Strain does not equal gain
Feel like you’re straining to look like Somebody Special in your college essay? Are you “Being somebody” in your writing that feels removed from the truth– and rubs (even you) wrong?
I am always looking to help students find ways to claim who they are in their work. Nonetheless, I did not expect a zen talk on non-separateness and compassion would teach me about how we can try too hard in our college essay, strain futilely, and, by so doing, miss the point entirely.
They tell you what’s up at the zendo
At the inclusive, radically spare Brooklyn Zen Center zendo, Rev angel Kyodo william Sensei takes a well-earned sip of tea after a long talk on healing what separates us from each other. She lifts her face with a confessional smile and light laugh; a framed iconic, black-and-white of MLK Jr. on the altar across the room looks openly back.
Her body is solid as a stone buddha: “My students say to me, why do you teach if you hate people?” She chuckles, touche, and the community members laugh with her– what else can we do?
She nods: “It’s true. I do hate people. But it’s not because I hate people. It’s because I’m so tired of everyone trying to be somebody, and somebody they are not.”
angel looks around, as if to catch us in this very (common) act. Don’t we all want to be a tad more awesome, together, memorable, attractive, something? Suddenly it’s as if our subconscious intentions– to Be Somebody Other Than Who We Are At This Uncomfortable Moment– are on nanny-cam. And keeping us miles apart from each other.
But Your pen prefers You!
You can see this urge run rampant once a student picks up a pen to write The College Essay. Angst, however subconscious, directs the composition, just as it can direct our self-perception, and the background noise is something like: To get into XXX school, I have to be Special, who looks and sounds better than I am. Who I Really Am couldn’t possibly suffice.
But, actually, as angel insisted, Who You Really Are is perfect, even–and especially–including all its dazzling imperfections. It’s what makes the more interesting story. It’s also, to a degree, knowable by you. Your area of expertise and, if you choose, of comfort and openness. And when you are comfortable and open– guess what? Real folks want to be around you and want you around. They might even want you, yes, at their school.
So Be Just Perfect– and Move On
Being around angel is refreshing. Your mind gets wrestled into submission by her insistence that you’re just fine, just perfect, without all the (yuck yuck) striving. Authentic change? Bring it. But the self-make-over that wishes away our current natural attributes becomes painfully obvious in writing and in relationship, and is not the best way forward (into our real future). An artificial self produces artificial sounding text. And you can do better. The world– and EVERY college– needs more people not afraid to be themselves, now.
Come write with us. We’ll guide you into modes of exploring and celebrating the Somebody You Already Are, and putting that on the page as your rep. WIth us, you bag the artificial attempts at “Being Somebody.” And tell us your story from that place–human, relatable, connected and convincing.