Things up here near the sky are very different. One of them is their way of welcoming people. I already told you about the mixer, now let me tell you about the Potluck I was invited to. It is sorta part of the welcoming ‘orientation’ for my program but it is professor and supervisor free. It was organized by the second year cohort of my program; and the purpose behind it was to welcome us into the family and to give us a hand in setting up our roots and goals in the program and university. I was very excited to find out that I had been invited, because me being the big unpopular dork I am, I thought I’d be left out of any and all parties in my program (just like my old program).
All excitement aside, I was a bit adamant to go and participate in the potluck; the first reason being that I was going alone and I knew nobody. I know what you’re thinking reader, “But Wanda, the point of the whole thing is so you can meet people!” Yeah, I got that, but sometimes logic fails when you’re scared out of your mind to do new things. I took this fear and I molded it into two fool-proof excuses as to why I couldn’t go. The first excuse was that it was too far away and that I didn’t have a car. The second excuse was that I didn’t know what to cook.
I played around with these two excuses all the way to the week before the potluck. I mean, I had nobody to force me into doing it and the excuses provided me, to myself, a perfect reason as to why I should miss out on a great opportunity to make friends. Of course, dear GB is always a step ahead of me. She nagged me all the way, from the first time I told her, until I caved in. She kept insisting that it did not only give me a good opportunity to meet new people, I would also be able to install myself into this new culture where, apparently, cooking is a necessary skill. I, not being keen on cooking, wanted to bring wine or chips. GB would have none of that and kept ogling me to do it. She reminded me of the wise words of our mentor Dr.C, where she insisted on the importance of going to all the parties at the start of the semester. She told us that that made our presence known to our other classmates and by doing that they would get accustomed to us and inevitably invite us to other parties and gatherings.
Desperate for friends and scared shitless, I decided to make some mixture sandwiches and some baked tortilla cinnamon chips. It was the easiest thing to do and the only things I knew by heart. The sad part was that I noticed that all other guests were bringing vegetarian dishes. There I knew that I had made a mistake. You see reader, I am an adult who despises veggies. I can eat the basic stuff you find in a salad but anything beyond that is just icky. I felt myself backtracking; more scared of eating veggies than when I was at my grandmother’s at the age of seven.
GB, after a long laugh, started giving me recipes for vegetarian dishes. However, I refused them all. I knew that my dishes would not be popular or even eaten at all, but I decided that those dishes demonstrated who I was and what I knew and where I came from. And I was not going to change my dishes just to please a group of strangers. If they liked my dishes good, if they didn’t well their loss but in the end they would see that that was my cooking, my choice and my personality.
I hitched a ride with a one of the second year cohort students. She was very nice and polite. Upon arrival I was thoroughly scared. I was hoping to see one of the girls I had met the day before at the mixer but no luck. I found myself awkwardly standing at the kitchen with a plate of food I knew I didn’t like. However, I did my best. In a fit of nervousness I picked what I thought I would like to only find out I hated it all. I ate it with little to no gusto. And with every bite I noticed how miserable I was. I kept contemplating how stupid I had been in going there. I was not part of them. They were healthy hippies, with a taste for happiness and positive energy. I was a mildly unhealthy farm girl with a taste for angst, anxiety and sarcasm.
At some point, in my pity party of one, I realized how foolish I was. So the food was not to my liking. So the people were different from me. So this was new and I was scared. Nobody forced me to go to the party. It was all me. GB only made me see how stupid I was being. I was the one who decided to be there at the party, to go to this university, to walk out of my comfort zone and make it big in a place where nobody knew my name. In that moment I swallowed that disgusting vegetarian food (which I am sure I would have enjoyed more if I had had a vegetarian palate) and started talking to people. I made myself known to some people of my new cohort. I played with the dog. I talked to the girls I met the day before. And I even had a really good talk with the host of the potluck. When I finally let loose and enjoyed myself the time passed quicker (the wine also helped). By the end I didn’t want to leave.
This one episode helped see that change is eminent, especially when you go to a new place. You can’t just go to a place and expect things to go the way you feel more comfortable doing or being. Yes, I would have enjoyed a Puerto Rican potluck; which entails that I bring some chips and a soda and it’s the old ladies who cook. But I’m not in Puerto Rico, I’m in NC in the mountains, so high where I can almost touch the sky. People here don’t know me and that means I have to introduce myself and let them get to know me bit by bit. There is no “Oh, it’s just typical Wanda”, because no one knows Wanda. Wanda has to lead those who are willing to follow, to the wondrous and mystical land of Wanda. More than they getting use to me, I have to get use to them. I have to accommodate their culture, their personalities and mystical wondrous selves into my life. It’s a work in progress within a work in progress. And by letting them know me I will grow and learn from myself. And this is all a lot of work but if I want to grow, if I want to truly survive and be the best I can be, I have to do this. There is no more running to mom or hiding under my bed. This is me and I am here.
Signing off, TWS
P.S. This is GB’s contribution when the veggie freak out ensued.