Friday, January 27, 2012

Giving Arts a Chance: Senior year

We moved again, the summer between my junior and senior years.  My father's contract was not renewed, so he spent the summer looking for a new job.

I missed a lot of the job search.  My aunt & uncle in Oceanside, California were preparing to move, and needed someone to house-sit for a few weeks.  So for the price of a plane ticket, I spent the summer with them.


He found another job in South Bend.
One thing I need to give my parents credit for.  I never heard them complain about the telephone bill.  I tried to keep things reasonable, tried not to call my friends in Omaha all the time.  This was when long-distance calls still cost money.  We didn't have Facebook, or Twitter, or even e-mail to keep in touch.  Just telephone and snail mail.  I know I had a couple of hour-long conversations, and I never heard a word about the expense.  Usually, I got permission to make the call ahead of time.  A few times, I just called without asking.

The same goes for my aunt & uncle, I never heard about their phone bills.  I think I talked with my friends more over that summer.  We tried to figure out a plan where I could go back to Mercy for my senior year.  If they re-instated my scholarship, I did a work-study, and found a job, then I could pay for my tuition, and perhaps I could live with one of my high school friends.  I tried to talk my parents into it, but they would not hear it.


When I returned, we only had a few days before my sister and our church Youth Group went on a pilgrimage to Denver, for World Youth Day, when the Pope came to visit.  It was AMAZING.
[Edit: Added photo.]

Omaha was selected as a half-way point, where so many of us stopped overnight.  They had a gathering, in a park, with a program and then a prayer service.  I remember the Binasuan candle-dance most.  And... I found several of my friends from Mercy, we were able to talk a little bit.  It was... strange.  I wasn't in control of our itinerary, so I couldn't go by the school, didn't sleep over at my friends (my host family was in a different part of town).  But we got to see each other, and that was nice.



Actually, my parents and brothers moved our things to South Bend while my sister and I were in Denver.  After the journey, the diocese bussed us back to Michigan City, and then mom took us to our rental house in South Bend.

I feel very fortunate, my sister and I were able to study at a Catholic high school again. This year, I had a full class schedule.  The public school hadn't offered pre-calculus or calculus.  By transferring again, I was able to take Calculus after all.  It was an effort to catch up, but I managed.  I didn't even think about trying to add band.  Well, I thought about it once or twice, when I found myself near the band room, but I didn't.

One thing that this school had, that the public school didn't, was a club called "Friends and Transfers."  The club was for all of us who had transferred schools, all of the foreign exchange students, and some of the local students who just wanted to help out.  I made friend through that.  I'm still not sure whether I picked her or she picked me.  It didn't matter that she was two years younger, she was a good friend and something of a mentor.

The school also had a Thespian Troupe, which my sister and I joined.  This was very different from the Public School's Drama Club.  At Drama Club, we had mostly reviewed the budget and planned plays, I don't remember a lot of meetings, it was almost all play rehearsals.  My sister hadn't been involved with the public school's drama club.

The Thespian Troupe held regular meetings, where we did improv games, maybe some other skill-building exercises.  It was fun... if a little intimidating.  It was obvious that many of the members of the club were serious theater people, with a lot more experience and training than I had.  But I didn't worry about that.

I enjoy having fun.  I've enjoyed community band, and I think I could get into community theater.  When my son was 2, I spied him working the mirror one morning, it was awesome!  If he's interested in theater, I will get involved however they need me.  But acting, modelling, Broadway, fame were never goals for me.

Catholic school meant Religion class again.  My first semester class talked about religion in literature, and our first assignment was to select a song, and talk about what it meant to us. We were supposed to talk for about 5 minutes, and then let us hear the song.  Most students brought in a professional recording, something they liked from the radio or elsewhere.

I started talking about our pilgrimage to Denver for World Youth Day, and seeing Pope John Paul II.  I talked for 20 minutes.  The song was the theme song for that trip.  I didn't have a recording, so I just sang it.  That was probably my first ever a capella solo in front of an audience.  An audience of mostly strangers.  I'd only been in school a few weeks.  I couldn't believe I did that, but it worked out.  (Yes, one or more blog posts about that trip are on my "posts to write" list.)

My sister had long been interested in studying law.  I could drive her to and from practices, so we both joined the Mock Trial team.  It was a very different type of speaking, with its own terminology.  We learned how to present evidence, the different kinds of questioning that you might do for your own witness vs. your opponent's witness.  How and when to state an objection.  We had enough people to form two teams, and we went to Purdue to compete.  The other team advanced to the next level.



I applied to three or four colleges.  Even as a Freshman, I had always said I would apply to MIT, Notre Dame, and Purdue.  I did explore other options as a Junior, but in the end I applied to those three.

As a Senior, MIT was my dream, but they rejected me.  I don't know if it was the interview, or something else.  Purdue accepted me, I received the acceptance letter on the same day that I sent off my Notre Dame application.  Notre Dame both accepted me and offered a small scholarship.

For a few Christmases, an aunt provided my parents with some money to buy a gift for the family.  Just before we left Omaha, they had used it to purchase a Sega Genesis, our family's first video game console.  The year we lived in South Bend, we got a music keyboard.  Hi-Tek, at 2, loved to push the demo buttons and dance to it, or sometimes "play."  He actually sounded pretty good.

(Now Hi-Tek has played violin for about 6-7 years, through high school.  I know he's not a music major in college, but I hope he's found a way to keep playing.)

Then there was a break-in, at the rental house.  A lot of our electronics were stolen.  The Genesis, the games, probably the VCR.  The TV had been picked up and moved, but was there.

At this house, I had a little room in the basement, so I had to check it out.  My stuff, my clarinet, my cassette player, they were okay.

A few weeks later, I was home sick one day.  For some reason, I decided I might work on ear training.  (I do not have perfect pitch.  I had never had ear or voice training to focus pitch development, or truly hearing the half steps, whole steps, thirds, fifths, etc.  Maybe I'd been talking to my Omaha friend, I'm not sure what brought this up.)  I went to the keyboard, figuring I could start working on it... and realized that the keyboard had been stolen too.  We didn't replace it.

The biggest Christmas present for the family was that my parents bought their first house.  It was only a few blocks away, so we all made the move in January.  Since my sister and I had missed the move to South Bend, we were DEFINITELY expected to help with this move.  At this house, my sister & I shared an upstairs room.

My dad wanted me to apply to Carnegie Mellon.  I don't remember if I did or not.  If I did, I hope I talked him into paying that application fee.  The other fees had all come out of my savings account.


I have heard that my small scholarship to Notre Dame could have become a significant financial aid package.  But with my family in South Bend, I couldn't stay.  While Notre Dame does require Freshmen to live on-campus, I would probably still be called on to drive, or babysit, or have visitors at the worst possible times.  After the first year, with the financial pressures... my parents would have a strong case for persuading me to live at home.  That would have been bad.




Purdue is a public University, so tuition was lower.  It has an excellent reputation as the Cradle of Astronauts, has excellent engineering schools.  And it was 3 hours away from home, far enough to require a little bit of thought before visiting.  I don't remember whether Notre Dame did or not, but Purdue had a Cooperative Education program.  If my grades were good enough as a Freshman, I could apply for a job, get on with a company, and alternate semesters between work and school.  The work experience would help me get a job after college.  I wouldn't have to go home for the summer.

I chose Purdue.


I was not Valedictorian, nor was I Salutatorian.  Too many other high-achieving classmates, who had much more stable lives.  I did stay in the top 10% of my class.  This school's GPA system added weight to honors classes, and that let me have a GPA above 4.0 even with a few B's.  Mr. Wojtowicz said something, after graduation, about making it through.  It didn't really register at the time, probably because I still had to get through the summer.

At graduation, the choir sang something that made me cry.  I'm not sure whether it was "Memory," or "That's What Friends Are For," or another song that made me think of Mercy.  By the time I graduated, I *knew* I had to get back into music again in college.