While going through old folders, I discovered an essay I wrote that I can only guess was written in high school, perhaps for a college application. Reading it 25 years later, I am saddened by my writing ability and fear it hasn’t improved much. Actually, I have a lot of mixed feelings about the content of this essay, so I thought I would use this blog post to help me sort them out.
When I first read it recently, I was impressed at my level of consciousness. But then, as it sunk in, I was actually disappointed. It described a very positive attitude but also showed I was clearly not a leader. Every measure of success and self-help guru tells you that you should be a leader. What does that really mean for me? Should I change? Or should I recognize the value of how I instinctively want to act and contribute? And is how I’ve lived so far what I really want deep inside? Have I suppressed my leadership qualities because I fear expressing them would hurt others instead of help them? Have I tried to be a leader in the past and received disinterest, or even derision?
Let’s look at this essay again (I wish I knew the essay topic or question that I was responding to):
To be a complete person, to be valuable to myself, is my hope. By being a complete person, I can then be valuable to the people around me. I have known that to become a complete person, I would have to be consistently responsible and enthusiastic about life and work. I would also have to be considerate and conscientious with regard to others and to myself. This fulfilled and valuable person would be someone whom others can turn to in time of need. Throughout my life I have tried to nurture these qualities and have tried to develop my personality and talents to their highest potential.
Throughout my entire academic career, it has been important to me to conscientiously hand in all of my work on time. In elementary school, this was relatively simple. However, I learned in high school how difficult it can be to divide your time between schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and home life, and successfully complete everything. I felt, however, that in order to be the good student that I wanted to be, I would consistently have to hand in quality work. My teachers attest that I have.
As a member of the Stage Crew for Suffern High School’s Spring Musical in 1992, my contribution was to be always available to perform any task, and perform it to the best of my abilities. I could not hammer nails quickly enough to be of great help while the crew was building the sets; however, I performed small tasks such as fetching tools, carrying lumber, and helping to clean up afterwards. Then, while we were painting the sets, I meticulously painted whatever I was assigned to. Because I could be patient and paint a straight line, I was often asked to paint borders and small details. It was important to me to be a necessary part of the crew and the play. The work helped to give me confidence and to develop my abilities. It became a part of myself. When the dates of the performance drew near, the stage crew was asked to go to the practices in order to assimilate all of the aspects of the performance. I spent all of the day in school, not going home until ten o’clock at night. I ate dinner and did my homework during the time between stage crew and the practice. Because he knew I could be responsible, the director of the musical rewarded me by asking me if I would work one of the spotlights.
I dedicated myself to Suffern High School’s Swimming and Diving Team as well. I stayed for any optional meeting or event. I went to every event I could and tried to become more involved by volunteering to time the races in the meets or keeping score. I did anything someone told me to do, swim any race or perform any task, great or small.
To be consistent, conscientious, responsible, and enthusiastic means to be the complete person I value. This desire has influenced the work I have done. I set high ideals for myself and then tried to mold myself in their likeness. I cannot reach these ideals, but the mistakes I make are additional pieces of the puzzle that is myself.
I wonder . . . I think I did value these things, but in writing this essay, did I just think of things I was already doing, find examples of them in my life, and put them in the essay? What I mean is, was the picture the essay paints retroactive and subconscious? Maybe it wasn’t entirely subconscious. As I mentioned in my previous post, I really did try to be consistent and responsible in high school from the very beginning, which lead to great stress.
Maybe trying to decide whether I should put a feather in my cap or give myself a few lashes over what I wrote in high school isn’t a good approach. But it isn’t an entirely wrong approach either, because through my reaction to this essay, I am trying to decide what my values will be moving forward. As I was typing out the essay, however, I realized that I wasn’t approaching it from a zero point. My hangups may be interfering with my goal of realizing my values, and I should return to my center in order to see everything clearly. Instead of looking back at high school for my values, I should focus on the now and move forward.
But I feel better just having typed out that story here, because I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of months at least. I’ll thank the person I was in high school and say good-bye to her. Here’s to a new start!