I remember a little over 3.5 years ago I was applying to college, working on my essays throughout the summer at my mother’s demand. As usual, she was right, because while my essays were finished by the time school began, everyone else was frantically working on theirs down to the wire. To be honest, the essays weren’t that difficult–they usually had a prompt and most people could find some sort of canned response that would fit the question, whatever it was. Maybe it’s hindsight, but I don’t remember being ridden with anxiety over it all. I knew I would get in somewhere and I was fairly confident I would get into my first choice school–and I did. The first semester of college was a dream come true in many ways, I found a wonderful group of friends that I have grown closer to over the past three and a half years and I did far better academically than I expected (I maintain that It was because all my classes happened to be pretty easy, not any brilliance on my part).
Anyone who knows me well can attest to the fact that I don’t really like “school.” That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy learning or that I haven’t appreciated many of my classes. It’s more the whole process of taking tests and then the ever-present “filler” classes that we have to take to flesh out our degree plans and make us more rounded human beings. That said, I decided to apply to Graduate School. Maybe it began as a combination of sheer panic at the thought of graduating early, or the fact that the economy is terrible, or perhaps just a refusal to enter the “real world.” Some of that changed when I got my job at the literary journal Callaloo where I have been working since May. I realized I really enjoyed working in a “real” job, that wasn’t retail or food services. I flip-flopped multiple times on the issue of grad school all semester to the point where I put off taking the GRE until the end of November. So here I am, “at the end of all things” as Frodo would say, trying last minute to get all of my applications submitted by the deadline, which, inconveniently enough, is the same day I graduate. I should have followed my Mom’s advice and gotten all of this together earlier, but if I have honed one thing to perfection in college, it is the fine art of procrastination.
What makes this more difficult than regular college applications? you may ask. There is this pesky little thing called a “Statement of Intent” or “Statement of Purpose.” Just a little, 350 word statement that is supposed to encompass who you are, why you think you’re good enough to get into such and such program, and why you are unique. Simple, right? Oh, so, so wrong. How do you say who you are, what you are passionate about, why all your hopes and dreams hang in the balance while still sounding professional, intelligent…sane…in 350 words. Or less. To top it off, this Statement will be read by writers themselves, who will notice any comma out of place, any semi colon improperly used, any word that isn’t “just so.” So no pressure.
Everyone, aspiring writer or no, has had to write something in their life, so I think it can be said that everyone has probably experienced writer’s block at some point in time. It’s more like trying to be-siege a castle that has 20 ft thick walls surrounded by a moat, teeming with alligators (or is it crocodiles?) with a boiling cauldron of very hot oil suspended above it. And all you have is a word document and a blinking cursor. Small weapons. I could psychoanalyze why I’m having such trouble with this personal statement, but I’ll spare you that. Obviously I can wax eloquent on just about anything–even the inability to write, paradoxical though it may seem.
Maybe it’s because writing this blog won’t determine the rest of my future, or maybe because I don’t have a word limit (however much you might wish I did) or a specified prompt. And maybe that’s the trick, not to think that this 350 excerpt of “Who are you?” as the end all be all, to think of it as just a way to introduce yourself to people you may never meet. It’s an interesting question, though, and one with which my generation seems particular concerned. We are all about “finding ourselves” and the “journey.” But maybe, all of that is actually a load of garbage. Proof that life does not fit itself to our schedules, our daytimers, our 5 year plan. It is a “journey” or more like a road trip–cheesy as that may be. You’re going to get lost, or run out of gas, or blow a tire. But you’re also going to meet new people, see things you’ve never seen, and make some memories you will never forget.
Do I have a better feeling about how to write my 350 word statement of brilliance and individuality? I’ll let you know. If not, I can always just steal this one, right?
The Punisher: I leave this as a declaration of intent, so no one will be confused. One: “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” Latin. Boot Camp Sergeant made us recite it like a prayer. “Si vis pacem, para bellum – If you want peace, prepare for war.”
Two: Frank Castle is dead. He died with his family. Three: in certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue… natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it’s an emotional response. No, not vengeance. Punishment.