I’m sitting at a Starbucks, typing this post, with my GRE books in front of me. I don’t want to open them, nor do I wish to continue studying them. But that is what is needed for me to continue this process. As I mention in the “About” page, I applied to PhD programs last year and did not get accepted . Not a single one. It was a real blow because I thought I really had a chance. Getting these rejections is a really strange experience- you know what you need to do, but you can’t help asking if you should trying again. It’s a feeling somewhere in the middle of a reflex and grief. It’s so hard to envision applying without those letters coming back to me. What’s left are now these exams, serving as gatekeepers. It’s not the exams that are hard- it’s what they represent. An insurmountable goal, waiting to watch you try, and taking glee when you fail. Like Sisyphus, I decided to push the boulder, but I wasn’t strong enough this time. The boulder officially rolled back to the ground, and I have to ask myself if it’s worth pushing it back up.
Why pursue this? Do I think I can do it? Am I at a disadvantage for trying again? An advantage, even? I don’t know. Right now, it’s really hard to ask these questions.
Then it hits me- that feeling I’m still learning to describe. It takes me back one summer ago, when I was in this very position, only less defeated. As I worked on my applications last year, I kept in close touch with my advisors. One of them was from UC Berkeley. I got a chance to visit him at the campus. It’s gorgeous- as close to Ivy League as it gets. After all of the sight-seeing, I took a break and grabbed lunch. Then this voice kicked in- that was probably that feeling I mentioned in its infancy. It said to me, You can’t afford to just be here- you have work to do. Why exactly are you here? I thought about it, and soon, it all spilled out as a ribbon of words.
I look around, and see all of the work and research this university is producing. It’s brilliant, and beautiful, and the product of hard work. If I’m going to apply to programs, I can’t just be here- I’m being asked to produce work. Good work. The kind that is trying to raise the consciousness of others, potentially making some kind of difference. I don’t just want this; it’s a calling. This is where I belong- it’s in my bones.
I don’t know if I can write something that will change minds or affect the planet. But that thought alone, that feeling, is what is driving me to apply again. I am now opening my books, getting to work. This is me, pushing the boulder back up.
This is my first blog post. I will be posting every two weeks. I cannot promise that they will all be positive or life-affirming. All I can promise is that I will write honestly. I hope you stick around to witness this, too.
One thought on “Day 1, Revisited”
Professors have told me that it is quite common to be rejected the first or second time. I know that is hard to believe this, especially when our own peers are getting accepted on their first try, but it is something that we must embrace. I recommend having an actual professor look over your application and materials. They have a good understanding of what makes it a competitive application.
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