After a ridiculously cold, slow morning, I left work today with a very non substantial amount of cash, and came home to REALLY write my statement of purpose for my school application, something I’ve tried to start and finish and rewrite for weeks now, but apparently I just needed a 30 degree morning to force me to sit on the couch and get down to business.
..and distracted me for a bit, and now I know what it’s like to be that person who posts pictures of themselves hanging out with their cats.
Point being, I think I’ve got it. I just need to submit this and get my two recommenders to submit their letters of recommendation. However, after finishing my statement, and re-reading it and whittling it down to all the reasons I thought were appropriate, I double-checked the admission requirements, and discovered that this year, there’s a 500 word limit, which I don’t recall there being last year.
I need to cut a good 700-800 words off this essay, but I don’t want to because I just spent the last five hours working on it.
First world problems, I know.
But here it goes:
I’ll start off by saying this isn’t the first time I’ve applied to the Music and Human Learning graduate program at UT Austin. This is my second year in a row applying, and I want in. My previous statement of purpose reflected on my grandmother as my role model, and the music classes I took in high school and college as the classes that impacted me the most because I really felt connected to the subject matter, the ability to express oneself through song. You may already know why I want to do this program. But, I want to share with you what solidified my wanting to go to graduate school in the past year:
I have spent the few years since graduating from undergraduate school exuding a large amount of patience through my work in a daycare surrounded by strong-willed two year olds and working in a dive bar with really unhappy, drunk people. That alone proves that I am a hard-working people-person who will excel in a teaching career.
It’s only been a year since I first applied, but a lot has changed for me: I quit the soul band I had performed with in San Francisco. There were a number of reasons for my leaving the group, but the main one was that being in it was detrimental to my self-esteem and my love of music. We hadn’t performed any new material in months, and that was a part of the reason I felt that I had stopped growing as a performer. I would grudgingly drag myself to rehearsal, even though I didn’t want to go because I knew very little progress would be made. After a few hurtful words were exchanged between myself and another member that I had looked up to, I spent a few days thinking about how I could fix the situation for myself. I decided to leave, despite the fact that we had performances coming up.
Now, before you write me off as someone who calls it quits when the going gets tough, let me explain what happened next. After making the decision to no longer participate in the band, I sent an email to every member of the group, thanking them for sharing their talent with me and for letting me be a part of it. I didn’t point fingers, and I apologized for any inconvenience my absence caused them with the upcoming performances. I clicked “send” on my computer and then I left my apartment and took the bus to the gym. On the ride home, I was listening to music through my headphones, and I felt this enormous sense of relief as I realized how much better music sounded without this tainted disappointment filling my need to perform. I let the lyrics and the notes wrap around me like a comfortable sweater I had forgotten about that I’d just found in the back of my closet on that chilly January night. There was comfort in taking the gamble for myself, even in knowing that it may cause unpleasantries between myself and other members of the band, people I loved and cared about. But I gained my enjoyment of music back. And then I frantically looked for another group to sing with.
A few weeks later, I auditioned for Resound Ensemble, a San Francisco choir led by a really amazing graduate of St. Olaf college. In the months that followed, I would spend one night a week singing with an incredibly talented group of people. I listened to the way our director would critique our singing and our pitch and even, on occasion, our attention span. I would stand in my row and admire the gentle way he chose his words that would make us want to work harder, to sound better. And I would leave each rehearsal riveted by the music we sang because I was part of a group who worked hard and who just wanted to share that with people.
There is something about a good choir director that makes singing that much more enjoyable; there is something about taking direction from someone who knows how much producing beautiful sounds means to you, how those sounds and the critiques are internalized. Then, every single person of a group can take that direction and use it to create something better as a whole.
Around the time I joined Resound, I found out that I had gotten into UT, news that I ecstatically received. And then I looked at the tuition costs, and I pondered my life and I crunched numbers and I made pro/con lists. Then I took another gamble, and I declined.
But that didn’t change the fact that I want to do this program, just with a more cost-effective tuition rate. After months of debating over what to do, I decided to move to Austin anyway to establish residency, in a city I had only visited briefly once before, but had felt free and happy in. I didn’t just want to run away from where I was unhappy, but I wanted to be somewhere I felt I could be a better version of myself.
So here I sit on my couch in Austin, 1,953 miles away from the couch where I wrote my first statement of purpose, asking you to give me another chance. A huge part of why I want to do this program is because I know it’s going to kick my butt in the best way possible. I’ll be honest: I need some serious brushing up on music theory, and I need a lot of work on my instrument-playing. But these are things I want to learn.
About a month ago, I was sitting on the floor of my room with a friend I’ve come to adore since moving here by myself months ago, and he had started a story off by saying he was hanging out with a bunch of kids. When I asked what he meant when he used the word “kids,” he said, “Well, they’re my friends. We’re the same age. But let’s be honest, we’re all kids, we don’t know what we’re doing.”
And I think about that particular statement a lot because it’s true: so many of my friends, and myself included, either haven’t found what we want yet, or just aren’t doing it. But we all have the means and the ability to.
I know what I want. And one of my best friends in California told me over the phone last night, “Do not lose track of why you’re there Crystal. It’s not just to meet different people, it’s to go to grad school so you can be better at what you want.” I came to Austin to do this program. In so many ways over the past year, the reasons for wanting to have solidified for me: for the sake of growth– to have the ability to introduce music to people who are open to it, the way the choir director did for me. For the sake of being around people, learning, and being able to teach something that is so important to me. And for the sake of patience– for the time it takes to learn what it is that we want and how to go about getting it.
There is an amazing amount of goodness and wanting better that I see in the people I currently work with at my serving job while I wait to start school again. And I am so glad to be around people who don’t want to get stuck the way I felt for a very long time before I left San Francisco. I want to do this, I want to have the means to teach music. I came to Austin because I was incapable of growing anymore where I was. I took a break from learning because I felt burnt out during the last year of my undergraduate education. But I am ready now to dive back in because I know what I want, and I know that this program will help me grow into a better version of myself.