When I was in fifth grade, my mom accidentally sent my younger brother and me to a week-long Baptist summer camp.
To her credit, she didn’t know it had an uber-religious bend. One of our family friends told her that it was just a fun camp where the kids got to do a lot of outdoor activities, and she apparently left out the part that we would have to pray like 12 times a day.
Most of the time it was a little kid’s dream. We played capture the flag and every sport that exists, and they had one of those giant blob things in the lake like from the movie “Heavy Weights.” Then darkness fell and the education began.
My counselor was a pudgy teen with the fire of God in him. He confiscated all secular literature – to be returned at the end of camp – passed out bibles and suggested we read Revelations. Even as a 10-year-old, I was a voracious reader, so I said ‘what the hell’ and dove in. This was my first exposure to the concept of Judgment Day.
There is a secular corollary to this biblical firestorm of pain and heavenly wrath. I shall face it this Friday, when all my actions and works will be judged and it will be decided whether or not I am worthy to begin life in the divine realm that is the professional working world.
The Capstone Portfolio Review cometh, and oh how I quake with fear.
From the King James Version, Revelations 9:5-6: “And to them it was given that they should not kill them, but that they should be tormented five months: and their torment was as the torment of a scorpion, when he striketh a man. And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them.”
To call my capstone class five months of torture would certainly be an overstatement, but to call it a lot of work and a mental shift from the standard college course would not. The purpose of this class is to prepare students for an entrance into the professional realm, a space where, as my teacher just told me on final project, “presentation is everything.”
This is an area that has never been my strong suit. From third-grade art projects to senior-year PowerPoints to the strange and disjointed amalgam of posters in my bedroom, I have never been aesthetically inclined. I wear plain clothes, solid colors and I generally strive to be unassuming and neutral in most social interactions. These ideals are not very applicable when standing out from the crowd seems to be the overt model.
We always hear about “professionalism” and “building our personal brand” and “networking,” yet I have always felt that these concepts are more like amorphous theories and disingenuous fronts than a set of concrete rules to follow. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what that all exactly means.
Judgment is a strange thing, and to be honest is a concept that has terrified me since not too long after that fateful summer camp. As a kid I moved around a fair amount, and I found that the best way to assimilate to a new group was to try blend in and assimilate to group norms as quickly as possible. Most of my heroes are the individuals who seem to not care what others think, but this is an ideal I have never been able to live up to.
Writing is a way for me to overcome these reservations and express myself in a more explicit manner than I generally do in face to face interactions, as well as a way to be creative without having to worry too much about the way my work looks.
I can only hope that, as I go on, presentation is not truly everything. Form over function is a disgusting way to go about life, even if I do understand the necessity of aesthetics. If you write a masterpiece, no one is going to want to read it if it looks ugly.
I’m really not all that worried about my portfolio presentation. My website looks fine, and hopefully the quality of my written work will speak for itself. I’ll never be a graphic designer, but I’ve never wanted to be. And if the new norms of the business world are truly all about presentation and appearance, then I guess I’ll have to assimilate to those as well.
Zane Womeldorph will be spending the next month hibernating like a bear. Send letters to email@example.com.