Personal statement feedback please

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Joined: Sat May 05, 2018 6:54 pm

Personal statement feedback please

Postby deventine » Mon Sep 03, 2018 2:02 pm

This is the personal statement I submitted with my application last year. I decided to wait and re-apply this year so I'd like some feedback to inform my new effort.

The first step was when I was twenty-seven. That was in 2012, the first time that I ever ran 26.2
miles, jump-starting a love affair with distance running that still pulls at me today. This particular run
didn’t happen on the streets of New York or Boston, surrounded by the vigor, sweat, and heat of other
runners. It happened in the empty, snowy hills of Boulder, Colorado, a day after a particularly heavy
snowfall had cloaked the ground so completely that I barely heard a single one of my 55,000 steps. The
three and a half hours that I spent alone that day in the warm sun and icy air had a profound effect on me.
It would be five more years before I would decide to apply to law school, satisfying my growing ambition
to play a role in the progress of America’s culture through its legal system. But the genesis of that desire
was a new ability to think expansively about my world that I gained while spending hours on trails, alone.
As I weaved up switchbacks to the top of a powder-dusted white hill that first day, I thought about my
previous life as a nomadic rock climber in the years after college, and about how different my life was
now as the wine director and general manager of two restaurants in Boulder. I also thought about my
parents, and how disappointed they’d been when my athletic aspirations had taken time away from my
undergraduate studies, and my grades had suffered. I had changed a lot since then, but our relationship
was still stuck in the morass I had let it drift into during college.

By the fourteenth mile I was in a mild euphoria. The day was truly perfect for a first-time
marathoner: bright and sunny through a breezeless twenty-eight degrees cold, the eight inches of snow on
the ground softening my steps enough to protect my knees from the impact of my sometimes sloppy
stride. As I came across unfamiliar trails I took arbitrary turns, discovering suddenly vast landscapes that I
had never expected deep in the Colorado hills. There was something about the clear-headedness that came
with several hours of silent physical exertion that made my life’s possibilities seem infinite. The owners
of the restaurant where I worked, Black Cat, were farmers with four children and they had handed the
reins of their business entirely over to me. The extreme responsibility was transformative. I learned daily
lessons about responsibility, leadership, work ethic, and my own limitations. I had also won the wine
program national accolades and managed to raise its revenue higher than it had ever been before. The
experience had been exhausting and immensely gratifying. I wondered what my next step could be.

Three years later, during an early morning twelve miles in New York, I thought of my parents
again. I had moved to New York to accept my dream job. The restaurant that hired me, Eleven Madison
Park, was the top ranked restaurant in America, with a wine list hundreds of pages long and filled with
bottles that verged on mythological. I now held a post that every wine professional in American wanted,
but the nightly service was also intense, stressful, and demanding. That day, as I reflected on the trials of
the previous evening in the glimmer of sunlight dancing off of the East River, I suddenly remembered a
story that my father had told me about my mother working as an ER doctor in Detroit. A bloody conflict
between two gangs had left the hospital swamped with gunshot victims in addition to the normal rush of
Saturday night drunks and persistent hypochondriacs. My normally cheery, self-effacing mother had
suddenly become a steely-eyed general, taking charge of the chaotic situation so competently that in an
investigation of the night’s events that followed she was given an official commendation. I realized that
the calm decisiveness that I so prized in myself was something I had directly inherited from her. As the
miles wore on, I listed more and more characteristics that had been absorbed from my mother and father. I
was suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for the gifts that they had given me. That night I called them.

As I finished the last mile on that snowy day in Colorado, I felt a fatigue beyond any I had ever
known and a sense of accomplishment that I knew I would have to find again. At that moment, breathing
heavily in the painful winter air, basking in the just descending sun, the future seemed as wide and open
as the miles of white hills I had just traversed. I found that same feeling of infinite possibilities years later,
blitzing a warm gravel path in Australia in 2017 after leaving New York to marry and travel. My
priorities had been slowly shifting for years and I was ready to take a final step into a new career. My
parents were having serious troubles at their work, a VA hospital, and I counseled them frequently over
the phone from abroad. I wanted to be able to help them, and people in situations like theirs, but for now
all I could do was listen. There were also public policy issues that I had become deeply passionate about
and I wanted to be able to affect them. I decided that later that year I would apply to law schools. Back in
2012, I dragged my feet through soft mounds of snow as I approached my car. I couldn’t have known the
subtle influences that that run would have on me in the future. But I had never felt so hungry in my life.

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