in 2017, I wrote a blog post called "School Grind" to share my experiences with education.
Since publishing that post, a lot has changed.
This semester at The New School I took a course on creative nonfiction writing. I chose to revise my "School Grind" post to write the updated personal essay I'm sharing with you today.
By the age of three, I knew that the freedom to express myself was what I valued most. After preschool, I lost some of my individuality when I entered the traditional schooling system. Accepting that I’m an unconventional learner allowed me to lead a fulfilling life once again.
During my unconventional preschool experience in Encinitas, California I discovered that I controlled my own identity. At school and home I’d pair my messy-blonde curls and green eyes with sweaters and jeans. I’d explore nature, cook vegetarian meals, and listen to The Beatles. I was encouraged to utilize my sensitivity and individuality to paint, play piano, and write.
After preschool, I attended traditional schools where it felt like nobody was entitled to a unique identity. Everyone was meant to think and learn in the same way.
Despite being one of those kids they referred to as ‘gifted,’ straight A’s and prestigious internships never gave me the sense of fulfillment I’d possessed as a child.
It wasn’t until 2016, during my freshman year at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) that I finally realized I needed to withdraw from the world of conventional education.
I found refuge in a café, as I often do, where I’d order matcha lattes and journal. All of that journaling led me to develop a plan for my future.
I started a blog so I’d always have an outlet for my creativity. I spent months expanding on my initial idea before launching my website in March 2017. Nearly two years later and I’m stilling posting artwork, interviews, personal essays, and playlists every Sunday.
I also recognized that being identified by my grades or test scores needed to come to an end. My search for an unconventional alternative led me to The New School (TNS).
After leaving UCSB in 2017, I settled back into my life at home. Adjusting to all of my friends (with the exception of my sister) being away at school remains challenging.
Fortunately, I’ve connected with new people, including my first boyfriend and love, Sasha. Being home also means that I have access to the things that give me purpose, like working at a local art gallery.
Interacting with other creative people in galleries and museums has always helped me to focus on my passions for visual arts and writing.
I majored in art at UCSB but the assignments, professors, and deadlines were restricting. I craved the freedom to create whatever I wanted. I’ll never stop being an artist, but I decided I’d rather study writing.
In January 2018, I began a year-long certificate program in Children’s Book Writing which I’ll be completing next semester. Last summer, I felt ready to pursue my bachelors degree again and by August I enrolled at TNS to study Creative Writing online.
I happily spend my days at my favorite beachside library in Encinitas doing work that actually fulfills my academic and personal needs. I enjoy eating Thai food, going to concerts, swimming in the ocean, watching Wes Anderson movies, and writing at my favorite café.
I’ve accomplished so much this semester. The gallery I work at started selling my paintings. I traveled to London. I turned 20. Sasha and I celebrated our one year anniversary. I gave myself the opportunity to live a life that’s entirely for myself.
I’ve loved myself all along, but I’m finally in love with my life again.
My preschool self would admire the person I am today. I pair my messy hair and green eyes with sweaters and jeans (although I’ve added black Dr. Martens and a multitude of dainty rings to the mix). I embrace my personality in my creative work. I drive home to my family in my VW Beetle named after John Lennon.
Most importantly, she’d be proud that I’ve made it back to a place where I have the freedom to express who I truly am.
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