Like so many high school seniors, I had a plan for how the rest of my life would go. Since eighth grade, I had been completely in love with the idea of attending the U.S. Naval Academy. I felt a call to serve God by serving my country. I spent my last year and a half of high school applying to get in, forming my academic schedule around the classes the selection committee encouraged, and choosing my extracurriculars accordingly. I made it to the last stage of the application process and then, suddenly, didn’t get in. After stretching myself thin and shaping my life to be the perfect applicant, the plans I had made fell apart.
When the rejection email came, I was sitting in my blue Prius in the parking lot at the gym, listening to a Christian radio station. After I read the email, I turned the radio off. I had been praying so fiercely for so long. I prayed that I would attend the U.S. Naval Academy. I prayed for the wisdom to know if this was where God wanted me to go. Through all of this prayer, I genuinely believed that God’s will was for me to be accepted. So when the rejection came, I felt like God had disappointed me. I immediately began trembling and tears filled my eyes. In a moment of pure reflex, I called my mom and told her what happened. She kept her voice steady and reassuring, but I knew she had started crying too.
Before pulling out of that parking lot to go home, I turned the Christian radio station back on. It didn’t seem very significant at the moment, but in retrospect, it was a step toward deciding that I wouldn’t give up on God because of my disappointment, but instead lean into him.
The months that followed were difficult. I didn’t really have time to process any of the disappointment and confusion I was feeling. I had one month to choose a college. Even though my own plans were derailed and my heart was broken, I could still feel that God was present. As I shared the news that I didn’t get in, I was treated with tender compassion and sympathy. Friends sat with me in the library for hours, making lists of pros and cons at new schools and brainstorming career paths. Even friends whom I hadn’t seen in months were sympathetic and supportive. With only two weeks left to spare, I chose Siena College as my destination for the fall. Sitting in the car with my mom, driving home from my last college visit, I was suddenly overcome with this feeling that God wanted me to go to Siena. I couldn’t quite explain it, and while there were several things I really did like about the school, the feeling that God wanted me there helped me make my final decision.
With every new day at Siena, I find another reason why I’m meant to be here. During orientation weekend, I met Sam, who has now been my best friend and my boyfriend for a year. He supported me through a very difficult freshman year, filled with family deaths, depression, and other challenges. Along with Sam and other new friends, Siena has given me the opportunity to grow in my faith and to continually discern what God wants me to do in the future. After having a concrete plan for so long, I’m finally able to be okay with not knowing exactly what’s coming next. I’ve learned that when I feel lost, God knows where he’s leading me, and that God will put people in my path to help me along the way. By trusting in God, I was able to find joy in the present moment and plan for the future while surrendering it to his will, and truly meaning it. Today, as I’m making a new plan for the future, I find joy in taking hikes with my family, in the relationship I’m building with Sam, and in the friendships I’ve made at Siena.
Recently, I was at Sunday Mass when one of the readings was about the healing of Jairus’ daughter in the Gospel of Mark. In this reading, Jesus says to the little girl in need of healing, “Talitha koum,” meaning “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” This line struck a chord with me. It brought me back to how I felt last year when the time came for me to pack up and leave for college. I felt like Jesus was standing by my bedside as I laid there helplessly, unable to move. I still didn’t feel like I was ready to move on from the heartbreak of being denied from the Naval Academy; I hadn’t even been able to process the loss fully. I felt as though I couldn’t try again or stand without fear of falling and at that moment, Jesus said to me, “Talitha koum.” Even though I couldn’t see the path ahead, I felt God was guiding me where I needed to go.
In my rejection from my dream school, God didn’t give me the answer I preferred, but it was the answer I needed. It’s incredible to look back and see that had my plans worked out, I would most likely have never met my community of friends at Siena. I’ve had opportunities that I never would have had otherwise. My experience has taught me that it’s okay to make plans, but it’s even better to make them with an attitude of surrender. And if those plans don’t work out, I know that God will be there to remind me, “Talitha koum.”