My wife wanted me to clean out some boxes from our shed the other day. I'd promised to get rid of them years ago, but being both a pack rat and a procrastinator, I'd devised ingenious ways to put her off and keep my boxes of worthless loot intact. I tried proposing other tasks to do instead ("Hey, honey, what say I prune that birch?"), artfully re-stacked boxes instead of disposing of them, and consolidated the contents of two smaller crates into one larger one. But in the end, my day of reckoning arrived.
As I began sorting through stacks of old comic books and college bursar bills, I was forced to admit that my collected archives were more trash than treasure. But then, unexpectedly, I stumbled upon a genuine find. Folded neatly and tucked inside a small book was my college acceptance letter. It's a wonder I didn't keel over from the upwelling nostalgia.
Unlike many of my classmates at Cheverus High School, I chose to apply to colleges out of state. I was in no rush to leave Maine, but I suspected that moving away was something I should do for a while, and so why delay? At age seventeen choosing where to go to college was the biggest decision I'd ever made. Looking back today from my cluttered Camden shed, I realize the choice was even weightier than I understood.
The students that Down East associate editor Michaela Cavallaro met as she was writing her story on the Bates College admissions office ("Who Gets In?" page 54
) seem to understand the stakes better than my generation did. It's a testament to Michaela's reporting that she was able to get these young people to talk candidly about their hopes and fears. It's also a credit to Bates, which granted Down East nearly unrestricted access to a process normally shrouded in secrecy. This rite of passage - complicated, rigorous, and imperfect - will shape thousands of lives. You might even say that the state of Maine will ultimately be defined by the sum of individual decisions being made this winter in admissions offices in Lewiston, Orono, and elsewhere.
On the day I received my own acceptance letter, I got a phone call from the Scarborough postmaster who had agreed to alert us if anything showed up from Yale (where else but in Maine would a postmaster do this?). I opened the envelope with shaking hands in the Oak Hill parking lot. When I read the words, "We are pleased to inform you," I knew my life had just changed. It's taken me many years to understand how much.