Monday, May 7, 2012

Never quite satisfied

I initially wrote this by hand and sometimes when I do that my thoughts don't come out coherently. I apologize in advance if that's the case. Here we go:

What is it about accomplishment? No matter how hard we try to pursue something that will make us happy, make us proud, we can't help but step on our own tails in the hopes of one-upping ourselves.

It's part of human nature to constantly strive toward a greater goal. We make our way to the top of Mount Everest and then decide even the tallest mountain isn't enough, it's time to scale a volcano. Vesuvius, anyone?
Forgive me if I don't think I could make it to the top of that mountain.

But where do we stop? Where do the mountains end? At some point, I worry, I might find myself trying to reach the tip of Mount Olympus, but considering the inherent falsity of mythology, I will never be able to reach as high as the heavens.

When I was in middle school, I koved to fill out those MySpace surveys with questions like "Boxers or briefs?" to which I responded, "Is this a survey for girls?" or "Wear do you want to go t college?" to which I answered, "The real question is whether you went to college - what with those homonym mix-ups."

Yet, through the stupidity and the shameless mocking, I always took one question on those surveys very seriously. "How would you describe yourself in one word?" "Determined," I'd answer, "hard-working, driven" or a million other words saying the same thing. I was always eager to tell everyone (every one of my MySpace friends, anyway) that I was going to make something of myself. I even had a list of colleges I wanted to attend in my "About Me" section.

But things don't always turn out the way you plan them to, no matter how "driven" you are (or say you are). In time, I had to recognize the point at which the line of disappointment had to be drawn. I couldn't allow myself to lament over good grades and a high SAT score not getting me into one of the schools on my MySpace because I was accepted into a school of equal caliber elsewhere.

Yet this summer I, and I suspect some of my peers, faced that same obstacle in coming to terms with an option that may not have been among our first choices.

I applied to around 15 internships from November to May this school year. The process seemed unending as I waited in the netherworld between submission and rejection. But that wasn't even the worst part of the experience. The most trying aspect of applying to internships is not the interminable wait for a rejection, it's the satisfaction of knowing that goads you by never actually arriving.

Waiting for any response became a fruitless effort since so many employers did not take the time to send out rejection letters at all. Of the more than dozen positions I applied to, I only received acceptances from two and flat-out rejections from three. What happened to those other 10?

Once something had been secured, though, a whole new set of questions presented themselves. Where should I actually go? Should I keep applying to new positions? What about money?

Money. The all-important, stomach-churning and butterfly-inducing concern of my summer. As great as any prospective internship is, none of my options are paid. So where will the money come from?

I started asking myself whether I even needed to do an unpaid internship. Maybe I can do better and find something where money and reputability are both achievable.

The one-up game commenced.

Over the past few weeks, I've fought with myself over the question of whether or not I would benefit from an internship grant. I applied, then realized doing so might force me to give up four to five days of every week this summer. Seeing as my last summer consisted of learning to knit, sew, cook and watch every single episode of Scrubs seasons one through nine (that's an acquired skill, I think...), the idea of signing away my soul for $2,500 when I'd probably end up working over 400 hours in all ($6.25 / hour or less seems a sad compensation to me), seemed ridiculous.

Had I received that particular grant, which would have required me to sign on for two internships and at least four days a week of work, one-upping myself would have left me drowning in over-extension.

For someone like me, "ambition" is a keyword of identification. There's no doubt it's an important part of who I am. But another description of me in two words or less is the phrase "common sense."

As much as I might like the opportunity to earn money over the summer, the conditions might not have been just right this time. I won in one respect, but in another success was just not to be had. So that's it for one-upping myself. I'm happy right here at number one and there's really no need to go further.

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