Perseverance Over Weakness

Danny Smith\The Hoya

DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA

In a Georgetown Heckler meeting earlier this year, someone pitched an idea that made fun of “typical Georgetown people.” He started listing all of these Georgetown stereotypes: everyone’s super perfect, super type-A, super ambitious, etc. I stopped listening. I hate when people go off like that.

People who insist on talking about the student body like a bunch of high-achieving robots are not comparing us to the people we are now. They are comparing us to the people we were when we first got here. I do not know about you, but I was hot stuff when I rolled onto this campus. Freshman fall, I bought the exact pen that my professor recommended for note-taking and color-coded all of my notebooks, binders and folders. I never brought my phone to class, and for my first summer after Georgetown, I literally assigned myself summer reading based on professor suggestions.

Now, of course, I am a total slob — the exact senior I swore I would never become. I am not alone; all of my friends have expressed some version of this prevailing senioritis in the past year and it has perplexed us all. How, in this hotbed of high-achievement, have I managed to become so unraveled? I have no life plan. Why am I not more afraid of graduating? Does it mean that I am burnt out? How did attending a competitive college make me less competitive?

The best metaphor that I can think of to describe my experience here is a rock tumbler. We are the sharp, hard rocks and Georgetown is the barrel, spinning us around. Sure, the barrel has sanded sides, but it’s ultimately the type-A, hyper-achieving rocks that wear each other down until they’re all shiny and smooth.

To say that Georgetown “wore me down” does not imply that I am weaker than before. Being around my friends and classmates have worn away some of the delusions I had about myself and what I wanted out of this place. It helped me stop taking myself so seriously. When I stopped pulling my hair out striving for that 4.0 GPA, I was able to throw myself into other things that I love and that have enriched me immeasurably as a person. Being head of the improv team, for example, has given me an amazing group of friends and has boosted my confidence almost as much as it has deflated my street credibility. But I am only kidding; improv is cool.

Rock tumbling does not come easy. I have had hundreds of moments since I started college when I was not at my best. I was the neurotic bio major running on four hours of sleep and six cups of coffee, on the brink of a nervous breakdown; the roommate who participated in passive-aggressively ignoring the mouse in our living room for months until one day he was gone and I found myself missing him. I was the girl in Union Station who forgot to print out my Amtrak ticket and handled it so poorly that a man came up to me and said, “Ma’am, I am a doctor. You are having a panic attack and I’m going to need you to calm down.” Way to deal with adversity, Cleary.

Over the years I have wondered to myself: “Am I the spaz friend that everyone compares themselves to in order to feel better about themselves?” So maybe I am. Who cares. Georgetown’s a fake-it-till-you-make-it world, and I am sure a lot of people secretly suspect that they are the spaz friend. If I did not have the fear of being seen as “the spaz friend,” I would not be the person I am now. I am not as afraid to try stuff and not as afraid to reach out to people. I have learned to be more forgiving of human error, in others and myself.

My sheltered baby skin I fought so hard to protect in high school now has a bit of scar tissue. I owe both the scars and my ability to heal from them to the friends, classmates and teachers I have known during my time here. I have realized that being grumpy/sick/sad/depressed/sleepy/scared does not make you weak; letting that stop you from trying makes you weak.

So yes: my freshman year self might see the smoothness left behind by my battered, sanded edges and think, “What happened to all of those edges I worked so hard to build? Now everyone knows that Caitlin is juggling more than she can chew! How embarrassing!”

But honestly, what does she know? Nobody wants a pointy rock.

 

Caitlin Cleary is a senior in the College.

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