94: The Dress and the Dream

94: The Dress and the Dream

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In...To College

The Dress and the Dream

Follow your passion, and success will follow you.

~Arthur Buddhold

In late 2005, my daughter Pallavi and I went shopping to buy a formal dress for her Year 12 Formal. We decided to buy the dress during Christmas as we knew that the festive season would offer more choices, and also because my daughter did not want to spend time shopping during her final year. We searched high and low and finally bought a beautiful floor-length pink silk gown.

Pallavi was ecstatic when she tried it on. As a mother, I thought my daughter was the most beautiful girl in the world.

The summer holidays ended soon after that, and Year 12 began in January. We knew it was going to be a busy year for all of us. Pallavi was attending a selective school and we were proud parents. We knew that she was a very high achiever since primary school—very diligent and a conscientious student. At parent-teacher conferences her teachers often told me about her exemplary character and that she was an asset to the school; it was a pleasure to hear her teachers talk about her. On one occasion, however, a teacher mentioned that our daughter was working overtime with her extracurricular activities and that she had to slow down.

As June approached, Pallavi was studying hard for her midterm school exams. One Sunday afternoon, I observed her fiddling her fingers in the air as if drawing shapes in the air. When I curiously asked her what she was doing, she said she was preparing for UMAT.

The Undergraduate Medical Admission Test is an intimidating exam required for Australian medical schools. I just looked at her proudly and was impressed with her discipline.

A couple of months later, the school confirmed the Formal for September. Pallavi wanted to try on her dress again to ensure she had not gained weight! All the girls at her school were talking about their dresses, jewelry and shoes. Pallavi would come home daily with detailed descriptions of what each of her friends had bought.

The next week, my daughter decided she would not go to the Formal, as she wanted to attend a UMAT preparation workshop which began early the morning after the formal. I was disappointed. I had imagined my little girl with the beautiful gown; her hair and make-up done grandly and wearing those lovely designer silver heels. I really wanted her to go to the Formal, but it just wasn’t her priority. She explained that after a late night at the party, she would not be able to make the most of the workshop. I commended her for that, and knew that she was a very determined young lady.

Life soon brought a new exciting phase: applications. When Pallavi asked me to edit her written applications for various medical schools, I was honoured by her request. We carefully read through them together and I was amazed at how well she had written. I did not do much as an editor, but as a mother I was getting emotional. If anybody deserved admission to medical school, it was Pallavi.

When she went to the UMAT, she came home admitting the exam was extremely difficult. My husband, who was overseas at the time, called that night and I relayed the message. We had all known that the exam was challenging, so we did not make much of Pallavi’s reaction, and for the next few weeks there was no talk of the UMAT.

Then, late one night, my husband and I were watching television in our bedroom and Pallavi walked in with tears in her eyes and her laptop in her hand. One of the top medical schools in the country had offered her an interview and informed her that she had scored extremely highly on the UMAT. While we both sat crying with happiness, my husband, who has the habit of reading things multiple times, was dissecting the information and trying to ensure we had not misunderstood the e-mail! We still did not know her test score, however. I called my sisters in New Jersey and San Francisco early the next morning to tell them the good news.

My husband and I went to watch our son play his clarinet one night. Though Pallavi and Pranay are normally inseparable, she did not want to leave her computer; UMAT results were supposed to be out. Having waited all day with no sign of the results, we left for the concert. Seven minutes after we left, Pallavi called her dad’s mobile phone and asked us to call her back. We turned on the speakerphone and we heard our little daughter yelling with excitement. The numbers were surreal—281 out of 300—and we were so proud of her. However, this did not guarantee admission to a medical college. This was just the first hurdle.

Pallavi started getting interviews from other medical schools. She called me every day during her long train ride home and asked if anything came in the post for her. After watching so many episodes of Gilmore Girls, Pallavi routinely asked if the envelopes were big or small. According to the show (and therefore, her) if the envelopes were big, they brought good news. We live in Australia, though, and things are different over here. Regardless, I would wait by the door with the envelope in my hand. Pallavi would rush to open it and scream that she got another interview.

On the 14th of January, a year after we bought her Formal gown, I did not get any sleep at all. The university placements were due on the morning of the 15th. My husband and I woke up early that morning, and all I could think to do was pray to our God.

At 9 A.M., Pallavi said that she would use her dad’s computer to check the university offers. Suddenly there was a deafening scream. Pallavi was shouting out that she had been offered entry into the Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery course at the university that was her first preference. Her little brother was yelling and I rushed downstairs jumping two steps at a time to the computer. By this time my husband had to read the whole thing again “just to make sure it is right.” In the days following, Pallavi went on to get multiple offers from other medical colleges.

I am a very proud mother today not because my daughter got into Medical School but because my daughter is living her dreams. She is a great role model for her little brother, who wants to be an orthopaedic surgeon.

Oh, and that beautiful pink gown that was unworn? Pallavi is planning to wear it to her medical school ball this year.

~Sumana Prathivadi

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