Billiken Betrayals

Friday, August 7th, 2015

For a school that seeks to educate the whole person, they clearly didn’t care about the whole application.

I was wildly upset when graduate admissions didn’t look at my application as a whole and immediately threw me out of the race for a spot in their PA program because my science GPA was lacking. While I did not meet the minimum requirement, I had hoped someone would be able to look past some poor chemistry grades and see my passion and commitment to this career.

I spent weeks writing and rewriting an essay for their supplemental application that appears to not have been read at all. A lot of effort went into summing up my love of SLU, how impactful a Jesuit education was, and how much I want to be a PA, especially at SLU all within the limit of 2500 characters. Knowing that they didn’t read my essay hurt almost more than the rejection itself. I want to share my essay here so that it gets read:

Like most physician assistant programs, SLU requires applicants to take a handful of prerequisite courses, complete hours of direct patient care, and fulfill other technical standards. But unlike other physician assistant programs, SLU has a higher calling because of its Catholic, Jesuit mission.

An article published in The Atlantic entitled “The New Brand of Jesuit Universities” states that “the purpose of coursework at Jesuit universities is not to make a student think one way or another but to provide the framework for which they can make their own decisions.” Other programs stress the value of critical thinking, but Jesuit universities go above and beyond. As an undergraduate at Saint Louis University I was able to take a class on love and the human condition as well as a class on evil in the modern culture. Taking these classes simultaneously allowed me to think reflectively and critically in an open environment; a skill that I hope to enhance as part of the SLU PA program. Jesuit universities like SLU encourage students to ask deeper questions, a concept derived from the exercises of Ignation Spirituality that will not be found in other PA programs. The combination of humanities and sciences is especially important in a career that requires extensive medical knowledge as well as compassion, yielding the most complete understanding for my patients.

The mission of the SLU PA program explains that the program seeks to produce graduates who are competent in the knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, and behaviors necessary to become a physician assistant. I agree with President Pestello when he says that the mission is also about “producing a graduate who is certainly going to do well, but also will do good.”

It is evident that SLU has a passion for doing good not just in the community, but also in the classroom. In an undergraduate spanish course I was encouraged to partake in related service. I thus began volunteering with Casa de Salud, a healthcare clinic for the uninsured and underinsured Hispanic community. It was at Casa de Salud where I was able to not only improve my spanish language skills and knowledge of the culture, but also see how a non-science major could make a difference in the medical field. I hope one day to put these Jesuit values to practice as a PA both in my community and abroad. I believe that the SLU PA program will prepare me for this endeavor because as SLU has taught me, “You have to go out into the world before you can change it.”

I hope to attend SLU as a physician assistant student not just for me, but also for the greater glory of God. I want to study and eventually work in the Jesuit way of making everyday labor a form of prayer. I believe that my undergraduate background with SLU, the mission of the Jesuits, and my passion for service make SLU the best place for me to become the most well-rounded, competent, and compassionate PA.

Obviously I love SLU more than I ever thought I could love a school. I wanted to share this to know that my effort and time invested in this essay was not wasted.


It’s OK to Fall Asleep in Church

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Maybe in the beginning it’s important, all the rules of religion. The rules establish a baseline and I needed a baseline for my morals. I thank my grade school as well as my high school education for providing me with such standards. In the same way that I graduated from both of those schools, I also graduated to a new way of thinking that would soon be supported by the Society of Jesus. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, and the professors of Saint Louis University educated with the idea that “the purpose of coursework is not to make a student think one way or another but to provide the framework from which they can make their own decisions.” That’s why classes on feminist theology, Christian metaphysics, and sex and gender are taught at Jesuit universities. With this attitude, Jesuit schools have changed the way young adults see religion.

Jesuit educators are more concerned with critical thinking skills and the ability to ask meaningful questions.  Without fear of fitting into a religious box, Jesuits want young adults to ask deeper questions. And if called, feel that they are invited to Catholicism as opposed to being commanded to fit inside that box. “While traditional religious affiliation is declining, an interest in spirituality among Millennials is not. Millennials are more likely to combine ideas from multiple religious traditions, adopting ideas from Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, and other schools of thought, for example.” Jesuit universities seem to have affected this trend because they encourage students “to ask questions of meaning and purpose, without the fear of appearing too religious.” These questions are often asked within the boundaries of not only classrooms, but also retreat programs.

Per the Jesuit education system, retreats were offered at least once a semester and I made it a priority to attend at least one a year. While the retreats are meant to provide a safe place to ask and reflect on questions of meaning and purpose, sometimes I felt like they were merely a chance to turn off my phone for a weekend and escape from the urban university. This being my third year of college and thus my third retreat, I felt like I was answering the same questions that I had spent the better part of my college career reflecting on. I had no mind-blowing revelation on that retreat. Overly exhausted from the lack of sleep prior, I found myself falling asleep a lot during small group discussions, which actually wasn’t a problem because like I said, I had already spent a significant amount of time reflecting on similar questions and I was able to contribute to the group while simultaneously still catching up on sleep. Before the last day I felt like the only thing I had gotten out of the retreat was a solid nap.

Exhaustion is a theme in my life and much like the times I fell asleep on that retreat, I occasionally fall asleep in church on Sundays. While the priest may have taken some offense with me falling asleep during his homily, I was perfectly ok with it. If I spend 40 minutes sleeping and only 20 minutes actually paying attention I could have a moment in those 20 minutes that means more to me than 60 minutes spent forcing myself awake. Sometimes mass is the only hour where life stops or even just slows down for a bit. You know when you’re trying to fall asleep and all of life’s deep questions suddenly seem like they have to be answered right now? Sometimes we need that hour of silence to explore the deeper questions that we’re encouraged to answer. Similar to a retreat, mass is not quite a weekend, but an hour away from the rest of the world.

On my junior year retreat I opened up about my difficulty in finding God in mass, but also about my ease in finding God in nature and opportunities. I had spent 4 months of the previous year studying abroad and maybe 4 Sundays in a church building. I saw more of God in nature and in the opportunities I had than I ever saw in a church building. So instead of finding God behind the stain glass windows of a church, I chose to find Him in my everyday life, which ranged from hiking in the Alps to sleeping in airports.

A character in my favorite book, The Sparrow, who also happens to be a Jesuit, was able to do the most mundane tasks, such as attending mass, with ease. The author writes, “Emilio could be so casual and funny that you forgot sometimes that he was a priest and it came as a surprise when you saw his face during the Mass, or watched him doing something ordinary extraordinarily well, in that Jesuit way of making everyday labor a form of prayer.” That’s the beauty in falling asleep during mass. To do something so mundane as sleeping, yet remain prayerful about it.

People were jealous of what I thought were my struggles. My friends also were amazed at how I could sleep through small group discussions yet still share something profound. To one of them, there was something special about the quiet person of the group, like my presence alone changed the attitude of the discussion, like my sleeping had been a form of prayer. So why isn’t my presence at mass enough? I made an effort to be there in that moment. So why can’t that moment be what I need it to be whether that’s sleep, prayer, or just time spent alone? I want church to be a refresher, not strictly a fulfillment of a religious obligation. I want mass to be what I need it to be in that moment.

My baseline morals from my Catholic grade school and high school education lie in my weekly attendance at mass. However, as a result of my collegiate Jesuit education, it has become more of a spiritual journey, sometimes stopping for a nap along the way.

It’s too easy to see God in His obvious form, sitting on the altar in a church building. But I like the search, the journey, the struggle. In the words of the same character from The Sparrow, “It’s that we hope to reach a point, spiritually, that makes the struggle meaningful.”

Why You Should Take a Gap Year

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I like not knowing because ignorance is bliss, right? While in some cases that is true, it’s not the best answer. I don’t like to be ignorant, but I do like the unpredictability of the future. I like to know that there are more than a million maps for my life to take any direction.

There was a specific night in my college career where I interpreted the uncertainty of the future as freedom. The lack of a commitment beyond the 4 years of college gave me a freeing feeling. This freedom feeling came to me while I was enrolled in a Spanish course called Mysticism and its Muslim and Jewish Precursors and writing a paper on Ibn Arabi, a mystic in Sufism. It was 4:30 AM and I was speechlessly left staring at my keyboard unable to form words to describe his ideas. Raised Catholic, I was grateful for the opportunity to take this class, to have my mind be opened to mysticism not only in Catholicism, but also in Islam.

While I was too overawed by the ideas of Sufism to write a coherent essay, I was thinking about my weekend. The Habitat For Humanity chapter on our campus hosted a Cardboard City every year to raise awareness for homelessness. And that’s when the freedom feeling struck me. I was simultaneously debating the philosophy of Sufism while planning my weekend of constructing and sleeping in a cardboard box. I was thinking to myself, “What is this thought process?!” It was freedom. I was free to do whatever I wanted in those 4 years of college; I was even encouraged to do anything I ever dreamed of. Want to start an organization? You can do it in college. Want to be a writer? Write for the school newspaper. Want to build a house (cardboard or real)? Join Habitat For Humanity.

The freedom feeling will eventually flee. But it doesn’t have to end in just 4 short years. In a previous article I wrote about the best days of my life (What the Best Day of Your Life Says About You) and the list that contains them. A reader commented to encourage me to be more open. She said, “It’s good to have some amount of melancholy for special days, but be careful you don’t become one of those people who peaked in high school. Or college even. Life is full of great moments, just be open to them.” In my gap year I have been more than open to the great moments that life has to offer. That’s why my list of the best days of my life has grown exponentially.

The opportunities that I’ve seized this year were once just part of a different list, a bucket list. In my gap year I’ve spent more time crossing off items than adding new ones. I got published on Thought Catalog for the first time, was offered my dream job, saw One Direction in concert, and left my legacy (a picture of myself) hanging in my favorite college bar.

Before this year I didn’t call home very often nor did I get enough sleep. Now I live at home and sleep more hours a night than I did for a whole week in college. I’m free to do what I want, what makes me happy. And in a year, I believe that going to grad school will fall into that category. While higher education wasn’t a prospect immediately after graduation, I hope to cross “get into graduate school” off my bucket list once the gap is closed.

Spend a year not knowing. Add a 5th year of freedom and take a gap year.

What The Best Day Of Your Life Says About You

Friday, October 24th, 2014

Thought Catalog

I have a list saved on my computer of the best days of my life. Embarrassingly, Zac Efron is responsible for three of those days. My list ranges from the day I took a selfie with the SLU basketball team to the weekend I traveled alone to Morocco. They’re days that I was so overwhelmed with joy that I never wanted to forget them. I thought that if I wrote them down, I could hold on to those feelings a little bit longer and linger in the positive memories. I can go back and read that list and resurrect some of those feelings.

I started the list, “Best Days of My Life” because I was in job interview mode. You know when probable employers are asking you for all of these super specific circumstances such as, “a time when you went above and beyond”? It’s hard to think of an…

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Let Me Tell You About the Best Day of My Life

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

I have a list saved on my computer of the best days of my life. Embarrassingly, Zac Efron is responsible for three of those days. My list ranges from the day I took a selfie with the SLU basketball team to the weekend I traveled alone to Morocco. They’re days that I was so overwhelmed with joy that I never wanted to forget them. I thought that if I wrote them down, I could hold on to those feelings a little bit longer and linger in the positive memories. I can go back and read that list and resurrect some of those feelings.

I started the list, “Best Days of My Life” because I was in job interview mode. You know when probable employers are asking you for all of these super specific circumstances such as, “a time when you went above and beyond”? It’s hard to think of an example right on the spot. So to prepare for a future job interview you make a list. (In your head at least if not on a piece of paper.) One day I was asked, “What was the best day of your life?” And much like my first job interview, I couldn’t think of one specific day on the spot. So I spent time perusing my memories from the past 20+ years and wrote down some of my personal favorites. To this day I add a bullet point when one of my days is simply the best.

So if someone ever asks me, “What was the best day of your life?” or “What is your favorite memory?” I can file through that list and pick one of those revered moments. Because I’m always so ready to answer that question and because it brings such happy thoughts to my day, I like to ask people that question. I never thought it was weird, overly personal, or intruding until one day when my roommate refused to answer.

I like to ask this question because I feel like I don’t make a great first impression. The first thing you might notice about me is my chain earring or my overly casual dress code that is too often accompanied by a men’s flannel shirt. Maybe you’ll notice that my hair is a mess and I never take my purse off. These are all truthful characteristics about myself, but there’s a lot more to me than that. Because my flannel shirt, purse, and I can usually be found in the corner of the room or the back of a large group, people rely on my dressed-down looks as my main source of communication. While I’m not my best self when I’m shying away from a group of extroverts, I am my best self when I’m talking about the best days of my life. I revert to this question as a conversation starter because I want to see the best version of others; we all can’t make perfect first impressions.

I didn’t always realize that I was the best version of myself when I was describing the bullet points on my list. It was brought to my attention by a stranger when I was being forced to take part in dreadful small talk. We were sitting at a round table so it was hard to hide from the conversation. The chatter revolved around biomedical engineering and other topics I wasn’t familiar with. I smiled and nodded and kept quiet until I heard someone mention Madrid. I didn’t realize it, but according to the stranger across the table, my eyes lit up. I immediately started talking about how my semester abroad changed me in more ways than I ever thought it could, how much of my heart was left in Madrid in December of 2012. It didn’t take but a minute for the conversation to flow back to biomedical engineering. As quickly as the topic changed, so did the version of myself that I was portraying.

I don’t want people to only know me as the girl with the chain earring and cross body purse. I want people to know the girl who dangled her feet from the Cliffs of Moher, the girl who took a Latin Rhythms dance class in Madrid, the girl who prayed in the chapel where St. Ignatius converted to Christianity, the girl who biked in the rain in Barcelona and loved every second of it. So when I meet you, I want to talk about the best days of our lives, not the weather. I’m more than that cross body purse and a flannel shirt. I’m that girl screaming through happy tears at a One Direction concert, feeding the stingrays at the St. Louis Zoo, and hammering with Habitat for Humanity on spring break.

My roommate didn’t want to tell me about the best day of her life because it was her own special memory. Only she could understand and feel the happiness that her memory gave her, so why would she want to tell others who just wouldn’t understand? Unlike my roommate, I like to share mine because in sharing those memories I not only get to share my happiest memories, but also the best version of myself.

4 Things I Lost After Graduation

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

On graduation day they told us, “You are an alum. Welcome to the family.” The funny thing is that once I graduated I never felt like I was part of a family. And that’s because I wasn’t. Isn’t that what graduation is though? Moving on? We had graduated from that safe, bubble of a community we called college to the real world. Nothing changed in that week between finals and graduation. We were still young, still clinging to our best friends, and still unsure of the future. But one Saturday in May after we had turned in all of those finals, they gave us this title: graduate. While we gained a new title we lost a lot of things. Yes, we lost our favorite t-shirt on move out day and yes, we lost our student IDs because who needs them anymore. (Kidding, we all know you’re still milking student discounts.) But I’m not talking about those tangible things. I’m talking about that indescribable feeling of being a part of something, that sense of community. We lost leadership roles, too. And those weekday nights spent fulfilling the responsibilities of those roles. But the biggest loss was that familiarity that only came with spending 4 years on the same campus.

Not only are you a part of a whole college community, but there’s also an infinite number of smaller communities to provide you with that sense of family and acceptance. For me it was clubs. I was a part of Habitat For Humanity, Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity, Student Alumni Ambassadors, and a Christian Life Community. Whether you were a part of these more structured communities or not, the sense still existed in non-definitive groups. The library, for example. You can have nothing in common with the pre-med student cramming for an Organic Chemistry test 2 tables away, but when you’re both still trucking through PowerPoint presentations at 5 in the morning you feel a sense of community. Like despite your different majors, you both get it; studying sucks but it’d suck a lot more if you were alone with your books and the librarian. Maybe you didn’t study in the library, or at all for that matter. The sense of community existed everywhere. Especially sitting in the student section of a home basketball game. It’s safe to say that storming the court after an unexpected victory is one of my favorite college memories. Nothing makes you feel closer to your fellow students than being trampled by them at half court.

The lease to my apartment didn’t end with graduation. I still had a few months to cling to the life of a college kid. I bragged to others who were kicked out of their places once they were handed that diploma that I had a transition period, time to ease away from the college community and into adulthood. Friends moved away to start new jobs in new cities. I stayed across the street from campus working the same job I had during the school year; the only difference was that I worked full-time instead of part-time with classes. It was hard not to feel like an outsider. Not only was I living on the outskirts of campus, but I was now on the outside of the college community.

On summer weekdays I watched incoming freshman as they awkwardly walked around campus clinging to their orientation folders. I so badly wanted to tell them how the next 4 years would change their lives. That they would find a sense of community that only graduation could take away. I was jealous of them because they were just beginning a journey that I was having a hard time ending.

While a strong sense of community came from the clubs I was a part of, an even stronger sense came from the leadership I held within those clubs. Not only was I a part of a community, but I was in charge of it. When graduation got closer, I had to pass my role onto another power-hungry junior waiting to replace me.

After graduation there were no more club meetings taking up my weekday nights. I had a strict schedule: Monday nights were spent practicing my hammering with Habitat For Humanity and presiding over Student Alumni Ambassador meetings. I spent Tuesday nights bonding with bros in Alpha Phi Omega. But Wednesdays were special not just because I had reason to watch the Geico camel commercial on repeat, but because my most meaningful meetings took place on Wednesday nights. It was never just a meeting though. My Christian Life Community got together at 9pm every week to reflect on the highs and the lows of being a college kid, to step back and enjoy the sense of community that would end in the timespan of 4 years. 5 girls and I had 3.5 years full of Wednesday nights spent listening to each other’s stories. As graduation approached, I knew the things I would lose in post grad life. And with one week of finals left, for the first time I cried for graduation because Wednesday nights would never be the same again.

While not everyone had a spiritual gathering every week, nearly everyone had a college bar with a weekday drink special. We called it “Pennies”, short for penny pitchers (Note: Pitchers did not cost a penny). I thrived off the environment of Pennies. I had no problem going alone knowing that I would run into enough friends once I paid the cover charge and took a lap around the bar. After graduation I not only lost my ability to just show up, but also my Wednesday nights.

Now in my post grad life I have no set schedule. I mean other than watching Grey’s Anatomy every Thursday my week nights aren’t consistent.

My weekday nights are no longer spent drinking penny pitchers or sitting through meetings. Instead they’re spent at my full-time job. On one of my first days at my real “adult job” I wandered down to the cafeteria to take a break from not only the exhausting duties that were listed in my job description but also from the exhausting conversations with people I barely knew. I grabbed a soda from the fountain, put a lid on it and wondered where they hid the straws. It was so simple. I couldn’t find them. Only having 30 minutes for lunch, nearly half of it almost wasted getting down to the café and waiting in line, I quenched my thirst without a straw. It wasn’t a big deal to enjoy my soda without a straw. The big deal was the lack of familiarity I had with my surroundings. I could’ve told you where to find a straw on my college campus. But in the real world, I had lost that familiarity.

We spent 4 years finding our niche in the community, climbing the executive ladder to club president, and learning all the corners of campus for one day, one “celebration” to take it all away from us: graduation.

About This Blog

Sunday, July 13th, 2014

I’m going to be published on Thought Catalog someday. Until then, read this.

I chose this layout because I started journaling my thoughts on the notepad of my Mac. It seemed more than fitting.

Here’s all my thoughts that aren’t cataloged (yet).