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How to Smile - Evaluate a significant experience CommonApp

genevieveedu 5 / 14  
Dec 30, 2010   #1
All responses are greatly appreciated. I'll look over your essay in return!
Thank you.

Prompt: Evaluate a significant experience, achievement, risk you have taken, or ethical dilemma you have faced and its impact on you.

They asked me to smile. I offered a lame facade of cheer; my ages-scowled face had nothing left to stretch. Behind my tightened lips and swollen eyes hid an awful fear. I did not want to smile. But I was terrified.

Translucent skin and city-mapped veins illuminated as they flashed the photo in their usual admission routine. I would meet the picture again, months later, pounds heavier, pasted in the file that held daily records of my treatment at Rosewood Ranch Center for Eating Disorders.

Life behind the whimsical wrought-iron gate began as pure hell. A prison. Emotions arose within me I never knew existed. One marked night I screamed and sobbed for two hours straight, longing for my family with a deep and primal anguish. I swore and kicked and refused to eat. I demanded discharge.

I'm fine. I don't have a problem. I'll eat. Just get me out of here.
Denial is the first step.
I would reject every one of their words. Their beliefs meant nothing to me. They were the messed-up psychotics.

Trust came with great difficulty. I had no choice but to finally comply, and soon enough the prison became my home, the patients, my family. In our intimate quarters and poignancy of being, we came to love one another like we never knew possible. Though we shared the same tragic infection of eating disorders, our makeshift family was broadly diverse, and stretched from wealthy Ali, 17, of London, to fourteen-year-old schizophrenic Emily of Virginia. Many were the type I would previously reject on initial judgment; since childhood I was less than a natural at making friends, but our swelling compassion gave reason to friendship and proved my ignorant criticism. I grew to cherish the raw facets of each personality, and acquired an appreciation for even Chelsea - our indubitably crazed ten-year-bulimic who checked herself out the minute she turned eighteen. Yes, she was a witch, but a brilliant one, with a fantastic - if entirely abrasive - spunk.

Each night, we would curse our disorders with intangible 'thorns' of hate, one by one, after the day's final snack. We might damn the food too. But we would always award the theoretical roses to each other. Hundreds of them.

And just as many to the nurses and technicians - well, most of them. Rosewood's technicians became far more than round-the-clock supervisors, and in fact grew as tender mentors and genuine companions. Dearest Chrissy and Aaron particularly served as both treasured friends and surrogate parent figures; they soon stood as my aspiring model for health and happiness. They had troubles of their own; unfaithful spouses sabotaged their respective marriages. They felt pain just as well. But their laughs were true, their love, deep. They ate and they cared and they moved on and I could too.

These are the people I will never forget. Nor will I fail what they have taught me; it is to them I accredit my continuing strength. Who began as my self-labeled 'messed-up psychotic' therapist incomparably helped renew my life, and it is because of his and others' influence that I now aspire to study the same psychological foundations of both my corruption and treatment.

I am not certain I could have made it through Rosewood without the support of patients and technicians in my unworldly despair. But it is not worth wondering about, because now I am sure I could. I have grown stronger in bone and blood and brain but also in heart. I have learnt my flaws and tendencies, my processes and pathology - yet this would not matter if I had not learnt to care. I thrive now on my passions with a new sort of hunger; writing expresses personal emotion with progressive insight, while psychology satisfies my intrinsic curiosity of the human mind. My relationships feed my re-grown heart just as well; I grew to appreciate the preciousness of companionship from my support at Rosewood and have carried the value to my present and long-standing relationships. Loneliness was my tragic downfall one too many times, but a blurring of the line between family and friends ensures my contentment and fends the now distant menace.

I came to Rosewood lifeless after years of silent but incessant self-deprecation. My anorexia had become my sole and greatest joy; it was a tranquilizer from the stress of reality and a fulfilled competency when my being was merely mediocre. So extending the same regard for my own self was perhaps the most difficult yet greatest of my developments through treatment. In fact a cumulative product of the others, my self-awareness takes now habitual and introspective account of my life and well-being. Sometimes I will not enjoy what I see. This is okay. Worse has happened, perhaps the worst will come. But I will evolve.

Post-dinner we would cradle our bloated tummies and settle into our usual positions on the Great Room's leather couches. This was writing time. In my leather journal and prolific letters my writing flourished, documenting progress in both script and health.

Wednesday was yoga. Friday was tai chi and Sunday was spirituality and Tuesday was drum circle with Pam when I'd thrash moleskin until my fingers were bone-white and arms beyond sore and had abandoned all thoughts of calories and BMI and my unachieved perfection.

Ten minutes each day we were granted conditional and monitored phone usage. Jan collected cell phones and all cash at admission. Computers and iPods - the great withdrawal devices - were unthought of. Importance was entirely redefined; I lived for our occasional ethereal sunsets, our brief but potent daily walk, a shared laugh, even ten minutes of a warm shower. Preciousness and poignancy invaded my life. Everything was delicate and everything is delicate still. Yes, the numbness of living near-dead is perfect escapism. But now I have seen health and toyed with purpose and have chosen to join the world outside of my mind.

With the same perseverance that once pushed me to the edge of death, I am driven.

hereonawhim - / 6  
Dec 30, 2010   #2
I really like your descriptive language. I'm not quite sure whether I would focus as much on the difficulty of your experience, it's very personal and I'm sure is challenging to write about. You might want to point out how strong you have become as a result, elaborate more on how you have learned to persevere and overcome your disorder. Hope I could help!
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Dec 30, 2010   #3
This is great writing. That swearing should be taken out, but only at the last minute. Keep it for a feeling of authenticity while you work, but censor it at the end. Readers feel like pushing the limits of what is acceptable in an essay like this is a superficial way to be interesting. Most won't appreciate it, I'm afraid.

But I know why you like that gritty authenticity. It is the writing, not the reading, that is enhanced by it. So, you were able to write this in a way that really has that energy of inspiration.

I think you should cut out all that you can. It is powerful already, and now the way to crank up the intensity is to look for text that does not contribute to the experience you are giving the reader. For example, this is a high quality sentence, but I think you should kill it because it detracts from the reader's experience:

Ten minutes each day we were granted conditional and monitored phone usage. Jan collected cell phones at admission. Computers and iPods - the great withdrawal devices - were unthought of. I don't think it really serves a purpose.

Identify that sentence that captures the soul of the essay. Get in touch with the main message of the essay, and then revise to omit all sentences that do not support that main message.

OP genevieveedu 5 / 14  
Dec 31, 2010   #4
Thank you so much.

I think I'll end it like so:

But now I have seen health and toyed with purpose and have chosen to join the world outside of my mind, and I am smiling.

With the same perseverance that once pushed me to the edge of death, I am driven.

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