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Reflections

(Overcoming Challenges, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2015) Permanent link   All Posts
 Ellie Wu The other day, I received an unexpected email from my older sister with her reflections on 2011 and it inspired me to respond to her as I took some time away from moving into in my new room at the Academy, to reflect on myself over the previous year.

So here is an excerpt of my email that is directed to my sister:

I really liked getting your 2011 Reflections email. I actually needed that email in a sense because I realized I have not written much in a while and it is a good way to get my thoughts out and reflect on my year since 2011 was a year full of changes for both you and I. I also figured that I could spend some time reflecting before the academic semester starts; before I get jammed with homework. As the little sister, I’m going to follow your lead and try to go through 2011 in a somewhat chronological sense.

January was a huge turning point for me when I realized that yes, I can enjoy my senior year, but for once in my life there was a definite sense of direction in my life; a future with the Coast Guard whether I was really sure of that career path or not. I remember getting the phone call on January 14th and I remember feeling bittersweet about my acceptance. What if I didn’t like the Academy? What if I didn’t make it through Swab Summer or the academic year? There were a lot of what ifs, and I didn’t want to throw away the current, relaxing, predictable life I was living now. But, I realized senior year didn’t last forever and that there was no other college choice that gave me a sense of purpose than USCGA. So, I sucked it up and accepted that I had to grow up and just enjoy the rest of senior year. I think the sense of pride and support from my family was what kept me from chickening out of Swab Summer and the USCGA all together.

February was my chance to finally visit you at your USCG Training Center at Petaluma, California and it was also my very first time flying solo on a plane. It was also my first time in California so that was nice. I loved seeing you more grown up and more independent, which gave me more confidence in my decision to attend the Coast Guard Academy because it positively influenced your character. Seeing you in California was another turning point for me since I really gained a lot of respect toward you as a sister, through basic training and “A” school, being enlisted in the Coast Guard has made the whole family very proud. Also, you never cease to be an amazing tour guide whether we’re in New York City or San Francisco!

March was fun. I had a really great time choreographing Chinese Ribbon Dance for Festival of Nations (cultural show at my high school) for the 3rd and final time and I also got the opportunity to learn and be in the Filipino cultural dance called, tinikling. I tried not to focus too much on my Swab Summer awaiting for me on June 27th and enjoyed my last months as a senior at Townsend Harris High School.

April was an absolute blast because I got to go to Disney World for my spring break with my mom and my boyfriend. It was nice to show my boyfriend, Brian, my childhood and for him to kind of remember his (since he went to Disney once when he was very young). Although, many of my friends thought it was strange that I was going to Disney with my boyfriend and my mom, I really liked how it worked out. It was a lot of fun to have both someone I have loved since I was born and someone I love that has more recently made an impact on my life. It was turning point number three for me because I learned to combine my past and my present/future. I got to reminisce with my mom while continuing our long line of memories at Disney with her. On the other hand, I got to make new memories with Brian. I just so happened to return from Florida on my birthday so according to New York City Law, I was finally able to drive BY MYSELF on my 18th birthday. It was another little step toward growing up.

May and June were the months indicating the end of high school and the start of college for me. I had great parties and closing memories with friends, including prom, my going away party, a 10-year Time Capsule I made with friends and buried in my back yard, and just wrapping up my four years at THHS. Go figure, turning point four was Swab Summer! I learned a lot about selflessness, a lot about teamwork, and a lot about myself. I really learned through what the cadre had to say. I learned through the punishments and through the pride Echo Company cadre had for us Echo Swabs. Through the cadre’s example, I also saw what type of person I wanted to become. I did a lot of reflecting during the summer since you can’t really talk to anyone else besides yelling your “Aye Aye/Yes, Sir or Ma’am.” I saw how selfish I have been over the years, which came as a shock. I saw how the family’s lifestyles revolved around my figure skating career, how you were always seen as rebellious and misunderstood during your teenage years, which had mom and dad treat you with less patience and me with more patience because I never objected to their arguments and always thought they were right and I was wrong. I never challenged them like you did. Through Swab Summer, I saw how the whole family would always find a way to work things out; to let me get what I want and the first 18 years of my life came easy for me. Swab Summer was something I thought I really had to work for without the backing of my family to ease the process. I mean you guys supported me through letters, but you guys couldn’t actually change Swab Summer. It was the time to really learn about responsibility and how to care for others before caring for myself. I really admire that trait about you and how you have always cared for me and the family over yourself.

August/September I had a huge sense of pride and accomplishment! Then the academic semester started along with my first cross country season on the CGA’s team. Turning point five was learning to enjoy running again and realizing that improvement comes with enjoying the sport and pushing yourself because you like it not because you have to improve. There was no pressure in being great on the team so I finally saw why I liked to run and enjoyed everything about cross country except for rolling my left ankle multiple times.

October was a great time to see you on your birthday and I was getting into the whole military/USCGA routine. I think my turning point number six would be a combination of October, November, and December. I realized how much I love my family and how much I miss them and how I would jump at any opportunity to be with you guys. I really see the difference between our family and how other college students rarely go home to visit their families. I guess, it might also be because I go to the Coast Guard Academy, specifically.

November/December is the last of my turning points (seven) where the semester is coming to an end and all my classes actually turned out fairly well with the exception of Calculus. For the final turning point, I had a little setback with responsibility over the winter break with losing my cell phone and not planning out the Christmas dinner. I think I fell too quickly back into the relaxed mood without maintaining some traits I learned and developed at the Academy. However, I mainly learned the importance of communication over winter leave and how I tend to block everything out especially as I reflect back on my semester. Yes, it was good to concentrate on my academics, but I realized that I need to keep a consistent relationship and consistently communicate with my family. That was something I was particularly thinking about and it’s carried into the New Year. So, my turning point number seven is more like a New Year’s resolution.

Slowly, yet surely your little sister is growing up! Cheers to the New Year!

More about Ellie.