I sat in the third-floor Perkins-Bostock bridge, pretending to read my math textbook. Why now? Out of all times, why now? The statuses flooded in “DUKEENGAGE GUATAMALA OMG,” “I can’t believe it! Going to India next summer wahoo!” I slammed my laptop shut—jealous, annoyed, hurt.
Thoughts flooded in faster than status updates: “I have a C in calculus and a test tomorrow. Good God, get it together.” “It’s okay to be sad.” “This means summer school. Joy.” “My good is not good enough.” “But my roommate got her program and did her application the night before.” “I can always try next year!” “Forget it. DukeEngage must be corrupt.” “What did my professor say about integrals and cars again?”
That was one year and two days ago. Nothing was going according to plan. I had just heard back from DukeEngage—a big, fat “we regret to inform you” email sitting in my inbox. I deleted it. And sat there. Crushed.
It dawned on me that my belated foray into pre-med classes was going mediocrely at best. This was round two of applying to international DukeEngage programs for me. Three strikes and you’re out?
My boyfriend walked up, and I just couldn’t pretend. The tears came down. Down, down, down. Right there in the third floor bridge. “Why does following your dreams sometimes feel like you’re chasing them away?” I wondered aloud.
He hugged me, pushing my hair behind my ear and told me to focus on studying. “Every little thing will be okay,” he said.
He left for class. I sat back down again. Faced forward in the too-comfortable-for-any-serious-studying chair, tears still streaming, the whole world an apathetic blur.
A year later, I sit in this same spot, about to open the DukeEngage email. What to do, what to do? Failure known twice is doubly discouraging. Click, open, the subject heading reads: “Good news from DukeEngage!”
I’m sitting here, joyous, knowing that I will be going to Muhuru Bay, Kenya next summer to volunteer at the WISER school. Happy tears come. Down, down, down.
I am overwhelmed by how far I am from where I once was. I sit here with the knowledge that I am headed into my exams in good shape. I sit here knowing that every little thing, in this moment, is all right.
It won’t stay like this. Oh goodness, no. “It’s always something,” as they say. But what I want for myself and for every Dukie is a quiet moment of reflection during this final week. A minute to remember your own moment like this, when you found out a piece of good news or when the Chapel’s bells were ringing and the whole sky above was alight with crimson and orange. We should, we must remember moments when every little thing felt better than okay, moments when we remember that life rocks and so do we.
For me, an embarrassing song is the trick. It’s a song that we’ve all heard more times than professors say “the final will be cumulative” (and equally groan-inducing). For me, it’s “So What” by P!nk, released circa 2008. The only thing worse than pop music is barely retro pop music. I digress.
Do one quirky thing this finals time. Slide in your ear buds and give this song a listen. Three-quarter volume or bust.
We are not P!nk. The pixie cut is tough to swing, and most of us prefer a more classic look. But so what? We’re still rockstars. We got our rock moves.
It’s okay to be humbled. It’s okay to follow our dreams or chase them away. It’s okay to catch up with them or find new ones. Plan A doesn’t work out? So what? There are 26 letters in the alphabet. Stay cool.
And so I rather like to look at finals as an opportunity. An opportunity to show Professor Blake that I do know how cars and integrals relate. An opportunity to maintain that A in chemistry or reach for that grade in history. And if not? If we fall short? So what? If the A is lost, the target left unreached? So what? We don’t get the DukeEngage we had hoped for? So what? Nothing goes according to plan? So what?
We’re still rock stars. We’ve got our rock moves. And every little thing will be okay. Maybe not for long. But for a moment. And that is enough.
Gracie Willert is a Trinity junior. This is her final column of the semester.