Exactly three years ago (give or take maybe a day or two), I was receiving all of the letters from my early decision/early action schools. It was, needless to say, the worst time of my life, because I got all rejections except for one. This wasn't because I was stupid or because I didn't try hard. I did try very hard. I had a 3.98 GPA and a 32 on the ACT. I was in mostly AP courses, and I got 4's or 5's in all of them. I was in many, many extracurricular activities. I spent my time making sure my application looked perfect. I won awards at my school. My teachers kept telling me I had so much potential, my parents kept saying I was Ivy League-bound, and because I trusted my teachers and parents -- I believed them.
But my tender, hoping heart was shattered in the middle of December 2007. In my life, two rejections have hurt the most:
1) Getting rejected by my dream school, which will not be named
University of Chicago, I'm looking at you right now with your Uncommon Application blog that encourages students to love you with wide, adoring eyes and then coldly delivers rejections with all of the gentleness of a flying cactus.
2) Getting rejected from college marching band. Yeah, I cried for two hours in the Borders parking lot. Pathetic? Yes. I was really crushed, though. I mean, what other extracurricular was going to take up my free time? I was convinced I would have no friends (because let's be real, I was a band geek and that's how I made friends) and my life would be a black hole of despair and I would never find another interest that would mean as much to me again.
In a way, I made it a self-fulfilling prophecy. I didn't let myself love anything else. My first semester sucked. I was miserable. I cried all the time and lied when people asked me if I liked college. I mean, what kind of lame kid hates college? I didn't try to make friends or join other things. I went to football games and watched the marching band perform and then I would go back to my dorm room and cry. And maybe eat pints of ice cream. It was 10000x worse because my roommate was in marching band, so I had to watch her go to practice and prep for games and generally be happy as a clown. I was not Okay, even though I did a pretty good job of hiding it. I was hideously, awfully, dreadfully unhappy.
But it got better. Because after a while, I decided I was being a loser and needed to pull my head out of my ass. My dream school that will not be named
University of Chicago was not going to come crawling to me saying they'd made a mistake and somehow overlooked my brilliance and how I was born to be their student. It basically came down to this: I could be miserable for four years or I could do something about it.
So I did do something. Well, actually, I think I was just a spectacularly lucky person and God decided I had suffered enough, so he sent wonderful people my way to shoehorn my head out of my ass and make me go try new things.
And you know what?
Things turned out better than Okay. Because these are things I did that I would not have done if I had gone to my dream school that will not be named
University of Chicago because I would've been studying All The Time and because most of these things came out of my being miserable:
1) Participate in a fashion show and learn how to dance. Meet other Asians and stop being so white-washed. I have diverse friends!
2) Go to frat parties. And bars! (Legal age of entry in my collegetown is 19 years, which is not what it would've been in Chicago.)
3) Canvass for a political campaign in another state.
4) Go to all kinds of sports events.
5) Complete NaNoWriMo.
6) Write a novel. Or two. Or three.
7) Start working at a newspaper (Just to remind you, I had no interest in journalism in high school nor did I participate in anything journalist-y before this; I decided that it would be cool and glamorous to work at a paper, so I randomly got a job there. It is not cool or glamorous, but it is fantastic in other ways.). Do well there! Get promoted! Learn that I have decent people skills! Figure out I can improvise past crappy technology!
8) Realize that even in a school of 30,000 people, the professors and classes are still amazing. I have professors who are worldwide leaders in their fields, yet still stop me in the hallway to ask how I'm doing. They are happy to see me at office hours and teach me how to be better at writing. They bring cookies and coffee to class out of the sheer goodness of their hearts. Oh, and even though they have hundreds of students, they know my name anyway.
8) Meet the greatest people I will ever know.
9) Learn that I can move past failure and be successful wherever I go. Prove to myself that no matter what happens, I will be Okay. I might even be better than Okay.
I was studying with some of my friends in the newsroom at 2 a.m. the week before finals, and I told them that I had auditioned for marching band and been rejected. And you know what one of them said? She said, "But if you hadn't been rejected, you never would've started working here, and you wouldn't be my roommate next year. You never would have met us."
And she was right. (Incidentally, she designed the banner for my blog a year ago. Ain't it prettyyyy? So I also wouldn't have that banner.)
She also said, "Why would you even want to go a school that has the motto Where Fun Goes To Die?" That was the motto of my dream school
University of Chicago. The answer is, I don't. Funny how things work out. I'm even glad that the dream school rejected me. Because now I go to a place where fun decidedly does not go to die; fun is alive and well, thank you very much.
So if you ever think that being rejected from your dream college is the end of the world, know that it's not. Rejection is never the end of the world. There's a lot more world out there, just waiting for you to discover it, if only you will pull your head out of your ass so that you can see better.