Okay, this is really scary and difficult to finally accept & change. But tonight, I think I’ve finally decided what to do with my life. Currently, I am an animation major. Why? Because my whole life, I’ve been an artist, drawing since as young as I can remember. My Pop Pop and both of my sisters taught me. Them, and myself, as I would always watch cartoons when I was young, like Pokemon, and trying to recreate them all on paper. Not to brag, but I was actually very good for my age. I also loved my art classes in grade school, being one of the best in my class. I even won some awards and art contests that I’ve entered. My parents also started me on Disney at an early age, which was great. I fell in love with so many Disney characters and worlds, even pretending that me, my brother, and my cousin were characters in them, specifically the Lion King. I’ve been drawing my whole life, and was sure I wanted to be an art teacher at some point. Once I entered high school, I still wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to major in in college. Not until I took an animation class my sophomore year of high school. I was the best in my class, and excelled, loving every second of it. From that moment on, I was sure what I wanted to major in.
Junior year of high school, I started considering colleges, like all juniors do. I looked at a lot of art schools, but realized that they all required portfolios, with very detailed requirements. I realized that I didn’t really have too much to show, so I had to scramble, finding any pieces of art work worthy enough to submit. And I did. My portfolio actually turned out very well. Thanks to my decision to take an intro to art class my first semester of senior year, which I thought would help refine my art skills. It did, no doubt. Still sure I wanted to major in animation, I applied to University of the Arts, my top choice, and other art schools as well. I also applied to non-art schools, filling out my major as English, another option of mine. I was leaning more toward animation, BUT I was afraid that if I went to a strictly art-based school, I’d feel trapped if I ever wanted to change majors, so, I tried to search for a school that offered both animation and other majors I’d consider. Late senior year, I found out about another school through one of my best friends. Point Park University. I never heard of it before then. But i was thrilled to see they offered both majors, and jumped on the chance to apply as quickly as possible. I did. And I had an interview, and was accepted into their conservatory of performing arts. I was thrilled. Finally. Perfection. So, I made my decision, and was enrolled in Point Park University. Couldn’t be happier. However, I was really debating between that school and the University of the Arts, mainly because UofArts offered me a LOT more money than Point Park. But I thought, hey, I can always pay it back later.
So, I’ve attended Point Park the past year, taking both animation and filmmaking classes, really intrigued by what actually goes into movies. Don’t get me wrong, I really was interested in what I was doing. But once I finally took my first animation class this past semester, I began to feel really out of place and that it all came to everyone else so much more naturally. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t the best in my art class. And I guess it started to finally hit me, maybe I’m not meant for this. I still absolutely love Disney, and animated films, and video games, but, I just don’t know if I want to make them for a career. It’s not the best path for me, I suppose. I’ve honestly been fighting with myself over this for the past year in the back of my head, but was afraid to ever bring it up until recently. It’s a scary thing to realize that what you once were so certain of, so sure of, so destined to do, isn’t what you thought, and isn’t the best choice for you…anymore. I love when people would ask me what I major in, and I tell them animation, and they go, “Oh! That’s so amazing! Wow, that must be fun! I’ve never met anyone in animation before.” It made me feel so special, and proud. But honestly? I can’t stick with animation just because everyone else thinks it’s awesome, right? I need to do what’s best for me.
It’s interesting. This past summer, I happened to meet this kid my age online, by total chance, on twitter. His tweet came up on my newsfeed, saying something along the lines of how he can’t wait to be an animator and work for Disney. I didn’t even know I was following this kid, but for some reason, I saw it at that moment, and jumped on the chance to reply explaining my similar dream to be a Disney animator one day. We’ve been talking ever since, helping and motivating each other along the way. I guess he’s another reason I’ve been trying so hard to stick with this. I didn’t want to let him down. We have so much in common and are practically long lost brothers, both sharing the same dream. However, he’s far more artistic, creative, and talented than I’ll ever be. And I’ve know that for a long time after seeing his artwork. He’s also currently attending a very excellent art school, SCAD, which is perfect for animation, and making contacts with the right people. He’s excelling in his classes, and shaping up to be a fantastic artist, one I hoped I’d be one day. We even both promised we’d both apply to be a part of the Disney College Program, which, by the way, I can still do, even though I’m not going to be an animation major anymore. Turns out they don’t only accept art majors. So, I can still do that if I wish. But anyway, I think it’s important, and fate even, that I met him. Because I honestly believe he’s the “me” I’ve always dreamt of being. Even if I decide to pursue a different career, I can still keep in touch and live my former dream vicariously through him and his undoubtedly upcoming artistic success. And honestly, that’s alright with me. I can live with that.
I guess I’ve also been afraid of letting my family down, and my Pop Pop Havrilla who has passed away in 2006, because they’ve known me my whole life as “the artist” of the family. I just didn’t want to disappoint them. But then it hit me. So many other people have told me I’m other things, too. For instance, my family gave me the nickname “The Professor” when I was about 12 or so, because was so intelligent for my age. I’ve received distinguished honor roll practically my entire life. Everything, in any subject, just came easy to me, so I excelled. And I guess I’ve always been excellent at writing and languages, but never realized it until my 11th grade English teacher and my Spanish teacher told me just how great I really am, and that I should hold on to that talent, because not many people have it. I guess I dismissed it because I was so blinded by my first talent, art. But now that I look back, they were right. I can do so much more, I have other talents. It’s difficult to finally admit, but I suppose that in my life, art is simply a hobby. Sure, I’m good at it, and will keep up with it. But it’s not something that I should make a career out of based on how great I was when I was younger. To be honest, I think I’ve lost some of my artistic spark in the last few years. But hey, it happens.
You see, when I first started having doubts about my major, I panicked. I told myself to never speak of any doubt, to just keep going with it, it’ll pass. But it hasn’t. So, I made myself another deal: just finish out the semester with the animation class, and see how you do. Then, use the summertime to decide, will I stay, or go with something else? However, as you may know, I’ve recently encountered a serious health issue that has unfortunately forced me to take leave for the semester. Just perfect, right? I thought, well, this is just great. Just when I had a plan. I was devastated. Until tonight. It’s all beginning to make sense. I’m not the only one of my friends who’s had doubts. My friend who’s a photography major had a long talk with me a month ago about how he’s not sure what he wants to do anymore with his career. And I found comfort in that, knowing I’m not alone. It was the first time I actually opened up about it. And then another best friend started out in psychology, hated it, switched to business, hated it, and is now a broadcast journalism major at my school in the fall. Tonight, yet another best friend of mine, confided in me saying how she’s not so sure she wants to go with make up design anymore, and wishes to explore something more environmental, and helpful with people with disabilities or just younger children in general. I guess third time really is the charm, because honestly, I felt SO relieved when she told me that. It was the last push I needed. I’ve decided, it’s okay to change your mind. Everyone does it. So, I discussed with her and my other friend my doubts, and they were very supportive of me. I’m thrilled. Because I feel like a huge weight’s been lifted. I can finally move on. Since I’m a firm believer in the concept “everything happens for a reason,” I’ve decided that this sudden setback with my health was a huge wake up call, not only to help me realize just how fragile life is and all the people you love in it, but it also gave me time to really step back from schoolwork, and just think, and reconsider, and safely doubt in the comfort of my own home, and come to this much needed revelation.
My new major/career path? Well, my other talents include: a knack for learning languages quickly, writing (both creative and expositive), editing (I really have discovered I love editing together videos, pictures, clips, etc.), and helping others resolve their personal problems. So why not utilize them all? Luckily, there is an international studies major at Point Park, so the good thing is, I don’t have to change schools. Because I love everyone I’ve met there, and feel like I fit in. Anyway, there is also journalism (writing), multimedia (editing), and psychology (understanding and helping others). Therefore, I can major in international studies, and then minor in any of the others. I’m leaning more toward a minor in psychology though. That way, no matter what, I can honestly do it all. I absolutely love languages, and wish to travel the world and study other cultures, as well as help people and write about my experiences along the way. I can do so much more! It gives me the sense of freedom I’ve been waiting for this past year. But now, I can finally have it. Does this mean I’ll completely ignore my artistic abilities? Absolutely not. I can still draw in my notepads and sketchbooks, but at my leisure, and develop my skills on my own time and in my own way. I really do feel incredible about all of this, and can’t wait to actually make it happen. It’s going to be annoying process, but i’ll be worth it. Another plus to all of this is that when I switch majors, the tuition fees will go down, and I’ll be eligible to receive a lot more financial awards and scholarships, lessening the financial burden that’s also been burning a whole in my head for the past year or more. So, in the end, this will all work out for the best. I’ll be healthy again by fall, and put this plan to action. And I. Can’t. Wait. So, to wrap this all up, I feel like I’m making a lot of progress, finally feeling right about all of this college stuff, which, by the way, is very stressful for people my age. After all, we’re still only kids, trying to figure out what we want from this world. We’re bound to change our minds along the way, right? Better now than later. Finally. A sense of relief. Hope. Freedom. Revelation.
i thought i’d update. i started chemo today. and it’s nothing like i thought it’d be…in a good way. i don’t know, whenever i would hear about chemo, i would always imagine this really frustrating, horrible process that makes you really sick. but i went in today, met with one of my doctors, and got started. however, when i met with my doctor, she did a very basic examination just to see how my lymph nodes were. one is still really swollen in my neck, but she said my port looked great (the thing they use to hook everything up to, like IVs and needles and stuff). she also told me that i’m only one lymph node away from being in stage 2. because the found a cancerous lymph node below my diaphragm, that qualifies me as stage 3. she also told me that because i’m in stage 3, i’ll need 6 cycles, and because it’s only every 2 weeks, i’ll need chemo for about 6 months, which honestly isn’t too bad. i can still have fun this summer and have a fairly normal life. anyway, after that, they led me back to a very bright and colorful room full of people, other cancer patients and their friends and family. i sat down in a very comfortable reclining chair with my iPad, phone, and book, and was ready to go. they hooked me up to an IV, which was no big deal, and then waited a little while to start giving me the injections through my IV which were completely painless. luckily, my dad and one of my best friends stayed with me the whole time. i truly appreciated their company. i also got to meet the nurses and other patients too, all who were extremely kind, helpful, supportive, and funny. i even met a guy in his early 20s who has the same exact thing as me, so he talked to me for a while, just in general about stuff, and then reassured me i’ll be just fine. so that made me feel a whole lot better. he also left his contact info with me in case i had any questions, which was really nice of him. but yeah, they told me originally it’d probably take 4 hours, so i was surprised when she stopped me after 2 hours and told me i was free to go for the day. it was honestly not as bad as it seems. i could even eat whenever i want there and have things brought to me. i’m so fortunate to be placed in such a comfortable, safe, friendly environment. my next therapy session is in two weeks, so i will update again then.
so, i’ve decided to start a little mini blog thing on here with daily posts to document my whole experience. my aunt actually recommended i do this, and i thought it was a great idea. i guess i should start by explaining what that experience is. well, three weeks ago i was home from college for spring break. i was originally just supposed to go to the doctor’s for a physical, but they couldn’t schedule me during that time. so my mom asked if there was anything else i needed to go to the doctor’s for. and the only thing i could think of was for chest pains i started having a few months ago. i went to get them checked out. my doctor first had me get an EKG done, which came back perfectly fine. she said it’s probably just a musculo-skeletal thing, but just to be sure, i should go get an xray done on my chest. so i did, the same day, and i honestly wasn’t worried one bit about the results. the next morning i get a call really early saying they found swollen lymph nodes, and that i needed to get a CAT scan done. so i did that morning, and wasn’t expecting getting results back so fast. i just left the hospital after the scan and my mom and i were just about to sit down to eat at a diner, but then i got a call from my doctor saying she got the results back and would like to discuss them in person as soon as possible. my heart sank, and immediately, so many horrible thoughts flooded my mind. i got off the phone and told my mom we needed to go back to the doctors immediately. there was no way i had any appetite at that moment. it was about a half hour drive back, and i literally couldn’t think straight the whole ride. i put my hood up and started crying, trying not to let my mom see. i was just thinking the worst, and i know my mom wanted to cry too, but was trying to stay strong for me. that, and the fact that i straight up told her, “you’re not allowed to cry.” i wasn’t trying to be mean, i just knew that if she did, i would lose it. i was also texting one of my best friends along the way, which really helped keep me at least a little bit sane. i kept telling my mom the whole way that i don’t want to go see the doctor, and i don’t want to know my results. we finally arrive, and slowly make our way inside. the doctors were all on break, so mine took me back immediately. my mom started crying on the walk back, and i couldn’t hold it in either. my doctor, who is honestly the best, and such a fantastic woman, sat me and my mom down. i couldn’t help crying in front of her, there was no way i could hold it back. she begins to tell me the results, and says they detected a mass behind my sternum. at that moment, one of my biggest nightmares, one of my worst fears, became a reality. i couldn’t believe it. all i thought was, cancer. and that’s never a good thought. i honestly don’t remember much of what she said, because i was just so devastated and in shock that i blocked it out and everything seemed in slow motion. i broke down. my doctor rubbed my back and tried her very best to comfort me, but it wasn’t helping. she continued to talk, and said that it wasn’t cancer for sure, that it could also be a lymph node infection, or something else. but something inside me just knew it was. she said what type it could be, lymphoma. i didn’t know anything about it until then. she continued to reassure me that lymphoma, out of all cancers, is highly treatable and curable. still, just the fact that i could have cancer scared the absolute hell out of me. i couldn’t imagine anything worse. luckily, i have such an amazing doctor, she already got things going. she contacted a few doctors she knew, some of the best, and scheduled appointments for me to meet with them. she really got things underway. however, she broke it to me that i won’t be returning to school the next week. there was just no way. so, i was actually very upset at hearing that too. but i knew i couldn’t argue. so for the next week or two, i met with various doctors, and had a lymph node removed from my upper chest/neck. that was a very big deal for me because before all this i’ve never had surgery before. so i was extremely nervous. once they took out my lymph node, they ran tests on it, and concluded that i did, have cancer, more specifically hodgkin’s lymphoma. however, there are two types of lymphoma, and that is apparently the “better one to have.” so i was very relieved. surprisingly, when one of my doctors told me the results, i wasn’t nearly as upset or devastated as i was the first day. i guess that between all that time, i mentally prepared myself for the worst, and figured i did have it anyway, so it didn’t phase me too much. i sucked it up, and was ready for the next step, to do whatever i had to do to get rid of it. honestly, the thing i was most upset about that day was when she told me i won’t be returning to school this semester. i was actually extremely upset about that. it bothered me more than the fact i had cancer. weird, right? but that’s just how i am. i don’t know. so, we made plans for having me move out the following weekend, and for the next steps. one of my doctors scheduled a PET scan so they could determine what stage i’m in, which came back to reveal i’m in stage 3. but that’s okay, because she said no matter what stage i’m in, it’s still highly treatable. it’s just a matter of how long the treatment lasts. but the good news is that when they tested my bone marrow, they didn’t find anything cancerous. but as for the school part, my mom and sister took me back to Pittsburgh this past weekend to move out. it was so weird going back, and knowing for the first time, i’m not staying. i was so nervous. and to see all of my friends. i knew it’d be rough. so the first thing we did was move all my stuff out. it was so weird when we were done, seeing half the room empty. it just didn’t feel right. i got to spend one last night there with all my friends while my mom and sister stayed in a hotel nearby. i was so glad i got to see everyone one last time. i’ve missed them all so much and been around them for so long, i knew it’d be difficult to leave them all. so i spent all day and night with them. they were really fantastic to me. they took me out late at night in the city, and 12 of us just goofed off and took random pictures and just ventured out through the city. it doesn’t sound fun, but it was honestly one of the best nights i’ve ever had there. they’re all such great people, and they really made me feel special. i wasn’t planning on sleeping that night, that’d be a waste of the time i had left with them. so it got down to just be the 6 of us by the end of the night, and they all stayed up with me until my mom picked me up to leave at 6:30AM. we just stayed up and talked about the most random things, had some of the funniest, most hilarious conversations ever. we literally just spent hours talking. and then, when it came to be just a half hour left, we started getting emotional. one of my friends suggested they each go around the room and say one word that best describes me, and one favorite story of me throughout the year. they each went around the room, and it was honestly one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me. i felt so…loved. and special. i usually hate being the center of attention, but this was different. it made me feel appreciated. i should’ve cried during this time, but i didn’t. i didn’t want to make anyone else cry or upset. i tried my best to keep the goodbye as painless as possible. so, when they were done, i only had about 10 minutes left. it was time to start saying goodbye. i gave the biggest hugs to everyone, missing each and every one of them in a different way. i love them all. it was heart-wrenching. three of them take me down the elevator one last time, saying goodbye to the 12th floor, my home for the past 7 months, for good. i just couldn’t process the fact i’d never be returning. so the three said goodbye one last time, and i made my way out the doors and into the car homebound. as soon as i got into the car, i lost it. i started crying. i was also just so tired. i just sat there and silently cried, and fell asleep, hoping it was all a dream when i woke up. it was seriously one of the most depressing things i’ve ever done. so now, i’m home for the summer, for the next 5 and a half months, preparing myself for what’s to come. i start chemo therapy tomorrow. it’s weird. i’ve always heard so much about it, and wondered what it’s like. but now i’ll actually know. i’m really not too worried. it’s just still hard to process all of this. but i’m not scared. i know i’ll get through all of this. i have such an incredible support system, such phenomenal friends and family who will help me through this every step of the way. and i am so unbelievably thankful and appreciative. i know i’m not alone. and that’s all i need to know. so, this is the beginning of it all. to get rid of this awful thing that has hurt so many people besides myself. but i refuse to let this thing get to me. it’s just something i need to take care of, and then move on with my life. i’m determined to get rid of this. i know i will.