Zen and the Art of Being a Control Freak

Hello, readers. My name is Randi and I’m a control freak.

This should come as no surprise to those who have read this blog for a while, as I’ve often spoke of my competitive aspirations at FEI dressage and alluded to my Type A+ personality traits (each a dead giveaway on its own). But for the newer readers (welcome!), it was worth stating.

This week’s blog comes to you from my seat on a delayed American Airlines flight out of Houston that takes me home (and around Hurricane Matthew, thank you very much) so I can make my late day meetings with frenzied seniors who are in the thick of the application process. Early accept deadlines are fast-approaching and there are essays to be tightened/finished and boxes to check and recommendations to request and it’s all a big rush to make sure no detail is left untouched and we rush around and schedule last-minute “I’ll die if we don’t look at this right how!” meetings…

…and then all of a sudden it will be over. Just like my delayed flight (that is airborne at last), the panic will dissipate with the click of the “submit” button and the student’s application will no longer be in their control. It will belong to the schools that receive it and the decision-making process will begin.

The power will shift.

Control freak that I am, readers, I am amazingly (to my friends and family in particular) the most Zen person you will ever meet when it comes to flight delays. This is partially because I fly enough to encounter them with a certain amount of regularity (!) and partially because – much like my students after their applications have been submitted – I am pretty much powerless in the situation. I’m not a pilot or an aircraft mechanic or a weather person; I’m merely a traveler trying to get from Point A to Point B by whatever means the companies I have paid for the service are able to get me there.

(Case in point – the shuttle driver didn’t show up at my hotel this morning so they tucked several of us into cabs paid for by the hotel and sent us on our way. No muss, no fuss.)

And I have to admit, there’s a certain amount of freedom in that sense of powerlessness. Situations always have resolutions and – yes – they aren’t always the ones we expect or even want, but they inevitably point us in the direction we’re supposed to go:

Flights are delayed, connections missed, and we’re re-booked on the next one so we arrive home two hours later than planned.

Horses go lame and instead of competing over the summer, we re-examine our training program and seize the opportunity to ride other horses and lean new things that will serve us well in future. (Again, I speak from recent personal experience.)

And when a student’s first choice “I must attend or my life will be over before it starts” college issues a rejection and he or she is relegated to a second-choice institution, somehow it always works out better in the end – a different major is discovered that leads the student to a dream career; new, lifelong friends are made; a faculty connection is forged that teaches the student something unexpected and wonderful – and it’s as though this was the direction the student was always meant to go in.

Yes, my flight was delayed this morning. And yes, I’ll need to push a few student meetings back to accommodate my amended schedule. But the control freak part of me is okay with that today because that’s the way the situation has developed and it’s out of my power to alter it.

If you’re a student preparing to submit your college applications this fall, I encourage you to adopt a similar approach: send the applications and, once they’re out of your control, embrace what comes next. I guarantee it won’t kill you – and, in fact, it might just make the rest of your (long) life more amazing than you can imagine right now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the beverage service has started and I need some cheap airline pretzels to tide me over until we land.

(Want to talk about Zen and the art of the college application? Contact me or pick up a copy of my book to guide you.)

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