Why Sarah Lawrence College?

During this process of me applying to admission for graduate school, some people have asked me the same questions. One of them is Why Sarah Lawrence College? Well, in all my submissions of writing samples and bios, I was asked the same thing by SLC. Here is my response:

There came a point in time when I decided that I need to move and leave Syracuse. My divorce was just about final and I reached a point at my job that I could go no further. I was doing a job search and came across a position at Sarah Lawrence College. It was a development position that I felt I could do really well in. So, as I was applying, I decided to take a look at what Sarah Lawrence does for its students.

As I searched the website, I noticed the graduate studies program in Creative Writing. I found myself very intrigued by this. I heard about a Masters degree in English, but not writing. I decided to bookmark the site and keep it in the back of my mind, just in case I get the position, perhaps I can take classes part time.

As it turns out, I did not get the position but I did speak to a fellow writer who lives in White Plains, New York. She informed me that I should really look into Sarah Lawrence and that it was one of the best schools in the country for Creative Writing. I began to look further into it and looked at all the alumni who passed through. Once again, I put in on the back burner because I had to deal with my divorce.

Last October, Syracuse University hosted a graduate school fair. This was an event that I was working. I had to make sure the tables were set up and that the organizers had everything they needed. Once the fair started I started looking at all the schools, walking table by table and I came across Sarah Lawrence College. This was the only school that I actually stopped and talk to the admissions representative.

She was a nice lady that told me she had just graduated and wanted to go on this particular college fair to let people know how great this school was. She mentioned that it changed her life since she was an older lady looking to start over. I do not remember this woman’s name but she won me over. The idea of starting over in order to something you love just did it for me. Coincidently, she was graduated from the Creative Writing Program.

I took my curiosity a step further and visited the campus the very next month before the Thanksgiving break. My friend, who spoke very highly about Sarah Lawrence, met me for some coffee in Bronxville and showed me the town. After seeing how great this town was I ventured to the campus. I had no idea what I was doing but I found my way to the admissions office where I was able to take a tour.

On my hour long tour, I fell in love with the campus and the atmosphere. I began to imagine myself writing on the many benches on the campus and doing some real creative work. I am not sure I could have found a better place that will be better for me to do work. The campus seems very quiet and yet very welcoming to ideas and to people.

I want to peruse my dream at Sarah Lawrence College because I feel I can belong here.

Pursuing Graduate Work

First let me just tell you that I am so excited to be at this point in my life. I never thought I be looking forward to going back to school, but you know what? This is just the beginning. When I clicked submit and all my materials were sent, I realized that I am at a different point in my life. I am not going to let anything stop me from what I want. I need to do this for myself.

Last year was rough but, I set myself up so well for this year. I have so many things in the works right now that if I play my cards right I may be able to attain the happiness that I have been craving so much for. Every obstacle that has been in my way has been a test of my resolve.

I also want to thank those who have always believed in me. Those who always tell me that I am brilliant writer even if I did not believe it myself. No matter if I get into Sarah Lawrence or not, this is just the beginning for me because I would have done this just a year ago. I stay humble because I am not perfect in anything that I do. There is always room for improvement and while I may roll my eyes when someone points out a spelling error on any of my blogs (and trust me there are quite a few), I appreciate the love and the critiques.

So sticking with my theme of just letting it all hang out on the blog, here is another bit of writing below to a question that Sarah Lawrence asked… “Why do you want to pursue graduate work…?”

I am current working at Syracuse University and one of the things that I have come to understand in the nine years of employment is that we ask young men and women from the ages of 18 to 22 to make a decision on what they want to do for the rest of their lives. The problem is that most people do not find themselves until they are about 30 years old and by that time they may be at a job they do not like and a marriage they cannot believe they are in. That is very close to my story.

I went to school at Syracuse University and I had no clue of what I wanted to do. I knew that I could write but I could never forget people telling me how much of a bad idea it was to be a writer particularly if I was not going into journalism. I chose to be a history major because that was something I excelled in really well in High School. But, once I started taking courses, I began to really dislike it. I was having a cultural awakening that made me take African American and Latin American History courses. I considered myself at an impasse because I did not want to be a history major anymore.

I tried switching to another school within the university but my grades were not good at all. I looked back at it now and I know that I did not apply myself. I was dealing so much with my parents’ divorce and the social pressures of just being a student in a predominately white institution. I found some of my courses to be uninspiring and thus I had trouble focusing. The courses I did well in were course that had to with culture. That changed when I became an English Major. I found that I really enjoyed reading and it only made my writing better.

When I graduated in 1996, I was stuck wondering what I was going to do about a job. Grad School was not an option for me at the time because I took the GRE and I didn’t do very well. I always had trouble with standardized tests and quite frankly, I felt I was done with school. I wanted to try my skills in the real world.

I bounced around several jobs and found myself back at Syracuse University as an employee. Of course, of benefits was taking courses for free. This time I felt that if I do take classes I would be ready. I originally chose to go the route of business degree to enhance my job skills, so as an introduction to the School of Management, I had me take a graduate Economics course. Even though this was just one class, I knew this would be the hardest thing I had to do. Math was not my subject and I also worked 60 hour weeks.

With all my hard work, I passed the course and proved to myself that I am ready for graduate school; however, I didn’t want to do business. I made the decision to try courses in the higher education field since I worked for Student Affairs, it made sense. I took two courses and I absolutely loved it. It combined the things that I liked: culture, writing, and reading. My grades further proved that I can handle graduate work. However, something was missing.

Once my marriage crumbled, I started my blog called “Inside my head”. I started writing so much that I could not stop. I found myself writing poems, short stories, and just about anything that came to mind. So, I have decided to take a chase and do something that I really love which is creative writing. The divorce has put my life into perspective and in a sense, I have found myself. Now, I just want to go to school to improve on a craft that I have been doing for years.

Me in a 1000 Words…

Below is my autobiography in exactly 1000 words. This took me 4 drafts and massive editing in about 3 weeks to complete. I just submitted this today. Please…be very candid with me and tell me what you think…

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I was born on June 12, 1974 in the Bronx. My parents are both second generation Latinos that grew up in New York City. Both were in previous marriages before they tied the knot in 1972. My mother already had my brother from her first husband.

I grew up in the 1980’s, where I witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the birth of the Hip Hop culture, and the emergence of the era of greed. The fears of a nuclear war were real to me. I sought refuge in comic books as an escape from the world and my parents failing marriage.

I attended Holy Cross Elementary School where I discovered that I enjoyed writing stories involving my classmates. My love for comic books gave me the inspiration to write. In 1986, I saw my parent’s marriage end. My mother took me and left the house I grew up in. My father stayed as we moved across the Bronx three times in six years. I attended St. Raymond’s High School where I grew conflicted with their divorce. Writing became an outlet to get away from the pain.

At sixteen, the divorce court judge asked me to choose which parent to live with. I ultimately chose my father. This decision was based on struggles of boyhood and masculinity. My mother eventually disowned me before my admission to college.

I enrolled at Syracuse University in 1992 as a history major. I was told countless times that there was no money in writing and I gave it up. After the first semester, I wanted to do something different and took an opportunity to change my major. I made several friends that majored in film and joined a club that did television skits while showing hip hop music videos. The show was called “The Rhythm.”

I enjoyed being creative and wanted to transfer into the College Visual and Performing Arts for film. The two requirements necessary to gain admission was to write a five minute screenplay and have a 2.5 average. My grades were not as good as they should have been, but I did write a screenplay entitled “Call Your Mother”. It was about a boy and his relationships with his father and estranged mother. I was never able to transfer colleges, but I did finally change my major to English.

College was where I discovered my identity. While I always identified as Latino, I never knew what that really meant. My dark complexion would make anyone think that I was African American. I realized that my identity was fluid in nature since I can live in both worlds and not be accepted in either. It would take me years to figure out my place in the world.

I graduated in 1996. After working in Syracuse and dealing with a bad break up, I found myself back in the Bronx in 1998 dealing with my father having cancer. He was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer from working with asbestos in gas mains for Con Edison. Interestingly enough, he was able to take an early retirement and moved to Florida where he lives currently.

During my time back home, I moved into my own place. I started my first blog in 1999 called “A-bomb’s World.” It was an amateur’s attempt to write about life in New York City. I wrote for a few years and took it down at some point. I began to repair the relationship with my mother. Since I was not having luck with women, I felt solidifying our relationship would bring closure to our past.

I met my ex-wife in 1999. We dated for a few years and she helped me get a job down on Wall Street. I was there during September 11, 2001 during the World Trade Center disaster. I was lucky to be uninjured and it was then that I chose to leave New York City. A week prior, I was interviewing for a position within student affairs at Syracuse University. I was offered the job and I moved, taking my girlfriend with me. We married in June of 2002 and decided to follow every couple’s dream of owning a home in 2003. Soon after, life seemed to repeat itself as my marriage began to fall apart like it did for my parents. As we began to grow distant, I created the current version of my blog entitled “Inside My Head” in 2009. I realized that I stopped doing the one thing that really defines me: writing.

I came to terms with my identity. Being one of few Latino administrators at Syracuse, I became an advisor to many Latino students. I also helped create the Latino Heritage Month celebrations that still occur today. I took graduate courses in Cultural Foundations of Education because I wanted to further my education. I finally understood that I was Afro-Latino after soul searching through research papers.

This new found awareness is seen in my short stories, poems, and blog entries that were based on pent up emotions that I have had for years. I expressed myself in such a way that words poured out. It felt like my mind was once closed and writing opened it up. My blog has been a tale of my journey through marriage to divorce and identity that I call “the road to personal redemption”.

After working at Syracuse for 9 years, my desire is to move back home. The job market is not good and I want to expand my passion for writing. In October of 2010, I went to a graduate school fair in Syracuse where I met a woman from admissions. Her love for Sarah Lawrence fueled my interest. I always felt that my style of writing was missing something and I want to explore that. I chose Sarah Lawrence because the reputation of the writing program is unmatched. In December of 2010, my divorce was finalized. I now have the power to look into the future a wiser man.

Bio

Yesterday I had the privilege of being interviewed by a Syracuse University student who was doing volunteer work for credit. He was helping CNY Latino gather a database of like who is up and coming in the Syracuse Area. This would be a way for Latinos here in Central New York to network and pool resources if we had to on projects and various community outreach. I think this is a great project and I am sure it will work out well.

The interview was cool and I enjoyed it. I tend to learn about myself when people ask personal and thought provoking questions. After the interview was done, Josh reminds me that I need to send in a picture and a bio. Damn. I forgot about that.

The picture I am ok with. I have tons of those. I can use the one I took at work. But, the bio I am not so sure about. I think I tried this before and it did not work for me. I am pretty sure that someone had to write it for me.

I find this to be crazy because I love to write. I can write about anything that comes to mind, however, if I try to write about a bio about myself and I only get as far as one line: Anthony Otero was born in the Bronx, New York.

That is it! That is all I got! Where do I go from there? Shit, I went to high school, started no trouble. Didn’t do anything of importance until college. Lost my virginity at 19. Graduated in 1996. Stayed in Syracuse because of a woman (rolls eyes) and worked for SU. Returned home in 1998 because my dad had cancer. Got my first Apt in the Bronx in 1999 where I met my wife shortly after. Survived 9/11 then returned to SU in 2001.

Worked tirelessly for the students and student affairs. Advise 2 student organizations that is not apart of my job description. Plan and schedule numerous events where I have met tons of people. I must say I love my students. I am also the chairperson for and community based organization called ANCLA (which is a whole separate can of worms) where I have planned a conference and 2 dinners.

Somehow I find time to take classes and sleep. Did I mention I have a blind dog? Played on some city rec basketball team (can of worms too) and is the captain of the student affairs softball team. See, I wrote a bio….but I am not sure this is good enough to go a publication. So back the drawing board I go…