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So, like a good little nerd, I've mapped it out:

My happiness is on the y-axis, ascending from 0 (none) to 100 (most).

The time of day is on the x.

-- And the waiting game is a perfect quadratic equation.

I wake up and check my email, and when I see that I still have not heard from graduate schools, I start off my day at (0, 0). Never mind that, surely, it is irrational to expect a POI to have emailed me between 3 am and 7 am EST.

I go to campus, go to class, go to lab, do my thing. Sooner or later I run into my adviser who always has either a stimulating philosophical/scientific topic to discuss or words of wisdom/encouragement about the app process. For the duration of the time spent with him plus an hour and a half or so of afterglow, my parabola is at its peak.

As the clock ticks down toward 5 pm, however, the slope of my line becomes negative once more, until at last I'm sitting in bed, right back where I started, having come full circle since that morning.

Lately, my parabola has become increasingly like a flat line, at a very low y value, continuously, as I begin to give up hope altogether.

But you know what?

Screw that.

I'm rewriting this equation.

We cannot control our circumstances or our environment, but we can control our responses. I choose to continue to think positively, to hope, and to believe that I am still an excellent scholar whether or not I get into a Ph.D. program this time around. I choose to respond by finding the best ways to improve my application for the next round. I choose to learn from my mistakes, and to write my own internal story.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, "Think of the worlds you carry within you."

These worlds within your mind do not disappear simply because you feel they are going unrecognized. The worlds are ever-evolving, crafted and populated by your own will, and full of infinite possibility.

Not getting into graduate school does not mean the destruction of every world, every dream-castle you've built for yourself.

It just means you get to spend a bit more time in their construction.


I've always been a little bit neurotic, but there's something about that waiting period between application and result that really puts the cherry on the already-overfrosted cake.

I still remember the two months between submitting my undergrad application and hearing about my acceptance. I whiled away my free hours on College Confidential doing everything within my power to make myself feel even more anxious about a situation that was now out of my control.

Waiting to hear back from grad schools is much the same, only instead of College Confidential it's TGC and SDN, and I have something as addictive and panic-inducing as the results survey to spice up my constant, lingering low-level anxiety. What if I mislabeled an SOP, despite checking each file three times before uploading, and now Harvard is wondering why I felt the need to inform them that Yale is most definitely the number one place for me? What if I should have addressed that one red flag on my application in my statement instead of just asking my letter-writers to do it? After all, they could have forgotten.

What if, what if, what if.

You know what, enough 'what if'-ing. I should probably do something productive with my life.

I work best when I have projects and deadlines laid out for myself, so I'm going to assign a few right now:

1) I will finish a novel. I'm working on three right now, so I suppose that means I'll have to pick one, but there you have it. It's going to happen.

2) I will practice piano every day for a decent period of time. Was originally gonna say I'd go running every day, but then I was in a car accident and now I'm banned from exercise for the next month.

3) I will apply to Oxford's M.Sc. Neuroscience program.

4) I will start this paper I'm co-authoring with my adviser.

5) I will continue running my honors thesis.

What about you? How do you plan to make the days and weeks pass in a non-insanity inducing manner?


So today is the last day of exams, and also the application deadline for the gross majority of my schools of interests. It feels strangely like the end of an era; this entire semester has been colored by the shadow of grad app deadlines hanging overhead, which has contributed to a constant low level of stress buzzing in the back of my mind and making me feel guilty when I do anything that isn't working on applications.

And now it's over.

I'm not sure what to do with myself anymore.

I mean, no, that's not precisely true, I have a general idea of what I can do. Work on my honor's thesis, for one. Start that paper I'm co-authoring with my adviser. Finish the novel I started writing in October. Have a real social life. Compulsively check my application statuses. (Stati? No, that's not right.)

Also, I have burnout. Or senioritis, whatever you want to call it. Kind of hit at an inopportune moment, really; right in the middle of exam week. Though I suppose it's better that it's coming right before a long break (winter hols) than in the middle of the semester and thereby influencing my grades to a greater extent. I'm one of those obnoxious kids who is disappointed when they get an A- , because they're convinced that if they really knew the material they'd have a straight-up A, and there's no reason not to know the material because they're a smart kid and so it really comes down to whether or not they worked hard enough. No escape in citing incompetence. Just akrasia. No one and nothing to blame but oneself.

My parents are not "tiger parents." Well, they kind of are: "You don't need to be dating anyone, gellert, you need to be applying to graduate school" and "Why are you going out on Friday night? Why not studying?" --but on the flip side of that coin, they think a B+ is a perfectly acceptable grade and see no distinction between an A- and an A. I've had people tell me before that I need to be less grade-focused and put the emphasis instead on material comprehension, but for me the two are one and the same. If I understand the material, I will make an A. It's what's happened in the past, it's what generally happens in the present. If I get an A-, it is often in classes or on assignments in which I can freely admit I didn't put in sufficient effort and that is why I didn't fully comprehend the material. Had I worked a little harder, studied a little, I would have an A, and more importantly, I would understand. Not saying this is true for everyone, but it's true for me.

The point is, no, it's not about some arbitrary letter for me. It's about what the letter represents in terms of my personal comprehension. Confessions of an intellectual perfectionist.

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