Tell Us The Truth
What are you really supposed to tell us in your college essay? About that perfect cup of bitter coffee you made your mom, every morning, so she could have the energy to go to her job at the factory?
Certainly not the obvious? Those everyday truths you live by and with? How you whisper a wish to each spoonful of sugar you put in her second, evening coffee, a wish that her life could get just a tad sweeter, and you can get just a little more sleep?
Actually, yes, exactly that.
Did you think the obvious was just too obvious?
Sometimes the obvious is amazing. But no one puts it into words.
“It takes all kinds to make a world,” an old, old farmer once told me (yes, I know farmers). This after we watched a woman climb out of a Jaguar convertible at his vegetable stand, and then haggle him down from the 50 cents he was asking for his cucumbers.
It’s imperfect, she insisted, her perfect red-red lips somehow never coming unpursed.
That’s what happens when food is organic, he told her gently, shrugging. She offered a quarter.
He took it.
It takes all kinds to make a world.
The Obvious has resonance.
When you (finally) put it into words, everyone feels ownership over that observation. Like it’s theirs.
The obvious is said in a particular voice (yours) from a particular vantage point (yours). But it carries universal resonance (ours).
My petite 11-month old son is just learning to cruise on this atrocious orange walker we found on our block. Yesterday, a man large in frame and big in bone passed him, looked down fondly and noted: They are little when they are little!
The baby probably measured halfway up this neighbor’s shin, and that’s with bed hair, and was about the size of the man’s calf.
But here the baby is, all 17 pounds of him, steamrolling down the sidewalk, eye to eye with puppy dogs.
They are little when they are little. Well, duh?
And then there is the comedian’s prerogative:
Or Louis CK’s description of airplane travel: “You’re sitting in a chair flying through the sky, for god’s sake! And you complain about waiting 2 hours?” Thank you, Louis.
Take the cue: Tell Us Your Obvious in your College Essay
Students tend NOT to look at the power of their own everyday experience as a great topic for an essay. But this is your “obvious.”
In particular, first gen and under-represented youth brush off their regular struggles and triumphs as unimportant, or as topics no one else would want to read about.
O, no. These are your gold mines! Call me, you guys! I’ll give up my buttered toast to grab up your essay and read your obvious.
That cup of coffee you make your mom– let us smell it. Tell us your rituals. Tell us your wishes. Tell us the tiny actions that add up to a big life.
Please tell us about how you save half of every snack you eat for your siblings.
Please tell us how you talk back to No Trespassing signs.
Please tell us.
Obviously, your stories matter to us. We read them to our baby when he is griping about diaper changes. To him, nothing is obvious. But that is a different topic.