Gather around children, find a place on your floor mat, sit criss-cross applesauce and put on your listening ears. Let’s set the stage in a little town of Chichester, NH; Population: deer, squirrels, lifted-truck driving men in flannels, Tom Brady-worshipping suburban families, and of course, me: the crown jewel of this town (this is a lie, I’m lying to you, I have no street cred or recognition in Chichester, I just wanted you all to think that I’m cool).
To begin the story, we start on an image of me as a teen, fresh off my J Biebs phase and quickly moving into my Lilly Pulitzer phase. I went to a beautiful private high school in the middle of the woods, surrounded by maple trees full of sap and well-groomed ski hills (such beauty, I adore that nature-loving school).
When senior year rolled around and the pressure intensified to choose the right college, I had no earthly idea what I wanted. Well, strike that, I knew I wanted to be on Saturday Night Live or have my own talk show or something where everything revolves around me, but I didn’t know the yellow brick college road that would take me from point A to point B. So, I decided to be realistic and look into schools. I found that I was drawn to a traditional college experience: a private campus, Greek life (thanks Legally Blonde), and lots of school spirit. I wanted a school that was small, as my high school graduating class was around 100 kids and the idea of a school with thousands upon thousands of students sounded like my own personal hell.
Here is where the story of school number one begins. The beautiful Rollins College, located in the picturesque town of Winter Park, FL. Only a half hour from Orlando (did someone say Disney World?!) and an hour from the beach (I had dreams of working on a tan so people would stop confusing me with a corpse). Rollins felt perfect, and it truly was.I had a spot on the dance team, amazing friends, and I was in a great sorority. I appeared to be thriving, and I truly thought I was. I loved my time at Rollins until my health started deteriorating. I don’t want to get into the particulars of my sob story, but all you need to know for now is that shit hit the fan and it hit it fast with a vengeance. I came home my freshman summer, tried to get back to health, but my body had other plans (how rude). Things seemed to be getting worse, so a medical leave in the fall was the only option. Turns out the universe thought it’d be HILARIOUS to present the medical leave as a buy one get one free kinda scenario, so after completing my first medical leave in the fall, I went back to Rollins in the spring. Just a few weeks before the semester ended, I cashed in on that second medical leave. What a bargain! Now, when I left Rollins after that tumultuous year, I didn’t think I was leaving for good. I thought I was just going home, doing some supervised R&R with some finger painting and mindful walks sprinkled in and then bada-bing bada-boom, I’d be back to Rolly Colly for my junior year. I was wrong.
So young, so naive. Instead, my parents said “no no no my sweet angel. The big city is no good for a small town girl like you” (sidebar: this is NOT how the “you aren’t going back to Rollins” conversation happened, but I just think it gives it a little extra something if I pretend this conversation happened in the ’50s in a diner while we’re all on roller skates and drinking milkshakes). Basically, the ole ball and chain, my caretakers, my financial backers, my parents (as they prefer to be called) were like, “this is not a good environment for you, you really need to be closer to home so you can continue seeing your doctors and working on your health.” And I said “Gee Willekers Ma and Pop, what a swell idea! I’ll go tell Betty and the girls and we will go to the health and wellness sock hop!” or something along those lines.
So, I took some time. I laid low. I made going to multiple doctors' appointments a week my full-time job and, boy oh boy, was I good at it. Going to therapy was the bomb diggity and incredibly helpful. Me, getting to sit on a couch, thrice a week, and pretend I had my own talk show and just blabber about my life? A dream come true. I know I’m making light of the situation, but it’s just easier for me to do this than to really go into the soul-sucking days of hopelessness and fear of never getting better. Don’t get me wrong, there were some amazing days, but definitely some pretty rough ones too. Luckily, the good days began to outnumber the bad days and by the grace of God (Beyonce) and my amazingly supportive parents, doctors, and friends, I was able to add a little spice back into my life.
I began coaching dance at my old high school and taking classes as a non-degree student at the University of New Hampshire Manchester (cue college numero dos). Easing my way back into school while also filling my time with doctors appointments' and coaching high schoolers in dance was the most healing experience for me. As the year continued on, I moved to another job, making that money, and taking even more classes. I spent all my time working, having perfect attendance at the doctors', and going to school. I made some absolutely amazing friends along the way that helped me feel like I was okay again. They helped me realize that I am capable of great things and that I should not let my tough times define me. Shout out to them, because they showed me that comeback stories are real and that you can have as many as you want as long as you put the work in.
Now, my fine feathered friends, is when we move to college number three. It’s important to note that I absolutely adored UNH Manchester. That place is a hidden gem in the bright lights and big city of Manch Vegas, New Hampshire. I left UNH Manch because I was ready for a residential college again. I missed the dance team, I missed living in a dorm (weird), and I missed being surrounded by people my age instead of just going home each night and doing puzzles with my cats (sidebar: I freaking love puzzles and my cats, don’t get me wrong, but I was 20 and was quickly becoming a 50-year-old woman. I needed to act fast before I started knitting matching hats for me and the neighborhood turkeys).
I began looking into schools, I had strict orders from my mom and dad to stay in New England so I could continue seeing my doctors and be in close proximity of my family in case I started to struggle again. I looked at many colleges until I found Merrimack College located in North Andover, Massachusetts.
Now this place seemed like the bee’s knees. Even though I loved Rollins, I wanted whatever college was the complete opposite of it. I figured if I was in a completely different environment than the one I got sick in, then I would be able to fly like the majestic butterfly I am. The campus felt safe, only an hour from home, and the college itself felt manageable. It felt like the kind of place I could finish piecing together my degree, hopefully in a timely fashion (I was supposed to graduate in 2019, but after everything that happened, that date kept getting moved farther and farther away. I personally DID NOT want to be 37 and just graduating from college). I began my brief time at Merrimack. I made some great friends, had a lot of laughs, took some great classes, but I started feeling like something was missing. Something felt wrong. I had so many hopes and dreams, and for so long, I did not want to try and chase them for fear of getting pulled back into the sickness that had taken so much away from me before. I tried to ignore it, but I kept feeling this nagging, this uneasiness in the pit of my stomach. I felt like the only way to get rid of this feeling was to chase what scared me, chase the fear of rejection, chase the fear of failure. I was unhappy playing it safe and needed to go all in and not look back.
So I called Boston University, a prestigious school overflowing with opportunities and challenges, a school my sister had gone to for undergrad that I had never DREAMED of being able to get into, especially after my grade fluctuations with my illness and tour de colleges. But I figured that stranger things have happened. I’ve hugged a goose named Walter before, my little sister has met Taylor Swift, and my dad went to high school with Uma Thurman (weird flex, but okay). If these weird things have happened, then maybe this one could too. After scrounging together transcripts from three different schools, writing and bribing all my friends to look over my two essays, and getting two letters of recommendation all WITHIN A WEEK, I pulled the metaphorical trigger.
Fast forward to two days before Christmas. I was in the Magic Kingdom and I was having a tough day. My mom and I go on the Buzz Lightyear ride, and I cry because I am a sensitive little creampuff who needs everyone in the universe (Buzz Lightyear’s included) to like me. I push through all three of my hurt feelings and shoot enough aliens to have the highest honor of Galactic Hero bestowed upon me (hold your applause).
This part of the story all seems like nonsense, but I pinky promise it does have a point. It led up to dinner that night when I get an email from BU. Oh yes, that email, the email that says my admissions decision is ready to be viewed, BUT, OH NO! What’s that? Is that a snafu? You bet! Alas, there was a glitch in the system and my account was NOT WORKING. I couldn’t log in, which meant I couldn’t see my admission decision. It was 9 pm at night, BU was closed. So, what did I do? I cried (for the second time that day) into a large bowl of fried shrimp.
But, as you have probably guessed, of course I got in. The difference between myself and the woman I was then is I am now on a new chapter of my life. I am at a school where I am genuinely happy. A place where I can prioritize my health while still challenging myself. Applying to BU was the best decision I have ever made, except for ordering that jumbo bowl of fried shrimp I mentioned earlier. But, applying to BU was for sure a close second! I look at my time at BU as a new beginning. Sure, the rough times aren’t all behind me. I know that there will always be ups and downs, but now I have the skills and the support to handle them. As wacky as it may sound, I am so happy that this has been my college experience.
I used to feel ashamed of how all over the place the past few years have been, but there is no need for that. I wouldn’t change my four college jump-around for anything. It’s all a part of me now, and I would not be who I am without it.