In Defense of the Dream

by Bailey Bickerstaff

While many juniors look forward to having a driver’s license or college-shopping, I prefer being asked by many adults where I am going to college. I really look forward to the awkward pause, and then the quick ” I’m not sure yet” from my end, and the understanding nod I receive from the asker. I love not knowing the future, because I am definitely, definitely, the type of person who loves not knowing what will happen next.Catch my sarcasm yet?

Since the seventh grade, I have known where I am going to college: Southern Methodist University. The pinnacle of my hopes and dreams, I have planned to follow in my father’s footsteps and earn a degree there and blaze my own path on the women’s swim team. I have known where I am going and what I plan to accomplish, and for many years I have had a quick response to the age-old college question. In fact, I loved SMU so much I would create opportunities to tell unsuspecting dinner guests about my dreams.

As I got older and began to really immerse myself in the world of competitive swimming, I began to realize my dreams would probably take a different turn than the direction I wanted them to take.

When it comes to college, swimming is a brutal sport. Aside from being a top recruit in the nation, becoming a swimmer at your college of choice is usually an intimidating feat. Many athletes want to attend an academically strong school with athletic prominence, like Auburn, Alabama, SMU, or Stanford. These schools, however, fund amazing swimming programs that recruit only the best of the best, and when you throw in international recruits that are on the national teams of their country, well, the playing field can seem quite stacked.

So when the time comes to make a decision and begin to contact college coaches, many swimmers find themselves making a hard choice: they either attend a smaller school to swim or give up swimming for good. I cannot count how many times I’ve heard girls talking in the locker room about where they want to go to college. After talk about names and stats, they almost always say, “Well it doesn’t really matter anyway; I won’t ever be good enough to make it there.” At that remark, many complete strangers nod and remark with comments of the same nature. Ironically, it seems that disappointment brings rivals together. When it comes to the college game, at times it seems like our competitors aren’t our rivals.

It seems to be the same way for college acceptance. The hoops college-hopefuls must jump through seem to multiply each year. Maintain good grades. Develop solid relationships with your teachers. Study for the standardized tests every night, but finish all your homework. Participate in as many extracurriculars as possible. Take the SAT… seven times. Fill out paperwork. Volunteer. Get on-the-job experience. Convince total strangers of your worth, while you’re still trying to convince yourself.

All the races I was running began to wear me out, and when I began to tire, I began to fear. I really always have. I haven’t ever feared the process, but I’ve always feared the outcome: the F word. Failure.

To me, it seemed failure was around every corner, and I was just running in vain; failure would always catch me. I began to become so worried about failing that my worries snowballed into all-out anxiety. Some of you have probably felt this as well.

It has taken a long time to finally conquer what I like to call my “failure problem,” and even now it hasn’t gracefully bowed out of my life. So for the next couple of weeks, I want to talk about this saucy little animal and the ways failure employs itself to deceive us. So students, put down those SAT practice books and join me in reading for just a couple of minutes. And if this somehow makes it to the eyes of a college admission counselor, by all means count it as my college app essay.

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One thought on “In Defense of the Dream

  1. Bailey, you have put into words what so many teenagers are feeling. I enjoyed this article and look forward to what your future holds! This would make a great college essay!

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