The Success in Enigma
Whew! This took me quite a long time, and I'm still not sure if my essay answers every aspect of this prompt. All kinds of criticism, compliments, and suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
The enigma of success! Even before I began official schooling, my parents would beat knowledge into me, telling me it was for my future good. Drilling me in math and science, they pushed me to become an accomplished person, but I didn't understand what they meant. What is success? Initially, I naively believed that it came from popularity and other trivial qualities. However, over time, various adversities eroded my ignorance and brought me to discard such a superficial perspective.
I once believed success came from acceptance through name. However, my name was often mutilated by bullies into repulsive nicknames like "Dung Ho" or "Ding Dong." This cruel name-slaughter butchered my ego, and I soon grew ashamed of my name. However, my literature teacher in seventh grade taught me the origin of my name; "Dongho" meant teacher from the East! She told me that I should never cower from superficial taunts but live up to my honorable title. She insisted that the great person is one who helps others achieve their ambitions through teaching and leading. Thanks to her advice, I discovered my passion for teaching. Through tutoring at a middle school math club, I led two students to the MathCounts Nationals Competition and tasted the rewarding satisfaction of helping others excel in their endeavors. Since then, I have taken pride in my name and related my life to its meaning.
I once believed success came from acceptance through appearance. However, my appearance had been forever tarnished by a dreadful childhood illness that bleached my body. Since I was young, I was always targeted for my abnormal skin; furthermore, because I was raised by native Korean parents, I could only stutter in broken English in defense. Although commotion about my skin eventually mitigated, I was still afraid that others would tease me for my white patches when I entered high school. Although I desired to ask questions and learn actively, I was afraid to participate in class. Fortunately, my idol Mae Jemison revived my confidence. Her unyielding determination and courage as an African American female scientist made me realize that achievement came not from conforming to public opinion but from diligently pursuing the passion to learn. Her perseverance inspired me to disallow anyone to dissuade me from pursuing academic excellence. Since then, I have enjoyed participating in class discussions without fear of disapproval and mockery.
I once believed success came from acceptance through friends. For years, my closest friends had sympathetically acknowledged my childhood illness and understood the origins of my broken English; but, they suddenly betrayed my friendship for mere popularity and mocked my spots and accents. After this incident, I found it difficult to trust others and vowed to never forgive them. Fortunately, I met an empathetic swimming teammate who, observing my aloofness, helped me recover my trust in others. When I confided in her what I had once believed, she replied, to my surprise, that I was right. She believed that friends should reconcile after occasional quibbles and that greatness came from the willingness to trust and forgive friends. Since then, I have learned to forgive those friends and developed a passion to form lasting friendships.
Even after these endeavors, I was still confused. Is there a universal definition of success?
Recently, my family was met with financial hardship. My father lost his job two years ago; since then, it became more difficult for our family to support our education from meager earnings. While friends at school easily obtained materials for school, I had to earn my supplies. From math competitions, I received my calculators; from an internship stipend, I bought my first laptop. When friends walked around with brand new textbooks, I could only stare at the tattered hand-me-downs I had inherited from older friends, which I had to share with both my younger brothers. I soon despaired; how could anyone progress in life without sufficient money? My father offered a wise answer: "Success does not follow money. Money follows it. It follows passion. Follow what you love, and success will follow you." After considering the adversities I had overcome, I discovered the remarkable truth in the adage. Through these adversities, I transformed from the nameless, friendless, and moneyless apparition into a wiser and enlightened being. By discovering my love to teach, the courage to learn, and the desire to trust, I discovered the ultimate source of success: passion.