I haven’t been able to sleep for two days. It’s not uncommon. It actually happens to me a lot when I’m at school. I just look at the wall and sigh. I tell myself to stop thinking, stop thinking, don’t think of something else, just stop. Of course, these are thoughts, and they don’t help. But sometimes I can’t turn my brain off. Instead, I go to the gym and work until everything, including my brain, goes numb and tired. That’s something to talk about later.
I have been worried, because I have been waiting on my letter. It’s been a long time coming. Just one little envelope, going from Athens to Augusta. What was taking it so long? When were they going to send it? I put my family and friends off for months.
When is it coming?
March, I’d say wearily. March. Leave me alone. You know I’ll tell you when it comes. I don’t want to think about it, about any of it. Leave me alone.
I was not what you would call “cautiously optimistic”. I was what you would call “arrogant”. I knew, long before it got here, what my letter would say. No " We are sorry to inform you- ". No " We encourage you to try again next year, but-". Just a simple, straight forward, "Congratulations". Honestly, I wasn’t afraid. I was ready. I was so confident that I steadfastly refused to apply at rival schools. I thought briefly about applying in Scotland. I applied to Michigan State, but failed to actually go to their website to find out when my GRE scores were due, because I didn’t think it mattered. I was dropped from the application process some months ago. I had been steadfastly apathetic up until this point. But I still didn’t care. I was still in the running for one school, the school I wanted to attend anyway.
And then the dreams started. And then the sleep stopped.
The first dream, the rejection dream, opened my eyes to a stark reality. I ripped open the envelope to find that all my plans, all my hopes, all the things I always thought I was entitled to were just dust. Just dreams. And I woke up to the cold chill of utter heartbreak washing out from my chest, down my arms, making me cold and uncomfortable. It stayed with me for hours. A chill went down my spine. It occurred to me that perhaps this, the biggest of all things, wouldn’t just happen.
That’s been the reality for me. I am somewhat ashamed to admit it. I have never truly had to work hard at anything. I am just one of those people sometimes. I have had people stare at me in dismay and disgust when I divulge this information. I study for a few hours a few days before the test, and somehow I still end up with the top grade. That is not to say I ace everything. If it is not my subject, then I get out of the class with a C. There isn’t much gray area here. I do or I don’t. I don’t try. So now, swimming in a sea of people working as hard as they possibly can, how can I be sure it’s going to be enough? And how can I take it away from them when I still haven’t decided what I should do if I get in?
I didn’t sleep for two days. The tension became palpable, the threat loomed, and I got caught up. I got scared. Everyone approached me with the look in their eye. No one will ask you, out loud, if you got accepted. Most people are walking, hunched, yoked with failure and disappointment. You approach instead with the look. You are willing, with half-closed eyes and a firm jaw line, the information to just pour out of other individuals. If it does not, you cannot ask. The answer will be unpleasant for both parties.
My sister called to tell me the letter was sitting on the counter, two days after local residents had been informed. I stared at the wall all night. I thought about driving home. I tried to control myself on the drive, rushing all the way home after class. We sat in the sun and I opened it.
Dear Rai Tai,
We are pleased to offer you admission to The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine…
Tuition is roughly $5,000 more a year than what I am paying currently, but I am no longer going to be receiving my steady supply of scholarships. I must prove that I am not disease-ridden. I have to initiate a rabies series. They have helpfully informed me that each of the three injections is a mere $170 at the health center. They have also tactfully suggested that this is only an offer, not a guarantee, and that I should treat my final semester (and the grades received therein) as such.
Now comes the adult part of life. I have to find a place to live, a way to do it. I can decide if I want to get my own pet, and I have to cook and clean and shop for myself. I will be so deeply in debt I don’t really want to think about it. There is still something delicious about the thought of having my loans to pay off. It is the mystery and the… adultness… of it all. I have a career path. I have a goal. I have the hardest four years of my life ahead, and for the first time ever I will have to work. Hard.
In delicate print at the bottom of the letter, it informs me that UGA is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Institution. I know this to be painfully true. Males were accepted over females. All my applicant friends lacked the necessary equipment for acceptance. I have to make this up to them. I have to prove that I can do this, that I want this. I am almost sure that it is the truth.
We had a celebratory dinner where I broke all my own rules. They brought me ice cream and sang. They announced, to the whole restaurant, that I am going to be a veterinarian.
I am going to be a doctor.