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We can’t control our dreams. I used to wish, after waking up from a nightmare, that I could have complete control over the shadowy experiences which haunted me at night, which seemed so real. Sometimes it seemed like I had control of these nightly journeys: I would create happy dreams, beautiful ones that made me smile. But the most instructive dreams are those that are confusing, or even scary. I know that now. Because of this one.

I glance at the sign on the sidewalk: MUSEUM. That is all the sign says in black, bold letters. It is a chance to learn something new, and I take it as I quickly walk up steep marble steps to the main doors just ahead. As the glass doors smoothly slide shut behind me, I walk, quickly, to where the tour begins. There is no one inside the museum. I see to my left that there is a wall, painted an apple green, that stretches on and on, so far that I can’t see where the wall ends. That’s strange, I think, because I love that specific shade of green. It reminds me of the tart crispness of a Granny Smith. I begin to run, with my left hand thrust out to the side so that it runs along with me on the apple green wall. I know I’m breaking at least two big museum rules: 1. Walk at a pace of 1 mile/hour and 2. Keep at least an arm’s length away. However, I feel, no, I know, that I belong here, and I can do whatever I want in this cool, enclosed space.

Suddenly, I snatch my hand away, for now there are a series of photographs, no frames, on the wall, neatly spaced out. I slow down and take a closer look. First, there is a baby, maybe only days old, in her white crib sleeping. The baby is cute, but her scrunched up, red face is similar to many Asian girl baby photos I have seen before. As I keep walking, I realize that these pictures are like a timeline of this girl’s life. Here she is at the age of six, sleeping again on a plane headed for Vancouver, Canada. Here she is, receiving a prize for violin, then piano, then violin again. I see a picture of her standing up holding a piece of paper, showing it to a woman I know is her mother. She has a proud look on her face, and her finger is pointed at an “E” for Excellence in Subject Matter. The girl is a success machine, a person who can’t fail.

But what is this? In front of me is a disturbing photo. That success machine, that lucky girl is sitting on a closed toilet seat in a dingy looking bathroom, wearing a black backpack on her hunched shoulders. She is crying, sobbing silently. I think I know the story behind her tears. But there’s a faint voice, calling me repeatedly. Who is it?

“Hoyeon, Hoyeon! Wake up!” a very insistent voice yells over the hum of an espresso machine buzzing its way to a cup full of bitter, black coffee. “Coming, mother,” I moan, as I throw off my bright floral red sheets to my right side. I lay on my bed, confused. That last picture, that crying girl, it was definitely me. But when and where would I have been crying like that? Thinking about the picture closely, I remember the black backpack. The same backpack I used for school. So I revise my question. When had I cried in school like that? As soon as I finish thinking the question, I know the answer. On March 12th, 2012, I had silently sobbed in the bathroom for 20 minutes during Period 1, Language Arts with Mr. Foerg-Spittel. Just thinking about that day caused tears to suddenly well up in my eyes.

Not many third graders think about high school. I did. It really started when a close family friend left for boarding school. It intrigued me. I began researching all sorts of boarding schools, and I found a new kind of education. They were high schools where students would live together, places where I would have to be independent. I loved the idea, but it was shoved into a small crevice of my mind during the rest of my carefree elementary years,

Sixth grade was easier than I thought it would be. I was always be excited when Mrs. Dueck, my teacher, walked to the chalkboard and began teaching, but my heart would sink when I realized I already knew the basic algebra lesson she was teaching. I wanted to learn new ideas, new lessons, and talk to people that loved the learning process as much as I did. So the boarding school idea came out of its hiding place and started to blossom. I grew more anxious for eighth grade, when I could finally apply.

Eighth grade: hectic. Whirlwinds of paper covered my desk. If one could have peered into my brain to see what I was thinking about, he/she would have seen these words floating around:

SSATs (a standardized test),

Reassuringly, relatives, teachers, and even alumni of the schools I wanted to go to told me I had a great chance with my passion and devotion to extracurriculars and said my determination in learning English and overcoming obstacles would make a great story. I was a little anxious about the fact that I needed significant financial aid, but I believed in my abilities. I was happy, admittedly anxious, but nonetheless cheerful until 6am on March 10th, 2012. At 6am, the first email came. Afterwards, they flooded in. One after another, emails guiltily and gently said, “We are sorry to inform you that we are placing you on our waitlist at this time.” It turned out that there a lot of kids who were passionate about their extracurriculars and had great stories about overcoming obstacles. On March 12th, a Monday, I silently sobbed in the bathroom for 20 minutes during Period 1, Language Arts with Mr. Foerg-Spittel, not ready to tell my curious friends and teachers I had failed after so many successes.

I open my eyes as I lay on my bed, hollowed out. Looking at that miserable girl in that picture, I feel pity for her. If I could, I would comfort her, because I know only a few close people will try to, and that isn’t enough for a girl like her. She’ll ask why, endlessly, when she’s falling asleep, swimming, learning, walking, or most painfully when she sees classmates that she thought unlikely to be accepted wearing sweaters that have the names of several different boarding schools blazoned across the front. Yet I know that if I told her she’ll be laughing and joking around in a month or so, she wouldn’t believe me. When the present is too painful and miserable, looking at the future for happiness seems to be unrealistic. But I know this girl will figure out that misery always passes. With some effort.

I know it was hard. But I’m strong. I jump back. The month of March was miserable, April was unhappy, May was calm, and June: joyful. I’m going to apply again. Don’t worry, I tell the girl in the picture. I know, I tell myself.

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