The TiP Speech

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The TiP Speech

The TiP Speech was written by Jenna Dillon during her last few days at Trinity University (Term 1, 2016). It was written from deep within her heart and she was proud of it from the second she read it in its entirety. It went as such:

My three weeks at Trinity University for the Duke Talent Identification Program have been the closest thing I’ve ever had to a fairy tale reality. In my anxiety before arriving, I’d read so many reviews from past TIPsters of how easy it was for them to make friends, how wonderful the people they met were, how long-lasting the memories they made were, etc. but I only slightly believed them. Even as I started hoping that these reviews were true, which got me imagining a life at a place full of people who wanted to learn, I couldn’t have expected this. This is a dream, and I sometimes have to refrain from pinching myself to make sure I’m not still on my bed in my grotesquely pink room, reading stupid blog posts about literally nothing at all on my laptop due to my lack of friends that actually want to hang out with me during the summer. But every time I pinch myself all I get is a sharp pain in my arm and a red blotch. This is a dream, but I am not dreaming, and this is real, actual life. I never would have thought that real-life could feel like this, that I’d smile and laugh and make jokes about things I should not joke about with a group people I’d only just met, but it’s true. I often catch myself muttering “how?” under my breath. How can this be real? How can I be so happy? It’s a legitimate question, how, one I don’t fully know the answer to. All I know is that I’m at a college campus, surrounded by people I don’t ever want to leave, and that I may or may not be the luckiest person alive. This is Duke TIP.

I like to refer to my life before TIP as my “previous life,” because I will not be the same after this. My previous life was a life where mayonnaise was nothing but a condiment, where Satanic rituals were not a joke, where spicy was how my Dad ordered his buffalo wings at Hooters, and where happiness wasn’t a feeling I was incredibly accustomed to. In my previous life, I was a pessimist. My mom’s an optimist and it drove me crazy because she is always happy and how can you be so happy when nothing is good? But now that I am two-thirds of my way into this beautiful journey, I realize that in my previous life, I just had yet to find the good things in life. The closest I got to happy was when I was listening to my noisy music or playing my guitar for five to seven hours at a time. All I knew were best friends that sent me cryptic Twenty One Pilots lyrics in attempt to communicate, 75% scores on major gym tests because I can barely do one push-up, terrible math teachers and my parent’s insistence upon turning literally everything that happens into a life lesson. But at TIP, I’ve found the good things in life. I’ve found things that I care about, I’ve found laughter and light and happiness, and people that I absolutely love. If I could ever go back in time and tell myself something, I’d tell myself that there are reasons to be happy. There are good things in life, like a 6 foot stuffed carrot named Eugene, inside jokes that scare everyone else half to death, and a group of 13 other girls with incredibly unique personalities and mad smarticles, also known as my family.

I will not tell you that I was ecstatic to come here. Sure, I definitely wanted to come learn something school just wouldn’t teach me, but as I think we’ve all come to realize, learning is not all TIPsters do. Most of the feelings I had about the social aspects of TIP were pure anxiety. I thought that I was either going to be the weird smart girl or the weird stupid girl. I thought that I would not like my roommate. I thought that I wouldn’t be welcomed. I thought that I would still have to change myself in some sort of way to fit in with the other people. I’m pretty sure that the reason I don’t remember much of the three-hour drive from Houston to San Antonio is because I was in a sort of nervous psychological state where I shut everything out and just didn’t pay attention. But I do remember pulling up to Trinity. I remember seeing the people with their Duke TIP shirts and their plethoras of luggage and I remember being so nervous. I didn’t know what to do when my parents left. But then along came my roommate Lisa, and I felt a little better. I walked out of my room ten minutes after my parents had driven away and I instantly found someone to talk to. In fact, I found a lot of someones to talk to; I played practically three rounds of Uno with a group of strangers, and I realized that I wasn’t pretending to be someone I’m not. That didn’t stop, either. I felt comfortable, like all of the masquerades of every day public school life had suddenly been lifted, and I was able to make friends so easily. The people don’t lie to you when they tell you that this is the best thing you will do with your life, because it is. Duke TIP has seriously been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me and I’m honestly uncertain as to what I’m going to do when it comes time to leave. I’ve found a family here, and I don’t ever, in a million, or a trillion, or however many years come after that, want to leave this place or these people. Every day, I’ve woken up with a smile on my face, even when my entire body ached from all the walking I wasn’t accustomed to, and if you were to ask anyone from my previous life, they’d tell you that smiles don’t come easily to me. Every day I wake up and know that the day ahead of me is going to be wonderful, and that’s something I could have never imagined being able to do. In such a short time, I’ve met so many people that know how it feels to be the weird smart kid, people who don’t care how you look or who you know or how much money you have. These are people who know how it feels to care, people who truly want to be here, and because of that, these are people that know how it feels to be me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m nowhere near unprivileged or overly lonely. I’m a person who gets people to like me very easily. In all honesty, I’d talk to a wall. But just because I’m talkative doesn’t mean I’m socially comfortable, and just because I can get people to like me, doesn’t mean I can get them to care about me or understand me, get them to keep liking me, or get myself to like them. In all of my life, I’ve made far more enemies than friends, and it had taken me eight years to have a somewhat solid friend group of two people. But that all changed with mayonnaise. That all changed when I sat, for the first time, in room 112, with thirteen other girls, and I tell you this with my whole-hearted gratitude: I left that room a changed person. I have never found, in all of my thirteen years, any social interactions as easy as I’ve found yours. You have all in such a short time become my family, my happiness, and I love you with all of my heart.

I will not lie; I would chop off my entire foot and maybe a part of my leg for the chance to play my guitar for six hours a day like I used to. I missed a Pierce The Veil concert, not to mention Warped Tour, for TIP. I missed the chance to go to a beach house for a weekend with my best friend and her family for TIP. I missed three weeks of being completely anti-social, binge watching The Walking Dead, and drooling over Zac from Ghost Adventures for TIP. But I don’t care. Take my best friend, take my guitars, take my laptop and my television. Throw them someplace where I may never find them, just let me stay here. I wouldn’t trade in this place for the world, and I wouldn’t hesitate to give everything I used to love up for the chance to keep you all here, close to me, where I can see you, talk to you, laugh with you and call out mayonnaise to you whenever I’d like. I’d trade in my previous life for the ability to stay here forever, happy and carefree.

I don’t know if I’ve been the most likable person while I’ve been here, and if I haven’t, I’m truly sorry, but whether you hated me or loved me, I ask only two things of you. Please do not forget about me, and please, I beg of you, don’t let me forget about you. Call me every day, blow up my phone, send me pictures and quotes and memes for hours on end. I promise you it will not bother me in the slightest, because you all matter so much to me. My greatest aspiration is that I never forget the memories we’ve made here, and so I will pin up our memorabilia on my wall, write our stories for the rest of the world to read, and do everything I possibly can to keep this family alive if only in the form of memories.

I don’t know what I’m going to do without you all. The knowledge that in a short while, I will be leaving this place gives me chills and brings bittersweet tears to my eyes. I’m scared that nothing after this will ever be as good as my experiences with TIP. I’m scared of having to go back to a place where I am not understood, where I am not fully me and I am not fully happy. I’m scared that I won’t see any of you ever again. And it is these thoughts that are haunting me. I don’t know how well I’ll manage without TIP, without people to constantly talk to and laugh with, or activities to participate in. I’ve said it a million times before, and I’ll say it a million times later; Duke TIP is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

I’ve somehow made it to my third page without fully explaining everything that’s going on in my head. I had a lot to say, and in all honesty I could write at least five more pages about how wonderful my life has become, but there is absolutely no way my eyes are dry enough and my throat is open enough for me to go on much longer. So I will tell you this, as my one last hoorah. Emma, Kelsey, Emily, Wenting, Chrono, Lauren, Megan, Isabella, Andreana, Cheyenne, Lisa, Natalie, Katie and Emma, the best RC ever; this is my fairy tale reality– my fantasy-come-true. Harry Potter went to Hogwarts and found that he was all of a sudden accepted for who he was. Well, this is my Hogwarts. This is my home. This is my family. This is Duke TIP.