I started my fall semester a year before it began, with my enrollment deposit and my eager to-do lists of what would come next. What came next, of course, was months of waiting, catching the occasional email in my inbox and squealing with joy. I shopped. A lot. I bought a dry erase board, twin XL sheets, all-purpose surface cleaner, and a lot of shoes. February brought me to a snowy campus and an audition that introduced me fully into the atmosphere of the music school: it was my first time in one of our practice rooms. I fell in love with the hardwood flooring of the lobby, the carpet right outside the recital hall. But then I was home again, until June, where I got a brief glimpse of dorm living with registration. I came home, a list of classes in my hand, and went shopping again.
The waiting ended in August, when my excitement mixed with nerves. Would I find all my classes? What do I say to my professors? Will I have enough food? How will I make friends? But as soon as our car rolled onto the main street on campus, I felt at home.
Dear Wooster: Thank you.
Thank you for loving me even before you knew me, for being kind in the face of my worries, for giving me all the opportunities I could ever ask for, for providing a safe space for me to be myself, and for making me feel like I'd been here all along.
This year has been full of ups and downs. I have conquered papers, performed recitals, read incredible literature, and discovered my favorite cozy nooks and bright spaces in which to study. This year has been about pushing myself, diving deeply into my passions and seeing just how far I can get in two semesters. But it hasn't been easy. I have fought off doubts, I have questioned my choices. What am I really doing? Am I good enough? Is it worth it? I struggled with roadblocks, climbing out from underneath a two-year injury and assessing my creative struggles. Is this a sign that I should try harder or let go? I learned to get help when I need it. It is not a weakness to be in need of assistance, nor is it one to reach out. I was and still am amazed at the kindness shown to me this year, and I am so grateful to have been accepted into this community of doers, givers, and helpers.
I have learned so much.
I am stronger than I think. Both physically and mentally. I know what it's like to sit for seven hours in the music building, immersing myself in something so deeply that I questioned my own involvement. But it is worth it to show up. It is worth it to try again and again because failing is more important than the success, itself; more gratifying, in the end, than an easy fix could ever be.
Perfect does not exist. I am learning to let go of standards I sometimes still feel like I need to hold onto. My outward appearance does not define my inward value. The sum of my accomplishments does not equal my worth. My body is exceptional because it houses my mind, my heart, my soul. Acceptance is the surest path to happiness and contentment.
I am capable of so much more, but now, it is time to pace myself. For so much of my school career thus far, I have prided myself on my ability to push harder and plow through. Perhaps this route leads me directly to success, but I've discovered that there is more to the process than that. Work is about finding fulfillment in the gentle moments of growth between landmarks. It's about learning to trust upward motion and finding balance between gravity and weightlessness (happiness requires both). It's about gratitude and sharing experiences with others.
This year has taught me that, and I am thankful every day that I have been able to learn in the welcoming and genuine environment that Wooster represents.
A thousand times, thank you.
And for next year, a thousand times, I can't wait.