When I got into my dream school as a transfer film student almost one year ago, I thought to myself, “This is it. This is what I've been waiting for my entire life for."
I had spent a year finishing my portfolio pieces. I took solo trips that cost more than I probably should have afforded myself to scope out the university, and my hard work paid off.
Two days before Christmas, I received the letter of my admission and scholarship while I was halfway across the country visiting family. My dad and I screamed and cried on the phone. This was it. I had gotten into my dream college.
I had two weeks to overhaul my life. I took out a significant loan, ditched my small upstate New York apartment for a small Philadelphia dorm room and left my cat with a friend. I was ready.
I arrived on campus and immediately felt a sense of home in a huge new city I had never felt before.
The classes and professors were amazing, and I had never met so many students who were like me — hands on, with fresh perspectives and a modern outlook on both classical and new artistic mediums.
In my classes, I was pushed further than I expected and excelled spectacularly. I even got hired in the student life office, regardless of the fact that I was brand new. This was my place, and these people were my people.
I couldn't have asked for anything better, and I was so excited to have everything going perfectly.
Of course, our worst moments always happen to arrive when we least expect it.
Despite being a poor student, my financial aid and scholarship didn't help me cover the full tuition for the year. Desperate, I turned to more private loans, which apparently couldn't save me either.
I cried for days while trying to strategize with my family over what to do. I researched every possible way to get money, but couldn't manage to find a solution. It was time to face my ultimate fear.
A few days later, I withdrew from the university. My family helped me move most of my stuff, however, I was working a summer program and couldn't leave for a week or so.
I had to live in an empty dorm room until it ended. I helped my friends move into their new dorms, and then packed what little I had left into my backpack and hopped on a bus back home.
I wept more in that empty room than I have in many years. In the span of seven months, I had tasted victory and utter defeat. I had made friendships of a lifetime, developed professional connections and built a community for myself.
Three months later, I sit in an apartment in my hometown with a sense of grief instilled within. I've experienced my share of romantic heartbreak, but nothing can compare to the feeling that comes with having to leave your dream behind.
Of course, I have other options. There are so many state schools that can give me an amazing education, and I am so grateful to have opportunity when so many in this world do not.
For the moment, I am enjoying my new roommate and a full-time job in daycare until I figure out my next steps toward a new dream.
If there's anything I could advise anyone in mourning of a lost dream, it would be to take a few deep breaths and appreciate the small things around you.
I'm only in my early 20s and am already realizing it's OK to fail, and this sets me years ahead of my peers.
Every day I go to work, I am helping 4-year-olds learn to write their name and how to cut with scissors. I am sharing some of the first holidays with them that they will actually recall 15 years down the line.
I'm not studying at a prestigious university, and I'm not even in school full-time.
This is enough. And one day, this will all be seen as a minor speed bump.