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What We Can Learn From an Egg

What We Can Learn From an Egg
Alayne Birnhak

The past several weeks at W+H have been filled with emotion as colleges and universities released decisions for seniors who applied early. While we await results from a portion of the 300+ applications that our 12th graders submitted by mid-November, we already know how most of our students fared in the initial round of the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. There have been celebrations. There has been disappointment, too. Tears of joy and tears of sadness, even occasionally during the course of a day, come with the territory when you apply to college or support those who do. Reactions are heightened when one learns the outcome of a long, arduous process that is marked by significant uncertainty. It is difficult to accept that some elements of college admissions, such as institutional priorities, are beyond the control of applicants or anyone in their corner.

Reflecting upon the slew of feelings exhibited at W+H recently, I stumbled across Dan Santat’s After The Fall. I don’t want to divulge too much about Humpty Dumpty’s latest adventures. After all, maybe you’ll check out what I consider an adorable, heartwarming tale and report back that it also made you smile. As you might remember from my March blog, though, I am a huge fan of children’s books because they highlight powerful ideas that can shape our worldview. Therefore, I can’t resist sharing the words in bold green capital letters on After the Fall’s back cover. They seem relevant for application season, and all seasons: “LIFE BEGINS WHEN YOU GET BACK UP.”

Over the last few weeks, numerous seniors have been greeted with exploding confetti across their screens upon opening an e-mail containing an admissions decision.  Others read, “Thank you for your application…,” as if politeness would soften the blow to follow. As parents and educators, we care deeply about our W+H students. It is our collective responsibility to instill a mindset that will prepare our students for the inevitable ups and downs life will bring, long after college applications are a distant memory. As part of this learning process, we try to model gratitude for when things go well. Many adults recognize that when people are thankful, additional good often comes their way. Expressing appreciation through words and deeds makes the world a happier place. Equally important, we need to teach coping skills for when events don’t necessarily unfold as planned. Everybody finds themselves a Humpty Dumpty for a period or, as my aunt says, “No one goes through life unscathed.”  

We all hit the ground hard at one point or another for different reasons but, hopefully, we come to the same realization as Humpty. It’s up to us whether we allow struggles to define who we are and dictate our future. We can get up from the falls that have caused us to endure cracks. Challenges serve as catalysts for positive transformation if we resolve to see them as such and then take steps to make that happen. It is possible to feel nervous or downright afraid but act with fortitude. In those instances, we see for ourselves that we are capable of more than we originally envisioned. This greater self-awareness shifts the focus of our story; we gradually concentrate less on the fall and more on the growth that resulted when we persevered in our efforts to get back on our feet. Just ask Santat’s lovable protagonist who, by example, imparts an invaluable lesson about resilience.