Make-or-Break Choices

The other day I went with a friend and two of her children (one of whom is the imaginary tea drinker I posted about awhile ago) to see Monsters University. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you have to see the Monsters University website. Go on. I won’t mind.

The movie trailer informs you that Mike and Sulley from the 2001 Pixar classic, Monsters, Inc., enroll in Monsters University (which makes this movie a prequel). If you’ve read any of the reviews, you know that the highly prized program at the school is the illustrious School of Scaring.


I won’t spoil the movie by saying more, but I can’t help being reminded of a day long ago (a few months after Noah built the ark), when I received my college acceptance letter, welcoming me to Northwestern University.


Also, it said, welcome to the Medill School of Journalism, the illustrious program where my journalistic adventures would begin.

Ha. It didn’t say the latter, though I’d hoped it would. Instead, I was told that I had not been accepted into that program. I was welcome to enroll in another program. Perhaps I could transfer into the J School later.

I panicked, because I had everyone that I applied to that program! Getting into the program was my dream! Now I would have to tell everyone that I couldn’t get in! And what guarantee would I have that I would be accepted into the program later, if they wouldn’t take me now???

The fact that I was not accepted into the program meant only one thing: I was a failure, since my essay and journalism experience weren’t good enough to get me into the program.

That, my friend, is a make-or-break choice. I could let this setback break me, or I could adapt and move on.

The fact that I’m writing this post tells you that I eventually moved on. But not for a long while. I let the choice break me instead. I partied like there was no tomorrow, and my grades plummeted. After nearly getting expelled, I wound up in the creative writing program. But I couldn’t embrace creative writing. I looked upon it as the inferior sister to journalism. For me, it was like getting Miss Congeniality instead of being crowned Miss America.

After graduating, I applied to another university for grad school and was accepted in the journalism program. Because I had a strenuous editorial job, I lasted a semester in the program before dropping out.

Failed again.

Let me take you even farther back if I may. When I was eight years old, the school librarian handed me a book she thought I’d like: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. After reading that book, I had a revelation: I could write stories for kids, stories like this. So that’s what I did. Morning, noon, and night. I wrote hundreds of stories.


So, why was I so set on believing that I was a failure because I didn’t get into the “cool” program? It was like my desire to be popular when I was in middle school and high school. The fact that I was not “in,” meant that I was nothing.

The choice broke me, because I allowed it. Until I embraced the kind of writing I naturally gravitated toward, life seemed hollow.

Seems silly now—all those wasted years I spent believing in my failure. And years after I graduated from Northwestern, I avoided doing the very thing A Wrinkle in Time inspired me to do: writing stories for kids.

Make-or-break choices. Are you facing one? Will you let it make you or break you? The choice really is yours.

Mike and Sulley from NU seal from Wikipedia.