Monday, July 11, 2011

How I Spent My Summer, By Melody Lee, Age 19 1/2

Just sent off an application that asked me for a 500-1000 word writing sample about something I learned this summer. Not sure if this was really what they were looking for, but I copy-pasted it below for your pleasure.

Wherever you are in the Bryn Mawr College application process (ie. applying, accepted, or attending), you have two things in common: you were born female and you’re crazy. But don’t worry, this isn’t the mental institution kind of crazy (yet). This is the kind of crazy the world could use more of, you Bryn Mawr woman with your dreams and goals and ambitions, your desire to get out there and make something of yourself.

True story: My first semester at Bryn Mawr, I was going to be that one freshman who planned out her entire four years in one sitting and would never, ever deter from that beautiful schedule and graduate president of everything with a sparkly 4.0 GPA and please stop laughing, I was only seventeen and fresh out of a West Coast prep school.

Obviously, I’ve learned something since then. I’ve learned that in college, Honor Code or no Honor Code, whatever you leave in the communal fridge is going to get eaten (unless you lick it first! Um, not that I ever do that...); that no matter how drama-free you were in high school, at some point you’re going to wage social warfare against someone (only because they deserve it); and that despite what people tell you, you are truly the most intelligent person on the campus and everyone else is just dumb for not recognizing your genius (or your tortured and artistic soul, either works).

But this isn’t about what I learned in college. This is about the summer before my junior year, the most important year of my college career, the year I planned to take my LSATs and finish my major and start about ten million supercool projects that would no doubt make me the coolest, most socially active, awesomest person on campus. (Just like you!)

And this is what I learned. Brace yourself!

It’s okay to give up.

I know that’s antithetical to pretty much every inspirational movie since the 80’s. It’s the opposite of what your teachers and parents tell you, it’s what your instincts and pride tell you not to do, it is exactly what a Bryn Mawr woman isn’t. Who is this crazy person and why is she telling us to move into our parents’ basement forever and eat potato chips for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Is she saying that Hollywood and our parents lied to us?

Fear not, because even though potato chips are delicious, Hollywood would never lie to you. Your parents probably have. (I was raised on a diet of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, and sentient animal companions. The disappointment was pretty brutal.) When I say “give up,” I don’t mean, “I’ve been doing this for a whole two minutes and I’m bored and tired and this sucks,” because that, dear reader, means your face sucks and you should be ashamed.

But after you’ve put time and effort into something and you’re still not digging up any gold, at some point you have to sit back on your heels and ask yourself: is it really worth it?

Back up, it’s story time. Where did all this come from?

Well, a year ago, I decided to become a lawyer. The conversation went exactly like this:

FRIEND: Dude, we should become lawyers together.
ME: Dude, we totally should!

Somehow, I got sucked into international human rights, particularly in North Korea, since that country is where human rights go to get thrown into concentration camps and die. I signed up for a summer Korean language program in Seoul, laughed at everyone scrambling to find internships, and once the summer began, jetted off to the land of plastic surgery and soap operas.

I didn’t want to admit it, but I suck at school. Like, unbelievably so. I ended up in the hospital with migraines so bad I couldn’t see, I vomited in the subway bathrooms because the thought of going upset me so much, I didn’t sleep for three days straight and started contemplating stepping in front of a train. Some of it was because I am a melodramatic tart, some of it was because when I am sleep-deprived I am crazy like a serial killer, but most of it was because I was dying and didn’t want to admit it. That would mean giving up and giving up meant failure, and failure meant...

What does failure mean, anyway?

If you’re the only one pushing yourself to succeed, you have to know when you aren’t. You have to step out of that web of pride and insecurity and ambition, and ask yourself: what are you doing here? If you just get through this stage, will the rest pay off? Or should you move on somewhere else, where the talent deposits are richer and the fun quotients higher?

You’re the only person who can tell if it’s time to move on. I have friends who loathed playing the piano and now swear that it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. I have friends who loathed playing the piano and break out in hives when they see ivory.

If you’ll pardon the cheese: if you give up on ninety-nine things but finish the hundredth, then they’ll make an inspirational movie about how you just had to find that one thing you love. I promise, there is no spotlight on you except the one you put on yourself, so why are you focusing on your zits and stretch marks? Just breathe, do your best, and move on. Talent renders the entire idea of practice meaningless; if you truly love something, no one will have to force you to work at it.

Anyway, sorry for the epic radio silence on my front recently! I've scored an internship with Hanul Law, which is a Korean immigration law firm. How did I get it? Through the sheer power of nepotism, my friends. Nepotism is bad, except when I need it.

(Okay, they liked my resume, but they probably wouldn't have looked at it without someone to put in a good word for me, considering it was like two months after the deadline.)

Peace <3