Thursday, April 2, 2015

Whoomp, There It Is

Tuesday, March 31, was "Ivy Day." To be honest, it sounds like some kind of plague memorial day, and in some ways, it is – the death of thousands of high school dreams, years and years of striving for perfection, all for naught. I started off my college admissions strong, with all admissions. Then came the waitlists. And finally, the rejections: Stanford, Swarthmore, Duke, and Brown.

I could have been good enough to get in; I could have done more. The fact of the matter is, there just isn't any way to know if I was or I was not. I could have done everything right – perfect test scores, more AP classes, extra extracurriculars – and they still could have found me terribly boring. There isn't any guarantee whatsoever. Here is a screenshot of a post I saw on Tumblr, credit to the original owner, though I don't recall who that was, but it just goes to show that even the strongest of candidates, people many times better than I on paper, can still rejected (you really have to wonder what kinds of people do get in, it'll still be as much of a mystery as ever).

Sometimes, it may seem that the last eighteen years of my life may have led up to this moment, and it's ended in disappointment, but is that really a bad thing? I can still work hard at wherever I choose to be, apply to grad school in a few years, and still achieve my dream of going to my dream school, just under different circumstances. And who knows, maybe I'll be an entirely different person then and wonder why the hell I ever thought Stanford was the place for me, regardless of what a pretty campus it is. There are so many what-if's that I can't even begin to answer, so I'm taking what I have in front of me, and working with it. I saw this wonderful post on Humans of New York that talks about mountain climbing, but it is the perfect metaphor for college applications. It says:

“I’ve become much less goal oriented as I’ve grown older. I spent twelve years dreaming about climbing Mt. Everest. It was all I thought about. During my years of training, I focused all my thoughts on getting to the summit. My self worth, and the meaning of those years, all depended on that one moment of getting to the top. It’s not healthy to be that goal oriented. And Everest is a perfect example why. The weather can change at any moment, and even though you did everything right, and trained the correct amount, you can still fall short. And if you’re thinking of nothing but the final goal—all those years, all that effort, and all the personal growth that you achieved, becomes worthless if you don’t reach the top.”
Substitute "climbing Mt. Everest" with "getting into my top choice college" and you get the meaning. I did everything I could to prepare, and when I fell short, I was miserable and unforgiving towards myself. My "weather change" was the problems in junior year, but they didn't just come up in junior year. They've been there my entire life, just covered up and contained better, but the balloon was always bound to burst. And when it did, there was nothing I could do but to weather it out.

But I survived. I'm a different person now, with more compassion and empathy for the problems of others, though I still have a long way to go in becoming a good person and purifying myself of the toxic ways I was raised. It'll take time, and luckily, it's time that I have. I was talking about the counselor about how frustrated I was that the whole situation had happened to me in high school, but she countered with the fact that if it wasn't high school, maybe it could have been college. And if it wasn't in college, it could have been halfway though my career. Or if not in my career, then maybe in my retirement, I would have been a depressed old lady. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized, it's what had to happened, and I'm glad it happened now, because I can learn from that experience and figure out what I want for the rest of my life.

Now comes the beginning of the rest of my life. Am I excited? Absolutely. Am I terrified? Beyond a doubt. But will I make it though alive, even if it is by sheer spite? I don't see why not. Life is full of surprises, and for better or for worse, I'm going in headfirst. ◊

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