As a first year graduate student in the English Department here at WIU, I generally have little to no idea about what I’m doing at any given time. So when the opportunity came to present a paper at the eleventh annual EGO – that is, the English Graduate Organization – conference, I thought, “sure, why not?”
I presented a paper I’d written as a young, impressionable undergraduate back in the day, a simple little essay I wrote about one of Shakespeare’s lesser known problem plays entitled Measure for Measure. It wasn’t anything too exciting, just a four page rant about how much I didn’t – and still don’t – like two of the main characters, Angelo and Isabella, and why I think they aren’t very cool. It certainly wasn’t anything groundbreaking, but I had it ready to go, so I went with it. In retrospect, I probably could have gone with something a little more graduate-ish, but it was a spur of the moment decision that I’m standing by.
Presenting at a conference is inherently strange, but I’m pretty sure that is because I had – and still have – no idea what I was – and still am – doing. Does that make sense? Basically, in case I haven’t been clear, I pretty much never know if what I’m doing is right or not, so I’m still not completely sure about how this went or how it was supposed to go. But, I had my “Get Psyched” playlist ready to go on my iPod, I had my paper, and I knew with absolute certainty that I could read it out loud. I even had a solid, straight forward method ready to go in case anyone asked a question I had no idea how to answer: take a long, slow sip of water and say, “Hmm, I haven’t thought of that, but I will be sure to look into it in my future research.”
Pretty classy, right?
What I do know, however, is this: it wasn’t that bad. Daunting? Maybe at first, but absolutely terrifying? Not so much, although I do admit that I might be saying that because it is now over. The whole experience was a bit surreal, and the entire time I was presenting my paper – A.K.A. reading it aloud – and answering the subsequent questions, all I could think about was how badly my feet were hurting in my stupid, high-heeled shoes.
(If I’m being 100% honest, that’s basically what I was thinking the whole conference: how badly my feet hurt and how I couldn’t wait to go home and change.)
I was certainly nervous, but I didn’t have any reason to be because everyone – professors, panelists, and audience members alike – were all extremely welcoming and receptive. In fact, I only really needed to use my classy “go to” answer once, and that was only because I had absolutely no idea what this one professor asked me. Not too shabby, right?
All in all, presenting at the EGO Conference wasn’t bad at all. Sure, it was nerve-wracking at first, but once my panel was over, I was able to focus on my fellow graduate students’ and professors’ presentations, which were all really amazing. So, for me, presenting at EGO was a win, and I’m fairly certain I’ll do it again next year.
By the way, I didn’t actually get an EGO Conference T-shirt… but I kind of wish I did. Maybe next year.