In the eternal words of Adele, “Hello, it’s me.”
My name is Katie Hopkins, and I am the proud owner of this portfolio. I was born in Wausau, WI, but raised in De Pere, WI, and grew up alongside of my lovely older brother as well as numerous cousins and other extended family. I blame this for my competitive spirt, but also thank it for my love of family.
My introduction to the world of reading and writing came early on. My mom is a first grade teacher, but it was both of my parents that emphasized the importance of books to me from a young age, reading hundreds of them to me, never turning down my requests to go to the library or a bookstore. I have them to thank for emphatic nature, experiencing from books, but also them, a multitude trials and tribulations that I had not encountered in my own life. Some of my fondest childhood memories come from reading with my parents; in particular, my dad did a great Professor McGonagall voice.
This love of reading and writing continued throughout my schooling, but its enthusiasm waned slightly in the latter half of my high school years. I still loved it and was no less good at it, but I also loved physics and biology. Just like literature had, science made so much sense to me, and there was a satisfaction in discovering what made the world around me tick. Part of my love of science I have to attribute to the amazing science faculty at West De Pere High School, especially my AP Physics teacher Mr. Batten. He had such a love for physics that it was contagious, and I loved it too.
When it came to apply for colleges I eventually chose University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, but that decision did not come easily. No college seemed particularly right for me, but U of M seemed close. I had an even harder time deciding on a major. I couldn’t decide between the sciences and humanities—I loved them both equally. Science lead my internal struggle for a while due to the fact that I was able to take an amazing evolutionary biology class with American zoologist Craig Packer—known for his work with the Serengeti lions—and even assist one of his graduate students with some research.
I still hadn’t decided on an area of study in the first half of my sophomore year, but looking back now, it didn’t really matter. I say it didn’t really matter because that fall, something that I could have never predicted happened: I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
For those of you unfamiliar with the condition, it is an autoimmune disease that targets and destroys the beta cells in your pancreas, thus disabling your ability to create insulin which is instrumental in regulating blood sugar. In layman’s terms, my immune system registered parts of my own body as a threat and destroyed them due to unknown reasons; Type 1 has nothing to do with diet or health choices and its incurable.
So a state away from my home and my family, I was lost. I didn’t know how easy I had had it in my nineteen years before Type 1. After a diagnosis like that, they way in which you live your life completely changes. I took for granted how I could eat on a whim, not thinking about schedules, equations, calculations and insulin. Just to keep myself living and healthy, I now prick my finger ten times a day to help regulate my blood sugar levels and inject insulin at least four times a day to keep my levels in check—and that’s on a good day. Simply put, my life had completely changed and I had to figure out on the spot how to live a completely different one.
The worst of it came when my then roommates suggested that I don’t come back that semester, and if I did, to find a different room. So I left. Dropped out of college, not sure when I would be coming back. With the support of my family I headed home, intent on just figuring out how to live again.
I won’t sugar coat it. It was bad. I was angry, depressed, and developed huge anxiety because of everything going on. But why, you ask, am I telling you all of this? Well, I’m telling you because it took that much hurt and pain to lead me to my calling as a storyteller and it’s the only reason that I’m here, now, writing to you through this portfolio.
In the time I took off from college it was suggested that I take up a hobby to get control of my anxiety. It was then that I picked up reading for fun again, but that’s not it. I had always been a doodler, but one day I picked up a pencil and a sketchbook and drew a duckling, and it was pretty darn good. From then on I just couldn’t stop drawing. Looking back now I think I just woke up one day and decided that I was going to be an artist. And then I thought, maybe I can be an author and illustrator, and by doing so, return to my roots that had always provided me with infallible happiness.
It was through literature and art that I somehow found the courage to go back to school after only taking off a semester and a summer. Don’t get me wrong, I was still scared out of my mind, but this time it would be different. I decided to come to St. Norbert College, a great school which I had overlooked during my initial college search because it’s proximity to my home. Remember when I had said I grew up in De Pere? Well St. Norbert College is in…De Pere. But it was what I needed at the time, and still need as I work on finishing my undergrad.
Against all odds I had found my way back to English, room for both the humanities and science in my life now because just living with Type 1 is being a chemist, biologist, and mathematician every day. And I even found a talent for art that I didn’t even know I had.
Stories and art is how I found the will and courage to live again, and that’s where this portfolio is coming from. It’s coming less from a perspective of just writing to get a grade, and more from the perspective of writing to become a better person, to bring light to all of the hardships embedded in literature, which are in turn embedded in the lives of real human beings.
I plan to use this passion for storytelling and my ability to analyze stories to find meaning by becoming a story artist and illustrator. I want to help children experience the wonders of a story, both on screen and on the page just as I did as a child and then again as a young adult.
I find that literary criticism and analysis fits right in with that ambition, because you have to first be able to deconstruct a story, to reconstruct it for another person. So while this portfolio may seem off track of my goals, it is so integral to them and the first step in my journey to achieving my dreams.