June 16, 2013

Maine college-bound essayists hope to leave a mark

Dozens of graduates answered our call to share the essays they wrote in applying to colleges. Here are our three favorites.

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Now, my sole focus is to learn how to be a skilled and empathetic hospice nurse. Through his death, Grampa showed me how I want to live the rest of my life.


AUTHOR ELIZA LAMBERT of Portland graduated from Casco Bay High School. She will attend New York University.

In Costa Rica, our hotel in San Jose was right next to the National Theater.

But, shuttled away in our tour bus, we sped past a shantytown that sprawled for miles just three blocks from this opulence. In the dirt beneath the colored tin roofs, a small child, barely four, smoked a cigarette. He was in the front seat of a dusty, broken-down, baby blue pickup truck outside a house made of rotted wood and scrap metal. His brown eyes were almost black, wide open and watching.

I pressed my hand up against the window, but the glimpse of the unfiltered Costa Rica passed and before I knew it we were at another tourist site. In the hot spring pools, where tourists in ninety-dollar swimsuits raised their martinis, I couldn’t forget the look on the little boy’s face as we sped by, as though we had forgotten him before we’d seen him. He could have been my brother, in another life.
For my sixteenth birthday, I threw myself a meditation retreat, making space in my busy life to reflect on my coming-of-age. I felt insignificant compared to environmental crises, intimidated by the politics of war. How did I fit into a world where supermodels and third-world children starved? I knew it was safer to remain young, in my stable home, untouched by the outside world. But if I could be aware, wasn’t it a moral imperative that I see? In a world of so much danger and beauty, if I remained blind, wouldn’t I miss things that could help me make change? And so I shut myself in my mother’s studio for three days, and breathed in. And out.

And did it again. I explored my inner landscape, trying to find a balance between my wild-elephant dreams and my sensitive-sponge heart.

I saw that I was both a reflection of my world and yet fully, joyfully myself; flawed but blessed, blessed but flawed.

At the end of the three days removed from real life, I threw open the door, ran from the room and danced out on my driveway in my bare feet. Out under the sunshine, all beautiful light and damaging ultraviolet rays, I breathed in the deepest breath yet. I was ready to see the world.

If it were up to me, I’d have taken myself off that tour bus and wandered through a 3-D National Geographic Magazine. I’d have learned how to shave a coconut with a machete in thirty-seconds flat.
I’d have spoken to the smoking child in my broken Spanish, and tried to learn his story. I don’t want to be a protected passenger in life, without curiosity or spunk.

It’s important to see that even in a beautiful place like Costa Rica, a continent that boasts 3,500 species of ladybugs, there are uncompromising truths that reveal the more accurate picture.

I want to know the truth about the world and about myself, wherever it falls on the gray scale of our blessed and flawed reality. 

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