But there it was. The email from the admissions committee of Yale University detailing how, in their eyes, I was special. Special enough to be notified early and offered a position for the Fall of 2012.
And though, as mentioned, 10 days have passed, I still sit in a perpetual state of confusion, as my expectations try desperately to play nice with the reality that arrived in my Hawkmail account.
And with this confusion has come a kind of disgust with the way I often mistrust unexpected blessings. Frustration with the idea that it feels impossible to just believe that this is the way things were meant to happen, no matter how surreal it continues to feel.
I know I'm not the only one who walks around with a general understanding of the way their life will play out. Though disappointments may come in the form of rejection by the junior high crush you were sure was your soulmate or heartache that the only men courting you during your senior year sit on admissions committees at graduate schools, most people, in knowing themselves, know where their life path will most likely lead, at least for the next few years.
I, for one, saw myself spending the next few years walking up and down city streets in confidence-inspiring heels as I make my bosses love me with my witty remarks and flawless press releases.
I have always been a people-pleaser. Meant to get a salaried job and put a downpayment on a house by age 30. Other people are the free spirits, born to roam and positive that, at least their twenties, will be spent without a forwarding address.
But then there was my summer in Colorado, and the way that just a taste of a brand-new place seeped into my understanding of myself. My expected life plan tried to make room for this mountain love, changing that imaging of high heels on Chicago pavement to fall boots in a Boulder coffee shop writing a first draft of an article.
But then came this email. And the realization that this is the kind of joyful surprise that even my spotless report cards from grades 1 through 16 didn't see coming. Because who I am I to say what two years in New Haven, Connecticut could do for my future? Suddenly the timeline of my twenties has gone blank beyond age 23, as I am forced to consider all of the opportunities that I can't even begin to imagine that this degree can bring me.
Is this the last summer I'll spend near my family? Will magazine articles win my love away from my Facebook news feed once and for all? Will my favorite sunsets still sink down behind Colorado mountains?
At a moment in life where I should wear nothing but a smile on my face, I often find it, instead, marred by a scrunched forehead and tight frown, as I try to rearrange and replace the expectations that led me to this confusion in the first place.
And somewhere in this midst of all this self-absorption, I stumbled upon a life lesson that has changed the way I understand the people I come across in my daily life.
You see, whether freshly accepted to graduate school or not, we all live lives filled with the kinds of decisions that slowly but surely chip away at the expectations we hold most dear, amounting to a relocation in reality that will always be able to catch us off-guard.
No matter how frustrating the decisions that define our friends' lives may be to us, we must remember that they are fighting their own battle with the monster of expectation. They are fighting to follow the path that they have laid out for themselves, before reality comes to reassert itself and leave them dazed and confused.
Sure, from your standpoint you may find it easy to believe that I will be at Yale next semester or impossible not to hate that your roommate sees nothing wrong in going after his best friend's girl, but you must always remember that it is only the individual's perception that comes to matter.
Give it time. Soon, I will be signing my first grad school tuition check and it will hit me how very real my acceptance was. Or that roommate will finally grasp just how wrong it is to risk friendship for a crush.
But we all need a while to understand the reality that has arrived on our doorstep.
So let's all take a deep breath. And look at the plan we have for our lives. And realize that there isn't a small enough number in the world to signify the chance that your expected path will actually match reality. But it gets awful hard to admit just how wrong we are.
Take it easy on each other.
Obviously the realty of my Yale acceptance is an easy pill to swallow. But that roommate convinced he's found love with his friend's gal? Not as easy to grasp that pursuing her is not acceptable under some sort of fairytale love exception to the bro code. Because the expectation of love is that hardest to let go of.
Again, take it easy on each other.
It will all make sense in the end.
Peace, love and a peaceful night's sleep,
"Day by day, nothing seems to change, but pretty soon everything's different."