Exactly one year ago from today, I was accepted into my dream school. I understand that to even say such a thing is a privilege that many do not have, let alone the opportunity to go to college. But when I first opened my absolutely unexpected acceptance letter, I had never felt more grateful for the life that I have. And I, of course, still am.
It was a Friday, and as the rest of my high school prepared for the basketball that night (which we won 63-32 by the way), a few fellow seniors and I were preparing for what would arguably be the most important news we’d receive out of those four years, or more. I was sitting in the middle of the backseat, my mom driving and my dad gripping the center console. Decisions for the ED applicants came out at 4:00 PM. As I anticipated a rejection, I nonetheless hastily typed in my password to the portal at approximately 3:59pm, probably mistyping and reentering it at least once and definitely the only time I’ve ever been punctual. But as I anxiously waited for my phone to display the answer and refreshed the page, I attempted to calm my nerves by repeating a mantra I still say even today, “you’ll be okay no matter what the outcome is.” But I didn’t necessarily believe it then, and sometimes I still don’t.
At first when I could finally call myself a member of the Babson College community, I felt validated. I started to believe the advice I often preached to others, and even in the midst of the midwestern blizzards, I felt as if the sun shined brighter than it had before. I was no longer inferior, but rather an equal to those I would often compare myself to. And I treated everything that was said in the acceptance letter as if it was dedicated solely to me, and not identical to the others that I would join in the transition to college life. But I would often question why an acceptance letter mattered so much to me, and why I valued so much off of where I would choose to earn an education from. I knew it was possible to transfer throughout my college career if I was unhappy, or to take a gap year exploring my options and reapply. Where I earned a degree from only mattered so much in life. The phrase “everything happens for a reason” never truly resonated with me until that day, yet I wonder if I hadn’t taken my application decision as seriously, would I still have been accepted? Or would I have been forced to not allow it to affect my life if the outcome was not what I desired?
I felt like I was forcing myself to hold my breath for so long that I had forgotten when I had started to hold it. Then I finally allowed myself to breathe again, and felt relief and comfort that I hadn’t felt since the college search process began. But I wasn’t prepared for how much could change in a year.
As I attempt to survive my first final exam week of my college career, I realized that today I have never in my life felt so secure and insecure at the same time.
It was suddenly clear to me how college students no longer possessed the comfort and dependency on their parents, as they did in high school. We no longer have the law protecting us as minors, or the safety net of escaping the stress of school and work life when we return to our beds every night. Instead, college is a full time, anxiety-filled atmosphere that we are indulged in 24/7. It is our job, our spouse, our hobbies and our leisure. I had always dreamed of the day that I would make it here, but now that it is my reality, I feel like I cannot even escape it in even my dreams.
I was always told to chase my dreams, even if they weren’t rational. I was never given an ultimatum or a map to follow throughout life, but rather advice on where to stop and see along the way. I now admittedly feel guilty when I find myself distracted, knowing that someone else more deserving with a stronger work ethic and better morals should be in my place. I tell myself that Babson saw potential in me that I can’t, however, I need to prove to others that I belong here. Yet the only person I need to truly convince is myself.
Growing up, I was also lucky enough to never have a sibling to compare myself to, which can be a curse or a blessing depending on who you ask. But with this, I also had no one to directly turn to for advice. So when I found myself first feeling like this, I wondered if anyone felt the same way, or was experiencing the same haunting thoughts I did – the weight of making my parents proud and feeling completely alone. But I had to keep reminding myself that everyone in the Class of 2021 had just entered a foreign environment, whether that meant they are studying overseas or are from the neighboring zip code. I would seek comfort and familiarity in the Babson community despite never living there before, and originally became frustrated when I found things unrelatable.
If only I had known then that my new surroundings would eventually become so familiar. As I finally returned home for Thanksgiving, an event that seemed to never arrive, I realized that I hadn’t missed Ohio as much as I thought I had. I know now that nothing defines me unless I allow it to, which includes where and what I consider “home”, as a home and house are separate things. Trivial elements can be replaced anywhere, but “home” is where my family and friends are.