Hello friendos scouring the Olinsider over the summer! I am Griffith (they/them), a first-year at Olin…
Wait a minute, that is not true anymore. It is the summer and…I FINISHED MY FIRST YEAR AT OLIN! Hooray!
I broadcast to you today to tell you about the growth I have experienced so far at Olin. I have changed so much over the last year that it’s hard to even remember what I was like before Olin. I tried to center this blog around my identity growth, as I really think a lot of things come back to that.
This topic is so big that I am going to break it into two sections: my identity within the LGBTQ space and my identity as an engineer.
Warning: Immense emotional vulnerability ahead.
The most obvious identity growth I’ve experienced at Olin is certainly in terms of coming to understand that I am non-binary.
If you have been a loyal follower of the Griffith blogs, you will know that I came out as Gay during the summer prior to coming to Olin. I told that story here in my LGBTQ+ Life at Olin blog.
In short, coming into Olin, I was in a panicked mental state. I was struggling to come to terms with my sexuality and felt very alone. I even considered taking an unexpected gap year it got so bad in my head.
The support I received at Olin surpassed all expectations. I felt safe in the community and was able to take full advantage of Olin’s mental health resources (which I wrote about here).
At Olin, I was able to make close connections with transgender students for the first time ever. Notably, I met my first non-binary person (to my knowledge). Through exchanging emotionally vulnerable stories, I felt a surprising amount of solidarity with them. This led me to gradually explore and piece together pieces of myself I had long pushed aside.
By the time Thanksgiving break rolled around, I became heavily interested in using they/them pronouns (something prior to Olin I had never heard of). Gradually I became more uncomfortable with being called and seen as a man.
As I saw some of my closest friends come out as non-binary, it finally gave me the validation I needed to come out to myself and shortly after, my peers.
The first time I said I was non-binary out loud, it just felt so right.
I am so thankful I chose to go to Olin. Some people like to call Olin a bubble, but for me, Olin provided a space isolated from the society I grew up in that enabled me to figure out who I am.
I gained so much confidence about being non-binary and being transgender in such a short time. I have been completely out this summer while doing an internship in Fargo, ND.
It is easy to look at all that progress in identity and to say, “Packing up, heading home, that’s enough progress for a year.” However, my identity growth does not end with my gender identity.
Engineer Griffith, unlike non-binary Griffith, is not something I realized at Olin. I have long known that I want to be an engineer. However, being at Olin has COMPLETELY reworked how I look at engineering.
Before Olin, I was your stereotypical overly technical focused engineer. I definitely looked at STEM as being more important than the arts and humanities.
When I came to Olin, I met INCREDIBLY smart and motivated students. Many of them were also very much engineers - just like me (programming, design, cadding, electronics, etc). Jokes were made about resistors, programming languages, and CAD software. But what really struck me was how diverse the Olin community was in terms of interests and passion. People can be interested in BOTH engineering and arts or humanities??? They can be COMBINED???
Throughout the year at Olin, I have gained such an IMMENSE respect for the arts and humanities. You would have to look no further than my changes in clubs throughout the year.
At the beginning of the year, I was almost exclusively seeking out technical project teams and other STEM clubs. However, by spring semester, ALL of my non-class activities were outside of traditional “engineering.” I was a member and co-founder of Zine Club and the BOW (Babson Olin Wellesley) Zine Collective. I was the founder of CRAFT club. I wrote poetry and blogs in my free time. I attended discussions on diversity and ethics.
At the time, I had not really realized this change was occurring. However, being at John Deere in an engineering role this summer has really shown me how much I have grown. I feel SO much more capable as a person. I no longer view myself as an engineer, but as many things: engineer, diversity advocate, passionate speaker, poet, artist, creative writer, etc.
I still LOVE engineering, now more than ever. However, I now love so many other things. I am constantly on the lookout for improvement and opportunities wherever they might be. I now, on my own initiative, search out and take on non-engineering tasks. For example, I have reached out to over fifteen people - people located all over the globe - at John Deere with suggestions on how to improve diversity at John Deere. Just today, I had an hour and a half phone call to help with a “Men as Diversity Partners” initiative at John Deere.
Through my year at Olin, yes I have learned what you would expect in the classroom: mathematics, engineering, writing, presenting, etc. However, the growth in knowledge pales in comparison to my growth in my identity and understanding of self.
I cannot express how amazing it feels to have a better idea of who I am. I feel so much more confident and alive than I have ever felt before. This confidence carries over to every aspect of my life.
The growth that I experienced has made me a better person in almost every way. I am more caring for others and better at really listening to them. I am so positive and smiling at work that I think it intimidates my coworkers a little bit. I feel more capable of taking on seemingly impossible problems and addressing them with critical thinking I did not think I possessed.
I feel more capable now than I could have ever thought possible.
I can tell that I am only going to keep on growing.
Have a great rest of your day!