Knowing when to stop and when to keep going

Perhaps the difference between the foolish and the wise is knowing when to stop and when to keep going.
Nearly four years ago, Layla Taghehchian, the daughter of a dear friend, was approaching college graduation from UL with a degree in biology. She asked if I would help edit an essay she was writing to get into physician’s assistant school. I said, “Sure.” Then I asked, “What exactly is a physician’s assistant?”
According to the American Academy of Physician’s Assistants, a PA is “is a medical professional who works as part of a team with a doctor. …PAs perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications.”
I told Layla to bring it on. She read me her paper. We edited it. She applied to several schools. The schools are highly competitive, but we were hopeful.
Several months later, I learned Layla had not been accepted. She got a job, but she deliberately didn’t seek the best job she could get. She sought a job that would make her a more desirable candidate for PA school. She became an EMT.
A few months after that, Layla came around again. She explained she was applying to PA school and wondered if I would help edit. We edited her paper a second go round and, once again, Layla applied to a variety of schools across the country.
Months passed. I was afraid to ask what happened. Finally, her mom told me that Layla didn’t get into any of the PA schools.
At that point, some of her friends encouraged her to move on. Instead, she kept her fulltime job and enrolled in paramedic school. She believed being a trained paramedic would be smiled upon in another attempt at applying for PA school. Often times, three weeks would pass before she would have a day off.
When the time came, she called me again, “Ms. Jan, would you help me edit my PA school essay?”
I told her I would, but this time I did some research. The little bit I could find told me that PA schools didn’t want anything canned. They wanted the same thing that they rest of us want — heart. When Layla brought her essay the third time, I said, “It’s good, but this time, you’ve got to go all in, Layla. You’ve got to dig deep and tell your biggest truth. You’ve got to figure out what is it in you that is driving you as hard as this is driving you to become a PA.”
Silence.
I could tell she doubted me. But like her, I was undeterred. I kept going. “You’ve tried the other kind of essay that was true too and full of all the stuff you thought they wanted to hear. This time, tell your story — one that could never be confused with anyone else’s.”
And she began to tell me about the cheese sandwiches her grandmother made her every afternoon when she got off the bus from school. She told me about growing up between two cultures — Cajun and Persian. She told me about her grandmother’s heart attack and death — and that she never got to say goodbye. Layla’s whole story unfolded right before our eyes. It was her story and hers alone — and it was beautiful.
She wrote it down, and we both knew it was good.
Once again, she mailed in her applications. Within a few months, I began hearing that she was getting interviews all over. This time Layla was accepted into plenty of schools. She got to pick the one she wanted! Earlier this month, she started classes.
I am proud of her for so many reasons — and the main one is her wisdom. She knew to keep going when so many of us would have quit.

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