My first college essay, dated February 8, 2010.
A pair of gardeners planted two seeds in a path of fertile soil and proceeded to diligently tend them in hopes of witnessing their transformation into beautiful flowers. Both seeds sprouted almost immediately, but the one that was put into the ground first didn’t seem to grow as quickly. Eventually the first plant ceased to grow altogether, while the second grew well beyond the initial expectation of the gardeners. They could have pulled that disappointing flower out of the ground and focused their love and attention on the one that flourished, but they opted instead to keep on caring for both plants equally. They prayed for the first flower and watered it every day, continuing to nurture it long after it even seemed plausible that it would ever bloom into maturity.
The first seed to be placed into the earth was me, and it was due to my prolonged inability to bloom that I found myself precariously living in my younger brother’s shadow. My brother Jeremy consistently moved towards his future, while I only talked about mine with empty, blindly idealistic words. He was active where I was passive. He was wise where I was foolish. He brought pride to my parents while I brought them mostly tears. There was an immense period of time in which I could not fathom that I’d ever feel equal to my brother, or that I was capable of bringing honor to my family. It wouldn’t be until after an extended period of self-discovery that I would find the ability to transform into a flower worthy of the soil in which I was planted.
I used to not just march to beat of a different drummer – I swiped the drumsticks straight from the drummer’s hand and took charge of my own percussion. There was a rebellious, anti-conformity streak established in my younger years, which is evidenced by my dropping out of my second year of 10th grade, heatedly walking out on several jobs with little-to-no notice and my blatant disregard for authority figures in general. I discredited societal standards and was insistent upon doing things my own way, and it all felt quite perfectly validated to me at the time. I had lofty ambitions for my future such as becoming a famous fantasy writer or editor-in-chief of an innovative monthly publication. I didn’t think I’d ever go to college or even get a GED for that matter, because I was so completely sure that I was going to succeed on my own terms. Little did I realize, as I stubbornly persisted to the beat of my own drums… was that I simply can’t carry a tempo to save my life.
By the time I realized that I had made a long sequence of wrong turns, I was already the polar opposite of my relatively successful brother. He was out there seeing the world and making a difference as a missionary, while I was back home playing the role of a lazy, sexually promiscuous drug addict that couldn’t hold a job or even properly maintain a simple friendship. My choices had brought me to a wall, and the habits that had formed from those choices chained me to a wall. Even though I felt so inferior to Jeremy, I knew that it was because of me and not him. He did not ever condescend or judge me, even at my worst. He treated me as his equal, even when I felt like the dirt beneath his feet.
My years of stagnation were not without their strange brand of benefit. There was an invisible, undetectable process at work inside of me during that time. All of my inner frustrations were slowly being converted into the resolve to improve not only myself, but the world around me. I started to passionately yearn to find a light for my own darkness, so that I could proceed to inspire light and hope for others. It was only by this resolve that I finally earned my GED at the age 25. This caused my parents some tears, but this time they were of the joyful variety. It was as if one of my petals had suddenly bloomed at last, and the gardeners were very pleased.
As I continued the gradual process of coming into my own, my perspective of my brother slowly began to change. Before, I had built him up in my mind to be some perfect person and everything that I was not. As I developed a healthier perception of myself, his flaws became more apparent to me. This was not detrimental to my love and respect for him, but rather served to equalize our bond and neutralize any bitterness that I had once felt for him out of my own sense of inferiority.
Other petals slowly opened up over time, revealing the true nature of the flower that the gardeners never stopped believing in. Through the process of overcoming my dependencies to mind-altering substances (and other self-destructive tendencies), returning to school and diligently focusing on building a positive future for myself and those I care about, the flower of my life has nearly reached full bloom. I could have withered and died away into obscurity had my parents not expressed such seemingly infinite patience and support. From here on out, this flower lives to bring color and vibrancy to the garden as well as joyful peace to the hearts of the gardeners.
Feedback from instructor, February 2010:
You are a very good writer. Your analogy with the garden is very good. Content is great. You need to work on your structure a little. You need to clarify your thesis- I think it is about how you made some wrong decisions, or why you let your parents down. The way it reads, it is a little more like a story. If you start by clarifying your thesis, that would help. Then, you need to decide what the things are that you did to disappoint your parents. Those would be your topic sentences, and then make sure each one of your paragraphs sticks to the point.
You could also do a comparison-compare what you did with what your brother did-he did well in school, I did not. He did not do drugs, I did. He had goals in life, I did not. That could also work.
The topic and content are fine-but some restructuring and revisions are needed.
Note from Andrew, July 22, 2015:
Back in 2010, I thought I was God’s gift to writing and was not receptive to feedback. A revision never happened, and I ultimately dropped the course due to my non-permeable approach to learning writing.
(I retook and completed WRIT 121 with another instructor a couple semesters later after reaching a slightly deeper maturity as a student)
Now I see that the professor’s feedback was dead-on.
Thanks for the feedback, Mrs. Robb. I am sorry I wasn’t ready to appreciate your wisdom, circa 2010.
Also published on Medium.