January 31, 2007

The Path Less Traveled By

I've known for months now that I wouldn't be taking up my place at the London School of Economics. I've known since September that my one-year deferment would turn into an indefinite one. And I've known all of this because the more time I spend with Justin, the deeper I fall in love with him. It surprises me every day how my love for Justin continually expands and grows, making my heart stretch far beyond its selfish capacities.

Yet I had such a hard time last week filling out my letter of decline. It was only a simple online form with a few general questions, but I stared at the screen for minutes on end, unable to press the final "submit" button. I couldn't understand why I felt so overwhelmed when I had made this decision months ago. But I sat there frozen with the computer monitor in front of me---and I didn't want to press that damn button.

I wanted to attend LSE for many reasons---some of which I broadcasted to everyone I knew while other ones I kept quietly to myself. On the exterior, I told my friends and family that LSE would be a good launching pad for my doctoral studies and that a one-year Masters degree in the UK would be cheaper than a two-year degree in the US. And who wouldn't want to live in London? The city was stocked full of great museums, historic sites, fantastic theaters, and let's be honest, the best shopping in the world. My year in London would be one of the highlights of my life.

But then there were the reasons I needed to keep to myself: London was my escape from a terrible relationship. A year before I met Justin, I was in an awful relationship that was emotionally-exhausting and heart-wrenchingly painful. For months I had stifled my passions and spirit to salvage my dying relationship. After everything was finally over, I hoped that my ticket to London would act as the balm to make me whole again.

And there was another reason too why I wanted LSE so badly---why I even applied to the school in the first place. I needed to prove to other people that I was smart and an MA from the London School of Economics would accomplish that. Blame it on my Chinese parents or on my intrinsic need for approval, but I've always needed reassurance that I'm not stupid. When I was in high school I constantly felt below par compared to my classmates who were all bright and shiny Ivy League embryos. And so, a Masters from LSE was a way for me to prove to myself that I was intelligent and that my opinions were valid. I needed that degree. I wanted that piece of paper.

Yet I pressed the button and submitted my letter of decline. Whoosh. My year of London escapades was gone with a click of my mouse. And I admit it---I was a little sad. I thought about the classes I would have taken and the professors I would have met. I thought about the British Museum and the Tate Modern, Hyde Park and the National Theatre, Tesco and TopShop. I wondered what my life would have been like if I had stepped onto that plane in September and plunged into my Masters studies. Would I have been happy?

And I think I would have been happy. I would have loved my classes and my professors and all of those delicious Hobnobs. But I don't look back and regret my decision. Nope, not in the least. Because a life in London would mean a life without Justin, and I can't think of anything more heartbreaking. Justin wakes me up in the morning with kisses on my cheek. He sings me silly songs to the tune of "Oh Holy Night." (We're weird.) He teasingly calls me a baby sloth because I love to sleep and eat---and honestly I think this is the cutest nickname in the world. (We're cheesy too.) He wants me to pursue my dreams and to attend graduate school, but he always looks me in the eye and tells me that he thinks I'm brilliant despite what any piece of paper may say. He loves me with his entire heart even if I don't deserve someone as honest and as good as he is.

To paraphrase a well-worn poem, two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I took the path less taken. And indeed, it has made all the difference. I would trade a thousand years in London for a life with Justin by my side. He is my best friend and we have something worth sacrificing for.

(This picture of me is gross, but it's the only one I have of Justin and me on my work computer. Alas!)


  1. This happiness you've found changes everything, doesn't it? Justin is one lucky guy, and I am so glad that he's one that realizes it. I am also happy that you sing silly songs together--that space in your life needed to be filled! It's like Jami told me not too long ago when she was feeling nostalgic about medical school, "I'm doing exactly what I want, even though I didn't imagine it was what I wanted." How often the Lord throws wonderful curve balls in our lives to bless us, even though the initial decision is difficult. I am so happy for you, and can't wait to see how it all unfolds!

  2. Oh my goodness, finally a picture of Justin! How cute are you two?!!! I love you guys and I don't even know Justin. He sounds perfect for you and not like you need my approval, but I approve a thousand times! I would have loved you to be in London, but I think you made the right choice.

    You just need to come visit London at least. You are so so smart, with or without LSE.

  3. Caroline with our without a MA I think you are one of the smartest people I know!

    I went through something similar in my path to falling in love... I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for sharing. You sound utterly in love and that is the best thing that could happen.

  4. awwwwwwwwww. way to go. And, for what it's worth, I've always thought you were brilliant.

  5. Allison9:15 PM

    Can I pretend that I was one of those bright and shiny Ivy League embryos? I know I wasn't, and still am not, but let's just pretend.

    Oh, yeah Justin... he's lucky! He should be thanking the mighty Zeus and Aprhodite for your love!