author: matt wincherauk | editor-in-chief
This time around, I took the time to find a nice sports jacket, pick out a quality dress shirt from the depths of my closet, and buy my first (!!!) pair of dress shoes.
This op-ed is something of a follow-up to an article titled “Undergrad in anxiety” that I wrote back in October about my experiences with all-encompassing anxiety about a conference presentation. As I neared my time to present at the English Students’ Association’s Literary Eclectic conference, I found myself on the verge of bolting out of the room; the thought of facing exasperated, or even furious, professors afterwards seemed like a much better option than potentially embarrassing myself in front of everyone. Of course, as soon as I got into my presentation, everything calmed down and I rolled right through it. Those people that I thought would be staring a hole right through me were actually intently listening to what I had to say. In the end, submitting and presenting at the Literary Eclectic conference was one of the best decisions that I made during my time at university.
Fast forward to March 11, and I find myself in a similar situation at the Trash Talkin’ undergraduate conference hosted by the English department and the English Students’ Association [ESA]. While I can say that the nerves and anxieties were certainly still there, I was ultimately significantly calmer when I was asked to step up to the podium. Armed with my cat’s laser pointer, a PowerPoint presentation, and the paper itself, I proceeded to stumble my way through another conference. Some listened with great intensity, some laughed, some probably wondered what in the blue hell I was taking about, but once again, it was an incredible experience.
So why write a follow up article if it was just more of the same? Well, while the anxiety was still there, and the rush of talking about something that I’m passionate about was still there, the approach to it all was notably different. Some of that new approach came out in my physical appearance. For those that attended the Literary Eclectic last fall, I was notably underdressed for the occasion. I wouldn’t say my clothes were terrible, but they just weren’t appropriate for the situation that I was in. This time around, I took the time to find a nice sports jacket, pick out a quality dress shirt from the depths of my closet, and buy my first (!!!) pair of dress shoes. To be honest, my mom and dad picked out of the majority of my outfit because I have less than zero sense of fashion, but the desire to look the part of a scholar was always there. This kind of thing is as much a professional thing as it is a thing for fun, and I can say with great certainty that the manner in which I dressed made me feel significantly more at home. Sure, my preparation and passion for my subject matter were ultimately the most important thing, but the time and effort in finding an outfit that expressed my confidence in myself as an academic cannot be understated. This is the greatest difference between now and six months ago. Six months ago, I waded into this new experience, but never fully committed to it. This time, I leapt in headfirst, committing myself fully to what I was doing, and enjoyed it even more for it.
I’m not sure where my academic career will take me in the future, especially with the final month of courses staring me down before my undergraduate degree is mercifully finished, but it is experiences at conferences like the Literary Eclectic and Trash Talkin’ that make me want to do more. Go take that leap of faith, and invest yourself in a new world. I find that it tends to pay off in a big way.