The American Dream

It’s college application season for my sister-in-law and to that I say: good luck and godspeed. It’s similar to hunting season, except this time you’re the small game fending for life. Everyone gets shot down by one academy or another, but it was the dream of every highschooler I knew to get shot down, decaptitated, taxidermied and hung on the wall of some elite and erudite institution, a prized beast.

And yes, I do believe the process was that macabre.

Ah, I remember it well; according to some unspoken Law of High School all of my worth as a human being boiled down to one of two words: yes or no. A fat or thin envelope.

The one time in the world fat was good.

According to that same law, I did everything right. Aced every class, won every prize, and charmed the socks off every teacher without conspiring for it. I took mulitvariable calculus at age fifteen and graduated with 58 college credits.

According to that same law, I lost. Yale didn’t want me and Harvard didn’t want me so I might as well start filling out applications to the local McDonalds. My best friend, the valedictorian, went to Princeton and another friend, the apathetic stoner, transferred to Harvard.

Really though, did I lose?

You tell me.

I dropped out after a year and a half and none of my friends know that I double majored in physics and philosophy, or that technically I was smart. No one is the worse off for it. I have a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter. Even though I didn’t think it possible, I’m on track to take up a career that is so much more than teaching physics could ever hope to be.
And I learned something about entitlement. I had thought that if I wanted something badly enough, if I deserved it deeply enough, the universe would somehow conspire to make it happen for me.


I hear the Universe say: get off your ass and work, woman. I hear you loud and clear, Universe.

Of course I worked myself nearly to death for those college applications, but I was working for the wrong thing. Who cares what job you get or school you go to as long as you’re happy? And that’s the real gift here. I’m happy. The Universe will conspire alright, but not to hand you what you want on a silver platter with the gift receipt taped to the bottom. The Universe conspires to teach us about what really matters– if we’re willing to hear the lessons.

But try explaining this to the teenagers with knots in their stomachs, the teenagers that have already pulled in every favor they’re owed to have half a million and one people look over their college essay to give them their opinion.
Nah. I lived through it, and so will they. The Universe will find them their own lessons.


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