One day during my junior year, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed. I stumbled upon a video shared by one of my future subletters. It was a promo video advertising UChicago Bhangra, one of the South Asian dance groups on campus. I had seen them perform at the SASA show every April and was always so mesmerized by their charisma and stamina. When I clicked on the video, the first thing I saw was a black screen with the words: “Never done Bhangra before??? No problem!! Everyone starts somewhere….” This was followed by several members of the team in their first days of learning the dance form. I remember watching them stumble and mess up and trying hard not to laugh. Throughout the course of the video, I was able to see their progression with my own eyes and was thoroughly amazed. I thought, If they can go from that to what I saw on stage, maybe I have a shot, too.
I decided to go to the auditions with two of my best friends as support. I went in with no expectations or prior experience and just haphazardly followed along with the captains as they danced. It was almost concerning how much I was sweating. I alternated between trying to remember the steps, smiling, and praying that I wouldn’t fall over when we had to do squats. And let me tell you, there were many squats.
In a few days, I received an email. I had made it. I was both surprised and excited. Suffice it to say, Bhangra has been one of the most fun and most rewarding parts of college. But that’s not necessarily the point.
When I think back to when I made the decision to audition, the inner psychology major in me has a few questions. In psychology, one of the biases we learn about is the framing effect, or how the way information is conveyed affects one’s choice. When I think back to that time, and specifically who I was at the time, I wonder how my decision would’ve been different had I only seen all of the dancers at their most experienced. If the question was instead something as simple as, “Are you ready to be a part of this?” Would I have been brave and auditioned anyway? Or would I have been too afraid of failing at something new? I was close to being done with my junior year of college and thought that I had learned everything I needed to learn. Why bother trying something completely unknown when I was comfortable with everything I was already doing?
I think I can speak for everyone when I say that UChicago is challenging. You have to work hard just to keep up. You have to manage multiple different classes, RSOs, and pre-professional obligations, all while trying to make the most of your time with friends. Most importantly, you have to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to come across failure at multiple times throughout college. While failures may manifest differently for each one of us, they’re inevitable. But what I believe makes UChicago students so unique is grit. We are taught to push back on obstacles—especially the internal ones—that threaten to limit us and to persevere through difficult circumstances. Most importantly, we are taught to help each other during these times. This is so powerful. This allows us to create impact not just in the workplace or graduate school, but in all aspects of our lives and the world overall. Something UChicago has taught me is that college isn’t about where you end up, but what you take with you.
When I think back to the moment when I made the decision to audition, I still don’t what I would’ve done in the past had the message been framed differently. But I know that now, I would welcome the opportunity to tackle something new regardless of how it appears. My time in college has taught me the importance of being a lifelong learner. College has equipped me with the work ethic and perseverance to take on new opportunities and challenge the status quo, whatever it may be. Everyone starts somewhere, so never let the fear of failure hold you back from your passions, now or in the future.
Priyanka Majumder is a fourth-year in the College.