Rejection, reflection, and finally redemption

    A few weeks ago you may have noticed me on campus. No, I was not the “”blonde bombshell walking flirtatiously on Library Walk,”” I was the one with the blood-shot eyes, mascara-stained cheeks and deep frown lines, walking like a dazed zombie from classroom to classroom.

    My dreams had just been crushed. Actually, “”crushed”” really doesn’t describe how I felt that day. Perhaps “”obliterated”” and “”defeated”” do my feelings at that time a little more justice. I had just received news of my transfer application to UC Berkeley: I had been rejected.

    For months I had been building up the outcome of my transfer application in my head. During that time, I had made several trips to UC Berkeley (which perhaps made the eventual rejection a bit more bitter) and believed that getting the acceptance letter would somehow transform me, make me a better human being in my eyes and in the eyes of my family and friends. I would finally be able to convince myself I was “”as good”” as the students who go to UC Berkeley and that much closer to academic and social success.

    Even though I risk social persecution for writing this, I had always thought I was somehow “”third-rate”” for going to UCSD. Whenever I told people I went to UCSD, they always retorted “”Oh, you mean the party school?”” I felt like people around me thought I was not as intelligent as some of my friends who got into the so-called “”better”” UC schools: UCLA and UC Berkeley.

    Even worse, I believed that I was not “”good enough”” or “”smart enough”” as the students there. My inferiority complex went so deep that I could not find anything I liked about UCSD. I hated my classes. I hated the school’s environment. I was suspicious of the administration and wary of the students who were happy here.

    For six months, while I awaited news of my transfer status, I fantasized about what I would do when I got into UC Berkeley. I would run for school president. I would meet a professor who would finally help me unearth the meaning of life. I would write a research paper that would go on to win the undergraduate research award and eventually land me a spot in an Ivy League graduate school. And all this even though my grades were less than stellar (OK, a lot less than stellar).

    I somehow convinced myself that a higher power would convince the admissions committee to let me in. I let myself believe that God, free on a 20-minute lunch break from trying to bring an end to terrorism and endless boy bands, would somehow influence those powerful committee members to stamp “”Approved!”” on my application. Of course it was ridiculous, but that’s what you do when you really, really want something: You feel like you deserve it.

    While waiting for UC Berkeley’s decision, I had ample time to try to enjoy myself at UCSD. To involve myself more in school-related activities and work harder in my classes instead of thinking of new additions to my list of “”1,001 things I hate about UCSD.””

    Did I in fact do anything positive or productive while waiting for the committee’s decision? Not really. I was terrified to think of something I actually liked here because it meant that I belonged here — to a school I felt isolated from. And so, when I read the committee’s decision that fateful day, I felt worthless and angry beyond words. I was stuck here at UCSD. I felt like a prisoner. (Except I was paying more than $10,000 for my period inside my jail cell.)

    Thankfully, I had arranged a meeting with a school psychologist that day or you would have seen me running naked down Library Walk in protest of the admission committe’s decision. (For anyone remotely excited by this prospect, I can assure you it would have been a horrific sight.)

    It just so happened I got an intelligent and rational “”no-nonsense individual”” who was not going to sit there and listen to me whine about how much I hated UCSD and the UC Berkeley admission board until her ears bled and she thought about leaving the profession.

    Instead, she forced me to confront the fact that I was not going to die just because I got rejected from UC Berkeley. She reminded me that everyone faces rejection at one point or another and tried to make me understand that even if I got into UC Berkeley, I would not suddenly transform into a better version of myself. I would just be me, Divya Runchal, insecure individual extraordinaire, at another university.

    I left her office feeling frustrated and confused. She had asked me to meet up with her again in two weeks and think about what I liked about UCSD. At that moment there was nothing I liked about UCSD. I did not know how I would survive until our next meeting.

    But I did. And because I thought I had nothing else to lose (considering I was at an extremely low point to begin with), I decided I would actually try to complete the assignment. I began reading the books professors assigned for homework, instead of apathetically skimming through them like I usually did. And surprise, surprise — I actually enjoyed them. I went to places around campus I would normally just pass by, and met interesting people while sipping coffee and taking in the view at the Grove Caffe or at the cafe outside Mandeville.

    I also began e-mailing professors and TAs, and attending office hours. I was shocked to learn that professors were interesting and genuinely nice people, rather than the stuffy, snobby intellectuals I had thought they were just weeks before. And although La Jolla may not be as intellectually or socially stimulating as I believe Berkeley to be, it is still a beautiful place and the weather is not as temperamental as Northern California’s.

    It is funny how feelings can change so quickly. When I was rejected, as crazy as it sounds, I thought my life was over. I felt like I would never become the successful or intelligent individual I thought all UC Berkeley students are. I felt like a cantankerous senior citizen who was fed up with life after having survived through the depression, a war and enough family drama to last more than a lifetime, except I was 020 — and an ungrateful, spoiled brat who could not see the good things I already had access to.

    So, yes, I was devastated and angry when I did not get into UC Berkeley. But to my surprise, I learned the importance of gratitude and realized that maybe UCSD is not so bad after all.

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