Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All I Had to Do Was Say Yes

By Christina Lanier

I’m sitting in an office in Uptown. The view out the window isn’t terrible, but it’s not the one you see in all of the movies- I can’t see I-station or Chase, I can’t see Reunion Tower or the beautiful bridges. Nonetheless, I’m sitting here on this cloudy day, and I find myself staring at this view. I’m 25 minutes from the dorms where I’ve called home, or at least Google Maps says it’s 25 minutes (the actual trip is closer to 40 minutes with Dallas traffic). I’m 40 minutes from school, but I’m 12 hours from home.

A little over a year ago, I would have never seen myself here. I saw myself going to another school in another city, in another state. I saw myself spending every day in a classroom, praying that one day I’d have a view like this. I had put a deposit down at a school in my hometown of Atlanta and I was pretty happy with that choice. I didn’t apply to any Ivy Leagues because I couldn’t afford to go there. I didn’t even apply to any out-of-state schools for the same reason. I knew if I went to this school, I’d probably spend the rest of my life floating around the streets of Atlanta and to that I was ambivalent.

Up until a year ago, I had lived in one house my whole life. I had the same neighbors, the same friends, the same mailman, and the same boring suburban town that felt too cookie cutter to be real. I lived in a town that prided itself on small town values and ridiculous home prices- called itself the county’s “best kept secret” and even had kitsch
y signs everywhere to remind all the residents. When my father moved to Atlanta proper, I jumped on the chance to pack my life and take the thirty-minute journey with him.

I was happy, but I longed to get away. I longed to be more than just an Atlantan- just someone who lived in the same 20-mile radius until the day she died. So when I got a card in the mail from a university far away telling me to check out their scholarships, that’s what I did.

Like many high school students, I received plenty of mailings from colleges and universities around the country. I had given my address to the College Board for the PSAT and gave them permission to give that information to schools on my behalf. So, over the years, the piles of college cardstocks grew. I usually threw them away or recycled them when I could- after all, why keep a flyer for a school you can’t afford?

I knew I had settled. That was just a fact of life. I put a deposit down on a school that didn’t even think I was good enough for their competitive scholarship. When I found out I wasn’t going to be chosen, I felt trapped. I felt like I had chosen a school that did not even choose me. I started reading the college cardstocks, dreaming that one would have a line or two about fantastic scholarships for random students from states far away. I dreamed of late acceptances, but didn’t expect much.

UT Dallas was one of the schools that sent me cards. I didn’t think much of it the first couple times because I was still under the impression that I was a shoo-in for the scholarship at my first choice school. But when that reality quickly disappeared, UT Dallas appeared on the radar. I called the number on the card on the insistence from a Tex-pat teacher, who thought getting out of Georgia would be the best decision I would make.  Long story short, I applied that night and received my notification of a full scholarship within a couple days. All I had to do was say yes.

It was all such short notice for me. Here I was, about to graduate high school, and still making plans for my higher education. Everyone was already packing their things, heading to school. I had never been to Texas, and had no idea what to pack or how it would get there. I was a chronic planner lost in a sea of little certainty other than the fact I had a spot at a school 800 miles away.

Fast forward one year and here I am in this office in Uptown Dallas. I work for a national law firm at a local branch, where I file real paperwork for real cases. I’m not sitting in a classroom bored out of my mind. I spent 10 months taking classes I loved (for the most part) and doing extracurriculars I poured my heart into. I just finished an internship with a United States representative, and started another internship (with pay!) at this law firm with a decent view. I just received two scholarships from the Pre-Law Department, and wrote two reviews for The Innocence Project of Texas. I just finished my first year of college with a decent GPA and with fantastic connections.

A year ago, none of this would have been possible. Had I been more stubborn, had I not read my mail, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t have met all of the fantastic professors and students I now call my mentors and peers. I wouldn’t have been in Mock Trial or Mediation. I wouldn’t have realized that I want to go to law school. But all of those things are my reality. All of those things happened because I read my mail, made a phone call, and because a school half way across the country had enough faith in me to have me here. And for that, I am forever grateful.

Here’s to the next three years.