Seven years. Seven years of birthdays, of family holidays, of friends' weddings and possible spa vacations. Seven years to move on, to make a life. To accept failure, or disappointment, or whatever you might want to call it. Seven years is a long time, this is what I want to tell Abigail Fisher. I'm thinking about seven years of my own life, and seven years in the lives of my sons. And it's making me angry. Because if there's one lesson from this Abigail Fisher case parents can learn, it's this: we should teach our kids they aren't always right. They're not entitled to everything they want in this world. And if they don't get their way... seven years is far too long for a prolonged tantrum.
Sugar Land, Texas native Abigail Fisher wanted to go to the University of Texas. She applied back in 2008, a year when competition to get in to the prestigious university was especially strong. But Fisher did not graduate in the top 10 percent of her class, which would have guaranteed her admission under the "Top 10% Rule" in Texas. In fact, 80 percent of students admitted to the University of Texas that year were in the top ten percent of their class. And while the school did allow some "lesser qualified" applicants through, only five of those students were black or Latino. The other 42 were white.
All things considered, here's what could have hypothetically happened next, had the Texas native gone down a different road to begin with: Fisher might have wept a little. Gotten frustrated, mired down with disappointment for a while, a few months even. Because it's a terrible thing to let go of a dream, isn't it? And this dream clearly felt attainable to her on some level. After all, she was a Legacy applicant. Her dad had graduated from UT, her sister, and "tons of her friends and family." As Fisher said in a 2012 video, “I dreamt of going to UT ever since the second grade."
Instead of dealing with her disappointment, though, Fisher launched a seven-year long crusade against the University of Texas that went all the way to the Supreme Court not once, but twice. Because she wanted her way. Because it couldn't be her own fault that she didn't get in to the university of her choice. It must have been affirmative action. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, they must have given her spot to a person of color (as a side note, Fisher appears to have conveniently forgotten that affirmative action was put in place to protect women as well).
In all the years since Fisher has grown from a high school graduate to a 25-year-old woman, not once has she acknowledged that she simply was not a strong enough student for the prestigious university. She went on to study at Louisiana State University and now works as a business analyst in Austin. But it wasn't good enough. She wanted her first choice. She told The New York Times in 2012,
Just being in a network of UT graduates would have been a really nice thing to be in. And I probably would have gotten a better job offer had I gone to UT.
She continues to play the blame game. And it's a cautionary tale for parents. None of us want our children to be wrong or to feel disappointment. But the reality is, they're going to be wrong. A lot. And they're going to get disappointed. Do we, as parents, want them to stick to their guns even when they're wrong, so sure of themselves that they waste seven years of their life trying to convince everyone they're right? Do we want them to move through life debilitated by disappointment, forever looking for someone to blame?
Or do we want them to see that, sometimes, disappointments lead us down a path we weren't expecting? It forces us to make choices we didn't know we had it in us to make, makes us forge lives for ourselves that our new and sweet and frightening. But there's beauty in the unknown.
I wish Abigail Fisher could have seen that seven years ago. I hope she can see it now.