YEAR ONE: LÍTOST
(czech): a state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery
My word choice for this year is a bit dramatic, but hey-- freshman year was the worst.
Academic: What If I'm Bad At What I Thought I Was Good At
I enrolled in the Honors General Chemistry sequence for my freshman year, intending to knock my Honors science requirements out of the way and keep on learning a subject I loved in high school. The class was filled with people like me - good at science, top of their classes in high school. They all seemed aloof, unapproachable, and like they already knew every subject we covered in class. As the first midterm approached, I was a bit nervous for my first real college test, but I had studied and knew my chemistry concepts.
This was devastating - chemistry was one of my best subjects in high school, but suddenly wasn't anymore. Maybe I didn't deserve to be here, among all these students who were smarter. These thoughts definitely affected my test day feelings - I experienced test anxiety for the first time. Sitting on the stools in lab staring at my exam, hearing everyone else writing furiously, I could almost feel the knowledge slip from my brain. I was determined to do better on the next exam, and I did improve a bit, but not really. I was still below average, just by a lesser degree.
The final was my bit of redemption. I'm not sure what changed - I studied just as much as for the midterms, and felt as secure in my understanding as the other midterms. Maybe I just finally stopped comparing myself to my classmates, and was more confident going into the final. This first quarter in Honors General Chemistry was my worst grade throughout all four years, but I think it was a necessary adjustment step to understanding college classes and realizing that I must focus on my growth, rather than comparing myself to others.
Personal: Writing Really Bad Poetry and Some Good Poetry
Throughout my life, poetry has always been a creative outlet for me. I remember being particularly fond of a poem I wrote in fourth grade about a shoe-- the pivotal line making reference to the shoe "sticking its tongue out" at the narrator. I remember writing in my journal late at night under my covers, flashlight in one hand and a pencil in the other. Writing poems helped me process emotions, frustrations, infatuations; they helped me through the grief of growing up.
Freshman year was no different. I used poetry to work through my transition into college, a place 1,600 miles away from home. Only, as it turns out, freshman year was difficult. I struggled to make UW feel like home and had trouble defining myself within the college environment. Looking back on that year, I just didn't feel like myself. I reference this era of Natalie in the third person, as if she was someone entirely different from who I am today, as if we were never the same person at all. I got stuck in a liminal space and couldn't trudge my way through until sophomore year, which brought its own issues, but I finally managed to find my footing and my place here.
So, borne out of this confusion and frustration, I wrote a lot of poetry. A lot of bad poetry. I thought I was being insightful and beautiful and dramatic and literary, I really was just lost and trying to anchor myself with words.
On a whim, I submitted one of my poems to Bricolage, the literary and visual arts journal, and it was accepted for publication. I am very proud of that poem, which can be found (along with my other poetry) at the link below.
Reading my poem at the release party for Issue 32 of Bricolage
Other highlights this year were:
- going to a lot of great cafés for great cups of chai
- seeing two concerts in the two days before a chemistry midterm
- attending a TEDxRainier conference
- flying to New Mexico over spring break to see my brother on his residency Match Day, and then driving to Arizona to see my grandparents and the Grand Canyon
- and later, having the pleasure of seeing my brother graduate from medical school
- taking the anthropology class that sparked my interest in the interdisciplinary nature of health care