When I tell people that I am a Writing Fellow majoring in Dance, I often am asked, “But I thought you were pre-med.” To that, I respond, “I am,” and the conversation generally turns into something like, “Wow, you’re really all over the place.”
Perhaps. But in these seemingly different fields runs a common thread that ties together my interests, passions, and career goals. For instance, a Writing Fellow is chosen to be one only if she can demonstrate a level of empathy toward others so that she can connect to the student with whom she is working. Doctors undergo the same recruitment process–if they cannot identify with their patients, they will certainly not be able to treat them. Interestingly enough (well, at least for me!), Dance/Movement Therapy resides on the premise that the dance/movement therapist displays empathy for the patient in being able to embody the patient’s movement patterns (including facial expressions), which in turns provides healing.
And, while empathy is inherently vital in each of the three realms, so is leadership. There is no “perfect” Writing Fellow meeting simply because humans are not perfect. Whether it is breaking the ice between the Fellow and the student, talking about ideas for a potential draft, or talking through the draft about ways in which we can together strengthen the paper, the Fellow needs to be able to take “control” of the situation. Although “control” may not always have positive connotations, in this particular instance, it does. Essentially, even though it is the student who technically guides the meeting with her questions, it is the Fellow who tries to file away the rough bumps encountered during the meeting, who leads the student though the writing process–all while making certain to abide by the rules of “pedagogy.” And, if you take this leadership quality of a Writing Fellow and superimpose it with the qualities that distinguish Doctors and dance/movement therapists, there will be a lot of overlap. Analogous to the students who who seek a Fellow’s help for their writing, patients seek a Doctor’s help for their ailments and problems. However, without the Doctor’s or Therapist’s ability to lead and guide the patients through a treatment plan, the patients would be underserved–as would the student encountering a Fellow who couldn’t guide her through the writing process.
To be completely honest, I didn’t recognize that I had either the traits of empathy or leadership when I applied to the Writing Fellows Program. In fact, it was my Freshman Seminar professor–who happened to be the same professor for a dance literature class i was taking that semester–who inspired and encouraged me to apply in the first place. Maybe it was she who got a first glimpse of these qualities embedded in me, which I discovered for myself during the summer while shadowing a Doctor in the hospital–and again when I had my very first Writing Fellow meeting.
I guess this was the somewhat backward route to discovering “things” about myself, but it just strengthens the saying “Whatever happens, happens for the good.” The Writing Fellow training course changed my perception about what writing is, how interactive it can be, and just by interacting with others, how it can enhance my own approach to writing. While writing my thesis on dance/movement therapy, I had a chance to explore what the student experiences all over again, as there was an attached Fellow as part of this course. This “backward” route is what enables me to tie that running thread through the three very different realms that make up a huge part of my life, and allows me to say, “I am.”