Chicago!

While we were in Illinois, we had a chance to visit Chicago. We left early on Sunday morning to catch the train at 10. It was a sad time for me because I knew that it would be a long time before I would see Jarrett’s family again, and the thought of not seeing him was upsetting. We arrived at the train station and it was filled with these types of people:
tumblr_lpsm8xsfcr1qeuyelo1_500Taking selfies everywhere and talking and squealing loudly as they were on their way to Lollapalooza. The train was two stories high, which I’d never seen before, and the seats flipped forward to make a four seater or back to make two twos. The train ride in was pretty uncomfortable. We both had suitcases and backpacks and it was fairly hot on the train, but it was great to see some of the city outside of the window as we passed it.

Once in, we took a cab to Jarrett’s cousin’s apartment to drop off our bags. The Chicago cab drivers seem really unfriendly compared with everyone else I’ve met in the US. I laughed a lot when Jarrett tried to make conversation with one driver and was cut off dead, with no hope of restarting any kind of chat. The apartment building was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There were keycards to get to specific floors in the building, and key cards for each apartment, rather than actual keys. I couldn’t tell why at the time, but now I realise I was surprised because it felt a little like a hotel. The view from the balcony was incredible. It was so surreal to see all those huge buildings and such an expanse of land stretching out for miles.20140803_123147 I stood and watched the ant-like cars go by, and even smaller people walking their dogs. I felt that heart-fluttering feeling I get when I’m in a high place and looked directly down the thirty or so floors to see people relaxing in the pool. The photograph above is a panorama picture of that moment.

Jarrett and I decided to go and buy some lunch before heading to the Hancock tower to see Chicago from one of the highest points. We found a burger place, but got caught in heavy rain. Hailing a cab was so difficult we spent 20 minutes after lunch trying to find one without getting too wet. We guessed that everyone had taken a cab because it was raining. When we got to the Hancock tower, the trip up was inexpensive and the view was awe-inspiring.  20140803_152325this was a view from one of the sides. I just loved how far out I could see. The only downside was the number of GINORMOUS spiders living outside the windows. I used my thumb for size comparison.20140803_15100720140803_151235

On the way back I bought myself one of those coins that you put in a machine and it prints a design on a penny, and a black mug with a multicoloured drawing of the Hancock building on it. I’ve been using that mug a lot lately (it’s pink inside and I love it so much).

Afterwards I managed to get a photograph with a cop and was so so happy about it as you can tell.20140803_16161420140803_161512 This church was just across the street and looked so out of place that we stopped and went inside. There was a service going on so we stayed for a prayer and a song after looking around. The inside reminded me of England because it was very similar to the English churches I’ve been into.

Afterwards, we headed to the Hershey store where I bought nothing because Hershey doesn’t compete with Cadbury.

Then we walked around town a little bit so I could get a feel of the city. We saw lots of cool things, more than I could take pictures of, but it was great, we had a really good time. Below is a picture of the cab fares in Chicago. I liked how specific they were. 20140803_170209At around 5 we made our way back to Jarrett’s cousin’s place to say goodbye and pick up our suitcases. We had a really good time in Chicago and had a very boring flight back to Florida.

For the next couple of days after we got back from Chicago, we relaxed and stayed in a lot- the trip was fun, but emotionally draining, so we needed some time to recuperate. I will always remember that day because we had such a good time, and I wouldn’t want to have spent that day any other way than with Jarrett.20140803_150853

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Failure and Results

For the last two years I’ve felt like a failure. Everybody I knew left school and went straight on a new path, into new lives at university. I was left at home, joining a class of 16 year olds in a college where fake eyelashes at 9am is the norm and teachers don’t care about their jobs. I felt like I was starting over, like I had to re-do everything I’d gotten wrong at CH. It was a long process and I buried my head in TV shows and books and school work to pass the time. I quickly realised that I didn’t want to hang around at college any longer than I had to (fights happened a decent amount and guys were persistent), and spent a lot of time alone, thinking about how crap my life was. I was doing okay in my classes and I enjoyed the freedom I had, but I knew that I’d have to work extra hard if I wanted to get anywhere from there.

I began to understand that the odds were already stacked against me. A mixed-race girl at a state college with a collection of hideous grades already- I knew I’d need to put my all in to get anywhere. Results day came, and I achieved decent but disappointing grades. A grade B in English, a grade C in Religious Studies and a grade U in French. Fortunately I wasn’t taking French another year, and they decided to let me stay on as long as I took up another A Level. This time I chose politics (big mistake).

This year was harder than the first. My teachers for Religious Studies had no idea what they were doing. One became sick very early on in the term, and the other was left clueless. We spent the entire first term (two 1 and a half hour sessions per week) discussing which modules we were going to study and how we were going to do it. In the end, he opted for studying from the previous exam questions. By the time the Exam came, I’d had all of six lessons for half of the subject and only done about half of the material for the other half of the subject.

I’d applied for university by myself in November, writing my personal statement with very little feedback and finding my courses myself. I had a feeling that if I’d been at CH, I would have received a lot more help in that department. I’d picked Bristol as my goal and then chose four other universities from the course and their standing in league tables for various different factors (student satisfaction, percentage of students employed after graduating, number of 1sts awarded etc). By January, the first reply I received was a rejection from Bristol. I wasn’t too sad as I’d expected it, but I decided to find a new goal quickly to take my mind off it, and I chose East Anglia. They had a course I could get into if I worked hard enough and it looked to me like my perfect idea of a literature course. The university was number 1 in student satisfaction and in the top 20 universities. Why had I never heard of it before? Turns out nobody has. Every time I mention it to someone, I get a blank stare. Sure it wasn’t extremely prestigious, but it looked good to me. I arranged an open day outing with Mum and we liked what we saw while we were there. UEA became my first and only choice, I knew wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.

By May (exam season), I’d stopped going to class and was working from home, worrying about how I was going to do, and stressed by the lack of teaching I was receiving at college. I didn’t feel ready for the exams and I was scared of failure. I was scared of letting everyone down again. I was worried I’d prove some people right- that I was a bad kid, that I wouldn’t get anywhere because I didn’t work hard enough. I only worked and studied, and became anxious. What if I didn’t make it? What if I failed again? What if I was going to be stuck in retail for the rest of my life? What if I was forced to awkwardly tell people at school reunions that I never got a degree and work in a shop selling iPhones to the ridiculously rich? Petty, self absorbed and snobby as it seems, I couldn’t help panicking about these problems as I exited the exam rooms.

By the end of June, I was in Florida and my job and exams were already a far away memory. I relaxed a little and started to forget about the oncoming results day, trying to pretend it wouldn’t come. With results day would come the news of my fate- I’d either begin preparations to leave home, or I’d be sleeping on the sofa with no job, no money, no prospects, and no Jarrett. It was depressing and agonising to wait, so I shoved it out of my head until the week before. With each day, my rituals were getting worse, I was getting angry with Jarrett and becoming more and more over sensitive. Finally results day arrived and I felt sick all day. My head was pounding and my stomach was turning, but I didn’t feel at all panicked. I felt calm and ready to find out.

At half past 2, Jarrett came back from a night out. He’d brought me a sprite, twix bites and a box of doughnuts- consolation or celebration, whichever it was. I thought it was so sweet of him to think of me like that. He’s so thoughtful. At 3 am (UK 8am) I logged on to the UCAS website, convinced of and ready for rejection, and saw my congratulatory message telling me I’d done it. I’d finally passed my A Levels and got a place at University. I’d finally made my mum proud and given her something to boast about.

Seeing the message, I cried. It was like a wave of relief went over me. I had no idea what grades I had, but that didn’t matter- I’d achieved the unlikely and got what I’d hoped for. No need for clearing, no need to find another course. I’d done it. Now I’m happy. I know I can achieve things if I work hard enough.

The next day, mum picked up my grades for me. I’d received: a B in English lit, a B in Religious Studies and an E in Politics. I was pretty shocked about that, I’d expected two C grades and a  U, but I was very happy with it. I can finally say I got decent results (not the best, but imagine what I could have gotten if I’d worked hard at CH!?).

So now I’m preparing for it, and I’m so excited, but sad at the same time. This means I’m leaving and I won’t see Jarrett for a while, and I’ve had such a great experience being here. I’m going to miss him, but I’m also going to love starting a new course. Hopefully things go well. I just don’t want the summer to end yet!

 

Edits: I doubt anyone will ever notice this now, but I’ve re-read through this and there was something I wanted to clarify (I wrote this at 3am and posted without re-checking).

The reason I felt so bad working in retail wasn’t because the job itself was bad (for a first job it was amazing), but because it’s always been expected of me to get a degree. It’s always been out of the question for me not to get one. Everybody I know has one, so of course, I want to feel like I’ve achieved something too. 

 

Illinois!

On Thursday we got up at 4:30 to catch a plane to Illinois for the celebration of life. The plane ride was smooth and fast and it landed half an hour earlier than planned. Jarrett’s sister had organised a car to pick us up and not too long after we’d arrived at O’Hare airport, Arnie was driving us the forty minute ride to Batavia. He told us about all the best places to go in Chicago, and about his time in the military in England, so we had a good journey. We’d been told we were staying with Jarrett’s aunt so I was nervous because I’d never met her and I hate imposing on people, but as soon as we got there I stopped worrying. Her house is beautiful and I have really enjoyed staying there.

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Jarrett and I took a few walks together and had a really peaceful time enjoying being outside. The weather in Florida is lovely, but it’s difficult to take for too long. We can’t usually spend more than ten minutes outside without getting too hot, so it was nice to take a walk and feel warm but be able to breathe!

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I’ve gotten so tanned- Spot me with the corn?

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The second day we were there, we all went on a go cart around the house. I’ve never done it anywhere other than at arcades or tracks, so it was really fun to go for as long as I wanted and wherever I wanted. I tried Portillo’s for the first time, and it was really good. The chips were delicious and the milkshake was so perfect. On Saturday we all got up early and rode the horses. I really enjoyed riding- it was warm and Gideon (the horse I was on) was really laid back and well behaved. A neighbour’s dog ran alongside us the whole way, it was so sweet. That evening was Jarrett’s uncle’s birthday party. I went in jeans and a t-shirt (I’d learnt my lesson- it may be warm outside, but garuanteed there’ll be AC blasting inside) and I didn’t regret it- it was cold where we were sitting to eat. The food was delicious. I tried crab claws for the first time, and watched a chef make my meal in front of me. We had a really good time that night, and were so tired we all went straight to bed afterwards.