McKenna

A follower of mine who has been keeping up with my blog for about 2 1/2 years asked me a question that I realized I never really touched on before (Thank you, Sierra!):

Who was your constant inspiration when trying to transfer and when you were trying to apply to schools? How did they inspire you (and continue to do so)? Give me one of your amazing story posts!

Before I give my answer to this question, let me say that there were SO many people (family, friends, etc,.) who helped me get to UC Davis (and for them, I am more than grateful), but not a lot of people know that I found my biggest inspiration in fall 2013, when I took a creative writing class and met one of my best friends and a fellow English major, McKenna Morgan.

This is, sadly, the only remaining photo I have of the two of us before I accidentally deleted half of my pictures. 
 I sat next to her in CW class and I immediately noticed how she could make anyone laugh or smile with what I now know to be her trademark wit and sense of humor. 
One day, after a particularly dull day in class, McKenna invited me to hang out in the cafeteria with her and a few other friends. To her, it was a small gesture of kindness but to me, it meant the world. I was still getting used to the dynamics of college life and that people were indeed much different than any I had met in high school (in a good way). After I had accepted the invitation to go to the cafeteria that day, thanks to McKenna, I finally understood what it meant to have friends, a concept I was unfamiliar with for so long. 
Not only was she one of my first real friends, but she pushed me to be the person you see today. At the time I met her, she was in her second year at Moorpark and had already applied to a handful of schools including the one she proudly calls home today: UCLA. I remember looking at her one day in our English class from hell, as she crunched numbers and tried to calculate what her final GPA would be before she transferred. I started laughing (big mistake– she gave me a look that out-sassed even me and exclaimed: “Stop laughing! It’s not funny!) only because, at the time, I couldn’t understand why she was so worried. She had worked her ass off to get into a school like UCLA, and even on the days she snapped at me for telling her she’d get in even though she said no, there was something in me that was telling me UCLA was meant to be for her. In April of 2014, she became a Bruin and I have never been more proud to know someone than I was on that day.
As ALL OF YOU know by now, my biggest goal and #1 school I wanted to transfer to was *all together now*: Stanford. I was two semesters away from applying and I was freaking out. During all of my freak out moments, McKenna made sure I knew that my dream wasn’t out of reach, but she also made sure I knew that whether or not I got in didn’t determine my worth as an English major or as a human being. In the fall of 2014, she started her journey at UCLA. Since then, I’ve watched her get A’s on a majority of her essays, become a part of her departmental honors program, and most recently, she joined a sorority. Watching her accomplish the things she has and grow into even more of an incredible woman helped me send off my application to Stanford. Not a lot of people know that often times, I’d have mini meltdowns at 4 AM just thinking about how much my dream of going to Stanford meant to me and I’d think and ponder all the worst case scenarios. Through it all, though, I had McKenna who would answer every call or text, regardless of the time, and she’d give me the same piece of advice:
I know you can do this and you will, but if they don’t accept you (which would be stupid of them), just know that you’re one step closer to being exactly where you’re meant to be!

I was rejected from Stanford a few days after I had received a McKenna pep-talk. She was the first to call me minutes before the rejection and the first to console me afterwards. She was probably a little shocked at how calm I was despite being turned down by my dream school, but even I don’t think she knows that it was her words from the week before that helped me move on. A week before the decision floated into my email inbox, I visited UC Santa Cruz and despite the fact that the campus was absolutely breathtaking, I felt nothing. No sense of longing to be there or feeling like I belonged. I was scared/nervous and I communicated these feelings with McKenna. Her response changed my perspective quickly:
You can never be 100% certain about anything. Regardless of what happens you know you’ll end up wherever you’re supposed to end up. It is down to the wire, but so many schools believe in you and there is a place for you, I promise. UCLA didn’t feel like home at first. I felt like I didn’t deserve it. Then it ended up being everything to me. Regardless, you’ll find your home, even if you don’t feel like you will.


It was a simply worded text, but it said so much, and with those words, I was able to face something that would ordinarily result in me lying in bed listening to Ave Maria on loop (complete dramatization, y’all). A few days had passed and I had already accepted my offer to attend UC Davis. A week after that, I attended Decision Day at Davis and I immediately fell in love with everything: the town, the campus, and the hospitality and kindness I encountered when interacting with students and faculty. McKenna was right. I had found the place for me. I had found home. 
I start my journey at UC Davis in three months. It came quicker than I imagined it would, but I am so excited and while I’m sure I’ll make plenty of friends at Davis, there will never be another McKenna. Through watching her face and overcome so many struggles most of us wouldn’t be able to handle, I have learned the value of strength and perseverance. Every day I see her get that A on a midterm or move up as an English major in her honors program, I am left in awe of the person she is. While she has no shame and will put just about anything on Snapchat and Instagram (“ugly” selfies and all), she also has a tremendous heart and will to succeed that I have rarely witnessed in anyone else my age. She’s forced me to look beyond the goals I set for myself and dream even bigger, even if I don’t believe it’s possible. She got me through many a meltdown and has given tough love when I needed it most, and it pushed me further and helped in so many ways. I don’t know what I would’ve done without her through this process, but I’m elated I didn’t have to find out.
There are some people you know, whether it’s for five minutes or five years, that completely change and shape who you are. McKenna is one of those people for me and I am honored to call her one of my best friends! 

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