When I tell most strangers I went to college in the Hamptons, they seem impressed. Yes, I went to college in the mythical New York Hamptons, but it wasn’t all glitz and glamour. I have no doubt that the summer time is filled with charity polo matches and Gatsby-esque parties with celebrities, but when I was in Southampton, we rubbed elbows with the locals at the pizza place, not Leonardo DiCaprio at an environmental function. Nevertheless, it was the most amazing place and I absolutely loved it. Our college was small and despite what anyone may think, we weren’t a bunch of rich kids living off of mommy and daddy’s dime (although I’m sure some were), but rather we were kids who went to class in our PJs and used the cafeteria trays as sleds down the mountains of snow by the freshman dorms. We were a small community nestled near the tip of Long Island and for three years, I had an incredible experience there.
Then during my junior year, they announced that the school was closing due to extreme financial debt. You can imagine the shock we all experienced. You would think with tuition being $30,000 per student, these people could afford a decent accountant. We protested. We rallied to save our school. In the end though, it wasn’t enough. During my senior year, those who chose to were all shipped to C.W. Post.
If I were ever to die and go to hell, I’d find that it isn’t fiery pits of tortured, screaming souls, but rather my senior year at C.W. Post played over and over again like some deranged Groundhog Day. This school was quite possibly the antithesis of Southampton College. It was huge. There wasn’t that sense of community that we enjoyed from being a part of a small school. These kids believed that pajamas belonged in the bedroom and they also fiercely believed that we didn’t belong there. They made that last sentiment quite clear. On top of everything, there were no classes for my major. Imagine being a writing major during her senior year taking Creative Writing 101. I lost all motivation to do anything. Including go to class. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only Southampton transfer who felt this way and the school’s advisers helped make a deal that would get us our last few credits off campus — an internship.
I was close to blowing it though. My academic scholarship was in jeopardy, my friends were all going through their own stuff and family problems were on the rise at my house. I did my best to avoid everything. I slept a lot, threw myself into a new relationship and tried to cut myself off from anything and anyone.
It’s true when they say that when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up. I found my lifeline in the form of a bright yellow flyer on my dorm’s announcement board. Now really, who reads those anyway? They always put too many flyers on top of each other in a cluttered mess, but this particular paper had Mickey Mouse on it. My eyes zoned in on it immediately. After going to the information session with my best friend Kevin, I found that one of the girls heading the presentation was someone I went to high school with (sign number one that this was meant to be).
Kevin was supposed to apply with me, but he found an internship somewhere else so I figured I could stay in New York and take a copy-writing internship that they were setting up for me. I could stay with my friends and my boyfriend. I could take the safe road once again.
Instead, I decided to go for it.
It took me forever to fill out the application. I remember sitting in the Post library, my fingers shaking as I answered the questions. I wasn’t used to feeling motivated. I wasn’t used to this feeling of wanting something so badly that it actually got me out of bed in the morning. It got me thinking about goals and taking small steps at a time. And most importantly, it was the only way I would be allowed to escape another semester at C.W. Post. I said a little prayer to a God I hadn’t believed in in years when I sent it.
The phone interview was nerve wracking. I blasted Disney music that morning and jogged around the room in a weird Rocky reinaction. I practiced my smiling in the mirror (I was so confident that she would SEE my Disney smile though the phone) and I jumped around a lot to work out my nervous energy. The interview turned out to be easier than I had imagined and the woman questioning me was very nice and calming. She asked me how I would handle certain situations as an Operations Member and I remember telling her that kids just want to feel special and I wanted to be the person who helped them feel that way. I hung up thinking for the first time that perhaps I really did have a chance.
The waiting finally ended one unexpected afternoon. I was coming back to campus with my boyfriend, Peter.* Waiting for me in my inbox was an e-mail from the woman at the internship office letting me know that they were going to offer me a spot. I proceeded to jump up and down and scream. Peter was happy for me. As happy as any guy could be when he found out his girlfriend was going to Florida for five months. At the moment though, I wasn’t concerned with logistics. I just kept rereading that 5-sentence e-mail.
I wrote this in my journal that night: “I’m really excited but also super scared. It happened. I’m in. There’s no turning back now or excuses to be made. For five months I’m going to be working in the happiest place on Earth. I feel as if I’ve actually accomplished something worthwhile. For once in my life I’m going to do something I chose, that I want and it scares and thrills me all at the same time.”
After a year of hiding under my sheets, of skipping class and crying myself to sleep wondering what it was I was doing with my life, something substantial was happeningl. My life had a direction after all.