It is truly heart-breaking saying goodbye to the dreams you once had, or thought you had. A few days ago, I sent an email confirming that I wanted to cancel what I call my ‘gap-year-placeholder’ at a really, really good American Liberal Arts College. There were plenty of reasons behind that decision – the pandemic, the political uncertainty, a pressure to perform at UCL – and as I said in that email, ‘it is with a heavy heart that I make this choice.’
I had once dreamt of going to university in the US and it was an ambition that gave me an enormous amount of energy throughout my last years at high school. Anxiously waiting for the outcome of admissions was what got me through the first lockdown of March 2020. Now that it’s March 2021 and I am in national lockdown once again, the time has come to reflect upon the choices I made or, in this case, didn’t and couldn’t quite make.
Even earlier, in the winter of 2019, I had the incredibly lucky chance to visit a couple of America’s great old colleges, which only reaffirmed what I had dreamt up before: this was the place for me to be a few years down the line. Walking around Ivy and ivy-grown quads, sitting in auditoriums listening to world-class experts, breathing the ancient air of knowledge, history, and – at the same time – innovation… Or perhaps I would go to varsity games, sit in dormitories or campus coffeeshops, laugh with friends. It was a beautiful vision and, quite literally, ‘everything I wanted.’
The efforts that fuelled this beautiful dream did get me in – into the best universities. Oh to open those admissions letters, rifle through the paper folders-leaflets-booklets in excitement, to watch the quirky little animations of flags falling on the screen with ‘Congratulations!’ in the backdrop. There were, quite frankly, two or three rejections, but I still got into 8, EIGHT, XVIII colleges and there were another 5 prestigious waitlists!
But then pandemic-time doubts truly set in, as I realised I could not get a visa into the States, there would be barely any learning on campus, the college experience itself would be mangled beyond recognition by the vast and varied restrictions. The song I keep quoting, ‘Everything I Wanted,’ goes something like this:
I had a *dream* I got everything I wanted Not what you'd think And if I'm being honest It might've been a *nightmare* To anyone who might care
This, in a way, is precisely what happened – the dream became a haunting nightmare. One one hand, actually implementing that vision became a real, physical impossibility. On the other, a year has passed and I still sometimes wonder if there was a point to any of it or whether my applications were a complete waste.
But no, I did learn plenty, about myself, about hard work and study ethic, and about the admissions process – all things with which I can now help others who may be more fortunate than myself, which I actively do through my freelance work and extracurriculars.
Letting go of those beautiful dreams I once had is difficult, but doable. To use perhaps overly-grand words, it is an End to an Era, with me now looking towards new interests, horizons, and dreams. Even as the current crisis still brews in the background, I’m exploring new opportunities I had not considered before – something that I hope I can encourage everyone else reading this to do with me. There is nothing more challenging than persevering in the face of adversity encroaching, seemingly, from all sides. Starting on a new path in your bedroom in the middle of lockdown is far from ideal: I recently got a scholarship rejection, and my high-aiming full-time job application was, for now, only gloomily waitlisted.
But as dystopian as these prospects sound, I like to take inspiration from another song by the same artist and want to invite all others who struggle as I do to manifest this with me every day:
'Cause I, I'm in love With my future Can't wait to meet her
And on that note – best as always,
PS: It’d mean a lot if anybody reading this would want to drop a line to me in my email inbox and let me know their thoughts on my site, work, or even me as a person. I want to work on building a community in these very virtual times and I think a UFO-like response from the Internet void would be a fun start to that.