I would love any advice or feedback on my essays! I don't have a lot of people to review it so I'm hoping I will get some different insights from some of you! Thanks (:
Prompt #1: Describe the world you come from - for example, your family, community or school - and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.
Pausing for a moment's rest, I raised my eyes from the rough terrain beneath my boots and accidentally found myself gazing at the most beautiful view in all of Rocky Mountain National Park. It was breathtaking, which was impressive, as I was already completely out of breath. With the rising sun at my back and the mountains sprawled before me in varying shades of purple, I knew at that moment that I had found something worth fighting for. It was here that my passion for the environment bloomed.
When I was younger, my parents loved spending time outside because they grew up in China, where the smog-filled cities were a stark contrast to the abundance of protected wilderness here. We took full advantage of our membership at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and went camping in Indiana every summer. But, having all of this available to me, I took the beauty of our natural surroundings for granted, and didn't appreciate these resources the way my parents did.
The summer after sophomore year, my mom, my brother, and I made the long drive to Colorado, and spent an eye-opening week camping in Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked the multitude of trails around the campgrounds, but I also explored the nature centers and ranger stations there, where I became fascinated by the ecology of the park. What had previously seemed like independent organisms were actually small, but essential, components that worked together to create a magnificent ecosystem. During my stay among the towering conifers, I discovered not only a deep love for nature, but also the interconnectedness of the world we live in.
When I returned to Glenview, I began to see my life differently. Growing up in the suburbs I had always felt like little of what I did had any effect on the outside world, but my trip to Colorado shattered this illusion. The most important lesson I learned during my camping trip was not how to start a fire with a flint or set up a tent in under 5 minutes, but that my actions, although microscopic on the global scale, were far from insignificant. Just as the grazing habits of one herd of elk could affect the entire park, I too affected my environment, and I wanted my impact to be positive.
I began by trying to shrink my carbon footprint. I repurposed old clothes, shopped less, stopped eating meat, and took shorter showers, but I felt I needed to do more, so I signed up for my school's Environmental Science class, and joined an after school environmental club. There, I learned about the implications of current ecological events for future generations, which made me determined to preserve the world I had grown to love.
Perhaps wanting to save the world is ambitious, but I won't allow that to discourage me because my enthusiasm for the environment is so deeply rooted in the experiences I shared with my family. I never imagined that a simple camping trip could change my perspective so much, or open my eyes to my goals for the future. No matter what obstacles I face in the pursuit of a healthier, more sustainable world, I will always have that memory to serve as a reminder of the importance of nature in our lives.
Prompt #2: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?
I was five when I made the most influential decision of my life. After enviously watching my friend's older sister play the piano at a playdate, I begged my parents to sign me up for lessons, and finally they relented, kicking off 13 years of musical evolution. I would be lying if I said I loved every moment of it, though. In fact, my mom had trouble getting me to practice soon after lessons began, and I was often frustrated to tears by a particularly tricky passage.
There were many times when I felt like I was done with music for good, but the closest I ever came to quitting was while learning Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I made progress for a couple months, but suddenly, that progress stalled, and I spent weeks practicing without seeing any improvement. I was so tempted to give up, but I had been playing piano for 10 years at that point, and had yet to leave a piece unfinished.
I took a break from the sonata and played around with easy pop songs to clear my mind, returning to the piece after a week with renewed determination. I would not be bested by Beethoven. To my relief, my practice session that day did not feel like the repetitive, tedious task that I had struggled through for the past month. Although I didn't get past that plateau immediately, I slowly began to gain momentum again. After nearly a year of work, I performed the piece at the Sonata/Sonatina Festival where I received a gold-medal-qualifying score of 97 out of 100.
That score wasn't the biggest reward though. Having mastery of the Moonlight Sonata is like being able to carry around a work of art with me wherever I go. It was well worth the months of struggling. Playing the piano is not something I will ever truly master though, because there will always be new pieces to learn. For 13 years, it has continuously provided me with new challenges to face, from learning how to play eighth notes to memorizing 12 page concertos. I've grown as a musician, but more importantly, these challenges have taught me to persevere.
Although I found success with the Moonlight Sonata, failure is an inevitable part of life, and there have been many times when I have failed, despite my best efforts. Having piano in my life has given me the ability to see these failures as plateaus in my growth, rather than the end of my journey. It's given me the strength to continue to challenge myself, regardless of the failures I've experienced.