To say that I didn’t fit in at my high school would be an understatement. Rural Michigan isn’t exactly known for the quality of its schools (shocker), and although I had some excellent teachers, school wasn’t really much of a challenge for me (conceited? absolutely – but let’s face it, if you’re an Amherst student it’s kind of inevitable). It became my goal to convince my classmates that, while I pretty much owned at academic pursuits, I wasn’t some mouth-breathing geek with a pocket-protector. To build my ice cold rep’, I spent pretty much every moment of school time feigning boredom and pretending to be ultra-cool (although on this score I didn’t have to pretend much, because I’m one cool cat).
I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this. Truth is, sans mouth-breathing and pocket-protector, I was a geek. While I can’t say I loved homework and completed it with any sort of punctuality, I did like to learn. There’s nothing that can match the feeling of successfully mastering a concept in calculus and knowing it in the same way that you know how to tie your shoes, or reading a short story in English class and being able to articulate how its pieces fit together to create a whole that makes you realize things you never knew about yourself and humankind. That kind of learning is wonderful and powerful, and Amherst is a place where that kind of learning is not just accepted, but expected. It’s also just great to be in a place where people don’t think I’m being obnoxious when I use “big” words, like alacrity, efficacious, fecundity, maudlin, pusillanimous, superfluous, taciturn, ubiquitous, etc., etc. There’s the added bonus that people actually understand what I’m trying to say, which is helpful when attempting to hold conversations.
Suffice it to say that my Amherst experience has been wonderful in most respects. I’ve made some excellent friends. Seriously, I could not have asked for a better group of people to spend my time with. Whether we’re having a nerf war, knitting, fencing, playing bohnanza (SUCH a good game – check it out), or simply chatting, it’s bound to be a fantastic time.
Social aspects aside, the administration has done me a huge favor by even making it possible for me to mingle with the patricians (and my fellow plebs, of course). With a price tag of a cool 50-something G’s a year, I should be laughing to myself (to keep from crying) at a community college in Michigan about the price of a school I got accepted into but wasn’t able to attend. Amherst has its faults, but I’m pretty willing to overlook said faults for the kind of money it spends on me. I’m also eternally grateful to the administration for realizing my potential. Of course, this sounds cliché and cheesy, but I’m being completely real here. Coming from my background, I was sure I would never fit in with the trust-fund, private-school types that were sure to run campus while the low-income, public-school types (aka me) that they let in to “promote diversity” struggled to keep up. Needless to say, I was a little worried. My first few months here only backed up my preconceptions as I worked harder than I’d ever had to work at academics, just to maintain a B average. Yet, little by little, those B’s became less and less frequent (without ever disappearing, unfortunately) and my grades began to rise steadily. At the end of the first semester, I had to confront a report card that would have disappointed me in all respects before, but that I now faced with satisfaction as proof of mettle tested and a challenge overcome. Although I may have been chosen to fill the low-income niche in the diversity pyramid of Amherst (I’m not naïve enough to think I got in on merit alone), I can look in the mirror and tell myself, “You do belong here. Amherst knew it all along.”
Well, I hope this post sort of gives you an idea of what I’m about, but if it doesn’t – what can I say? I’m an enigma pie with mystery filling. Mmmm… appetizing.