Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Ah the sweet feeling of graduation! After four years of hard work, good times, and lots and lots of changes it's finally here!

To think, in 2007 I started somewhere completely different from where I am now. Elmhurst College was were I wanted to start my professional career. I couldn't have asked for a better first roommate, she was by far (and still is) one of my best friends and we clicked instantly! To the girls down the hall, Libby and Mara, you were the reason I loved freshmen year. Throw in a little B. Sapp and I couldn't imagine a more amazing group of friends. I spent a lot time working at the YMCA but hey, I was a damn good lifeguard and swim instructor. Classes were exciting, at the college level, and I got my GPA to a 3.5. Towards the end of the first year though I started to have second thoughts about the school. The truth was that I still had a love for social work and fully intended on pursuing it. The problem? I was a double major in psychology and sociology with only a minor in social work at Elmhurst. This didn't seem right to me, my roommate, an education major, had a program and my friends all pursuing business were in programs as well, what about me? I still had a desire to go to Loyola, which I decided not to pursue for the sake of my mom who didn't want me moving to the city. Well so what. I had a year of school under my belt and while I liked the school, it wasn't what I was looking for. So what did I do? I made all of the arrangements to transfer out because that is what I WANTED. Leaving meant saying goodbye to my friends though, not for good but it's still goodbye. It meant not having a job or a means to support myself and it meant giving up the chance I had just gotten to be on the Cross Country team at Elmhurst. But it was worth it, all in the name of social work.

Loyola accepted me and in August 2008 I moved into Coffey Hall, which was honestly one of the worst dorms I have ever really seen but I didn't care, I was a Loyola student! That first year I became well accustomed the CTA, Water Tower campus and many of the other transfer students who lived down the hall from me. I'd be lying if I said that I felt right at home, in fact there was this one bitch....well we won't go there. But by the end of the year I was so happy with my decision to change schools and my passion for social work grew out of the volunteer opportunities I pursued (Big Brothers Big Sisters, and GirlPOWER!). Aaaaand in August I signed a lease for my first ever apartment with four other girls I lived with in the dorm. Things were great and I was really excited for my junior year.

That summer when I went home I had to face one of the biggest obstacles of my entire life: the loss of my mom. I was completely devastated, gone was the woman who loved and supported me and part of the reason why I was doing social work in the first place. I can honestly say though, not once did it cross my mind to drop out of school. Giving up on pursuing my dream would have felt like giving up on her and so I pressed on, always keeping her in the back of my mind.

Junior year was filled with great times, girls nights out, bad decisions that we laughed at later and lots of dancing up and down the apartment. I have to say, this year was really hard for me as I tried to figure out who I was without my mom and if it weren't for my roommates I probably wouldn't be as strong as I am now. It was great to come home to the girls when I had had a bad day and know that they would hug me, listen to me or even just sit with me. And for that, and many other reasons, I love them to death. I continued on with social work and did a 30 hour internship at a agency called "LIFT" in which I was a case worker for individuals who faced poverty in the Uptown neighborhood. I learned a lot in this position but the most important lesson: I never want to be a caseworker :)

The end of junior year I subletted my room to my friend Dani and moved back home to work as a camp counselor and run my swim lesson program. Life was a bit different as I transition into living back at home. To keep things interesting I signed up for my first Half Marathon. The excitement of training would fizzle out at times though, what with it being summer, and everyone wanting to go out now that we were all 21. I managed to push through most of my....well some of my runs. I think the highest mileage I got up to though was either 7 or 8 but I can honestly say that I wouldn't take it back, I enjoyed all those times I wasn't running, except maybe that one time I was hung over until 6pm but we just won't count that one. haha.

That summer Pete and I decided we were ready to move in together after almost 5 years of being together. I did a lot of research and found this really nice 2 bedroom apartment that was priced as a one bedroom. I honestly was really excited for this, but making this move meant moving my entire life down to Hyde Park. Don't get me wrong, I felt comfortable down there and there was potential for a job at the gym where he worked and heck we lived one block away from the lake path so I could always go out for a run. And to top it off I wouldn't have to travel back up to Roger's Park, all my classes would be at Water Tower because I would be a grad student. I told myself making this move meant I would need to try harder to see my friends, who offered me a bedroom with them in Lincoln Park but I turned it down.

The day before I started my fall semester I came back from my trip to the Cape and believe you me, if I could, I would have given up my life out here and just stayed in Massachusetts. But I couldn't. Maybe when I finish my degree I'll move out there, plenty of social work positions available so I've seen :) Fall semester was a rollar coaster, what with an internship that fell through and adjusting to a life with a significant other. But somehow, somehow I pulled off a 4.0 GPA. The start of the new year was refreshing for me and I had a new sense of motivation. I had been working in a new internship in two different schools and was running a group all on my own. During this time I also decided to become a "resolutioner" and began joining the many who drag themselves into the gym everyday to try and get back into shape after the holiday season. The only difference is that I'm still working out as opposed to those who quit after 2 weeks. Fighting off the crowds for a treadmill or an elliptical had its benefits though because it encouraged me to push harder and work longer until I decided I wanted to take on the marathon this year.

Things started to get busy, my internship was more demanding and I was slowly giving up on classes with the frustration of not learning anything new from what has been taught to me for the past three years. But in all of the chaos I gained a new focus, a new insight, into my goals and the person I want to be. A growing sense of independence and a new feel of pride in who I was....I hadn't felt this way in years. It goes without saying, however, what goes up must come down. The consequences that come with the actions are pretty steep and there are honestly some days that I just sit back and ask myself, "Did I make the right decision?" But then I think to my Aunt, who told me these words, "When you make your decision, don't look back, just keep going". And so I am. And so I will.

I couldn't be more thankful for all of the love and support I've gotten this far from my family and friends because without them, I don't know where I'd be.

Saturday May 14th. 6:30pm. Graduation.

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