This was difficult for several reasons. First, though I took many creative writing seminars in college and was an English major, I had never written about my father. Second, it was a controversial topic that I felt was impossible to work into a "why I want to go to law school" statement. Third, it was a topic about which I did not feel comfortable getting feedback, so I knew the editing would be primarily up to me. Fourth, and most importantly, I was so emotional in writing the essay that I did not know if I could manage a finished product that would be anything less than psychotic.
The following essay is the essay I wrote and submitted with every application. I received scholarship offers that were more generous than my scores would have dictated, and I was waitlisted at Columbia and Chicago, which was a far better result than I could have anticipated. Though I know my resume was not lacking, I do think it was my personal statement that set me apart and was responsible for the success of my cycle.
My advice to anyone considering writing the personal statement that might otherwise get torn apart on TLS: Go for it. Be willing to be vulnerable and be willing to be yourself, and you will have nothing to regret at the end of your cycle.
My father is of average height, he has had salt-and-pepper hair for as long as I can remember, and though he laughs rarely, when he does, he laughs hard. My father is quiet, my father is intelligent, and my father is gay.
The day my parents told us they were separating was a Thursday in February in Placitas, New Mexico when I was twelve years old. They sat my older brothers and me on the black couch in our living room and told us that my father was moving out. They had been married for over twenty years. Later that evening, alone with my father in my room, we stood looking out my window at the desert behind our house. He held his arm around my shoulders. I asked him if he was having an affair. He said no. I asked him if he was gay. He looked at me, surprised, and said, “yes, I think I might be.”
I have never written about my father because I am angry, and until recently, I was ashamed at the thought that I was angry because my father is gay. I am angry because my father lied to me, for as long as he knew before he was honest with us. I am angry that I was forced to confront and change my definition of family at an age when I felt particularly vulnerable. I am angry that ever since that Thursday when I was twelve, when I felt such an inexplicable closeness to my father, there has been a rift between us.
That day, my father gave me the opportunity to learn who I was. Though it took me a decade to recognize what I could have seen as a twelve-year-old, I now know that I am an accepting person. I am the kind of person who will always listen. I am the kind of person who will ask the questions I am afraid to ask. My anger dissipates in the face of all I have learned about myself because of my father’s sexuality, and because of my willingness to accept the truth.
I want to continue to be the girl who stood at the window with my father. I want to be courageous in confronting the questions that I encounter. I want to be able to define and redefine concepts and theories that seem to be written in stone.
Though I have never thanked my father for showing me who I am, I am fully aware that it is only because of that day when I was twelve, when he answered yes, that I am the woman I am today: confident, accepting, tested and strong. Without my father, I would be lost.