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The University of Cambride

Julius Dūdėnas

Do not dream

The sun had set at 10:05 am today.

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Ok, maybe it did not, but it felt like it. That’s the time when I saw the big, white letters on the top of my phone screen, right next to the Outlook logo. “Application Outcome” I read and took a deep breath in. It’s here, my Cambridge decision.

People propose different ways of opening your decision. Do it with your family, with your pet, record yourself, just do it. But I couldn’t do it at all.

Since October 9th I have been living in the blissful lack of knowledge about, precisely, the outcome of my application. Hell, I even got an offer from St. Andrew’s a month later in November, so my ego was boosted in that funny way that makes you think you’re capable of anything. So, when I got an invitation to be interviewed at one of the Cambridge colleges, I wasn’t even that surprised. “I knew you’d get it,” my mom said. And I knew it too.

The day of my first interview I was hit with reality. The warm feeling had all but ceased, as interviewers were there and ready to give me the opposite. They were testing me, seeking the boundaries of my mind, examining how I think. I was so stressed that I stopped thinking altogether. Maybe what I said wasn’t completely pointless but I knew I could have done better. I should have done better.

I came home that day and cried. I felt so stupid, so powerless, so incapable. All the confidence with which I walked into that interview, accompanied by my cherry earrings and pearly smile, was flushed down, leaving me feeling emptied out, like I was about to collapse.

I went to sleep that day with a headache and red cheeks, irritated by the salt from my tears. Now I know that this hollow feeling was just a prelude to what would come on the infamous January 25th.

My second interview went much better. My statements were complex, yet clear. I was giving comparisons and looking for definitions. I analysed a map, and I LOVE MAPS. I genuinely had fun. That’s when the warm feelings resurfaced.

I left the online meeting smiling from ear to ear, and ran to my mom screaming: “THAT’S HOW BUSINESS IS DONE!”

Since then I have been waiting. Nothing else. Time seemed to have slowed down since that godforsaken 40 minutes when I had to epitomise all of my good academic traits. And mind you, it may be fun for some people to just sit and do nothing, but for me, it was hell on earth.

I knew that no word, no essay, no grade would now matter. I felt like a grain of rice. A cute, small, white grain of rice, wondering whether she will be steamed and added to some tasty dish, or whether she will be one of the many falling on the kitchen floor as you open the bag, only to be swiftly swept under the oven.

The grain has no influence on her fate now. She is placed in the hands of the cooks, who bare scary tools and mumble in a Gordon Ramsay tone. The grain can only wonder.

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And wonder I did. Wondering had landed me a panic attack in the middle of a cafe where I was having coffee with my friends.

Wondering took sleep away from my heavy eyelids.

Wondering removed the last remaining parts of that blissful feeling. It was gone completely on January 24th.

I played out scenarios in my mind. Screaming happily: “I got in, mom! I did it!” Us crying together, jumping up and down, driving to school with a bouquet for my headmaster, to thank her and tell her of my success.

After a shot of gin and a tear of anticipation, I opened the email. “Thank you for applying…” I shook my head. “No?” my mom asked. I didn’t respond. Was I punched, or was my body just too sleep-deprived to stand? Was I having a seizure or was I just crying? I couldn’t tell. For all I know I could have been driven over by a bus – I couldn’t see anything. I just felt everything.

So this is all a lesson to you kids – don’t dream. It’s not worth it. Be motivated, sure. But please, don’t dream. Because the second the dream ends, you find yourself with no ground to stand on and nobody strong enough to stop your fall. And the fall will probably be the most painful thing you have experienced so far. I know it was for me.

The only remedy for you and me in this sad predicament can be found in the old Polish saying. “Czym się strułeś, tym się lecz” – “Cure yourself with what poisoned you”. So find another dream, but don’t let yourself drown in it. Keep your eyes above the water, be aware of how fragile your plans are, keep your options open, and be ready for any possibility. The everlasting question, however, remains: if you don’t drown, if you keep your eyes open, if you plan ahead – is it even a dream?

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Mary Stabińska

Politics & Society Section Editor

Warsaw, Poland

Co-founder of Harbingers' Magazine

Born in 2004 in Warsaw, Poland, Mary Stabińska is currently preparing to complete A Levels in Politics, French, History, and Polish. She speaks English, Polish, and French fluently. At Harbingers’ Magazine, Mary writes and edits the Politics & Society section.

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