With the fall approaching and grad school applications weighing on my mind, I began writing various essays to possibly use during the application process. I was always told to write about what I know and to write something that would set me apart. With that being said I decided to take a somewhat different approach from the typical essay. It probably needs some work, but I figured I would share it and see if anyone has any feedback for me. Comments are more than welcome and would most likely be a big help. Thanks in advance and happy reading:
Finding the words to describe who I am has always been a challenge for me; not because I lack the vocabulary or a good sense of myself, but rather because I find it difficult to choose a handful of descriptors to tell you who I am when the “I” that you want to know about is always changing. If there is one thing I have become certain of in the last twenty-four years, it’s that nothing in this world is static; nothing – not the people, places, or things – are the same from one day to the next. Who I was yesterday is without a doubt just another version of myself that has been altered by events both big and small, continually reshaping the person before you. Who I am today is just an eventual yesterday.
With that being said maybe the best approach isn’t to find those key earth-shattering descriptors, but rather to tell you a story about myself that may shed the necessary light on who I am and whether or not I’m the type of person that you’re looking for to represent the culture of your institution.
In the world that I grew up in, money was something that was hard to come by and even harder to hold onto. In a family of eight, with a disabled father, and mother who could only find part time work, a great deal of my childhood was spent worrying about things that no child should have to worry about; like whether or not my parents would have enough money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table, or clothes on our backs. I even remember the struggle that came with trying to find the funds to afford school supplies with each new school year.
With a lifetime spent in poverty, just barely staying afloat in a world that rarely allows it, it was no surprise when the time came for my parents to make the difficult decision to do something that they had never done before: cancel Christmas. While the holidays weren’t the most important thing to us, they had always provided the brief reprieve from worry that we faced on a nearly daily basis. That year, though, money was tighter than it had ever been and at thirteen I came face to face with the reality that my parents were having an even harder time than I had initially realized.
After hearing the news and internalizing my feelings about the situation we went about the December weeks as if Christmas was a distant memory. We didn’t decorate, partake in festivities, and even kept from talking about it. If it was even brought up my parents would become visibly upset and no matter how they tried to hide it, I could always see it on their faces: the worry, the sadness, and the feelings of inadequacy that come with not being able to provide for their children; feelings that only became more apparent with each passing day and in their reactions to comments from my younger siblings who didn’t understand the weight of our circumstances.
When Christmas Eve arrived, it was no surprise that moods were sour and disappointment clung to those who had become so accustomed to wearing it. To this day I’m not entirely sure of what prompted it, but my sister, Tamika, and I made a decision that changed everything. We went to the bank, emptied our savings accounts of all the money we had saved from our paper routes, and took it with us to give our family whatever we could with what little we had. Between the two of us we probably had no more than a hundred dollars, but to two young teenagers who grew up with very little, that hundred dollars was more precious than words can describe.
We spent the day walking and taking the bus all over town, collecting gifts in secret, until we had enough to give our family at least the semblance of a holiday. With bags in hand and a goal in mind we went to work on wrapping each gift in the confines of our poorly lit, probably haunted, unfinished basement. By the end of the day we had a small stack of gifts and a feeling of accomplishment that we weren’t entirely used to. That night when everyone went to sleep, we snuck downstairs and moved the presents carefully and quietly to the living room where everyone would find them.
Christmas morning was without a doubt an emotional one with surprise that was only mirrored by the joy that it brought to those around me. We didn’t ask for credit, never once expected anything in return, and even had no gifts to our name that year. It didn’t matter, though; the only thing that mattered was the fact that we were able to do something so small, yet so profound with so very little.
To those on the outside looking in, this event may seem trivial, but to those of us who are accustomed to so little, what my sister and I did that day made all the difference and without a doubt changed us in ways that words could never articulate.
Maybe this story tugged at your heart; maybe it even set me apart in some way from the thousands of other applicants. The only thing I can be certain of at this very moment is that this story is without a doubt one of the best reflections of who I am as a person and hopefully a strong reflection of the values that your institution promotes within and beyond. I guess I’ll simply have to wait and see.
As always thanks for stopping by.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry