Sunday, June 28, 2009

State Memories Project: Missouri

The decision to transfer out of the University of Missouri was a pretty clear one for me. I wasn’t being challenged in the slightest, getting a 4.0 while putting in almost no effort...constantly playing Spades and Outburst in the lounge, putting in no more time studying than I had in high school. But it was still a horrible experience buying all of those college guides again, mostly because somewhere deep inside I had a horrible, nagging fear of bungling my second college choice as badly as I had bungled the first. Thankfully, and in a bizarre coincidence, my academic advisor at Mizzou was my big sister, and my parents blessedly said that they knew I had made a big error, and that they would support my transfer wherever I wanted to go.

Still, I was a wreck. At 18, the college choice was the most important choice I had ever made on my own, and I’d failed it. Those who told (and tell) me—accurately, I think—that Missouri was a necessary part of figuring out who I was, that I obviously needed to make that mistake to mature, that I wouldn’t be who I am without it, that I probably never would have landed at Kenyon without...Mizzou…well, they didn’t (and don’t) make me feel any less stupid about making the mistake of going to a college that didn’t have a prayer at stimulating me intellectually as an undergrad.

I was in that mindset one morning—probably mid-October—when I walked back to my dorm from my Junior Honors Shakespeare class (Mizzou was so stunned to have me at all that they broke all the rules and let me cut in front of a large waiting list to take it). I was transported by the discussion of whatever play we were working on, but as soon as I was back on Conley Avenue, my head was spinning again. Do I go small school, or large? Would majoring in English screw up my desire to be a sportscaster? Should I transfer at semester and abandon my budding Missouri friendships or tough it out for a year and do an easier, after-one-year switch? And, most scarily, how would I know I wasn’t screwing up again?

I may have been shaking. It was that stressful.

Back in 628 Mark Twain Hall, I fell asleep and had a dream. In this dream, my beloved AP English teacher from high school stood before me. She simply told me to calm down, and that everything would be all right. Big school or small, English or something else, end of year or at semester…I remember her saying “You’ll be fine. You’ll be great.”

I wasn’t shaking when I woke up. Breathing had normalized, and my notoriously overactive mind had calmed quite a bit.

By the end of the day, I’d written my old teacher a letter saying that, although she didn’t know she did it, she traveled 700 miles into my consciousness that afternoon to make what was a cataclysmic life crisis into something I could handle.

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