It was an ordinary afternoon as I sat in Rita's waiting room. Rita was the woman helping me write my college admission essay -- the essay that every high school senior dreads. At least I did. I mean, we are only 17-years-old and are expected to not only know who we are but then come up with a creative way to distinguish ourselves. Were they kidding? I spent the last three years of my life trying to fit in. My life had been focused on how to not stand out. Now I had to find a way to explain how I was different. Welcome to every 17-year-old's worst nightmare.
Rita told me she had a great idea. "What about if you write your essay on how your older brother is an amazing musician who plays four instruments and is number one in the state, and how your younger sister is a talented figure skater... and you're just you?" Amazing idea Rita, except I'm trying to get into college, not give them a reason to reject me. Let's just say, I went in a different direction.
These days, we are raised in a drinking culture. Every television show and movie portrays partying as fun and fulfilling. In high school, drinking is the cool thing to do. So, of course, I chose to go to the University of Michigan. It seemed like the quintessential college experience. I wanted to be a fun and cool person. Attending a giant party school like Michigan seemed like the perfect move. I was going to be a fun, normal person if it was the last thing I did.
My freshman year I played the part well. I went out five nights a week, got wasted, decked myself out in blue and yellow for football games and tried to convince myself I was having fun. But, I couldn't help but notice that I was just bad at it. The crowded bars made me claustrophobic. Sweaty people bumping into you and spilling their drinks down your shirt? No thank you. Also, I like to have real conversations. But it was always too loud and nobody wanted to talk about real stuff while they were out. "Wouldn't it be crazy if Obama won?" "What?!" "Wouldn't it be cool if Obama won!" "You want another shot?!" I'm still not sure what you're supposed to talk about when out at college. And, you couldn't pay me to dress up for theme nights at the frat houses. People called me boring. I was accused of being "too cool." I wish that was my problem.
By my sophomore year, I knew I couldn't keep this up. I was miserable. I wasn't sure why going out to frats and bars five nights a week wasn't doing it for me. Everyone else around me seemed happy. Why wasn't I? So, I applied to NYU as a backup plan. Just in case. I knew I wasn't fulfilled by my overall experience, but my friends were amazing. They were worth staying at Michigan for. The last day of my sophomore year, I got an acceptance letter from NYU. I didn't tell anyone I got in. There was no need. I wasn't going to go.
The next day, I was packing up my last few things as I spoke to one of my roommates. She said something to me that has influenced every decision I've made since that day, "make decisions not for who you are now, but for who you want to be." I knew what I had to do. I had to go.
Transferring to NYU was not only the best decision, but also the hardest decision I've ever had to make.
I grew up thinking college was the most fun four years of your life. What I realized is that everyone has a different definition of fun. I had to accept that I'm not the girl who goes out every night. I'm the girl who would rather study film and intern during the week than go out. For me, working on a movie set all through the night was much more fun than a frat party. I had to stop trying to be someone I wasn't, and accept that I'm just me. And once I did that, I was actually happy for the first time in my life.
It's funny how I worked so hard for so long to deny the one fact about myself that I now embrace. So here it is Rita, the essay I laughed at you for suggesting I write seven years ago. I might not play a musical instrument or be a talented athlete, but I am a weird and unique individual.