Monday, December 20, 2004

The End of Things

I have been almost, to quote my roommate, outwardly nonchalant about the upcoming Wharton decision. This mirrors my inner thoughts too. There is a calm today that surprises me. This is so different from the waiting for my first decision, Tuck, last March.

March 11:
"Feels great to finally be waiting for my first decision. An end in sight to all the work of the past few months."

"I'm actually feeling good in expectation. I don't know why, not scared or sceptical. I think I'm building myself up to a high. The fall would probably be bad, if it happens, but I wouldn't want it any other way."

March 12:
3:21 AM - "I'm wide awake and just broke the golden rule - yes, I opened up my Tuck application and re-read all my essays :-) This is obsessive, but I also want in that bad."

6:45 PM - "Ding"

10:24 PM - "Everything seems the same all around ... Yet, something's different. I failed at something I worked very hard for. There's a voice inside me which reasons that it was an application that was denied and not me, yet asks if I was really good enough to be accepted at Tuck. Another questions if I am good enough for any business school."

"And I was sincere about every single word I wrote in my essays. It was completely my work, a recounting of my successes and an admission of my failures. I spelled out my dreams, my ambitions, and why I want to be a part of Tuck.

But, evidently, it was not enough. I trust that the admissions committee found candidates more capable, more interesting, and more desirous of Tuck than me, and I wish the entire incoming class well. I loved the place and am sad that I will not be able to spend time there. While the sadness will linger, and I think it should as a reminder of all my efforts, I'm done pondering about this.

I will move on. I fucking very well will."

I still remember that sadness, and I have moved on from that disappointment. Along the way, I have discovered something very interesting about myself. These experiences can not be brushed away as much as I may try. I can not box them up and say 'i wanted something and worked for it but didn't get it' and move on. I can think I am, but their effects linger. The hardest part for me was to make the decision to reapply. It was not just about writing a new set of essays or asking for more recommendations. It was, at a very fundamental level, about believing in myself. When I started on this quest last year I pictured myself as an MBA doing the great things I wanted to do. After six brutal denials of the validity of this vision, I had a difficult time seeing the same picture again. I think it was because I was reminded of the pain of the process to its realization.

I ultimately did see that picture again, but a funny thing seems to have happenned. I think the possibilities of disappointment are now hard-wired into my expectations. I must clarify. I am not saying that I now expect to fail, only that I am not an unbridled optimist with regard to this process anymore. And deep down it hurts, this change in approach - it really does, because I used to passionately believe that anything is possible. Why am I not on that high today, waiting with bated breath for the life-changing decision to happen tomorrow ? Why ? Why ? Why ?

You know, there may well be a purpose to the whole saga. Maybe I needed to learn some life-lessons. Maybe I needed to overcome some of my naiveties. Maybe I needed to learn, once again, what it means to stand up after being knocked down. Maybe, just maybe, I needed to grow up.

A few days before my Tuck decision, I wrote from what I consider the book of life - The Alchemist. I re-read that post today and I can now better understand, make that Feel, every word.

"So what should I do now?" the boy asked.

"Continue in the direction of the Pyramids," said the alchemist. "And continue to pay heed to the omens. Your heart is still capable of showing you where the treasure is."

"Is that the one thing I still needed to know?"

"No," the alchemist answered. "What you still need to know is this: before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we've learned as we've moved toward that dream. That's the point at which most people give up. It's the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one 'dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.'

"Every search begins with beginner's luck. And every search ends with the victor's being severely tested."

Truer words have never been spoken. In late August last year I had wanted to cancel my GMAT because I wasn't prepared and scoring badly on the prep tests, but it was too late to get a refund. So, I straggled into the test fully expecting to have to come back again to retake it. I walked out a very surprised man. An unexpectedly good score gave me the confidence, oh I must say a right, to aim for the best schools. I have come to realize now that my search for an admit did indeed begin with Beginner's Luck. And I can claim to have been tested before it ends.

But, how will it end? If The Alchemist is to be believed, it matters not.

"You old sorcerer," the boy shouted up to the sky. "You knew the whole story. You even left a bit of gold at the monastery so I could get back to this church. The monk laughed when he saw me come back in tatters. Couldn't you have saved me from that?"

"No," he heard a voice on the wind say. "If I had told you, you wouldn't have seen the Pyramids. They're beautiful, aren't they?"

Maktub !

I have done what I could, and I really hope Wharton sees it fit to offer me a place. Here's wishing the best to everyone else waiting for 9 A.M. tomorrow. A lot of sweat and tears have gone into everyone's applications, and I can only hope we are rewarded for it.
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