Dear everyone trying to complete applications for (insert prestigious application),
You know what I hate about application deadlines?
The reminder emails about the application deadlines.
I hate those reminder emails that, “hey, by the way, blah blah blah prestigious application closes in 3 days” because I never read those emails and solely interpret them as reminders. Those emails mean a whole host of other things to me, too.
It means, “hey, get your life together because everyone else does and you only have 3 more days to pretend you do, too.”
It means, “you probably weren’t interested in this but now that you see that a potential opportunity is about to close and you’re trying to keep all your options open, you better sit down and do that application.”
It means, “hey, I know you were thinking about hanging out with friends tonight, or reading that new book you just bought, or getting a little more sleep–what a concept!–but now you need to do this application.”
It means, “did you know that even though you have SO much you need to do for tomorrow, if you don’t do these applications for NEXT YEAR then you won’t have a future?”
It means, “hey, did you know that even though you’re 21, you really need to know what you want to do for the next 15 years and convey that in an application due in 72 hours?”
It means, “hey, even though you want to be present– like, you know, live in the moment– you actually need to micromanage every minute of your life because if not then you’ll miss that stupid deadline and then oops your future will not be good at all.”
I hate applications. I put an absurd amount of pressure on myself to do all of them. And not just do all of them, but do them all perfectly. I write and re-write my essays. I edit and re-edit my resume. I update and re-update my cover letters.
And what’s worse is that I don’t know exactly what I want to do with my life. And this might sound crazy, especially to our career-obsessed generation, but I don’t WANT to know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t WANT to plan every minute and follow some linear path. It’s not me and it never has been me. I never planned out that I’d go to Duke. I never planned out that I’d become passionate about certain things or start a blog or end up studying abroad in Switzerland. These opportunities arose, and I grabbed them. And that’s how I want my career to be, too.
But the problem is that these applications seem like opportunities that are arising that I need to grab. And so I do all of them. Social media for a tech startup? Sounds cool. Development work for an African agency? Sounds amazing. Translator for a Latin American NGO? Sounds incredible. All of the opportunities could help me gain so many skills and they would all make the world a better place. So don’t I need to do allllll of these applications, cover all of my bases, and then grab whatever I am lucky enough to get?
That’s how it feels. And it’s overwhelming. I have a three page long list of these opportunities. And it keeps growing. In the past week, I’ve spent more time planning out when I can write cover letters than I have with the wonderful people around me. I’ve spent more time writing papers that could help me get a job in two years than writing the paper I have due this Friday.
How am I supposed to balance everything that needs to be done now (that’s due now that has importance now) with everything else that needs to be done now (that’s due now that has importance in the future)?
How am I supposed to find enough hours in the day to be present but also to prepare for a future where I can be present then, too?
Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that I shut my computer and give up. Sometimes I make lists of all the “backup” jobs I feel I could somehow get without having to do applications and even without having to do my school assignments for the week.
And sometimes… I get so overwhelmed that I become jealous.
I become jealous of the people who can balance it all. The people who can apply for 40 things and make straight A’s and still feel like they’re living in the moment and that they’ll just take whatever opportunities arise. I become jealous of the people who already know exactly what they want to do and how to get there. I become jealous of the people who find the time to write their applications without it stressing them out. I become jealous of the people who use their connections or their charm to get internships or jobs without going through this pesky application process.
I sulk alone in my room, annoyed that I have to plan for a future when the present is hard enough.
But then just as the jealousy really sinks in and I have my own little pity party alone in my room, I feel enormous shame.
Do I realize the millions of people who desperately wish they could be getting an education like the one I’m getting? Do I realize the millions of unemployed people across the US, across the world, who would do anything–who would write ten times as many applications– just to have some job, not even one that they necessarily love?
Do I understand the privilege I have to choose which applications I write, to choose which careers I’m even interested in, to even have access to these applications and a support system that reminds me not to miss their deadlines?
I want to turn my feelings of stress, exhaustion, confusion, and jealousy into feelings of hope, joy, excitement and thanksgiving over the opportunities that exist. Opportunities that are blessed to be within my reach.
And I want you all to do the same.
That’s why I’m trying a new tactic. Next to each organization, I’m writing why I love that I have the opportunity to apply there.
“Get to use my Spanish!”
“Improve my writing!”
“Work alongside people who have truly made this world a better place!!!”
And then in the column next to that, I’m writing all the reasons why I’m burned out and frustrated that I have to do the application for said organization:
-not enough time
-want to be present where I am
-why can’t I just call them and tell them I love them? Why do I have to do some BS suck-up system of a resume and cover letter? Screw the system am I right?!?!
-too much administrative work. Again screw the system am I right?!?!
-what if I do all this work and don’t get it? What a waste of time.
-I just want to sleep.
-what if I miraculously get multiple offers and then have to do decide? I’m terrible at decisions and the thought of having to make one is overwhelming so why not just not do any of them??
Now all my frustrations are in one nice little box and they all look RIDICULOUS. They’re also all written across from the amazing aspects of the organization that would come from me getting past these ridiculous justifications.
I can’t sacrifice one night of sleep to apply for something that would allow me to improve my writing and work alongside inspiring people?
I can’t see my own privilege enough to realize that I have already “beat” so many systems just by being educated and now I’m complaining about a standardized system for companies trying to get to know me?
I don’t want to apply somewhere because I’m afraid of getting multiple offers? Well, Hope, you’re not going to get any offers if you keep justifying why you shouldn’t apply anywhere!!!!
So this is me taking a giant sigh and realizing that, yes, I am a junior. Yes, I want an internship. Yes, I want a job. Yes, I want a career where I can make a difference and feel fulfilled. So, yes, I will stop complaining and I will sit down and do these applications.
Why am I writing this? Because I know you’re receiving those same annoying “deadline approaching!!!!!” emails. Or you’re looking around at your friends on application #17 and you’re close to a panic attack as you think about how you haven’t even researched internships. Or you’re just feeling overwhelmed by the weight of the present moment’s duties and don’t know how you’re going to muster up the energy or courage to begin work on future duties. Or you’re jealous of the people around you who look– keyword LOOK because they definitely do not–like they have it all together.
I’m writing this to let you know that: me too. I feel you. Yes. It sucks. But we’re also so privileged and blessed. And there are so many open doors.
And the future will be so bright. If you only put your head down and take some time to make it bright.
Make a list of all the amazing things you’ll learn from a potential internship or job at an organization. And next to that make a list of all the justifications swimming around in your head that are manipulating you into thinking you’re not capable.
Tell yourself you have what it takes to apply for these places. That you are enough. And stop comparing yourself to people who seem more enough than you are. Enough is not a scale. It’s just enough.
You can do this. I believe in you because you are enough.
A fellow applicant