So the inevitable moment arrived this Saturday--the letter from GSU informing me that my application was "not approved" (you can tell a bunch of counselors came up with that nonsense wording). Not exactly shocking news, but it still stung to see the concept of you're-not-good-enough laid out so concretely. The letter assured me that every single person had reviewed every single aspect of my application thoroughly before a decision was rendered. I did not find that remotely comforting. It's all too easy to imagine those jokers sitting around the table and cackling--or worse, shrugging ambivalently--as they throw my papers on the nay pile.
I came across an eerily relevant article this morning, as sometimes happens when you're mind is dwelling on something, on the psychology of optimism (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=opting-out-of-overoptimism). If you read my previous posts, you know that one of the things that was really bothering me was how my instinct that I did well was (obviously) wrong. Turns out it's actually a thing: the same thing, in fact, that makes 90% of people think they're an above-average driver and Steve Jobs think he could beat cancer with acupuncture and psychic healing. Money quote:
“Most of us view the world as more benign than it really is, our own attributes as more favorable than they truly are, and the goals we adopt as more achievable than they are likely to be.”
I'm the kind of person who is soothed by logic and explanations, so I find it comforting to assign a phenomenon to my folly (Certainly more so then the dubious assurance: "don't worry, it wasn't just one of us that didn't like you. ALL of us didn't! HA HA!"). Not quite as comforting was the rest of the article. It went on to explain that people who persist in optimism, despite the signs that giving up would be wise, suffer twice the losses. Sheesh. It's enough to make me want to hole up at the front desk and answer phones till I'm wrinkly. At least I know I can do that.
But then I got a second letter that changed the course of things. Yesterday was the final performance of the kids' show I choreographed. It was like the end of summer camp for the kids, complete with tears and loud renditions of Wicked songs. Perhaps spurred by these turbid emotions, one of the ensemble actors gave me a note. On it was a true testament to Why I Bother. This girl (a middle schooler, the age group I want to work with) confessed that before this show, she'd had zero confidence in her abilities, and now she felt like she could reach the moon because of my support of and belief in her. She never could've known that it was exactly what I needed to hear. I fancied that had it been a group of the kids who would actually use a school counselor that reviewed my application, instead of a bunch of PhDs, the outcome might have been different. Overoptimism be damned, it was enough to give me the courage to apply again, to another school, one that is truly right for me. It's funny how a penciled note, just a folded up piece of lined notebook paper, meant more to me than would have crisp letter head inked "Congratulations".