A few days ago, I decided to look ahead at my calendar for the week to schedule in some much-needed naps. I passed assignment due dates and birthday reminders and was thrilled to find that my Thursday would be a pretty light day. As I went to see what times I had available for this incredibly important appointment, I was suddenly taken aback to see that it was a date that I knew all too well, but admittedly, the last time I anticipated this day, I did not have time for a nap.
Nov. 1, 2017 found me and thousands of other aspiring high school seniors anxiously hovering over the submit button on our early action applications to college. In my case, this set of essays sealed or broke my dream of coming to Stanford, and let’s just say I was a bit of a mess. I remember reading my completed work repeatedly until I could recite it by memory. I had built up this day in my head as the beginning of my future, and it was difficult to think past the moment I sent in my application.
In reality, Nov. 1 simply marked the first day of waiting. For over a month afterwards, I began to fixate on Dec. 8 — decision day for REA applicants — thinking that the moment I discovered whether I was admitted or not would surely give my future direction. If I got in, I could take time to enjoy my second semester. I could take my first two years to explore what I wanted to study. I could meet my greatest role models and mentors. I could find a fulfilling job after graduation.
But then the letter came and even that moment was fleeting, only taking about five seconds to read the first line of the letter. Although I was lucky enough to receive good news when decisions came out, I was immediately questioning if I should apply to more schools. Deadline after deadline and month after month, I found new days that I perceived as most important: the day I committed to Stanford, the day I graduated high school, my first day of orientation, my first set of college exams. Of course, these days each held significance to me, but did any of them really mark the beginning of my future?
I have come to realize that there is no single moment or accomplishment that defines the rest of a person’s life. We often allow our perception of success or happiness to depend on a solitary point in time, but when we concentrate on one destination, we lose sight of the opportunities and experiences that we pass along the way. Whether it is a looming job interview, birthday or exam date that is on your mind, do not forget to enjoy the process that guides you to your next milestone. Looking back, the college application process was not defined by the single second in time that I clicked on the submit button but by the many hours spent exploring myself and putting my discoveries on paper. Nov. 1 was a day I thought about constantly at this time last year, but now I am just as concerned about Oct. 31, Nov. 2 and every other day of the calendar year.
Contact Trisha Kulkarni at trishak8 ‘at’ stanford.edu