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My First Heartbreak Didn't Come From A Person

What it's like to have your heart broken by a school.

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All of my life, I was told I was "gifted." When I was 6, my mother moved our family to a boring suburban town with one extraordinary quality; their schools.You see, this town that I live in had exceptional test score coming out of it. When my mother decided that we were moving, she knew that this would be the best place for her children. And, in a way, she was right.

Like many "gifted" kids, I was a really weird kid. For first and second grade I didn't really have any friends. I was a weird loner and my mom was my best friend. But then, like the other gifted kids in our town, I took an IQ test in second grade and was invited to the Excel program.

The Excel program was a class of third through fifth grade "gifted" students. There were 3 teachers that taught us every class. Often, each subject spilled into another and we would have huge projects that incorporated every subject into what we were learning.

Going into this program was the best decision of my life.

The classes were small, and I made some long-lasting friendships that I probably wouldn't have ever made before. These kids were just as weird as me. I learned a ton in those super fast-paced classes.

Fast forward to middle school. I now had my favorite teacher that I have ever had, and probably will ever have. Mrs. Vanek was a teacher for at least one of my classes for each year of middle school. She taught language arts mainly but also taught social studies. Mrs. Vanek was our biggest cheerleader. She taught me so much, not only how to write well, but also confidence. Words cannot describe how much she has helped me over the 3 years that I had with her.

One major thing that led to my first heartbreak was this: Mrs. Vanek always pushed us to try new things and challenge ourselves. When she told us about a program where we can take the ACT early, my mother pushed me to sign up. I did, and in 7th grade, I got a pretty average score on a test for high schoolers.

Shortly after I took the ACT, I began to be contacted by different private schools that wanted me to apply. One, in particular, caught my eye. Its name was Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. I was in love. I believed that this was the way to get into a good college.

Like I said before, I was a weird kid. I still am. I have a lot of close friends, but I am not popular. I'm not good at any sports, and I'm not pretty. The one thing that I'm good at is school. I love school. And that just made by heartbreak worse.

You see, this all happened through the year of eighth grade. And, as funny as it sounds, eighth grade was a really tough year for me. My self-esteem was super low. I had mental breakdowns at 3 am at least once a month. It was very hard to find the motivation to do anything. I was never diagnosed, but I probably had depression. Yeah, yeah, I know, a 13 year old self-diagnosing themselves with depression? It sounds like I was just trying to be edgy or something. But I never wanted to feel like that. I went through over 10 months of hell. I matched a lot of the symptoms of depression, and my family has a history of it. My brother went through the same thing when he was my age. Looking back on it now, I probably should've told my mom how much I was suffering. I never have.

But through all of that pain, I had one shining light. School.

This is going to sound really nerdy, but school was addictive. When I have good grades, I feel like I'm on top of the world. When I get a bad grade, I want to die. Like I said before, school was the one thing that I was good at. So I put it before everything. My health, both mental and physical, my family, my friends. Whatever it took to get that high again, even though it was really terrible for me.

So, I thought that going to this cool boarding school would make me a better student. I thought hey, I'm good at this whole school thing, so why not try to go somewhere where my needs are met? Where I could be challenged even further?

After a lot of talking with my parents, we decided that I should apply. There were a lot of setbacks, mainly from my mom, but nonetheless, I submitted my application, took a test called the SSAT, got my teacher recommendations, turned in my essays, and drove 11 hours with my mom to New Hampshire for an interview.

I got to take a tour of the school while I was there for the interview. I've never been in love, but I've seen a lot of romance movies and read a lot of romance novels. Me seeing their 9-leveled library was probably akin to when you're infatuated with someone and they do something and you realize oh my god, I am head over heels in love with this person. It was everything I've ever dreamed of and more.

After the trip to New Hampshire, the application process was over, but I had a few months before their decision was made on whether I got in or not. I desperately tried to push down my emotions, to not be excited, to not hope and daydream and pray to god that I was good enough. I don't know if you've ever tried, but this is impossible. I was always thinking about Phillips Exeter. I read the entire student handbook, cover to cover. Whenever I had down time, before I went to sleep, I was dreaming of the time when I would get to roam the small city of Exeter, New Hampshire.

My dad told me not to get my hopes up. I had a good chance, but the odds of getting into this boarding school was about 50/50 (we looked it up). My mom, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. She believed that there was no other option than getting accepted. I was somewhere in the middle.

As the date of the announcement got closer and closer, by hopes and fears grew larger. The night before I would get the email, I convinced my mother to let me stay home from school. If I didn't get in, I didn't want to cry in front of my classmates.

When the day that I had been hoping for and dreading arrived, the first thing I did was check my phone. There was a notification saying that Phillips Exeter had emailed me. With bated breath, I unlocked my phone and read the first line of the email. "Dear Gabby," I read, "After long and careful consideration, the Admissions Committee has decided to invite you to join the Waiting List for the Fall of 2016." In my excitement, I thought that this meant that I was in. that all my dreams had come true.

I called my parents with the news. And then texted my best friends. And then my brothers. And my aunt and grandparents. I spent the day thinking of how I would decorate my dorm, what classes I would take, what I would do in the town. For the first time in months, I let myself dream and plan and be happy without trying to hold myself back. I didn't read the rest of the email.

Sometime during the day, I emailed my tour guide, a student at the school, asking why it said I was on the waiting list. I had no care in the world as I celebrated. Around 10:00, I checked my email again. I got an email back from my tour guide explaining that no, I wasn't actually admitted, that if anyone didn't want to go here that was admitted I had a chance of getting in.

I was numb. My happiness faded as I reread the email over and over. I texted everyone again saying that I wasn't actually admitted, and I let myself go.

I sobbed for a long time.

The pain in my chest became evident as I thought of all of the daydreams that would never come true. I needed a hug, but my mom wasn't even coming home that night. When I needed her most, she wasn't there.

I've never been in love, never had a boyfriend, never had a heartbreak before that moment. If you don't think that I was heartbroken, you're wrong. I loved that school. I saw a future with it. In the way that you might see yourself marry the person you're dating, I saw myself graduating from Phillips Exeter. For weeks, whenever someone brought it up, tears would come to my eyes. It was the worst pain imaginable. It felt like someone had ripped a hole out of my chest, leaving my empty and bleeding.

It's been several months, and I started freshman year of high school at my boring suburban town. The waiting list never had to be used. It still hurts to think about it sometimes. This may sound super melodramatic because I'm 14 years old, but the pain is real to me. I know that someday, I won't start crying when I talk or write about it. That someday, the gaping wound in my chest will be nothing but an ugly scar, an awful memory of something bad. For now, though, the wound is scabbed over. I'm still healing.

But that's the thing they say about heartbreak, right? Grief is that price one must pay for love. This might take a while to fully get over. God knows I'm awful at money-management.

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