Although the process of retelling this story is going to bombard me with traumatic flashbacks, I’ll bear through the pain for the benefit of whoever is reading this.
I live in Rinconada of Wilbur Hall, and every Thursday night our RFs invite a random group of residents to their cottage for a fondue night. During said nights, we sit around a fire and partake in hot chocolate, s’mores, various fruits, cookies and, of course, fondue. And yes, it is indeed as cute as it sounds.
The evening started off so well for me; I was nice and cozy, could feel the atmosphere oozing with good vibes, took a few VSCO-worthy pictures of the fire pit and was excited to see what activities the rest of the night had in store.
Once everyone was settled into their seats, our RFs pulled out a large bowl that had a bunch of little slips of paper in it. The basic idea of the activity was to pass the bowl around and pull a question from it to answer.
The first round was great; I was starting to feel like I was getting to know the people in my dorm on a deeper level than I had ever known most of them before. Alas, it was the second round that screwed me over.
“What is your definition of humility?”
This seems like a pretty basic question. Perhaps it requires a little more mulling over than, “What’s your dream vacation?” But still, most people would consider it sort of straightforward.
For some reason, my brain chose that very moment to stop working. Then, with my brain temporarily turned off, I turned the word “humility” into “humiliation” in my mind, and proceeded to provide an example of something that would fit my own personal definition of humiliation.
Here’s the real kicker. I said that my definition of humiliation is saying something stupid and wrong in front of a group of people I don’t know very well. Oh, the irony.
As soon as I passed the bowl off to the next person, my stomach dropped as I realized the grave mistake I had just made. Humility — as in, the quality of being humble. NOT humiliation. I literally could not focus on anything for the rest of the night. All I could think about was how stupid everyone in that circle probably thought I was. Even when the gathering was over, I went back to my room and just sat on my bed, thinking about it. I was still thinking about it for pretty much the entirety of the following day.
I know that everyone says something stupid every once in awhile. All of my friends comforted me by reminding me that I was probably the only one who was even still thinking about it.
So why did I beat myself up so much over this one instance?
Going to a school like Stanford, it seems like everyone around me is just incredibly smart. I mean, the person who lives in the room right next to mine can solve a Rubik’s Cube blindfolded in under 28 seconds. When surrounded by so many ridiculously bright people, it’s easy for even one slip-up to feel magnified.
For anyone reading this who has struggled through a similar experience, it’s okay. There’s no need to sweat over the small stuff. If it happened, it happened. As Big Sean advises, “take the L and bounce back.”
I think the problem comes from a need to feel that my own intelligence is validated by the opinions of others. But that shouldn’t matter to any of us. As cliché as it sounds, we all got in, and we all deserve to be here. While it’s easy to amplify the small moments like my fondue fiasco, I’m working towards no longer letting them eat away at me.
On the bright side, at least I’ll never forget the definition of humility ever again.
Contact Kassidy Kelley at kckelley ‘at’ stanford.edu.