On Celebrating The Letdowns And The Triumphs

Almost exactly a month ago, I was pre-writing an email I would send to the University of Leeds, asking, very politely, why they were taking longer than the allotted 6 weeks to process my application. It was a Friday in January, and it was exactly 6 weeks after I’d submitted my application for my top (actually possible) graduate program (plus the two weeks of vacation the University had been closed). I’d been a nervous wreck since I applied, and it was like every day I didn’t hear from them added an extra pound of stress onto my shoulders. I was consistently staying up till 4am, just so I could check the application portal the second it opened in UK time. I would check dozens of times throughout the day, even though I knew they would email me if they came to a decision. I had adopted “Vienna” by Billy Joel as my theme song, in attempt to remind myself that life wouldn’t end even if I didn’t get in. 

And then. The Monday I was planning on sending the email arrived. It was to be a busy day: Molly and I were filming our first IGTV for the TEEP Instagram, I was interviewing someone for an article I was working on for a class, and I had class and an event to go to later in the day. Like every night that month, I went to bed at 4am, so getting up at 8am to film and prepare for an interview was a challenge.

Filming was a challenge: neither Molly or I are adept at being on camera, we hadn’t memorized our lines, and we didn’t have an official set-up (a phone was propped on a chair, leaning against a stray piece of wood). We were three takes in when we decided to try one more time and then call it for the day. We sit back down, Molly is talking about how to get around listening to your own voice and being embarrassed by it (“You just have to dissociate a little bit”). 

At that moment, my watch buzzes. I check it casually and then do a double-take, re-reading the tiny screen before reaching for my phone. Molly stops mid sentence, as I’m obviously not paying attention anymore. She says, “What?” and then, “Leeds?” because for weeks every time I got excited about something on my phone she thought I had heard back. But this time I nodded. This time I opened the email that was, in fact, from the University of Leeds, and did, in fact, have the subject line “University of Leeds: Confirmation of your Offer.” 

I squealed, hugged Molly, promptly spilled the coffee mug that had been sat between my thighs. It spilled everywhere, but I was laughing and smiling (and maybe crying a tiny bit) too much to care. As Molly jumped up to wipe up the spill, I read the full offer letter, and then, with much delight, realized that my acceptance had been caught on camera. 

I was buzzing the rest of the day, I shared the news (and the video) with all of the professors who had helped me with my applications and with all my friends and family. I smiled the entire day. I had done it. 

And I’m not going to give the cliche line that the success is sweeter after the stress, but I will say that it’s important to celebrate the letdowns and the triumphs—or at least acknowledge them. They’re both a part of life, they’re both a part of your story, and excluding one is being dishonest to yourself and to those around you who might be comparing themselves to your life. 

Had I been silent throughout my application process about how much stress I was under, I wouldn’t have received the hugely important help and guidance that I needed from professors, but I also would have been in misrepresenting the process to those who cared about me—to my friends who had yet to apply for grad school or to the family members who were following along for updates. Sure you shouldn’t mope and let yourself be overwhelmed by the negative aspects of life, but they should be shared and have space held for them. 

Beyond any outward effects, if I had spent the whole application process pretending everything was fine and I wasn’t stressed, I would, one, be in an even worse mental space than I had been because I would be lying to everyone around me, and two, I wouldn’t have felt such relief once I finally did hear back. And likewise, if I pretended to be humble, or that I wasn’t that excited or proud of myself for getting in, I likely would have felt resentment to those around me for not celebrating, even if I was the one setting up their reactions. 

This concept has gotten a bit stronger in recent years due to criticisms of social media that have surfaced: that influencers and celebrities and magazines and even your friends aren’t portraying their lives honestly, they’re only portraying the highlights, so everyone feels inferior because you see the let-downs in your life but not theirs. But it’s taken me a while to apply this criticism that I’ve applauded about social media to my own real life.

You can only get help and get praise from others if you let them in on what you’re going through, and you can only honestly reflect on your experiences if you’re honest with yourself about what you’re going through in the moment. 

None of this is to say I’m perfect at this—I’m still a private person who would rather just deal with things on my own, but I’m trying to use this experience to grow and remember this lesson. 

And this is something that we want to promote on TEEP. We’re not just going to share our “got the job” success stories; we’re also going to share the laborious job search, the many (many) takes required to get one okay IGTV video, the stressful weeks at school. As best as we can, we’re going to show the real version of our lives, the real version of our process of building this business, and the real version of the world of employment. It won’t be perfect, but it will be real. And together we can begin celebrating the letdowns and the triumphs. 

Enjoy this blooper reel of our last IGTV video (that, we promise, was more frustrating than our embarrassed giggling makes it look) and the video of me finally getting into graduate school. 

(Currently: I’m celebrating the stress of planning a last minute trip to Leeds because of the excitement that will inevitably come with signing on an apartment while I’m there) (Also, keep a look out for Molly and my first dip into the world of Vlogging!?).

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