I pictured graduating without my dad there. I saw someone else walking me down the aisle. I saw my kids with no grandpa. A dark, enveloping fear overtook me. I shook. That night, my dad was due to fly home. And he did: most of him anyway. He eventually sat down and looked at me. My mind went blank. All I could hear was the same toxic phrase in my head, over and over, as I stared at a freckle on the wall. The behavior of others is unpredictable.
I found I could apply my acceptance of his relapse to different experiences in my life, whether teenage gossip or catastrophe.
My dad plucks the strings of the stand-up bass as I beat the drums on the dashboard. I need only transcribe the key. Alexander McLaughlin Lexington, Mass.
Throughout my childhood, I felt the need to be in control — a need which came to an abrupt halt in June of I laid down on the balcony of a hotel in the middle of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, staring down the long, straight street that led to the pier.
My fresh shirt had long collapsed against my damp chest as the sun ascended into the sky. A crescendo of voices from the street market far below snapped me out of my daze and reminded me of how different this place was from my home. I strained my ears in an attempt to make out the rapid Spanish coming from the streets below. As my chest swelled with feelings of curiosity and excitement, I decided it was time to explore. I dribbled my soccer ball between the street vendors and their stalls, each one yelling to convince me to buy something as I performed a body feint or a step over with the soccer ball, weaving myself away as if they were defenders blocking my path to the goal.
My previous need for control had come from growing up with strict parents, coaches, and expectations from my school and community. Learning in an environment without lenience for error or interpretation meant I fought for control wherever I could get it. This manifested itself in the form of overthinking every move and pass in soccer games, restricting the creativity of my play, and hurting the team. After years of fighting myself and others for control, I realized it was my struggle for control that was restricting me in the first place.
A man hurrying by bumped into my shoulder as I continued down the street, bringing my mind back to the present. Nobody there knew who I was or cared about my accomplishments.
I seemed to be removed from the little town as I continued to wander. I felt naked as my safety blankets of being recognized or at the very least understood on a verbal level were stripped away, for the Puerto Ricans did not care about my achievements or past life. I was as much of a clean slate to them as they were to me.
I saw in front of me a group of Puerto Rican boys about my age, all wearing soccer jerseys and standing in a circle passing a small, flat soccer ball amongst them. Making eye contact with one of the boys, I chipped my ball over and joined them. We began to juggle; the ball never touched the ground, and not one person took more than a touch to redirect it to someone else.
I let go, feeling comfortable enough to surrender myself to the moment as an understanding among us transcended both cultural and language barriers. I learned that when I open myself up to others, I am free to attain this rare state of creativity in which I can express myself without restraints or stipulations. Alexandra Reboredo Hialeah, Fla. When my mother started a cosmetology business to support our family, I lost my sense of home.
Our dining table was no longer for sharing a steaming plate of white rice, ground beef, and black beans. Instead, it was for crisp white towels, bundles of thin, pointed wooden sticks, sterilized tweezers and scissors, and hundreds of bottles of polish. At first, her clients were quiet. I heard nothing but the gentle hum of the air conditioner accompanied by the whirring of the electric foot rasp, and the occasional ring of a phone echoing through the hallway of closed doors.
As her clients returned, they developed familiarity — the one with bleach-blonde hair in heaping curls bound together on the top of her head, her shrill, high-pitched voice wanting her nails lacquered in the darkest crimson; the year-old Cuban woman who always brought pastelitos and complained about her single life, hoping a new haircut would bring her the man of her dreams; the hearty laugh that boomed through the house every Saturday morning was my human alarm clock when a mother of three was happy to have a break from tracking her toddlers.
Yet, my mother and I never went out to brunch like Natalie and her mom. We never went shopping like Daylin and her mom. Maybe she had a point. It was my own world. Six years after she fled from Moldova to Cuba, she and my father headed for the U. My mother left her own family behind, but keeps the door open to those who seek to be a part of ours. Reluctantly, I realized I had to open my own door as well. Now, when I hear the voices of my favorite clients through the paper-thin wall separating my bedroom and the dining table, I join them.
Vivian, dyeing her roots to hide the gray, recounts the stories of her son hitching rides through France, Ukraine, Italy, and Spain. My mother — the diligent listener — occasionally chimes in with questions.
Tania comes in for her weekly manicure at p. In the meantime, my mom and I talk more than ever before, trading the whereabouts of my day at school for the moments she shared with her clients. We share our own moments together — and a new definition of home.
Mitchell Greene St. Petersburg, Fla. It all comes down to the essay. Before the college application process began, I was already keenly aware that an essay has the potential to impact and change lives. A personal essay, written before I was born, has influenced my life and is, in a way, responsible for my existence! To be direct, my anonymous sperm donor was chosen from a three-ring binder full of hundreds of potential donors.
Countless times, I have envisioned my donor sitting in a coffee shop, filling out the tedious donor questionnaire. He was required to provide a wealth of personal data such as his blood type, IQ, and SAT scores, and nitty-gritty details about his appearance. Eerily similar to the college application process, there were many qualified donor applicants. Choosing one donor from the pool of applicants was an insurmountable task for my mom until she realized there was an essay buried in the back of each profile.
I treasure and protect the papers because they contain the only insight I have into half of my DNA. His essay is the sole connection I have to a man I will never meet. I will never know more about my donor than what he chose to reveal in his personal essay.
When I was in second grade, I read the essay for the first time and learned the donor was a professional musician and an accomplished guitar player. This knowledge was the catalyst for me to begin exploring my own musical abilities. I quickly learned to play the clarinet and joined the elementary school band. As soon as I was physically big enough to carry around a mini Fender electric guitar, I begged to take guitar lessons.
Perhaps it was subconscious at the time, but while many of my elementary school friends were playing sports with their dads, I was looking for a way to connect to my donor through music. During middle school and high school, my enthusiasm for music and performing accelerated in tandem with my talent. In addition to pursuing instrumental music, I began singing in theatre and in an a cappella group.
Through his writing, my donor taught me that when someone is passionate about something, they are willing to make sacrifices and to suffer for it. I have made numerous sacrifices to be a conscientious student at a challenging school and, at the same time, be fully committed to a rigorous performing arts program.
My former athletic endeavors and successes are now a distant memory. Over the years, I have missed many social events and spending time with friends and family. I am proud of my academic record, although I suspect my GPA would be a little stronger if I would not have devoted so much time to music and theatre! Looking back, the sacrifices were worth it, and I would not change the decisions I made! There is not a time I play my clarinet or guitar, step up to a microphone to sing, or take a bow after a performance that I do not wonder what my donor would think of me.
I am still searching for a connection to him through performing and music. I am thankful his personal essay swayed my mother to choose him as my donor, and that his writing compelled me to discover and pursue all of my passions in the classroom and on the stage. Charlotte Guterman Andover, Mass. When I was still small enough to fit in the sun-drenched space between the armoire and the couch, I sat cross-legged and spun the world.
My globe stood upright, supported by a smooth base and almost as tall as I was. Labeled in sepia tones with creases for valleys and three-dimensional mountain ranges, it was the kind that makes you want to run your hands over every country, that begs to be explored. I used to whirl this world recklessly, close my eyes, point a finger, and imagine living wherever I landed: in Tel Aviv or Tegucigalpa or Islamabad. After each imagined journey, I traced my way home.
Until I was safe in my little house in a town too small to see. Once, after looking at my model Earth, I asked my mother about East Germany. On my globe, the Soviet Union would always spread across a whole hemisphere, the northern ice sheet would never slide into the sea, African nations doomed to divide and recombine and divorce bloodily would forever lie flat and whole beneath my palms. When my parents divorced my world moved. Each week I walked between two homes, charting the topography of awkward phone calls, overnight bags, and email conversations.
At first I mourned the loss of that confident sense of place and of belonging that I experienced when I was little. Blood feuds, duels, The Code Of Bushido Essay, Research warrior class, the general history of the code and the honor that term that was given to the warrior class of a pre-feudal and feudal Chivalry code of the European Knights of the High Middle Ages was also compared to the Bushido code.
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My former athletic endeavors and successes are now a distant memory. There is not a time I play my clarinet or guitar, step up to a microphone to sing, or take a bow after a performance that I do not wonder what my donor would think of me. Now, I participate in stream clean-up days, have documented the impact of invasive species on trout and other native fish, and have chosen to continue to explore the effects of pollutants on waterways in my AP Environmental Science class.
My mother left her own family behind, but keeps the door open to those who seek to be a part of ours. Petersburg, Fla. Looking back, the sacrifices were worth it, and I would not change the decisions I made! I shook. I want to speak new languages.