When I was in middle school some friends of the family paid my family a visit. I got a very nice pullover jacket with “Notre Dame” written on the front.
My mom attributed my desire to go to Notre Dame to this jacket.
Really, I don’t know why I wanted to go there but somehow it made its way to the top of my list.
If anything, though, it was probably the movie “Rudy” (I’m only human).
Junior year of high school came and for spring break I was going to embark on the best, the coolest, the most exciting trip a seventeen year old boy can imagine for spring break!
A ROAD TRIP! With … My mom. Oh. And it was to visit colleges. Oh.
And we would be driving from Savannah, Georgia north to Ohio, then cut across to Indiana, then back down south stopping at 10 – 15 colleges.
We saw a lot of beautiful colleges, Notre Dame included, and it managed to solidify its place as number one on my list.
I had, and was, taking all the proper (though ridiculous) steps.
I was stretched thin with my extracurricular activities – involved in so many clubs that I contributed meaningfully to probably only one or two. I volunteered twice a week, tutoring elementary school kids. I got good grades. I played sports. I was in JROTC.
I even had the ‘look at how unique I am’ angle on my entrance essay – I was a Military Brat. I wrote a life lesson learned for each state.
I took the extra steps, too. The ones not mentioned by stupid magazines or other people.
When people said, “oh, you’ll get in.”
I said, “oh, I don’t know … I’ve got my fingers crossed though!”
Clearly God/fate/karma/whatever would reward me for this.
By saying I couldn’t do it, I would, naturally, be able to do it.
A teacher asked if I got in, would I definitely go?
“Because I can get you in, but I don’t want to call in this favor if you end up not going.”
If I got in, I would definitely go. But I want to do it on my own!
I made a bigger deal out of this “dilemma” than I should’ve. I knew I would not accept my teachers offer, but I wanted people to know I’d gotten it as I was pretty proud of it.
I even called my brother to ask his advice – and I never spoke to him.
I declined my teachers offer.
While I do regret some big decisions in my life, this was not one of them.
I came home from school one day in the spring of my senior year.
My dad was not home. My mom was not home.
I went and checked the mail – hoping for acceptance letters.
Walking back – there it was.
I didn’t tear it open but instead thought of this: me sitting at the end of the driveway, the letter open and resting on my chest, and me smiling because I’d just learned I’d gotten in to my top school.
I do this a fair amount, I visualize something and then I feel I have to do it or I’m convinced it will be bad luck. Being crazy is fun, right?
I put the rest of the mail down inside, then walked casually back to the end of the drive way. I walked slowly because I pictured anxiousness as being bad luck.
I sat and looked around – it was a beautiful day.
After a long minute of trying hard to enjoy how beautiful the day was, I picked up the letter.
I scanned until I found whatever word to tip me off that I didn’t get in. Probably it was the lack of the word “Congratulations!,” or maybe just the lack of an exclamation point at all.
Then I read the letter, I mean I actually read it.
It said some nice things about a “tough applicant pool …,” or some such meaningless sentiment.
Why did you tease yourself all this time? You’re not good enough.
I felt embarrassed for having been sure I’d get in.
It made sense, though. I didn’t get in because I’m not good enough and that’s that.
Eventually I got up and went inside.
My sister had sent me an instant message online.
I typed in, “I didn’t get in to Notre Dame.”
I don’t remember if I sent this or not, but I do remember that I started to cry then. This was a big deal for me at that time (I tried very hard, starting probably around the time I realized it was not a “boy” thing to do to cry – to never cry).
I was disappointed in not getting in, disappointed in myself.
I am extremely confident in myself – I honestly think I can do just about anything. Anything I “put my mind to.” This is perfect because you can always say, “well I just didn’t really want it.”
I really wanted to go to Notre Dame.
So why, then, if I’m so great, did I just fail?
Just so you don’t think I’m prone to depression let me end this on a high note.
I got into other schools and ended up picking Southern Methodist University.
Here’s the important part I learned enough, and did enough enjoyable things to make it impossible to say if I would’ve had a better experience at some other school.
On the downside, I’ve never been as big a fan of “Rudy.”