Yes, you read that right. I, Jarod Contreras, got accepted to my number one school, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo! I have been wanting to go to this school for a very long time. My family and I have been traveling to San Luis Obispo for my whole life and I absolutely love that town. It is a great town with awesome trailrunning, vegan food, people, and whole vibe. These next four years are going to be pretty freakin' awesome!
For many years of my life I loved chemistry and was fascinated by it, so I wanted to go to the best school out there. I wanted to go to MIT. So for many years I focused on that, then I began to run and I went vegan and my focus changed. I discovered Reed College in Portland, OR. A beautifully small campus in my one of my top three favorite cities. With great trails and great food it was a no brainer. But, then again my focus shifted. A great friend of mine, who went to San Luis Obispo Cal Poly, really influenced me on the amazing attributes of Cal Poly SLO. Coupled with the fact that I had been going to that city for years and loved it, a new focus and desire to go to SLO was ignited.
When that new desire began my dad said one thing to me about it and it rang true throughout the rest of my journey to get into SLO. He said, "If you want this, then YOU have to make it happen." That is a philosophy we both live by in our running and in our day to day lives. So why shouldn't I also apply that to my quest to be accepted to Cal Poly SLO.
It is a very prescient piece of advice that rings true for the majority of our lives. I have always focused on getting great grades, so I just doubled down on that focus. I also became an Eagle Scout, something I had been working on for a long time. Also as an ultrarunner that gave me a very unique perspective and skill that colleges would be impressed by. With my work here on this website, along with my podcast, I felt like I created a very well-rounded and tantalizing picture for colleges to choose to come to their school. And it worked!
One of the hardest things that I had to battle with in this journey to hopefully getting accepted to SLO was coming to peace with myself with the fact that I very well might not get into the school. This whole college acceptance thing is very much up to chance. You do your best, then when you press send on that application form, it's all up to the admissions officers. Which seems like a very hard job to me. To be the ones who, in reality, change the course of someone's life. But, I simply told myself, "Jarod, you have lived an incredible life, one that will be very intriguing to the admissions officers, so don't sweat." However, in those moments where I did begin to sweat I eventually came to a very Buddhist realization. That realization came in three parts:
- Now (after I sent all of the applications) it is out of my control, so why should I stress?
- If I don't get accepted to SLO, I will still get accepted to an amazing college. It will just be somewhere else.
- Wherever I end up going, I will make my life there amazing.
These three realizations helped me relax into the fact that whatever way my life ends up it will be what is best for me, it will be the path that I have been handed. I was prepared to make the best of that path, wherever it landed me. Thankfully I don't have to. Know I can plan in earnest my life in San Luis Obispo. Before I could only talk in probabilities and hypotheticals, I would have to talk about my plans and then apply them to all of the colleges that I applied to. Now, thank goodness, I can and will only talk about SLO and the adventures I will have there.
In my entrance into college one of the things that seems to scare everyone else around me, but not me, is the fact of friends and people to meet. Almost all of the kids that I know are worried about college mainly for that reason, that they might be a "loner." Even my mom told me that I need to be open to new people and that I can't close myself off to people who don't do exactly what I do. My response was, a.) When have I ever done that? and, b.) If I only meet two people that become my really good friends, then that is that and it is exactly the same way I live my life now in high school. Most people are frightened by solitude, but I embrace it. I think there are a few reasons why most people are frightened by solitude. The first is that for people who are extroverts they do not have anyone to interact with. The second is that solitude allows people to glimpse the world in a present mind, if only for a millisecond, but that glimpse scares them. To see the world as it really is, scares most people. The third is that when people are alone they are also allowed a small and fleeting glimpse of who they really are and usually the lie that they have been living does not correspond with their true self. This truth scares the living daylights out of most people.
To me solitude represents two things. Freedom and enlightenment. If you pair solitude with pain, then you have ultrarunning. So much of my life is based around solitude and it is a driving force in my life that fuels everything else that I do. Solitude is really the only state you can have. Your experience, your journey can only be lived by YOU, no one else. And, yes, many people can change the journey in good and bad ways, but whatever happens it is your journey. That is how we must live our lives. Our journey is ours. No one else's. We cannot be beholden to a paradigm that simply does not work for us at a base level. The paradigm that solitude is bad, that you're a "loner," is quite simply stupid. It is a waste of time and energy to work for anything else but your journey. Do not be deceived, solitude is where enlightenment stems from.
So whatever happens these next four years I am ready. I am at peace with myself in face of great challenge and great joy, because that is what college will be for me. I have never been and never will be one for school spirit or anything like that. My joys will come from running hard, meditating, cooking well, enlightening my journey, and of course continuing in earnest everything that I do here. With the blog, podcast, Target Release, and so much more. So thank you all for being with me in this wild journey, I hope I have aided in yours. Wish me luck these next four years!