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We Are All Going to Survive This

December 8, 2011

Today marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of the week my anxiety about college went into overdrive. As the December 15 estimate for the arrival of Early Decision letters approached, I obsessively refreshed the Oberlin blogs, hoping for some reassurance about the impending letter of decision. I didn't realize, at that point, that college students have finals in the middle of December and that insightful blogs about the nature of waiting were unlikely to be forthcoming.

Well, now I'm starting finals--I have two papers that I've barely started writing due in a week and an exam I'm sure will require at least seven hours of studying--but I'm going to take the time to reassure any ED1 prospective students out there: everything is going to be okay. I mean it. The letters will arrive and you will move on with your life. All the same, I know that the uncertainty can be nerve-wracking. At about this time last year, actually, I had to write a one-act play for class, and I wrote it about uncertainty, just because the theme pervaded my thoughts so completely.

When the letters came (five days late), and I found out that I had gotten into Oberlin, all my worries and cares disappeared. I'm mostly kidding. I was actually really happy for the rest of the year, despite the intervening challenges: finding a summer job, continuing to do reasonably well in school, AP exams, and so forth. Nevertheless, I felt a lot more secure about everything; I was certain that, my place at Oberlin assured, everything would work out.

Everything did work out. Kind of. For the first few weeks I was here, I was so nervous that I obsessively counted the steps it took me to cross every square of pavement, like an amateur musician clinging to the beat amidst a swarm of changing key signatures. Uncertainties--about course selection, about my life goals, about how to open my mailbox and where to go to meals--plagued me. Even as I registered for classes, became comfortable with my roommate, and figured out how to go a day without calling my parents at least twice, I was dreadfully nervous.

Gradually, I fell into a rhythm of classes and co-op jobs and rehearsals. First it was recycling on Wednesday nights; then it was Friday night midnight crew--then Thursday night choir practice. I figured out when I could go to the gym and when I would be too busy. Miraculously, I even made some friends. I began to feel more certain of myself; I began to enjoy my classes.

Over the past few weeks, that comfortable order has been disturbed as one of my friends has been grappling with the decision of whether or not to leave Oberlin. Once again, I am torn by uncertainty. One minute I am filled with elation that I ever had the opportunity to know such an amazing person, and the next with despair that she might leave. Contemplating the coming semester has become a somewhat terrifying prospect as I think about losing the person I could depend on to talk with me for hours, to eat with me at meals, to always have the most arresting perspective or interesting fact.

In retrospect, it seems unbelievably naïve to expect that the uncertainty would end when the decision letter arrived. I live for certainty, though; uncertainty is the bane of my existence. My roommate can attest to this: I am always sure to plan my work out so that I can go to sleep by midnight. To some extent, this sort of desire for certainty, the desire to know what's going to happen and to control outcomes, is useful. Clearly, making sure you get to sleep early every night is good for you; making every effort to get into the college that is right for you is important for your future success. But this past month has made it clear that you can never really expect complete certainty about anything.

Last Wednesday, as usual, I woke up early to make breakfast. It had snowed, and the two (very weird) recipes I had found on the Internet turned out to be perfect for the weather. Having completed my breakfast duties, I retired to the lounge with a book on Freud, a blanket, and Bach's cello suites. As I settled down into the book and the music, I realized that I was happy: despite the pressure of math quizzes, topic proposals, and the presentation I would shortly have to write about the book I was starting to read, I felt secure for the moment.

Despite the uncertainty that is making me (and probably you) miserable, I think that security in the moment could be enough.

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Responses to this Entry

As the kid who is reloading the blog pages, whythefuchshouldichooseoberlin.com, Oberlin Hopefuls, and College Confidential hourly as I await my envelope (and finish my play, actually. Parallel universe!).... Thanks.

Posted by: Anonymous on December 8, 2011 10:29 PM

Thanks for this post. I too try to plan everything, but I am trying to learn to live with uncertainty (as difficult and beautiful as it can be). Best of luck with your end of semester things.

And I send encouraging thoughts to prospective students. Hang in there. Maybe you will end up here, maybe elsewhere, but everything will work out, one way or another.

Posted by: Nora on December 9, 2011 12:06 AM

Eleanor, you are such a considerate blogger. I must try to be more like you.

And I second Nora's encouragement, but I say it to anyone in a state of limbo: take heart! Life is going on, even if it doesn't feel like it.

Posted by: Ida on December 9, 2011 12:31 AM

Oh wow. Eleanor, your timing is just perfect :) Great post, great things, great SCOTT we're almost ready to welcome in the class of 2016.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on December 9, 2011 10:50 AM

Thank you for this post! As an early decision applicant I have a countdown to december 15th in my assignment notebook (6 days!) I fear the anticipation is giving me an ulcer, but it's comforting to hear that my life will continue no matter what the letter will say. Good luck on finals, and maybe I will get to meet you next year :)

Posted by: Megan on December 9, 2011 10:21 PM

Thanks for this post. You make a great point for the "be in the present moment" philosophy.

Posted by: Matias on December 10, 2011 4:43 PM

I have to thank you for this. I've been compulsively checking these blogs at least once a day since sending in my application, and with the deadline so close I've been losing my mind. I've been trying to force myself to not be the one to pick up the mail, because I keep getting disappointed when there's no response (despite the fact the response isn't likely for another few days...).

Thank you for keeping me and all the other hopefuls out there calmed for a little longer!

Posted by: Kyle on December 11, 2011 12:18 PM

Thanks for this - it's helping me keep on breathing. But I'm still hoping for a sign as to whether letters are going out on the 15th... or before... or after???.... Even though IT WILL ALL BE OK either way, it still changes how much rushing to submit other applications is awaiting...

Posted by: Anonymous on December 12, 2011 9:27 AM

This is incredible. This is so exactly what we're doing this for. Thank you for posting this.

Hopefuls, take heart! First, from me: I didn't get into my first choice, and life went on. I'm happier here than I ever would have predicted. But somewhere else could be your Oberlin.

And, from Eleanor: it is in fact possible to have friends, do well in your classes, and still go to bed so early that your coopmates shake their heads in admiration. And also be a breakfast cook.

Eleanor, I hope you find the peace you want the prospies to find. No matter what your hallway buddy decides.

Posted by: Griff on December 12, 2011 5:54 PM

Anonymice: (isn't that a great plural form of Anonymous? Make it a thing.) I hope your waiting goes well.

Megan: I hope we do get to meet next year!

Griff: I'm pretty sure you are an honorary roommate by this point. And besides, coopmate is such a clumsy appellation.

Posted by: Eleanor on December 12, 2011 10:48 PM

Is there any way to find out when the letters have been sent? All the catalogs and circulars this time of year would make it easy to miss an envelope.

Posted by: Antsy parent on December 13, 2011 11:30 AM

Elizabeth Houston posted on College Confidential that the ED letters are being mailed today

Posted by: Another antsy parent on December 14, 2011 11:14 AM

Next chance I get, I'm using anonymice.

Posted by: Ida on December 15, 2011 6:12 PM

I had wondered when Griff became our honorary roommate. I should really read this blog.

Also, I want to second what Griff said about Eleanor: she is a champion. I have gone to bed at the same time or before her maybe twice all semester.

Also, I'm glad we became comfortable as roommates. Despite the opinion of Fox News and friends, having a roommate of a different gender is really not weird.

Also, you're awesome. I think you're the only one who considers it to be surprising that you made friends.

Also, I hope your break is going really well. See you Tuesday.

Posted by: Kye on December 30, 2011 7:18 PM

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