Thursday, November 10, 2011

Challenge 9: Ch-ch-changes

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.)

#118. Reveal your personality by naming all the positive and negative features you possess. Which of them you'd like to get rid of and which you'd like to promote and enhance.

I am extremely annoying, often annoyed, blameworthy yet blameless, a cantankerous contrarian, doubtful, deliberate, enthusiastic and engaging, funny and flirtatious, greedy, grumpy, helpful and hurtful, interested but ill-equipped to answer this question, at times a jerk but also a jester, a kindly kidder, a lazy liar, mostly motivated, nearly notorious, openly opaque, pleasant but perturbing, questioning and quiet, reasonable and relaxed, scandalously sexy, terribly truthful, ugly, very withdrawn, xenophobic yet zealous.

I also know my ABC’s. And I guess you can say that I am something of an immature smartass.

I do think that most of my list is accurate. I am those things – and more. But I’m having trouble deciding which of my particular features I'd like to get rid of and which ones I’d like to promote or enhance.

However, more and more, the one personal feature that I would like to eliminate is my age. I’m getting old, damn it. This never used to bother me – in fact, this is something I used to look forward to – but as I walk around this morning and my knee aches for some unknown reason, I think about my aging body and wonder if I could trade it in for a younger model.

But what to do. One cannot turn back the clock or stop this thing called time. It’s useless even thinking about it. Perhaps it is equally useless thinking about all of one’s qualities and considering which to drop.

I am all of those things, but every personal quality, even age, is relative. Sure, I feel old and my knee hurts, but am I as old as the 20-year-old bulimic who has damaged her organs beyond repair? I've been around the block a time or two, but do I know as much about life and death as a child soldier in Rwanda or Sierra Leone? I've got problems, sure, but are they as troubling as the teenagers sitting in prison for drug offenses?

Maybe the best thing to do when contemplating one's positive and negative features is to put life into perspective, to embrace one's flaws and imperfections as well as hold onto one's core values.

At my core? The refusal to take certain things seriously. I'll end by quoting "Synthesis," a song by Frank Turner, a former punk rocker/current folk singer:
All your friends and peers and family solemnly tell you you will
Have to grow up be an adult yeah be bored and unfulfilled
Oh when no one's yet explained to me exactly what's so great
About slaving 50 years away on something that you hate,
About meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
Well if that's your road then take it but it's not the road for me.

And I won't sit down
And I won't shut up
But most of all I will not grow up!

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