I was briefly reminded today about the importance of hard work, of facing The Resistance. I was riding my bike to the gym when I saw an older woman wearing a sky blue Deep Springs College shirt. Most people have never heard of this school, but trying to get in all but consumed me for about six months in 2008. I found out about the college when I met a few alumni in Wisconsin in the summer of 2008. I learned that it was an all-boys school that revolves around three pillars: academics, labor, and self-governance. The school’s 26 students are assigned an intense academic workload, manage a farm in the middle of the desert in Nevada, and are in charge of the admissions and the hiring and firing of faculty. After two years, most students go on to prestigious schools around the country. Many years ago, just getting into the school meant a guaranteed a full ride to Cornell. The Deep Springers I met seemed superhuman to me. I was infatuated with the idea of getting into Deep Springs and being transformed by the experience.
Getting into Deep Springs is not easy. The first round demands applicants write three very opened-ended essays about who the applicant is, what their intellectual pursuits include, what books they’ve read, and what problems they want to solve in the world. If they pass the first round, they go on to another round with something like seven essays, and finally an interview with the whole student body on the campus. I didn’t make it past the first round. I’ve never had a mental breakdown, but I basically did applying to this school.
I haven’t thought about Deep Springs in a long time, but seeing that shirt for a split second as a I zoomed passed on my bike brought that very intense period of my life back to me. I realize today that I was far from getting accepted. At that point in my life, I was wishing a lot of good things would happen to me, and thinking that if i just kept wishing, they would come true. I didn’t acknowledge, or really even understand, that you need to work really hard to make good things happen to you. I didn’t work hard enough for Deep Springs. Ask anyone who I was around during that time if I wanted it enough, they’ll tell you yes. It’s the only thing I talked about. But I didn’t work hard enough for it, and I wasn’t even aware of how far behind I was.