C.R.E.A.M. Get the Money. Dollar Dollar Bill Y'aaalllll!!!!!
I can't say the number of scholarships for which I've applied, or how many essays, statements and letters I have written. I created a table with the details of each potential funding source, and as I applied, I grayed it out and moved on. One of significance is the Ayn Rand Atlas Shrugged Essay Competition. What makes it so significant is what I went through just to apply.
The contest was simple. I had to read the book Atlass Shrugged, with which I was unfamiliar, and choose one of three questions to answer in a 2000 word essay. I finished applying for another scholarship, and then went to the library to get Atlass Shrugged. It wasn't there. I went home and went online to find out what branch had it. It was at the Northwest Regional branch, close to my house. I went the next day, Saturday, before they closed. I'm not a fast reader, but I'm not the slowest, and I can read for hours straight. I'd read the book Saturday and Sunday, and write the essay Monday through Wednesday, when it was due.
That is the longest book I've ever seen - rivaling the Bible for first place. I hustled home, (I had walked, taking a leisurely stroll through the park on my way to get the book I expected to have read by Sunday) and got my daughter ready to be independent for a few days. I then lay on the sofa in my room and read for about 10 minutes before passing out.
The next several days I did nothing but read. I took time to brush my teeth every day, but only showered once. I ate as I read, and cursed chores for standing in my way. Why the fuck do dishes have to get dirty in the first place! I took stretch breaks when I walked the dogs. Otherwise, I stayed in the bed reading all day and all night.
We ran out of toilet paper. I had to go out to the store and get some. I also got food on that run, since we'd run out of that too. Ugh! I don't have time for this shit!
I finally showered Wednesday morning, because I couldn't stand to smell myself any longer. I continued to read, and read every word, (well, accept for some of the redundant, please beat me over the head with these same ideas speaches that covered pages of the book at a time). Did I mention that the words in this 1080 page book were significantly smaller than this?
I finished the book, which I actually really enjoyed, in spite of the fact that it was at times a bit didactic, and began to work on the essay with only hours to go. At this point, it was about finishing more than anything. It represented my desire and determination to go to school, my passion to write.
Ishara (my daughter) expressed her concerns that Monday Night. "Mom, you've been working so hard! I'll be so sad for you if you don't make it."
"Baby girl," I told her, "you better not be sad for me. We're going to celebrate. You see how hard I'm working, you see my determination. That deserves congratulations. Hard work is it's own reward. And even when I get it in, if they don't pick my essay, we will celebrate. Because a letter from them represents the fact that I completed this, I got it in. That's what I have control of. I don't have control over whether or not they pick my essay. I do have control over whether or not I give up, or I fight, you understand? I'm a fighter, and so are you. So let's go."
This challenge was particularly well timed, because Ishara too was fighting for something. We were just beginning the application process for her to enter a new school for seventh grade, her current school having only grades K-6. The first application she was completing was an intense process, and she had already lost much of her work due to a sudden power outage in the community.
She cried, of course. And I told her to suck it up.
"Crying is not going to fix the problem. We'll always face obstacles. The time you spend crying and being frustrated and regretful is simply taking away from the time you can be functioning as a problem solver. You can't get stuck in what didn't go your way. You have to be a solutionary."
By Wednesday night, as I wrote my essay that had to be uploaded before midnight, my contacts began to give out. I'd been reading tiny words for too long. I could see the monitor, but as I went to reference page numbers, I couldn't read the words in the book. I was blinking and rubbing my eyes to make out a sentence, or so, but my eyes kept giving out. I eventually had to take out one contact and use one eye to see the monitor, and the other to read through the book. I did it, read over the essay a couple of times, and then saved and uploaded it at 11:46.
I don't know if it would be their best essay, but it wouldn't be the worst. Worse come to worse, I'd be prepared in advance to write a better essay for next year's contest. The important things were that I did it, and that my daughter saw me get it done.
Together, we celebrated my completed essay, and her completed application. To me, these struggles, the facing of challenges that move you somewhere meaninful, are what my life should always be about.