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Becoming who You Are

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Part 1

“Seniors, good luck in college next year and in your future years. Underclassmen, have a great summer,” Mrs. James said after the last bell sounded of my high school career. Next year I’ll be attending Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri to earn a degree in English1. I’m hoping to become a successful fiction novelist. All my life I’ve been reading books, and a lot of them. I’ve been writing poems, short stories and even journals. After all, reading and writing is the best way to practice to become a successful writer.

“So, Lauren, what are your plans for next year?” my old friend Matt asked. I pulled down on my old basketball camp T-shirt and tucked my hair behind my ear, hoping to enhance my appearance a bit. I’ve always had this little crush on Matt, considering he was the hottest guy in school. I told him about my plans and he said he’d be doing something with mechanics. He loves cars, so it made sense.

After school that day a group of us went out to eat and talked about our summer plans and our future plans for college. Most of us were staying pretty close to home, except for Hannah. She’d be going away to Connecticut to study law. Typical. Hannah is your typical friend, who’s constantly trying to prove herself right, even when it’s clear she’s wrong.

At home, my little brother Luke asked me to help him on his project. He still had a few weeks of school left; he went to a private grade school. It was an English project, so he knew to ask me. While I was talking to him about imagining being in the position of the character he was describing, he put his pencil down and looked up at me.

“How come you’re so good at writing, sis?”

“I practice a lot,” I told him.

“I don’t mean the way your writing looks, I mean your writing skills.” At this, I laughed a little.

“I know, bud. That’s what I’m saying. You just have to practice a lot. You can look at your old stuff and see how bad your writing was, and you’ll see how good your writing levels are now. It’s crazy, actually. It’s kind of like you with baseball. The more you practice throwing those pitches, the more strikes you’ll learn to throw.”

“So next year in college you have to write papers all the time?”

“Yep, pretty much,” I told him. “And I’ll have to read a lot too. I have to major in English, with creative writing emphasis to do exactly what I want, which is writing fiction novels.”

“I don’t know what that even means or how you think that’s going to be fun, but I know you’ll do good.” It’s funny, looking back on being younger. I feel so old now that I’m going off to college next year. I’m sure going to miss Luke and my family.
I kept helping him on his project until mom said it was time for dinner. Dinner at our house isn’t anything too fancy. We say a quick grace, saying blessings for the family and those who are ill and going through sorrows. The meal tonight is my favorite—steak, grilled by my dad, and baked potato and a salad, prepared by my mom. We always drink tea with dinner, except for mom. Mom doesn’t drink anything, not even water. I’m not sure how anybody could do that, but mom is Supermom; anything is possible and naturally simple to her.
Dad asked if I was excited for summer and if I’d be doing anything fun before I went off to college.
“I’ll be swimming a lot, to work on my tan, of course,” I said after scraping the last bit of potato off my plate. I took a drink and set it down before saying, “I’m going to be writing practice essays and reading novels to keep my mind going.”
Dad nodded and leaned back. “Good, good. Have you gotten any further on your manuscript you’ve been working on?” I swirled my finger in my drink.
“Yeah,” mom added. “I was wondering the same thing.” They were talking about the “book” I’d began writing a little less than a year ago. It was my absolute dream to have it published, but I have been learning more and more this year that it needs work.
“I work on it every day, a little bit at a time. I’ve been researching how to get it published, and I think the first thing I need to do is earn enough money. Finding a publisher and editor and all that can be more costly than I thought.” They said they’d be willing to help out with the cost, but I just wanted to use my own money, because I thought it’d feel more like my own.
Part 2
It’s mid summer now. I already signed up for my classes at Lindenwood; that was a few weeks ago. I finally finished my manuscript2. It’s about a teenage girl, Julie, who is in her senior year in high school. I’ve already thought about what to put on the back of my book for the blurb: “Julie has the perfect boyfriend and she’s the star of the basketball team. She has plenty of scholarship offers and it’s left to her to decide where to go. Everything is going great, until a few mishaps come about with her friend, Haley. Will Haley get back on the path of being the person she used to be? Can Julie provide all the help Haley will need? Nothing but Friends, Love, and Nets will take teens through a great adventure of a girl’s high school career, drama, and decisions.”
“Who knows, maybe it won’t even get published,” I told Kylee, “but it’s a great place to start, if you ask me.” It was a hot summer day and Ky and I were lying out by the pool, listening to my CD, Third Eye Blind. We were talking about our futures, like usual. What else is there to talk about when you’re going to college in a month, anyway?

“Oh, it’ll definitely get published girl. Besides, you’ve been working on this for like, what, six years or something?” She turned her head to look at me and smiled from her own sarcasm.

“Right, try like, one,” I said between laughs. This is how we’ve been spending just about all of our summer days. I’ve been playing basketball a lot, reading, writing, and shopping for clothes and things for my dorm. I am finally over Ben, my ex boyfriend of ten months, and it feels great. Sure, we were happy together sometimes, but we both (yes I’m admitting it too), need to grow up and not ruin our lives by trying to stay together through college.
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“Okay sweetie, so you have everything, right?” Mom was totally freaking out about leaving me at college. She’d gone through her list three times, and oh no, is starting to go through it again. “Medicine, shoes, clothes, books, pencils, deodorant, shampoo—”

“Mom! Please stop; this is the fourth time you’ve gone through that list, and we only forgot one thing, which was left in the car.” She smiled a wry smile.

“I’m sorry sweetie, this is just so hard. Who am I going to bring with me shopping? Who is going to help me plant flowers, to babysit Luke?”

“Mom, I’m less than an hour away. I’ll be home on the weekends when I can.” I didn’t know if that was true or not, but I knew it’d make her happy. I definitely thought it was true at the time, at least.

Mom and dad left and I got settled in and, since my roommate wasn’t in, began walking the campus, seeing if I could meet new people. It was about three in the afternoon on a Saturday and it was a nice day out. People were walking to and fro classes. I went to the library and pulled out a book called How to Become a Writer. I’d already read about ten books and done online research about it, just to make sure I was taking the right steps, but I figured since I had some free time, why not just be sure? Oh man, I thought to myself, I’m being like my mother. It is, in fact, true when people tell you you’re going to be like your mother.
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My first few months of school were rough getting used to. The transition from high school to college is a little harder than I thought, but there are a lot of things I expected. For instance, boys are still immature, but there a lot less of the immature ones; and people tend to care a bit more, considering they’re paying huge amounts of money not only for the books they’re carrying around, but for their education.

I’m taking some general education classes with higher English classes, too. I’m working part-time in the school’s cafeteria for extra money3. I published a few chapters of my manuscript online and it seemed to have a hit, so I sent parts of it to a website called Publish America4. They sent me an e-mail saying they received it and would be looking over it. The whole thing made me nervous—sending my work to a stranger, giving them the opportunity to criticize it, and waiting to hear the news. In two weeks they told me they wanted me to mail them the whole thing—good news! I called my mom to tell her.

“Lauren! I’m so glad to hear from you. It’s been forever since you’ve called.” Who was she kidding? I literally just talked to her.

“Mom, I just called you two days ago and I’ve texted you since.”

“Yes, yes. I know baby. But you just feel so far away.” When I finally was able to stop getting her to talk about how much she missed me I threw in the good news.

“So, it’s nothing official yet, but they asked for the whole manuscript, so they obviously wanted to read more.”


“That’s so good to hear, L. Have you been applying for jobs at publishing companies? You know you can’t make a living on writing books.” Mom was a little worried about me becoming an author. She knew it wasn’t a secure career to live on.

“Yeah, I have an interview on Thursday with the American Society for Training and Development5.” I knew what happened next was coming.

“In Virginia? Lauren! What did I tell you about that place?”

“Mom, just because you want me to stay close to home doesn’t mean I’m going to. I have to start finding a job and the only way I can do that is by putting myself out there. This place is highly recognized and I would be honored to have the opportunity to work there, and you should be happy for me for at least getting an interview.” I never knew when she was going to give up this whole ‘my baby’s got to stay close to home’ plot. In a way, it sucks being the oldest, because I’m the first she has to let go of.

“You’re right; I’m sorry. This is just one of those hard things a mother ha to go through.”

“It’s hard for me, too, mom. I miss you all just as much as you miss me but everyone has to grow up at some point.” She agreed and we made up from our little argument, she wished me luck and said to keep her updated.

To apply to these different internships I had to make an extremely good cover letter and resume to send in6, which wasn’t too hard with the help of some guidance people in the university’s office. I knew I really needed a job aside from just writing books to earn me a living, and that’s why I planned on working for a publishing company. Besides that, I knew my husband would be able to provide a good income too.
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“You know,” I was telling Cory, a guy my age also trying to become an aspiring fiction writer, “this whole growing up thing…sure it’s stressful, but it’s really fun.”

“Yeah, anything beats being away from my annoying little brother.” That was one thing we didn’t have in common. I didn’t think Luke was annoying, at least not anymore.
Classes were getting harder and harder after the first year. Now, in my fourth year, I’m taking some of the highest leveled English classes out there. English 101 didn’t exactly take place in me and Cory’s schedule. Getting to know the people in the same career line as you is one of the most important things about college. Cory and I have quite a few classes together and we’ve been spending a lot of time together lately, studying and winding down our college careers. In a way, I’ve been crushing on him, but it’s hard to tell if the feelings are mutual. I’m twenty-two now, and I’m starting to feel the need to fall in love, get engaged, and plan my marriage.
No more than a week later from my daydreams about marrying Cory, he told me he was madly in love with me and that he wanted to start dating. I couldn’t believe it; it was a dream come true.
I’ve been doing student teaching at a local high school because I decided that would be my best fit. I also decided I would write books on the side and continue my career as a freelance writer7. The manuscript I’d sent in was a hit with Publish America and they signed me an agent to begin putting my manuscript together8. Unfortunately, I did not get the job at the American Society for Training and Development. I got into a huge argument with the interviewer. He told me I was his number one choice and he loved the work I showed him and asked me back for a second interview. Of course I was excited and got my hopes up—who wouldn’t?
My interview was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. and I arrived at 1:45, because I know it looks professional to arrive early. I checked in with the secretary at the desk and she told Mr. Waterston I had arrived and was ready for my interview. He said he was with a client and would be with me shortly. Thirty minutes go by and I’m still waiting.
“Excuse me ma’am, but my interview was scheduled for two o’clock and I’ve been here since quarter till. It’s now 2:30 and I haven’t been called back for my interview.”
“Uh-uh—” the secretary stuttered. “Let me go back to his office.” I could not believe it. This was supposed to be one of the top-notch publishing companies and the man couldn’t even get to an interview on time. No more than a few seconds went by before the secretary came back, startled looking. “I’m sorry miss, but it seems you’ll have to reschedule your interview for another time.” The lady’s voice was really soft and sweet, but something about it made me even madder than I’d already been.
“Listen, lady!” I stopped myself before I went too far. You see, for being a small, young lady I have quite the temper, but considering this lady did absolutely nothing wrong, I was able to keep my cool. “I’m sorry. But I need to go back there.” I started heading back to Mr. Waterston’s office.
“Mrs. Viviano, you really shouldn’t go back there right now.” I ignored her and barged through the door to see a woman underneath the man I thought so highly off. She was sprawled out on his desk, with him leaning over her. He snapped his head around quick, and she sat up, covering her bare breasts.
“You’ve got to be kidding me!” I yelled.
“Mrs. Viviano, I can explain.” His blue, button-up shirt was unbuttoned, revealing his nasty, hairy front torso and his tie was around the woman’s head like a blindfold. She slowly pulled it down, trying to hide her body and face.
“I can’t wait to hear this,” I said to him; and to the woman, “would you mind putting some clothes on?” Her face blushed as she sank behind his desk and searched for her clothes. “This is unbelievable,” I muttered to myself.
“Th—this,” he began, “is another prospect employee. She’s looking to earn the same job you are.”
“Well lucky for you, it seems she’ll be getting it.”
“That is, unless you want to switch positions with her momentarily.” Unbelievable. I slowly walked up to him, fists clenched, until I was close enough to cause the loud—
“SMACK!” I landed onto his right cheek. He winced, putting his hand up to his cheek.
“What the—”
“How dare you think so lowly of me to believe I would come near to doing something like that with your nasty, wretched self! I didn’t wait my whole life to get my hopes up by some chap telling me I’m his number one priority to come here today and be told I need to do—” I paused for a moment, trying to think of words to explain this situation, but instead just pointed and said, “to do that with you. You know, I just want to thank you so much for brining me here today. You showed me how much better I can do than work for this horrible company.” I couldn’t believe the words that came to my head in order to tell that man off so well. I guess studying those vocabulary words really did help.
That’s basically what happened with that. I was offered the opportunity to work at another publishing company but I felt being bossed around for years and years until I was able to do what I really wanted to do wasn’t under my list of potential capability. That’s when Cory brought up being a teacher.
“L, have you ever considered teaching high school English?” We were sitting on the floor in his dorm room, studying for our final exams.
“I mean, of course I’ve thought about it, but I just never thought it would be a high enough paying job.” He was quiet for a minute, and when he started to speak again his voice was shaky.
“Lauren, there’s something I want to talk to you about.” He isn’t. This isn’t. There’s no way. He placed my hands in his and looked into my eyes. “After spending all this time with you, I’ve had the chance to really get to know you and well, I’ve had the chance to fall in love with you.” Oh my gosh. “I know it’s crazy, and I don’t know if you even feel the same way—”
I grabbed him by the neck and kissed him. He started kissing back and put his hand to my cheek. We pulled away and he said, “So I was wondering if you wanted to make this official and start dating. Eventually I’ll ask you to be my wife and we can earn a living together. I’ll continue to work at The Source9, and in no time I’ll be getting a promotion. You can be a teacher, because I know you’ll love it, and you won’t have to worry about your income. You can be a freelance writer and publish a lot of amazing books, like you’ve always wanted to do.”
That’s the amazing thing about Cory. He knows me all too well, better than I know myself.
That’s basically how it all began. A year and a half later he proposed to me.
Part 3
Being an English teacher can be amazing, yet sometimes awful at the same time. Some kids don’t give a rip about getting good grades, some kids care too much, some co-workers need to be slapped, and some school rules are absolutely ridiculous. I have to write a student a pass to go to the bathroom that is no more than ten feet from my classroom door.
The best thing about teaching is watching the kids progress in their reading and writing. I love assigning books to read, but we read them as a class, and they’re books most teenagers enjoy reading. I assign an essay each week; sometimes the topic is of their own choice, other times it’s my choice. We usually try to read one book in three weeks, and then we take a week off and pick up another one. The kids this year have been doing good, keeping the groans silent when they hear—“this week we will begin reading…”
Cory was promoted to be the editor-in-chief at The Source and is earning a significant amount of money for our family. We had a baby last year; her name is Sophia Grace. We call her Sophie for now. She can determine what she wants to be called when she’s old enough to do so. She loves books—picture books of course, but it’s a start.
The next book we’re reading in class: Nothing but Friends, Love, and Nets by Lauren Viviano.



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