Friday, October 17, 2014

Community and Conformity

At the end of week four, I'm starting to feel more at home at college. I can signal turns while riding my bike; I know librarians and dining hall staff by sight; I stay up late doing homework because I got distracted earlier in the evening by interesting conversations with friends on my hall.

(On the other hand, my writing has ground down to a few paragraphs a week, which is awful because I've been stuck in the same scene for weeks and Marilla is not the only one getting bored. I may just do an awkward scene cut to get to the next bit.)

In particular, what strikes me is that what was true in high school is still true in college. Namely, when I get caught up in classes and schoolwork then I get tunnel vision and often feel sad and insecure and anxious. When, however, I am participating in something outside of classes--band, hall conversations, seismic design team--I feel, perhaps not happy all the time, but more optimistic, more purposeful, and more in power.

I also worry about conformity. The topic is on my mind right now because not an hour ago I was in section for my class on Evil, and the readings for today included a piece about the Milgram and Zimbardo experiments (read here). In general, though, I sometimes get worried that being part of something bigger than myself, being part of a group, means sacrificing my individuality.

Mostly, I've gotten over this fear. Playing a certain role in a group doesn't have to entail selling your soul; it's a matter of taking on suitable roles, of letting the character you play hew to the character you have. That's part of why I don't feel completely at home in band yet: yes, the more experienced players are very kind and helpful, and I appreciate that, but it doesn't suit me to be in a position where I need their help in order to get anything done. I want to be useful and reliable, someone who, if not in a leadership position, can at least be relied upon by leadership to play point person--and I'm not there yet, which is uncomfortable.

Honestly I'm not sure why I'm so worried about conformity. My problem is more likely to be that I don't *get* the implicit rules of a group and do something aberrant and weird and awkward than that I internalize the rules too well. Conformity lies on the other side of community, and you have to get in before you can't get out.

(I'm also not that worried that I'll compromise myself in order to gain acceptance. As this blog, especially of late, should demonstrate, I am far too self-absorbed for that.)

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I wanted to make one more point in this post, which is that, as I said I'd do in a post from last week, I've reached out more to people in my department. The response has been illuminating thus far, and every week I feel more certain that I will indeed end up in civil engineering. Walking around Y2E2, where most of the CEE faculty have offices, is one of the things that makes me the happiest here: just looking at the research posters, all the fascinating work going on, gets me excited to get started.

1 comment:

  1. i too feel much more 'purposeful and in power' when i involve myself in activities that do require some level of socialization..and don't you worry about losing your individuality, being a little self-absorbed will surely save you from that, so it is not necessarily a bad thing (so says I anyways, but maybe you should not take this at face value since i'm plenty self-absorbed myself).
    yay for civil engineering btw!

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