When You Try Really Hard (But You Still Come Up Short)

It’s been a bit of a challenging week.  Yesterday, I learned I wouldn’t be able to go to Georgia Tech, a college I’ve had my heart set on since first touring the campus last fall.  My mom also had a brief incident with her back yesterday that’s left her in a good bit of pain and resulted in us cutting our Colorado trip down to just 2 weeks, something she’s really disappointed about.

To be completely honest, things feel pretty rough right now.  I’m still able to take a step back and see that none of this will lead to the end of the world, and my family is still immeasurably blessed in so many ways, but it still feels rough.  And maybe it would be a better idea to take a week and think of some better, more eloquent things to say about how I’ve failed but I’m not worried because I know there’s a plan for me and I just have to wait for it to reveal itself… but that doesn’t feel genuine.  So hold onto your butts – it’s about to get personal.

School has always been a bit of a confusing topic for me, considering I’ve been homeschooled since middle school and my curriculum has always been pieced together by online classes, in-person schools, and whatever extracurricular programs I found interesting that semester.  I’ve always enjoyed school and put a lot of work and time into it because I find it fun and challenging.  I also feel incredibly blessed because my parents have always supported me to do my best and work my hardest, but they’ve never pressured me to get certain grades or be a specific type of student.  I’ve grown up knowing that I can accomplish anything if I work hard enough at it and have faith that it’s in God’s plan for me.

Over the years, I’ve always known I wanted to go to college, and I’ve always aimed high.  In middle school, I dreamed of Oxford University, and at the beginning of high school, I became obsessed with Harvard.  Once I realized I wanted to study international affairs in college, I began researching schools in-state that would allow me to save money while still challenging myself academically and giving me opportunities to travel and seek internships.  Georgia Tech seemed like the perfect fit – I loved the location and the campus and hearing of all their study abroad and internship opportunities made me swoon.

Things were complicated by the fact I was graduating 2 years early and planning to take a gap year, but after months of communication, I finished my application and sent it in.  And I did not get accepted.  Well, not as a regular first-year freshman, at least.  Instead, they offered me admission through a new arts and sciences pathway program, essentially meaning I would take my gap year, go to another college for a year, and then transfer to Georgia Tech to finish college.

The only catch was I would have to take a calculus class at that first college in order to transfer to Tech, and I never took precalculus in high school.  So my options were: study precalculus over my gap year and attempt to pass an exam that would award me college credit so I could go to Tech, or find another college to go to altogether.  I chose to study precalculus, and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past 5 months.  I took the precalculus exam twice, once in May and again yesterday, and I failed both times.  I got the exact same score on both tests, and I missed the minimum score I needed by 4 points.

Math has always been a big source of stress in my life, and it’s always been the subject I score lowest in.  After failing the precalculus exam the first time, I started tutoring and committing more time each week to studying on my own so I could come back with a better chance of passing.  The past few months have been really stressful as a result of all the studying and the knowledge that if I didn’t pass the exam the second time around, Tech would very likely not be a possibility for me anymore.  I had panic attacks if I studied for too long or thought about the exam too much, and I struggled to keep track of all my commitments and balance my time between work, studying, and family.

I prayed really hard throughout this entire process – not for me to pass the exam, but for God’s will to be done, and for me to be able to accept the outcome, even if it wasn’t what I thought should happen.  I always found peace in turning the situation over to God, but once the day of the test came, I had a feeling I wouldn’t pass.  I can’t say I was surprised when I didn’t, but it still really hurt.  I feel like I wasted all the time and money my parents put into helping me.  I feel like I failed the people who tried to help me succeed.  I feel like I disappointed everyone who thought I could do it, and I feel like I disappointed myself.  I feel so dumb for not being able to go to the only college I really love because I failed one math exam.

I wish at this point I could turn around and say: “BUT, I know it’s all going to work out!”  And at the end of the day, I do know it’s going to work out.  I know God has a plan for me, and that this is just a painful part of it.  I know I shouldn’t stress myself out over the future because God’s got my back, and I just have to work hard and trust He’ll reveal His plans to me.  I believe all of that with all of my heart, but part of me does still feel like a failure and a disappointment, and I don’t think it would be fair of me to lie and say that I feel totally fine and at peace when I really feel like I have no idea what to do or where to go, and I don’t understand why things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to.

It’s hard for me to have perspective on this whole situation, especially because it’s happening at a time when a lot of my friends are moving out and starting journeys at their dream colleges.  I’m so very happy for and proud of each and every one of them, but there’s a part of me that feels a little bitter I’m not sharing the same exciting experiences as them.  And though things certainly didn’t work out how I hoped or planned they would, I wish I had more hindsight before I graduated high school to come up with a backup plan or at least put more research into other colleges before I threw all of my plans and expectations into going to Tech.

At this point, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I don’t know where I’m going to go to college.  I’m torn between trying to go to the best college I can and stretching myself too thin by aiming for another school that may be out of reach.  I’m terrified of settling for a college just because it’s easy to get into or it’s close to home or all my friends are going there.  I want to make the most of my time in college, but I’m trying to understand that where I graduate from will not determine the trajectory or success of my future career.  I’m learning to accept the love and support that I’ve been so lucky to receive from my family and friends, even when it’s hard for me to believe any of it.  I’m trying to become aware of the fact that this experience is not life or death and I will end up where I’m supposed to be and as long as I pray and work hard and try my best, God will put me at the right school.

And now, I’m going to get out of bed, make myself some food, watch some episodes of The Office, and enjoy today for what it is: a fresh start, a moment to recover, a time to spend with loved ones, and an opportunity to see how blessed I am to have such a crazy, confusing, painful, exciting, thrilling, beautiful, messy life.

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