The Essay I’m Not Submitting
So this is the personal statement I wrote in the midst of trying to write the real one. The “real” essay I’m going to submit is actually nothing like this one. Sometimes free writing like this helps me organize my thoughts and discover what I actually want to say. I apologize if it sounds like I’m just talking about how “great” I am. That’s kind of the purpose of personal statements unfortunately.
A dear friend of mine once told me over the breakfast I had made for her that she would describe me as unexpected. She said that I am always doing things that surprise her but when she gives me a chance to explain, they make sense. I laughed and agreed. I surprise myself sometimes. I am a focused and driven individual, one who will obsess over anything that catches my attention, but these topics and interests are not always related. Over the years these topics have ranged from perfect grades to slugs to blood diamonds.
Just to clarify, the slug obsession was when I was about 12. I wrote a research paper on them. Did you know that slugs can crawl over a razor blade and not be injured? Too bad they shrivel up at the sight of the sun. Slugs reveal another asset of my personality – compassion. The first thing I used to do every morning was save all the slugs that were crawling on our porch screens. I would gently remove them and place them under a stone in a cool dark place where they could live another day. I used to cry over dead lizards and I still cry when I read stories of special needs kids who are mistreated or of child abuse in Nepal. I combine my compassion with a knack for reading people. I can sense within a first conversation how a person ticks, why they do the things they do and what they fear most.
I read people but I also really love to read books. I read like some people date, desperately and without control. Reading to me is a way of learning, growing, and entertaining myself. I find the process of reading fun (some accuse me of being a masochist). Like my personality, the types of books I read are varied. I read fiction – mysteries, growing up stories, historically accurate time pieces, and classics. I read nonfiction on topics that include science, health, religion and culture. I love memoirs. They allow me to walk in another’s shoes for a few hours. I read poetry and I analyze it. The books of poems that I own are filled with my scribbles of discovery.
I read in Spanish. That is my obsessive nature showing up again. I am currently very focused on improving my Spanish. I credit my reading habit with my ability to write, speak and use words of more than four letters. I deduced that reading in Spanish would help me expand those same skills but in my second language. See, deduced. That’s a big word. So I labor through books with a dictionary in hand. I celebrated when I found myself crying over a moving scene in Un Arbol Crece en Brooklyn. To cry over a story means that one is truly immersed in it and to cry over something I read in Spanish meant that I knew enough of the language to not only understand it but to also feel it.
Through my obsessive study of Spanish, I have learned that language brings culture with it. For me, the taste of Spanish on my tongue is the taste of a loud, loving, open culture that works to live. This is why I want to work in Colombia. I am drawn to these people that make me feel at home immediately. I love these people that yell and shout and hug and kiss more freely than I would. I am drawn to these people that dance every time they are together. There is something about how different this is than my own culture that makes it very appealing.
I like different because I am different. I love being uncomfortable. Not in the sense that I like to wear itchy clothing but in the sense that I like to go outside my comfort zone. I am happiest when I am learning and I learn the most when I am surrounded by people different than me. I have a habit of going outside of my designated place in society. I’m often the “insert superlative” person in the room – youngest, most conservative, most liberal, smartest, or strangest (this sentence would be great for teaching superlatives). I never feel like I truly fit in anywhere so I like to be in places where I am not expected to fit in. I have been given many labels by many different people: conservative, Christian, hippie, teacher, American, hipster, liberal, nerd, white, anti-American, libertarian, homeschooler, Renaissance girl, scientist, Hispanic wannabe, and world traveler. In some ways, I fit each of these labels, as contradictory as that may seem. I am constantly trying new things: salsa lessons, drawing classes, Turkish classes, and fermenting foods. Some of these attempts have been more successful than others. I now go out dancing on a regular basis but my beet kvass was pretty much the worst thing I have ever tasted in my life.
I pair my obsessions with a strong work ethic. I like working hard and I am a people-pleaser so I oftentimes achieve impressive results. I have learned the hard way that I can’t please everybody and that’s okay. At times I’m motivated by my fear of failure. At other times, I’m paralyzed by my perfectionist tendencies. I’m working on this stuff; I’m far from perfect. I used to spend a lot of time worrying but I have learned and am continuing to learn to have inner peace and to trust. I’ve taken to heart something I was told in Spain, “Qué será, será.” The direct translation of this is “What will be, will be”, but the verb tense used implies that this is not a fatalistic statement. Instead it is tinged with hope and a positive outlook. I like to fill my life with that. Contentment mixed with a willingness to change is how I approach happiness. I take to heart the idea that if I’m not happy, I need to get over it or change my situation. That’s why I’m not in medical school right now. I was miserable with the path I had chosen so I took a side road that led me here.
I am impulsive in a calculated way. I am willing to take risks and do something that isn’t written in my meticulously kept calendar but I know when I can get away with that. I always have a lesson plan but I don’t always follow it. I always study for exams, but I did decide one November that I was going to spend the next spring semester in Spain. I am not limited by my organizational abilities and my mad planning skills. These are the sorts of things that make me well suited to teach English in a foreign country. It is the way I surprise myself and other people that equips me to adapt and change as needed.
So, this is me, a young adult who sometimes wants to think she knows everything. I am that hipster that “can’t be labeled”, although some would argue I’m not a true hipster. I am a coffee lover and a poetry reader. Secretly, I’m also a writer. Whoops, guess that cat’s out of the bag. I hate cats but I love Grumpy Cat. I’m a photographer, one who cannot stop taking pictures. I’m a passionate and creative teacher. I thrive when I am given basic outlines and told “go for it”. I’m sarcastic and witty but I am also the biggest airhead you will ever meet. I think that Turkey’s free speech policies and Colombia’s recent peace talks should be party conversations. I love good food, including blood sausage. I have a great deal of patience. I once made a handbag out of seed beads and I used to teach 2 ½ year olds.
I’m dedicated. I’m compassionate. I’m unexpected.
So send me to Colombia, pretty pretty please?