Since the third grade I have prided myself on my ability to spell, and spell well. I won a third grade spelling competition, and the victory went straight to my head. I thought I was impossible to defeat in the spelling arena; I was the spelling master. All through school I was called upon again and again by my peers to edit their work. They relied upon my spelling skills in the time before the thin red line of word processing; I was the original spell check. I would find myself gladly reviewing their work: uncovering mistakes both simple and complex, circling words, scratching them out. I edited with pure glee. I was on top of the spelling world! I felt I could spell anything. There was no word too large, too complex, or too wrought with syllables that could stump me.
And then came university.
University brought my reign as spell-master to a bitter end. The words used by my professors had me reeling. I had never heard these words, I didn’t understand them… I would never be able to spell them. My first week of school I was overwhelmed. I found myself constantly playing the role of “courtroom stenographer.” My notes were a mess. My English notebook was riddled with phonetics and question marks, and my angst was emphasized further by the smudged spots where my tears had fallen. I felt naive.
The words were overwhelming, and I would never be able to keep up. My writing would seem so elementary to these brainy PhDs. I was disappointed in myself. I felt like I had been duped into thinking I was smart enough for university; I experienced wave after wave of emotion. I was raging at myself for being foolish. I was upset at the university for letting me believe my weak attempts at writing would suffice. I was raging again at my professors, how could they be so intelligent? How could I ever even hope to be that intelligent? I would never be able to compete on such an intellectual landscape. This was becoming less and less about my ability to spell and write well, and more about my insecurities. I drove home from school everyday thinking that I was going to fail, and wondering if I should just quit while I was ahead.
Then, came this:
“…Your prose is quite elegant, which makes chastising you for verbosity more painful, though no less necessary.”
Maybe I will survive university after all.
Until next time, sarah.