It was a gray and rainy afternoon in Durham, North Carolina – typical for early March. I was sitting at the desk in my basement bedroom, still in my plaid pajama pants from that morning. Upstairs I could hear my roommates and their friends laughing and watching TV. My girlfriend, also a senior at Duke, stood over me in anticipation.
“Just open it already!” she begged. She’s the type of person who sneaks peeks at her Christmas presents at 2 a.m. the night before.
To be fair, I was drawing the matter out rather dramatically. The cursor on my laptop screen silently hovered over the Firefox tab to my HGSE account. I knew my admissions decision was there; I, however, had no problem having Christmas brunch with wrapped presents sitting behind me. I stalled some more.
“Ok, I’m going to click it for you,” she said as she reached around me towards the mouse.
“I’ll do it!” I laughed, but my heart was pumping. With a deep, deliberate breathe, I clicked.
Nearly a month later I still had no idea what to do with my Harvard acceptance. In early April, I was offered a spot off the waitlist to another M.Ed. program in California. In mid-April I was offered a position with City Year San Jose. All three of these offers were time-sensitive. So many options! I fretted, ungratefully. I knew that any of them would be great for me, but I didn’t foresee having to choose between all three.
For the next week or so I constantly tried the various ideas out to my friends and family. “Oh yeah, I got offered a job in San Jose,” I told my grandma over the phone. “But what about grad school??” she asked, unimpressed. “Well, I also got into a master’s program at Harvard,” I confessed. She accidentally hung up on me out of excitement.
My friends were proud of me for getting accepted, too. It’s not every day that a young man from rural Arkansas has the opportunity to attend Harvard. I couldn’t shake the feeling, though, that my choice should be based on what I thought was truly best for me, not on social image. So I took another week to think on it. I took so long, in fact, that HGSE e-mailed me saying I had missed the deadline to give them an answer. Whoops. Luckily for me, they gave me an extra day (don’t tell them I told you that part).
That night I was, more or less, in a panic. What to do, what to do? I thought about my grandma, who believes that a maximum level of education is best. “It’s easy to walk down a mountain once you’re on top,” she always says. I thought about my girlfriend, who assured me that grad school was a hefty investment, but an investment in myself. I also thought about a young woman from the AIE program at HGSE, who I’d spoken with over the phone a few weeks back. I remembered that she’d said there are no limitations at HGSE, only my own curiosity and drive.
The next morning I accepted my offer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In many ways, it was a last-minute, impulse decision. That said, I would argue that most of our decisions are impulsively last-minute. I had no idea what the future held in store for me along any path, but I used the information I had at the time to make the best choice I could.
Do I sometimes think about the paths I didn’t take? You bet. Do I occasionally groan with my classmates about the sizable loans we’ve taken on? Sure do. Do I have any regrets? Not a single one.