Itfinally came. With bated breath I checked the mailbox daily for six months. Nowit's here, and it will change the course of my life forever. I had nearly decidedit wasn't going to arrive and that, consequently, I would not go to college. It'sthe first response I've received, but since its appearance on my kitchen table, Ihave not come up with the faintest idea of how to open it.
However I doit, the envelope should be opened slowly. Maybe if I tear it bit by bit, startingat a corner ... no, I will never be able to open it slowly enough to calm mynerves. I could open it quickly and just look for the presence of one of the twomost important words in the life of all hopeful college students: acceptance andrejection. What will I do when I see the first step toward the rest of my lifeprinted in cruel, bold black lettering? I'll just pretend I didn't see it. Or, Icould have someone else open it for me. My brother would probably do it if Iasked, and looked desperate enough. That's a good idea. Yes, problemsolved.
I'll knock and he'll smile in his adorable pre-adolescent way,with braces on crooked teeth and remnants of a chocolate bar on his chin. Perfectidea, if I do say so myself. It's going well, he's nodding ... he's laughing atme.
"Sure, I'll open it. Ha! Wait! I want to get at just the rightangle so I can see your face when I read the part about you not beingaccepted," he says. Pressing the letter into the small of my back, I glareat him. No school would reject me. He's only trying to make me upset. He's verygood at it, though. It is true. What would make a college accept me? It'sdefinitely a rejection.
He couldn't be more right. Not only that, butthis first letter will set a precedent for all future college correspondence.That's all right. No use in opening it now. It would be as futile as eating thatone chocolate in the middle of the box that everyone leaves because it is awidely known fact that it is of the tongue-numbing, cream-filledvariety.
I can go on with life now. I set the envelope on the floor andstare at it with wonder and fear. I never really thought about what I would do ifI weren't accepted to college. Sure, I'd worried about a rejection, but I have noplans. I'm not the Army type; too little ability to deal with crisis situations.I'm not sure working the midnight shift at the 24-hour bookstore entices me,either. Travel! That's it. I'll go to Italy to see all the art and thecountryside. I'm sure there are Italians who were rejected from college. I'll fitright in. Months of soaking up the culture, the language, the - it won't work. Iwas going to take language classes in college. Oh, well, I don't have the moneyto go to Italy anyhow.
I'll find other things to do. While myhigh-school classmates move on to forcing down last week's pizza and the lumpyearth-colored glop on their trays, I'll be dining on the finest: Mom's homecooking. For college students, the weekend is a synonym for "party."For the eternally homebound, Friday nights mean laundry night. Years from now,when people start getting married, I will have to fill out the RSVP card with mymom's name as my guest, but I guarantee I'll have the cleanest clothesthere.
Maybe I should rethink it. I could still open it. The letter isright here. But my life won't stop if I refuse to look at it. I toss it in thetrash. Who needs it? They can spare me the sob story about how I would have beenaccepted if it weren't for quotas and all the promising applicants who made theultimate decision so difficult. Years from now, I'll look back on my decisionwith shame. But if I open the letter, one door will open and another will close,and right now I'd like to keep both ajar.
The phone's ringing. It'sAunt Lucy, and she is telling me how tall I must be now that I'm a senior. Eventhough she saw me last week, I know the question is inevitable. Oh please, don'task me about - too late. Is that all that matters to anyone? I shouldn't tellher. It will only lead to further disappointment ... what's this? She thinks Iwill get accepted not just by one college, but by all of them! Now she'sinstructing me on how to decorate my dorm room. Could I get accepted everywhere?Well, naturally. I mean, I do have a rather high grade point average, if I do sayso myself. My extracurricular commitments will obviously win them over, and sowill my essays, which are so good the admissions officer will call me in tears,saying that he was so moved I have been awarded a full scholarship. Did I mentionthat Aunt Lucy is my favorite relative?
College life will be great.Interesting classes, meeting new people ... my life is just beginning. I have mybeautiful ticket to this paradise right here. I am sifting through the garbagelooking for the envelope. I've found it, although it's slightly stained withcoffee grounds. The perfect life is looming. I'll finally escape my brother'sjeers, I'll be rid of curfews, and I'll never have to pretend that I like tunacasserole again. My roommate and I will spend every waking moment together andwill share the same taste in everything from music to ...
That will neverhappen. Who am I kidding? I'll never be able to spend two minutes in a room withthe total slob I'll get stuck with. No, no! She'll probably be worse than that.She'll burn incense and kick me out of our room every night so that she can haveparties. I'll be exiled to the library, and my best friend will be alibrarian.
Not that I won't be able to use the extra time in the libraryand any words of wisdom Eunice (my librarian friend) may be able to impartbecause I won't understand any of my classes. I mean, if I can't even cope withsimple decisions like whether or not to open this letter, how will I manage myAncient-Civilizations-in-the-Tiniest-Section-of-the-World class? I'm not readyfor this.
The letter is in front of me now, but I'm starting to edge awayin case it bites. It's dangerous even to look at it. I'm starting to over-analyzeagain. It's about the width of a slice of bread. Is that too thin? Do I want toknow what the letter says? It's killing me not to know, but if I open it,everything changes. Not many would guess, but I don't deal well with change.Something inside me is telling me just to tear it open, and suddenly I want to. Iclaw at the white flap, beads of perspiration forming on my nose.
Whathave I done? I've opened Pandora's box. Who knows what evils may spring forthfrom the paper folds. Deep breaths are not helping my anxiety as much as I hadhoped. I back away. If I don't open it, I can stay safe. I won't have to putmyself out there to see if I can really hack it in the real world. Mostimportant, I can stay connected to the past ...
What if I make the wrongdecisions? Not on purpose, but it could happen. School hasn't prepared me forthis. We do analogy sheets until we can't see straight, but none of us actuallyknows what's out there, beyond those who love us unconditionally.
I havebeen a little silly about opening this. It's just a letter. One measly collegeacceptance letter, the contents of which can either remain a mystery or berevealed to all. I applied, and now it's finally here. The least I can do is openit. Whatever will be, will be. The words written inside won't change. Either I'min or I'm out. I pick up the letter and start to read: Congratulations, your lifeis about to change.
One decision down, a lifetime more to look forward to.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.