College is my chance, I told myself. In middle school, in high school, when I didn’t audition for the school play or take that ballet class or try to do chorus, I always told myself: College is my chance.
The funny thing about College Me is that it almost uncannily resembles High School Me. I still can’t sing, I still can’t dance, I still can’t act, but I can’t even begin to explain how badly I want to.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to create something beautiful. Something so intricate, so detailed, so beautifully woven, so masterfully crafted that it can speak for itself. That it means something to people, that it invokes emotion, that it cries out for attention. I believe that the right combination of words, notes or brushstrokes can do that. And continuously, as I chose track over pottery class, newspaper instead of chorus, I told myself that my creative self was in there somewhere.
So now I’m at college. I’m a different me – well, the same me, but more well-versed. That’s what I tell myself as I enter a spoken word workshop the second week of school, repeating under my breath, I’m new! I’m creative! I’m so college!
We start off writing about our day. Easy enough. I totally got this. Look at me, putting words to paper, putting these other poets to shame. Simple! What’s next? As it turns out, trying to write an actual poem is a lot harder than a diary entry. I sit in that workshop, surrounded by my classmates – who all seem to be churning out beautiful, mystical words, similes drawn from images in their dreams – and all I can think to write about is dining hall food. I end up failing – I try to stitch together words, breathe life into a metaphor, write something that means anything to anyone, and it doesn’t work.
After the poetry debacle, something I should’ve realized a while ago struck me: Art is like a sport. You can understand it, love it, follow it and watch it, and still be complete crap. For some reason, this knowledge didn’t deter me. Alright, I thought. Poetry isn’t for me. I can work with that.
Next up, dancing. I stumble my way into a swing dancing workshop, knocking elbows and stomping on all feet that are unlucky enough to be in my general vicinity. The instructor begins the workshop – my unlucky partner attempts to lead the simple movements as I flail desperately and almost knock the glasses off his face. Instead of stepping forwards, I step backwards. Instead of twirling, I stay still. I’ve always been a terrible dancer, but college was meant to transform me into a ballerina.
When I walk into my dorm that fateful evening, I’m instantly greeted by the banging of piano keys and the strumming of a guitar. Stanford is an incredible place, seemingly brimming with creativity from every crack; my dorm is no exception. Almost every night, there’s an impromptu concert – everyone from all floors, regardless of friend group, gender or potential major, will bring their instruments, their voices, their words and make beautiful music. Maybe part of my desire for creativity is some desperate need to fit in. Maybe I just want to be somewhat comparable to my amazing classmates, even if all it means is I’m really good at pottery. Maybe I just want to be able to make the world listen to me like they can.
I’m a freshman. I have time to explore all my creative outlets and discover a field I’m passionate about. But what if I don’t? What if I’m left with nothing but my mediocre math skills and a love for art? I don’t mind not being able to draw or sing or act, but I’m terrified that if I can’t, I’m left with nothing. I’ve always been told that I’m a well-rounded capable student. But at Stanford, that doesn’t feel like enough. To me, especially, it doesn’t feel like enough.
Being a freshman means I still have time to be the next Beyoncé. And hey, maybe it’ll happen. Or maybe it won’t. At least I have four years to figure it out.
Contact Natachi Onwuamaegbu at natachi ‘at’ stanford.edu.