I’ve been thinking about this idea a lot for the past few weeks, the complexity and ambiguity of real life. Some of you are aware that April is when high school seniors hear back from the colleges they have applied to and start making their decision about where to go next fall. One story that has consistently come up in the last few years is how colleges are putting increasing numbers of students on their waitlists. There are lots of reasons for this, like students applying to more colleges, making it harder to predict how many students will accept an offer of admission. But the result of this expansion of the waitlist is that students find themselves in college decision limbo, neither admitted nor denied, just staring at a question mark.
Hearing “no” from a college you really care about is disappointing, for sure. But after the initial sting, my students are able to turn their focus to the schools that have accepted them, that have given them scholarships, that have thrown them a virtual parade to welcome them to their community. They choose a school, buy a sweatshirt, and move forward. But for my students that get put on the waitlist, they have a hard time taking that next step. Knowing that there is a fraction of a chance that they might get in makes them hold on to hope. And in this way, they keep one foot in and one foot out, choosing a school but not fully committing to it for a few more months.
The challenge of the waitlist is that, instead of a yes or a no, this is a maybe. But the waitlist is also a unique opportunity to practice wabi-sabi. As life goes on, there is less and less of a script to follow, and so there is more and more ambiguity. You can get married and have babies, or not. You can become a lawyer or a doctor, or make up your own job. You can live in the same place you grew up, or move to a new city every two years. And with all of those choices comes uncertainty and doubt. So instead of letting the waitlist get you down, think of it as a chance to hone your wabi-sabi, to appreciate the complexity, to enjoy not knowing what comes next.