Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work to get better."

So it's been almost two years since I've posted anything on this blog, and I can't even begin to tell you how much my life has changed since then. It is truly astounding what can happen in two years - both good and bad.

I originally started this blog back in June 2010 when I spent my summer interning in Washington D.C. and taking classes at Georgetown University. My family and friends encouraged me to document my experiences, and after looking back at some of those posts, I'm really glad I did. Not only did I laugh a lot (mostly at myself) but it truly put a smile on my face to think about that incredible summer I had living and breathing politics and journalism in one of America's most amazing cities. I was blessed to live with four incredible girls for the summer, two of which I'll get to see this summer in Montana for a wedding! This August will mark three years since we've seen each other and I absolutely can't wait to spend time with them.

After I got back from my summer in D.C., I stopped blogging for a little while. Junior year of college started, which meant that I had no time to continue writing because I was pretty much the most overly committed student on the face of the planet. It wasn't until spring of my junior year - January 2011 - that I picked up this blog again. I studied abroad in Limerick, Ireland during my spring semester, and decided to stick with the same mentality that I had when I was in D.C. I knew that I would want to look back on my time abroad and read about all of my crazy experiences in 10 or 20 years. Not that I'll soon forget any of them, but I'm really glad that I forced myself every week to write about where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. Someday, probably when I'm much older, I know I'll appreciate being able to go back and remember fondly what I was doing during my college years.

So, after all that, where am I now? Almost two years have passed, and while some aspects of my life have stayed the same, others have changed drastically. I graduated from college, and while I definitely miss it at times, part of me is glad that time of my life is over. I went from attending college in Amish Country, Pennsylvania, to enrolling in graduate school in one of the biggest cities in the U.S. I honestly haven't a clue in the world how I wound up at graduate school. If I'm being absolutely truthful, I think I was scared I wouldn't find a job in my field after graduation. I applied to ONE grad school on a whim, got in, and now, here I am. I found a position with University Housing as a House Director for Greek Life, so I get a free apartment, or "a box" as my sister Morgan calls it.

Living in the city has opened my eyes to so many new experiences. While I don't know if I want to live in Philadelphia forever, for now I'm happy where I am. Actually, I'm really happy. My graduate school classes, while challenging and frustrating at times, have been a huge learning experience for me. In order to graduate from my master's program - which I'm aiming to do this coming December - I have to complete two six-month Co-Op's. I completed my first one at AstraZeneca in Wilmington, Delaware and I loved it. I worked in their Corporate Communication Office and mostly helped with External Communications. After working there for 8 months, I decided to try my hand at something a little different, and now I'm working for Johnson & Johnson in their Supply Chain Communications office, mostly handling Internal Communications. Like AZ, J&J has also been a great experience. I'm really fortunate to have been able to gain so much experience in my field at such a young age. I try not to take that for granted because I know others are really struggling to do what they love everyday.

In a nutshell, that's where I am in life, at this present time. Come December when I (hopefully) graduate with my master's degree, who knows where I'll be. For now, I'm just thankful that I have such incredible people in my life who love and support me, even though I'm not always able to be there for them in return.

Well, now that you're sufficiently caught up on where I am in life, both geographically as well as career wise, you might be wondering why, after all this time, I'm picking this back up again. Well, wonder no more...story time!

Let me bring you back to the first week in December 2012, about 2.5 months ago. It was the week before my first set of graduate school final exams, and I can't remember a time in my life when I was more nervous than I was at that given moment. After breaking the news to our class that our final exam was going to be cumulative, our professor started us out on what I thought would be a normal class discussion. Although I have a fairly extroverted personality, I'm not normally one to contribute to class conversations. I'd much rather listen, absorb and take notes than be the one talking and offering input. That night in class, our topic of conversation was education. We started talking about the pros and cons of private versus public education, and the discussion got pretty heated. One doctoral student in particular got very fired up and started going on  and on about all of the problems affecting the American education system. Then somehow, and looking back I can't even tell you how it started, our conversation shifted, in a very negative way, toward boarding school. My ears instantly perked up, as I couldn't WAIT to hear what people had to say. Or could I?

After about a solid 40 minutes of debate back and forth about how boarding school kids were both A. spoiled, rich brats and B. drug addicts, class finally ended. I packed up my bag, livid and dumbfounded at the students in the classroom for having such a narrow view of this sector of education. To be fair, I never stood my ground or spoke up that I had this experience, but did I really need too? How can you be so opinionated and obstinate about a topic you know absolutely nothing about? That's the problem with our culture today; people judge way too quickly about things they know absolutely nothing about.

That night, on the walk back to my apartment, I called one of my best friends from Hill and explained to him what had just happened in class. I just knew he would understand and take my side, and that's what I needed after all of the negative energy that had built up inside me. After my droning on for about 15 minutes, he finally stopped me and gave me the best advice I could have received; "write about it," he said. I hung up the phone with him, sat down at my computer, and just started typing.

When something so significant in your life is attacked, you feel like you have just have to stand up and set the record straight. For me, those four years of my life at boarding school were, hands down, the most significant of my life. I learned more about myself than I ever thought possible, and it's just one of those experiences in life others won't understand unless they went through it themselves.

We all have those experiences. People lose a loved one and their friends and family claim to know what they are going through. But everyone handles those situations in their own way. Each of us are uniquely different and no one person reacts or experiences a situation in the same way. I think a lot of times we forget this and expect that those around us will respond in a like minded way.

After about an hour of my fingers ferociously pounding on the keyboard, I had written down my thoughts and titled my document The Truth About Boarding School. I emailed my "story" to my friend who had encouraged me to write it out, and after reading it, he suggested I submit it somewhere for publication. While I don't think I'm at that point yet, I'll share it with my hundreds of fans who I KNOW read this (kidding...)

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed being caught up on my life. Expect a post in the near future about another controversial topic (I actually already know what it's going to be about!) But for now, enjoy my jumbled thoughts about what attending boarding school is really like. Until next time!
The Truth About Boarding School
Whenever I find myself in that insanely annoying situation where I’m forced to present a “fun fact” about myself, I always use the same one. Partly because I can never think of that many interesting things to say about myself, and partly because I love to gage reactions from those around me. “I went to boarding school,” I’ll say. Most of the time I’ll either get back a blank stare or a half crocked “this is really awkward, I don’t know if I should smile or not” look. Other times I’ll get a look of mere perplexity, followed by a simple, “but why?”

I find it both comical and deeply saddening when I hear the misconceptions that so many of my peers possess about boarding school. Even my college friends, who I love more than life itself, never really understood where I was coming from when I’d talk about my experiences. No, I didn’t pull a Lindsey Lohan or Britney Spears and go through a totally ridiculous meltdown that forced me into rehab. And no, my parents didn’t think I was some demon child who could only be helped if I was sent away to military school. I can actually guarantee you that not only are my parents ten times cooler and more amazing than yours, but I actually have a fantastic relationship with them that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I actually chose this path for myself, and I couldn’t be happier that I did.

I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t sometimes laugh when people ask me if going to boarding school was like attending Hogwarts. Sure, maybe whenever I gave tours to perspective students they’d walk into the dining hall and ask where the sorting hat was, and sure, maybe most of us were all goodietoshoes who actually enjoyed going to class and being in school like Hermione. But the truth is boarding school is so much more than the perceptions that most people hold to be true. And like most other things in life, you can’t begin to understand unless you’re in the situation.

People look at me in a completely different light when they find out I attended boarding school for four years of my life. I’ll meet someone out at a bar or have lunch with a colleague who works in a different department than me, and in conversation the topic will just come up. They’ll ask me how I got to where I am today, and often times my response will include those four life changing years. They’ll stare at me like I have two heads, no doubt curious as to why on earth I was “shipped away” at age fourteen. “But that’s so young to be away from your parents!” some exclaim. “What did you do to deserve that?” others laugh.

The truth is I made the decision to be on my own long before I was in high school. From a very early age, I craved independence the way some crave a cigarette after a few too many beers. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’ve never been one to go along with the crowd. I’ve never had the desire to do something just because everyone else is doing it, and that was the appeal of boarding school. While most of my other friends from grade school were enrolling in our local public school or subjecting themselves to the rules and regulations of a Catholic education, I knew I had to do something different. I couldn’t stand around and spend the next four years of my life in the exact same environment where I had spent the previous fourteen. I needed a change; a big one.

To say that those four years were the most life changing and hardest of my existence to date just wouldn’t be doing it justice. I went through periods of both deep hatred and extreme love for that place I called home, and I no doubt failed more exams than I passed, much to my teacher’s dismay. But the person I became, the morals I developed and the values I stuck too at such an early age are the reason I am who I am today. 

Maybe it’s not for everyone. Maybe some parents aren’t ready to let go of their children at such an incredibly young age for fear that they’ll miss out on the best and most memorable years of their kids lives. And maybe some fourteen year olds aren’t as independent as I was and aren’t ready to leave that familiarity they know all too well. But maybe they should try.

Boarding school is just one of those things that you’ll never understand unless you’ve done it. People often say you shouldn’t judge anyone because you never really know what that person is going through or has gone through unless you’re actually them. You can tell anyone about the struggles or joys of your life until you’re blue in the face, but deep down you know that that person you’re exchanging a dialogue with will never understand. And that’s exactly how I feel about boarding school.

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