I can’t remember how I first heard about Stanford and started dreaming that I would attend one day. I do remember the walks home from Roosevelt High School freshman year vividly. I lugged my backpack over my hunched shoulders, leaning forward to offset the weight, and dreamt. As I passed by the Food 4 Less parking lot I dreamt about getting the acceptance letter. As I passed by the 7 Mares, I dreamt about walking on campus and attending lecture. I dreamt and I dreamt until I walked into my home.
My life took many turns and the Stanford dream slipped away, seemingly impossible to reach.
Three years ago, Bella, Iza, and I made the joint decision to uproot our lives and move to the bay area. A few months later, I enrolled in the local community college and went to school on Thursday nights, Saturdays, and online. For almost three years I juggled a demanding career, being a mother, being a partner, and school. I studied after everyone went to sleep and studied before anyone woke up. At times it seemed impossible to continue. But no matter the road bumps, I made it work. I persevered.
When I kept getting straight A’s semester after semester, the Stanford dream crept back in. But this time it wasn’t a dream, it was a fantasy. During my morning runs I would pound the pavement for 5 miles or more until my body could take no more. I think I was physically punishing my body. Punishing myself for daring to dream about Stanford. I equated that dream to fantasizing about becoming a billionaire (from my multiple successful startups of course) and solving the world’s problems. I didn’t dare hope that it could happen.
When it was time to apply I applied to the UCs and hoped that Berkeley would say yes. I started the Stanford application weeks ahead of the deadline but didn’t know if I would submit it. I loved the questions they asked, how thoughtful and insightful they were. I enjoyed working on the application and I figured it didn’t hurt to write. I could always use those answer for my UC applications.
As the deadline neared I agonized about asking for recommendation letters. I felt like others would see me as ridiculous for daring to apply. But I asked.
The night that the application was due, I kept toying with the submission button. Everyone was asleep and I was downstairs staring at the screen until I hit submit at 11:30 pm.
I would have put it completely out of mind if not for Ryan telling everyone that I applied to Berkeley and Stanford. I appreciated his confidence but I felt incredibly pained when he said it out loud. I could see others thinking – Does she know the acceptance rate hovers around 1 – 2 %?
I found out that I got into Berkeley the day after I had Valentina. I thought we were set to move to Berkeley and make it work.
During the drive up to Berkeley for a transfer student welcome event I figured that I would log in and check the response from Stanford. I had received an email the day before from Stanford and had to request a password reset to access my account. I hadn’t told Ryan that I had a response. I neededed to compose myself and process the rejection by myself first before telling him. I figured I was in such a high from getting into Berkeley that I could take the rejection. Valentina, only a few days old, slept in the car seat next to me. My mother (staying with us for a couple of weeks to help) sat on the other side. Ryan was driving and braving traffic as the day was grey with fog and rain. I logged in from my phone and saw the letter. I read the first few lines. Puzzled, I read it again. My blood ran cold and I felt disoriented; only the heaviness in my stomach anchored me to my seat. “One of the best parts of my job…” Only after I read it a third time did I cry out suddenly, “OH MY GOD!” “Oh my God! Oh my God!”
Ryan braked and accidentally exited the freeway. He and my mother both looked at me with a mix of bewilderment and concern. “What’s wrong?!”
I couldn’t speak. I took a breath, and another. “I GOT INTO STANFORD!”
My mom teared up and Ryan cried out. He pulled over and parked on the side of a road and I read them the acceptance letter. I called my sister and told her. We screamed with joy and excited energy.
We did attend the orientation event and I was inspired by the future Berkeley students but I was still dazed by the news. We left early and went home to tell Bella and Iza.
A few weeks later and I’m now two weeks into my first quarter at Stanford. It is everything and so much more that I dreamt it would be. This place is paradise. I feel an incredible sense of belonging, of being cared for and guided, and of the infinite possibilities for my future (well finite only because at some point I will have to graduate).
When I started this blog I wondered if and when I would be able to write happy stories. Would I only be sharing stories of pain and survival? Would I ever be able to share stories about my life thriving?
I am incredibly fortunate to have so many people around me that love me and that I can pour my love into. My life has been healthy and happy. But it is now bursting with the promise of personal achievement. I thought that I had permanently failed all of my great teachers, coaches, and cheerleaders from my youth when my life took a different path. But I now have the luxury and great fortune to be able to go back to school and invest in myself.
Now I run without bounds. I recognize no limits. I’m taking life by the horns and making it my b!tch. And damn, does it feel good.