“What you’re about is totally different from what I’m about – and there’s room for both of us.”
There are a lot of horror stories and traumatic tales about roommates, but the worst thing I think I’ll be able to say about Katie Mitchell is that I won’t have enough time to get to know her. She’s a west coast girl with an east coast dad, so she’s got the best of both worlds (although I’m totally biased towards the latter). It’s a killer combination: she’s got an easygoing smile and attitude while at the same time making serious conversation, and somehow it all seems natural. You can have spent years with some people and still not know anything significant about them, but after less than an hour with Katie I felt like I could understand her – and hopefully she could understand me (or maybe she was just being nice).
Having arrived hours late and exhausted from the travel – she’d gotten up at 2 am to pack and left home, Prescott, Arizona, at 6am – I found Katie lounging in a t-shirt and pajamas on her bed. After some basic roommate talk (she showers at night and hates country music), she filled me in on how crazy her travels been. Not just from Prescott, but going on a school trip to El Salvador and then Costa Rica. Her school is a “new-agey” type, the modern kind where they have class outside and other people call them hippies. What she loves, though, is the way they get to connect their education to the outside world and spend a lot of time learning through expeditions. She visited El Salvador in the aftermath of war, providing aid and volunteer services to those in need. What she found was that she got just as much from them as they did from her. One of the most inspiring moments of her trip was listening to the 9-year old sole survivor of two massacres. Katie described it as the most heartbreaking yet fascinating tale she’d heard, and from the tone in her voice, I could tell it was part of the reason she’s here.
She’s got what it takes to be a journalist, but she’s not entirely sure it’s what she wants. Up until a year ago she was certain she wanted to be a doctor, but her older sister, Raychael, convinced her otherwise. A journalist herself, Raychael is a huge driving factor pushing Katie towards trying journalism. Like any younger sister, she doesn’t want to prove her older sister right, but decided to give this a chance. Being here with so many other motivated and driven young adults can be overwhelming, but Katie said “I like to think we’ve got a lot of time left.” I like to think so too.
What she does know, however, is that she wants to travel. After traveling for the first time last year to Germany, she said, “it totally changes your perspective on how you live your life and makes you grateful for what you have.” The visits to El Salvador and Costa Rica proved this to her, and we talked about the irony of having so much but appreciating it so little. She told me about watching kids our age at recess in El Salvador playing with each other. It’s strange how such a simple thing can be so foreign. At home, she said, we just pull out our phones and laptops at lunch breaks – supposedly connected. Gaining new perspectives makes you question the definition of that word – connected.
Like any small town girl, Katie can’t wait to get out of Prescott. A town with a bit of a bad reputation for being racist, she says it’s not horrible, just ignorant. One more year and she’s out of there, echoing the same cries of most every other high school senior. She’s not exactly positive where “out of there” will end up being. It could be as a documentary film maker, something she’s discovered a passion and a talent for. It could be as a travel journalist, not only writing but photographing internationally. It won’t be Alaska, or as a blogger, or as a news or political journalist. What I’m sure of, is that wherever she is, she’ll brighten someone’s day. I hope we keep in touch, but even if we don’t, thinking about her will make me smile. She’s got a gift for that. I know she’ll use it.