To satisfy the College of Saint Rose transfer requirement to provide a statement of intent, I have combined it with the optional writing sample.
Arriving at the edge of campus, I walked two blocks considering a return to the warmth of my car. I swore I’d come back another day, one day soon, when the weather had improved and I held the specific address in hand. Instead, with no umbrella, I cursed the rain that had been falling for a week, thanked the students who directed me toward the Admissions Office, and marched on. I have so often thought about maturing my writing skills, gaining the confidence and credentials to write professionally, yet any one of my steps could have turned me around. It looked as if I swam to school by the time I finally reached the door.
I spent the hour prior in Borders Book Store reading a little guide on writing memoirs, splurging with my last few dollars on a sandwich and beverage which cost more than the book. Surrounded by millions of fresh, crisp pages, I imagined each author pushing beyond the comfort zone of writing for their own entertainment. I was scratching the dirt in search of some underlying courage.
Beautifully camouflaged as residential buildings, the College of Saint Rose campus appears to be much smaller than it is. The Office of Admissions is located in one of Albany’s historical Victorian homes. Its door is solid and darkly serious with an aged brass knob held by thousands of students before me.
I opened that door and squished into the foyer. The warmth greeted my face and crept in under my brown leather coat stained darker by the drenching rain. My muscles, previously clenched tight against the cold, released almost immediately. An enthusiastic, smiling face rose from behind a heavy antique desk in the adjoining room.
With an extended hand she introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Maryelizabeth. What can I do for you?”
I so easily replied, “I want to come back to school.”
I said it.
I said it out loud.
I said it to a person who could help facilitate that goal and she seemed so eager to help as she handed me a clip board.
I filled out my questionnaire, feeling keenly attuned to my confidence which lay in direct opposition to my previous scholarly desire. Had I been able to disappear while attending SUNY Fredonia in the late 80’s, I may have felt some small sliver of content. A heightened sense of that earlier time intertwined with the present. Emotional freedom released me from my father’s previous control as he could no longer force my college courses upon me. I hated him for having that kind of authority over every aspect of my life. I hated myself for not knowing how to escape. I struggled to think of the present, of our newly rebuilt relationship. I bit down hard pushing these emerging feelings back to their previous era. I was here by choice, fulfilling my dreams.
Maryelizabeth pointed out a young man seated by the window. She explained that he was in the field of economics and returning to write a novel.
“I never said just one,” he quickly corrected.
I smirked, feeling the electric spark of inspiration charge through me.
My counselor, Jeremy, and I were introduced. We creaked our way up the beckoning front staircase and down the cozy, narrow hall to his office. It was simple, clean with the exception of a single crimson leaf tracked in upon the carpet. The light was softly bright, filtered through large paned windows and off high white ceilings. We occupied two of the four chairs surrounding a small table in front of his desk. I could have been sitting in any friend’s Center Square home chatting over tea. Jeremy was open, quick to laugh, and apologetic about the leaf. It was here that we mutually interviewed each other.
I have very different memories of Fredonia. The campus is, as it was then, a growing collection of edgy, modern, geometric structures, several of which were designed by Chinese architect, I. M. Pei. Those contracted after him were influenced by his style. Large angular windows set high and open to the sky, were famous for casting harsh shadows across lofty and barren cement interior walls. At night they transformed into black looming triangles and trapezoids. Cave-like spaces required supplemental canned bulbs, providing nothing more than eye strain to the humans lurking far below. Whether during the day or in the long winter evenings, I could envision the campus staff transforming into thousands of bats, emerging from any given corner.
Most disturbing was the newly constructed library. The aisles spanned several open levels, catwalk style, affording a view from the third story straight down to the main floor. Industrial, red steel banisters and silver cable barriers kept students from slipping over the edge. Curling up with a good book seemed life threatening while suspended high on a slab of concrete. I craved the romance of the older, more traditional buildings built with hearty red brick and numerous white lined window panes. I craved the romance of learning, if not the learning itself.
Jeremy asked, “What do you want to do with your English degree?” pulling me back to present.
“I want to write,” I said, again with confidence.
I explained that after embarking on an English major in 1988, I switched to design by 1992. As much as it was my passion, writing for class was threatening then, dangerous, a disclosure of my all too fragile self. Design required certain vulnerability as well, my creations held up for criticism, but it didn’t cut so close to the heart. I exposed to Jeremy the smallest fraction of what my early life was like and how little confidence I had because of it.
“You’d be surprised how much we can tell from a student’s transcript,” Jeremy replied.
I’ve spent the past few years chasing ghosts, as I call it, examining the past and reaching to the future by way of the present. Stronger now, I no longer fear the eyes or opinions of others, although I still generally write for myself. I scribble often in the pages of well traveled journals, the bulk of which have recorded history or cultural observations I’ve learned as an International Flight Attendant.
Jeremy’s interest was piqued by my former occupation, “I never met anyone who was a flight attendant before. You must have so many stories!”
Yes. My stories are many. They need cultivating and this author needs to better herself with tools to harvest them.
I do write for others in small doses. I have become famous for ritualistically thrusting lengthy Christmas missives upon family and friends. Each new year, I receive comments from those recipients encouraging me to write a book. I must admit, I’ve thought about it often. Now it’s time to address that book, to lengthen that Christmas piece and broaden my focus group.
I walked the five blocks back to my car, gripping tight an application and spring semester course book. Anticipation of new opportunity distilled the chill of the rain as I hurried home. I could barely contain my excitement, eager to explore the classes I will take.
As I drove off, one more reason to follow my dream stood at the forefront of my mind, one that I didn’t mention to Jeremy. While it’s been my long time desire to communicate with the world, share knowledge, entertain, and touch people’s hearts, this desire has not simply been my own. My grandfather, on his death bed, presented me with several recordings of his life’s memories. Upon receipt, I told him I’d be sure to share his story. I felt his listless hand pat my head as his lungs forced a whisper.
From one story teller to another he said, “I know you will.”