Friday, August 10, 2012

Hopping on the train

By Tashi Shuler-Drakes

“There has to be a mistake…There is no way this was meant for me, maybe they wrote the wrong name,” I thought as I read the e-mail inviting me back to Princeton as a counselor.

I remember thinking the same exact thing my junior year of high school when I first became affiliated with SJP. Doubt and denial are always my first reaction to anything good that ever comes my way. And even during most of my time at Princeton, I never truly felt I belonged. Surrounded by amazing students and adults alike I felt mediocre and somewhat ignorant, coming from a low-income city with a poor public school education under my belt.

So being invited back again, the same self-doubt began to flash through my head. What possible insight could I give to these people that they didn’t already have? And what help could I be to these students when I felt so helpless myself at the thought of their most definite intelligence and amazing abilities? As I pondered my decision on whether or not I should go back, I could hear my mother in the background screaming at me in disbelief: “Girl, what is wrong with you?! You better take this opportunity and run with it.”

Replying with a "yes" was a slow and agonizing process but eventually I worked up enough courage and decided I would deal with the consequences and doubts later. Feeling good about my decision, the doubt didn’t really hit me again until I was on the train to New Jersey. Having so much free time to think really allowed cracks to form in my confidence, and I felt those oh-so-familiar feelings creeping back up on me again. Panicking, I thought multiple times on whether or not I should “accidentally” miss my connecting train. My confidence was that low.

Now sitting here seven days in, I feel ridiculous and guilty for thinking like that to begin with. Having met all these kids and having bonded with both them and my fellow counselors, I find myself consistently being inspired. Listening to them speak about the things they love and watching their eyes light up just melt my heart. Knowing how it feels to smile through my uncertainties and portraying a certain level of confidence that I myself did not fully own, I try and always let them know how important and amazing they are.

Reflecting back on it now I realize that maybe I’m not the best writer, and maybe I don’t have the most extensive vocabulary, but I do have something to give: a listening ear. Just by letting them know that I want to know what’s going on with them in their lives, and that I understand their uncertainty and fears, I help them understand that regardless of their doubts, they have a support system. And I let them know that they’re here for a reason. I never want to have them doubt their abilities, or find themselves debating on whether or not they should “accidentally” miss their future trains to success because they didn’t think they were good enough to catch it.

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