My flute professor spoke these words, cueing me to open the stage door for her to begin her faculty recital last weekend. These two words are powerful words, initiating something new, something for which preparation was necessary, something including stress, something exciting. The negative form of this phrase is also powerful. I will say both forms of this phrase, in my head and out loud, as I prepare to present my senior project.
I have been conducting research for a senior honors project in anthropology, which requires that I present somewhere. My project has been accepted for three presentations: one near Portland, Oregon, one in Lexington, Kentucky, and one on campus at Luther. The first of these presentations is for a professional audience of anthropologists about two hours after my plane is supposed to taxi into the airport. Reminder: I’m an undergraduate student. My advisors tell me this conference is a relaxed and small affair, and the resort at which the conference is held sounds incredible – perfect for me in almost every way. However, I want so badly to not disappoint my advisor (who serves on the board of the professional society putting on this conference) and to accurately represent myself, my research, and my education. I have one full day at Luther before flying to Kentucky to present for a gigantic gathering of undergraduates; this presentation will have a completely different feel. Only the last of my three conferences will be in a location that needs no contextualizing.
I’ve done the research, I’m still analyzing some of my data, and I’m writing my paper and presentation simultaneously. There is so much of interest inside my data; and I really have nothing compared to the average ethnography. Sure, I’m on my own, I have other classes, and I’m completing this project so that I can graduate. But I’m invested and interested, and if I want to represent my study community according to modern theories, I need to be careful. Increased care means stress. At this point, I’m not ready to present to an audience larger than the six friends who listened and gave feedback for my first fail of a talk. In three days, regardless of whether I’ve reached my potential to be ready, I’ll mean it when I say, “I’m ready.”