Three nights ago, I submitted a scholarship application. The next morning I received a note which goes, “Based on the financial information you have provided your request for scholarship consideration cannot be considered.”
I was flabbergasted. I spent months on the application. That they demanded four recommenders was pretty remarkable — when I applied for grad school, it asked for three. I visited the graduate student writing center with my personal statement materials for six consecutive weeks. And now that was it? I told myself as I submitted the application that I did my best; if for some reason I was not granted anything, it was fine really. C’est la vie. But not like this! If I were not in a financial rut, would I spend hours of my life pondering on “what I can contribute to the world peace” when I can work on my screenplay?
After I calmed myself down, I emailed back stating the fact that the budget policy they mentioned in the previous email was never written on their website. And I certainly was not planning to drop out of school. All I did was being honest about my financial status — You wouldn’t possibly know what grants you are awarded, what waivers you receive, and whether or not you would get TAship months from now, would you? Do I look like a fortune teller to you, darling?
Thankfully, I kept the sarcasm to myself, and begged them for a second chance to send an amended budget.
I sent back the thought-through new budget yesterday after grilling them with detailed questions.
— We have now sent your application onto the Trustees. Good luck!
Then, sheer exhaustion overtook me.
Why do I have to fight for every bloody thing in my life?
I screamed at the top of my lungs — in my head. My brain raced. It took me back to January — Early in the Winter Quarter, I pitched four feature writing instructors. When the rooster was released that Friday, my name was on none of them. I emailed. I texted. I walked about in my room like a caged beast waiting for an explanation. In that darkest hour, my thought led me to the most desperate corner my head could possibly reach — My being accepted was a mistake. I was the mistake. I was Chinese. I was a joke. My story was worthless shit. Nobody liked me. Nobody wanted me here after all. Why the fuck was I wasting so much money moving over here and struggling alone? I cried and moaned for my pathetic status quo. It was only when a beloved instructor texted back having me in her session did it stop me from doing anything stupid.
Talking through what had transpired to my flatmate and to my parents via WeChat, I cried again, uncontrollably.
I never felt this vulnerable. Why do I have to fight for everything in my life? Why can’t I just sit there for things to happen, every once in a while? Why the worst-case scenario always happens to me? Why everyone else can lay back and focus on their work while I have to spend more energy than I wanted on things that are not even about writing? It is not even my fault…
I get it, life is not fair. But when shits happen, they exhaust me. I know there are a lot of things in life that are beyond our control. But I don’t have much memory about me getting lucky, ever. Getting accepted into the Screenwriting MFA program here is the luckiest strike that has ever happened to me. Period. But still, I planned a year and a half ahead working hard toward the goal.
Oh, by the way, have I told you that I haven’t yet had a guy confess his affection to me? And that I have never been in a serious relationship yet? I am 28 years old as we speak. I’ve tried chasing after guys. Guess what, it has never worked. Not for me.
— Am I trying too hard?
— I don’t have the foggiset idea.
A sage mentor says —
There are people born with resources. They take things for granted. They can. You know what’s the most important gift one can be given? Drive. People who are content and have everything won’t have that. Of course, life is hard. You, not anybody else choose the path you are now. You already know it’s not easy. You already are being resourceful solving the problems. When done, move on and focus on things you should be focus on rather than lingering on feelings and things you can’t change. Cliche as it sounds, we can only control our attitude towards what happen to us. People who have a chip on their shoulder think in a way that the universe is against them. Most of their energy is about life being unfair and people are vicious to them. You don’t want to be around those people, do you? Because the energy around them is off.
Granted, you are not born with resources. There are many people who are like you. But when they make it, they are able to say they made it from scratch. It’s exactly because you don’t have much in your stock, you have nothing to lose. But you have to keep fighting. You can’t stay stale and wait for things to happen. It doesn’t work that way.
You have to fight. Because that’s how you gain momentum. Because that’s how you earn attention. Because that’s how chances go your way.
If you don’t, even God can’t help you.
Because you, and only you are responsible for this life you lead.
Randy Pausch (1960–2008), an American professor of computer science, human–computer interaction, and design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He’s known for his inspirational “The Last Lecture: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams.”