Part 2: Ephemeral Moments
Ephemeral—that was the first SAT word I learned and memorized thanks to Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO), my college prep program. However, the impact of the following story doesn’t fit my first SAT word’s definition; there are certain moments, experiences, and times in our lives that are simply not short-lived nor transitory despite how much time has passed—even if it has been a decade.
March 31, 2006. It was a regular day at Saturday academy for SEO students, and we were just about finished with our lunch break. I usually took this time to check my email, which mostly consisted of deleting those pesky mass emails that some people don’t mind leaving unopened in their inboxes. I definitely do not fall within that category. The mere bold font of those unread emails is bothersome to me—it’s almost as if the glaring, striking words are yelling at me for leaving them unattended. I quickly worked my way down my Hotmail inbox, clicking the boxes on the left hand side of those unopened messages for an easy mass-delete once my review was complete.
As I breezed through unnecessary inbox clutter, I stopped in my tracks when I saw “Barnard” in the mix. I don’t quite remember the subject line nor can I recall the specific name of the sender. What I do remember is that the subject didn’t necessarily denote that enclosed in that email was my admission decision. I thought “maybe they’re missing a document for my file…maybe it’s an update to all candidates.” I wasn’t aware that I should expect to find my decision in an email so I proceeded to causally open the email and there it was—aside from “Congratulations!” the email was no easier for me to digest than a Jackson Pollock masterpiece.
In true Introverted Irma fashion, I walked over to one of my favorite counselors at SEO and quietly told her with what I’m sure was the biggest smile she had seen on my face: “I just got an email from Barnard—I got in.” And in true counselor form, she didn’t let the news stay under the radar for more than a millisecond; soon enough the entire computer lab had erupted in celebration.
Although I knew that I wouldn’t prefer any of my other choices over Barnard, a sense of panic would grow within me whenever I was asked if I was going to accept Barnard’s offer of admission. I always saw Barnard as the best of not both, but three worlds. For one, Barnard offers an empowering, tight-knit all-women’s community where professors and administrators are accessible enough to know your name. Secondly, you have access to the resources of a world-class research university right across the street. To top it all off, New York City becomes your extended classroom and playground; Barnard has truly always been a no-brainer for me. Yet, somehow I still felt a pang of anxiety when asked if I was choosing Barnard.
Perhaps it was because I also knew that I had been given a gift. A gift that, at once, filled me with immense joy and inexplicable trepidation. Not until many years later was I able to identify this feeling as inadequacy. I never fully embraced how hard I had worked for my spot in my incoming Barnard class; I sincerely hope you don’t spend as much time doubting yourself. This class, Barnard 2021, in particular is incredibly strong. And you still got a nod from the Admissions team. Embrace it. Bask in your accomplishment and don’t let fear nor the words of those who said you couldn’t do it interfere with such a special moment in your life. There was a reason why the admissions committee chose me 10 years ago to join this legacy of strong women. And there’s a reason you were selected, too. I invite you to join us and watch your story unfold here at Barnard.