Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Why I Didn't Tell You

This time around, if things went the same way they did last year, I didn’t want to tell anyone about not getting into grad school, not even my in-laws. I just didn’t want to deal with that public failure again. Last year hurt, a lot. Going into the process, I didn’t think I wouldn’t get in anywhere, but after 4 or 5 rejections, I realized 10 rejections was possible, even likely.

A writer’s ego is a very fragile thing. Sharing about the rejections over and over again, I felt like I was announcing through a large megaphone from the top of the world, “My writing sucks and no one likes it.” It’s hard to describe how that shattered my motivation and made me dislike—even hate—things completely unrelated to my attempt at getting into grad school.

After months of recovery and having to focus my attention elsewhere, it was autumn in Colorado and with a lot of support and guidance I reevaluated grad school and my interests. I chose a few schools to apply to, all of which wouldn’t prevent me from doing some writing, from letting me develop my voice, and share my opinion in some format. Essentially, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to grad school just to go to grad school and because I didn’t get in the first time. So, I committed and vowed to give it another go, telling only my wife, sister, and parents. No one else.

However, doing this again meant dealing with this menace from my past. The GRE. As you may recall, I first took the GRE in April 2009, prepping in advance for my first attempt at grad school. I wrecked my car on the way to that test and was seated for the first part (the essays) less than 40 minutes after a four-car accident on the interstate. I managed to do okay on the test, or at least I convinced myself that the results were good enough, especially given the situation. That held for a while, but for me, applying again meant doing everything better this time around. I signed up to take the test on December 9th.

Shortly after the New Year, I wrote a brief summary of 2010, mentioning the highs and the lows of each month. For December I mentioned, “I celebrated a private accomplishment.” That accomplishment, improving my score in every category of the GRE, gave me a helpful dose of motivation to finish this round of applications. I did so in the first couple weeks of January. And I did so with no expectations this time around and with no sense that I deserved this. I guess that was more me protecting myself than wholeheartedly believing I truly didn’t deserve to get into grad school.

And last week I opened an email and I didn’t have to worry any more about weathering another round of rejections. I admit to taking a little pleasure in keeping this all a secret until now. It was a storm I was prepared to face privately and now it’s a little piece of success I am happy to share publicly.

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