“Let me see your eyes right now!” My mom screamed as soon as I walked through the doors. I hid my head as I ran upstairs yelling at her and telling her there was no reason that she needed to look at my eyes. I slammed my door shut, sunk into a corner of my room, lowered my head between my legs and just cried. I was at an all-time low, and coming out of my six-week denial and escape from reality. For the first time in my whole life I felt like there was absolutely nothing I could do to beat this defeat.
College acceptance season (one-year prior)
Growing up, my friends all got straight As. But I was the girl who cared more about extra-curricular activities and doing the things that I wanted to do rather than the things that I had to do. If a class didn’t interest me, then I just didn’t try. But if a class really fascinated me, then I excelled. As motivated as I am, I just didn’t give my high school grades as much attention as they deserved. I may have given my high school resume a run for its money—but my grades, not so much. I am also a very stubborn girl and refused to attend anywhere but my dream school. I thought that since my letter was taking so long to arrive that maybe, just maybe, they were going to let me in. After all, my essay had been pretty convincing, if I did say so myself.
I got home from school one day in late April and checked my mailbox with that feeling we all have when we’re waiting to hear from our top choice college. I reached inside and combed through the mail, coming across two letters to myself. One was a letter that I had written to myself in the third grade as a class assignment. The other a small letter from the school I was hoping so very hard to get into and planning on attending. Tears started forming, and I threw the rest of the mail back into the mailbox, I got in my car, and I just drove. I drove for hours. I don’t really remember where I ended up, but I found a parking lot that I wasn’t familiar with at all and just sat there as I opened up my mail.
And I quote,
Michigan State University: “We’re sorry, we can’t admit you due to your grades. Please attend another school for one year to get your grades up and reapply as a transfer student.”
For those who know me, I’m going to stop putting on a show: when I received my first rejection letter from Michigan State University, aka my dream school, I wasn’t shocked. Depressed and devastated, yes. However, I knew a rejection was brewing. I simply hadn’t tried hard enough. But my stubborn mind was convinced that I was going to get lucky—I truly thought there was a chance I would get admitted. Today, I laugh at my stubborn self. I know that I hadn’t worked hard enough. Things like that will not just be handed over to anyone at all.
I still cried for hours and later became depressed for the majority of the end of my senior year. No other school appealed to me—Michigan State was all I knew, therefore, it was the only school I wanted to attend. It was my ultimate dream school. In my head I knew that I would have to do the one thing I just didn’t want to do at all: I would have to attend our local community college. The thought of that just nauseated me, including the fact that I would have to start telling people my unattractive plans.
With tears streaming down my face I opened up letter number two. A letter from my third grade self, and the last three sentences are forever ingrained in mind, “U wyll be a grate persyn. U wyll du alll u wnt to du. U wylll go to the coleg u wnt.” Apparently I was a pretty smart cookie as a third grader. I was giving myself life advice that life had planned to give me on the day that I needed it most! If my THIRD GRADE self was telling me to rise above this situation, then I felt pathetic as my eighteen-year-old self sitting in a random parking lot and sulking. I wiped my tears, put my key in my ignition, and drove home with the aid of Telenav (my blackberry GPS, of course—I had no idea where I was).
Coming to terms with this reality
I kept telling my friends at school that I had no idea where I was attending school next year. I told them that I was still waiting on an acceptance from Michigan State. Finally, during my last week of classes as a high school student I figured I had to confirm something for next year. So I printed off our local community college’s application, filled it in by hand (this was the only option), and drove about 15 minutes from my house to turn it in. I remember feeling like this was the absolute worst day of my life. I felt like I was giving up on my dreams, but looking back at this moment, I really wasn’t. I was doing the first step in taking control of my actions and trying to change a situation that I didn’t want to be in. Going to a community college wasn’t my first, second, third or even last choice—but at this point it was my only choice.
When friends asked for my plans, I still kind of beat around the bush. “I’m going to stay home for a year and just figure things out. I don’t know if MSU is for me and I’m not ready to go away.” This was partially true—I had to figure things out, but oh man I was ready to get away. Staying at home for a whole extra year was not the top thing on my mind. But I was doing it so I might as well do it well.
I made an appointment with a counselor to help me pick my classes. “Please give me a schedule with classes that will all transfer to Michigan State next year. I will be there shortly,” I said, maybe a bit too coldly. “Sure thing! You don’t seem like our normal student. Why are you here? You have an ambition that I don’t see around here.” I sat there ready to cry. But I did walk out with the most awesome schedule and the best professors I will have ever had in my life. Thank you, kind counselor. Your efforts are appreciated so much to this day.
The year I didn’t want, but needed to have
I didn’t want to be at community college for this year. I really didn’t want to be there. But I wanted to get out and that was enough to fuel my drive. First semester, I worked the hardest I had ever worked in school. Every single class was attended, most tests were one-hundred-percented (made this word up… no?), and I had such a strong ambition to succeed. My teachers saw such an incredible side to me and quite honestly, I saw myself grow happier. I was getting the best grades I’d ever gotten and my teachers called me their star student—school was becoming something that excited me. Science became my new favorite subject (this was the weirdest), I fought my way through history, and I did every homework assignment I didn’t want to do because I knew it would get me farther. I would get offended when my friends would make comments like, “You’re doing so well because you’re at community college.” GAG ME. I was doing so well because I was working so hard, and most of my professors were once professors at my friends’ universities; they just wanted a change of pace. No one was handing me the 3.91 I received—I had worked so, so hard for that, and it was the first time I wanted to stand by my GPA.
Next semester was very similar. I liked my professors a little less, but still worked just as hard. I was even making friends. However, one of my friends pressured me into trying weed, and I felt so wrong about it the whole time, but I tried it and liked it and really thought nothing more of it. I didn’t want to keep doing that because I didn’t want to be the stereotypical community college pothead—I just wanted to get out. Something happened mid-semester and my math class became too much. I had dropped it without a single worry and happily landed a 3.8 my second semester in school. At some point mid-semester I had reapplied as a transfer to Michigan State and was eagerly waiting on a letter of admission from them. This time I had earned it. I was going to get in.
However, one day in May, a small letter arrived to my mailbox. Another rejection? How could this be? I had worked SO HARD and had done so well. I opened the letter shocked and my jaw dropped as I read the words out loud. The letter was from the Dean of Admissions, so clearly my application was given heaps of thought. He so kindly said in not these exact words, “Hey, your grades are great, but you don’t have our required math class. We want to let you in, but we just aren’t going to. Try again next time.” I was heartbroken. I had addressed my math class in my new personal statement, saying that learning math for 4-hours, once a week, was so difficult, and I could take the class once I got to school where they had it multiple times a week in one-hour blocks. But, nope. I was going to be home for another year. A year that I simply didn’t want.
I had learned so much this first year at home. I became a better student and really needed this year to shape my learning abilities for my future. But the thought of another year tore me to pieces. I called my friend and told him that I needed an escape from reality right now. He met me in the parking lot and eased me into a calmer peace of mind.
The girl I never was or will never be again
Those next six weeks are weeks I’ve blocked off in my memory. You are some of the first people I’m admitting them to, but in some odd, twisted way, they helped shape me into the person that I am. I spent these weeks keeping myself as high as I could. I spent so much money (that I really didn’t even have) on weed, and got high everywhere except work. I was high in my car, high in my room, high with my friends (when I chose to be around others), and even got high in my garage. This wasn’t who I was at all, but it was taking away the pain of having to face reality. But I couldn’t face the reality of being defeated even after I had worked so hard. Life didn’t seem fair, and this was my way of saying “well life, f*ck you too.”
I had hit rock bottom as I sunk into the corner of my room at the end of this six-week strut. WHO WAS I? Why I was I doing this? I was ignoring my issues and just trying to avoid them. Time wasn’t on my side, and I was losing my window of opportunity to try to figure something out. Depressed and wanting to continue in this rut, I stopped myself. Smart me had decided that this wasn’t going to make me happy, but only put my problems on pause. I had to be proactive and figure something out and leave this part of my life in the past. Because I needed something to do for the year, I decided to simply stay home again. I spent my summer depressed, so very depressed, and not wanting to go back to community college for a year. I had to learn to get happy on my own—I couldn’t run away from my emotions anymore.
My turning point
I was at a party at Michigan State one night in August where a friend had drunkenly convinced me it would be the best idea to go to the admissions office the next morning and state why they needed to accept me for fall. She convinced me I could convince them to let me in and that I would be here in a few weeks. I was happy and ready to take on this challenge.
The next morning I walked into the office and surprisingly, they let me meet with the Dean of Admissions. He explained that I missed another window of opportunity to get in for spring, and that I would have to wait another year. I stated my piece, and he told me he agreed with everything I said, but that he just couldn’t let me in. So I asked, why not? “You have great grades, but at this point you just need above a 3.3 to get in. So if I added you in for consideration you would just be number 731 and not the girl I would let in next.” He had called me a number and, in that instant, I knew this wasn’t the school for me. I was not the kind of girl who was going to get lost in a sea of people and I was surely not number 731. So I left with no desire to ever return.
Achieving my real dreams
Going to the Fashion Institute of Technology had been a dream of mine since eighth grade, but it was something I thought I could never do—it was something I didn’t think I’d be able to do. Moving from Michigan to New York is huge and it wasn’t for eighth grade me. But it was for new me. I wrote the best application essay I had ever written in my life—the words literally sparkled and jumped off the paper. And this felt like the perfect FIT.
I spent that year at home not really enjoying community college and sort of just going to class to go. By this point I was ready to get out. I had also stayed away from the friends I hung around with the year prior—I didn’t want to fall back into that trap. The year went by slowly, and it took forever to go by. However, on March 30th a feeling developed in my stomach, and I left school, hopped in my car, and drove quickly to my mailbox. Something was telling me that I had to get to it ASAP. As soon as I parked and opened up the box I saw the best letter that I’ll ever receive in my entire life. FIT wanted me! And to them, I knew I wouldn’t be just a number, but I would be able to be myself.
Attending FIT has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I’m on student government and an R.A.! I was able to land my dream internship three months after moving to New York (AHHH!!!) and literally lived a year of becoming myself. I have the greatest friends and life keeps growing better. I am so thankful that the guy at Michigan State told me that to him I was just a number because now I know that I’m not—here I am, myself and happy, and in the end that’s all I want to be.