I haven’t visited a Flame Broiler since last year, around this time when the emails seniors receive are groundbreaking seals of fate. (At least, that’s how they felt.) It was afterschool during the warm spring days of southern California, when I sat eating with what seemed a cement block in my stomach, causing the food to settle like rocks against the hard cement- the constriction of my stomach was due to none other than the admissions email from Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois.
Hands- sweaty. Nape of my neck- clammy. Head- light. I had been refreshing my email obsessively that afternoon, and now the email was loading. It prompted me to enter my User ID and Password for the college result, those of which had made me feel like I was a member of that community already. Northwestern probably wanted me so much, i hoped I could trick myself into thinking.
I opened the admission portal, and was greeted with the dreaded “This year we received so and so number of applications from very qualified individuals…” Northwestern rejected me. I poured myself out to the readers and evaluators, had allowed myself to be vulnerable in ways I had never dared before, only for them to scrutinize and cast away. Like many things that happened during senior year, this occasion was dramatic and I took it far too personally. When I read the ominous opening, my chicken bowl lost its flavor, and felt unwelcome within me. I couldn’t finish it- my appetite, evaporated and erased by the heat.
College rejections hurt, but ultimately the closure from the decisions let me heal. Anticipation plagued my early spring, and I couldn’t enjoy the gradual and elegant process of flowers blooming and the clouds parting to let in the profound blue sky because I spent those days hunched over my phone or a computer- any computer- to check if I had wooed any colleges. It was nice to at least know the decision, and move on. Being rejected from a first-choice college is commonplace, and the dichotomy of feelings between a rejection and an acceptance is so pronounced that rejections enhance the joy felt from an acceptance.
A few weeks later, as I was casually unwinding from a week of school on a Friday night, I unceremoniously checked my phone and noticed I had received an email from Reed. The subject line said “It’s Friday and we’re in love.” I chuckled at the cheesy Cure reference and opened the email, to find the most elating acceptance I had received (besides the UC Berkeley acceptance, which I still find difficult to believe). Reed seemed like the perfect place to me; it “got” me, knew I wasn’t meant for a life in which things had to be taken so seriously and ceremoniously. The images in the college pamphlet popped at me, beckoning to step in and become a part of the experience, of its legacy.
It’s been a year since, and there have been so much new triumphs, friends, failures, and learning. Although I haven’t been to the Frame Broiler since my Northwestern rejection, I want to return in the summer, and take a seat, enjoying a meal. During the moment of a rejection, it may seem as if a crucial opportunity is lost, but life simply works out. It may feel like one’s rejection is the most unique crushing feeling ever experienced in the universe- those cursed stars- but many college students experienced it and are now leading happy, fulfilling lives in the college in which they ended up.