Being Yourself, Knowing Yourself, and Respecting Yourself: What I Learned from Taylor Meyer’s Story

By Kaitlin Liebling

I step into Taylor Meyer’s dorm room and take a seat on her couch, marveling at the fact that such a large and luxurious piece of furniture can fit inside. Indeed, one of the advantages of Taylor being a Resident Assistant her junior year is the fact that she receives her own room, allowing ample space for a couch. The room itself is somewhat sparsely decorated but also has a homey and semi-hipster vibe.

As I prepare to begin the interview for this profile, I see Taylor glancing at me with a hint of curiosity in her eyes. She doesn’t know me well, nor I her, despite Taylor being my RA at Wheaton College this year. Nevertheless, she generously agreed to be interviewed. As she sits up, flicking her black hair over her shoulder, I collect my thoughts and begin the interview by asking about her childhood.

Though today Taylor is a student at Wheaton College in Illinois, she was raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “I love the landscape and the culture there,” she tells me, voice earnest. “It’s very unique with the history and we have a lot of Hispanic heritage.”

Such childhood experiences in New Mexico inspired Taylor’s love for Mexico and Latin-American culture. She plans to minor in Spanish and has already studied abroad in Mexico for a semester. When I ask her about her experience in Querétaro, located in central Mexico, Taylor smiles. “It was such a great program,” she explains. “There were 15 of us from Wheaton, and we all lived in different host homes. We had Mexican professors who taught us just Spanish major or minor classes.”

Taylor’s time in Mexico also closely connects to her major: anthropology. As Taylor describes it, anthropology is the study of culture. She tells me that the major “looks at modern-day people and analyzes their culture and how people create meaning in the world.”

When I ask her about the reasoning behind her choice of major, Taylor’s voice grows noticeably more passionate. “I really enjoy getting to know people and learning where they come from and how that influences the actions they make,” she says.

Benefits and Challenges of RA Life

Studying abroad obviously connects to her major. Living in another culture is often the best way to learn about another culture. However, though on a smaller scale, Taylor’s love for people also translates into her choice to be a Resident Assistant.

Her main reason for investing her time and energy into being an RA is simple. “I loved the idea of being in this structure of mentorship and being able to invest in the community,” she explains. “I thought it would be such a great opportunity.”

RAs certainly have an impact on the freshmen community. From organizing fun floor trips to the movie theater to planning shared floor dinners each week, RAs are an integral part of freshmen social life. They also help to provide advice and support to those first entering college and make sure the floor remains a safe place for each one of its residents. By all accounts, Taylor truly enjoys this aspect of her job.

She does admit, however, that one particular aspect of her job is frustrating. “A challenge is more the administrative side of things: planning, coordination and logistics,” she confesses.

What do Taylor’s floormates think of her efforts as an RA? Alexis Schacht, one of the women on Taylor’s floor, told me that Taylor has a “gentle spirit and a kind heart.” Alexis particularly appreciates Taylor’s efforts to get to know each and every person on the floor, personally. “She opens up her room at least a couple times a week, serves us tea and snacks, and just wants to get to know all of us better,” Alexis says.

Taylor has but two words of advice for prospective RA’s: “be yourself.” It seems a cheesy statement, yet Taylor swears by its truthfulness. “There’s no mold for an RA. Everyone is so different,” she counsels. “Don’t be afraid to be yourself and bring the strengths that you have.”

Freshman Year Reflections and Advice

Taylor’s life hasn’t always been so planned out. “I came in as an IR [International Relations] major,” she says, laughing in disbelief at her younger self. “But, I very quickly switched to anthro second semester of freshman year.”

However, when I ask more specifically about Taylor’s first year at college, she grows serious and thoughtful. Looking at me through her fashionably round glasses, Taylor frowns as she gathers her thoughts. “It was a rocky transition,” she finally says, and I can hear the honesty in her voice. “I’m an only child so I became very dependent on my parents. Coming away from that was very hard, as well as learning college.”

As Taylor continues to assess her freshman personality, I am struck by her self-awareness. “I had a tendency to blend into people around me, to be a part of the background. I didn’t know my likes or dislikes. I didn’t know my opinions very well because I was too busy listening to others. That’s good, but I also discounted a lot of my own thoughts because of that,” she says.

So what changed? “Finding people whom I trusted was monumental in realizing I can be myself,” she says. “Also, finding my major, anthropology, and actually being genuinely interested in the classes I was taking.”

Her tactics seem to have worked. The Taylor of today seemed more self-confident and self-assured to my eyes than the freshman self she described. She has been able to find the voice she lacked, developing opinions on current events. Asked about the topic of immigration, Taylor had a ready, seemingly rehearsed, answer that incorporated her passion and sympathy for people of all cultures.

As for the future, Taylor isn’t quite sure what job she wants to land yet. But she is excited for her upcoming study abroad program through the Human Needs and Global Resources department at Wheaton. Her six-month internship will be spent in a foreign country in a remote location, where Taylor will work closely alongside locals to serve the community. “I’m very excited,” Taylor says. “But it’s just not real yet.”

I close the interview and thank Taylor for her time. Her genuine and kind nature strikes me as something that many of us should aspire to. And Taylor’s sentiments surrounding her freshman year are something that I, along with many other college newcomers, can wholly relate to.

Taylor’s words also inspire hope in me. Her ability to analyze herself is a trait I wish I had right now. To be able to honestly know oneself–to acknowledge one’s flaws, to celebrate one’s strengths, to have confidence in one’s own abilities–is something that must be learned throughout life. Taylor proves it’s possible to transform from uncertain freshman to self-assured junior in just a few years.

Ultimately, Taylor’s story may seem rather ordinary in a world that celebrates its celebrities and its heroes. But I’ve learned that every human life is different, and that most everyone possesses a bit of unique wisdom born from their personal experiences. To gain such knowledge, all one has to do is sit down and ask.

#profile #identity #collegerelationships #studyabroad

Photo Courtesy of Taylor Meyer