In preparation for writing this column, I perused the internet for its most famous, most well-liked quotes about patience. Patience, I have heard time and time again, is a virtue; good things come to those who wait, so we must remain strong and persevere as the hands of life’s clock tick onward. Stand resolute, stay hopeful.
If this is how I’m characterizing the law-school application process, I must sound pretty dramatic. I admit that. It’s easy to get swept up in the game of numbers, to anxiously search the internet with super-fun queries like “application status,” “median GPA” and, my favorite and most desperate plea, “When will I hear back???” (That last one is a true winner — you might even find yourself on an online forum guaranteed to give you mild heartburn.)
So what’s an anxious and impatient law-school hopeful to do? The answer must lie somewhere between plunging into panic attacks in the middle of the afternoon and achieving nirvana while sitting on a yoga mat for the rest of the semester. I, myself, toggle back and forth, day to day, week to week, a soft yet annoyingly consistent voice in the back of my head murmuring, “What if, what if, what if…?”
Hence, this column. I write to offer my own experiences applying to professional programs and waiting to hear back. I write with the hope other people may relate and perhaps feel soothed by our common patience with waiting — or lack thereof. I write because I am simultaneously excited, afraid, inspired, ready and sentimental when I look at where I am and how the world is changing rapidly around me. So let’s take this on together, shall we?
What has helped me most throughout this nervous waiting game has been remembering why I started this process in the first place. When the nerves kick in, there’s a frighteningly smooth transition from “I’m here to pursue my purpose” to “I’m lost, and I’m not even sure how I got here.” Remember the scene in the classic series “SpongeBob SquarePants” in which Squidward tells SpongeBob to empty his mind of everything irrelevant to “fine dining,” and SpongeBob panics so hard he forgets his own name? Yeah, it’s like that. We focus so hard on the minutiae of life, the stressors of any given moment, that we forget the passions that brought us to these important, formative experiences like deciding what we want to do post-graduation. That’s OK, so long as we find our way back.
This terrible — yet, I argue, temporary — switchover is natural when we lose sight of our callings: the problems that plague our minds when we read the news, the solutions we mull over when we’re falling asleep at night, the wild spark of wonder that comes over us when we see art and listen to music. These are the sorts of emotions and experiences that motivate us to seek out certain careers, apply to certain programs and dream a little bigger each night.
What’s the upshot of all this? Well, here are some of my main takeaways. For one, no matter what happens, you can find your way again. You do not have to be defined by a single circumstance, event or decision in your life. You can begin writing your next chapter wherever you land. When you tire of waiting, when the road looks weary, hang on for the dream. It’s worth waiting for.
Oh, and and one more lesson learned: There’s a lot of important life messages to be taken from “SpongeBob SquarePants,” if only we have the time to look.
Mia Gettenberg is a UF criminology and philosophy senior. Her column focuses on education.