Saying No

Before I received a formal acceptance from a physical therapy program, I was a mess. I was downtrodden and pessimistic about my chances of being accepted. And the weight of what I had sacrificed — a promising business career with its financial security — began to weigh heavily on my mind.

The first three admissions decisions I received were rejections. Big, fat, negative rejections. They pushed me to the edge of neuroses. They were dark, 100-foot swells that pushed me further from shore and muted any sign of light.

Lingering doubts began to fog my mind, which especially affected my motivation during my last prerequisite courses. I began to ask myself, “what’s the point of these community college classes if I’m just going to get rejected anyway?”

After one trying lab practical, I checked my phone and saw that I had gotten a voicemail. It was an acceptance. It mean that I finally had a chance to be a physical therapist. It meant that, no matter what, I was going to physical therapy school somewhere. It was one of the happier moments in my adult life, and it signified that the struggle was worth it.

I was so relieved that when I got back into my parked car, I sobbed. I couldn’t help it: years of pent up frustration and worry melted away. It actually took several hours for me to realize that I was accepted and safe.

To sweeten the pot, the program director, who left the initial voicemail, turned out to be an incredibly nice and encouraging person. They truly went above and beyond, in terms of reaching out to me, talking about the program strengths and addressing any issues about relocating to that city. Graduate admissions processes tend to be very faceless interactions, with lots of paperwork and transcripts obscuring the fact that someone’s hopes and dreams are buried under all of the clutter. This program director served as a one of the few spots of humanity during this process; they treated me like a person, not just another numbered applicant.

Today, I called that program director to tell them that I needed to withdraw my letter of intent. The conversation was actually very pleasant: they made sure that I had accepted an offer elsewhere and they said that they were sad that they wouldn’t have me in class. It went as well as I could have hoped but it was personally unsettling all the same.

In my mind, they were the first ones to take a chance on me. And I’ve spurned them. Getting accepted by this school was such a joyous occasion that, although I’ve made the right decision, the finality of saying “no” to them was jolting.

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