Check Your Authenticity

By Guest Contributor

For any of my readers, the next time you see me, I expect consistency in the way you approach me and others on this campus. If you are going to make an effort to greet someone once, why not make the effort to greet the person in the same manner for the other times you shall surely come across them on this very intimate campus? If not, then I presume you need to hear what I am about to say.

In the spring of my freshmen year I started playing this game. The objective of my game is to count how many grins, feigned smiles, and genuine gestures my fellow students give me by the time I get wherever I am heading. I am often more disappointed than surprised when I play this game, making me realize how much this has affected my experience here. It is quite sad that I have to play this game because it speaks to how much I question the level of genuine interactions we have with each other on this campus. I feel that sometimes, in order for me to make it through some days on this campus, I have to be a participant in the game, whether by feigning a smile or not speaking at all to avoid interaction. The question then becomes, “why?” The answer I have come up with is that most of the student body is made up of very afraid people.

Middlebury students, why do we place ourselves in our own bubbles when we are already within a larger one? The problem I see is that we are too preoccupied with what is going on in our lives to ever notice others. Or worse, we realize there is a lack of authenticity, but we make a conscious decision to live with that because we don’t want to get involved. We are so caught up in trying to make ourselves feel comfortable and accepted on campus that we end up excluding our authentic selves to flourish in this place with the people in it. When I observe the interactions of students as they walk across campus, I notice we even hide ourselves from each other in public. We time and calculate what to say by the time someone approaches us, or what direction is the best to take to have the least amount of contact. It’s a pity, but can this be changed?

As much as I am saddened by the lack of authenticity we display towards each other, I have learned that by me taking an initiative to interact with people, authentically, I have grown much more than I expected to. I know there are students on this campus who do want to make connections, but apparently students do not act on this impulse. Suddenly it becomes good enough to know you want to do better than to actually do anything that demonstrates progressive action to our thinking. We all bring such unique experiences to this campus regardless of what we may think of our own experiences. While you are here on this campus, you have a responsibility to be an active citizen in order to enrich the campus with your authentic self. By doing so, who knows, we just might learn something about how to grow with people here and once we leave here. How do we solve this? It’s easy Middlebury, just talk.

Get out of your bubbles and embrace the larger one. I am tired of seeing most of you hiding a part your identity that others would love to know and also doing yourself a disservice by not allowing yourself to be yourself. This is my challenge to you, Middlebury. Take the initiative to be authentic and surprise yourself.

CHESWAYO MPHANZA ’16 is from Chicago, Ill.

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