I remember that day so clearly.

I sat there at my laptop, paralyzed by the crippling fear of what that email would say. Finally, I opened it. And there they were. Those dreaded words.

"It is with regret that I must inform you that we are unable to offer you admission to the university."

I stared at the screen.

I was surrounded by my friends and so I pretended that it was fine. But I was crushed.

I had dreamed about this school since I was little. I dreamed about how my life would be and it was all centered around this school. That dreamed followed me into my high school years. I visited this school several times and fell in love with it more and more each time. Everyone to whom I spoke told me they could 100% see me at this school. I worked hard and put the best part of me out into the world for this school to see.

And they rejected me.

This was worse than any unrequited love I had ever experienced. I mean, this was my future we were talking about. It was hard for me to imagine a world that strayed from the path that I had planned out for the rest of my life.

But alas, after many days of deep conversations and overflowing tears, I eventually committed to James Madison University.

JMU was definitely not my first choice. In fact, I almost didn't even apply. It wasn't because I thought it was a bad school. It was just a little too far away from home for me. JMU was the only school to which I applied that was not in my northeast corner of the country, and that scared me.

But the place that I thought was too far from home became my new home.

It wasn't an easy transition, that's for sure. I didn't make friends right away. There were many times that I felt out of place. I had to work hard to get to the point that I am at today, and the hard work will not be ending any time soon. But it will be so worth it.

The rejections, the tears, the hardships, the switching majors—everything was worth it because finally, finally, I found my new dream, and it is not centered around my school.

Yes, I am so, so, so in love with my school and so endlessly thankful that I get to study what I love where I love with the people I love, but this love for my environment enabled an authentic and tender love for myself.

My new dream is centered around me.

My school showed me that there is a strength that is running through me that I never knew I had. It taught me the value in my thoughts and the power in my words. It instilled in me a sense of community and a desire to never stop learning.

It is through hard work and the effort I choose to put forward every day that will make my dreams a reality. It doesn't matter that I didn't end up at the school I had been dreaming about my entire life. I ended up right where I was meant to be — and I'm happy. Truly, genuinely happy.

I know that not everyone's journey will be the same, but I hope that everyone finds themselves in a place where they are happy. And if not, I hope they have the courage to go and find that place. The place that they never want to leave. The place that feels like home. The place where dreams become reality.