Attending a somewhat prestigious university, everyone around me has a goal. “I want to be a doctor” some say, others an engineer. In accordance with these goals, I watch these people painstakingly map out their futures. “Ok, to get into so-and-so med school, I have to take these classes, get this MCAT score, and this many volunteer positions to list on my resume…” I’ve seen freak-outs when these things don’t go as planned, and looks of unadulterated joy when they do. Although I used to be among the ranks of these determined souls, I have since learned that all this planning isn’t necessary. Life is random and will take you where it will through no fault of your own.
When senior year rolled around and it came time to apply to college, my peers all knew what school they wanted to go to and what they wanted to major in. I knew too. All my life I had dreamed of being a management major at NYU. This rooted it’s self in the fact that I eventually wanted to own a quaint boutique in SoHo, and NYU had a great business school. Really though, this whole “dream” was just justification for what I really wanted – to stay close to home and hence close to my mom. I owe her everything and the thought of leaving her seemed unbearable. Throughout my life she has struggled and worked extraordinarily hard to keep our family afloat after my parents divorce. For years she had two jobs, and I vaguely remember her selling jewelry and other personal effects to not only keep food on the table, but to ensure that my brother and I could attend sleep away camp, take dance lessons, and travel the world. Her efforts weren’t lost on me, and wasting her money was something that literally pained me.
Accordingly, just as I was about to mail in my last application, including the $75 application fee, I got angry. I had spent nearly $1,000 of my mom’s money on college related expenses over the course of my senior year. So, instead of sending in that application, I looked over the common application to see which applications were free. I marked each school with an asterisk and then looked through those schools again. Of them, Case Western Reserve University was the only school I even thought I had heard of, but, I called my dad, a college expert, just to make sure. He told me that Case did a lot of research and had hosted the 2004 Vice Presidential debate, so I had probably heard their name on the news at some point. Assuming it was a good school, I applied to Case and received my acceptance letter a few months later. Although the thought of leaving my mom terrified me, my gut told me it was something I had to do. Coming to Case and seeing my life unfold so randomly has taught me that focus and endless planning are not the only modes of attaining a happy and successful life. Sometimes you just have to sit along and wait for life to take you where it wants to.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.