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Seniors of CPS: Cari M.

What’s your favorite memory from CPS?

“Probably my first dance show… I just remember being in beginning dance and being kind of terrified because I had never really danced before. I was like, ‘Everyone’s gonna be so much better than me,’ but we were all basically at the same level—there were a few people who were a little more flexible or had a little more training, but we all had that same excitement for the first dance show. It was such a bonding experience and I really felt part of a community for the first time at CPS, even though it was in April. It was the first time where I felt like I had found my footing and settled in.”

Who’s the most influential person in your life?

“My sister. She’s older than me and I don’t know how I would do it if I was an oldest sibling. I just don’t know how I would have done half the things in life if she hadn’t done them first or showed me the way. She’s also inspired me to be a better person, to understand people more deeply because she’s a really deep thinker and an emotional person. She always kind of pushes me to be the best version of myself.”

Has someone ever saved your life?

“Not in the physical or medical way, no, but I think there are definitely people in my life who have kind of ‘saved’ me at certain times. I would say Nancy Steele actually was kind of a huge part of saving my morale at some points in life. I remember coming to CPS and struggling to get academically on the same page as everyone else, and I remember Nancy saying, ‘You know, you’re gonna have blips in your radar, you’re gonna have moments when you fail, and that’s kind of the whole point.’ That kind of saved me from being my perfectionist self and thinking, ‘I have to get straight As to get into college, I have to be perfect, I have to never mess up an essay.’ She’s just taught me over the years that failing is how you learn and that’s how you live.”

Tell me about your pet(s).

“My pets. Okay, so—and this is a really embarrassing story— I have three pets, and my two cats are named Kami and Kaze, which sounds really bad. I was two and my sister was four when we got them, and my mom brought them home from a shelter and they had been named Kami and Kaze, like ‘kamikaze.’ [My sister and I] were like, ‘Well, we can’t change their names, they have names,’ because we were really little. My mom was like, ‘No, I don’t think you understand, we really need to change their names.’ And my sister and I were like, ‘Absolutely not,’ you know, ‘these are their names, and we’re not changing them.’ And now I have a Japanese boyfriend and my cats are named ‘Kami/Kaze.’ But they’re like my best friends, I’m such a cat person. Then I have Fen, he’s my dog, and he’s kind of nuts. He’s my second Bernese Mountain Dog; we had one before him named Dusty, and she passed away a few years ago. We just fell in love with the breed, and Fen is just the ‘boy energy’ in our house full of girls.”

What are you most proud of?

“Oh my gosh…I’m probably most proud of my resilience, I would say. I’ve been through a lot; horse falls, soccer falls, and physical injuries–but it’s also just been an emotional roller coaster these past couple of years, being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and stuff. There have definitely been times this year when I’m like, ‘I give up, this is it, I can never recover or continue,’ but I always try to come back to what matters to me and try to be grateful in the moments are really hard.”

What is something you want to leave behind at CPS?

“I definitely have had some feelings of doubting myself… these feelings of comparing myself to others. I was in a SoulCycle class once, and the instructor was like, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy.’ So I really wanna just focus on being my own person and not having to compare myself physically, emotionally, mentally to anyone else. I just want to really work on being confident in myself… I don’t have to be better or worse than anyone else I can just be my own individual self.”

What’s a story you like to tell that no one believes?

“I mean… I think it has to be my horse fall. No one believes— it’s really funny, I have to show people the video, because I’ll say ‘I was thrown into a fence by a horse, and she was abused her whole life so she was kind of on edge,’ and people are like, ‘Oh no, you’re exaggerating, you just took a tumble.’ But she actually did purposefully throw me into this fence, she was like, ‘I’m done with you,’ so that’s always a funny one to tell when people ask.”

What’s your favorite place in the world?

“My favorite place in the world is probably Greece. I went to Santorini with my family—they love to travel— but I don’t like planes and I’m always disappointed because I’m like, ‘Oh, it’s supposed to be more idyllic than it is.’ But Greece really lives up to the hype and all the pictures…it really is heaven on earth; it was really beautiful.”

What’s your favorite book of all time?

“I would say The English Patient. I read it with Nancy in the first semester of this year. I’m not an intensely romantic person but this was the book that almost changed me to a romantic. It was just the most beautiful scenery and the quotes… you could just turn to a page and there would be an amazing, profound quote that you could just easily relate to. And Michael Ondaatje really is the most amazing writer. He’s so descriptive and I learned so much about places in the world and about nations and borders and how they cause wars and the idea that having separations between us is so ridiculous when the only thing that matters is having love.”

If I asked you at age 5 what you wanted to be when you grew up, what would you say?

“I would say an actress. I was really really into acting when I was little and I was convinced that it was my destiny to be in Hollywood. That’s definitely changed now because I’d never want to be in Hollywood—I’m such an introvert that I’d be terrified of any kind of acting in front of people. But I did an acting class for such a long time, I loved performing when I was little.”

What’s something you want to do before you graduate college?

“Okay, so this is kind of related to Celiac Disease, but I’m super self-conscious about going to restaurants now, especially ones that are not certified safe. Kind of just being like, ‘Hey, I have this disease and you need to cater to me’ [bothers me] because I don’t want people to feel like they have to accommodate my needs. So I kind of want to get that confidence back, of being like, ‘You know what, this is not my problem. This is not something I should feel bad about. This is just something I should be able to educate people about.’ So I think just raising awareness so that when I got to college people know about Celiac for the next person.”

What’s your biggest regret from your time at CPS?

“My biggest regret would be giving up on Chemistry halfway through the year. I kind of just decided halfway through the year, ‘I’m terrible at this and I’m not gonna get better, so I’m gonna completely give up and stop studying and stop trying.’ Coakley tried to motivate me all semester and [after that] I was like, ‘You know what, that’s it, I’m quitting.’ I ended up getting a really bad grade that hurt my GPA for college. I would have told myself, ‘You know, you’re not great at this, but don’t give up on it.’”

Who’s your favorite musical artist?

“It really switches all the time. I would say right now, Taylor Swift. I’m just getting into her old stuff and her new stuff. ‘The Man’ is my favorite song, I just play that on repeat and it just gives me some empowered vibes. But it really does change all the time, like daily.”

What’s a skill you wish you could have?

“I wish I could sing. I always wished I could sing. I always wanted to be that person at the high school talent show, and middle school I wanted to be the person at the retreat who got up and just blew people away with [their] voice. I have a terrible voice so I would love to be able to just sing in the car with people and just, like, show off.”

If there is one thing that you think everyone should know about you, what would it be?

“I think it would be that I love talking to people…There’s nothing I love more than asking people questions and learning more about them because it’s amazing to see how much people just don’t tell you in small talk conversation. Just having a conversation about life and about what matters to you is the best way.”


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