Earlier this year, I received news that was devastating. I was in the middle of the admission process for graduate school, and I had high hopes that I would be able to begin the second portion of my higher education later this year. Feeling overly positive, I did not put much thought into what I would do if I were not accepted into the program. Well, I ended up being forced to learn how I would handle graduate school rejection.
I would like to think that I took the news with the composure and grace of a Miss America runner-up. I did not. I received the admission decision midway through my workday, and it decimated my productivity. I spent the rest of the day trying to force a smile and counting down to when I could leave.
Once the workday was over and I had clocked out, I drove home. It was during this drive that I realized just how much this news was affecting me. I began to sink into a depression that rivals some of my lowest points, and I knew that I needed to do something drastic to pull up from this tailspin. It was then that I decided to employ some escapism.
I have a close family friend, Ella, who lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C., and she has always said that I am more than welcome to visit. So I grabbed my phone, dialed her number, and asked her if I could visit for the weekend. She said that she would love to have me, so I said that I would see her later, hung up the phone, and frantically began packing my bags.
I was on the road within ten minutes, and with every mile that I drove, I felt my spirits lift. I will not bore you with the details of the trip, but I will say that driving through rural West Virginia at midnight is horrifying. I kept imagining my car breaking down and the hill people descending to kidnap me. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and after eight hours and an exorbitant amount of coffee, I arrived in Virginia.
The next morning, I drove to a nearby metro station and hopped on the train to the city. I felt incredibly city-ish as I leaned against the window and watched the scenery flash by, but that feeling was short-lived. The train conductor’s voice soon came over the loudspeaker to say that the next portion of the track was closed for construction. He then said that all of the passengers would need to disembark and ride the “complimentary” buses to the station where the train would resume.
I won’t say much about the bus ride except that I now share an intimate connection with the elderly passenger whom I shared a dollhouse-sized seat with. After I had stepped off the bus, I gulped the fresh air, tried to banish the body odor that still lingered in my nostrils, and began my day of city exploration.
The day was spent taking in the heart-wrenching displays at the Holocaust Museum, wandering through Eastern Village, and standing in breathless wonder in front of the art fixtures in the National Gallery of Art.
As I rode the train back to my parked car (after another claustrophobic bus ride past the out of order section of the metro line), I felt content. This came as a surprise to me because much of the previous day had been spent believing that my life had little to no purpose without graduate school. I spent the rest of the evening visiting with Ella and fell asleep feeling a sense of tranquillity.
Leaving Ohio for the weekend was just what I needed because it allowed me to gain a healthier perspective than the one that I had following my graduate school rejection. Through this experience, I was able to see that there is more to life than whether or not I get accepted into graduate school. It allowed me to recognize that my life can be vibrant and full of purpose in spite of my future plans not coming to fruition.
In the time since I learned of this news, I have seen my life go in a direction that I never imagined it would. I am currently working as an event planner in my alma mater’s Alumni Relations Office. This was by no means a job that I would have envisioned myself having a few months ago, but I love it.
I have since rethought the idea of graduate school and believe that event planning may be something that I pursue as a long-term career. But don’t quote me on that, because if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that our plans for the future are never guaranteed.
So here I sit, four months after this seemingly insurmountable rejection occurred, writing this blog post in a D.C. coffee shop. This is my third visit to the D.C. area since learning that I would not attend graduate school this fall, and each trip serves as a reminder that my life will continue flourishing as long as I remain resilient to the disruptions and detours that life throws my way.