Your Mind Is Like a Parachute, It Only Works When It’s Open

By Darryl Mangles
Lead Writing Assistant/Writing Center

I dropped out of school in 11th grade, got my GED a decade later, and didn’t set foot in a classroom for another decade. The moment I arrived at LCC, I was out of my element. College was a different world to me; the landscape, the people, the language were all strange. The campus was huge. I felt out of place, disoriented. I had no idea where I was going or where I was. The classes I’d sat through were using words I didn’t understand. It was all alien to me.

That first semester at LCC, I enrolled in a Writing course. Since I didn’t know what a thesis statement was or how a simple topic sentence might work, my instructor suggested I visit the Writing Center. My first visit paired me with a tutor who asked me too many questions. I left discouraged yet feeling a little vindicated. In my heart, I was looking for any excuse to say, “College isn’t for me.” I simply needed verification that I didn’t belong here.

However, after encouragement from my instructor to give the Writing Center one more chance, I went back; this time I met Ruth. She listened to me, not fake listened but really listened. Ruth answered questions instead of asking them. For the first time in my life, someone really heard what I was saying.

Her tutoring schedule was so booked that I made sure to schedule my next appointment as I checked in for my current one. When we began meeting on a regular basis, a fog lifted. Ruth taught me how to learn by opening my mind to the perceptions and experiences of the people around me.

By listening to me, Ruth slowly nudged me into a more socially acceptable voice—a voice which would never have been heard had I not exchanged my ignorance and hate with knowledge and open mindedness. Instead of telling me when I was wrong, she would lead me to seeing it for myself. Her persistent positivity forced me to abandon my old style of black and white thinking and embrace this new learning.

Ruth opened my mind by making hard things simple. She is beautiful, wise, kind and inspiring. A strong woman with a gentle and caring soul, her presence makes you trust she has your best interest at heart. I felt she was more interested in me than any assignment, which is one thing that kept me coming back. It took writing this to realize there was never any one experience that stuck out: her consistent kindness and the interest she showed in me taught me that I had as much right to be in college as anyone else.