This blog post was written by mentee Julissa Nunez after the Digital Media & Mentoring Program orientation on September 26, 2015.
I’m guessing by the title you already know that I’m not your average teenager. Just to list a few examples, I once tested the pH of my snot and showed it to my teacher and gave a hair sample to a smart person in hopes that they would clone me. My own mother has threatened to sign me up for etiquette classes due to me frequently bringing up very descriptive details of my bowel movements while at the dinner table in front of guests. So by those standards, naturally, people and I don’t tend to mix on the account of my being weird. On the other hand, I firmly believe you have to be the tiniest bit crazy to tackle a craft in which no one can master. Therefore, writing and I are the greatest of friends.
So came Orientation. Whoof. A day of social interaction and because of that social anxiety. I was going to meet my mentor, who was promised to me beforehand, would be amazing. I would also meet the other mentees, who by my definition, were my people. My older, college graduate sister dropped me off at the New School. Well, let’s see, “dropped me off” are kind words. It was more like I was shoved out my warm mother’s nest premature, and expected to fly great heights with my bat wings (I happen to be on the chubby side), without faltering. I begged her to at least escort me down the stairs to which her reply was that I was a “big girl” and could handle my own. I should inform you that I have yet to reach five feet in stature, have the voice of Disney’s own Minnie Mouse, and was cursed with the face that of a toddler. In what conceivable way was I a “big girl?”
On my first step downstairs, my sister was already out the door. I desperately looked around to see any girls like me going toward a similar vicinity. Finding that there weren’t, just a few stragglers hanging out beside the entrance, I took the stairs one step at a time in a glacial pace. Five minutes later, when I reach the bottom, relief was achieved when my eyes followed the signs directing me to Girls Write Now orientation.
The first thing I noticed were the larger than life, red double doors that granted my entry. Adjacent to it was a snack table containing an assortment of crackers, cheeses, vegetables accompanied by dip, fruits, and carbonated water. For whatever reason, my two left feet just would not budge. I know I’m lazy but I could’ve managed walking a few feet more. My heart beat so fast the rest of me couldn’t keep up, my hands were shaking, my knees buckled underneath me, I was hyperventilating—okay, I wasn’t really breathing that hard, but for dramatic purposes, let’s pretend. My brain checked out a while ago and whatever forces keeping back, had me there for a good while. It made no sense. I wasn’t this nervous my first day of pre-kindergarten. Hovering over the snack table, I orbited around it relentlessly whilst slowly sipping on lemon-lime flavored seltzer water(mind you, I despise carbonated water with a passion of a thousand suns). What ended up snapping me out of my bubble was the attention of the others around me. It was like they smelt the fear on me. I was new-blood and I made it obvious. Feigning confusion, I asked an older girl whether or not we could go inside. I knew the answer before she uttered it out her mouth. But once I heard it, it was like a command, and my body followed it.
My introversion has nothing to do with me not liking people. In actuality, I love people. I find the human race fascinating. Whenever I picture them it’s with images of glitter, sparkles, opals, and crystals that get conjured up. No other race can create and destroy like we can. It has to do with fear that comes from deep-rooted self-deprecation and insecurity.
Once I had entered inside, the heavens opened up. The doves flew about and angels were singing songs of praise. A sense of euphoria washed over me. Oh, this wasn’t because I overcame a milestone, Florence + the Machine was being played and then commenced the shimmying all the way down to my seat.
The dog days were certainly over and that fact really began to internalize itself as I sat alone in a row of red seats awaiting the unknown. Now, I had promised a guide. Here are the things I did that you should avoid doing.
1) Not putting myself out there. There were several instances where I could have joined in on conversation but didn’t. In one case, two girls directly in front of me were spazzing over all things anime and k-pop. I thought of saying, “Hey, you guys like Exo too?” or “I love anime!” Those words never made it past my lips. It was a missed opportunity on my part.
2) Comparing myself to others. I knew going into the program that there would be a lot of brilliant minds and creative spirits. At first, this inspired me yet I grew to feel inadequate. There was one girl who if she had a brilliant enough idea, could develop an entire complete first draft. Three years in and I have yet to finish the first draft of my novel. Others dabbled in filmmaking or comics. I questioned what was special about my abilities and that negative energy hampered my experience.
Not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself. My mentor turned out to be a ridiculously amazing person who is a digital/media worker at an architectural magazine. In addition, I got to learn a modern day language, html or coding. Everyone was warm and inviting. I just didn’t believe in myself. The only person I talked to that day was my mentor. I guess this is my real, unromanticized recollection of what it was like for a wallflower at Girls Write Now. No friends were made and my cowardice ate at me. Despite this, my goal for the next workshop is to open my mouth. Whether it is to ask a question or express excitement.
I realize now that no one saw in me my true self. Me, the bizarre chick who stuffs tissues up her nose and leaves them there. The girl who claps furiously when a teacher announces an essay is to be written to the class. If there’s one thing I look forward to, at its core, is to be myself. Never hold back.
Click here to see more pictures from Digital Media Mentoring Program Orientation!