I really need help cutting from this essay. I'm about 3,000 characters above the 5,000 character limit, so I really need help there. Cut anything that doesn't pertain to the quote. Any grammatical/idea help would be appreciated too!Option 4 - Using a favorite quotation from an essay or book you have read in the last three years as a starting point, tell us about an event or experience that helped you define one of your values or changed how you approach the world. Please write the quotation at the beginning of your essay.
"We enter the world as purely physical beings; and leave it the same way. In between, through our lifetimes, we labour pridefully to establish identities, selves distinct from our bodies. Not what we are but who we are. This is the crux of our humanity." -Joyce Carol Oates After Amnesia
"Six days at Palmetto Boys State will change the rest of your life." These words fell dead before a crowd of nine hundred cynical and tired teenage guys. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I was already waiting for these six days to be over. My first impressions were not exactly good ones. The day had been a rush of pressed bodies in small rooms, shaking hands with strangers, and concentration camp style dorms (We were staying on a college campus and they had told us it would be suite style. They lied). Not to mention the blood in my closet, awkward conversations with more strangers in my "city" (the groups they divided us into), and a five minute long dinner. So now I was sitting here, tired and hungry listening to an array of boring speeches from different people. We eventually went to our rooms and we all attempted conversation with each other but it was awkward since we were strangers. Eventually, we went to bed and fell asleep on our cots. As I laid there I was thinking, what have I got myself into.
Over the next few days, I started to get a hang of what was going on. This camp was some sort of leadership/government camp where we were supposed to run for office while building confidence and teaching us to be future leaders. At least that's what it officially was; in reality it was more about learning your cities chants and yelling them as loudly as possible at the others cities in "battle". Now, normal me would have thought this was incredibly dumb, and at first I did. I am normally loud when I have to be, but I have never been that person who is totally caught up in the moment cheering but here I was on the front line yelling at the top of my lungs at the other cities. Now, most would think this distracted from the "real" intention of Boys State but instead it actually reinforced it. Being one of the leaders in my city in chanting had given me the confidence to run for and win offices at the city and county level. To run for these offices we had to give speeches and normally, I hate public speaking, the first time I did it at Model UN, my knees literally shook, but here at Boys State it was completely different. There was a certain amount of comfort in speaking to strangers because you knew if you embarrassed yourself, you would not see them again. It was this comfort that gave me the confidence to stand in front of my peers and give a coherent, effective speech.
Now, I make it sound like these next few days were amazing, but they did have some drawbacks. For one, all of our meals lasted about five minutes so learning to speed eat was a must. Also, it was still kind of strange being with these strangers but we had all started to get along really well. I still had my doubts from time to time whether I really wanted to be here but I knew I was stuck here and should make the best of it. By Wednesday, the fourth day, all of us in my "suite" had started to talk a lot and me and two others developed a great idea. The cities already had banners that were sanctioned by the administration but we wanted to make other flags. While I was at a dodgeball game, Nathan and Josh went around and found scrap cloth, paint, and wooden rods and snuck them back to Josh's room. That night, we stayed up until two in the morning painting two smaller flags that we were sure would get the city to finally come together. The next morning, despite having to wake up at six, we were pumped to show our city. We came running out of our suite onto the community balcony and our counselors were blown away. They were starting to doubt how much spirit we truly had and we proved to them that we were ready to make a mark on the history of Boys State.
Thursday was one the best and worst day of the whole week. The worst because we had to sit on bleachers for seven hours while over a hundred people made speeches on how they would be best for a state position. This really should be used as a form of torture, it is far more effective than some of the methods they have today because we were all completely broken down after that. But then, that night, they had the joint political rally, basically a huge pep rally where you cheered for your party (either Federalist or Nationalist was assigned to you at the beginning of the week). I was a Federalist and our name was the Fed Storm, so they gave those "thunder" noisemaker sticks. We completely overwhelmed the Nationalist in sound and in the elections because for the first time ever, there was a complete sweep by one party. The Federalist had won the majority of seats in the city, country, and state elections. This caused our side to go wild and the in-house band played songs to celebrate. My favorite and most memorable moment was being an entire mob of guys dancing and singing in hoarse voices to "Forget You" by Cee Lo Green. That was when I realized this was the best week of my life.
Friday was when I realized just how much talent everyone there possessed. We had all been chosen to go there by our guidance counselors but everyone there seemed so normal, I would have never guessed for what. In one conversation with, I learned that all the guys I was talking to were also team captains, top of their class, and possessed incredible abilities. This one boy who was the epitome of the stereotypical skater got an 800 on his Math SAT. Another could memorize complicated symphonies and play them back on the piano. I was blown away and humbled to be in the presence of so many incredible people. That night was also the talent show, where the kids were so good you could not help but feel a little bad about yourself. But the most incredible part of the night? I had entered into the Samsung American Legion Scholarship contest, but so did over a hundred other guys so I kind of just zoned out when they were going to announce the winner. Then they said the winner was from Rock Hill and I thought how strange of a coincidence. Then they started listing the winner's qualifications such as valedictorian and cross country team captain. At this point, Philip punched me in the arm and said "That could be you!" Then they said, "The winner is Daniel Austin Abel!". It took a minute to sink in but my city erupted in cheers and congratulations as I stood and walked to the stage. It was incredible, not only winning but having so many people be that happy for me. I am used to if I win something at school just getting snide remarks from my peers but here we were all equal and they genuinely cared. After everything, we went back to our cities and we all talked as a group for two hours. Our senior counselor had just lost his best friend that week and through a combination of talking about lost loved ones and memories of the week, all forty of us supposedly mature young men, ended up balling our eyes out for two hours. We all exposed secrets and hidden feelings and surprisingly I was the first to talk. Of all the things that happened all week, this surprised me a considerate amount because I was never the first to talk, certainly not to deliver a heart-felt speech. I fell asleep that night thinking how incredible that week had been.
"Six days will change the rest of your life." These words were greeted with an uproar of cheers and applause. It was such a change from before because these words had proven to be true. It had changed my life not because it made me a new person, but because it helped me find the self that had always been there. Not what I was, but who I was. I discovered that I really could be a leader, even in non-academic things. I found out that I could strike up random conversation with strangers and be an outgoing person rather than a borderline introvert. Similarly, I learned that I could be the one to stand up and be the first to do something significant. I realized there are people out there how really care about your successes rather than becoming bitter. Perhaps most importantly, I learned to value this identity that had been hidden inside of me for so long. And so, as we left the auditorium for the last time, there were no chant battles or yelling because every city felt as our city did; that we just wanted to spend these last few precious minutes with our new friends and lifetime brothers, the brothers that had helped me find my identity, the brothers of Keowee.