When Harvard did not come.

Harvard University logo

When you fail once in your life, it destroys you. Doubt slowly sidles into your life, sluggishly, more like slithering, then nippily, thoughts race through your brain. You start questioning your whole life. You wonder if you are what you are or what people claim you to be. You suddenly have misgivings about whether you were smart, clever, beautiful, intelligent. You doubt whether your gait is right while walking or maybe it has a slight limp that no one ever told you about. You wonder whether your voice has the right cadence to make you sound like an archetypal of excellence. You question whether reading more books will make you sound brainier; then you sink deeper into questioning if Chimamanda Ngozi’s ideologies will help you live a more substantial life or perhaps, you should just stick to Daniel Steel or Grisham’s popular thrillers.

Then you suddenly start reading Harry Porter; because everyone who gets an Ivy League school has read Harry Porter and has watched Grey’s Anatomy and at one point imagined themselves as Shonda Rhimes. Then when you ultimately get down the path of self-validation, you affirm to yourself that you can actually beat all the odds and become the best, you gain confidence in yourself. That hope feels great; it feels like a tiny flickering candlelight in a dingy basement. It feels like the same joy you had when maybe five years ago you were the best in the country or you wrote the best composition in your class. It reminds you of the day your dad told you he believed in you. Words that he will probably never say again especially if he is African. So you clutch that little ray, of maybe I could do this. Then you start reading Allen Cheng’s blog prep scholar on hope to raise your SAT score by 240 points and for hours, days, weeks, you craft up a plan, you feel energized, pumped up and ready to face life.

And then there is always this by Ernest Henley,
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods’ maybe,
For my unconquerable soul,

In the clutch fell of circumstance,
I have not winced or cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance?
My head is bloody but not unbowed,

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms the horror of shade,
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds me and shall find me unafraid,

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Then you fail again. You lose that poetry competition you had viciously prepare for, you fail yet another exam, you get rejected by a small community college, it simply is not a big failure. So what you do next is you pick up your pieces, one by one, and trying putting them back together. Fortunate enough, this time around you have more strength. This time around your connections are more solid, you have Person A at Harvard who can throw in a peer recommendation, you have a Boss X who can throw in a good word for you. In fact, you believe you are 6 people away from the president. Unfortunate enough and also true, is that you put back the pieces of your broken heart together with super glue and forget that your heart is just a fist-sized muscular organ.

Probably, if this second failure happens you will be just fine. But the third, fourth, fifth…the tenth time, you are a mess, a wreck, who can’t cry because you are immune to pain. You don’t need people anymore because when you were a gang, hanging out with friends who shared a dream, you thought you were a team; but their lives seem to be going on perfectly and yours is not.

So when I opened my last rejection letter to Harvard University last Thursday, I had no tears in my eyes, I actually laughed and I was like, “Ooh okay, crap!” and then I walked out of the room and sat at the balcony, with a blank stare for fifteen minutes, not knowing what to think and I actually fell asleep. I in fact only woke up when a friend texted, “Should I call you a Crimsonite yet?”
I chuckled actually, and slid the phone right back into my pocket…and then I walked back to my room thinking, how do you forget a good dream? How do you whitewash or brainwash it? What do you call yourself again, a fighter or just a persistent fool who should settle down to what they have? Do you give up just yet? But you keep thinking of the eleventh failure that will come along or maybe the hundredth and you just do not have any more strength; only the will. At that moment, you realize that this Thomas Edison quote,” I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” is just mere cliché or by perchance a race that is really grim to run. You figure out that other people, your parents, your peers who were a step ahead gave up at this same point where you are at or probably earlier.

Essentially, you do not have another plan…and you gather your next move; is yours, devoid of influence, previous data or any hullabaloo quote you have ever read. You finally realize, that you are perpetually hitting a brick wall and you have two options, to either keep hitting that brick wall till one day it topples or to turn around and walk away. While at it, I think that is the hardest of decisions in life. But only you can make it for yourself.


  1. Lau de Bugs

    When Harvard did not come, what else came? It’s lovely, but every time, while looking down, and at the same time going forward, one may hit a brick wall. It may be an time then to look at the wall again, and decide whether to go back, some paces, and run at the wall with more speed and momentum, or even turn left, or right, and go around the wall, and get to the other side of the wall by going around the sides.

    But writing is graceful…. Whenever you feel pain…. If its on a diary, or on a blog…. And this is graceful, coz it opens the page to imagine.

  2. Jaccojwang

    This is so relatable in more than a million ways. I feel you, and share in the pain. Close yet not so close…but it’s all life…Awesome piece.

  3. nyarikibenjamin

    “keep hitting that brick wall till one day it topples or to turn around and walk away.”
    I can’t claim to know thee that much, but I well can tell what kind of a fighter you are. For you, the former will work. So, Don’t stop, Don’t quit. Get back up and keep hitting that wall. Its topple will surely be the sweetest victory.

    A rejection from a small community college..haha! I relate.


    When havard did not come” …we can not invite you at this time…”the admissions board often give you the hope that you can quite make it when you try again, layer .Inside you is usually the fear that you will fail again.Then you remember time will never wait for you , so the struggle to catch up with your peers at the community college ensues.
    Anyway it is a nice piece

  5. Leroy

    I find your piece both boldly true and subtly dishonest. Keen observations of a stubborn heart that refuses to break down in hurt.You are not a stubborn fool. You’re just human. To answer your question; you never forget a good dream but the point where you wake up from one is entirely subjective.

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