulterior motives with my friendliness. That in itself warranted a dialogue on hypocrisy, being that the students who assumed on my behalf that I was “hitting on” others were the same students who believed I had somehow offended them. There is always a double standard.
This year, I’m an RA. I decided to apply solely for the ability to assist first-years in their integration into Sarah Lawrence social life, because I thought that was the hardest part in my experience. The moment orientation ends, there is an entirely new aesthetic and environment on this campus. No one is left on the north lawn. However, you’ll find people in the spring you haven’t seen all year, mostly because it’s hot as hell and the heat won’t turn off. Despite that, integrating into a society where people become defensive and don’t help you learn is by far your most impressive feat here.
Do I believe this year will go differently? Not at all. But that isn’t why I decided to return. I came back for Bill Shullenberger. Bill is my Don. Bill was and is the constant source of kindness that makes everything bearable. He helped me reach my full potential last year. Because of him, I did things I am so proud to show my parents–and especially my father–who I miss every day. I’m a little scared to think how I won’t be meeting with him for conference every week, but when I reflect on the wisdom he imparted on me, I find enough solace to continue with my education.
I am everything I want to be, and I want to be at Sarah Lawrence.