“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly”
– John F. Kennedy
I think it’s safe to say that with all great dreams comes a great deal of insecurity. Although we often discuss the importance of pursuing our dreams, being a traveler on the road less taken is often uneasy, lonely, and wracked with self doubt. This is a position I’ve found myself in lately and I’ve had to work extra hard to stay positive and have faith that everything will work out.
One might ask how I got on this path and what encouraged me to take the road less taken and actively pursue the things I was most passionate about? As mentioned in one of my first posts, this year has been extremely transitory for me. It’s the year I met my first love, the year I moved out of my parent’s house, the year I applied to graduate school and got rejected, and the year I was forced to truly think about what I want to do with my life and start living it according to my own rules rather than other people’s as a result. In the end I guess life is funny that way. No matter how successful you are at putting on a face for others, it is almost always impossible to lie to yourself.
Although I am able to see things differently now, at the time getting rejected from graduate school seemed like one of the worst moments of my life. It made me feel horrible about myself, forced me to consider my future (and whether or not I would be living in a cardboard box,) and shook my self-confidence to the core. Ironically, it was also the catalyst that forced me to consider what I actually wanted to study and what I wanted to do with life. Most people talk about their successes, I am going to go out on a limb and talk about what some might consider to be a failure. I am not doing this to make a fool of myself or to make myself feel better about what happened. After all, one’s failures are usually the sort of thing we keep hidden in the deepest darkest corners of our hearts. Instead, I am sharing this rather embarrassing story because I feel compelled to talk about how one of life’s biggest curve balls also helped me to truly find myself. After all, I can’t be the only person life has thrown ‘lemons’ at or forced into a near quarter life ‘crisis.’
At 24, I’m no where near where I thought I would be. In fact there are times where I have nightmares about my 25th birthday. Growing up, I felt my path was quite certain. The plan was always to go to university after high school and obtain a degree in business, write my LSAT, go to law school, and then have a successful career as a partner in a corporate law firm. As of right now, I have done none of those things. I am not going to make excuses for myself since there’s probably a lot of valid reasons why I didn’t get into the Masters programs I applied to, and trust me I have spent a lot of time thinking about it. It’s easy to say that perhaps I didn’t pursue a career in law because I didn’t get into the Masters programs I applied to, or that my grades weren’t high enough, or worse of all because I personally wasn’t good or smart enough. Which, might be true and is a hard thing to admit. But given what seemed like the worst possible circumstances, I was also forced to be proactive and try to see the silver lining in what seemed like the most God- awful scenario. You see, in situations like that it’s an emotional sink or swim. You can either keep going, or you can drown. As a result, I took the time to reflect on my life and think about what I truly wanted to do and who I truly wanted to be. I don’t think this was a matter of giving up, I’d like to think that if being a lawyer was what I really wanted to do then I would have found a way to do it. After all, where there’s a will there is a way (more than one person has proven this to me on several occasions) and since I can’t predict the future there’s a chance that going to law school is still something I might do. However, I wanted to be sure that I was focusing my efforts on the right endeavors and looking back I am pretty sure that I wasn’t. I realized that I didn’t apply to any of those programs completely for myself. I was applying to them because I thought it was what I was supposed to do and because a part of me wanted to prove to myself that I could, and that I was just as smart as my friends and other people that I knew. I can say quite frankly now that those aren’t very good reasons for applying to graduate school.
Perhaps, this is a bit idealistic but I think furthering your education is something you should do because you are truly passionate about the subject and because you have a clear idea of where you want that education to get you. Getting rejected from those initial programs forced me to think about what I was truly passionate about. Where did I really want to go? What did I really want to learn? Or as someone very smart once said, “where did my mind wander to?” I don’t have all the answers now, but I am certain that I am much closer to ending up where I want to be. I am reapplying to schools, albeit in completely different programs and the difference this time around is that I am doing it completely for me. And I think, therein lies all the difference. Hopefully this won’t just be a sad blog post about rejection and I will actually be accepted into the programs that I want, but it’s definitely a completely different feeling when you start pursuing things you want to accomplish for yourself rather than what you think other people want you to achieve. You might ask how I know things are different this time around? What makes pursuing studies in fashion merchandising and management different from trying to get a Masters in history or political science? For one I can actually answer the question of why I want to study fashion merchandising and management, a feat, that wasn’t so easy when I was asked why I wanted to be a lawyer. And second, well, let’s just say your heart gets a completely different feeling when you know you’re doing something you’re excited about.
So how does all of this relate to the importance of positivity? Well mostly because positivity at the end of the day, is what keeps people going. No one said that facing rejection, or pursuing your dreams is easy but despite all the changes I’ve faced in my life this year, it is something that I stand by 100%. Your life shouldn’t be defined by the things you didn’t do, they should be defined by the things you wanted to do and actually went out and did and I am glad that being rejected forced me to realize this truth.
As much as I hope to see acceptance letters this time around, my reasons for wanting to get in are completely different. My desire to get into school now is because I’ve finally figured out what I want to do, and as a result, I hope to be able to go back to school so that I can build the foundation necessary to having my dream job and living the life I’ve always imagined. I hope that everyone is lucky enough to find something that fuels them in the same way that fashion fuels me, and that at the end of the day we will all stop being our own biggest obstacles. As Oprah Winfrey once said, “you get in life what you have the courage to ask for.” So go out there and start asking (and working hard for) the things that you want… and don’t let a low GPA, your family, your friends, and most importantly yourself stop you.