College Essays

Common Application

On December 16, 2016, I donned a borrowed black dress and left for Saint James Church. I had never been inside a church until that Wednesday. I stepped into a room of harsh white light and approached the casket. There was Kyra, victim of her thoughts, resting at last. The calmness that I had painstakingly pieced together – held in place only by transparent thin denials – shattered. My final goodbye clung to my dry throat, trapped, and I was brushed aside to make room for the next mourner. For the rest of the funeral, I sat dimly in the pew. Prayers and eulogies muddled into incoherence.

Until that December, I had always been in control. If I was unhappy, if I was unsuccessful, I could look to myself for causation and change. Now, something beyond my grasp had suddenly blinded me. I didn’t know how to stop crying when I was confronted by reminders of her existence, her vacant desk in Chemistry, her empty spot at spin class. I had never felt so powerless, directionless, and this time I had no idea how to rescue myself.

Without the certainty I clung to before, I dug my hole deeper and deeper. I turned in unedited drafts and ceased studying; I still wanted to succeed, but despair dominated my mind. I spent more time at my guidance counselor’s office than in class, hiding until my sobbing subsided. Eventually I shied away from school altogether, and my absences piled up. I abandoned accomplishments from the past and relinquished dreams for the future.

My guidance counselor frequently suggested additional therapy. I knew that we couldn’t afford a therapist, but beyond that, my parents could not grasp the concept of mental health. My mother, deeply superstitious, was more willing to believe that I had been possessed by an evil spirit, and accused me of using Kyra’s suicide as an excuse to slack off; my father begged me to just move on. Unable to convince my parents otherwise, my guidance counselor suggested an alternative: art. My sister urged me to ceramics, something I had once intended to pursue, but had gotten lost in the depths of my hectic schedule. Desperate for change, I found a class and signed up.

My class was nothing more than a slab of clay, a bucket of tools, and a table I had permission to cake in filth. Nevertheless, those two unbroken hours of just pushing and pulling the clay with my bare hands were exhilarating. I could block out my oppressive thoughts for those two hours; I wasn’t consumed by how miserable life was, or how insignificant I felt. All I could think about was working the clay. My fingers smoothed over cracks in the clay and slowly, the cracks in my fractured mindset began to mend as well.

I brought my first creation, a dish resembling a yellow bird peering into a well, to Mrs. Harding: a primary confidante and my English teacher at the time. She peeled off the bubble wrap protecting it, and a smile quickly overwhelmed her. I found myself beaming back. It was April, and the first time I had smiled since December.

Mrs. Harding’s reaction sparked a new fervor in me. The sculpting had originally been for me, but now the final pieces were for my friends and family. Each creation came with the exciting question of who I’d give this mug or this tile or this plate to. With every glimpse of a bright smile and twinkling eyes, purpose coursed through me and hopelessness melted away. My own two hands had wrung happiness from mud and carried it into other people’s lives–it was addictive.

Kyra may not be here anymore, but I still am; I can still do something. I know I’m not Michelangelo, but if I can make someone’s day a little happier, I know that this is enough.

Tips for Writing:
Don’t write about something you think colleges will want to hear, write about something you’re passionate about; it’ll make writing the essay a lot easier too. Don’t feel obligated to lie or stretch the truth. Again, writing truthfully makes everything flow a lot better and makes writing easier. Make sure your essay is something nobody else could write. You’re writing does not need to be excessively formal and stiff. This is a personal essay; develop your own personal voice. Listen to your teachers’ advice.

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