On April 4th, 2012, I received a letter in the mail that would change the course of my life greatly. I had been chosen as one of the 50 people (out of nearly 1,000 applicants) granted acceptance to the Orange County School of the Arts’ Creative Writing conservatory, where I would be given the opportunity to study writing under the instruction of published & widely respected authors, have my works published in the school’s nationally acclaimed literary journal Inkblot, participate in poetry slams and open mic nights, write my own novels and screenplays, and make valuable connections to keep with me through high school and beyond. Of course I was going to attend – I came from a family of writers and had been writing my own pieces since I could talk, so this naturally seemed like the next step. The next four years challenged me, inspired me, and taught me to see the world from perspectives I never knew existed. The lessons I learned both inside and outside of the classroom have shaped who I am today, and because of the guidance I received at OCSA, I feel ready to take on the next level of my educational journey.
Some of the most crucial things I learned at OCSA, however, had nothing to do with the Pythagorean Theorem or the Industrial Revolution. They had to do with learning about myself and my surroundings, about the so-called “real world,” and about being a friend – to others, and to myself. So, without further ado, here is some of the wisdom I picked up during my four years of arts education:
The Importance of a Work Ethic
Boring and cliché, but a universal truth – you get what you put in, so having a great work ethic is essential. OCSA school days last until 4:50 p.m. (yes, you read that right) due to the combination of arts and academic classes, and I found myself working a part-time job after school, with my shifts running until midnight on some occasions, after which I would have to come home, do homework and prepare for the next day, in a vicious and never-ending cycle. There were times when I wanted to give up, of course, but I didn’t – I developed a work ethic by focusing on the reward and the bigger and better things waiting for me after high school, and this is how I developed a work ethic beyond my years as a high school student.
Take Things At Your Own Pace
In most aspects of my life, I’ve been a late bloomer – something I used to be ashamed of, but now take in stride. Sure, I got a job and an internship earlier than most of my friends, and I’m jumpstarting my college career by taking a summer quarter, but in other aspects of my life, I’ve been a bit behind. What OCSA taught me about this was that growth is splintered, and it is not a constant. We can be ahead in some areas and behind in others – it’s all about the journey, and what we learn on the path to wherever it is we’re destined to be. The people I met during my OCSA journey taught me to accept this and to enjoy the road without losing sight of my destination.
Find Your Voice
One of the biggest things that was stressed to me throughout my creative writing classes was the development of the writer’s voice. As a meek, timid freshman who was intimidated by the seniors in my class who were so sure of themselves and their writing styles, I tended to play it safe in my writing and mold my pieces after the work of my peers. However, I soon learned that this was doing nothing for my writing or for myself as a person, and I discarded the seniors from memory and started to dig deep within myself, because surely I had something interesting to contribute to my writing. I drew from my own experiences and became candid and wrote with raw honesty – which is how I found my voice and learned that it’s good to speak up – both in writing, and in the real world. I learned not to let myself be silenced, something that has helped me to stand up for my beliefs and discover who I truly am as a writer and person.
Be Yourself, Unapologetically
Finding my voice was just part one on my journey of self-discovery. Going to OCSA opened me up to so many different routes of self-expression – through my dress, my speech, my beliefs, my relationships, et cetera. Being a part of such a colorful community of artistic and one-of-a-kind individuals taught me that being anything except 100 percent authentic to myself is a total waste of who I am, and not to say sorry for the person I was born as. The OCSA family has brought me out of my shell so much, and for that, I am so grateful.
Keep Yourself In The Best Company
The friends I had freshman year at OCSA are most definitely not the friends I had my senior year, and I’m especially thankful for that. People grow apart from each other as part of their natural progression, and it’s okay. That being said, I found myself surrounded by a lot of foes disguised as friends in my first two years at OCSA – people who didn’t have my best interests in mind and who did not have good intentions in the friendship. I learned to cut off relationships that did not serve me and were not mutual expressions of happiness and love, and by doing so, I attracted the right people into my life and created a strong, close-knit circle of friends.
Heartbreak Will Only Make You Stronger
As you might imagine, arts schools are lacking in cute, heterosexual boys, so when I happened to find a potential object of my affections, I fell harder than most. When this boy broke my heart in my junior year, I fell into a deep depression – not to mention the fact that my two (now former) best friends got boyfriends while I was dealing with my very first heartbreak, so they didn’t really care to console me at the time. Heartbreak showed me the people who truly loved me and were willing to deal with me in my worst state, but the sad truth was that I had to spend a lot of time to myself. The time spent in solace was used to reinvent myself from the bottom up – I discovered new music, met new people, tried new activities, poured my heart into my passions and when the time was right, I started going out & beginning my healing process. Eventually, I came to terms with what had happened, and it made me such a stronger person. I absolutely don’t regret experiencing heartbreak, not at all.
People Will Have Different Opinions Than You (And That’s Okay)
This is a lesson I learned in my senior year philosophy class, my favorite academic class I had taken in my four years at OCSA. My teacher, Mr. Read, made one thing clear in our class discussions from day one – that everyone is allowed the right to an opinion, regardless of how it differs from other people’s. My mind was opened by this sentiment, and I learned not to attack or be spiteful when someone expressed a belief that was different from mine. Instead, I listened, I respectfully questioned and, most importantly, I tried to learn and expose myself to a new point of view.
Nobody Knows Exactly What They’re Doing
Yes, you read that right – this is the secret to the entire universe. Everyone thinks that other people have this “master plan," but even the Ivy League students with the seemingly perfect lives have no idea what they’re going to do next. Blueprints for the future simply don’t exist, and nothing is guaranteed to us. Everyone is human and vulnerable, and we all have goals that we wish to accomplish. Knowing this has put so many aspects of life into perspective for me.
Find Your Passion
On a day in my sophomore year when I was feeling pretty low, I received a text from my blue-haired, feminist friend Julia, who sat next to me in science class and had become a close confidant. The message itself was filled with words of love and advice, but one line stuck out to me in particular: “Find your passion, and pursue it until you can feel nothing but bliss.” I had a clear idea of what my passions were – the fashion industry, and writing, of course. Ever since reading that text, that statement has been the driving force behind my dreams. I didn’t have to do any digging or soul-searching to realize what my passions were – I had known them all along. Throughout the rest of my education at OCSA, I continued to involve myself in activities that I knew would further my progression into the fashion career I knew I was meant to have, and I became a happier human because of it.
The Universe Is Constantly Conspiring In Our Favor
This last piece of wisdom learned at OCSA is the catchphrase of my philosophy teacher. Whenever a headline or current event tied into what we were discussing in class, Mr. Read’s response was always the above phrase. However, I’ve learned to apply this philosophy to my life – whether or not we realize it, the universe is always working with us to give us what is the best for us in the long run. You’re not meant to understand your path or the detours it may take, but in the end, everything will connect, and you will understand why the universe has sent you in this direction. Everything that happens is meant to happen.
While studying at OCSA wasn’t always easy and sometimes it drained my energy, it has most definitely been the most rewarding four years of my life. I have learned things I simply would not have picked up anywhere else, and become the woman I was meant to be. I recently started college at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Irvine with a guaranteed transfer to the Los Angeles campus in my second year, and I will walk onto the campus prepared for whatever college & Los Angeles have to throw at me. To anyone considering pursuing an education in the arts, go for it. You’ll learn and experience so much, and your future self will thank you, I promise.