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The Hilltop


Short Story: We Regret to Inform You

By Onyekachi Akalonu

8:30 AM. My alarm is ringing. I briefly contemplate if graduating is even worth it. Nothing that makes one have to be fully functional before noon seems worth it really. Plus I have so many skills that I highly doubt a Bachelor’s degree will overshadow that. People on YouTube probably do not have to wake up early. Yeah, I think today is the day I finally drop out of school and finally pursue my lifelong dream of becoming a social media personality. I roll over and look at the time. 8:35 AM. I have class in 25 minutes. I notice I have a new email in my inbox from Some Fancy Internship. I immediately sit up and suddenly the room becomes very hot. My heartbeat quickens and I can barely keep my hands from shaking. My thumb hovers over the Mail icon, unwilling to leave a universe of uncertainty. Flashbacks of late nights writing and rewriting my cover letter, having my advisor read over my resume and hounding Dr. Nkuzi for a recommendation all flood to the surface of my memory. “You get what you work hard for,” I whisper to myself. Every no is just an opportunity for a yes. Keep climbing. Advisor’s office. ‘What are your plans after graduation?” I say I don’t know because I don’t know. I don’t know why I don’t know, so that’s all I can say. I’m tired of not knowing. I open the email. 

“Good afternoon, we appreciate your interest in our Very Good Internship for your Career Program. However, we have decided to move forward with other applicants who we deem more fit for this role. We will keep your information on file and encourage you to apply again next year. We wish you the best in all of your future endeavors.”

I close the email. I open it and read it again. I close the email again. I open it and read it two more times hoping that this is a joke and my closet door will open and there will be lights and cameras and a studio audience to tell me that this is all one big joke. A whirlwind of emotions build up inside me. Anger, confusion, disappointment. “No, mom I haven’t gotten any internships.” I misspelled extraordinary on the application. Some things are not made to be. Advisor’s office. “You know, Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team..” I take a deep breath. Numbness, acceptance. I look at the time. 8:40 AM. I text Niyah to send me her notes from class and curl myself in my bed and go back to sleep. Let’s call this a self care day.

The next day feels weird because I am now hyper aware of every short coming I have. My clothes do not quite fit the right way, my hair sits unevenly on my head, if a single cell was out of place I swear I was aware of it. And it wasn’t just me, the whole universe seemed really hung up on my rejection and made it a point to make me know that I was the only failure. But I was pretty much over it. If they did not want me then it’s their loss. Plus it’s only the fourth week of school, I doubt any other seniors have real plans for after graduation. 

Or so I thought until scrolling through my newsfeed made me come across Benji Holden’s smile next to the smile of an older man. They were shaking hands wearing suits, looking very professional and adult like. Which is fitting because his caption read, “Excited to accept a full time offer to work at the Professional and Adultlike Company.” Well good for Benji. We have only been seniors for 4 weeks and he already has his sights on his life after he walks the stage. How amazing. For him.  

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I meet up with Niyah for lunch so I can get the notes from class. At least that’s what I thought why she wanted to have lunch. What actually happened was me congratulating her on getting accepted to study for her master’s in France. Niyah doesn’t even know French. Neither do I, but a voice in my head tells me that Niyah not knowing French means something way different than me not knowing French. Like her not knowing French will somehow make France reconsider speaking French and wonder why it had not thought of it sooner and will personally ask Niyah what language they should speak. Then they will shake hands in very professional and adult like suits and she will take a picture to post on her profile with the caption “I guess it was a good thing I never learned French.” And I will comment something witty by my standards like “lol same” and not feel the same as her at all. 

I walk across the Yard to my next class. Although she is several feet away, I can hear Keisha Sanders yell, “Oh my god! I got in!”

The universe was playing with me like a video game that was instead hell bent on seeing its character fail over and over. Keep a positive attitude. A new day means new opportunities. Advisor’s office. “You applied to how many?! Well for one thing you sure are persistent. That’s a good quality to have.”

I finally make it through the day and slump down at my desk.  I open my laptop and scroll through my emails. My inbox is cluttered with rejection letter after rejection letter. And those are just the ones in print, the ones who cared enough to at least tell me that I am utterly useless. I can’t help but think that if I did become a social media personality, that this would be great content. The struggling artist who beats all odds to follow his dreams is a great angle for viewership. I stumble across an email that I forgot to open. It’s an email from Dr. Nkuzi informing students of a study abroad fellowship to Japan for winter break. He sent the email about a week ago and the application is due tomorrow at midnight. I glance back at the rejection emails. 

We regret to inform you. 

Thank you for your application. 

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Someone more fit. 

Try again next year. 

I take a deep breath. 

My eyes jump to the requirements portion and formulate how to tackle the prerequisites. I’m tired of not knowing. My future cannot lie in the distance, completely out of my reach. Four years ago, I made a promise to myself that I was going to get more than I put into this school. A promise that is worth more than the opinions of some big shot in an expensive suit. 

The application asks for an essay asking about a time that I overcame adversity, a recommendation and a completed application form. Suddenly, the negativity that clouded my mind before clears and I see images of cherry blossoms. I email Dr. Nzuki practically begging for a recommendation. I open a new document and begin writing my essay..

As a college student at a prominent school, I’ve faced adversity on a daily basis. Humility is hard to accept and breaks us down as people. However, it is also a great catalyst to be resilient in our efforts to become our best selves. I had applied to 32 fellowships, internships and post grad positions and received a ‘no’ from each and every one. It is easy to allow negativity to swallow us whole and consume us. Allowing ourselves to blame the world for our failures instead of trying to reach for success is a great disservice to our potential as contributors to society. The story always starts with how Michael Jordan never made his high school basketball team but no one ever tells the story of what happened after; how he made his failure fuel for his success by constantly trying to improve himself. No one ever tells that story because it is not glamorous, hard work and getting back up is not glamorous. However, it is rewarding.

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