Go Big or Go Home

Brooke Shapiro is the founder and editor-in-chief of The F-Word Blog. She enjoys listening to 90’s R&B, having spontaneous dance parties, and studying feminism in film. 

I have always had big dreams- some more attainable than others. When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut and a pop star (simultaneously, of course). Then, I wanted to be a pirate. I couldn’t tell you why. I think I liked their outfits.

As I grew up, my hopes for the future altered slightly. By late elementary school, I knew I wanted to be just a pop star (the idea of space began to seem daunting). In middle school, I learned about the hardships that pop stars had to face and threw that idea out. I received some awards for my writing in sixth grade and decided I wanted to be a journalist.

Dreaming big has always been characteristic of me. It really is a huge part of who I am. It has always been what drives and motivates me. It’s given me purpose.

College has been something I’ve thought about for years; something I’ve thought about since elementary school even. I’m thinking about how crazy this sounds as I’m writing this, especially because I know the majority of my junior peers have no clue what to think about college or haven’t even thought about it at all.

I was raised in a Gator cheerleading uniform, orange and blue pom poms in hand. I created a life plan in third grade: The rest of my education would begin with Wilson Middle School, followed by Plant High School, and completed at the University of Florida. As you can see, I’ve always had my life figured out. I have trouble leaving things up to chance and just seeing where life takes me.

Once I got to middle school, my life plan changed. The college question transformed into a more serious matter. The idea of an Ivy League education began to sound more appealing, but I thought spots at those colleges were reserved for the white elite of America. I never imagined that one day I would be striving to attend one.

I got to high school and I had but one dream: to attend an Ivy League school, or at least one of prestige and reputation. For awhile, I didn’t even know why I even wanted to go to one. I think a huge part of it was just that I wanted to impress my parents and everyone around me. My mother believed I could and I wanted to prove her right. Everyone else doubted me and I wanted to prove them wrong.

However, after I attended Duke TIP one summer, the reasoning behind this wish of mine changed. I spent three weeks surrounded by people like me and I knew I couldn’t have it any other way. I loved being around people who thought intellectually about EVERYTHING, people who had different ways of viewing the world and held strong beliefs and opinions.

While I was there, I also discovered my love of learning. I took a film and screenwriting class my first summer at Duke and the following summer I took a course on rhetoric and the power of language and words. Before I arrived, I dreaded the fact that we had class for seven hours every single day except for Sundays. But each day, those seven hours went by so quickly and I enjoyed every single minute of them. I never knew that learning could be enjoyable because I had never taken a class that was focused on something I was interested in.

My time at Duke TIP gave me a bit of a sneak peak of what life at an Ivy League college is like. I decided my next educational destination couldn’t be another Plant High School, a place where too many students’ only interests include getting attention, partying, gossip, and social media. For some, this is appealing and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But those simply are not interests of mine, which is why I’ve never felt like I fit in at my school. My next school had to be a place of intellect, of deep thinking, of higher-level learning and discussion.

However, there’s just one issue with this dream I have: it’s a reach. A very big one. My chances of actually getting into an Ivy League are quite slim. I hardly stand out among the thousands of applicants. I haven’t invented anything or been recognized nationally or done anything significant really. I know it’s a shot in the dark; I’m certainly not denying it. But that has never stopped me from at least trying.

You know what happens to those who don’t try? Nothing. Nothing happens to them because they didn’t at least give it a shot. People ask me where I want to go to college all the time and give me dirty looks when I tell them. I know they’re judging me. I know my friends judge me too. They think I’m being arrogant and presumptuous. They think my aspirations are too high. But I truly don’t believe there’s such a thing. As long as you have a back up plan, why not aim for the stars? You never know what could happen. You might just get lucky. Just because I hope to attend an Ivy League school doesn’t mean I’m only going to apply to Ivy League schools. I plan on applying to plenty of other schools that I am more likely to get into and that I’d be happy to attend. But there is absolutely nothing to lose by applying to more selective schools. Worst case scenario, I don’t get in. And I move on with my life.

There’s nothing wrong with having big dreams. In fact, I think having big dreams can be a very positive thing if dealt with in the right way. First of all, you can’t rely on your dreams. Not every dream is going to come true and you have to recognize that. Getting your hopes up can be extremely detrimental. It’s very easy to end up heartbroken. Therefore, it’s important to be a cautious dreamer. Seek after whatever it is you wish to seek after, but don’t let all of your feelings go. BUT don’t be so cautious that you decide that going after your dreams isn’t worth it because you think they’re so unattainable. That is also the wrong way to go about it.

Bottom line is this: your dreams aren’t coming true if you don’t give them the chance to come true. It had been my dream for half of my life to write a blog that people would actually read. I never thought it would happen, but it did. And it’s been bigger and better than I ever could have imagined. But you know why I hadn’t started a blog until now? I was too afraid. I was afraid of getting judged or failing. I was afraid of sharing my thoughts with the world. But last year, I took a leap and I started that blog I had always wanted to start.

There is no one but yourself stopping you from trying to make your dreams happen. I don’t let the words and looks of my friends and peers stop me from setting my sights on an Ivy League school. If anything, their words of discouragement motivate me. I’d love to prove them wrong if given the chance. Obviously that’s not the only reason I want to attend an Ivy League, but wouldn’t it be really satisfying if I could kick everyone who didn’t believe in me in the ass and say to them: “Hey, I did the thing you said I could never do”? Yeah, it would be.

My motto has become “go big or go home.” Keep dreaming, folks. You’ve got nothing to lose.


Lainey Shapiro

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