Five minutes of silence passed before either of us said anything.
“So? What are you going to do?” my mother asked.
“I don’t know.” I replied.
Two main trains of thought monopolized my mind at that moment, as they always had my whole life. I could choose to listen to my parents or I could do what I wanted. I never knew which side to pick, but I hated the feeling of making my mother sad. So, I usually went with listening to her. She’s never wrong, but she isn’t always right.
Anxiety. The month of March my senior year will always been seen as that. Anxious. You could feel the tenseness in the air from the college applications, rejections, and acceptances, and on top of that, normal school work, and it seemed like our lives were constantly being bumped from one path to another. Days of consoling were followed by days of celebrating. But for me, a couple rejections sedated me into a numbness of little worry and even less excitement. I was not amused anymore by the emotional roller coaster that seemed to never end. As I systematically walked through the blur and haze of the college admissions season, the news of one particular university broke me out of my zombie-like state.
Vanderbilt University. The routine checking of my mailbox was surprised with a golden envelope boasting an enormous “V.” I had applied on a whim after realizing that there were no extra essays I had to write or questions to answer. But it suddenly became a beacon of hope for me It was different, and at that moment I needed change. Instantly, I empowered it with greatness. My future was there, and as I held the acceptance envelope in my hand, I mentally committed myself to the school.
I rushed inside, and with a glow I had so rarely felt before, I exclaimed to my mom the good news.
“Mom! I got into Vanderbilt!”
“What is Vanderbilt?”
“The school in Tennessee that I applied to!”
“You applied to a school in Tennessee?”
After she congratulated me, she mentioned Berkeley. I had completely forgotten about Berkeley. I got into Berkeley a couple months before and was even invited to interview for the Regent’s Scholarship, which would add to the culture and opportunities of a public school the benefits and treatment of a private school. Berkeley was the first of many I heard back from. Days within the good news of Berkeley, I sat in my car with my best friend, Hailee, as she read to me the outcomes of five other universities.
“Dear Ian, I regret to inform you…”
“Stop. Next one.”
“After much consideration, we have decided that you are not a good…”
“Stop. Next one.”
Three more schools were sorry and regretful that after much consideration they didn’t want me. The greatness of Berkeley became buried underneath all these rejections.
But that didn’t matter anymore because I had gotten into Vanderbilt. In a time when I was poor in spirit, I hit the golden jackpot. On the other hand, my mom saw the gold envelope as the shiny bait a fisherman would use to catch fish. And I was the simple-minded fish.
We fought for weeks and every time, we brought the same arguments to the table. We were equally stubborn. The slightest comment about colleges would trigger an explosive, anger-filled battle. It makes me sick when I recall the things I shouted and the words I heard back.
Then one night, my mom gave up. She started to cry. She sat down and wept. Everything in the world stopped. My heart sunk and I got weak in my knees. I made my mom cry once before, and my insides felt sick as if I were allergic to my own being. I promised that if I ever made her cry again, I would never forgive myself. It woke me from the trance that I placed myself in. I started to see the hook attached to the shiny gold envelope.
I knelt beside her, feeling closer to her than I had these past few weeks. Her now glossy eyes met mine and she told me that she hated herself for crying, for being weak. Before we only argued with reason because there was an understanding that an argument with emotions would cause more harm than good, but that day she gave up. As she sat against the wall of the hallway, she spoke softly, not from her mind but from her soul.
“밴더빌트는 너무 멀리와 다르다. 난 당신이 가면, 당신은 다시는 오지 않을 것을 두려워. 당신이 돌아 오지 않는 경우에도, 우리는 통신 할 수 없습니다. 난 당신을 잃고 싶지 않아.” She could feel the gradual separation that we both knew had begun between us. She chose to raise me in America but didn’t think I’d be American. That came consequentially, and now we both had to face the reality. In her eyes, Vanderbilt was the objectification of this idea. She feared that we would not be able to communicate anymore because of the distance and the culture.
College is a transition, in most families, for the child who had been taught independence his or her whole life to go and live out that independence. In practice, however, parents have a hard time letting go. My mother means the world to me and I value her opinion more than anyone else’s in the world. More often than not, she knows me better than I know myself, and that always makes arguing with her hard. At the end of the day, in my mind, college was four years but my relationship with my mother was forever. I knew I could be happy at both schools, and so as my final act of being my mom’s son in this stage of my life, I made a choice that day to attend the University of Berkeley.
To this day, I wonder if that choice was the right one. All I know is that there are principles and lines that I’ve set for my life, and if I don’t stick by them, then I live for nothing. Besides, after college ends, I’ll just get my Masters at Vanderbilt.