May 23, 2015

Taking My Place

This is a reflection essay that I wrote for a final in one of my classes.  I've written on this topic before, but lately life has take an turn to where I was able to look back and reflect with a bit more clarity.  It also ties in to the news I have to share, so I thought it would be a good segue...

Four  years ago, I thought I knew what I was doing with my life.  I had a plan, I had goals, I thought I knew how the next few years were all going to play out.  I thought I knew what I was doing, and then all of a sudden, I didn’t.  Everything I had planned on was gone and I was left staring at the pieces.  I let the remnants of the picture of my life sit there for a long time.  I didn’t know how to pick them up, I didn’t really want to pick them up.  Even if I did try to do something with them, well, what was there to do anyways?  I let the fallen pieces lie for a long time, almost two years, until one day I woke up and I found the strength to try and reshape them into a new picture.  The new picture of my life has taken a while to come together, but I am starting to see past the vague shapes and shadows.  As the picture becomes clearer, I can see that the day I thought my life had fallen apart was one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

In 2010, I applied to North Central College in Naperville Illinois. I hadn’t done much searching around, there was only one other, very small, Catholic college in New Hampshire, that I had applied to.  Friends of mine attended there, and told me about the new Interactive Media Studies major - a blend of journalism, graphic design and media - and that captured my attention.  I was interested in psychology, but my parents said that if I was going to pay for a four year college, I was going to major in something that could realistically become a career for me. I enjoyed graphic design, and I love to write, and so Interactive Media seemed right up my alley.  I landed the highest scholarship the college had, the Presidential Scholarship, as well as a nice size grant, and was invited to join the Honors Society as well, easing the financial burden of tuition.  I fell in love with the college, the campus and the city and was overjoyed when my parents and I decided that living on campus would work better than a nearly hour long commute every day.

I came into college as a very naive homeschooled girl, who didn’t quite fit in with anyone, but I bonded well enough with the girls in my dorm, made one close friend and was head over heels for my classes and professors.  I relished the chance to live “on my own” and learn how to live independently from my sisters and family. My freshman year was very good, and by the end I had emerged a little more from my quiet shell.  When September of sophomore year came around, I couldn’t wait to go back.  Over the summer I had fallen in love and was dating a boy from the East Coast, and life couldn’t be better.

The fall term of that year was very different from my freshman year.  I ended up up without a roommate, which I didn’t mind for the most part, but it was lonely.  I felt more out of place than ever, I wasn’t eating well, I was overwhelmed with my busy schedule of working, studying and participating in campus activities. I remember how every Tuesday night - my busiest day of the week - I would have anxiety attacks while I was alone in my dorm room. At the time, I thought I was still loving life there and in a way I think I was, but looking back now I can see only how lonely, depressed and stressed I was.  In retrospect, I think it was for the best that during the three week mini-term between the end of fall term and Christmas break, my financial plans fell out from under me and there was no way I could come back after Christmas without having to take out more loans and sink myself in debt.

I was devastated at the turn of events.  Everything had felt so right when I started, I had known that North Central College was where I was supposed to be.  Then literally overnight, I wasn’t supposed to be there anymore and I had no idea where my place was.

There were a lot of tears, and nearly all of the memories that I had of my time there were blocked out.  I half heartedly looked around for a job for a few months before starting a position as a receptionist at my chiropractic doctor’s office. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, and I frankly didn’t care.  In my mind, there was nothing I was good at, nothing I was passionate about.  Everything was vague and out of reach.  My parents would occasionally prod me to take a class, or be involved in something and I did take part in my mom’s online business, The Goat Milk Soap Shop.  For the most part, however, I decided I was comfortable with doing nothing.

My path on the road to nowhere fast changed at the end of the summer of 2013.  I had been out of school for almost two years, and I was very slowly starting to move in a new direction.  Earlier in the summer I’d attended a weekend retreat that let me open myself up in spiritual ways that I hadn’t allowed myself to for a long time, and helped me to break through a lot of the hurt I was holding onto and directing at God.  It prompted me to apply for a few new jobs that would be full time and pay more, but none of the opportunities panned out.  After continuous gentle pushing by my mom to at least look into some classes at JJC, I pulled up the website and reluctantly decided to scroll through the majors.  Once upon a time, I took piano lessons, and I entertained thoughts of going back and brushing up on my skills so that I could teach. Then, under Associate's of Applied Sciences, I saw the Meetings and Special Events major.

Since that day, my life has changed and gone in ways I had never imagined it would.  I enrolled in classes a week before the semester started and went in having no idea what to expect. While naturally a little quiet in social situations, I was quickly pulled in and found myself falling in love with the hospitality industry. At the end of my first spring semester I had the chance to apply for a Front Desk position at the TownePlace Suites by Marriott, and I jumped at it.  I loved the hotel and, fortunately, they loved me.  I was hired and became a proud member of the hospitality industry.

Working as a Guest Service Agent and continuing my education as a Hospitality student has caused me to grow in so many ways.  I have become more confident of myself, and who I am as a person.  In such a diverse industry, I don’t feel that I have to apologize or shy about being a former homeschooler, or for my faith and beliefs the way that I did when I was at North Central College. Every single one of us is so different, and it is wonderful to be accepted with words of “Oh neat, that’s cool.”  

I have learned how to adjust better to conflict - I still hate and avoid it as much as I can, but dealing with angry and upset guests has helped me to be more courageous, more sympathetic and more confident in unsettled situations.  I am more comfortable with approaching others, engaging in conversation and looking for ways to brighten someone’s day.  The other week, I was sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Chicago. The older gentleman at the table next to mine struck up a conversation, and by and by he asked what my job was.  I told him I worked in hotels, and was a hospitality student and he remarked “Ah, so that is why you are still sitting here having a conversation with me.  I know I’m chatty and most people don’t respond as much.”  It struck me than that I had been enjoying the conversation, and had it happened even six months before, I would have likely tried to find some excuse to be distracted.

A year and a half ago, I started to pick up the broken pieces of my plans and dreams and looked for ways to rearrange them into something new.  As I built, I wasn’t sure of the picture that was going to emerge.  Now I am starting to see it more clearly, and the old picture I used to cling to pales in comparison.  I know that I am happier here than I would have ever been there. I am ready to hang up my picture alongside everyone else, even as I continue to work on it.  There are plenty of pieces missing, but I know that they will come. I am confident, I am smart, I am excited, and I am ready.


  1. Love it. I've been curious about said hospitality industry for a while - I had a brief acquaintance in college who had the same course of study as you.

    The Starving Inspired


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