The year 2012 begins with a new writing endeavor, my blog. Please drop by!
Updated on April 26, 2008.
Oh it has been a long, long time...
Where to start? I'm a junior at Harvard College now, after a somewhat, how shall I put this, circuitous route. After completing an amazing internship in the publicity department of PublicAffairs in Manhattan, I headed to Cambridge in the fall of 2004 with every intention of staying there for the next four years. Little did I know other plans awaited me.
About a month into my freshman year, I began to realize that I couldn't handle the pressure and seemingly constant stress of being a Harvard student. My Italian class, which I looked so forward to before I got to school, was far too advanced for my limited linguistic capabilities. The intense classroom setting (with a no-English spoken at all under any circumstances rule), as well as my obnoxious classmates (who had obviously a) taken Italian in high school or b) spoke another Romance Language fluently) got under my skin in a way nothing ever had before.
I started to doubt myself in ways I never knew I could. Each little assignment took far longer than I knew it should, yet every time I tried to concentrate a cold feeling of uncertainty and fear would settle in. Although I had never experienced trouble sleeping, I would lay awake for hours in my bed, wishing that something would make it go away. Wishing that I could believe in myself, and getting so frustrated that I couldn’t. An unpleasant metallic taste would creep into my mouth as thoughts ran through my mind: what if I just wasn’t smart enough for Harvard? What if I really just can't handle this? What if I'm just a big fuckup?
It was at the point where I found myself broken down in tears on the grand steps of the famed Widener Library that I decided to call it quits. I needed a serious time out, and I refused to live like this any longer. I made up my mind at that moment, and never turned back.
Several meetings later (with my freshman proctor, with the freshman dean, with the administrative board; to name a few) it became official: I, Katherine Miller, would take a leave of absence Harvard College for a year at minimum. I was walking away from an institution so many students spent a lifetime working toward. Yes, in my heart I knew it was the right choice for me, but was it also crazy?!
Once I got home, finally got a good night's rest, and learned to breathe again, I sat down to evaluate my options. I could travel, but I didn't have the money and I didn't want to be away from my friends and family. I could take a class at a local college to warm myself back up to academics, but I'm too all-or-nothing to have taken that very seriously. I could get a job and start saving something up while I tried to clear my mind and decide what the next step would be. So that's what I did.
I took the glamorous job of a Gap salesperson, working from 6am to noon, unpacking the deliveries and tagging the merchandise with security protection. During those bleak winter early mornings, I would sometimes try not to break down as I drove my old Volvo to work. Just a month before, I was excited freshman ready to take on Harvard at full speed. Now I was working a menial job and wondering whether I should return to college – any college – at all. Needless to say, my confidence suffered dramatically.
It was a random visit to the Providence Children's Museum (PCM) website that turned out to be my saving grace. An opening was listed, for Exhibit Educator and to occasionally work the Gift Shop and Admissions Desk. Now, if there's one thing I know I can do – and do it well – it's interact with people. Especially children. I was intrigued, and decided to send along an email with my resume attached. Less than twenty four hours later, I had an interview lined up for the following week.
Late October, I pulled into the parking lot of the PCM. A giant dragon sculpture snaked up and over the roof, and brightly colored gates and signs welcomed visitors in. I don't recall too much of the interview, but I do remember a happy and content feeling; that perhaps this was a step in the right direction. I was to start the job a few days later.
The PCM turned out to be exactly what I needed. It was a place full of (mostly) happy children, often delighted beyond belief the second they walked through the door. I can't tell you how awesome it was to see a tiny children's faces beaming at you, day after day. Bad moods are next to impossible in this kind of environment. The employees were fiercely dedicated to their belief in learning through play, and I felt right at home and appreciated each day I came to work.
Late fall, another amazing opportunity was brought before me. A visitor to the museum (stunning: six feet tall, long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes) came in with her two sons, one of whom was so tiny that he was carried in a Baby Bjorn. Somehow I happened upon the information that she was looking for some help with the kids a few days a week. I certainly had the time, so I gave her a call and din't expect much to come out of it.
The next week, I went to visit the Hrabota-Lessers' home, to meet everyone and see if I would possibly be a good match. I distinctly recall holding two-month old Ari while two and a half year old Ronen happily busied himself in another part of the room with a few toys. I really wanted the job, and I think Jenn and Ryan could tell. I started as their part time nanny the next week.
So in this way, I came to work with children for nearly a full year, bouncing from the Children's Museum to the happy home of the Hrabota-Lessers. I was really happy and fulfilled, knowing that I was good at what I did and that I had cleared perhaps the biggest hurdle up to this point: my confidence was back up, and I was finally entertaining the notion of returning to Harvard for round two come September.
Let me say right here: throughout this time I visited Harvard a lot. The friends I made, especially Neesha and Chenelle, were so dear to my heart that I couldn't bear to stay away. I partied way too much during these months, probably trying to bolster my confidence to the maximum point. I eventually realized that multiple mixed drinks won't do much but cause a lot of regret and some nasty hangovers. Also, it was around this time that I realized just how much I didn't fit in with my girl friends from high school. The demise of my friendship with most of the girls I graduated with turned out to be one of the most unpleasant experiences in my entire life. Ask me and I'll tell you all about it – the mention of some of these girls' names to this day just makes me nauseous. And so happy that: a) I'm not a townie b) I have taste and c) I don't have to deal with their drama anymore.
It seems that year flew by. Before I knew it, early summer came around and I needed to make the choice whether I would give Harvard another go, or if I wanted to take more time off. I could take up to four years without needing to reapply all over again, although I knew I didn't want to delay that long. Ultimately, I came to one conclusion: I'd dropped out of Harvard once before, and I was more than okay after that experience. Worse comes to worse, I'll do it over again and then re-evaluate. Oh shit, here goes nothing...
After submitting my formal decision to come back to school, the mental preparation really set in. It was interesting to see that after the ordeal of leaving, making my way in the world, and finding happiness after such deep dissatisfaction; I had a better perspective on life. I didn't lose my temper much anymore, and I was – I was actually chilled out. Now this was a pleasant side effect I didn't expect.
Move-in day, 2005. Instead of Canaday, the dorm that regrettably resembles a mental institution, I was housed in the majestic Matthews Hall. Some of the walls are exposed brick, the rooms have hardwood floors, and there's gorgeous views of Harvard Yard from nearly every window. Already, things were looking up.
Later that day, I met my roommates, Anna and Emily. It's ridiculous how quickly I felt comfortable with them, and how fucking lucky I got. We secretly congratulated ourselves on not being housed with X, or not having roommates like Y and Z. I kept up the partying routine, and quickly found myself going out most weekend (and some Thursday) nights at full-force.
Unfortunately, it was also at this time that I decided that heavy bangs would be a great look for me. Instead of going to a professional, I grabbed a pair of scissors (cringe, please, it makes me wince to type this) and cut a big old line directly across my forehead. At the time, I thought I was pretty damn cute, but pictorial evidence has something very, very different to say. My Harvard student ID photo – the one photo that will surely represent me in Harvard's records and databases until the end of time, shows me with puffy, awkward bangs and a half-smirk on my face. Hey, at least no one can say that I've gotten less attractive over the years.
Instead of the dreaded Italian, I decided to take Spanish to fulfill my language requirement. I lucked out again when my Teaching Fellow was Juan Pablo, a cheeky little fellow from Puerto Rico who was mostly patient, and hysterical when he became frustrated. No se was my phrase of the day, every day.
As the weeks went by, none of the chilling anxiety or fearful symptoms came back. I wasn't getting all As, but I definitely wasn't failing either. I told myself just to take it one day at a time, and that's exactly what I did. I'd chip away at a response paper here, work at a Spanish vocabulary list there. Nothing too intense, nothing too demanding. A chilled-out friend of mine would remind me: Cs get degrees. Cs get degrees, I would tell myself. Cs get degrees.
I think, ultimately, it was a combination of the bolstered confidence that if I had to leave again, I could; reminding myself to take it one day at a time; and the amazing group of friends I made that second time around that kept me there. Neesha, Chenelle, Emily, Anna, Maggie and a few other special people helped me through an incredibly difficult time without realizing what a positive difference they made. I'll always be indebted to these incredible people for that.
Summer came, and it was a blur of sunshine, beach trips with my sister and niece, and days spent back at the children's museum. Before I knew September had crept back upon me and it was right back into the swing of things.
Looking back, the year flew by. It's trite and cliched to say, yes, but it's that way for a reason. It feels like so much time has passed since sophomore year, and other times it's like none at all. Strange.
Last summer, I worked at Priority Publications as an editorial intern and worked on writing publication content, conducting interviews, editing, and other office work. It was a blast and I met some great people, but again, September – and Cambridge – came beckoning too soon.
I joined The Crimson Arts board this year, and had a total blast doing so. I was quite disconnected from any type of writing besides that required by my professors, which felt out-of-place and strange .So I took the pluinge and went through the process. You can see my work by clicking on the ‘Arts' tab!
Then, this semester, another creative opportunity came a-knocking. I caught wind of a new student publication called The Voice that was looking for writers. I attended a meeting, and really liked the concept. So I joined as a writer...then became an editor...and am now senior editor. It's a lot of work, but so exciting and fun. Our aim at The Voice is to launch a weekly newspaper and interactive website that facilitate discourse among people — students, professors, professionals and citizens — of our extended community. Our hope is to provide a discernibly alternative and responsive voice in Harvard's media community. Our editorial concept emphasizes the personal, humanized stories underlying the issues of interest and concern to our readers. Check out my blog and let me know what you think!
So here I am. Nearly done with my junior year. This summer, I'm going to be an Adventure Leader and Camp Counselor at a camp for seriously ill lchildren and I am extremely, ridiculously excited about it. I'll help children with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses find camaraderie, joy and a renewed sense of being a kid, one camper at a time. It's my last summer and I can't wait to spend it with the campers – showing them how to have a good time, let loose and indulge the carefree child inside of all of us!
In 2004, Kate wrote:
Katherine Linwood Miller is who I am…Let's see if I can give you a glimpse into my world…
Nineteen years old, finishing up an amazing internship and counting the days until I begin my freshman year at Harvard. I took a year off between high school and college, and spent my time living in Manhattan and working as an intern at PublicAffairs, a primarily non-fiction publishing company. This proved to be an incredible opportunity to evaluate both my academic and career goals, while gaining city life experience unlike any other. New York is crazy – there honestly is no other word for it. Where else am I going to find men wearing '80s garb touting the benefits of illegal substances, fashionistas glancing down their painfully straight noses at the rest of the world, religious fanatics looking to steal your soul and every nationality possible in the same block? Yeah. That's right. Nowhere else.
Working in publishing for a year helped me realize that this is a career I would both enjoy and derive a sense of purpose from. I grew up in a household where reading was treasured – and what could be better than bringing quality literature to the public? However, I've narrowed down the publishing goal to one of an editorial or publicity position. Since there isn't a specific major necessary to work in publishing, I've decided at this point to focus on three fields, which have always attracted my attention. English, the most prevalent among those in the publishing field by far, was my first love in the classroom. Expressing oneself through words is both beautiful and important. But at the same time, the idea of only examining literature is a bit – how shall I say - tedious. Harvard has a concentration, however, that is interdisciplinary and will allow me to study both the literature and history of a time period and geographic location of my choice. The concentration is called – I'll bet you could never guess - History & Literature.
The last field that I plan to study in any great depth is Italian. I've never taken the language, but I'm certain the beauty of it and fascination I have will help me through the toughest moments in class. I can't think of a more wonderful skill than mastering another language - and another time during which I will have four years to devote to doing so. If all goes well, I hope to study abroad for some time, once the basics of the language have been learned. Mathematics is my weakest and least favorite field of study. I'm not sure which is a result of the other.
Extracurriculars are screaming my name, beckoning to me from Cambridge. Junior varsity ice hockey, the ballroom dance team, the Democratic group, model congress, and citystep – a volunteer program that teaches inner city school kids dance – are a few that caught my attention. It's wayyyy too easy to forget that college is equally about academics, also.
On the less serious side, I have a million and one things that make me happy. I've finally moved beyond the typical teenage angst that hits suburban preteens like the plague and am glad to say that, yes, my parents are better than yours.
If I could give myself one talent, it would definitely be the ability to sing. Don't get me wrong – I'm quite skilled at convincing myself that I deserve a record deal, too…but then reality rears its ugly head when the volume is turned below an earsplitting level. Nonetheless, music is tres important. Some of the highlights: Fallout Boy, Sublime, Yellowcard, Wyclef, Van Morrison, 50 Cent, Azure Ray, James Taylor, U2, Beyonce, Coldplay, Saves The Day, Coheed and Cambria, Dashboard if I'm feeling whiny, Dave Matthews, Alana Davis, No Doubt, Something Corporate, '80s pop – Culture Club - oh snap, Mindy Smith, Erykah Badu, Susan Tedeschi, The Fugees, any classical piece heavy on violin, and a good dose of Tito Puente-esque music.
Rather than continue to elaborate on the little things that make me tick, I'm going to give you an oh-so-fabulous list. Otherwise you could be reading for several hours and still not have heard all I have to say. So here goes: I have a weakness for lipgloss, sunshine, dance, my friends, strawberries, grapefruit, The Catcher in the Rye, flowers, thrift store scores, vintage orangina & liquor advertisements, fresh air, vegetarianism (thanks, dad, for calling me a tree hugger on this one), tea, livejournal.com, British humor - especially. Monty Python, pretty skivvies, people who make me laugh, exploring new places, sweet text messages, fashion, handwritten letters, collecting handbags, new socks, the color pink, lemonade popsicles, and my gorgeous incredible niece Isabella Katherine Bernier. She stole my heart from day one.
Feel free to contact me via email by clicking here!
I'd love to hear from you.
Love, live, enjoy life…it's yours for the taking.
This is where things stood in the spring of 2002...
Introductions are a good thing. How shall we start -- Hello! My name is Katherine Miller, but I am called Katy (unless I am being addressed by an angry parent). My birthday is February 7. Feel free to sent cash or presents. I am very interested in the state of the earth, recycling, preserving the rainforests/other undeveloped areas, etc. No, I do not plan on doing anything as drastic as living in a tree for two years the way Julia "Butterfly" Hill did, but I do want to help the environment in every way that I can. I have felt this way - about the environment - since I was in kindergarden. (Perhaps the Ranger Rick subscription that I received had something to do with it.)
I am a vegetarian - meat really disgusts me at this point. If you are really interested as to why I do not eat animals, go ahead and ask me - I have plenty of reasons. Other facts about myself: My favorite season is spring, my favorite month is May, I love strawberries with sugar, I dislike coffee, I hated the movie Night of The Living Dead, I don't understand where the idea that all blondes are airheads came from, I can't stand prejudice, I think that 7 am is the best time to wake up, I wear sunscreen 24/7 (no cancer or wrinkles for me, thankyouverymuch), I am not mathematicaly inclined, I don't particularly like television, I get bored very easily and I think that life is something to enjoy. Do with that what you will.
I am in the eleventh grade at Burrillville High School and enjoy various activities. Contrary to popular belief within my household, teasing my little brother is not one of them. I like to play soccer, swim, participate in student council, run, take pictures, play my oboe, and most importantly I love to read and write. When I was small, I would pick up a stack of Babysitter's Club books and tear through them in one afternoon. Although I have since graduated from the tumultuous lives of those sitters, I have kept the fascination with the written word.
I have been writing for as long as I can remember. In first grade, I began keeping a journal (or as much of a journal that a six year old can) and now look back upon these and laugh. In first grade, I won a statewide young author's competition. Participating in the young author's program at that age helped me realize how much I like to create stories. Granted, ducks and bears no longer dominate my writing as they did then.
At this point in time, I only have a section off of my father's website (as you can see), but soon enough I will have my very own website. There I will have some of my photographs, writing, and any other good stuff I feel that the public should have access to. Who knows - maybe even recipes for my favorite foods! Please, do come and visit at KatyMiller.com.