Monday, June 11, 2012

Never Surrender



Today is the Never Surrender blogfest to help Elana Johnson spread the word about the release of her second book, Surrender...

....a dystopian  struggle for freedom of thought (and love story, of course).

Is there a time when you refused to surrender?

My parents took me on a road-trip to visit some colleges when I was a junior, and I absolutely fell in love with one of the campuses in the Finger Lakes region of New York. So, I'm a typical romantic, and it wasn't this school's great reputation that won my heart: it was that Cornell was perched on top of a hill overlooking a lake. The campus was split by two gorges with breathtaking bridges and waterfalls, the buildings were old and ivy-covered, and the student union looked like a miniature of Hogwarts (though of course Hogwarts hadn't been written into a building yet, but that sort of building is always magical).

I  set my heart set on Cornell. My guidance counselor said, okay, you're going to need to beef up your application. And did I ever. Extra-curricular activities, sports, volunteer work, SAT prep-classes, AP classes, perfect grades. I agonized over my college essay.

And, I was rejected.

Worst day of my life when I got that too-small envelope in the mail.

I didn't give up. I called the admissions office and asked for an appointment. I didn't know what my plan would be. I collected several of my best papers and dragged my best friend along for moral support. We drove 3 hours and she posted herself outside the office door when I went in for my meeting.

I don't remember what I said; all I know is they were kind but in the end they did not have any openings but I was welcome to apply again next year.

Crushed.

A year, a whole year! When you are 18, that might as well be a decade!

The following day I got a call from the admissions office. They offered me a guaranteed transfer the following year without re-applying, if I got good grades at another college.

A guaranteed transfer - okay that sounded better. So I bucked up and did a last minute application to a state college, and pursued good grades with a vengeance. In hindsight, it was a brilliant plan, because I was able to take the "weeder" freshman classes with hundreds of students at a less competitive school and my GPA carried over to Cornell, which gave me a huge boost. Several other seniors from my high school who did get into Cornell as freshman nearly failed out their first year because of those classes.

The biggest I lesson I learned - besides NEVER GIVE UP - is that sometimes there are really positive benefits to delays and set-backs. I've learned not to fear rejection, that it can lead to better things further on that you couldn't see at first.

I think it also taught me to never give up on people, too. When you are 18, it's all about YOU, but age teaches us that the most important things in life aren't colleges and careers, fortunes or fame. The most wonderful recognition isn't from the masses when you achieve something big - it's recognition you get from giving and receiving love.

I'm really intrigued to read Elana's new book Surrender  - not to mention the other "never surrender" stories in this blogfest. I LOVE stories where everything is against the hero, and he/she doesn't give up.

When did you refuse to give up?


3 comments:

  1. This is a truly inspirational post. I also really loved that you brought up rejection is a positive light. Thank you for sharing your story. :)

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  2. Wow. I really needed this, Margo. Thanks! It's funny, there have been so many times I've refused to give up. Maybe now is just more difficult because of the multitudinous nature of rejections coming in: house offers, jobs, and stories. I guess the good news is, my writing has made me tough enough to handle it now. Thanks for helping me see that!

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