Stuck on a past story?

College admissions decision month presents a separate but related choice many seniors will need to make, especially those who were disappointed with the outcomes: Live with the past story or write a new one.

You’d envisioned yourself attending Duke, Pomona or another college you thought was perfect for as long as you can remember. You worked hard. You put forth the effort in classes and activities and your application. And still, the answer you received was not what you’d hoped for.

You now have a choice. Stay stuck in a past story, the one that saw you thriving at your dream college. Relive that disappointment every day, rehashing the disconnect between the college future you envisioned and the one that’s presented itself.

Or you could embrace a new story. You could find pride and reassurance in the work you’ve done. You could envision all the new learning and friends and adventures that will be waiting for you at a college that said yes. You could invest your focus and energy into planning to extract the maximum value from the experience that’s awaiting. You could write a new story based on the reality that’s been presented.

I’m not suggesting that you aren’t allowed to feel disappointment. You’re a human being, not a robot, after all. But at some point, experiencing that disappointment edges into unnecessarily reliving disappointment that would otherwise dissipate. Once that happens, your narrative is leaving you stuck in the past, and it’s time for a new story.

This won’t be the last time life throws something at you that’s different from what you envisioned. It’s part of growing up, something we all contend with at different times. Consider this a practice run, albeit a painful one, for those future events. And remember that you’ll almost always feel better, and plot a more productive path forward, when you act based on the real present instead of staying stuck on a past story.