Way back in the ancient times of 2003, the internet was still somewhat of a mysterious place. Banking happened  at banks, dating was done through face to face (or phone to phone) communication, and social media had yet to catch on. I was a freshman at Indiana University with a badass Hotmail account, and on a random day in the Spring semester, it changed my life forever.

I remember coming home from class, pondering if a particular boy would like me more if I took down my Austin Powers poster, deciding I didn’t care, and checking my Hotmail. That’s when I got what would end up being the most important email I’ve ever received. It was an email from Pratt Institute asking me to apply for their writing program. I had never applied to Pratt nor was I affiliated with any clubs that would out me as a writer, so I was pretty baffled to find this message in my inbox. I had no clue how they found me, and am still unsure to this day.

The short version what happened over the next two months is best represented in the table below:

That was almost ten years ago and last night while walking with Ariele, (a dear friend from Pratt) we found ourselves distracted by the Empire State Building. The way it was lit caught our eyes and it turns out it was lit that way in honor of Pratt’s 125th anniversary. I’m working really hard here to avoid writing “The lights upon one of New York’s most famous buildings lit it up in the same way Pratt turned the light on in me.” But oops. I just did. Sorry, to my fellow writing majors for being so “saccharine.”

I don’t know where I’d be if I had stayed at IU, and I imagine the feeling I get when I meet a fellow Pratt alum is similar to that of two veterans meeting post-battle. Pratt is a great school and the best thing that ever happened to me, but there is definitely no hand holding involved. You are plopped in the middle of Bed Stuy with the understanding that you are somehow committed to taking courses, but it’s really up to you from there. Anything I ever achieved or made happen there was a result of perseverance and taking initiative, and as a person preparing to work in the creative fields, this college experience was the perfect training ground.

There is no real set path for the artistic careers my peers and I were and are still seeking. You have to (for lack of a better phrase) think outside the box and take unconventional routes to get where you want to go. As a die hard Type-A control freak, I don’t think I could sustain this unpredictable way of life if not for my time at Pratt. Class registration was done through securing a one on one in person appointment, the bursar’s office came with a Pentagon-level of confusion, lectures could have been interrupted by a wandering cat at any moment, and every so often I’d come home  to a caved-in bathroom ceiling. There was nobody waiting to help me with these stresses. Nobody was watching over my shoulder to see if I got all my work done, went to class, or performed internships to enhance my education. That was all on me.

Pratt specializes in teaching its students the art of how to hustle and fight for things and I’m so proud to see all my Pratt friends using this hustle in their post-grad life. People are starting their own businesses, making amazing things for print, tv, and film, and working for some of the most prestigious companies out there. The Pratt person will always be the person remaining semi-calm in the middle of a big ole storm because compared to their college years, it’s likely to seem like child’s play. Just look at what these people were able to pull off during Survey, the fashion show, Portfolio season, and Thesis. All with no sleep, limited facilities, and a full course load.

Pratt was the best thing that ever happened to me. It is the source of my closest friends, my creative voice, my ability to fight for what I want, and the light that shines within me. (Sorry again!) Also, the hipster cred of going to art school in Brooklyn isn’t too shabby. It goes without saying that I’d urge anyone entertaining the idea of being a Pratt student to enroll immediately.

I don’t know where my Austin Powers poster ended up and I might never know the source of the life-altering  email, but what I do know is I’m proud to be a Pratt grad, and I’ve got a bear hug and a kiss waiting for whoever sent me that message. Happy birthday, Pratt! You don’t look a day over 50.