Sunday, June 25

Identify a success or failure in your life....

Here's an essay that advanced me to the interviews and eventually landed me where I am today, in the Honors Program at Gonzaga University, so far one of the best things to have happened to me in a long time. I was kind of worried about how this one would look coming back to it after seeing the essays submitted by the applicants for this coming semester, but I think it holds up well and continue to like it. Here we go.

At various times in my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer, to publish something great and be remembered forever. The first time this urge struck me was in the 5th grade. At the time, my favorite series of books was Animorphs, and while checking a website for a preview of the upcoming book, I found a short story writing contest. Winning it would have been a good start to accomplishing my goal of lasting fame. I thought first place was assured since I had imagined myself in volumes of Animorphs stories, fighting Yeerks as a cheetah. I went straight to work and, by the end of the day, presented Dad with the winning story.

He took a red pen in hand, and, by the time he finished, my story looked as though it had plugged a bloody nose. There was hardly a line where he hadn’t edited my punctuation or noted an ambiguous passage. Every mistake was circled and underlined, and no one could miss them. I had not written the perfect story. When Dad started to explain why he suggested these changes, I buried my head under a pile of blankets to hide my tears. When he stopped talking, I pulled my head out and yelled at him, saying that he had no idea what he was doing, that I had only wanted him to admire my story before I sent it off, and that he had no right to offer suggestions I hadn’t asked for.

When I had finished yelling and wiped away the last of my tears, he explained that my work could be improved and should be if I wanted to win the contest. He took me back to the computer, and we reviewed my story, word-by-word, line-by-line. The minutes painfully ground by. Several times, he pointed out mistakes so blatant that I nearly started to cry in embarrassment. When we finished, Mom looked at it, and we returned to the computer, again. After several more revisions, my story was finished to my parents’ satisfaction and was set on its way.

I didn’t win the contest, receiving a “Thank you for participating” letter instead, but that incident was a turning point in my life. My prior arrogance submitted to a burgeoning feeling of humility. The agony of acknowledging and correcting my mistakes killed my urge to write for a little while, but I ultimately accepted those mistakes. It took some time, but I came to realize that before one can become great, or even improve, they must admit that mistakes have been made and the possibility for improvement exists.

There is a happy ending to this story beyond my lesson. Years later, when Animorphs was nearing its end, I found another writing contest. This time, I went straight to my parents with my rough draft and took their suggestions seriously. I didn’t win again but was one of the 10 runners-up and received the complete Everworld series among other prizes for my work.

Thank you for considering my application to the Gonzaga Honors Program. Have a good day.

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