A Christmas Tale of Strength and Evolution

The bus drove away from the Manhattan skyline, and I started to cry. I was in the middle of a semi-empty bus, surrounded by college students like myself. But it was dark, and I let the tears flow. No one heard me. I’ve become awfully good at that.

I realized that I love that annoying, busy city. That, as much as I miss home, I somehow belong in those subway stations at four in the morning, those abandoned sidewalks in Times Square on Sunday nights, those “scary” suburbs in Brooklyn at midnight.

That’s right. I think I’m in love.

___________________________________________________________________________

There are a few issues that I want to put to rest, while I have your attention over this beautiful (green) holiday season.

The first involves my transfer. I was so certain that I wanted to leave New York City. I didn’t question it, and I didn’t think about it. I wanted to go home and be with my family, because I know them and I know Michigan. It’s familiar, and it’s easy, and I know I can do well there.

I don’t want to say that I was necessarily wrong. I love my family more than anything in the world. And I absolutely feel that family is the most important thing in the world.

But that’s why I have to stay. I want to be the kind of person that my little brother looks at and thinks, “Wow. I want to be like her.” I want to be the kind of daughter that my parents can brag about at dinner parties (even if I don’t get to be there to hear). I want to be the kind of woman that can provide for my family when they need it later down the road.

And I don’t want to be the kind of woman that gives up on her dreams, packs up, and goes home because she misses familiarity. Maybe that’s not all of it, but it sure is a big chunk of it. I worked my entire life to get here. And I’m just not ready to give it all up.

Besides, how would I keep writing to all of you? How would I keep you interested? I wouldn’t have any crazy stories to tell you.

It’s been a while since I’ve really updated this blog, because I feel like I’ve let you all down somehow. Like, even though it’s my decision, I’ve brought you all along on this journey and I’ve stopped it short on you. I don’t want to feel like that. If you can’t be proud of me, it’s because I’m doing something wrong. And if there’s a nagging voice in the back of my mind telling me I’m doing something wrong, then I probably am.

Freshman year is about letting go of everything you’ve ever known. It’s about entering the real world, exploring, and trying new things that used to be way out of your comfort zone. And, while I’ve been trying to do all of that, I’ve still been struggling to figure out who I am. I feel like this semester has been a test to see if I can do the right thing, no matter what life throws at me. Can I stay on the path that’s right for me? And do I even know what that is?

I pride myself in strength. To me, it’s more important than looks, ambition, academics, and work. To me, it’s more important than kindness, integrity, or respect (though all of those are part of my core values). To me, strength is the most important thing you can have. Because it means you know how to keep going, even when it gets difficult. Even when you have no idea what your future looks like. Even when you don’t know anyone, and you don’t like anyone, and you don’t feel like you fit in. Strength is what keeps me going.

I’m not willing to let that go.

My senior year in high school, I became the type of person that I’d like to think a younger version of myself would be proud of. I really figured out who I needed to be and what I wanted to do with my life.

And then college happened, and I got scared. I got lonely and tired and frustrated. I was taking four classes that I didn’t necessarily like, I was stuck around people that I had nothing in common with, and I got involved with people who didn’t care about me. So, naturally, I wanted to give up and get out. Pack up and go home.

But I can’t. It’s not time yet. This is the only opportunity I will ever have to live in Manhattan and explore. This is it. And I can’t, and won’t, just give it all up because a few people have been mean to me. I know I’m stronger than that. I know I have to be.

That all being said, I’m staying. And I want to thank all of the followers that I still have for standing behind me on my decisions, even when they don’t make much sense. My life is a bit of a roller coaster. I change my mind. This is the first time many of you have really gotten to see and experience that. It won’t be the last. Just have faith that I know what I’m doing. Or, at least, that I will know what I’m doing eventually.

The second thing I would like to share with you is my first semester grades. You all watched me struggle with my classes (especially French), and you know how scared I was that I was going to fail.

I ended up with a 3.4 GPA (rumor has it that the average GPA at NYU is a 2.8). I received a B+ in Writing the Essay (English), a B in Statistics, a B+ in French, and an A in my Freshman Seminar.

Let me put those grades into perspective.

Statistics came last on my priority list for several reasons. First of all, I’d already taken AP Stat in high school and knew the material extremely well. Second of all, it was a required math class that no hiring committee will ever look at. And thirdly, it had a recitation on Friday mornings at 8am. You do the math. So, I had the opportunity to put all of my other classes first. In other words, a B was about the grade that I expected.

Writing the Essay was a difficult class. It wasn’t as awful as everyone made it sound to begin with, but it was one of those writing classes that I’m not very fond of. I felt that everything was over-analyzed, and I didn’t care for the coursework or the required readings. It was also a required course, so I had no choice but to take it. I’m pretty happy with a B+. Mostly because I know that the grading is subjective and I did the best that I could with the time that I had.

We all know that I hated and struggled with French. I was 97% sure that I was going to fail the final, no matter how hard I studied. I spent hours on Quizlet, trying to memorize grammar rules and vocabulary. And, low and behold, I managed to get a B on the final. I don’t know that you’ll ever understand how much of a miracle that really was for me. But I worked hard to get there. I won’t be taking French again (I’m switching to Sign Language, which I’ll take my junior and senior years), but this will count as a successful elective. And a part of my life that I never want to relive. That B+ was both a miracle and a representation of seriously hard work.

And then there was my Freshman Lecture, also known as History, Memory, and the Quest for Social Justice in the United States. It was listed as an Honors Seminar, because all of the enrolled students had to obtain at least a 4 on their AP US History tests in high school. There were other lectures that would have been less challenging (I considered this to be my hardest academic class, by far), but I wanted to take something in which I had a genuine interest. We had four papers to write for that class, and I managed an A on the majority of them. But I worked extremely hard for that grade. Some weeks, we were required to read a novel and multiple lengthy articles. Other weeks, we had a research paper to write and a book to review. It was difficult, but the type of challenge that I enjoyed (which explains the grade).

I’m proud of the 3.4 GPA that I earned. Mostly because the rule of thumb in college is to take your high school GPA and lower it one whole point. That would mean I’m expected to graduate with a 2.82 (maybe a little higher, if we don’t include AP classes). Not to mention NYU classes are more academically challenging than an average 4-year institution (that’s completely not a bash on anyone going to an in-state school, it’s just part of the package. I’d expect classes at Columbia or Yale to be extremely more difficult than mine).

There’s no way I’m letting a 2.82 happen. I will graduate with at least a 3.0. Besides, I’ll be taking courses that I actually enjoy next semester (and hopefully all of the semesters following that). As shown by the only A I received this semester, I do better when I have an interest in my coursework.

That all being said, I don’t expect a steady flow of A’s in college. I will be more than happy to graduate and say that I never got below a B. To me, that’s a pretty impressive accomplishment. So I may never make Dean’s List. But that doesn’t mean I’m not working hard.

I know you’ve had enough of my ranting at this point. This article is already well over 1500 words, and I’m not even done yet. So I’ll ask that you stay with me for just a few more minutes.

I’ll probably make a separate post about this later next week, but I had a wonderful Christmas, and I hope you all did too. I went into the red to get my family presents because I couldn’t make it without buying them something (but earning the money back just gives me something to do over the next month). I asked for clothes, and that’s pretty much what I got. It’s funny how our idea of presents changes over time.

I’m also working on caring a little more about fashion…but now that I have all of these brand new over-sized sweatshirts, I’m not sure how long that’s going to last.

The recall language for the Howell School Board has also been approved. I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to devote to the project, but I wanted to let you all know that the committee will be collecting signatures next month. They need a total of 5700 to put the matter on the ballot. I think I’m going to try to phase all of that off of Misadventures, though. I’ve received some amount of criticism for my accuracy (though I can promise you all that you won’t find a more accurate source on the matter), and I don’t want to have any major effect on the outcome. Even more importantly, though, I think it’s more important for my followers to hear about New York City.

It is called Misadventures in the Big Apple, after all.

Love you all, miss you all, and please comment below. I want to know that you’re still there!

Advertisements

What I Learned During My First Semester of College

I’m having Spongebob flashbacks.

What I learned in boating school is…What I learned in boating school IS…

Are you ready? Because this is it. This is the big, reflective “I’ve learned something about myself” post that you’ve all been waiting for.

It’s been a long, emotional semester. I moved 600 miles away from my family, I went from walking around a high school to walking around Manhattan, and I started college at one of the largest private universities in the United States of America (and the world).

These four months have been a learning experience. So here are some of the lessons I’ve gathered.

1.) Adults are not always right. Or mature. Or good people.

Just because they were born before 1990, it doesn’t automatically mean that they are smarter than you. It also doesn’t mean that they’re more mature, or that they’re looking out for the best interests of the people around them. Adults have just as many stakes in life as you do. They will play angles, they will be immature, they will cut corners, and they will not hesitate to take you down with them. It doesn’t matter that you’re 18 years-old and you’ve just started out in the real world. If you threaten them, if you question them, if you co-exist with them…frankly, you better grow a pair and learn how to defend yourself. They will respect you all the more for it, and you won’t be stepped on. Never underestimate what someone will and will not do, just because you think you deserve their pity.

2.) Family is the most important thing.

You mean those words when you say them. And you don’t (can’t) realize how much your family means to you until you don’t have them by your side anymore. I spent so long pushing my family away and running after this big-shot career that I thought I needed to be happy. I thought I needed to be here to do it. But the truth is, I need them. And wherever they are, that’s where my future is and always will be.

3.) You can’t run away from your past.

When I came out here, I thought I had something to prove to the people who hurt me. I thought that I was getting away, starting a new life. But the reality is, you don’t get to just walk away from your past. You have to face those demons, you have to look them in the eye, and you have to fight for the truth. If you want closure, if you ever want a life without the past, you have to hurt. You have to cry. And you have to face it. You can’t just run away. You’ll never know what might have happened if you hadn’t.

4.) Some things are worth fighting for.

There is right and there is wrong. And many times, the line between the two is blurred. But some things, no matter what, are worth fighting for. Your innocence, your heart, your abstinence (from whatever you choose to abstain from), those are your choice and your’s alone. And don’t ever let anybody tell you otherwise. Oh, and if you see someone being mistreated on the street, in an elevator, on a bus, or in a Taco Bell, you do something. Because some things are worth it. Some things deserve that fight.

5.) Classes are only as important as you make them.

If you don’t show, you don’t know. The more focus you put on a class, the more that class will be able to help you. If you don’t care, it’ll show in your quizzes and test grades. You don’t have to love your class, but you do have to recognize the important of passing. Trust me, it does no good to continue telling yourself that it won’t matter later.

6.) College is not about grade-grubbing. It’s about enjoying life and learning about yourself.

That being said, you don’t always have to worry about getting perfect grades. You’ll get B’s rather than A’s, you won’t get a perfect 4.0, you’ll have to fight to stand out in class. College isn’t easy. If it was, everyone would do it. Cut yourself some slack once in a while.

7.) Skipping class does not automatically stand for juvenile delinquency.

You know better than anyone when you need to go to class and when you don’t. If you can make better use of your time, I highly suggest it. In many classes, your professor won’t even notice you’re missing. And, in other classes, your professor will understand an absence or two. Don’t make it a repeated occurrence, but missing an 8AM on a few Fridays isn’t the end of the human race. Your health, rest, and mental stability are irreplaceable.

8.) You have to make difficult decisions as an adult. Make ones that you’re going to be able to live with.

You are the only one to blame when it comes to the decisions that you’ve made. You have to be able to live with them, and you have to be able to keep going. Sometimes the right thing to do is not the easy thing to do. Don’t screw it up.

9.) Walks are great to clear the mind, but be smart about your intentions.

Try not to be stupid just because you’re angry. It might seem like a good idea at the time, but it probably isn’t, especially if you’re putting yourself or others in danger in the process. When in doubt, just stay home where you can’t get yourself hurt. Walking around angrily and just waiting for someone to say the wrong thing and set you off is never safe. This also applies for driving.

10.) The men worth having are not the men worth searching for. They will find you. Or, if they don’t, maybe you weren’t looking hard enough at what you already had.

Tinder is not a valid application if you’re looking for romance. Neither is Zoosk or eHarmony or any of those stupid dating websites. When you’re in love, you know it. Because it just happens and you can’t control it and you can’t change it, even if you wanted to. If you aren’t feeling something real, then you aren’t involved in something real. Don’t try to force something that isn’t there. And that also goes for friendships.

This has been a rough semester for me, but it’s also been an experience that I’ll never forget.

Thanks for following me on this journey so far. I’m excited to see what next semester brings.

Finals Week & Surviving the Interim

I know. You probably all think I’m dead or something like that.

Actually, I’ve just been busy. I’m not sure if it’s been a necessarily “productive” type of busy, but it’s been some kind of busy all the same. (I’m 85% sure it isn’t productive though, since I’m taking the time to write this because I don’t want to write my English paper, which is my last paper for any class for the entire semester.)

How I have I been “busy”, you ask? (You didn’t ask.)

First of all, I started working on a novel. It’s a memoir. This is the first time I’ve attempted anything remotely autobiographical, but this blog has been progressing so smoothly that I’ve realized I can’t be that bad at writing about myself and my experiences. I’m hoping to have it completed by the end of the spring semester. It’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. Not having to develop realistic characters because they’re already developed in reality is a relief, but it’s hard to make them live up to their full potential. Seeing something and being asked to record it in such a way that your readers will be able to see it in the same way that you did is nearly impossible.

Second of all, yes, I’ve been working on my transfer. The reactions I received from friends, followers, and family were mostly positive, which was amazing. I can’t tell you how much that means to me. I’ve discussed it with my adviser, and one of my professors even offered to write me a letter of recommendation. So I’ve been pulling all of that together and (unfortunately) going through the process of writing a Common Application again. Can you feel the excitement?

Third, I’ve been working on the school board issue. For those of you who have been following that story, I took a hiatus, waiting for facts and additional information to be released. Over winter break, I will be working with the Recall Committee to spread word of the petitions to remove Michael Moloney, Michael Yenshaw, and Deborah McCormick from the Howell School Board. This has not been a easy decision for me, but I feel that it’s the right one.

And lastly, and most obviously, I’ve been working on finals.

Finals season is a nightmare in itself. I’ve explained my classes on this blog more times than I can count, but I don’t know that you fully understand the pressure. Last week, I had three papers, a quiz, a presentation, and an oral examination for French. And that was just on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

As of 8 this morning, I am officially done with classes for the semester. I have one paper to finish this weekend, and then two finals (Statistics and French) next Thursday afternoon. I leave for Howell on Thursday night around 10:30. I should get back on Friday the 19th, around 11:30 in the morning. And then my real break starts.

Well, mostly a break, anyway.

I wish I had something more interesting and profound to say about my first semester in college. Maybe I’ll do a wrap-up or something like that next week. Yeah, come to think of it, I probably will. There’s a lot that needs to be said. It’s been a life-changing four months. I’ve learned more about myself than I did throughout four years of high school.

That being said, I’ll set you all free. For now.

I’ve missed you all ❤

Richard Rodriguez, Immigration, Affirmative Action, and Way Too Much Thinking

I’m pretty sure that title could have been shorter.

Today, we’re going to talk about Richard Rodriguez. I’m sure very few of you have heard of him, and even less of you have read his work. I mention him partially because this post doubles as a class project, and partially because I rarely encounter writers who have a strong, lasting effect on the way that I view the world.

Rodriguez was born into a Spanish-speaking family in 1944, his parents immigrants from Mexico. Education and the successful futures of their children remained the focus of his parents’ daily labors, though neither of them had gone through college themselves and both worked aggravating, low-paying jobs.

As a young child, Rodriguez was encouraged to learn the English language and to assimilate with American society (whom his parents referred to as Los Gringos), despite his attachment to Spanish as the “private language” of his home.  When speaking only Spanish in the home was looked upon with disapproval by the nuns who taught him at school, Rodriguez’ parents began to learn and speak a broken version of English in order to encourage their children to do the same.

This small decision affected Rodriguez in an exponential manner. He grew to love the English language, though speaking it more fluently than his parents was a source of both embarrassment of their failure and guilt of his success. He eventually received degrees from both Stanford and Columbia, and became a well-established writer.

Rodriguez consistently writes about a certain amount of regret in losing his culture as a child; in growing up and becoming a member of “academia”, rather than an established member of his family, as is usually expected in Mexican culture. He advocates multi-culturalism, stating that, in America, no one belongs to one specific culture. Indeed, some of us belong to cultures that our blood has never touched. Rodriguez refers to himself once in an interview as “Chinese”. He believes and advocates that there is no specific culture; that we are all a product of how we were raised and the experiences that we went through to get us where we are today.

This led Rodriguez to condemn affirmative action as well, under the belief that he was given an unfair advantage in school and, later, in his career. He claims that many minorities who are already at the top of the food chain reap the benefits of the affirmative action system, and not those who may actually need financial assistance.

Rodriguez has single-handedly managed to make me question my acceptance into New York University, my “lack of” culture, and my views on foreign language and bilingual education. Throughout his essays, he continuously questions society, but he does it in such an interesting and descriptive way that I have to begin to question it as well. Inside, do we really belong to a specific culture ? Do Americans put too much emphasis on the outside rather than the actual experiences of a human being ? Is it better or worse to become an academic rather than a devoted family member ?

These serve as Rodriguez’ food for thought. And now, they serve as mine.

My Big Announcement: Misadventures is Moving

I’m going to frame this as positively as I can, and hopefully without upsetting anyone.

Today, I finished my transfer applications to the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. After speaking with several admissions members, I think I have more than a fighting chance of being accepted. And so, I’ve chosen to make this decision official by telling my followers about it.

Let me answer the important questions first. Yes, I will be finishing out the year at New York University. I have no intention of dropping mid-year and transferring. There’s a very large amount of obstacles that I still need to overcome in order to make this possible, and I’m going to need the entire summer to do it.

There is also always the chance that a roadblock will get in the way. I don’t see that happening, but if I’m barred entrance from both Universities, I will be staying here. There’s a certain line that I don’t want to cross in this transfer. That being said, I have no reason to think that there’s going to be an issue. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see a post a few months down the road that tells you otherwise of what I just did.

During the rest of my time here, I sincerely hope that you all continue to read about my Misadventures. We’re only halfway there, and we have so much more to see and do before our time in Manhattan ends. If you’ll have me, I would love to continue writing about my “Misadventures”in Michigan. My website won’t change (though, the official title may), and I’ll proceed with writing my stories, even at home.

I suppose part of the interest you have in me is going to dwindle. I won’t be writing about celebrities, or big parties, or the Big Apple. But I will be writing about college, and my journey, and about becoming a professional journalist, and I hope that still appeals to my readers.

You want reasons. Of course, you deserve them.

Most of you already know that I’ve been struggling with homesickness and with feeling a sense of belonging within Manhattan. These two are important factors, but are not the sole reasons for my choice.

First of all, I received a $42,000 scholarship to attend NYU. At the time of acceptance, the difference seemed more than possible to bridge. However, that’s an illusion. The struggle to work enough hours to pay off the Fall and Spring bills has been intense, and there is nothing more horrifying to me than having to look to my family for money. Call me insane, but college was supposed to be easy for all of us. NYU constantly increases their tuition. I believe that, if not next year, it may very well bump up again during my junior year. Scholarships do not increase accordingly. I refuse to continue with the headache that goes into paying for this school when there’s a perfectly qualified institution half an hour down the road.

Secondly, there’s a perfectly qualified institution half an hour down the road. In either direction. Michigan State has one of the best Journalism programs in the country, and U of M is one of the best schools in the country, period. There’s no reason why I can’t excel at either of those schools, while living in Howell and continuing with my work there. If you haven’t noticed, many of my professional connections and stories are still located there. I don’t feel right leaving those behind.

Thirdly, dorming is not my cup of tea. I need a clean house and a working stove. I need a fridge with milk in it. I need a car. I need a car, and I need a real job. I want to start working for a newspaper, or for a freelance company. I want a part-time job that connects with my major. Does Manhattan have those jobs? Yes and no. Manhattan has those jobs for adults with degrees. If you’re a student, you get an unpaid internship. There’s just too much competition here for an 18 year-old to get a real job, no matter how qualified. In Michigan, I can get paid for what I do.

Fourth, if I stay here, I’m going to get used to it. Everyone says it, and I believe them. Give it another year, you’ll never want to leave!

That’s the thing. I don’t want that.  I don’t want to be the kid who left home and forgets to call her parents. I don’t want to be the ambitious one who got a great job and can never find time to come home for the holidays. That might be for some people. But that’s not for me. I’m ambitious, but they are a huge part of that.

Life is too short to be away from my family for that long. I am so unbelievably fortunate to have a foundation like them, and I can’t stand being $120 and 12 hours away, especially in case of emergencies. I hate not being able to support Jack and Katie at their concerts and performances. I hate not being able to do lights for community shows with my sister. These are opportunities that I will never get back. Ever.

Will I, one day, have to move on and start my own family? Yup. But I intend for that family to stay close to my parents. I won’t live at home forever (honestly, I probably won’t live at home much longer than the three years that I’m in school, if that long), but I’m going to be within 30 minutes of my parents. And I don’t think I’m a baby for that. I think it took a LOT for me to realize that my family means that much to me.

And, lastly, I’m not that crazy about Manhattan. Or New York City. It’s wonderful, for a visit, and I’ll definitely come back. But I don’t want to live here full time. It took leaving Michigan to realize how much I love that stupid state. Especially Detroit. For some reason, I really like Detroit.

So this is my official announcement to you. And all that I can hope for is your support and understanding. The kind words and wishes you all gave to me when I moved out here made it possible, and made this experience worthwhile. I will always look back on this as a positive, learning experience.

I wasn’t sure when to tell you all about this. But I felt that, if I continued to write like everything was fine for the next three months until I got official acceptance, I would be lying to you somehow.

I understand this is big. Please feel free to message me, contact me, or ask any questions you’d like. As my readers, you deserve the best. And, for the next six months (and beyond, if you’ll have me), you’ll continue to get it. I promise my next post will be less serious. I’m thinking Random Experiences & Weird People.

Love Always,

Cassie