This might sound silly to some, but believe it or not, I actually contemplated accepting the Fulbright Fellowship. Who would turn down such a prestigious honor, you ask? The opportunity to get paid to spend a year abroad sounds like the perfect adventure on a twenty-something's bucket list. Especially a twenty-something who regrets not studying abroad in college. So, why, after spending hours and hours on the application, and going through nearly 10 drafts to refine my essays, did I hesitate to jump in the air with excitement when I got the congratulatory email?
For some reason, neither the glamor of the fellowship nor the many draws of Turkey (the famous Istanbul, cheap flights to Europe, beautiful mosques, rich history, exotic vacation spots) were enough to convince me that I should leave my stable job at Liberty Mutual. Because I was not expecting to be selected, I now found myself in an unusual dilemma. At one point, I wanted this experience, and for some unexplained reason, I had a change of heart.
I'm still not sure what it was, but I think my anxiety stemmed from both personal indecisiveness and familial pressures. The thoughts of packing, moving, and leaving my lovely, spacious apartment in Boston scared me. I also did not know what I wanted for my next life adventure -- grad school? law or policy? another job? move to DC? this fellowship? -- or maybe I didn't want anything. Maybe I wanted to stay at the Fortune 100 company and continue to up my baking skills with my roommates. But, what would Kate Myall and Cindy Stocks (ladies instrumental in helping me with my application from the Bowdoin fellowship office) think of me if I turned down the Fulbright? Would their and my hard work go in vain?
At the same time, I wanted to be respectful of my parents' wishes. I want their blessings in everything I do in life, therefore getting their buy-in was important to me. While they were very proud of my receiving the fellowship, when it came to deciding between starting policy graduate school this fall or spending 9 months in Turkey, the 'desi' in them opted for the first choice. Understandably so; as immigrants to the United States, they've made many sacrifices to see their children achieve the American Dream. Going to a top graduate school and starting my dream job (sooner rather than later) would be achieving the American Dream; blowing off a year in a foreign country is what a rebellious, liberal, 24-year-old would do after reading the Buzzfeed article, "27 Surreal Places to Visit Before You Die" (see #9). I don't think I'm rebellious, but you get the point. And then of course there's the unspoken pressure of getting married (saving that topic for another time).
By late April, I still had not made up my mind. Fulbright aside, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, period.