Dear first-year Cozy,
This next year will be a big one. You will meet new friends and come to value their understandings of what it means to indeed Be a Human. You’ll begin to understand more and more how identity shapes who you are and the perspectives you have.
You’ll learn that accepting yourself is not an overnight, click-of-a-heel adventure, but something you have to fight for. Sometimes you won’t win. You’ll hear people dissect your identity as only valid when it’s entertaining for them to see it. You’ll wonder how they could tell you to stop overreacting, like it was impossible for an opinion to cut you so deep. But it does. And you let it.
Sitting in class will soon become a representation for how defensive you must become, and you should know staying like that will be an exhausting affair. You will hear you friends’ pain and realize that if everything has a two-way street, someone must be driving a bulldozer down one half.
There will be little else for you to do but share that pain between friends. Those same lovely friends will tell you time and time again that intent is not a burden you must bear alone, and you attempt to flip a table for effect (tables are heavy, you are not successful, but it’s okay, you don’t have to flip tables by yourself anymore).
You will feel alone, my dear. You’ll feel so very alone. You will listen as your friends ask where the ‘allies’ are, and you won’t know then, because most everyone you counted in that allyship will be in that table flippers meeting. That’ll feel like the end, but it won’t be.
You will stand, albeit quite sweaty, at that faculty meeting, with the duct tape over your mouth doing its best to silence the feel of betrayal at everything you’d come to enjoy at college. You’ll realize that, standing there amongst friends, that nothing is ever simple as it seems.
You’ll watch as faculty members eyes glazed over you and those you stood with. Most will respond kindly and empathetically. You’ll wonder if a well-meaning heart could well and truly move mountains. You’ll feel intrinsically awkward sitting in sweats and fuzzy socks. It’s not about your clothing choice though, it’s because you felt guilty not wanting to be there. You didn’t want anyone to think you were weak.
People cry out and attack the purpose of ‘safe spaces,’ and you want to tell them to keep searching for a ‘safe space’ because you haven’t found one yet. You don’t want to be here. You want to stand up and scream that your soul is not open for inspection on this day and those not willing to shoulder your anger were not welcome to the viewing.
It’ll feel like you’re fighting for your livelihood and that of those you care about. In some ways you are… And some people will never care. But those who do will emerge to greet you. They will elevate your voice, and you’ll learn how to carry the message of others. They will sit and listen to you rant and you will see that they do care.
Then, most important of all, you will see your peers, professors, coworkers and bosses educate themselves. They will try, and sometimes there will be touch and go moments, but you’ll see that you are far from alone. And that will make it worth, more than you’ll know, perhaps, but it will be worth it.
You’ll learn giving the ones you love space to learn for themselves isn’t your responsibility and is critical to survival. One day you’ll be sitting at work (surprise: you get a job at Hillel) and you’ll stare at a plaque on the wall, and it will take on a new span of understanding for you. “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others what am I? And if not now, when?”
You got this.
Cozy Huggins is an active advocate on campus and is involved in Be A Human, Hillel and beyond. She also is the Diversity Floor Residence Adviser in Hogle Hall.