Squeaks and impressions

Eugene Ko, Lifestyle editor

Unfortunately, I don’t remember anything from freshman biology.

But by some curse, the one distinct moment still stuck in my brain is when I first introduced myself. Like how all icebreakers go, I said my name and what I did over the summer. Easy enough.

Of course, I got nervous and spoke in a pitch higher than what is humanly possible.

The worst thing in the world: introducing yourself to more than two people. Something about everyone’s eyes on you makes you forget your basic biographical details.

Junior year, I resolved to get through icebreakers without sounding like a hysterical kettle, but the universe had other plans for me.

U.S. History. As we went around the room, I repeated my name and summer highlights in my head. Magically, I managed to introduce myself smoothly and without vocal fluctuations. My stomach finally stopped gnawing on itself, and I thought I got off scot-free until —

“Eugene, can you define primogeniture for the class?”


Apparently you can’t get lucky twice, so I did the most logical thing possible. I pretended I didn’t know the answer. Or I tried to, but ended up saying, “Bluhughhh.”

I forgot the second worst thing in the world: getting labeled as a quiet kid in class.

Look, I understand teachers want all students to participate, but for me, that just means I get picked every time there’s a lull in conversation. Fortunately, I know a few tricks to avoid getting called on.

Avoid eye contact. Vigorously pretend you’re taking notes. Down a bottle of water.

But remember, you can’t get lucky twice. Junior year, I lucked out on having a teacher who said that he knew all the tricks because he was that student in the past. 

Shoot. It takes one to know one.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a story where I wonderfully evolve into a confident, sociable person and I thank my involvement on the speech team. 

But I learned first impressions aren’t the be-all and end-all. I’ve met someone who I thought was quiet but became the first person who can crack John Mulaney-style jokes and then dance like a dad reliving his disco days in a split second. I’ve met someone who I thought was smart and articulate, but ended up being a pretentious chump who thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.

Few things are truly definitive.

Senior year, I ended up not caring much about first impressions. They still make me a little nervous, but I knew I had the rest of the school year to act like I normally do and leave judgement for another day.