Embracing Personal Change
I knew coming in that college changes people. I'm a person who is painfully aware of my flaws, and I am always seeking to improve myself. I was excited to come to college for a plethora of reasons, but the thought of achieving my final form made me breathless with anticipation almost every day since I sent in my confirmation of acceptance.
Despite this excitement for change, I was pretty sure of who I was when I was in high school. I was a fervent feminist, full of anger at the injustices dealt to disadvantaged peoples domestically and abroad. I was one of the only students in my school who would criticize media on how it dealt with social issues. Due to the ignorance of my peers, there was usually something for me to be angry about—a snide sexist comment, a classist assumption, an ableist joke. I was so excited to be among people who share my views and values, who also care about social justice and strive for equality across the board. Getting here, however, didn't have the effect I thought it would.
Oberlin is probably the first place I have been in my life that I can truly call a "safe space." I was so shocked that everyone asks me about my preferred gender pronouns, that new acquaintances apologize when I make clear my discomfort with a topic, and that even the professors address things from non-Western and/or non-male perspectives. I feel as though I don't have to constantly keep up barriers to protect myself from others' ignorance. Finally, I am part of a community that cares about my weird gender identity and my legendarily complicated sexuality. These things are no longer aspects of my identity to be tolerated or ignored. At Oberlin, the non-conventional parts of me are seen as integral and valuable instead of an irritating hindrance.
I realized in my third week here that I am no longer angry. I don't feel an enduring fury bubbling beneath my skin. I don't have to constantly be on the defensive. I don't have to worry about educating everyone around me. Of course, I still get angry about things that occur, but I'm not angry like I was before—persistently, constantly, and passionately.
Serenity is a new feeling, and it's one I'm unfamiliar with. At first, it made me anxious. I was scared of not being angry, because I thought it meant I didn't have any purpose. But as the days went by and I became more accustomed to this new state of "not angry," I came to understand that not being angry is good. I can focus on my work more easily. I treat people better. I can actually be happy for longer than thirty minutes at a time, instead of being interrupted by some bigoted nonsense that sets me off.
Of course, Oberlin is a bubble, and there's still a whole world out there full of a classist, ableist, white-supremacist patriarchy. But now I know that anger, while useful, can't help anyone if it consumes me fully and becomes my identity. My identity is Christine Krancer. I'm a feminist, a writer, an artist, an academic, and I am going to change the world. I just have a bit more growing to do first, and I'm going to welcome it with open arms.