Since November, I’ve been anxiously waiting for March 15th to roll around wish hopes that I will be named as a 2011-2012 Watson Fellow. The Watson Fellowship is a “one year grant for independent study and travel outside the United States awarded to graduating college students nominated from participating institutions.” If I receive the Watson, I will spend all of next year studying slam poetry communities abroad in Germany, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Chile. Now, the day has finally come and I feel like a little kid on Christmas, waiting to see if Santa brought me switches and coal or fun surprises.Philosophically, I’m torn all over the place but the same old Christmas-time question roles around in my head, Have I been good this year? This is the time of year when many students (at Davidson and in High School) are waiting to hear back from colleges, post-grad programs, jobs and fellowships. When you go through the interim period of waiting, it’s a okay to admit that it’s slightly horrifying. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed my senior year of high school not knowing where I was going to be living, eating and learning the following year. It’s a scary but also incredibly liberating feeling to be in limbo because while you have no say in whether or not you get into your dream school, you also have ultimate power of which school you decide to select. Come May 1st, you will have chosen your life for the next four years.
While I still sit here in limbo, I keep thinking about whether or not “I’ve been good” or, rather, am I deserving of this award? It’s a difficult question to answer. While a part of me wants to jump out of my chair like a contestant on The Price Is Right screaming, “Pick me! Pick me! I’ve worked so hard!” another part of me knows that all of the nominees for this award have worked extremely hard and, if anything, it’s probably my turn to not get something. My mother humbly reminded me of this on the phone yesterday when she asked, “When was the last time you didn’t get something?” I had to stretch my mind all the way back to my Spring 2007 scholarship interview at Davidson to answer. I wanted that scholarship so badly. I thought that being a Cornwell Scholar was going to make my life at Davidson not only possibly but also define me as “a writer” in some strange way. I didn’t receive the scholarship though. Yes, I was upset and thought that Davidson was now beyond my family’s financial means, but thanks to the Davidson Trust it wasn’t.
I spent the summer of before my freshmen year at Davidson working at a Zaxby’s Restaurant, a southern-based chicken franchise, which was by no means glorifying work. One day a man came in carrying a giant box and asked my manager if he could speak to me. He pulled me to the side and started telling me about how he and his friend were asked to play football at Davidson when he was a graduating senior in high school. They both lived in the same neighborhood that I grew up in and Davidson was not considered affordable, even back then.
“We used to joke,” he told me, “that if you went to Davidson you wore a leather backpack, not one of those canvas backpacks that everyone else wore. I knew that I couldn’t wear a leather backpack.”
It was amazing to me that he still remembered his feelings about wanting to go to Davidson. As it turned out, his friend ended up going to Davidson on a scholarship while he stayed in Central Kentucky for school. At the end of our conversation he gestured toward the giant present on the table and said, “Go ahead, open it.”
I undid the wrapping paper, and pulled out a beautiful and brand new brown leather backpack. Since receiving the backpack, it’s accompanied me to four first days of school, Cambridge University, Stonehenge, Dublin, Liverpool, Lincoln Cathedral, New York and Boston. It’s slightly more weathered and worn out but it looks fantastic. It still reminds me of how lucky I am to be here at Davidson.
Tomorrow, if I’m not a recipient of the Watson Fellowship, I wont think about the adventures abroad that I missed out on, I’ll think about all of the places that I can now take my backpack as I journey to South Dakota to teach next year. As much as I hate to admit it, my mom is right, if I have to reach back to four years ago for an answer to the question, “when was the last time you didn’t get something?” then I have a wonderful life and it’s been a great four years.