Schuster: Past insecurities can teach beneficial lessons to college students

You might not believe it from looking at me, but I used to have a twitch.

You’d probably believe it after spending more than five minutes with me, but at first glance, this may come as a surprise. I mean, look at that gal in that black-and-white picture. She has it all figured out, doesn’t she? But looks can be deceiving. Somewhere within that slightly nervous 20-year-old body is a much more nervous 10-year-old girl whose left eye used to move faster than her right.

And it wasn’t even like I was that socially awkward. I was a perfectly normal, chubby, self-conscious middle school student who, if you made eye contact with long enough, would wink at you really fast with one eye. But whatever. I’m sure it was cute in its own not-cute, really-strange-but-you-wanna-get-to-know-me-more kind of way.

It didn’t take long for my peers to take notice. It was then, in sixth grade, that I was given the second nickname of my childhood: Twitchy.

(My first nickname was Rooster because Schuster rhymes with Rooster. Don’t call me Rooster.)

I really didn’t mind it that much. In fact, I learned a lot of life lessons then that as a big, bad, relatively twitch-free college student, I still carry with me today.

For example, back when playing basketball only required average hand-eye coordination and the ability to run for 50 feet at a time, I learned the most effective way to react when someone overtly pointed out my twitch. This super cool girl on my team named Beth and I would greet each other with a call and response. She’d scream, “Twitchy,” then I’d scream, “Bethy.”

It was like having an inside joke with one of the most popular girls in school, but instead of just adding a “y” to my name, she was pointing out a nervous idiosyncrasy.

Because of this, I’ve mastered the “call-and-response,” and it has helped me successfully interact with the many wonderfully diverse people on this campus.

I learned another valuable lesson on the playground when a boy started a “Twitchy” chant with a group of his friends. Not knowing what else to do, I joined in.

“Twitchy! Twitchy! Twitchy!”

Eventually, they realized the original mission of the chant had been twisted and we were now just a bunch of 10-year-olds screaming the same word. They all kind of stopped awkwardly at the same time, not really knowing how to reinstate the bully attempt.

So if you can’t beat them, join them, and make them really uncomfortable so you end up winning anyway.

I’ve always assumed I would use this tactic if I lost all of my friends tragically and was forced to join a sorority. Except I don’t know if it would count as winning if during Kappa Kappa Gamma’s chant I was the only one who knew I was being ironic.

And yes, I’m assuming I would get into Kappa Kappa Gamma. Hit me up girls, I’m a blondie from Connecticut.

One pivotal day, my math teacher, Mr. English (real name), thought it would be helpful to point out my twitching in front of the whole class.

“Are you twitching?” he asked me.

All non-twitching eyes were on me. My classmates knew damn well that I was twitching, but what they couldn’t predict was how I was going to react.

“No,” I said.

Then, I stared. I stared and I stared and I thought to myself, ‘Don’t twitch, don’t twitch, don’t twitch.’

After what felt like a lifetime but what was probably 20 seconds, my teacher said, “OK,” and continued with his lesson.

Since then I’ve never underestimated the power of my thoughts.

During a test: Don’t fail, don’t fail.

During a conversation: Don’t laugh at his lisp, don’t laugh at his lisp.

In a public place: Don’t adjust your strapless bra, don’t adjust your strapless bra.

But the biggest thing I’ve learned about standing out during the worst possible time was that it really didn’t matter. Everything my peers thought was a reaction of what I did. So if I said it wasn’t a big deal, it wasn’t a big deal.

What I’m really saying is, we’re all friends here. As a humor columnist and, presumably, the ultimate judge of all of you for the sake of (hopefully) obtaining some laughter, it’s only fair you have something to hold against me.

The scale might be tipped slightly in your favor.

Sarah Schuster is a sophomore magazine journalism major. Her column will appear weekly in Pulp for the spring 2013 semester. She can be reached at


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