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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apply: A Definition (or 5)

Apply, v.

1. To make a formal application or request.

Gee, thanks, Google, for that utterly thrilling definition that is at once concise and provides no new information. Really?! To apply is to make an application?!
I digress.
The most applicable *cough* definition of the word "apply" right now is 'to college.' As in, I am sitting at my kitchen table, as I have been for the last two hours, waiting for my art supplement to upload to SlideRoom so I can finish off my application to my dream school. As in, since August 1st--the day the Common App launched--the bulk of my life and mind has been overtaken by the before, during, and after of applying to college. As in, on May 1st, I will finally know for sure where I am going, but until then, I will be experiencing such a huge range of emotions that I likely will have several (more) mental breakdowns. The first worldiest of first world problems. Oh, college. You silly, demonic little beast.
If you're in my shoes…first of all, I'm sorry. Second of all, we've got this! Only a few more months to go and then all of this is behind us!
Dear colleges: I am formally requesting that you admit me. Yrs, Jensen.

2. To be applicable or relevant.

Google's done it again. To be applicable?!
How does one manage it, in the year 2014? We live in the digital age. Every day we are inundated with more information than our feeble human brains can possibly process. Advertisements for shampoo that will make your hair salon-fresh after every wash, television shows about Kerry Washington saving the country from catastrophe, YouTube clips of a cat dialing 911, Yahoo! homepage articles about how ebola is SO TOTALLY IN YOUR HOUSE RIGHT NOW. We're used to it now, so everything gets swept under the rug. So how do we stay remembered?
I used to think that was the most important question in the world. How can I be applicable? How do I become relevant? Then I read The Fault In Our Stars, and I was still convinced it was the most important question, even after Hazel Grace tries to teach Augustus that being remembered is about quality, not quantity, of memory. Now, as I figure out where I'm gonna spend the next four years of my life, I realize that even though the stress, anxiety, fear, hope, and excitement I am feeling is amplified and overwhelming now, in a year and a half, when I'm well into my freshman year of college, I'll barely remember it. I'll be at some incredible school, swamped with work and music and activities, and I won't give a second thought to the arduous months that brought me there.
So if I won't remember this, what is arguably the most formative time in my life so far, how can I expect other people to remember me? When I can't even remember myself?

3. To put (or spread) something on a surface.

Finally, a definition that does not contain some iteration of the word 'apply' in it.
I just spent a whole paragraph convincing you that you can't expect other people to remember you. But…you should still try. You don't have to be remembered by everyone, or remembered forever. But you should strive to have an impact, to matter, in a small way or a big way. Not everyone is going to walk on the moon. Not everyone is going to win a Grammy (although I sincerely hope to myself). Not everyone is going to be the President or cure cancer or write the next great American novel. But maybe you'll be a second grade teacher, and you'll make some lonely little boy fall in love with learning. Maybe you'll get married to the love of your life and have four beautiful children. Maybe you'll give a homeless man five dollars every day and be the reason that he survives, or gets back on his feet. Maybe you'll buy someone a cup of coffee when they're having a rough day.
So spread yourself on this blue-green surface. Put yourself out there. Life is a lottery and every ticket wins. Throw yours in and see what you get.

4. To give one's full attention to a task; to work hard.

Every teenager in the world has heard the phrase "apply yourself" at least once. Or twice. Or a million times. It's late April, in the horrible end-of-year-slump we all face, and you've got a precalc problem set to tackle and APUSH reading to annotate (or, y'know, skim) and an English essay to rewrite, but when you get home, you drop your six-ton backpack angrily on the ground and lay facedown on your bed. And one or both of your parents come in your room and they ask what's wrong, and you say you don't want to do your work. And they say, come on, honey. Just apply yourself.
Well, I hate to break it to you; they're not wrong. You should apply yourself, when you've got lots of work to do and you don't want to do it, or you don't understand a difficult concept, or you're holding yourself back from a great opportunity that seems hard or scary now but will pay off later. But that's not all you should work hard for. Apply yourself to getting a good night's sleep, to taking a hot bath, to eating a delicious and healthy meal, to going for a jog, to listening to some really good music. Work hard at taking care of yourself and making yourself happy. The world expects a lot of you, and trust me, you CAN rise to the challenge. But it's not just about what the world wants. It's about what you want. Apply yourself to you, kid. It's your body and it's your life. You've got only got one of each. (That was almost YOLO…almost.)

5. To bring or put into operation or practical use.

Unless you're a solipsist, you know the world mostly exists outside your own mind. It's a rat race, a dog-eat-dog kinda game, and if you don't step outside your bubble, the world will keep spinning without you. Chances are, you've got a lot of interesting thoughts in your head, but unless you take them from the intangible to the tangible, they won't get you anywhere. Bring yourself and your great ideas down from the clouds and onto the ground and you'll be surprised where they'll take you.
It's scary. Rejection and failure are scary. But I heard this great quote once, about how life is a series of decisions that narrow down your options. And not making the decisions? That's a decision, too. So whether or not you decide, your options keep narrowing.
Which is it going to be? Are you going to choose? Or are you going to let the world choose for you?

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