I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My College Essay #1

I have absolutely zero recollection of the topic of my college entrance essay. I'm pretty sure that at the time the topics were crap like "tell us about yourself" or "what is your greatest wish?" or "what obstacles have you faced in getting to college?" Nothing interesting, in other words. A couple of months ago I had the great privilege of spending some time with my eldest niece, who is currently in the process of applying to colleges. Surprisingly, the part she's finding the hardest is writing her college essays - in part because there are just so many of the damn things to do, and in part because I think she feels this perfectionist pressure to do an AMAZING job on these essays. After all, her grades and achievements have already happened (and are now out of her control), but her essay is a much more personal experience. Every word she commits to paper (or these days, computer screen) is truly a reflection of who she is, not just the sum of the parts which make up the greater academic picture of her high school life. (Which can I just say, are damn impressive. She's a chip off the old Aunt, that one. :) )

I was really intrigued by the essay topics she showed me ...and as a blogging prompt for me, and a show of support for her, I'm going to write replies to some of those topics. I can't promise they'll be inspirational, nor even remotely serious, nor even useful (and definitely not edited). But it should be fun for me and interesting for her...and after all, there are days when I still wish my biggest problem was finding inspiration for a college essay. So, my most adored niece, this blog post is for you.

(Note, she sent me a selection of topics from different schools, but she's not applying to all of these.)

My College Essay #1
Kenyon College: Along the edge of ancient maps it used to say 'Here there be monsters.' What does it say at the edge of your map and why does it say that?

Stuck deep in the glove compartment of many a older-model car is a map - and probably several of them in various states of folded and unfolded and scrunched up and ripped. With the advent of GPS, most modern cars probably won't have much in their glove compartments other than mobile phone rechargers and coupon cards for various Starbucks around town. So in the current generation, it's difficult to even consider when one might need a paper-based map (isn't that what a GPS enabled phone is for?) or even where one might find one. In my parents' generation, maps were bought at gas stations, or purchased from the auto club, or even came free when you rented a car. Maps were easily found and easily read...but of course never easily folded back into shape again. Buy a map and it didn't take long to work out where you were, where you were going, and how you were going to get there. Drive from one state to another and you could easily find the next map you needed.

What about the maps which existed before my parent's generation? Maps from the time when maps were new and novel things, where exploration was on the agenda and discovery a part of everyday life. Ancient maps - in the days before cars - would have 'here there be monsters' along the edge- because to that generation, the unknown was a frightening thing. Monsters being frightening beings, it's no great surprise that that is what they believed lay at the edges of the places which had been explored. Fear of the unknown = what's out there must be scary.

So taking the current generation's hunger for newer, faster, reams of information - and the ancient generations lack of knowledge or understanding of what lay beyond - my map edges would read "here there be opportunities."

Maps these days can tell you in intimate detail what lay beyond their edges. Hell, they can give you far more information than you either want or need to know about tiny little pixel points all over that map. You can zoom in and zoom out and see what's on, under, near and far from the place you decided to go or the place you currently are. What they cannot do is tell you exactly which direction you should choose for yourself, what you will discover about yourself along the way, and what further adventures await you the further along that map you go. All of us wish for a life where the grass is as greener as it appears on the other side - we want the admission-gaining college essay to magically flow from our fingertips, the lottery winning ticket to be the one we purchase, to land the dream job right out of college, to find that out 'Mr Right' has come walking down the street. What we don't want is endless unknowns - because just like those ancient map makers, we still find the unknown frightening. Even with pages and pages of maps, and intimate details of people, and places, and things - we are afraid of that which we have not experienced and that which we have not yet seen. It's the fear which keeps us from grabbing life by the throat and shaking it until all the adventures come tumbling out. It's the fear which keeps us within the four edges of our life maps.

For the ancients, the possibilities of monsters was a tacit warning of where one should not dare to venture. My map changes that whole perception by making the boundaries the MOST enticing part of the entire journey. My map assures you that opportunities exist beyond it's boundaries - and so it removes the fear from the unknown and replaces it with excited anticipation of the adventures which lie beyond the boundaries. I chose opportunity rather than 'possibility' simply because of it's positive connotations - just like we all are afraid of what we do not know, we all want to believe that things will get better. However, without grasping the opportunities - life never will get any better than it already is.

So. Here there be opportunities. What are you waiting for?

1 comment:

Esspweb said...

Great post. Thanks for sharing.