feeling small

drawings_michel

Among thousands of students, the large majority of which are geniuses in some form, I struggle to reconcile with my feelings of inadequacy–especially since I’ve transferred into the School of Engineering this year. By some odd stroke of good fortune and I guess hard work, I wound up receiving a teaching assistant position for the discrete mathematics course that all comp sci majors/minors have to take (CIS 160).

I applied for the position because I wanted to keep learning and to join a community of people in which I could grow. I acknowledge that I worked my ass off last semester and sold my soul to office hours and problem sets, so receiving this job feels like a validation of my plight. But working hard doesn’t necessarily equate to intelligence or deep understanding or teaching ability. When I tell friends and colleagues that I’m a 160 TA, they widen their glimmering eyes in what I perceive to be respect. This reaction makes me feel bashful and sheepish and confused and turbulent all at once. I want to exclaim, “Don’t you understand! I’m not even smart or qualified. I’m not a math whiz! LISTEN TO ME WOMAN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING OR EVEN WHO I AM.”

I held office hours today and walked out feeling like a desolate puddle of melted human. Understanding material sufficiently to execute a homework problem and mastering concepts so that you can dynamically bend and morph them into clear explanations are two completely different beasts. I have no confidence in myself, and that self-deprecation projects itself into my answers. I can’t stop thinking that if my previous self had me, Annie Su, as a TA, I would hate me. Why do I feel so drastically under-qualified for this job?

The TA’s for 160 are all quirky, intelligent, and nice people, and I’m grateful to have been extended a hand into this community. But being around these people throws me into a limbo of anxiety and self-doubtThis dude popped out of the womb doing math competitions. And that girl over there interned at Facebook, Apple, and SpaceEx. What am I but a small, random outlier? All I have going is hard work. Slow learning. Inquiry. I know that dwelling on what I’m not doing right is wasting what little time I do have to improve and learn…but I can’t help it.

I’m starting to learn more and more that I am not these people and never will be. I’m not an AMC champion or a genius software developer at the ripe age of 17. I don’t have any of those things going for me, but that’s ok. My own set of skills (not really sure what they are though) are different. And different != bad. What I like to talk about and ruminate over, what I read voraciously until 3am, what I’m curious about, what I think about in fleeting while on the elevator–these constitute who I am and what kind of person I want to be. Why do I fret over not being like the others? The world needs more kooks, right?

(in theory)

Then the disconnect  between sound logic and visceral feeling sets in. I feel inadequate anyways. I feel small anyways.

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figure drawing

FNAR 280: Figure Drawing 1 also known as The Only Class That Kept Me Sane. The human body is really beautifully intricate and strange…thank you Doug for being the most eccentric, avuncular professor and creating a space where all your students feel free to question, create, and observe with open minds and open hearts. I’ll miss all your strange, random musings and the donut runs and of course, the black charcoal dust that manages to coat itself over my hands, clothes, belongings, soul, etc….

“I think art is really important to you.” As stupid and self-oblivious as this sounds, I didn’t realize what an irrevocable part of my life art inhabits until Doug said this to me during crit on the last day of class. I’m so thankful that I took this class–it nurtured a love in me for the human body and all its strange intricacies. Most of all, I know myself approximately 2.5% better. I know that creating art is meaningful and worthwhile to me and that I never want to stop doing that.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the cliché post-class feelings out of the way, here are some drawings that turned out not terrible (nudity warning).

figure_drawings