“Do I deserve to be here?” is a phrase that runs through my mind a million times a semester. When I’m walking into a new class, an executive board meeting, or even my campus job. Will I be able to live up to the expectations? Can I handle the workload? No matter where I am on campus, I know that what I am truly asking myself, or rather questioning my worth on, is if I deserve to be at the University of Michigan. Am I smart enough? Hardworking enough? Plain old enough?

I’m writing this preemptively to when it will be published. Ideally, it will go up for all of your eyes to see within the first few weeks of school while I am pushing off the Statistics homework sitting in front of me. The homework that I have been working on, on and off for the past six hours of this sunny, summer Sunday that I would much rather be spending outside. The homework that initially made the same old question start to tickle in the back of my mind: “Do I deserve to be here?”

The question that slowly grew to a rumble as I laid on my couch taking a fifteen minute YouTube break. The question that began to yell a little louder as I extended my lunch break to fit in a few chapters of my so-totally-not-academic-related novel. The question that reached its crescendo as I realized the rest of my day was going to be spent fighting to make myself endure a few more hours of homework to feel as if I was working towards surpassing the ever-raising bar of academic excellence that we place on ourselves at this heralded institution. 

As I was updating my reading progress on Goodreads during one of these breaks, I remembered my Reading Log – an excel document that I use to track my reading and record more details than Goodreads allows, to essentially do data analysis on at the end of each year. Nerdy, right? Ahh, but I love it. My time spent flipping through the sheets of the Excel doc, one for each of the six years I have been recording my reading in such a way, brought to the surface a memory from a few years ago.

High school senior awards night 2017. A few things come to mind that night. Sitting on the auditorium stage in our plastic bag-feeling graduation gowns under the sickeningly hot stage lights. Some memories are more poignant than others, such as walking into the event to our class song. But one, more personal memory was the speech my English teacher of 2 years gave before awarding me the English department medal. Now I don’t know about you all, but I feel my whole class that night played a silent game up on that stage. As each award and scholarship was announced, as the faculty began to describe the deserving student, we played a guessing game of ‘who was it?’ A slight smirk making it onto the faces of those who thought they had caught on based on the adult perception-based description of our classmates, and a widening of eyes when their silent guess was revealed to be incorrect. So when Mrs. Danek started off with an anecdote where the student’s response to “How many pages were in the book you read?” was “Let me go check my reading log,” there was not a doubt in my mind that it was me she was talking about. 

Thinking back on this speech of hers where she cited my reading log and the page count of that specific book (725 in case you were wondering), and then went on to talk about my willingness to peer review others essays in our classroom Writer’s Workshops, and engagement in class topics, I know I never did any of those things – a reading log, reading large novels, or even working with other students – to get a good grade. No, I did those because I wanted a comprehensive list of what I had read, and more data to go with it to diversify my hobby. I enjoyed doing peer reviews because I get this elated feeling that starts in my stomach and spreads to my fingertips when the points of a paper fit together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle. I did it because the Shakespeare trivia game we played in class fulfilled my little, competitive, literary heart. It’s exactly that – the heart – that you can see manifested in the things I do, why I deserve to be at Michigan.

It’s this same unique passion that each of us has that is the reason why we all deserve to be at Michigan. So as the new semester motivation begins to wear off a few weeks into the semester, and your own version of “Do I deserve to be here?” begins to creep into the back of your mind, take the time to remind yourself of the passion-fueled uniqueness that contributes to you being here. But more so, it is just one more piece of the always deserving you.

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