The Case of Bonderman and probable rejection (or what I learned from imagined failure)

The day I turned in my application I was nervous.

My hands were shaking; my eyes were frenzied. I tried to shake it off. “Would they want someone this nervous to travel alone?” I asked myself stubbornly. Still, other voices in my head prevailed.
Nights before I had been sitting on the couch, repeatedly re-reading my  essay to my roommates.
One of them had received a call, I couldn’t hear what the person on the other line was saying, but  I did hear her say:

“Well one of the m is sleeping and the other is nitpicking every detail of an essay.”

She spoke the truth, but in my defense every detail matters when you have 2,000 words to spread across three essays meant to tell a committee full of strangers who you were and why the Fellowship mattered to you; why you deserved something you had been dreaming about for years.

How could I know that I had chosen those countries for many more reasons than the ones I had listed? Were those reasons clear enough? Were they good enough? How do they know that I walked into protests not because I sought to be hurt but because they were unavoidable, because they were part of history? How did they know that, even then, I stayed only where small children were present and went with an Egyptian friend? How did they know I did not participate because I understood it was not my place?

A week beforehand I had created an essay full of other’s voices. It was that night, after I stripped down everything else and wrote again I found my own. I’m proud to say that I genuinely believe my proposal was mostly good. I’m hesitant to say it was my best, because even then I recognize the hazy fog of nerves affected my writing.

For a moment, after turning it in I felt elated and light. For a moment I believed I stood a chance. That feeling lasted one precious hour before I broke my rule. I looked back at my application, immediately recognizing numerous mistakes.

The capital letters made me look arrogant. This essay made me look irresponsible. That one didn’t clearly explain why I chose those particular countries. Worst of all, my costs were somehow left out of my itinerary (despite my checking it three times before submission).  I e-mailed the committee one week late with my costs,  the deep seated dread resurfacing.
How could I be so forgetful? I know how important this was. I should have checked it again. I should have steadied myself.  A litany of admonishments went through my head.

How could they choose me? It was 20,000 dollars, you don’t mess up for something like that. I wallowed in my grief for some hours. I called my mom. I wallowed some more, then I decided to re-evaluate.
I would have done much better had I only trusted myself. I had spent the entire month doing research. I knew every little detail. If you told me I was setting off next week, I would be prepared.

So what, they probably won’t choose me for the many reasons I’ve thought of in my head– at least I learned something. I learned a whole lot about the countries I had chosen to go to. Things I wouldn’t have learned without the application. I learned to trust myself– a lesson I will likely re-learn because, let’s face it, self-confidence needs a lot of reinforcement. Finally, after those hours of pity, those hours of reading a “book for fun”, I remembered where I had left my drive.

So, life, while I may not be awarded this fellowship I know there will be other opportunities, other challenges and I am ready for them.


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