So I have to admit that today, even 12 years after graduation [from Harvard], I’m still insecure about my own worthiness. I have to remind myself today, You are here for a reason. Today, I feel much like I did when I came to Harvard Yard as a freshman in 1999 … I felt like there had been some mistake — that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove I wasn’t just a dumb actress. … Sometimes your insecurities and your inexperience may lead you to embrace other people’s expectations, standards, or values, but you can harness that inexperience to carve out your own path — one that is free of the burden of knowing how things are supposed to be, a path that is defined by its own particular set of reasons.
—Natalie Portman, Harvard Commencement 2015
Being 1,813.4 miles away from home has been a challenge. It has brought forth the realization that I feel like I am pretending. As if my presence in a sea of students who all are so vastly alike and so very different from me was a mistake; a glitch in the system that was not caught in time. For the entirety of my Freshman year, I felt like I couldn’t ask for help for fear that it was a show that I didn’t truly belong. When I excelled I was ecstatic; when I flailed, I was devastated and vaguely catatonic.
Being among individuals who grew up learning Latin and doing crochet is a jarring experience when all you’ve ever had were out-dated textbooks and vague dreams of what could be in a very distant future. Being the first of your siblings to be slated to graduate from a four-year institution can be jarring and extremely nervewrecking; it’s as if some Atlas-like pressure descends down on you and is just waiting for the faintest show of weakness or fatigue.
And it was weird that this fear surfaced. Growing up, my mother always encouraged me and tried to reassure me that things like the Ivy League and selective institutions were meant for people like me; something I wouldn’t always believe in. But here I am, learning the same things and participating in clubs and events with people across the tracks from me.
But it always boils down to the fact that I am here; even if I don’t know why particularly I am. And I can’t take that for granted. Nor should I let anyone place into their ill & preconceived little bubbles.