|Year of Entry: 2008
||Age at Entry: 15
||Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
Where I Belong
Sitting in my room late at night, often so late it’s early morning, I look towards the ceiling and wonder why I am here. Why did I decide that college was a good idea? All it seems to entail is stacks of homework and never ending projects. As I bang my head onto my desk, the vibrations seem to knock my thoughts into place. Despite the amount of work, which I brought upon myself as a double major, student leader, and club president, this is where I am happy. This is where I belong.
Before I came to the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) at Mary Baldwin College, I was the quiet kid in the corner, the one who existed in her own little world. I didn’t bother to attempt to interact with the outside world because when I did, people would look at me like my hair had just fallen out and burst into a cloud of butterflies for using the words like ‘xyresic’ or actually wanting to learn about math instead of just complain about it. So, I kept to myself, and I watched the world at a distance, picking up bits of knowledge as life moved me along; but, life seemed to be moving me along so slowly.
After a year of high school I was fed up with this sort of existence. Everyone seemed apathetic, and I was becoming apathetic too. In class, I was held to the same standard and rate of learning as the less advanced of my peers, allowing me to learn only at a trickle instead of the gushing waterfall I wanted. Because critical thinking wasn’t a necessary skill required to complete the busy work my teachers assigned, I was losing my ability to think. I was slowly becoming a zombie discouraged from reaching my full potential. Realizing that my mind was slowly rotting away from lack of use, I looked for a way out. Luckily for me, I found PEG.
Even from the first moments, the PEG environment was notably different from any I had experienced before. The people around me were actually interested in learning! They also didn’t look at me like I had an alien crawling out of my ear when I used uncommon words. In fact, many of them used just as many as I did! At PEG, knowledge and learning were encouraged, and I wanted to be part of it. I didn’t need to hide in my own world anymore because I was finally at home and at ease in my environment. Slowly but surely, PEG drew me out of my shell and let me explore. Instead of being asked to standardize my interests and make them fit into a box like I had been in high school, I was encouraged to follow them, and that is exactly what I did.
Academically, following my interests wasn’t hard. College-level classes contained plenty of information (sometimes, it seemed, even too much) for me to absorb. I also met people who were interested in the same subjects I was. Some of these people went on to become my closest friends. Another interest I was allowed to pursue was student government. It wasn’t really an interest at first. Anyone who knew me freshman year can tell you that I was a bit too shy for a leadership position. However, by sophomore year I had opened up enough to run for hall president. I don’t know whether to call it a fluke or a miracle or admit that maybe it was intentional, but somehow I won becoming responsible not only for expressing my voice but the voice of everyone on the hall. I had never quite realized the power of a voice before, but once I did, there was no turning back. PEG had given me confidence, and with it I was changing. I was no longer that girl who sat in the corner and stayed silent. Instead, I had blossomed and grown into someone with respect, poise, confidence, and intelligence. I am no longer afraid to be myself, and for that I am eternally thankful.
Eccentric, Eclectic, and Accepted
One of the things that helped me open up so much at PEG was that many of the people I was associating with were just as eccentric as I was. My friends shared my interest in learning and, while some nights were spent holed up in the laundry room having mini meltdowns while working endlessly on chemistry and developing schemes to pour elixirs into the coffee of certain professors, we were there for each other. If one of us didn’t understand a concept, the others could explain it. If none of us understood, at the very least, we had someone to whom ranting would be acceptable. So many memories were formed and not just about stressful and semi-stressful things! There are a myriad of happy memories, too. Once, a friend and I decided to derive a differential equation for the distribution of ingredients in the cookie dough we were mixing. Completely nerdy, I know, but it was fun, and I feel that if I had never come to PEG, I would be hard pressed to find people to do such wonderfully eclectic things.
Between the brilliant people and the ability to learn at a pace that keeps my intellect engaged, I believe that deciding to come to PEG was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Things aren’t perfect, but they never are, and this was definitely better than being stuck in high school. At PEG I was able to grow into a person that I like, and from the experience I have gained not only the confidence to keep growing, but friends that will help me do so. I still have a lot of life ahead of me, but during my time at PEG, I gathered the tools I need for success, and I am prepared for whatever life wants to throw at me next.