PLEASE help! PS insanity

(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
Dannerz

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PLEASE help! PS insanity

Postby Dannerz » Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:05 am

I really need some direction. :oops: I've been trying to write the first draft of my PS all week but I feel so scatterbrained whenever I sit down at the keyboard.

I'm not sure if what I've written so far all ties together, or if I'm even focusing on the right things for a PS.

I just want to say that this isn't all of it. I'm just stuck here because I'm afraid of continuing on a path that might not even be prudent to take with how my PS is shaping up so far. Please, please help! ANY feedback will be appreciated.

----
Noble beginnings don’t always have noble ends.

I first realized this when, holding up the fresh print of my first published article, Fatima, my star, my Mona Lisa, my ticket to the Pulitzers if there were Pulitzers for 2000 word student articles mercilessly chopped down to an editorial-friendly 250, stared back at me, nonplussed.

The question her gaze begged was: so what?

Growing up in the GCC, there is sometimes a limit to your goodwill, like a glass ceiling. Here, valiantly marching in the streets for change is a criminal offense. Even more placid initiatives are stifled, or else so wrapped up in red tape your bleeding heart is quickly coagulated in tight, governmental bondage.

My college was a microcosm of that rigidity. Student clubs did not operate autonomously. Organizing any collective event or meeting was a bureaucratic nightmare of getting approval after approval.

So I tried to work independently, a lone reporter out to change the world. The subsequent fall from my high horse, and the shattered idealism that defined my university years, hurt.

It began with X, a Bangladeshi woman who worked as a cleaner on my campus. She was nineteen when I first cornered her, an oddity among a cleaning staff mostly comprised of much older men and women. I swooped in with my pens bared, nostrils flaring at the whiff of a charitable cause.

Two years earlier, X’s mother died of cancer her family could not afford to treat. The eldest of five, X took up the mantle as caretaker for her father and younger siblings before coming to Sharjah to be their provider.

After I published her story, I had to contend with the fact it meant little to her. One reader had initially expressed interest in donating money to her cause before vanishing. Absolutely nothing was going to change for X, despite all that I had invested in my measly article.

This would not be the first nor the last time my dreamy philanthropy would fall flat. Not long afterwards, phone static would follow after the manager of a women’s shelter asked me what I had to offer the inhabitants I so desperately wanted to help.

By the time I graduated, I had worn out the starter pack for Being A Good Person: stray kitten rescues, sickbed handholding, underprivileged tutoring, food distributing and bird entombing. But I wasn’t happy with the fact that I had never truly made a dent on anyone’s life.

I wanted the ability to do more for people. (here is where I go on to explain why law/the importance of empowerment, etc.)

wintermutest

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Re: PLEASE help! PS insanity

Postby wintermutest » Tue Oct 16, 2018 4:53 pm

So my opinion is simply that, my subjective opinion. I’m also applying this cycle and this response is based on the initial reactions I have to reading your draft. Hopefully someone with more experience can provide you feedback as well.

I actually really like your topic, I think it shows a history of advocacy and passion. However, I’m not sure you will want to frame it as you currently have. It’s always great to want to do more, become more involved and make a lasting difference. But you definitely don’t want to highlight the fact that you feel you haven’t actually made a significant impact. The last sentence of your second to last paragraph, about not truly making a “dent” in someone’s life is something I particularly don’t think puts you in a great light. You don’t want to sound pessimistic or unfulfilled. I think your best bet to keep the essence of your current draft while still presenting your best self would be to frame it more along the lines of: here’s what I have accomplished, I have big hopes and aspirations for what I can accomplish in the future, and I’m dedicated to satisfying the inner drive I have to make a lasting impact.

Hopefully this makes sense! I also think the part about rigidity and bureaucracy limiting your actions and driving you to become more indendent/etc. If you can show how you have upheld your passions and goals and motivations IN SPITE of this restrictive context, that could be powerful.

Don’t give up hope my friend! Always keep going with your drafts, give yourself permission to throw away a couple. You never know where it will go until you get it on paper, and then revision and editing becomes a whole lot easier. Even if you spend time working on something you eventually scrap, don’t consider that time wasted because you were actually learning what doesn’t work for you, and that in turn will help you discover what does work :) Good luck! If you want to send me any further drafts, I’m definitely willing to critique those as well.

VictoriaLS_19

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Re: PLEASE help! PS insanity

Postby VictoriaLS_19 » Wed Oct 17, 2018 12:51 pm

It began with X, a Bangladeshi woman who worked as a cleaner on my campus. She was nineteen when I first cornered her, an oddity among a cleaning staff mostly comprised of much older men and women. I swooped in with my pens bared, nostrils flaring at the whiff of a charitable cause.


To be blatantly honest, this makes it sound like you have some kind of savior complex (and not in a good way).

Otherwise, I second what the previous commenter said. It's not ideal to focus on how you failed to have an impact. If you want to keep this as a topic, I would shift the direction of the statement focus on what you learned from the woman who was the subject of your article and how she inspired you to pursue a career in law.

Dannerz

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Re: PLEASE help! PS insanity

Postby Dannerz » Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:53 am

Thanks, guys! I'll rework it so my angle isn't as cynical and less savior-y, haha. The advice to not be afraid to throw away a draft or two is really poignant. Sometimes you get so attached to what you write, even if it's terrible.

Wish me luck!

Dannerz

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Re: PLEASE help! PS insanity

Postby Dannerz » Tue Oct 23, 2018 5:02 am

I ended up completely rewrote my PS and went with a different route. I realized part of my problem with my initial PS was that I felt like I was forcing a meaning out of a story I wasn't too proud of in the first place. I think that negativity definitely leaked through. :(

So here is the rough draft of my PS 2.0! I tried to watch my wordiness and snarkiness, as was suggested to me. I also worked harder on sticking to an overall theme pertaining to my growth instead of jumping around. I hope it all comes across, and that no one minds reading through another PS.

---------
Yasmin has a thing for old buildings. I have a thing for good chai. Together, we mourned the Abu Dhabi’s dying breed of 70’s and 80’s architecture between long sips of hot tea. Our sentiments were not shared by the municipality, which had neither a thing for its dilapidated buildings nor for the tea houses that operated out of them. Bulldozers began to cleanse the city of its aging giants. One by one, Yasmin’s precious buildings were killed off, my favorite chai shop with them.

Inspired by our loss, the two of us committed to documenting what was left of Abu Dhabi’s twentieth-century high-rises before they, too, vanished. We were like the Batman and Robin of urban landscaping, a pair of vigilantes hellbent on single-highhandedly cataloging the capital’s crumbling concrete history.

Every Saturday, we’d work from East to West, block by block, camera ready for the first signs of death and decay. Abu Dhabi is a small city but it still demanded patience and stamina to scour its streets. Many times, we had to shoot for hours in over 100 degree weather.

Our project came to mean very different things for the two of us. To Yasmin, it was a homage to her childhood in the UAE. She grieved for every fresh mount of rubble, dusty piles of the city she grew up with.

Initially, I was fueled by the bitter taste of second-rate chai and the excitement of pursuing a new project. But as we came across more and more buildings, I began thinking more seriously about the implications of what was happening to the city and our role in it. What was a minor inconvenience to me meant the loss of income to the migrant workers that staffed the wasted tea shop. I wondered what the sweeping changes meant for the people who stood in Abu Dhabi’s path to modernity.

I realized the irony of working to preserve what were likely relics of a past abuses I had volunteered against. Aggressive development has been the UAE’s backbone. This has come at the cost of environmental and human rights. I had worked with the same sort of laborers who toiled under the infamously oppressive construction industry. I had also written and researched on the environmental degradation caused by the country’s rapid modernization. These were issues that mattered to me and I made sure we would not inadvertently romanticize them through our photographs.

So when Yasmin would finish capturing the facades, I’d switch the lens out to zoom into the details; calendars still hanging off walls, once-vibrant paint chipped and cracked and towels laid out to dry infinitely. Occasionally, there were fresher signs of life-- squatters.

As we shot, I thought of the men I had previously taught in a language-learning program for manual workers. It was dismantled without warning one day. No explanation was given and the men who had sacrificed their sole day-off a week to learn were abandoned without recourse. They were the most easily discarded segment of the population, much like the old buildings.

I also recalled the small business owners whose budding restaurants I had featured on my food blog. I knew how hard it was to get a leg-up in a fast-paced city and watched sadly as shops were swallowed up by its widespread gentrification. In particular, I thought of how the city’s first and only stroopwafel cafe, a proud Sudanese-run establishment I had written about, was forced to downsize into an online catering company after construction blocked it off of the road.

I thought of my long-gone chai shop, which was a popular stop for cab drivers looking for a cheap lunch in an increasingly expensive community.

Modernization often precedes, and even overshadows, the well-being of certain segments of the population. I wanted not only to capture the city’s past but to tell its stories. This project went beyond nostalgia. It was about justice. The buildings felt like ghosts to me; hollowed out but alive. They harbored the untold stories of people I had met and strangers who I never knew, all of whom struggled under a country’s unforgiving march towards modernity.

From here, I realized that I had a compassion for those who struggled powerlessly within a system. ... (why law, etc.)



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