BY LETICIA ANTONINI
PRINT FEATURES EDITOR
There is a saying that goes: “If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one there to hear it, did it even make a noise?” We all think that it did, due to the simple laws of physics, but what if in that moment, the exact second that large, bulky chunk of wood hit the floor, all laws we are so convinced to be true, didn’t apply? What if the tree fell like a feather, weightless, and there was no one there to see it. Would we start questioning everything we believe in? Would it even change
That is how I felt when on Feb.10, when my screen did not read “Congratulations, you are now a Gator!” Instead, it said “Thank you for your interest in the University of Florida (UF)… but we are unable to offer you admission to the 2017 freshman class.” For a second the world stopped. I was in shock; my seven stages of grief had begun. I was that tree in the forest, the one that did not make a noise. For months, I had been convinced I was going to be granted admission to UF; certain I had followed the necessary footsteps to be placed in the freshman class, and from then, I was going to enjoy the best four years of my life. Having that dream taken away was my fall, and just like the tree, it was silent.
The second stage: denial. I read and reread the letter endlessly with hopes that the words would magically change. For hours after the decision had been released social media flooded with announcements from those who had just committed. For hours my thoughts were: “How did this or that person get in? Why were they picked instead of me? What was wrong with my application?.” I couldn’t stop refreshing the page. I was feeding off of the future of others, poisoned with jealousy. All I wanted was an explanation.
I then moved on to bargaining, stage three, and researched all the possible ways to get around UF denied admission, but it led me nowhere. The appeal process would be a stretch, and extremely emotionally draining. Attempting admission for a later term would set me behind my entire class, and I did not want to waste my time. The only other option would be to seek a transfer a few years into my studying, but my mind was set on staying wherever I initially went.
With my hopes for getting around the denial now shredded, I began to retrace my steps back to when I first submitted my application. I reread my essay, and hated every word of it. I was at fault for my own denial, or at least that is what stage four, guilt, led me to believe.
The sadness hit me so quickly it ran over stage five, anger. It wasn’t until my walk from first to second period the following Monday morning that it really hit me. I felt so small. It seemed as if everyone around me had been perceived as good enough by the admissions officers, except me, even though I knew that wasn’t true. I knew many others who had also been denied, some of them who arguably deserved a spot more than me; but at times like this, it is impossible not to be selfish. I had worked hard throughout high school. I deserved it. I couldn’t see past my own shell, so I allowed stage six, depression, to settle in.
I cried in two of my classes that day; and as if my own disappointment wasn’t bad enough, the look in the face of others as they watched the tears run down my cheeks made everything worse. My dignity was replaced by shame. But as the week progressed things got better. I fell back into my routine; used my friends and schoolwork as an escape. It was refreshing to think about something else.
The following weekend I was forced to visit UF, having made plans weeks in advance. I had never felt so arrogant, so conceited. How could I ever be so convinced my admission was a given if over half of the applicants are denied a place every year? Out of obligation, I went. I even took the tour that showed me the halls I will never walk and the classes I will never attend. I was ready to leave the campus raging, cursing the school during the entire drive back, but for some strange reason, at the end, I felt better. I finally reached stage seven: acceptance. I had heard many times from friends and family that, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “there are always other options,” but it wasn’t until then that I truly understood what it meant. I visited an admissions officer with no resentment, no anger. I walked in with an open mind and discussed the other paths I could take. It was helpful, but the option of a future transfer was not appealing. For the first time I didn’t feel like I was not good enough for UF; instead, I felt like maybe I was not supposed to go to there, maybe I would not belong.
It was then that I found the true meaning behind the saying of the tree in the forest. I realized that for years the tree grew in the exact same spot, surrounded by others like it, with only one goal in mind: to keep growing. But then it fell. And the fact that it did does not mean it never existed, nor does it diminish how magnificent it once was, it only means that it moved on. It will now have the chance to be something else, something beyond a tree in a forest.