PS for T7

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

PS for T7

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:43 am

If someone could look at my PS, I would seriously be indebted forever. This is a long one, since UVA doesn't limit pages, but I don't know if I'm being too redundant and drawn-out and should solidify it more somehow, or if it works better this way.

Any reactions at all would be great guys--if it's horrible, somebody just tell me before I hit "submit," haha.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I rode through life on a bus, clinging to the window. In my earliest years, when my self-conception was still in its infancy, there was actually a window. I could not have been any more than six, and I caught the bus to school every morning in my shiny shoes and neatly pleated skirt, resigning myself to an empty seat as the bus coughed a cloud of sulfurous fumes and shivered to life. One day, however, I unwittingly decided to eschew routine and sit in the front—and the gang of older kids who ruled this territory despotically was not very happy when it boarded and found me there.

“Get out! Don’t you know this is our spot?” They swarmed me like a growingly wrathful and noisy beehive that had me half-ready to hop out of this seat and flee the scene with my tail tucked; but all I could think was: This is not their spot. Anyone can sit here. Why hasn’t anyone told them that?

“No,” I replied, and turned away.

Immediately, two of the boys grabbed my legs, but my hands flew for the open window and clutched it tightly. The bullies pulled so hard that my entire body lifted off the bus seat and I was suspended tenuously in mid-air, but something inside me refused to give in to these intimidation tactics when I knew I was in the right here. Eventually, the kids exchanged glances and dropped me, clearly perplexed about how to deal with someone engaging in an incipient version of silent protest, and swaggered away to find another place to sit. I righted myself but never let go of that window.

This is one of my most distinct memories of [insert 3rd world country]. It was not long after, when I was eight years old, that my family immigrated to the United States of America.

There were days I remember hiding under my bed, trembling in terror. It was in these moments I felt most powerless, when even a child’s brain could comprehend gross yet unyielding inequality, and retreated into the world of self-pity I had been dutifully customizing since the first day I disappeared into a book. Here, the chaos was obfuscated by bright and fascinating things: stories, and partially digestible philosophy, and the social hierarchies of lion prides, and the ethical future of genetic engineering, and my all-consuming love of The Good Earth–all swam around tirelessly in my mind as I tried to transcend the coffin-like oppression of my mouse-den and the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.

Though my cheerful veneer concealed it well, my life was a literal battlefield. With every crushing defeat I suffered, I would dissociate myself from my physical and spiritual wounds and absorb knowledge though an almost religious need for something resembling stability. It had already become apparent when I was very young that my surroundings were completely out of my control, so I sought to control intangible things that could not be commandeered from me as easily, like words and ideas. Reason was my god and flooded through me, presenting its mutability to my child-like hands, illuminating Morality’s manifold nature, the variegated and infinite spectrum of gray that most people could not perceive until well into adulthood. I was unusually logical and free-thinking for my age, and I was blessed with the gift of writing. Ultimately, it was this gift that saved my life, because a child could not manage all the pain and strife I endured without transferring those overwhelming feelings onto paper constantly; there was respite in the third-person. Through destruction I discovered I could create, and it was an intoxicating power.

Still, self-deprecation ruled me perennially. I grasped desperately for clarity’s window, but the hands that were always tugging at my legs boasted preternatural strength. In school, I shied away from the positive recognition I incurred as the “smart kid,” because the irony that such instances emanated was almost unbearable—in responding graciously I was an actress, grinning hollowly at these travesties and distributing “thank you”s as if I actually believed them. When my AP English teacher held me after class and told me my essay (which I had written in thirty minutes the period before) was the best she had ever seen from a high school student, my face reddened in embarrassment and I felt apologetic that I had, purely accidentally, evoked such a reaction in her. While externally I was a gregarious and strong-willed girl, in reality I was paralyzed by my inability to reconcile the complexities that had grown within me. I spent a lifetime fielding a cycle of vitriol, violence, and love. There were such intense pressures at my back to succeed and serve as an ambassador for my [insert ethnicity] heritage, yet the idea of succeeding was, after years of abuse, incomprehensible to me. Despite my potential, my paralysis prevented me from applying myself fully in school. I coasted by with good grades purely through the grace of my intellect and genuine intellectual curiosity, but both my teachers and parents knew I was only presenting the “tip of the iceberg” here.

Even burdened with my contradictory attitude towards school, I was accepted into the [insert mid-ranking UC school here], and I felt like an inmate who had been given another shot at the outside world. As a freshman in college, I became acquainted with this wonderful thing called “peace” that inhabited the six hour drive separating me from my customary fear for my life, along with my mother’s, and my sister’s. Maybe one second of peace was all that I had needed. On that very first day of school, I walked out of my first Environmental Studies class mopping a tear from my eye. What I had heard in there had burrowed its way through all the walls I had industriously erected through eighteen years, and found its way to the real Me who had always been passionate about environmental issues. This Me had sometimes needed to take a backseat to the Me who was holding myself together and the Me who was bitterly resisting my parents’ efforts to mold me into an affiliate of their elitist philosophy—but I was not a victim. People had devoted themselves to making me feel powerless, but it was me who was perpetuating these effects by believing the voices that called me worthless and struck me down. I had to look myself in the eye and come to terms with the fact that I had been hurt--I could not erase this from my past anymore than I could tear free a piece of my physical body—but the longer I chose to dwell in this dark place and construct my life here, the more I was relinquishing control of my future and squandering my own potential to fulfill my dreams.

I have to thank my Environmental Studies professor, [insert name of well-known prof], who passed away [insert date] for reminding me of the change I wanted to catalyze and aiding me in such a decisive victory against myself. I was fortunate to have him as my professor on my very first day, and under his continued tutelage, my passions unfurled and I could cultivate them without an edge of fear or shame. For most of my academic career, I had been a mass of unshaped energy that lacked direction, but once I discovered a purpose for myself, I saw that I was utterly focused and tenacious. I understood now that there were no obstacles—only challenges that we could either meet with full commitment, or respond to half-heartedly when we already suspected our failure.

To my surprise, I realized I was strong. My friends and peers, though greatly intelligent by their own merit, were overwhelmed easily by small stressors: studying, long papers, midterms and finals, pop quizzes, reading assigned books to their entirety, tough graders—all these made them balk and wilt; but I had surmounted struggles greater then these when I was only a kid watching my surroundings burst into pandemonium, and I held a professional degree in grabbing windows and holding on. The day I received my Bachelor’s Degree with Highest Honors, I can truly say, marked one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was a culmination of my growth beyond my physical environment—the very thing I had been praying for that afternoon spent under my bed. Today, I am a product of my hard work and determination, and I understand people must be responsible for their own successes and failures. I have walked in both worlds, and never again will I be ruled by circumstance.

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neprep
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Re: PS for T7

Postby neprep » Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:36 pm

Since it looks like you're on the brink of hitting "submit," I have three quick points that I hope can be addressed fairly quickly.

1.
Anonymous User wrote:There were days I remember hiding under my bed, trembling in terror. It was in these moments I felt most powerless, when even a child’s brain could comprehend gross yet unyielding inequality, and retreated into the world of self-pity I had been dutifully customizing since the first day I disappeared into a book
Anonymous User wrote:Though my cheerful veneer concealed it well, my life was a literal battlefield. With every crushing defeat I suffered, I would dissociate myself from my physical and spiritual wounds and absorb knowledge though an almost religious need for something resembling stability


You move very suddenly into talking about how your life was a "literal" battlefield, and how you suffered blow after blow with resilience. But I do not understand why. What "crushing defeat[s]" did you suffer? Why were you trembling in terror? You need to be more specific about the "gross yet unyielding inequality" towards which you are responding thus.

2. The language is incredibly overwrought and complex at some points — and while the odd long sentence with the Word of the Day isn't the worst thing, effortless comprehension is a high price to pay for cosmetic flair. And when you're using big words with sweeping implications, you come across as precocious and desperate-to-impress:

Anonymous User wrote:Reason was my god and flooded through me, presenting its mutability to my child-like hands, illuminating Morality’s manifold nature, the variegated and infinite spectrum of gray that most people could not perceive until well into adulthood.


3. Also, you make very many absolute and unqualified statements that indicate to me that you're either writing purely for effect, or you're not being critical enough of your thoughts:
Anonymous User wrote:I have walked in both worlds, and never again will I be ruled by circumstance.

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girlmonster
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Re: PS for T7

Postby girlmonster » Sun Nov 24, 2013 3:02 pm

You are clearly a gifted writer, and your background sounds unnervingly similar to mine. However, I am also confused about the "literal battlefield" of your childhood. Was there abuse in your family? If so, this is something you should explicitly state. Even as someone with similar experiences, I'm a little confused as to what was taking place.

Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: PS for T7

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Nov 24, 2013 5:57 pm

First of all--thank you guys for taking the time to read my entire PS :) Your input is SO helpful.

neprep wrote:Since it looks like you're on the brink of hitting "submit," I have three quick points that I hope can be addressed fairly quickly.

You move very suddenly into talking about how your life was a "literal" battlefield, and how you suffered blow after blow with resilience. But I do not understand why. What "crushing defeat[s]" did you suffer? Why were you trembling in terror? You need to be more specific about the "gross yet unyielding inequality" towards which you are responding thus.


girlmonster wrote:You are clearly a gifted writer, and your background sounds unnervingly similar to mine. However, I am also confused about the "literal battlefield" of your childhood. Was there abuse in your family? If so, this is something you should explicitly state. Even as someone with similar experiences, I'm a little confused as to what was taking place.


So the reason I never explain the abuse outright is because I'm afraid it will be too unsettling for the readers, kind of like when writing about sexual abuse (though this isn't sexual) and how it's recommended you do it tactfully and avoid being graphic with details. This PS could easily become rather disturbing, so I dropped hints rather than going in explicit details. Do you guys think just stating somewhere that I was abused all my life but not going into specific descriptions would be sufficient to clear up the confusion?

And thanks Girlsmonster! Did you end up writing about your background too then? I really wasn't planning on it at all, but this is just what wanted to come out.


neprep wrote: 2. The language is incredibly overwrought and complex at some points — and while the odd long sentence with the Word of the Day isn't the worst thing, effortless comprehension is a high price to pay for cosmetic flair. And when you're using big words with sweeping implications, you come across as precocious and desperate-to-impress


Hmm, so you think it's ultimately hurtful? I was just trying to stay true to my "voice" in the statement, and my voice in talking about this is definitely more florid and poetic, though not at all artificially. The part of my life I'm trying to describe here and this authorial style are tightly tied in a way that's hard to explain. Could you maybe point out any other areas that seemed too confusing?

neprep wrote: 3. Also, you make very many absolute and unqualified statements that indicate to me that you're either writing purely for effect, or you're not being critical enough of your thoughts:


This, I'm definitely concerned about now. I'll change my concluding sentence to make it less extreme. Could you maybe point out the other instances here, too, that you thought were too absolute? I still have a few days before I have to hit submit, so I can still revise quite a bit if it's needed (even though I might have to tear my hair out a little bit first, haha).

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neprep
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Re: PS for T7

Postby neprep » Sun Nov 24, 2013 6:52 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
So the reason I never explain the abuse outright is because I'm afraid it will be too unsettling for the readers, kind of like when writing about sexual abuse (though this isn't sexual) and how it's recommended you do it tactfully and avoid being graphic with details. This PS could easily become rather disturbing, so I dropped hints rather than going in explicit details. Do you guys think just stating somewhere that I was abused all my life but not going into specific descriptions would be sufficient to clear up the confusion?


I think vaguely alluding to it is sufficient, but more so that you're doing now. I understand that you're trying to show rather than tell, but given your essay's length and the fact that it might be the 17th one the admissions officer is reading, you might want to make his or her job easier.

Anonymous User wrote:
Hmm, so you think it's ultimately hurtful? I was just trying to stay true to my "voice" in the statement, and my voice in talking about this is definitely more florid and poetic, though not at all artificially. The part of my life I'm trying to describe here and this authorial style are tightly tied in a way that's hard to explain. Could you maybe point out any other areas that seemed too confusing?


Again, I don't think it's "too confusing" in that it's impossible to understand; it just breaks the reader's flow. I don't think you're being artificial, but it might seem that way. In any case, if you feel that such a style of writing is required for you to stay true to your voice, I'd say take the risk and hope for the best. :D

Anonymous User wrote:This, I'm definitely concerned about now. I'll change my concluding sentence to make it less extreme. Could you maybe point out the other instances here, too, that you thought were too absolute? I still have a few days before I have to hit submit, so I can still revise quite a bit if it's needed (even though I might have to tear my hair out a little bit first, haha).


I think the concluding sentence stuck out to me because concluding sentences in personal narratives typically describe how the author is poised for the future (in terms of attitude, mostly), and that gave me the impression that you're going to take an unqualified, idealized self to law school. So yeah, if you change it so your sentiment is slightly hedged, it'll be a quick fix. Happy to review it for more statements like this one when I get back to my laptop.
Last edited by neprep on Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:32 am, edited 2 times in total.

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girlmonster
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Re: PS for T7

Postby girlmonster » Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:10 am

I didn't write about my background in that sense; I chose a different topic. But I also wasn't able to write about it as artfully as you. I understand you want to broach the subject delicately, because you're not striving for a pity party. However, I do believe you can be more explicit about the subject without using it to smack the adcomms in the face repeatedly. In the part where you mention abuse, maybe you can just specify who the abuser was or the context. Or maybe state why you were hiding under your bed. Who were you hiding from? Just that one clarification could help immensely.

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neprep
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Re: PS for T7

Postby neprep » Mon Nov 25, 2013 7:47 am

Anonymous User wrote:This, I'm definitely concerned about now. I'll change my concluding sentence to make it less extreme. Could you maybe point out the other instances here, too, that you thought were too absolute? I still have a few days before I have to hit submit, so I can still revise quite a bit if it's needed (even though I might have to tear my hair out a little bit first, haha).


I've highlighted a few problematic sentences. You'll notice that they aren't front-ended, and that's because your story is compelling, but your analysis (which come later) seems a little glib. Overall though, I think this is a strong essay!

I rode through life on a bus, clinging to the window. In my earliest years, when my self-conception was still in its infancy, there was actually a window. I could not have been any more than six, and I caught the bus to school every morning in my shiny shoes and neatly pleated skirt, resigning myself to an empty seat as the bus coughed a cloud of sulfurous fumes and shivered to life. One day, however, I unwittingly decided to eschew routine and sit in the front—and the gang of older kids who ruled this territory despotically was not very happy when it boarded and found me there.

“Get out! Don’t you know this is our spot?” They swarmed me like a growingly wrathful and noisy beehive that had me half-ready to hop out of this seat and flee the scene with my tail tucked; but all I could think was: This is not their spot. Anyone can sit here. Why hasn’t anyone told them that?

“No,” I replied, and turned away.

Immediately, two of the boys grabbed my legs, but my hands flew for the open window and clutched it tightly. The bullies pulled so hard that my entire body lifted off the bus seat and I was suspended tenuously in mid-air, but something inside me refused to give in to these intimidation tactics when I knew I was in the right here. Eventually, the kids exchanged glances and dropped me, clearly perplexed about how to deal with someone engaging in an incipient version of silent protest, and swaggered away to find another place to sit. I righted myself but never let go of that window.

This is one of my most distinct memories of [insert 3rd world country]. It was not long after, when I was eight years old, that my family immigrated to the United States of America.

There were days I remember hiding under my bed, trembling in terror. It was in these moments I felt most powerless, when even a child’s brain could comprehend gross yet unyielding inequality, and retreated into the world of self-pity I had been dutifully customizing since the first day I disappeared into a book. Here, the chaos was obfuscated by bright and fascinating things: stories, and partially digestible philosophy, and the social hierarchies of lion prides, and the ethical future of genetic engineering, and my all-consuming love of The Good Earth–all swam around tirelessly in my mind as I tried to transcend the coffin-like oppression of my mouse-den and the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.

Though my cheerful veneer concealed it well, my life was a literal battlefield. With every crushing defeat I suffered, I would dissociate myself from my physical and spiritual wounds and absorb knowledge though an almost religious need for something resembling stability. It had already become apparent when I was very young that my surroundings were completely out of my control, so I sought to control intangible things that could not be commandeered from me as easily, like words and ideas. Reason was my god and flooded through me, presenting its mutability to my child-like hands, illuminating Morality’s manifold nature, the variegated and infinite spectrum of gray that most people could not perceive until well into adulthood. I was unusually logical and free-thinking for my age, and I was blessed with the gift of writing. Ultimately, it was this gift that saved my life, because a child could not manage all the pain and strife I endured without transferring those overwhelming feelings onto paper constantly; there was respite in the third-person. Through destruction I discovered I could create, and it was an intoxicating power.

Still, self-deprecation ruled me perennially. I grasped desperately for clarity’s window, but the hands that were always tugging at my legs boasted preternatural strength. In school, I shied away from the positive recognition I incurred as the “smart kid,” because the irony that such instances emanated was almost unbearable—in responding graciously I was an actress, grinning hollowly at these travesties and distributing “thank you”s as if I actually believed them. When my AP English teacher held me after class and told me my essay (which I had written in thirty minutes the period before) was the best she had ever seen from a high school student, my face reddened in embarrassment and I felt apologetic that I had, purely accidentally, evoked such a reaction in her. While externally I was a gregarious and strong-willed girl (If your face reddened just because of a compliment, then you are not externally gregarious and strong-willed. Try to qualify this with moments when your veneer cracked, and don't try to polish them.), in reality I was paralyzed by my inability to reconcile the complexities that had grown within me. I spent a lifetime fielding a cycle of vitriol, violence, and love (However old you were at this stage, don't call it a "lifetime." "My life" will make a good replacement).. There were such intense pressures at my back to succeed and serve as an ambassador for my [insert ethnicity] heritage, yet the idea of succeeding was, after years of abuse, incomprehensible to me. Despite my potential, my paralysis prevented me from applying myself fully in school. I coasted by with good grades purely through the grace of my intellect and genuine intellectual curiosity, but both my teachers and parents knew I was only presenting the “tip of the iceberg” here.

Even burdened with my contradictory attitude towards school, I was accepted into the [insert mid-ranking UC school here], and I felt like an inmate who had been given another shot at the outside world. As a freshman in college, I became acquainted with this wonderful thing called “peace” that inhabited the six hour drive separating me from my customary fear for my life, along with my mother’s, and my sister’s. Maybe one second of peace was all that I had needed. On that very first day of school, I walked out of my first Environmental Studies class mopping a tear from my eye. What I had heard in there had burrowed its way through all the walls I had industriously erected through eighteen years, and found its way to the real Me who had always been passionate about environmental issues. This Me had sometimes needed to take a backseat to the Me who was holding myself together and the Me who was bitterly resisting my parents’ efforts to mold me into an affiliate of their elitist philosophy—but I was not a victim. People had devoted themselves to making me feel powerless (Unless you can demonstrate that there were agents actively robbing of your own agency with that very intent, this sentiment doesn't have too much support.), but it was me who was perpetuating these effects by believing the voices that called me worthless and struck me down. I had to look myself in the eye and come to terms with the fact that I had been hurt--I could not erase this from my past anymore than I could tear free a piece of my physical body—but the longer I chose to dwell in this dark place and construct my life here, the more I was relinquishing control of my future and squandering my own potential to fulfill my dreams.

I have to thank my Environmental Studies professor, [insert name of well-known prof], who passed away [insert date] for reminding me of the change I wanted to catalyze and aiding me in such a decisive victory against myself. I was fortunate to have him as my professor on my very first day, and under his continued tutelage, my passions unfurled and I could cultivate them without an edge of fear or shame. For most of my academic career, I had been a mass of unshaped energy that lacked direction, but once I discovered a purpose for myself, I saw that I was utterly focused and tenacious. I understood now that there were no obstacles—only challenges that we could either meet with full commitment, or respond to half-heartedly when we already suspected our failure (Rephrasing "obstacle" to "challenge" is a superficial and purely semantic move, and also a little hackneyed. Reconsider.).

To my surprise, I realized I was strong What about when you fought of the bullies? Surely that promoted some sense of strength? If not, why not?. My friends and peers, though greatly intelligent by their own merit, were overwhelmed easily by small stressors: studying, long papers, midterms and finals, pop quizzes, reading assigned books to their entirety, tough graders—all these made them balk and wilt; but I had surmounted struggles greater then these when I was only a kid watching my surroundings burst into pandemonium, and I held a professional degree in grabbing windows and holding on. The day I received my Bachelor’s Degree with Highest Honors, I can truly say, marked one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was a culmination of my growth beyond my physical environment—the very thing I had been praying for that afternoon spent under my bed. Today, I am a product of my hard work and determination, and I understand people must be responsible for their own successes and failures. I have walked in both worlds, and never again will I be ruled by circumstance.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273254
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: PS for T7

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Nov 26, 2013 12:53 am

Thank you guys soooo much, I feel like I was really able to change my PS for the better once I considered your recommendations. I decided to just be outright about the abuse thing, because you're right, it would be really unfortunate if they weren't able to fully piece it together and missed such an important aspect of what I'm trying to communicate.

Neorep, I seriously considered all the changes you suggested, and fixed almost all those areas. I definitely think it's better with those corrections now. I'm kind of struggling with the conclusion though, I just seem to run out of steam at the end. Do you think it's passable or should I come up with something better? Here is the edited version and thanks again! :)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I rode through life on a bus, clinging to the window. In my earliest years, when my self-conception was still in its infancy, there was actually a window. I could not have been any more than six, and I caught the bus to school every morning in my shiny shoes and neatly pleated skirt, resigning myself to an empty seat as the bus coughed a cloud of sulfurous fumes and shivered to life. One day, however, I unwittingly decided to eschew routine and sit in the front—and the gang of older kids who ruled this territory despotically was not very happy when it boarded and found me there.

“Get out! Don’t you know this is our spot?” They swarmed me like a growingly wrathful and noisy beehive that had me half-ready to hop out of this seat and flee the scene with my tail tucked; but all I could think was: This is not their spot. Anyone can sit here. Why doesn’t anyone tell them that?

“No,” I replied, and turned away.

Immediately, two of the boys grabbed my legs, but my hands flew for the open window and clutched it tightly. The bullies pulled so hard that my entire body lifted off the bus seat and I was suspended tenuously in mid-air, but something inside me refused to give in to these intimidation tactics when I knew I was in the right here. Eventually, the kids exchanged glances and dropped me, clearly perplexed about how to deal with someone engaging in an incipient version of silent protest, and swaggered away to find another place to sit. I righted myself but never let go of that window.

This is one of my most distinct memories of [insert 3rd world country]. It was not long after, when I was eight years old, that my family immigrated to the United States of America.

There were days I remember hiding under my bed, trembling in terror. It was in these moments I felt most powerless, when even a child’s brain could comprehend gross yet unyielding inequality, and retreated into the world of self-pity I had been dutifully customizing since the first day I disappeared into a book. Here, the chaos was obfuscated by bright and fascinating things: stories, and partially digestible philosophy, and the social hierarchies of lion prides, and the ethical future of genetic engineering, and my all-consuming love of The Good Earth–all swam around tirelessly in my mind as I tried to transcend the coffin-like oppression of my mouse-den and the sound of heavy footsteps coming up the stairs.

Though my cheerful veneer concealed it well, my life was a literal battlefield. My father had been beating me senseless from kindergarten to nineteen, and my mother and sister weren’t spared from his incoherent rages either (though I had always been the favorite punching bag). My mother was already a broken and clinically depressed woman after being subjected to my father’s flip-switch insanity for many years, so the duty fell to me to protect her and my younger sister from my father’s emotionally and physically crippling attacks. With every crushing defeat I suffered, I would dissociate myself from my wounds and absorb knowledge though an almost religious need for something resembling stability. I knew my physical surroundings were out of my control, so I sought to control what couldn’t be commandeered from me as easily, like words and ideas. Reason was my god and flooded through me, presenting its mutability to my child-like hands, illuminating Morality’s manifold nature, the variegated and infinite spectrum of gray that many people could not perceive until well into adulthood. I was unusually logical and free-thinking for my age, and I was blessed with the gift of writing. It was cathartic to translate my life away into the third-person when it all became too much—through destruction I had discovered I could create.

Still, self-deprecation ruled me perennially. I grasped desperately for clarity’s window, but the hands that were always tugging at my legs boasted preternatural strength. In school, I shied away from the positive recognition I incurred as the “smart kid,” because the irony that such instances emanated was almost unbearable—in responding graciously I was an actress, grinning hollowly at these travesties and distributing “thank you”s as if I actually believed them. When my AP English teacher held me after class and told me my essay (which I had written in thirty minutes the period before) was the best she had ever seen from a high school student, I felt embarrassed and apologetic that I had, purely accidentally, evoked such a reaction in her. While externally I was a gregarious girl, in reality I was paralyzed by my inability to reconcile the complexities that had grown within me. I spent my life fielding a cycle of vitriol, violence, and love. There were such intense pressures at my back to succeed and serve as an ambassador for my [insert ethnicity] heritage, yet the idea of succeeding was, after years of abuse, incomprehensible to me. Despite my potential, my paralysis prevented me from applying myself fully in school. I coasted by with good grades purely through the grace of my intellect and genuine intellectual curiosity, but both my teachers and parents knew I was only presenting the “tip of the iceberg” here.

Even burdened with my contradictory attitude towards school, I was accepted into [insert mid-ranking UC school], and I felt like an inmate who had been given another shot at the outside world. As a freshman in college, I became acquainted with this wonderful thing called “peace” that inhabited the six hour drive separating me from what had served as my home. Maybe one second of peace was all that I had needed. On that very first day of school, I walked out of my first Environmental Studies class mopping a tear from my eye. What I had heard in there had burrowed its way through all the walls I had industriously erected, and found its way to the real Me who had always been passionate about environmental issues. This Me had sometimes needed to take a backseat to the Me who was holding myself together and the Me who was bitterly resisting my parents’ efforts to mold me into an affiliate of their elitist philosophy—but I was not a victim. People had treated me in ways that made me feel powerless, but it was me who was perpetuating these effects by believing the voices that called me worthless and struck me down. I had to look myself in the eye and come to terms with the fact that I had been hurt—I could not erase this from my past anymore than I could tear free a piece of my physical body—but the longer I chose to dwell in this dark place and construct my life here, the more I was relinquishing control of my future and squandering my own potential to fulfill my dreams.

I have to thank my Environmental Studies professor, [insert name of well-known prof], who passed away [insert date], for reminding me of the change I wanted to catalyze and aiding me in such a decisive victory against Me. I was fortunate to have him as my professor on my very first day, and under his continued tutelage, my passions unfurled and I could cultivate them without an edge of fear or shame. Once I discovered a purpose for myself, I saw that I was utterly focused.

To my surprise, I also realized I was strong. My friends and peers, though greatly intelligent by their own merit, were overwhelmed easily by small stressors: studying, papers, exams, reading assigned books to their entirety, tough graders, managing time—all these made them balk and wilt; but I had surmounted struggles greater than these when I was only a kid watching my surroundings burst into pandemonium, and I held a professional degree in grabbing windows and holding on. The day I received my Bachelor’s Degree with Highest Honors, I can truly say, marked one of the greatest achievements of my life. It was a culmination of my growth beyond my physical environment—the very thing I had been praying for that afternoon spent under my bed. The next step of my journey is law school, and though I will continue to face major challenges, I will meet them with hard work and determination.




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