Meet Kassie. She is 22 years old and living in Charlottesville, VA. She grew up in a military family, which allowed her to travel around the country. Instead of having one hometown, she has six! She graduated with her journalism degree in a matter of three years, before returning to JMU for grad school. Double Duke status! Instead of continuing the pursuit of writing and photography, Kassie has decided to turn to early childhood education (PreK – 3rd grade). Once she finally ventures into the life of an adult, she plans to use the summers to travel the world. Her first passport stamp earlier this year was from Ireland – next stop Germany!
I met Kassie through the very best major at the very best college in America. Here's looking at you, SMAD and JMU! You guys rock. (SMAD means School of Media Arts and Design for those of you who aren't Dukes.)
I'm sure we had several classes together throughout our years in the program, especially since we were both in the journalism concentration, but it was our magazine class in the spring semester of 2013 that we became friends. I remember sitting in the desk next to hers on the first day and being happy to see a familiar face in the class.
When everyone introduced themselves and shared former job experiences, I was so impressed that she talked about working at Monticello-- how cool is that?! She seemed so polished and professional and I remember really admiring her as she spoke. Calm, cool and collected would be a pretty perfect description of how I remember her during that first class. It's crazy how things like that make lasting impressions on us.
We ended up being on the editorial staffs of two different magazines we all produced that semester, so our paths split. Our teams met separately and the whole class only came back together a few times that semester, but every time I saw her, her huge smile and cheerful personality would brighten my day.
We both graduated a year early, so we never really got a chance to get to know each other very well since that class was during our last undergrad semester. When Kassie messaged me that she was interested in being part of this project, I was so excited to reconnect and hear what she had been up to since graduation. She's someone I always wished I had gotten to be friends with, but time had slipped away from us at school.
We met in Charlottesville, an easy hour-long drive from Richmond for me, at a tucked away place called Revolutionary Soup. Over quesadillas and salads on paper dishes in a below-level restaurant, we caught up and reminisced on our school days and talked about our current lives. Charlottesville has such a charming downtown area, and I absolutely love the atmosphere about it on a Saturday afternoon. The farmer's market is always bustling, the restaurants buzzing, the tree-lined streets full of wandering people and dogs on leashes and adorable children with their faces glued to shop windows. It's the perfect place to meet up for lunch, and if you live nearby, make the trip. You won't regret it.
After graduating with her SMAD degree, Kassie stayed at JMU to get a grad degree in education, and I loved hearing how that transition had been for her. I think she's the only person I knew to switch from our major to education, so I was curious what drove her decision to do so. I could tell as she talked about it that teaching is something she absolutely loves-- her eyes were bright and happy and her whole face seemed to shine as she gushed about the kids she'd gotten to know and the other students she had met through the program. We shared so many similar thoughts about our classes and the whole program, and I loved thinking back on those days and realizing how much they shaped where I am in my career today.
I have loved that this project has opened opportunities for me to connect with people that could have so easily slipped into the background of my life, and Kassie was one of those. She is an absolute gem and such a sweet and encouraging friend, and I'm so thankful for the chance to catch up and get to know her better.
Here's Kassie's story.
I have always loved to write, so you would think I would have known my story long before now. Well, to be honest, I never believed I had one. Nothing tragic or dramatic ever really happened in my life. I come from a middle class family, where I was lucky enough to have both parents under one roof. I did well in school and made respectful friends. I never got in serious trouble and worked hard with all of my involvements. But why do terrible events have to be the defining elements of a story?
Truth is they don’t. It doesn’t matter if my story isn’t as compelling or gut wrenching as the next person; it’s still MY story.
By comparing yourself to anyone, it takes away the uniqueness of not only that person, but also yourself. I never realized to what extent I was stripping that away until recently.
I compared my hair,
my relationship with God
and even my story.
Those comparisons never led to bitterness or jealousy. Instead they were a motivator to better myself.
Yet, I was still asking, “Why am I never good enough?”
I used to ask this question of other people, but the one person who needed to be asked was me. I was completely unaware that my self-love had gone beyond zero and was plummeting into the negative numbers.
Why should I expect others to respect me, if I wasn’t radiating that energy?
While at JMU I had several individuals take advantage of this low point in my life. I accepted minimum credit for my hard work, I allowed others to walk all over me in friendships, and I’ve even blamed myself for my heartbreak.
Depression entered and then I knew it was time to change.
This summer has been about self-love. I have ventured out of my comfort zone on so many levels as I remind myself every day that as long as I am trying my best, it is enough. Compare less.
“Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.” – Galatians 6:4
Please feel free to comment or send me a message if you want to hear more, ask questions, give feedback, or are interested in connecting with Kassie. You can also read more about the Story Seeker project here.