Today I opened my first letter from college.
It was a rejection letter.
My excitement was immediately snuffed out by a cloud of disappointment and uneasiness. I sat in the drivers seat of my car, my nose stinging, and vision blurry for a long while. I tried to remember what I told people, that it was a win-win: If I got accepted, I would get to experience the environment of college, and leaving home to discover new things. If I didn’t get accepted, then I would save a good thirty grand, and transfer to any college in California, after bearing with community college.
But it felt like a huge loss, and to me, it was. Money didn’t matter (in a way), what mattered was getting the best education I could, and staying motivated to be able to find success. But to think I could be sitting in a school that I could hate after believing for years that I would move out after high school horrified me. How could I be motivated enough to create when I’m sitting here for two more years?
Nevertheless, I still have a shot at 3 more schools, but the odds are still against me. Californian schools are some of the most impacted in the country, and my measly application would be a gnat on the windshield compared to those coming from my fellow applicants here in the Bay Area, and even more so from the entire country. It gets you to wonder, is that what this is? I spend 4 years in high school working towards getting a number, one through four (or four-point-eight if you’re an overachiever) that will ultimately decide what course my life will take? That’s all it was, is a number.
To me, it was much more personal. High school has been a wild whirlwind of emotion, failure, and success. For many of us, we discover what it means to be a man or woman. We discover the importance of preparation, and the repercussions of procrastination. Many of us will discover love, and will discover heartbreak, and will move on with our baggage and our lessons and take on the next curveball life will heave towards us. There are some things that can’t be taught in a classroom, and how to endure is just one of them.
Before I entered high school, I had an idea of what I wanted to do. Yeah, I liked to read a little, and I wanted to play on the baseball team. I liked to go camping with the family, I liked to ride my cruiser board outside, but I really wasn’t anything. It took a few years and a lot of articles, missed opportunities, little victories, small adventures, and cuts and bruises for me to discover that I’m a writer. I’m also a ballplayer, and an outdoorsman, and a skateboarder. I found love, and I found defeat, in so many ways I would need to write an encyclopedia to get through every lesson learned, but you can’t read that from a transcript. There’s no grade on personal accomplishment, or emotional stability. On how you were virtuous or stupid, or how you struck out with bases loaded or ate shit on the ramp you built in the backyard; all of those lessons I learned and passed, where’s the GPA for those?
But it’s okay. It’s one school, and one I probably did’t need to go to anyways. It’s contrary to my character to worry about things I can’t control, and this is one of them.
Baseball is life on a smaller scale. There are so many factors that contribute to a win or loss: the guys around you, the weather, the blues, maybe even a bit of luck, and almost all of these things are one-hundred percent out of your own control. The only real thing that you can control is your own effort. The fighting spirit that keeps you alive when you’re down 0–2 in a count and you single into right field, or the little extra ‘umf’ you put into your last pitch up on the mound. Or for me maybe, still finding a way to help the team when you’ve got a warm bench under your toosh.
I’m a fighter, and I’ve always been a fighter, and if there’s anything I deserve, it’s the next opportunity to succeed. Life isn’t always adventurous. We can’t always have sunshine, dandelions and ice cream, and we can’t just stroll through the front door at Stanford without having to work for it. Control what you can, ignore what you can’t. The only thing we can really do is step up to the plate and wait for the next curveball to come hovering along — and drive it as far as you can make it go.
From my copy of Make Gentle The Life of This World (The Daybook of RFK)