Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Comfort in the Writing Center: Why I Never Went

I'm a pretty happy guy. When I'm sitting at the desk in the Writing Center, I smile at people who walk by. Basically, I look like this:

Though, unlike the bow-tied Dwight Schrute, I keep it casual.

Some people smile back, and some are too focused on their destination to notice the smiling weirdo. But every now and then, a passerby will look up, see me smiling, and turn away quickly.

I'm not a stranger to people avoiding me, but usually it's because they're just embarrassed to be my friend. Plenty of people avoided being seen with me from around December through February because I was the only person on campus still wearing flip flops every day. However, these students turning away and avoiding eye contact is a bit different. They can't even see my flip flops. These are students who don't want to be pulled into the Writing Center. I remember being that person.

When I was an undergrad here at EIU, I would walk by the writing center on my way to class each day. Every now and then, I'd look in to see what was going on, but I made sure to avoid eye contact with whoever was sitting at the desk.

I feared that they would pull me in. I thought that their eyes were insisting, that they were telling me I couldn't write. Theirs were eyes that said, "Look at the English major who needs help writing his papers!"

Even if they didn't think this way, I was sure that my peers would talk about me going to the writing center. I knew they'd doubt my ability to write the right words, punctuate my own sentences, and come up with my own ideas. I mean, if I couldn't write, why I was an English major in the first place?

I don't know if that's what all averting eyes are afraid of, but I can and will admit that mine were. I wanted to prove to everyone--not that anyone cared--that I could write my own papers. I didn't need help.

But I did. I've looked back at many of my undergrad papers. Trust me, I could have--and should have--used the help.

As a grad student, I ask my friends and colleagues, many of whom work with me in the Writing Center, for help. Do they judge me? Nope. They're in there too. In fact, when a colleague comes to me for help, I know that they're trying to write a better paper and be a better writer. I don't scoff at them for wanting assistance; I'm impressed by the initiative they've shown by seeking out resources that can help them improve.

Those of us who work in the Writing Center know that getting someone else to look at our writing helps. We have our own set of grad-student eyes, but it always helps to have someone else look at your work. And I'm happy I've realized that.

But I wish I'd realized it a long time ago.

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