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ROOKIE: How’s your freshman year going so far?
KAITE [crushee]: At the beginning, I was not too happy. But now that I’ve found my niche and a group of people that I really like, it’s fantastic.
How did you find those people? I think a lot of people have a hard time making friends at first freshman year, or really anywhere, anytime.
I’m gonna sound so cheesy saying this, but getting involved was KEY. I’m in four different clubs at school. That’s how I started making my friends—a lot of my really good friends are in the gay-straight alliance with me. I know it’s so awkward to put yourself out there, because you’re like, “Why would people want to know anything about me? I’m just some person—how’m I special?” But at college there are so many people getting together to do things that they’re really passionate about, so I think you’ll make friends as long as you’re pursuing your passions and being open about talking to people, even if on a surface level they look like you wouldn’t necessary have anything in common. It’s really important to leave your inhibitions behind and just go for it.
I know it always sounds so dumb to be like “Join a club!” but it really does work. And you did that so fast—it’s only November.
I don’t know how I would have made half of my friends if I hadn’t joined any clubs.
Shannon did say that since you’ve been at college you will often say things like “Listen, it’s gonna be different when you’re in college,” and she’ll be like, “Hell-ooo, you’ve only been there three months.”
[Guffaws] She needs to get out of high school, I’ll put it that way.
It seems like she agrees with that.
Obviously, I care about my sister a ton, and I just hate seeing her have to deal with stupid, ignorant people every day. I keep telling her, “Listen, things will be so much better when you’re out of there, because you’ll have more free time, you’ll be able to express yourself without having to worry about what other people think, and you’ll have a whole clean slate.”
What are your thoughts on her whole bullying situation?
Shannon has an anxiety disorder, and I think she tends to be friends with people who also might have a harder time. And those people tend to be really mature, or really immature—or both. Some people were being awful human beings to her at school, and she had a panic attack, and the school just handled it horribly.
What did they do?
They suspended her.
And I’m like an hour and a half away, and I can’t do anything to help her.
What could you do, though, even if you were there? She told me how you started putting up some posts on Facebook that were really supportive of her.
Yeah, I kind of went off. [Laughs] I can read you a status if you want.
OK, um…here’s one from November 12th: “The way the public schools handle mental health issues makes me want to vomit in my mouth to the point where I am nearly ashamed of the profession I am going into. Something needs to change.”
You’re going to be a high school teacher?
Yeah, my major is secondary education and English.
Shannon seemed to really love and appreciate those messages.
Aw, that’s great. I’m glad.
And she talked about how outspoken you are and said you know what you think and you’re really good at stating your opinions, whereas she feels like she’s constantly in the gray area. Were you ever more like her?
Oh, absolutely. I am kind of unsure of myself, but I think Shannon doesn’t really see this part of me. For a long time it was hard for me to feel comfortable having an opinion about things, because I didn’t think my opinion really mattered. Like, why would I have anything interesting to say when there are so many other people who know what they’re talking about and have things to say and can say them way more eloquently than I can?
I would disagree with all of that just from talking to you for five minutes, but go on.
[Laughs] Thank you. So then I started to think, well, if I ever want to get anything done in my life, if I ever want to feel like I’m doing something worthwhile, I really need to start believing in myself, because that’s how all these other people do it. They just throw themselves into what they believe in and they get really good at it, and that’s how they do it. You just gotta be your own support system sometimes, even though you obviously need an outside support system too, because you can’t do everything by yourself.
How did you come to this realization?
Uh, so, sophomore year of high school, I had brain surgery.
Why, what happened?
I had a malformation in my skull that made it so the spinal fluid was not flowing properly to my brain. It was getting caught under my cerebellum and pushing my brain up a little bit.
Were you getting headaches?
Yeah, I was getting these awful, awful headaches for three or four years. I was in so much pain, and I was very lightheaded. I fainted all the time—I still do sometimes, but a lot less frequently. After surgery I was in the hospital for four or five days, then I was in recovery for two months—so I was sitting in bed by myself for two months doing nothing. And I was really, really sad, because I was on all sorts of medication, and that can screw with your brain—not that my brain wasn’t already screwed with. [Laughs] So I just started thinking, like, if I want to change how I feel, I need to actually try to change how I feel. And if I want to help other people, I need to help myself. I used to put everyone else first, but I realized I need to started putting myself first a little bit more and developing who I was. So I guess that’s where I changed. I actually have the date of my surgery tattooed on my back.
Wow. That’s beautiful. You’re gonna be an awesome teacher, man.
Shannon told me that even though you mother her sometimes, your other siblings consider both of you the babies of the family. Would you agree?
I think they think that of Shannon more than me, because everyone always tells me that I’m like an “old soul” or whatever. But the rest of them definitely do look at me and Shannon and forget that we’re grown up and that I’m in college now and I’m an adult with a car. I’m not a virgin who can’t drive!
[Laughs] Here comes my most awesomest segue of this whole interview: So your siblings still see you as the babies in the crib, sharing a Fruit Roll-Up?
Oh god. [Laughs] She told me she shared that little tidbit.
Was that really your biggest fight?
I mean, it’s definitely our most memorable fight.
She said it went on for years.
Shannon still brings it up. She’ll be like “Hey, Kaite, remember when you stole my Fruit Roll-Up?” I’m like, “I was like two, OK? I needed some Fruit Roll-Up. I don’t know what you want from me.”
Wait a minute! She told me she was stealing your Fruit Roll-Up in that picture.
Oh, come ON.