Sunday, June 25, 2017By:
After dinner at the Hamilton to celebrate my 23rd birthday, we decided (on a late-night whim, of course) to see a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Seeing Rocky Horror in a theater is quite an experience. The newbies are ushered to the front where they perform ridiculous and embarrassing tasks (like stripping down to their underwear, for example). Once the show starts, you're surrounded by a half-naked crowd yelling obscenities at the movie. Rocky Horror is the pinnacle of vulnerability.
Birthdays are an excellent time for self-reflection. Inspired by Rocky Horror, I spent much of the past week reflecting on my undergraduate experience and the importance of vulnerability. For myself, an important lesson in vulnerability is to stop worrying about being embarrassed. You will, especially in college, be embarrassed. You'll say something stupid to your professor or stumble over an important point in a presentation. Similarly, never be afraid to ask for help. Your peers and professors are resources and they want you see you succeed. Get over the fear of being awkward and talk to people. At the American Astronomical Society meeting this past winter, I awkwardly hovered around Brad Conrad (the director of SPS) waiting for a free moment to talk with him about the internship program. At this point, I was still undecided on whether I should pursue the position, and Brad's encouragement motivated me to submit.
Almost paradoxically, while Rocky Horror is the pinnacle of vulnerability, it is also extremely empowering. The experience is the true "they're not laughing at you, they're laughing with you," moment. Similarly, vulnerability in your professional life is also empowering. While it (hopefully) does not involve stripping down to your underwear, it still shows that you are willing to leave your comfort zone, adapt, and grow.