For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed impressing my parents. As a child, I vividly remember hoping my parents would be distracted and not come in to help me get dressed or clean something up. I wanted them to be proud that I did it myself.
As I grew up, those behaviors transferred to my performance in school. I wanted to be a daughter who didn’t need help with her homework, didn’t have to be told to study, and didn’t have to be punished for bad grades. Eventually, my parents knew me as such, though my habits became stronger. A “B” grade on a test was disappointing to me. I could have done better. One misspelled word on a spelling test was also disappointing.
I’ve upheld these standards for myself for a long time. In my first long-term relationship, I didn’t want to be that couple. I specifically remember having talks with Vance about not being that touchy-feely couple in the hallway, not kissing in the building because I didn’t want my teachers to think differently of me. Some of this I regret, some of it I don’t.
In college, my goal was to get as close to a 4.0 GPA as I could, and I’ve done it. Now, what? I’ve been on the Dean’s List every semester of college so far, invited to ever convocation, accepted into the honor society, and asked to be a tutor. Now, what? Of course, these things are fulfilling in their own ways and I am extremely grateful to have been given these opportunities, but I am now learning that there is so much more to learning than just achieving.
My first exposure to actual learning happened in Prof. Black’s Faith, Religion, and Society class early on in college. I figured that since Seton Hill was a Catholic school, I would know most of the material. I was dead wrong. Prof. Black wasn’t there to lecture us on Christianity, he was there to challenge our faith. He was in no way insulting our beliefs, but broadening our minds to the similarities between Christianity and other religions that hold the same values of love and peace.
Before I took his class, I would have sat in my seat burning inside, feeling insulted and disgusted. Once the class had finished, I even thought about going on a trip with the class to visit a local Hindu-Jain temple, followed by Indian cuisine.
The point is, understanding required development in my case. My exposure to opposing ideas helped me to grow while at the same time making me stronger in my own beliefs.
As an elective course this year, I decided to take a sociology class called Race, Class, and Gender. The first reaction to the title of the course may elicit thoughts of debate, heated arguments, or even fights. I chose to take it because I’m tired of the fights over these issues. Society needs a new way of opening up the dialogue on important issues, as Gandhi said, I must be the change I wish to see.
I won’t say it isn’t uncomfortable, because it is, most of the time. But my hour and a half of uncomfortably provides me with more takeaways than even my Christian Scriptures class did, though I enjoyed it too. Race, Class, and Gender has taught me the importance of listening in my learning. I cannot propose a solution to every problem society has without learning about what oppressed groups need.
A few days ago, I skipped class to see Hillary Clinton rally at WCCC in Youngwood, PA. The catch is that I am not a Democrat and I wasn’t there to protest. I went to listen. I went to respect the opposition. I went to grow. We cannot know what we truly stand for unless we are willing to challenge our beliefs.
And I grow when I am challenged.