Sol writes: Coming to terms with your Monster Police.

Let me tell you about the Monster Police.

It starts with the first day of school. I’ll admit it: I dread the first day of school. I want it over with, I want to move on to the middle of the semester, where we’ve already made the dive into the material and are swimming for our lives. Starting always feels awkward to me.  (What about the Monster Police? you ask. We’ll get to that.)

If you’re afraid of the first day, you’re not alone. If you’re not a little skittish of first days, you’ve either been doing this a lot, are radically outgoing, or have no clue what you’re getting into. In case no one ever did, let me tell you now: it isn’t just you.

Yes, everyone has that fear that class has been changed to another room and they didn’t tell you. Very normal.

The fear that there was a mistake and your final grade was wrong: Not just you.

That you’ll get grabbed by the Age Police for going to college at your age (whatever your age): Not just you.

That awkward feeling that you aren’t as smart as the other people in the room, and they’ll see right through you: Not just you. (Also, you’re smart.)

That sinking dread that there’s another semester’s worth of homework ahead: Also not just you… but accurate.

That fear that you somehow missed a vital course and you won’t graduate: Not just you. (Next time, we’ll talk about how to be sure.)

That weird dream with the antelope in the Ferrari? That’s just you. (Jeepers, I sure hope that’s just you.  Is my morbid fear of lobsters uniquely mine?) …but the rest of this is part of the normal school anxiety.

Fortunately, the good parts aren’t just you, either- the pride of saying, “I’ve got class tonight.”  The thrill of finishing a paper and knowing that it’s good, maybe not the best ever, but a good, solid piece of independent thought- that’s part of the experience, too.

It makes up for first days, but that doesn’t make us stupid or silly for being anxious. It makes us human.

I look forward to class itself. I love being there, I love the campus, I love learning and I really love the feeling of being on my growing edge. Growing edges mean breaking ground, though, and that’s always the part I wish I could just get past faster. They tell me it gets easier with practice, and I believe them (a little.)

The Monster Police are what get me past my first day.  I talk about them a lot in person. You need to get to know your Monster Police really, really well.

The monster police are the things you’re afraid of, the faceless ones who’d enact all these dread punishments. All those things you’ve ever been afraid of: you don’t fit in, you’ll get it all wrong, you’ll be recognised for the imposter you are and laughed at. Imagine them. Armed winged monkeys at the school gate, who decide you can’t possibly be allowed among people, and carry you off to a tower prison forever for getting lost on the way to class.

Thinking about it in this grand, wild way will help you get perspective. Stretch it out, see where it goes. Make it so exaggerated and wacky that you see it for what it is, and see how unlikely these results are.

The real truth about the Harvard Division of Flying Monkey Monster Police is as follows, and I can assure you that I’ve done extensive research on this topic for my own peace of mind:

There is no Harvard Age Brig for those who go to school too late in their lives. I’ve checked. People laughed, but I can assure you with complete confidence: it doesn’t exist.

There are no Grade Revision Stormtroopers who randomly take back your grades five semesters later. I’ve checked that too, multiple times.

There’s no Harvard Spellcheck Squad, to hunt you down for bad rough drafts-no matter how bad. I can personally guarantee this. If there were, they’d be naming a wing in the Dubious Draft Hall of Fame after me, and I’d be dictating this from inkless confinement in the prevention ward.

This is how I get past the fear of beginning: by letting the outrageousness of the imaginary consequences spin out as far as possible, until I laugh and realise that the worst that can happen is I’ll have to keep making choices. After a little while, you start to see the fear for what it is- fear. That brings the risks back down to size, and we can show up in the first row.

Welcome back, everybody. I’ll see you in class.

One Comment

  1. Posted February 4, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    “There’s no Harvard Spellcheck Squad…If there were, they’d be naming a wing in the Dubious Draft Hall of Fame after me, and I’d be dictating this from inkless confinement in the prevention ward.” Hahah, love your creativity 🙂

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