This is my response to the common app prompt "Topic of your choice"
Any and all criticism is welcome. Thank you in advance for your time, and if there's an essay you want me to look over, I would be more than happy to do so!
Talking honestly with my father terrified me for years. Fearing that frankness would chase him away, sure that I could not survive without his love and guidance, I did everything in my power to avoid arguments with him - I ruined my relationship with my mother, I ignored my friends (some of whom I have trouble talking to even now), and I allowed pleasing my father to become my life's focus.
He left anyway.
His nighttime phone call from Russia, telling me that he was on the other side of the Earth and would not be coming back, broke my heart. It was the first time in many years that I showed my weakness to him and cried. The pain destroyed my carefully constructed defenses, and for the next three years the only way I could survive was to shut him out. Oh, I would still talk to him, email him, reply to his questions, but our conversations started focusing on the weather, and what few plants managed to survive in my garden.
I hated him for leaving me for his childhood love. What good was I, if my own father chose some random woman and her delinquent daughter over me? At one point I even told my mother that it would have been easier to bear if he were dead.
Still, I loved him. I loved him because he was my father, because of the close link we had shared; and because, no matter what he had done or would do, I would still love him.
I was confused. I could not come to terms with the fact that I both hated and loved my father, so I ignored the contradiction. I hid my feelings away in an engraved oak box in the back of my mind, and I threw myself into schoolwork and dance, becoming an A student and joining a Flamenco dance company. That denial became part of me, and dragged me down with chains I refused to see.
During those years I excelled at school, rebuilt my relationship with my mother, found new friends. But whenever my father came up in conversation, I became remote and unresponsive. I had locked a fundamental part of myself away and refused to deal with reality.
At the start of every school year, I would try to remove my dad's email from the school's listing, but school announcements were still sent to him daily. And this year, in the first week of September, my name appeared in one of those emails. The next morning, there was a simple email in my mailbox from him. "Congratulations", it said, with a quote from the school's email; my name in red, bold and underlined. And that was it.
But when I read that one word, I understood what dozens of emails had not been able to make me understand: that it wasn't about him choosing her over me. That he avoided talking about his fiancé not because he didn't want me in his life, but because he feared it would hurt me too much. I remembered, and understood, that his father had walked out of his life too.
With this understanding I broke the pattern - I wrote him a lengthy email, summarizing my life.
It's been several weeks and he has yet to answer.
Before that day, such denial would have broken me. But I realize now that I don't need to define myself on the basis of what my father thinks or does. I am my own person. I can be confused and hurt by his actions, but I am no longer defined by them. When I think of my dad, I no longer think in the past tense. I just smile, because somewhere, he is happy.
And I am happy.
And I would not change that. Because although he hurt me, and I still have a long way to go before I heal, his choices have allowed me to grow: I lost my dad for a few years so I could find myself.
Yes, things would have been easier for me if he had disappeared from my life, but life isn't about taking the easy road. It's about being pushed of a cliff and landing on your feet. It's about enjoying what you have in spite of the world falling to pieces around you. It's about loving, and not expecting anything in return.
But most importantly, life is about accepting yourself with all your imperfections, and learning to grow, not despite them, but because of them.