The dream (school) is over
AMAEZING - Mae Coyiuto (The Philippine Star) - January 25, 2013 - 12:00am

I ’ll never forget the first time I rode an airplane.

I was terrified. My stomach was filled with butterflies and I thought my ears were going to come off every time they popped. But I forgot all of that once we were up in the sky. I looked out the window and was so amazed when I realized we were passing the clouds. I wanted to stay up there forever. At that moment I decided that my dream in life is to learn how to fly.

As you can see, I have always been a big dreamer.

I did every ridiculous idea that I had in the hopes of soaring in the sky. I made wings out of Cartolina paper and taped them on the back of my shoulders. I used my mom’s tennis racquets and flapped them around pretending that they were wings. I also poured glitter all over me hoping that I accidentally received the magical bottle that contained fairy dust. After many falls and bruises, it dawned on me that my dream might not be so feasible after all.

I vowed that I would never watch Dumbo or Peter Pan ever again. I was crushed and in my five-year-old mind, it was the end of the world. I grew up watching cartoon characters, wishing upon a star and having all their dreams come true. I couldn’t accept the fact that my case was an exception.

Years later, I never really got out of my habit of dreaming big. My all-time favorite show is Gilmore Girls. I grew up watching the main character working her butt off to get into Harvard. She transferred schools, pulled all-nighters and did everything she could to make it. This fictional character became my role model. I’ve dreamed of studying abroad ever since I was 10 years old.

I fell in love twice in my life. One was during the summer of my sister’s graduation. I was in New York. I had never seen anything like it. Everything looked so alive and the whole place just exuded energy. I had the most mouthwatering burger ever (if you go to New York, you must go to the Shake Shack) and was speechless after watching Broadway. For me, it was the best city in the entire world.

Then I saw it — Columbia University. I couldn’t even come up with words to describe how wonderful I thought the place was. I felt smarter just by stepping in the gates of the place. My sister toured me around and showed me the library, the classrooms and even the newspaper room. I loved everything about it. I was so sure that when I grew up, I was going to be a Lion.

The only other time I felt that way was when I visited the faraway land of Stanford University. I remember seeing the palm trees on both sides of the road and thinking that they were guiding me to some sacred place. I had an addiction. I bought a Stanford cap, Stanford hoodies, Stanford socks and I even bought my pocketbooks from there so that I could say that they came from Stanford. Even though the temperature was burning hot in Manila, I wore that sweatshirt everywhere.

I’m a very stubborn person so when I have my mind set on something, there’s a 99 percent chance that it’s going to stick. I was going to either Stanford or Columbia. Nowhere else. I embarked on one of the most daunting tasks — applying to college. I kept pushing myself in every single thing I did because I wanted this so badly. I devoted most of my vacations to SAT practice tests and drafting my college application essays. On Christmas Eve, I remember bringing my laptop to all our family gatherings so that I could work more on my applications. While the sound of fireworks was bursting in my ears, I was busy answering, “Why do you want to attend this university?” I don’t think I’ve worked harder for anything in my life.

And it was judgment day. Funnily, Columbia and Stanford released their results at the same day. I was hyperventilating. My palms were sweating and I don’t think I’ve ever been as nervous as that moment. I opened both websites and said one last prayer before checking them both. I watched the window slowly load and held my breath before I scrolled down. I didn’t pass.

Remember that feeling of disappointment I felt when I learned I couldn’t fly? Multiply it by 100 and that’s probably the way I felt at that moment. I still smiled and kept saying that I’m lucky and that so many people have bigger problems, but I was still crushed. I had to say bye to all those childhood fantasies. I remember staring at that Stanford sweatshirt in my closet and telling myself that it could never become a reality. Realizing that your dreams can’t come true is perhaps one of the most painful things anyone can ever go through.

My view of everything suddenly became much larger. If I only saw two schools before, now I could see 10. I was now more open to so many things that I had shut out years ago. Not getting into these schools was not the end for me; it was a new beginning. You fabricate your own fantasies, but maybe destiny has a different and perhaps better path set out for you.  I know it sounds so clichéd but this “setback” made me see things in a whole different light. Before I was disillusioned with the glamour, the prestige of the campus, but now I read more into things like the majors, the class ratios, and the student life. Even though those two schools were my childhood dreams, I realized that they might not be the best place for me.

Contrary to what a lot of people may feel, not achieving your dream doesn’t mean you’re a failure. If that were true then I might have despised my five-year-old self for never learning how to fly. I once dreamed about forming a band and becoming a singer, but that quickly died when I accepted the fact that I couldn’t carry a tune. No matter how much we wish for the contrary, life is real. It is not a fairytale with guaranteed happily ever afters.

I know my problem seems minute compared to what the rest of the world is going through, but what may seem small to one can mean the whole world to another. A rejection from a school or any rejection for that matter really, really hurts. But don’t let these things ever make you doubt yourself. They do not make you any less of a person. Life is not made up of a single road. If you can’t journey through this path, you find other ways.  Not all our dreams can come true, but that doesn’t mean we should give up.

I have no regrets. Dreaming about going abroad has made me dare to go beyond what I know. I made the most out of everything I had and it has opened so many doors for me. It’s all up to you how long disappointment is going to last. I could have moped around all day and give up on college entirely, but I didn’t. I moved on. I may not have gotten my dream, but I did get something real.

I’m a big dreamer and I am proud of it. One great thing that came out of this trait is that I get to have so many stories to share. But the other more important factor is that I became stronger. I still go all out and try my best to go for my dreams. But if things don’t turn out the way I expected them to, I still never stop trying. Sometimes the journey towards your dreams is even more fulfilling than achieving that goal. Some would advise that you shouldn’t expect so that you can avoid disappointment. Well, I have another opinion. If you’re afraid of rejection and disappointment, then you will never get to live.  I am here where I am today because I dared to dream. Don’t let the dissolution of your dreams ever stop you from dreaming.

0PT BEFORE I BUT I LEFT MARGIN NEVER NEW YORK STANFORD
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