I do this thing. It is turning into a bad habit. I build these giant castles in the sky in my mind. I keep telling myself that all of the great things that I am imagining are going to unfold exactly as I describe them. Six times out of ten, it seems to go the way I am thinking. And then three times out of ten, it may stray off course a bit, but I can deal with it. And then once in every ten, the castle seems to go up in smoke. And then I don’t feel like building any castles anymore.
Last week, the biggest and most elaborate castle that I have ever built tumbled into bricks and mortar. The university that I had dreamed and worked tirelessly to get into sent me a letter saying that they were no longer interested in taking my application forward. I re-read the letter three times in case I thought my eyes had tricked me. It is difficult to describe exactly what that felt like. First you feel anger, then you feel frustration, then fear, helplessness and finally you feel nothing at all. You just feel numb. No matter how often or seldom you have felt rejection, every single time it trips you up, the grazes on your knees and elbows do not heal easily.
I smiled and I laughed at all the scenarios that I had built up in my head, all the things that I thought were going to happen if I didn’t ever get that letter – as I laughed, I could feel myself choking back the tears. I could see the rest of my family around me feeling the same shock as the hope just extinguished, as if a candle had just been blown out. For hours, I thought of all the bricks that I had laid over the course of just a few months: what I was going to tell people, how great it would be to study at such an institution, watching my name being etched into the history of my school as another exceptional student. It is true that the higher you climb, the harder you feel the fall.
But why do we fall? (The question posed by Alfred to Bruce Wayne.) Because we must learn how to get up again; how do we know how important it is to stand unless we fall flat on our faces from time to time? Luckily I have plenty of people around me to drag me to my feet, especially when I don’t feel like ever getting up again. You have to tell yourself that it will all work out in the end, even if it is difficult to see it now. I am struggling to come to this realization myself. But I tell you what I am not going to do. I am not going to stop dreaming – I am not going to stop building these castles. Because six times out of ten they seem to go my way, three times out of ten I can deal with it and only once does it fall down. And I like those odds.