At the end of my freshman year at Stanford University, I had the audacity to think it was a good idea to ask out a boy. Probably because my whole life, people have been telling me how wonderful I am.
I was my grandparents’ first grandchild, a precocious little girl with a pair of lungs that would give DJ Khaled a run for his money. In elementary school, I was writing my first several novels (and plays that I acted out for my family in the living room). I was then accepted into a prestigious middle school that you had to test into, I went to the same high school that Timothee Chalamet and Nicki Minaj went to and I got into Stanford Fucking University.
So I’m not saying I went into Stanford thinking I was hot shit … but I went into Stanford thinking I was hot shit. My first reality check came when I walked into my first class on the first day, and found out that economics isn’t just the study of how to do taxes (which might seem like common knowledge to you but was a harsh realization for me). But then somehow freshman year just turned into a series of revelations that I’m NoT aS sPeCiAl As My MoM tOlD mE i WaS.
- I had to switch Econ 1 to credit/no credit because I was, how shall I say, failing all of my p-sets and tests.
- I auditioned for the plays “Lulu,” “The Seagull,” “The Panza Monologues,” “Godot Has Come” and “Stupid Fucking Bird,” all of which I was ~rejected from~.
- I tried out for the Stanford mock trial team, because I was something of a mock trial goddess in high school, and then I was ~promptly rejected from that too~.
- I applied to literally spend my weekends helping plan Stanford’s Admit Weekend for incoming freshmen, and my application got ~denied~.
- I got my first B winter quarter after locking myself in my room for an entire 12-hour day to write a 15-page final paper in which I literally wrote down and justified arguments I did not agree with because I knew the professor agreed with them.
And I know it might seem like I’m making light of all these failures (probably because I when I’m upset I deflectttt it with humorrrr), but after a while, the waterworks and phone calls home became a not infrequent occurrence.
But although Stanford had taken a lot of things from me — my scholastic aptitude, my talent for acting, my ability to present well in my resumé and in my academic writing — there was one thing Stanford had left untouched: my appearance. Although I felt like an incompetent, untalented dimwit, at least I still felt like a hot incompetent, untalented dimwit.
Because I felt this way, I decided that I had nothing to lose in asking out a cute boy from one of my classes. He was unlike all of the boys I had ever dated before — smart, literate, decent — and although he was a little nerdier-looking than the boys I would normally go for, under those thick-brimmed glasses lay a very conventionally handsome face.
So one day, I waited for him after class (which happened to be the one day where instead of jetting out of the building and back to his dorm, he stayed behind to talk to the professor just so that in waiting outside for him I would look ~that much creepier~), and asked if I could talk to him for a moment. (One of the really lucky things I got to experience that day was what it would feel like to have a heart attack. In the moments before he emerged from the building, my heart was beating so fast that I feared it would be visible through my clothes, and sweat was pooling up all hither and thither.)
The boy said yes, and honestly, I had been so worried about how exactly I should phrase the question, and exactly how long the pause would be before he gave an answer, and what the answer would even be, that I had completely neglected to imagine what it would be like if he said yes. But he did, and then there was a long pause because I hadn’t prepared what to say next … and then he goes, “so … should we exchange numbers?”
So we exchanged numbers, and eventually we decided on a time and place. But when I received a text message that day asking to postpone, and as that day (and many others) came and went, it became evident that all the time I had devoted to researching the “top ten most breathtaking wedding destinations” … might have been a little premature.
From then on, I became hypersensitive to the way he and I did not interact in class, and how he continued to book it out of the building after every lesson. And I began to feel so stupid — how could I have been naive enough to build up this love story in my head when it was clearly totally one-sided?
But then I realized that perhaps fathoming that a boy I was interested in might not be interested in me … wasn’t all that crazy. In a world of 8 billion people, it was always going to be a 50/50 toss-up
that he would be the type of person capable of appreciating my devastating beauty or the type of person who is blind.
Over the past four years, I have wrestled with this concept of self-worth. As Stanford students, I think many of us have grown up accustomed to external validation — whether those be grades, or awards, or college admissions. There is so much temptation to view our self-worth through the lens of these accolades. But when I think about the incredible people I’ve met at Stanford — my best friends — none of this factors into what make them impressive to me. Rather, my best friends are kind, they’re compassionate, they’re funny, dependable, courageous and resilient. It just so happens that they can also speak a million languages and hack into the mainframe and all that.
I’m a senior now, and what I’ve learned from my time at Stanford is this: we mustn’t feel that we are entitled to anything — to admission into a club, to a good grade, to a boy. For not only does entitlement lead us to calamity when things don’t go our way, but it also encourages us not to work hard for things. While being able to appreciate our strengths leads us to be the self-assured, confident individuals that Stanford admissions officers seek to admit, ignoring our imperfection makes us ill fit to handle the real world, where people aren’t always going to see us the way our moms do.