Hope you are having a great Spring Break (maybe with your Deac home with you, along with his/her friends?). Since it is quiet on campus, we’re continuing our feature series on Senior Orations. Today we hear from Tori Tschantz (’16).
It’s 5 o’clock-ish Somewhere
There is no question that Wake Forest University is one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. The perfectly manicured lawns, the picturesque red brick buildings, the rows of Magnolia trees and the quintessential Wait Chapel all combine to create the place that I have called home for the past four years. I will never forget my first visit to Wake Forest. It was early November of my senior year and I was on the hunt for the perfect college; this college would set me on the life path that I had always dreamed about. Coming from a competitive high school that specialized in advanced science classes for pre-medical students, I had taken a full course load geared toward insuring that I would get into the medical school of my choice. I was positive that Wake Forest was the perfection that I’d been searching for that would guarantee my success.
The only thing that I found unsettling about my first visit was the carillon. Before my parents and I left for the day, we made our way to Hearn Plaza for one last look at Wait Chapel. At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary; I was completely captivated by the beautiful chiming of the bells. However, when I looked at my watch, it read 5:17 pm. That couldn’t possibly be right, I was sure that I was told on my tour that these bells rang precisely at 5:00 pm. Why would the bells not be ringing at their normal time? Everything about Wake Forest emanated perfection – from the grounds to the students, nothing seemed out of place. The imperfect timing of the bells just didn’t seem to belong. While at the time it struck me as odd, I quickly pushed the thought to the back of my mind and made way for what I was sure to be my perfect college experience.
My beginning at Wake was exactly how I imagined it would be: I made friends, joined organizations, and did well academically. I had my Health and Exercise Science major decided and my next four years perfectly planned out. Everything was going smoothly until I truly failed for the first time my freshman Spring. At first, it was a single Organic Chemistry test, but then everything began to escalate quickly. I felt alone in my failures and imperfections while the campus around me maintained its flawless composure. Suddenly I began to question everything I had worked so hard for. I continued to soul search when I went abroad sophomore Spring to Venice. The balance between classes and exploration was challenging, but this study abroad experience gave me the confidence to take advantage of the world around me. Upon my return to campus, I marched into Wingate Hall and declared a second major in Religion as I had been captivated by my divisional Religion classes. This change of plans also came from my realization that if I was going to do the whole medical school thing, this might be my only chance to broaden my horizons and study something outside of science.
As I began my journey as a Religion major, I almost immediately regretted my decision. Not only did I have little experience with the subject matter, but I felt totally out of my element in a small discussion-based class. The majority of my educational experience had been spent in the science routine of lecture and lab, and I quickly realized I didn’t have the adequate reading, writing, or class participation skills necessary to keep up. I had every intention of dropping the class until I went to talk to my professor, Dr. Annalise Glauz-Todrank. She helped me realize that my biggest problem wasn’t my lack of experience in Religion classes, but my automatic expectation of perfection from myself and fear of failure. She convinced me that the class as a whole benefited from my input regardless of whether it was perfectly crafted or not, the important thing was that I was trying.
I felt torn between wanting to learn all of the new things the Religion major could teach me and fear of failing. With a tough decision to make, I did what any well-educated individual would do, I called my mother. She asked me to think about what I wanted out of a Wake Forest education, causing me to recall my first time on campus and the bells. My memory of the carillon was so vivid because as a prospective student, I was looking for, and expecting, perfection. When the ringing didn’t happen at 5 pm exactly, it stuck out. I realized that over the past few years I felt like I stuck out due to my imperfection, just like the bells. However, Dr. Glauz-Todrank gave me the key to overcoming my fears. By encouraging me to take small steps, she demonstrated she fully believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She convinced me to go forth with the class and the major despite my fear. Although that was only one class, it drastically shifted my mindset about learning and my expectations for myself.
The best way to learn is by making mistakes and taking chances; otherwise, there is no room for improvement. If I wanted to explore my full potential, I needed to push past my imperfections and see what else I was capable of. On paper, I may look like I followed my perfect plan by becoming a pre-medical student and leaving college with a medical school acceptance; however, there is so much that Wake Forest has taught me that I could never have planned for. Instead of expecting perfection, I now welcome imperfection as a place to grow and improve as a person. Four years ago, I scoffed at the imperfect timing of the bells. Over the course of my Wake Forest career, the bells, whenever they ring, have become a source of comfort and inspiration. While I will miss hearing the carillon every day at 5 o’clock-ish, the bells and lessons I learned at Wake will continue to ring, at all times and beautifully, in my mind for years to come.