As a senior, I’ve been battling feelings of anxiety of being ordinary and failing to stand out. In a world of competition, you can never really feel too comfortable in your own skin. When we try our hardest and give our best attempts, there’s an internal pulse that carries us to the next step, ideally to many ascending steps ahead. The motivation is earnest, but still, anxious feelings are crippling; looming underneath is the big metaphysical black hole of the real world. It seems harsh, scary and generally unappealing.
While we’re at Kenyon, we’re lucky to not have to care for much beyond academic endeavors or choice of fruit at a Peirce meal. While we’re here, we’re meant to be here — we have a bed to sleep in, a P.O. box for mail and an ALT PIN every semester — but so often it feels like students here are trying to fight against their place by shrinking themselves to make their presence unknown. We are here to contribute, be molded and grow, and yet people at Kenyon have notably poor posture. We hide ourselves in the hunching of backs and dropping of shoulders. The excuse can be made that carrying tomes in a backpack leads to a certain forward incline, but I believe this habit would exist without heavy bags. This tendency would be common — even without the weight of adulthood! The way one carries oneself is telling.
Confidence is a fickle thing. We try to feel good about ourselves and our progression as humans through the arching narrative of our life, but it is often met with the angst of being young and criticism of academia. While my observation on posture is pedantic, I believe that it points to something larger. The desire for invisibility on a small campus is contagious, and none of us, however extroverted, is fully immune. Reasons for not wanting to be seen are far and wide — you’re avoiding someone, feeling lousy about an exam or just having a bad day.
Being critical and having high standards is good. We should strive toward excellence, but one of the many reasons college fails to resemble the world is you aren’t able to view yourself as a person. And in fact a total dedication toward excellence is neither realistic nor healthy. Being in an environment where others are constantly belittling themselves leaves little room for self-reflection and correction, and even less room to be yourself.
This piece is not an attempt to make everyone present themselves in a specific way; it’s a suggestion. There is nothing wrong with firmly accepting your place here and carrying yourself with the appropriate confidence. Push your shoulders back and lengthen your spine. Simply walk with determination. While I acknowledge that the early years of adulthood can be difficult, we are in a time of becoming. The pressure and weight of the world slowly piles on, but let’s not buckle under this weight yet.
The inward collapsing of most students is a coping mechanism against the stress of having to exist solely as a student in this environment. If we start to give ourselves room to be people, there may be some relief. In accepting that who we are is enough, we’ll realize that we can stand straight regardless. There will be nothing to hide from and only things to encounter.
Eve Bromberg ’19 is a philosophy major from Brooklyn, N.Y. You can contact her at email@example.com.