It was my first day at the UCWbL. I had sat through one orientation, two days of class, and three encouraging friends who promised I would not cry. I was armed with knowledge of directive and indirective tutoring, multiple tutoring techniques to try out, and a whole bucket full of anxiety. My pencils were sharpened, the UCWbL’s tutor manual was lovingly placed inside its own pocket in my backpack, and a notebook was full of questions to ask. I then sat and waited three hours for my shift to start as I stared at a clock.
I get nervous for new experiences. I have a tendency to over prepare in certain non-essential activities and under prepare in the things that I actually have a responsibility to do. Talking to new people is a painful experience akin to nails on a chalkboard. Entering a completely new work environment full of a closely knit group of friends felt like I was making some horrible mistake and I should get out while I still could.
As I walked through the door of the Lincoln Park Writing Center, I felt like I had suddenly gotten lost in a different world. There were faces, and I didn’t recognize a single one of them. I forgot where I was and how to get where I was going, a mere ten feet to the Reception Desk. I had to remind myself that breathing was a necessity of human life.
I expected to be discouraged. I expected to be judged. I expected that I was going to be told I wasn’t good enough and didn’t have a right to be there. I imagined a hundred different ways that I was going to let down the people I worked with and, most importantly, the writers I was going to be working with.
I remember feeling a similar way when I came to the writing center for the first time as a writer myself. I felt that I was unprepared as a writer and that my writing wouldn’t be good enough.
But I also remember having the most understanding tutor to work with. I had been afraid that I would be judged for my writing, but nothing could have been farther from my actual experience. I was in a place full of students who understood the struggles of procrastination or in not knowing where to begin. No one was going to judge me because everyone had been in the same boat before. They just wanted to help.
And I discovered the same thing was true of my first shift at the UCWbL. As I ran up to the receptionist desk, I was welcomed, not as a stranger but as a new friend. I got introduced to every UCWbLer that was working at the time, and they all made sure to tell me that I could ask them questions at any point if I needed it. I spent an hour talking with an experienced UCWbLer who took the time to show me around and answer all of my prepared questions. People wanted to help me and these people soon became my friends. I had been so nervous about everyone already knowing each other, but I found that this was a group of people who were so ready to accept everyone who walked through the door, new tutors and new writers alike.
New experiences can be terrifying. They are embarrassing because you can feel the newness plastered all over you. It makes your hands sweat and then you realize that everyone is going to shake your hands, so you panic and sweat more. You can feel this newness in every move you make. They are just downright uncomfortable.
But they are also necessary. The good thing about being new at the UCWbL, whether you are a tutor or a writer, is that there is nowhere that is more welcoming. The UCWbL truly is for everyone. It is a place for learning, experimenting, imagining, and building. It’s a place where I look forward to going to work, and I hope to see you there!