Thursday, October 18, 2018

Day 33

I can say with confidence that I have fewer bad days and ugly moments than the average person. Some of that is probably due to dumb luck, but I attribute much of it to trying really hard to have an attitude of gratitude like we talked about at Girls on the Run practice. That said, nobody is immune to the occasional ugly moment, and I had one that took me by surprise when it happened to me on Sunday. I have debated whether or not to include it on my blog; on one hand, writing a blog was a challenge I started for myself, not for others, but on the other hand, there are a lot of misconceptions about others' lives and how things are going for them based on the content of their social media, and while I don't think anyone envies my lifestyle, I'm not one to broadcast the less desirable events in my life. So, I decided to share because I thought my experience might make someone feel more human.

A little background: Richard and I agreed that after he finished residency, we would leave Shreveport. Specifically, we would go to North Carolina, because that is where most of my family is, and I had been trying to get closer to them since before I even knew Richard. I'd made a plan to earn my Ph.D. from North Carolina State University, mostly because they had the best program in the state, but at least a little smidge because I'd been a Wolfpack fan my whole life, and it'd be cool to have my own degree from there. The backup plan if NCSU didn't work out was to apply to East Carolina University or UNC Wilmington, but we were definitely going to North Carolina.

Last Thanksgiving, Kathy told me she would pay the $50 application fee if I would just apply to LSU, so I went ahead and submitted the application. With some minor tweaks to the personal statement and CV, I made a convincing case that I wanted to be an LSU tiger.

Fast forward a few months, and I left NC State's Recruitment Weekend thinking I just needed to wait for my acceptance letter; the deal was just about sealed, and I was well on my way to achieving a dream that had been in the works for a few years. I had studied for the GRE and done well. My recommendations were clear that I was a good human being who was ready for the program. My personal statement told my story in a clear and convincing way, and I'd had several interviews for assistantships that I would love, no matter where I ended up. Things were going the way they were supposed to go.

But two weeks after Recruitment Weekend, instead of a "Welcome to the Wolfpack!" type of letter, I got a short and not-so-sweet (to me) letter from the Graduate School that said they were unable to offer me admission because the faculty of my program did not recommend me for admission. I lived in a quiet sort of denial for the first 24 hours and only told a few people who were very close to me. Part of me didn't believe it, and most of me didn't want to believe it. But it was the hand I had been dealt.

The next day, I shared the news with the rest of the world, because I had broadcasted my excitement for the future, hopefully at NC State, all over social media, so I figured I had to share the outcome sometime. People were supportive, as expected, but I definitely had an ugly moment that day too. What I remember most vividly is sobbing and howling like a wolf in my car before driving home from work that day. I blew snot all over my raincoat between bouts of loud, ugly cries and floods of tears. It was an ugly moment.

After that day, with the help of plenty of friends and loved ones, I refocused my efforts to try to figure out what in the heck was going to happen next. Richard had been waiting for a destination before he could start applying for jobs, and suddenly I wasn't sure if I even wanted anything to do with the state of North Carolina after this unpleasant incident. I didn't want to fill out more applications, pay more fees, or ask for more letters of recommendation, and I certainly didn't want to tweak my personal statements again. I was crestfallen and had little energy to think about any sort of next steps. I had already signed up to attend LSU's Interview Weekend, which was before deadlines for ECU or UNCW, so I decided to pour my energy into preparing to give LSU my best shot. I was admitted to the program, but I wanted an assistantship to cover the cost of my attendance.

We all know how and where the story ends, of course, but what some people might not know is that I spent a week preparing for interviews, anticipating questions, and listening to songs about Baton Rouge and LSU. Richard's dad loaned me a CD of songs about LSU called "Hey Fighting Tigers," and I played that thing until I knew most of the words to the "Billy Cannon" song.

Anyway, that was a lot of setup to get to my ugly moment, but on Sunday, I was talking with my mom about Christmas plans, and it was starting to seem like nothing was going to fit together between Richard's schedule, and I swear my mouth opened before my brain knew what was saying. I said to my mom,

"I wish I could be around everyone more often. This is just another problem that wouldn't exist if I hadn't failed to get in to NC State." 

My mom stayed quiet on the other end of the line. I think my jaw dropped a little when my brain caught up and I realized what I said. After a successful few months of moving to our wonderful home, getting used to my job, and learning to navigate my classes, the last thing I have felt like is a failure. I regularly tell people how much I love LSU and living in Baton Rouge, and it's all true. I hadn't thought about NC State in months before I said such a horrible, ugly thing about myself. (Okay that was kind of a lie...I did see that NCSU is having a good football season. But I haven't been thinking about their Higher Education Administration program.)

When I worked with the sororities at Centenary, I would tell our potential new members (PNMs) not to share their preference ranks with other people, because it could be awkward if they ended up in their second choice sorority, even if it was meant to be and ended up being the perfect fit. I probably should have heeded my own advice as I went through the graduate school admissions process, but I tend to go all-in on things. I can say for sure that I ended up in the best place for me, and LSU is the perfect fit. I'll share that story with anyone who needs to hear it, although when I was faced with my terrible disappointment, I didn't care to hear about how people's second, third, or even twelfth choice path turned out to be the right thing in the end.

What I wanted to say most with this post, which has now turned in to the saga of my graduate school admission process, is that it's okay to have ugly moments, and it's also okay to let other people see those ugly moments. Perhaps allowing ourselves to share those unpleasant thoughts helps us overcome them so they won't continue to creep in. I certainly haven't let those moments define me. In fact, I am having a particularly awesome week that only looks like it will get better as we cruise into LSU's homecoming weekend and we will be hosting one of my favorite sisters-in-law and two of my favorite nephews. I think I squashed those negative thoughts for now.

Meme courtesy of
Something that made today great: I had an ice cream sundae in an edible waffle cone for lunch.
Time I woke up: 7:57 am (nearly 9 hours of sleep last night, too!)

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