Seniors. I wanted to share a story, a year after it happened. You can replace everything in the following paragraphs with things that have already happened in the past few months/will happen in the next month.
March 14, 2016.
I remember this day. It was important. I had begged my friends to put together some sort of board game gathering over spring break.
It was a way to get together and see the people I hadn’t seen in something like three days (living in close proximity turns a small break into an unforgivable forever), a way to get some quality time with those board games I wanted to play but never had the time to touch during the school year, and definitely as a way of sucking all of our college-app-soaked, senior-year “last-stretch-ughhhhhhhh”-fatigued minds out of our notification-plastered Facebook accounts, filled with newsfeeds of likely letters and those dangerous, dangerous congratulatory posts, and of course, a temporary escape from the palpable tension thrumming inside hundreds of thousands seniors across the nation waiting in a unseen holding room for a decision seemingly arbitrary decisions. (Surely there wasn’t some all-powerful litter of kittens on a conveyor belt flipping thousands of binary switches…?)
I wanted an out from the deafening, terrifying silence of absolutely nothing and everything coming at me at once.
March 14, 2016 was my D-Day, and I played board games.
My entire being knew it was the day when I woke up. It was the day I had dreamed of since I met a cool TA at a math camp who went to MIT. It then became the college I aspired to go to. That TA became one in a long succession of many others—a lot of the cool people I ended up meeting and wanted to be like over the years somehow ended up connected to MIT. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the unofficial big brothers and sisters I admired.
So, I’d dreamed of it. But now? Now, it was here. I existed then and there on the day of March 14th, a day that I thought could be the most important day of my life.
Maybe ten of us in all, we chattily browsed through the boxed collection. Opening and spreading board game innards everywhere, we spread out, puzzling over rulebooks. Sprawling all over each other on the carpet like children in the snow, you could almost miss the easy tension of the seniors, masked by the nonchalance of the college students.
I don’t remember much about what happened that afternoon. I do remember playing Pandemic. It wasn’t as fun as I remembered. I remember taking pictures of the guy who’s in my snapchat ID ghost (which I still haven’t changed). I remember time absolutely crawling as I checked the time on my phone, intensely willing the numbers towards 6:28pm EST.
I remember I siphoned off the bottled-up tension I held inside by messaging both of my best friends. One tried to calm me down. The other, who was also waiting, was just as wound up as I was.
Sometime around 3, I think I realized that it had been a bad idea to be with other people.
Around 5, I think we started playing Spyfall. I remember I was terrible at the game. I couldn’t concentrate on the questions being asked, and I couldn’t concentrate on answering them either.
Around 6, I’d opened up the page portal on my phone. The day before, I’d checked my password and username to make sure they hadn’t magically broken. I entered them again to see whether anything had changed. Nothing yet.
I remember sitting out of the third and fourth rounds of the game.
6: 2 7
I swiped over to the tab where my already-entered information was waiting, and poked the screen submit button. The page loaded faster than I expected.
I closed my eyes before I took the actual official look. Maybe…
In honesty, I had known before I had seen it, but the feeling stuck even as my eyes hit the first words. Even as my eyes skimmed the message quickly, then again, slower, then again.
Maybe…there wasn’t a maybe to begin with.
I didn’t feel anything.
I want to say that I was angry or mad or upset or something. I don’t remember feeling those things. I just remember feeling disappointed in something—(myself? The decision? My life? The decisions I had made up to that point to get me there? The application I had submitted that I had mainly written the night before but had spent so much time thinking about?) but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Perhaps a confirmation of a longtime internal bias…that I wasn’t going to end up at MIT.
There were things I wanted to tell myself. “…you were dumb to think you could have in the first place.” “you’re stupid.” “foolish. Idiotic, ridiculous, dreamer, trying for a college that’s out of your league…what a waste of time and energy and effort and money and …”
But I couldn’t.
I couldn’t be angry. I was a little disappointed, but I couldn’t be upset. I couldn’t, because there were humans who had made that decision to give me that letter of rejection in the admissions committee, and their humanness had shown through what I’d read on the MIT blog the previous semester. (I had read many of the MIT admissions blog posts by students as I procrastinated, trying to figure out what to write for my application. Eventually, I had stumbled onto the ones written by some of the people in admissions.)
It was probably some ungodly hour like 4am in October or November when I found these. I remember reading them and crying because I knew out there somewhere in Cambridge, there were humans like me who felt things and cared and hurt and were sad and happy and weren’t just bricks.
It took a little while, but I came to terms with the decision and accepted my rejection quietly.
I originally was going to talk about the things that happened afterwards. It couldn’t have even been two seconds after I got my rejection that my summer research program chat blew up with congratulations towards acceptances and waitlists. My best friend got accepted. Two of my other close friends got waitlisted.
Honestly, I wanted to be upset and disappointed and jealous and all sorts of ugly things that people feel when they get rejection. I tried to give myself reasons to be upset, or justify myself, but I couldn’t. Getting that ‘no’ from MIT made me take a look at myself, and that’s the real reason why March 14th, 2016 was an important day.
It was the day I wasn’t admitted. But, it was the day I began to admit to myself I had held myself to standards I hadn’t cared for, accomplished things I didn’t care to do, and overall hadn’t been who I wanted to be. I had measured myself with rulers like ‘research programs’ and ‘math competitions’ and ‘sciencey stuff’, but inside I knew I couldn’t be motivated to do those things if I didn’t have a strong base interest in them anymore–which I had lost while getting caught up in the desire to achieve.
March 14th, 2016 was the day I got an absolute answer to something I had waited on for a sizable portion of my life, and it was the day I realized I should rebuild myself into the person I wanted to be. Who I thought I was when I wrote my application was far from who I truly was back then, and is so, incredibly different from who I am today.
A year has passed. Even if I had the power to, I wouldn’t change that decision. I’m where I am for a reason (…probably because I hate the cold). Now, some of my good friends (including a certain you-know-Hu) go to MIT. I love hearing about their lives. I secretly like talking to my best friend when she’s making the massive ten-minute trek back to Next even though I listen to her talk about everything and nothing, just like we used to do in her room every day of senior year. I enjoyed the time I video called a friend en route to his music theory class, even though I couldn’t hear half of what he was saying as he walked through the Infinite Corridor and half the time I was looking at the ceiling. I smile every time I get snaps from random MIT friends when they meet other MIT friends who know me. Truly, MIT will always have a special place in my heart. It may not be my school, but it will always be somewhere I love like my school—perhaps because it’s taken care of many of the people I care for, and it’s treated them all well.
In the next month, decisions may treat you well, and you might be blessed with great acceptances everywhere with financial aid galore. On the other hand, decisions might not treat you well, and you could be stuck looking at only a handful of less-than-ideal options. You’ll probably end up somewhere in between, though, wondering what to do, like I was. I’ll talk about that at some point, I guess.
If there’s anything you take away from this post: my darling seniors, you are so much more than a rejection.
-s/o to a certain M for kindly asking me to write more stuff. if you made it this far, don’t be a stranger
-yes I hiatused bc busy with many thing but I will make blogging more of a priority if people actually read/look forward to the content 🙂
-please tell me things you would like me to write about I’m a year removed and I can always use ideas
-did you know this took 3 hours to write and 25 revisions? or something