Life Lessons


And I thought potty training sucked.

Turns out nothing, NOTHING, compares to the stressful, draining, all-around tear-bites-out-of-your-very-soul process of applying to college.

And that’s just from a parent’s perspective. It’s so much harder to be the applicatee. That’s not a word, is it? If I could figure out how to do an accent over an ‘e’, it would look more legit.

So here’s what you have to look forward to, moms and dads who haven’t yet already witnessed this particular drama in multiple acts: In what should be the run-up to the most fun, joyous year of high school, your kid has to take standardized tests, fill out endless forms, pour out his or her deepest, innermost thoughts and feelings into essays that are expected to rival the best American literature and will be judged by the same exacting standards used to award coveted literary prizes by an admissions officer who has to wade through thousands of these things and is likely underpaid and reading while binge-watching “Seinfeld” reruns. Oh and you have to PAY for the very privilege of doing all this stuff (which, quite frankly, is good practice for the expensive four years ahead).

Quite the rollercoaster ride.

I thought we had done a pretty good job of laying down the basic groundwork that prepares kids for disappointment and hardship, i.e., teaching the Biggie: Life isn’t fair. We did this through a viewing of the movie “The Princess Bride.” Major takeaway: Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all. Second major takeaway: Being secretly ambidextrous can get you super far in a sword fight.

So, we’ve spent a lot of time pointing out “life isn’t fair” situations that now we’re smacked with on a regular basis. It seems inconceivable to do all the things and be a good, deserving person and still end up disappointed. And yet….

If my academic cyborg with the close-to-perfect SAT score can get waitlisted and outright turned down by her top-choice schools, that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the mere mortal teens out there. It is entirely possible to do everything right and not …. win. Of course, this is the kind of thing you learn to deal with only after you have way more than 18 years behind you and have had plenty of opportunities to get the stuffing knocked out of you for various reasons. To wit: My third-grade crush didn’t like me back, neither did the middle school or high school or college ones. I was up for several top student awards in eighth grade and won not a single one, my rival snagged them all. I lost plenty of track races and tennis matches and despite all my studying, my SAT score was lower than the trained manatee who took the test that same year in a weird publicity stunt, so I went to the state college in my backyard after I got turned down by my long-shot, top choice. I’ve lost out on jobs, have a recurring nerve issue that two surgeries couldn’t fix, a bad back due to a car accident that wasn’t my fault, followed my dream of writing a book that — for those of you keeping score at home — has so far received two rejections from literary agents and most crushing of all, I’ve seen way too many friends and family members have their lives cut short.

No, life sure isn’t fair. In fact, in one of my less eloquent moments, I told my daughter that life can be a real dick.

Rejection is never easy. But the real measure of a person is how you deal with disappointment and that you pick yourself up and move forward. For us, it meant tears, tossing mementos from last year’s college visits into the trash and eating a fat slice of chocolate cake with a carefully worded inscription because that’s another solid life lesson right there: Cake doesn’t solve problems, but it sure tastes good.



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