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Pipe Dreams This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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So, Nick didn’t get into Penn. Julia wasn’t surprised, and she smiled at his Facebook status that read: “The college admissions people are all ex-crack addicts, unhappy with their lives and find enjoyment in quashing the bright promise of young kids who will do FAR more with their lives than these admissions officers could ever imagine.” And what exactly did he intend to do with his life? She was pretty sure he had neither an idea nor a plan for achieving it. She would be surprised if Nick achieved as much as being an admissions officer. A far as she was concerned, that was pretty good accomplishment. She couldn’t see why he had expected to get into Penn; he had mediocre grades and he was really nothing special. He had been so hopeful, though. It was sad.

She herself couldn’t imagine getting into Penn, or any other good or even mildly reputable school for that matter. Maybe she would go to her local community college. And after that? Perhaps middle-management of some small company. Salary in the low five-digits. Yes, that was plausible.

As she had grown bigger, her dreams had grown smaller. When she was five, she was confident she would grow up to be a billionaire. At ten she would have settled for millionaire. At fifteen, she knew the only way she’d be rich would be to marry into money. And let’s face it, she wasn’t pretty enough.

When she was younger she always hoped she would be a writer, though even then she knew it was a pipe dream. When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she responded with “I don’t know.” She didn’t want to set herself up to fail.

In third grade her mother got one of her poems published in a children’s anthology. She’d never felt such excitement as when she saw her name in the table of contents. Thrilled, she ravenously turned the pages until she came upon her poem. She read it over and over. She proudly presented it to her third-grade teacher. From there, her imagination ran wild: she saw her name on the New York Times bestseller list. She saw it on the spine of a big fat hardcover, a book that would be displayed in all the bookshop windows. She imagined passing someone sitting on a park bench, reading, hands filled with her pages, eyes hungrily absorbing her words. She would walk by and smile. She would think, “I wrote that.”

She found that old children’s anthology a while ago, and flipped to her poem. A grammatical error in it bothered her to no end.

She started her first novel when she was twelve, determined to finish it by the time she was fifteen. When she was thirteen, she realized what absolute s*** it was and threw it out. She started countless more. She finished none. She gave up.

It was the day before her 17th birthday. Nick hadn’t gotten into Penn. She closed Facebook. Her two dreams sat staring her in the face. Her latest novel was open in a window on the right, instructions for applying to St. Andrews University from the U.S. in a window on the left. How would she ever get in with her grades this year? Maybe if she finished her novel and got it published. But she would never do that. The most she would do with her life would be to go to an okay school and get some non-descript office job. Or worse. It was foolish to think she would ever write anything good. Or what if she did, but no one liked it? The chances of success were crushingly slim. She should just accept her fate. Just like Nick should have accepted his.

She sat back and stared at the dreams that she had conceded would never come true. She looked into her future, and quickly looked away. What could she do if not keep trying? She leaned forward and typed another sentence into the word document. If she could finish this one, if she could just write the last sentence to one novel, at least she would know she did everything she could.





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