Joanie Ly, a Rutgers graduate student, set up a warm and honest environment through Student Life in her event by trying to show students that they can be awkward, awesome and awesomely awkward.
Faculty and students gathered in the Douglass Student Center yesterday evening for the first “Awkward and Awesome” guest lecture, where the first topic was perfectionism.
Ly, the event organizer, formed the four-part series where guest lecturers address the issue of young adults finding an authentic voice to battle feelings of being awkward.
As a second-year graduate student, Ly said she was inspired and motivated to create the event after struggling herself with perfection. She saw other students looking for the right job that would fit both their schedule and major.
“And if one thing didn’t fit the others, they felt they failed,” she said.
Like many students she has met during her experience as a graduate student, Ly thought she needed perfection to feel whole and instead forgot who she really was while trying to fit a mold.
Ly said it is important and effective if others use their perceived moments of failure to better accept themselves.
To motivate the audience, Ly called three guest lecturers who she thought could speak well to the topic.
Colleen Georges, a Rutgers alumna and part-time lecturer, said the reason she decided to work with student affairs was because she knows that while some people have a fulfilling college experience where they find their best friends and future bridesmaids, she also knows some students who lose themselves in college.
Georges said she was prone to criticizing herself for everything, including classes, friends, relationships and parents.
“The impact made me not do well in classes as a student. I wasn’t involved, I didn’t engage on campus, I threw myself in bad romantic relationships,” Georges said. “I was envious of people who were doing well, and I feel like I lived with a lot of negative emotions for a very long time.”
She said college was the most challenging four years of her life.
Georges said as a 40-year-old woman, she appreciates all her mistakes and is proud of all the things that did not go her way because it gives her character.
“It was probably my mid-20s when I decided to stop caring about what other people thought of me ... and to embrace the awkwardly awesome person that I am,” she said. “I have a ton of personality perks, and I’m cool with every damn one of them.”
Krista Kohlmann, assistant director of Community Service and Student Involvement, said while she was growing up, she did what everyone else wanted her to do. But after graduating college, she did not know what she wanted.
She said she started experiencing anxiety and insomnia because she was “frozen and terrified” and did not have anything to work for.
She said over the summer, she and her colleagues realized they were spending all their time thinking about work and not enough time thinking about themselves.
“I am not just a professional. I am not just a wife or a friend,” she said. “I am a person. I have things that I like to do. It has taken me a long time to get to their point.”
Cheryl Wilson, the associate director of Multicultural Student Involvement, said while growing up, she felt awkward until she decided to embrace it.
She said she learned that awkwardness is based on perception. Even if people are not awkward, they still feel awkward.
Ebelia Hernandez, a faculty member in the Graduate School of Education, said whether students believe it or not, they are trying to live up to a certain expectation while in college, which tells them how much they matter.
“I fed into the lowered expectations,” she said. “At some point, you have to tell yourself that you want something more.”