I Wish I Were a Cat

panera

In the past two days, everything that could have gone wrong did. In fact, the only reason I am even able to write this post at the moment is because I walked to the local Panera to meet up with a friend who let me borrow her tablet (because my laptop battery died and my charger isn’t working… and the internet connection at my house is acting up). On top of this technological fiasco, things at home haven’t been great, and I mostly feel like screaming to the universe, “Why me? Why me? Why is everything so unfair and lame? Can I please just give up being a human and become a cat instead? – a pretty house cat who sleeps a lot and gets to eat treats flavored like chicken and whole grains?”

Alas, I am not a house cat. And life is not fair, and the universe isn’t going to let me give up, and I can’t make people behave the way I want them to. Much to my disappointment, things don’t work out the way I want them to. And that’s okay.

As a Quest Scholar at a highly competitive university, my peers’ advantages are often shoved in my face. This can be quite infuriating at times, no matter how much I love my school and many of my classmates. As the oldest of three children in a single-parent household, I had to do quite a bit of babysitting in middle and high school while my mom juggled to earn her undergraduate and now graduate degrees, while holding a job. I was the first student from my high school to ever be admitted to any Ivy League school, nevertheless attend one. I am Latina, which makes me a member of the most underrepresented ethnicity group at my university.

I am being a total Debbie Downer right now, but bear with me. I don’t mean to list these “injustices” or “difficulties” in order to bemoan how “hard” things have been for me, but merely to reinforce how some of us have disadvantages, especially when it comes to pursuing higher education. Even if and when we are admitted to and attend the institutions of our dreams, we are still at a disadvantage in many ways – it’s not as easy for us to afford unpaid, schnazzy internships, and it’s certainly disheartening when we are surrounded by people with lots of experiences (and resources and connections) that we totally and completely lack. Life really isn’t fair. I know that’s an old saying, and I know that acknowledging that there are people way worse off than me would be a grand understatement, but we need to remind ourselves of how unfair things are before we can come to terms with this simple fact of existence.

Some days, I get angry that my parents don’t own vineyards in foreign countries and that I don’t live in New York City. I get angry that people complain about not having enough cashmere sweaters or pea coats, when I know there are other kids in my school from families who struggled to put food on the table. I get angry when I realize how many people around me have absolutely no idea how lucky they are (and I myself often lose sight of how lucky I am).

But if we want to make progress, we have to look past life’s unfairness and start making ourselves accountable for ourselves. One of the reasons I chose to attend Yale was because of their admissions website’s blurb on “What Yale Looks For,” where it says, “Within the context of each applicant’s life and circumstances, we look for that desire and ability to stretch one’s limits.” I believe that with whatever we are given, we owe it to the world to be our very best selves.

So, in the face of life’s unfairness, in the face of a twenty-minute walk through the rain (without an umbrella and wearing a really cute floral dress that I learned is easily blown around in the wind, much to my dismay), in the face of how “disadvantaged” I may feel at times, I must always remember that whatever I face, I am capable of reaching for more, of being my very best self. I must also bear in mind how fortunate I am to attend the school that I attend and to have the resources that QuestBridge, my family, my high school, and now my university have provided for me. I must take advantage of my blessings and use the difficulties I’ve faced as growing experiences to become a more compassionate, magnanimous individual. In this way, I can prove to the world, and most of all myself, that I am capable of accomplishing whatever it is I wish to accomplish, whether it’s a blog post or becoming the kind of person with a voice that both resonates and matters.

Because those things don’t require monetary wealth – they require perseverance, courage, and, ultimately, some really great friends.

— by Adriana Miele, Quest Scholar, Yale ’16

This post was originally published on 7/22/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.

To All the Pre-Frosh

Adriana Miele

Right now, like I always do when I feel panicked and mad at the world for being lame, I am listening to “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire in the library. This afternoon, there were explosions during the marathon in Boston, just a few hours north of New Haven. My father and other family live in the area, and so do some of my best friends. It was a horrifying and stressful afternoon, but thankfully, everyone I know is all right.

While the news stations are going crazy, and my journalist friends are frantically running around campus, there are hundreds of pre-frosh (prospective Yalies) scampering around with pamphlets and schedules and flyers and tote bags and free t-shirts in hand. The weather is so warm that for the first time in six months, I ordered an iced latte instead of a regular one this afternoon. Things are looking good. They’re looking better in so many ways, but there is so much tragedy beneath it all. There is so much pain and trauma; there is so much evil and anguish in this world.

I want to mention this because I believe it’s imperative to remember that there are greater things going on in the world. And in this frenzied time of choosing colleges, so many high school seniors are under the impression that wherever they go will dictate their happiness for the next four years, and even the rest of their lives. I was under a similar impression when I was choosing between schools last year, and when I ultimately chose to attend Yale, I did so because I felt that Yale would make me the happiest. I felt that it provided the most supportive network of people and the most intimate, wonderful, dynamic community of loving, kind individuals. In fact, the people I spent the most time with at Bulldog Days are still part of my life, and I’m glad to say that throughout the past year, I’ve developed even stronger friendships with them. One became one of my most trusted friends, another became a FroCo in my college (who lives right below me), and others became shoulders to lean on and laugh with. And I am happy I chose Yale. I think it was one of the best decisions of my life. I know that it changed my life. And I think choosing a college is less of a matter of which one is “the best” and infinitely more about which one makes you feel the happiest–which one makes you feel like you belong.

Choose the one that feels like home. Because, trust me, life is capable of throwing some terrifying, awful things at you, and you need to know that wherever you’ll be for the foreseeable future, you will feel comfortable. You need to feel at peace. You need to feel safe.

To all the pre-frosh out there–don’t fool yourself into thinking that college will be everything high school wasn’t. Don’t believe for a minute that this decision will either make or break your future happiness because there’s so much more to life than this. Your happiness rests in your hands, and your pain often rests in others. The most you can do is claim a place for yourself that will allow you to find yourself and be yourself and nurture yourself. Find a place that you love. Because you will struggle. Life will be hard. People can kill people you love, and people can break your heart, and people can betray your trust, and life can seem like the absolute worst sometimes. But there is always good. Find a place that reminds you of that. Find a place that makes you feel like things will be okay. Find a place that will let you put yourself back together.

Just follow your gut, little pre-frosh. Look for the moment you just “know.” Wander around campus at 1 A.M. and ask yourself if this feels right. Talk to the people around you, talk to the current students, talk to the people who are waiting until 11:59 PM on April 30th to make their decision. Sit next to that cute guy/girl and don’t care if you never talk to him/her again. Eat as much free food as possible. Ask questions. Remember that everything isn’t always going to be all right–but that’s okay. Choose the place that’ll give you everything you need to be happy, healthy, and safe. Choose the place that feels like home. Do what feels right.

And thanks for reminding me that I chose Yale because of this. Thanks for reminding me of how safe and wonderful this campus is. Thanks for reminding me of the beauty that is here, even when the world is being lame. And to all those affected by the tragedy in Boston, I send my love and prayers. I wish you peace.

— by Adriana Miele, Quest Scholar, Yale ’16

This post was originally published on 4/16/13 on the Quest Scholars Network blog.