Nita’s College Lesbianage: Nothing Special

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Hello and welcome to another edition of Autostraddle’s College Lesbianage: a glimpse of college life through the wide eyes of six freshly fallen snowflake first-year queers. This month’s update will be given individually! Today Nita has decided that she’s not special after all (even though we disagree). 


I’m jealous of those with a talent and an assurance for what they are good at and what skills they’re blessed with. My girlfriend is an exceptional singer and actor and is known for it and is confident that’s what she wants to do with her life. Myself, not so much.

I’m Nita, and I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

I went to a small high school, with a graduating class of 64 people. I grew up in a town of 6,000. I was a straight-A student, and for my small high school I was considered ‘talented’, ‘special.’ I could play piano and write and was a decent actor and those things set me apart from my peers. I was noticed, it felt special. I discovered sign language, fell in love with it and was surprisingly good at it, and that set me apart even more. I started college with that same thought, that I was special.

I am not special. There are thousands of actors here better than I am, thousands of piano players who are prodigies, scores of writers whose prose can move one to tears. There are students who are majoring in interpreting and I am suddenly not special, I am just one of them. And for someone who was incredibly privileged growing up, coming from that small-town high school, my own mediocrity is terrifying. Things that came easily to me in high school suddenly don’t anymore, and with everyone else around me seeming to excel at their talents, I feel utterly and completely lost.

As of right now, as of the end of this semester, I am still trying to figure out what to do with my life and the talents I suppose I still possess, even though I can’t find them anywhere. I’m still struggling with my decision to become an interpreter and whether it’s what I truly want to study — I failed a required screening exam back in March, and my retake was May 1st. If I don’t pass this retake, I cannot continue in the major, and then I’ll be even more lost. I thought with sign language, I had discovered the one thing I was extremely good at and wanted to pursue as a future career, but even that assurance feels like it’s slipped away. And nothing scares me more than uncertainty.

Some days I’m not sure I want to pass. I feel like I’ve lost my passion for things I once loved, and I honestly don’t know how to get it back.

My roommate and I took a break this week and watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, a Miyazaki classic and my favorite childhood movie. It’s one I watched many times as a kid, even named my cat after, and yet watching this movie in my dorm room with my roommate was the first time it struck me. There’s a part of the movie where Kiki loses her ability to fly, and she says, “Without even thinking about it, I used to be able to fly. Now I’m trying to look inside myself and find out how I did it.”

Right now, at this moment, I am Kiki. I have lost the things that come easily to me, and I’m doing a lot of searching and a lot of praying to find out how they were so natural in the first place and just why I loved to do them. I don’t know when I’ll gain back my ability to fly, or if it’ll manifest as a different thing entirely, but it will be there. And when it appears, I’ll be ready to soar.

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Nita has written 2 articles for us.

31 Comments

  1. Thumb up 5

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    Listen…Kiki regained her ability to fly when she regained confidence in herself. There is nothing that you are now that you weren’t back when you thought you had your life together.

    Have faith. This too shall pass. You’ll be alright. We love you :)

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    Switch piano, acting, and sign language to running, writing, and history and our experiences are almost exactly the same.
    I was miserable for my first two years of college, because I was suddenly completely average in what felt like a sea of outstanding individuals. It was terrible. I went from valedictorian to academic probation, and refer to this two year period of my life as The Years of Darkness.

    Looking back, if I’d allowed myself to try new things, without worrying that I’d be the biggest noob/loser/dummy there, I would have been so much happier and would’ve had better grades (because I would have been trying new things and studying instead of sitting in my dorm, reflecting on my stupidity, and studying). So my advice is to try out every extra-curricular and/or club you are remotely interested in. Especially if it’s something you never knew/thought much about. Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone will teach you so much about yourself, and that’s when you’ll start feeling more confident and excelling again.

    And remember, you are not alone in feeling this way and you are not mediocre. Autostraddlers are never mediocre.

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    What you’re feeling is completely normal! Don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides. You know intimately how you feel, but not what others are feeling. We tend to think others are more confident than we are, but if we stop to talk to others, we find they are just as unsure as we are. And think about this: did you do the things you did because you felt passionately about them, or because that made others think you were special? Which is more important?

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    everyone is unique…keep at working hard…I lost one of my senses at birth ( and, I do not mean my brain)…I just work harder than everyone…all say…how do I make things look so easy…because I spend the hours away from people..to perfect things..because I liked to be better than “normal boring people “….do other things…UNI is for getting outside of yourself and being yourself…and love all those gay sistas and brothers and anyone who does not fit the standards of the day…maybe you can teach me sign language…everyone expects me to have learned it but I learned to speak impeccably so I did not go to a mental institution for my lack of hearing….so, go have fun and many thanks for the KIKI party tape…I laughed myself sick!

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    Okay so I am only a few years further on than you, but please allow me to share with you a Very Important Secret Of Adulthood which I have managed to learn by virtue of having an older sister, whose life experiences I regularly steal in order to avoid the sharks of terrifying doubt which populate the stormy seas of growing up.

    So the first thing to say about ‘having no idea what to do with my life’ is, you may never work this out but THIS DOESN’T MATTER. I mean, don’t discount the possibility that ‘the thing’ might not have anything to do with how you make your living; it might be riding ponies or roller coasters or as you say acting or playing the piano (and shh, capitalism doesn’t want you to know this, but your talents and interests can make your life meaningful even if you are not the best at them or even very good at all? I am genuinely pretty terrible at art but I love to draw, it is one of the creative activities I find really relaxing and satisfying even though my work could please no one but me; also I LOVE to sing, this I am actually pretty good at but could never make a career out of it and briefly I was all OMG MY OLDEST FRIEND IS A PROFESSIONAL VIOLINIST I MUST NEVER ATTEMPT TO MAKE MUSIC AGAIN THE SHAME but f that, it makes me seriously happy). But I digress; our stupid pressure cooker society makes you feel like ‘if I don’t have a plan by age 19 I will FAIL AND BE SAD FOREVER’ but I mean, this is what is technically known as a crock of shite, I KNOW uncertainty is scary (I just abandoned a burgeoning career in academia to write and I have days where I literally sob down the phone to my mum all I WILL BE EATING COLD BEANS ALONE WHEN I’M 40 but then she buys me ice cream and I feel better) but it will not last forever! You are clearly a smart capable young lady and you will figure something out! You might even find out that the ‘thing’ you want is ‘to get paid enough that I can go on holiday somewhere hot once a year and spend my weekends watching Xena’. That is a cool thing to want! Your dream does not have to be a job, which despite grammar is ONLY A THING YOU DO, NOT A THING YOU ARE. I mean, I am not underestimating the value of enjoying your work, but it is amazing how the things you want change, too. Two years ago I was literally killing myself with stress and anxiety to get the thing I wanted only for everything to get so much worse when I did because, um, turns out it wasn’t for me? And walking away from that was really, really hard. But you have time, I promise you. Uncertainty is really scary, yes, but it is much better to take a little time to explore things before getting on a one way train and THEN finding out you’re on the road to Winnipeg.

    Right, but I also want to share my Very Important Secret. All those lucky bastards/people who seem super talented and driven towards their ‘things’? Achieving them does not magically make their lives happy and easy and clear. Seriously. My sister has been a bloody nightmare to live up to because she has known exactly what she wanted to do for a living since she could speak, I exaggerate not. She worked like hell to get in to study it and did, yay for her! She even found a job in a nice bit of the country which suits her specialism with one of her uni friends. But I had a career chat with her and some mutual friends last year and they all basically said ‘look, earning your living is hard no matter what you chose, even if it is something you love’. I repeat: she is working her dream job (she also has a lovely fiancee and tiny herd of native ponies, she is disgustingly happy) and getting up for the daily grind is still mainly a chore. Being an adult is hard work and often boring. People who are driven and talented still have to clean cat sick out of their shoes and deal with idiot clients or misogynist bosses or UNEXPECTED COWS IN THE ROADWAY WHEN THEY ARE ALREADY LATE FOR THEIR TRAIN (although maybe that one is just me). Another BFF, 27, has just figured out what she wants to do (5 years after finishing uni) and is going for it, but she needed to temp and volunteer to find out what made her happy and now she’s certain, she can go for it!

    So I guess what I’m saying is, do not let anyone fool you into thinking that you have to have ‘one thing to rule them all’, and DEFINITELY do not ever get sucked into believing that ‘not having everything planned out RIGHT THIS MOMENT WITH COLOUR CODED FLOWCHARTS’ is the same as being lost. University is the worst for this because I can 100% promise you that almost everyone feels the same as you but is investing a lot of energy into being seen to be having the time of their lives because Being A Student Is Fun, meaning everyone can be very passive aggressive achievement hunters. It took me four years to get that. Be wiser than me!

    It is great that you’ve stuck Kiki on the end here, because if you hadn’t I was going to recommend her to you! The reason I love this film is because it is shows just how tough it is to make your way, to find what you’re looking for and have confidence in your abilities, but also the value of the struggle. Keep flying!

  6. Thumb up 3

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    I agree with what has been said above.

    I went through the I Am Not Special epiphany twice (once when I entered high school and once when I entered university) and the second time hit me so hard I literally gave up on life and spent the next six months alone in my room just staring at the wall.

    It’s true that trying new things helps.
    It’s also true that what you think you want with your life may necessarily be the best path for you (this happened to me too– I finally got my dream job and it turns out it wasn’t right for me after all.)

    I’d like to add one more thing, which is: it doesn’t matter if you aren’t the best. Is there only one sign language interpreter in the world? Hell no. I’d say there was a pretty high demand for it. Basically, the world needs a whole bunch of people like you, not just one or a handful. So give up if you’ve lost your passion, but don’t give up just because you aren’t the best.

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    All of you, thank you. You’ve really made me feel better. :) I took my screening exam and felt really, really good about it, and I’m supposed to know by Monday so I’ll keep you updated. Thank you for all the love.

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    Nita, best of luck! Unfortunately (fortunately?), I had to go through a similar experience at a younger age, so I feel like I know where you are coming from. Be sure to keep giving yourself those little reminders–like the movie–of who you are and where you are from. Those help enormously. In the meantime, sending you lots of love and faith and internet smiles!

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    Okay so this happened to me, and continues to happen to me ALL THE TIME. I was super smart in high school, I was pretty average in undergrad, grad school is kicking my ass. But it’s like this–you’re already at a high level, right, so you’re already pretty awesome, and you don’t have to be OMG AS AMAZING AS EVERYONE ELSE.

    That being said, this kind of transition can wreak havoc on your mental health. So, don’t be afraid to look for the resources on your campus (hopefully they have good ones). I spent a lot of days crying in therapy (for a lot of reasons, not just a crushing inferiority complex) and it helps.

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    Where are you in school? There’s an ITP program there? I’m currently studying to be an interpreter as well!

    I already graduated from college. I knew I hated everything about what I was studying but I kept on. I kept feeling lost for another 4 years. But ya know what? In that time I did some things that some people will never do so I don’t regret my wandering. Occasionally, I wince when I meet 19/20 years olds that are almost done with a 4 year program I just started… But that’s life. If it’s meant to be it wil!

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        Columbia (Chicago). I’m going to visit Gallaudet in 2 weeks!

        What was your evaluation for? We have one before you start interpreting and one before you start shading a mentor.

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          We have, as of now, three evaluations. One after ASL I called the PEPSI, which is our Entry Screening. Then I just got done taking the SPIL which happens after ASL II and stands for “Sign Proficiency at the Intermediate Level”. Then there’s one after ASL IV called the “SLPI” which is the Sign Language Proficiency Interview. They take it very seriously here.

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    What Eifa said x 1,000. Plus, even if you make a mistake and major in the wrong thing and find out you hate the job you get with that degree and actually you want to do something completely different, you can still change your mind. You might have to get in through the side door, by volunteering or interning or taking online courses or something, but it is possible. So don’t feel like you are committing yourself to one thing for life right now.

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    Hang in there!!! And–congrats on the screening exam!

    You may have heard this enough, but it WILL get better. I angsted for years about my future and self-worth; like Marika, was a [geeky sort of] superstar in high school, then average in college (well, was struggling through family loss and all manner of self-acceptance, which wreaked havoc on my ability to focus and do work), and grad school is kicking my butt. I am 32 now, and doing what I am passionate about, and in a one of the country’s top PhD programs; I NEVER would have foreseen this path, but in retrospect it all makes sense. All the meandering, all the years living in a Zen Center and traveling and confused.

    What I really mean is that it sounds cliched, but if you follow your heart and do your best, things truly will work out. I still struggle with self-judgment and perfectionism (we are our harshest critics!) but surround myself with love and joy. And I have come lightyears in trusting that we really do find our way, that we figure out how to be the best version of ourselves, and end up in situations where our unique gifts are appreciated and we can make a difference. I am heading back for my 10-year college reunion this month…and WOW. If only I could give my 22-year-old self all the love and compassion and space to be confused that feels easy to extend to others and finally have started to internalize.

    Anyway, you will be great!!! I do not know you but have not an inkling of doubt.

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    P.S. I know what it’s like to compare myself to those with extraordinary gifts in one area; my math genius brother was figuring out square roots in his head at age 5, and just went to the World’s Sudoku Championship, and has more awards and medals than I knew were possible to receive. I always felt deficient (yeah, I got semi-professional theatre roles in high school but never in a zillion years could have made it as a prof), but, like others said, this really, really does not matter. Actually, I know that despite my struggles, his struggles for wellbeing were tenfold. Or more. Anyway, we can be driven and ambitious, etc., but we do not need to be super geniuses to be happy and do good work! I also wish I had figured this out earlier.

    Best of luck to you, and enjoy the wonderful people and things going on at school!!! And enjoy NC summer–hopefully it will stop raining soon (I’m up in Durham)…

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    Hey I know how you feel, I’m in college and I had no idea what I wanted to do, I switched from major to major but then I realized that you don’t have to be passionate about a degree in college, it’s just a starting point. You can become or do whatever you want and it doesn’t depend on what you majored in at all. Also not everyone is special to the world, but you are special from the eyes of who you help, love, inspire! Don’t worry about the whole college experience too much, it’s taken too seriously these days. Just enjoy the day.

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    one of my favorite quotes:
    “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” -G.K. Chesterton

    A friend who’d graduated from a PhD program in Math from an Ivy League school was the one who shared that quote with me. This was a guy who by any objective measure was a fucking genius, but after years of being the big fish in a little pond, he’d just kept moving up into bigger and bigger ponds until he eventually came face to face with his own limitations. Basically everyone faces this, is what I’m saying. It sucks, but you will make it through.

    It’s hard to not be the best or even one of the best anymore, but it can also be freeing. When figuring out your life, the question stops being, “what do I have the most aptitude for?” and instead becomes, “what is a worthwhile way to spend my time?” Like Chesterton said, if you can figure out something that’s worth doing, it’s worth doing whether or not you have any natural talent for it.

    A few additional notes:
    1. It’s really fucking scary to face “what’s a worthwhile way to spend the entire rest of my life?”
    So start smaller. Answer the, “what’s a worthwhile way to spend my summer,” question first. Or even, “what’s a worthwhile way to spend my day?”

    2. Answering that question means really knowing yourself and your own values. That’s also really fucking hard. It might be for you, right now, in college, the answer to “what’s a worthwhile way to spend my time,” is “try doing a lot of different things and seeing which ones resonate with me.”

    3. When in doubt, help people. It is always a worthwhile thing to try to make the world a better place for someone else, no matter how you go about doing that.

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    Like what everyone else said, college/grad school is a really tough transition period, and what you’re going through is the same thing a lot of happy successful people go through. Also echoing others, that doesn’t make it any less hard, but it does mean there are a lot of good resources through your school’s career, student, and mental health and wellness services that you owe to yourself to take advantage of!

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    Ok, I’m just going to reach over and pick up my ‘Mum” hat… one sec… OK, got it.

    YOU ARE PERFECTLY SPECTACULAR AND SPECIAL AND AMAZING.
    The things we DO in our lives, and the things we “achieve” are only a small manifestation of who we ARE. What we are good at, or not so good at does not define us. I say this to my clients in work all the time…”just because you walk into Mcdonalds, doesn’t make you a hamburger”. It’s context there is more affirming young people who have offended and subsequently adopt the profile of an ‘offender’… that’s what I try to break there, but here I suppose my point is that what matters is you finding yourself completely and being satisfied with your absolute amazingness… and then I can promise you with all my heart, you will enjoy the search to find what you want to do, and you will enjoy the process of seemingly not being as good as your peers because you will just be so happy in taking the journey, the ‘results’ as such won’t matter.

    On a more practical note, I’m nearly 30 and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Apart from tell all you queermofo’s how great you all are.

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    Not getting into grad school after doing what I *thought* were all of the right things was pretty devastating, and even though I knew I wasn’t the first or last person to ever be rejected (and it was definitely not my first rejection, believe me), it still hurt a lot and made me question my value as a student, person, etc.

    Reading everyone’s responses about how they felt and dealt with terrible feelings of inadequacy or struggles with transitions was actually a really amazing and reassuring thing for me. I hope that you are about to embark on a great personal journey Nita, and everyone here has helped me feel way better about where my life is at. <3

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    I totally understand. Maybe for slightly different reasons, but every time I’m feeling down and stuck in a rut, that movie never fails to cheer me up. I like that Kiki has such a basic problem in her magical fluffy story.

    So yeah, don’t worry, we’re gonna fly sometime soon!

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