Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Challenge 8: Freshman

I have challenged my students to write a college application essay of at least 300 words every day for 30 days, working off a long list of essay topics. Below is one of my attempts. (Note from the future: Out of about 50 students, 22 actually completed it. I tried but gave up after 18 days.)

6. If you were to look back on your high school years, what advice would you give to someone beginning their high school career? (Simmons)

Do something. Don't just sit around, wasting evenings and weekends, doing the same old thing or nothing at all.

Yes, you've heard it before and you'll hear it again, but the point is simple: you're only young once; when you leave here, it'll be too late; no matter how much you hate it now, you'll miss it when you're gone; like just about every graduating senior, you too will cry on the high school ramp on the day you leave this place.

And why will you cry? Simple: Because saying goodbye to your home and friends is hard. But also, that's when it'll hit you: You'll never walk these hills again, you'll never roam these halls again, you'll never be here -- in this place at this moment -- again. It will be the death of this phase of your life.

I was checking college football scores the other day, logging onto student newspaper websites to get the flavor of the games from their perspective, when I came across an interesting article about an MTV show I've never seen. The guys from "The Buried Life" had visited campus, and they talked to students about fulfilling their dreams, about creating a bucket list and making it happen. The student reporter said that the presentation, "though buried itself in excessive T-shirt giveaways and excessively bad dance music, was surprisingly heartwarming."

Surprisingly heartwarming. Fulfilling dreams can be heartwarming. A bucket list, I thought, was for old people, a to-do list of things to accomplish before dying. But here were college students, gathered in an auditorium on a weekend evening, talking about their own bucket lists. Some students said they "wanted to have fun and live for the moment." The "overwhelming majority" of the students' stories and bucket lists, however, "were extremely noble and selfless." The reporter quoted one student whose main goal in life right now is to open a school in Guatemala, a project that began five years ago and then stalled.

My advice, then, is for you to create a bucket list for each phase of your life. You're in high school now. Sure, there are rules and regulations, possibilities and impossibilities, requirements and mandatory activities. But there's still time in the day. You still have energy and curiosity and passion. You'll be here only a few short years, and then these opportunities will be gone, forever.

I don't know how much longer I'll be here at this school, either. So here's my personal bucket list:

Watch more Hindi movies and Korean music videos. Play soccer on the basketball court, but also try rock climbing and volleyball after school and squash and running before. Run to Happy Valley and walk to Everest House. Pick ferns. Go white-water rafting on a holy river. Help put out a forest fire. Finish the library project in a nearby village. Watch the sunrise from different vantage points. Help write and illustrate a children's book based on locals' stories. Camp out on Flag Hill. Take 50 more photos of the sky. Dance in the street during some random local celebration. Crash a wedding. Walk down to Midlands Stream. Make momos at home.

Some of the items on this list are specific to this place and cannot be done elsewhere. Most cannot (or should not) be done alone. Hint-hint.

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