Saturday, May 2, 2015

Success and Rejection

Forest near my home
I'm so bewildered right now. My life could not possibly have taken a more dramatic turn in the past few days. 

Just over a week ago, I took the bus to university nearly crying. I'd been rejected from two universities and the other two weren't providing me with enough funding to afford to attend. My papers weren't going well. I was looking for jobs, but even with a Masters it seemed like I wasn't qualified for anything.

And then Friday Afternoon happened. 

I can't release details yet, not until everything is finalized, but I now have the opportunity to go do my PhD in the UK next year, which is what I've hoped and prayed and worked for all this past year. 

One big yes began an avalanche of yeses, all happening so fast I could barely keep track. I went from a burnt-out MA student uncertain if I'd ever enter a classroom again to a desirable PhD candidate with grad chairs at prestigious universities casually saying they'd love to have me and graduate financial managers suggesting we meet up for drinks and world experts in my field chatting in my office and offering to help in any way they could. 

It's wonderful. It's crazy. It's utterly beyond what I could have expected.

Moonlight walk the evening I heard the news
It’s also, quite frankly, a tad uncomfortable. I’m exactly the same person I was a week ago, but just with one highly important piece of paper in my hand. And now everyone wants to help me out. I’m the go-to success story that makes my department look good. I’m the rags to riches fairy tale.

I always assumed that people doing PhDs at prestigious universities with sizable scholarships had it all together. They were the best of the best. They were smart. And hardworking. And somehow magical—everything worked out for them. They could sit in their comfy office chairs with all their applications and grant proposals comfortably behind them and smile because they had succeeded at life.

But that’s not how it is. Maybe for some people, but not for me. I was rejected. I was burnt-out. I was so lost and confused. If there’s one thing I know about life, it’s that I most definitely don’t have it all together.

There’s a lot of hard work coming. I may have gotten the PhD position of my dreams, but actually getting the degree won’t be easy. And then there’re postdocs. And adjunct positions. And maybe, sometime in the future, a professor’s chair.

I certainly haven’t written my last application or received my last rejection. Life is not all sunshine and rainbows from here on. I may have gotten accepted where it counted most, and I am beyond thrilled. But I am still the same person who was rejected.

I want to be the person who learns from those rejections rather than the one who pretends it’ll never happen again. I want to remember how hard the road has been so far so I can be more empathetic towards the ones travelling behind me and more respectful of the ones ahead. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported me so far and in turn support everyone I can.

I want to grow, yet not become a different person from last week, before everything went right. My worth as a human being does not depend on what one scholarship committee thinks of two pages I’ve written. I want to work hard and trust God and move forward knowing that I am not defined, ultimately, by either my academic failures, or my successes.