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Dark and light
“You must not cling to your boyhood any longer— it’s time you were a man.”
The darkness creeps
Among the light
The young man weeps
The suitors delight
His father gone
Boy becomes man
This feeling unbelong
He has no plan
Goddess of athena
Above she sees
This dark arena
Death she foresees
Who to become
Man or boy
With help from above
A hopeful ploy
It was late December, a couple days past Christmas. I was on vacation with my family in the Cape, a relaxing break from the toil of school. But even on those leisurely days I had something lurking deep in my mind. It was my 9th grade year, the last at Fenn and I was applying out to many different schools. Tours and interviews were over and it was time for applications. Before going on this break, I had decided to wait until after Christmas to start. That way I could get all of them done but still find time with my family. But as time (and Christmas) passed I realized that it was gonna be hard to tear myself away from the vacation and go to work.
After a few days of procrastinating and false promises to myself that I would start it soon, I finally decided to take it head on. Even though it may have taken some nudges and pushing from my Dad to start, eventually I got going. For me it is pretty easy to come up with material as soon as I start, but the hardest part is starting. Before a writing project, including the very one you are reading right now, it takes me a good part of an hour to find inspiration and my essays for secondary schools were no exception. So one early morning, I sat at the kitchen table by myself, thinking. Finally after a couple of hours, I broke through and was ripping through the main bodies of my essays. On the first day, I was able to complete two essays and a couple of short answers. Once I was done with those for the day my mind flooded with relief. The next day I woke up early and did the same thing.
In the span of three days I completed basically everything. All I needed was a good proofread and I’d be ready to submit. That is when I realized that I was over the word limit on almost every essay. With my time in the Cape dwindling and most of my essays (almost) done, I decided to take a break and truly finish them when I returned. Once I arrived back, I knew I had to put my head down and just get them done. With the help of my mom I was able to bring down the word count on each essay. Cutting the needless fat which took away from the true heart and meat of each piece. But just as I thought my work was done I saw something I hadn’t seen before on the submission page. It was a waiver that acknowledged a number of things. One being “I am only writing and submitting this for blah blah school’s admission team”. This was a problem. While working on my essays I had incorporated parts of my writing into multiple essays. I was assuming this was ok given that Mr. Irwin had talked about it but now I was worried. Was all my hardwork gonna go down the drain? But with a phone call to Mr. Irwin and the response I had hoped for, none of that was coming true.
After going through each and checking multiple times for spelling and meaning errors, I finally reached the final product. Each essay was a reflection of my best answer to the question asked, and I was proud of my effort and the work I achieved. I submitted all my essays and my work was done. I knew after I submitted, all I could do was sit back and wait for the schools to make their decisions. But for me, the winter term wasn’t over and I still had a lot of work to do, so when we returned to school the grind was back on. So, after my odyssey of applications, and some last minute scares. I realized the importance of putting my head down and persevering through the urge to procrastinate, and the importance of checking my work over for any mistakes. Even though it was a pain, looking back it is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying experiences I have ever been through and I am grateful for it.
“Oh, you think darkness is your ally. You merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn't see the light until I was already a man. By then it was nothing to me but blinding”
-Bane in The Dark Knight Rises
For the inmates on death row, each day is closer to its inevitable end. A torturous wait for a torturous punishment from the same government that constitutionally bans ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. Perhaps the most hypocritical line in the entire document. These prisoners will not only face an inhumane punishment but one that may fail and have to be done over and over until the pulse leaves their body. A sickening reality that is true for many. Our broken criminal justice system complicates the matter much more. Some on death row are innocent, have mental health issues, or are still in their teenage years. Yet we still uphold this law without ever asking the question; How moral is capital punishment?
by Seamus Heaney
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
After completing this exam, I feel a mix of emotions. I feel relieved my exams are over, happy to be on break, but a bit unhappy at my past self. Before going into this exam period, I put tremendous stress on myself. I studied every night for 4 hours and even after I still felt like I was gonna do badly on my exams. But, when I began to take the actual exams, I realized that I had been preparing myself for hell, when in reality it was nothing like that. I am glad I did prepare well though, because if I hadn't studied or put in the work that I did (especially before the English exam), I never would have been able to keep up with everything. In English specifically, I was happy when I heard that we could complete most of our work outside of the exam, because it meant I could do things at my own pace and manage my time better. This was especially true later in the exam week because after I had taken most of my exams, I could really put my head down and work through the English work. Coming into school this morning, I felt way more confident and at peace then I would have if I hadn’t been able to do most of the work outside of the exam, and now that I am done I am relieved that the work we had to do on the exam isn’t hard. Overall, I think I did a pretty good job this exam week, but I do have some regrets about stressing in the first place.
A story of persistence
In tough times, persistence is key. The Old Man and the Sea taught me to work hard to find themes while reading, and persist through the less action packed parts of the story. While reading The Old Man and the Sea it took some persistence to get through the book, as there are no breaks in the book, and it taught me that there is value in putting your head down and working through something. Even though the wording of the book was very straightforward and easy to understand, the simpler style could be harder to grasp as much of it was metaphorical. It took great effort and perseverance to search for those metaphors but it was worth it to read and (somewhat) understand—the book in the end. Not only did the act of reading the book teach me about persistence but the text itself talked about the old man’s persistence in catching the fish. I liked how Hemingway made the reader feel as though he was on the journey with him by not chaptering the book and giving a sense of not knowing when your journey will end. When I began to read the book, as soon as I saw the page count I thought to myself how easy it would be to finish. But when I started to actually look for themes and the deeper meaning of the book it became a challenge and something I needed to work harder in order to accomplish it. Even though I might have thought it to be an easy assignment when I first heard we were reading The Old Man and the Sea I thought it wouldn’t be a challenge at all but I soon hit a learning curve and I was forced to put my head down and work my way to the finish. Now after reading the book I’ll give you some warning: The Old Man and the Sea might seem like a breeze but it will take some hard work to catch the true meaning of the story.
The connection between youth and age is a perfect harmony. In the Old Man and the Sea we see this with Manolin and Santiago. They both benefit from each other, the boy’s care for the old man and the old man teaching the boy how to fish, and their relationship flourishes and holds strong because of this.
On Day One in the book, Manolin tries to convince the old man that he always wants to help him, whether it be fishing or in life:“I would like to go. If I cannot fish with you, I would like to serve in some way.” [Day One] Manolin wants to come on the trip with Santiago but he knows that it is unlikely; therefore, he tells the old man he would always like to serve him. The boy needs to help and work for him. They both have complete dedication to each other and an innate connection.
Further on, at the end of Day Two, the old man begins to regret his decision of not letting the boy come, as he is having a tough time doing the work himself: “If the boy was here he would wet the coils of line, he thought. Yes. If the boy were here. If the boy were here.” [Day Two] Now with the boy gone, Santiago also sees he is missing that piece. While in the moment it may be beneficial if the boy was there to help him in a certain action, it is also about companionship and the importance of their kinship. As the story progresses the old man longs more and more for the boy's presence (“I wish the boy was here”) and vice versa back on the island.
Later, on Day Five of the story Santiago just woke up from his heavy sleep, after getting back from the trip, and the little boy is asking him about what happened:
“I missed you," he said. "What did you catch?"
"One the first day. One the second and two the third."
"Now we fish together again."
"No. I am not lucky. I am not lucky anymore."
"The hell with luck," the boy said. "I'll bring the luck with me."
"What will your family say?"
"I do not care. I caught two yesterday. But we will fish together now for I still have much to learn.” [Day Five]
Even with the old man gone, Manolin still thinks about him and truly misses him. Even though this connection is about fishing on a surface level. The reader can sense a deeper meaning of the boy and Santiago’s relationship and tell it is about more than being strong enough for a big fish. It is clear that they are a yin and yang to each other, one taking care of the other, one teaching the other how to go through life.
The old man and the sea is not a story about fishing; rather it is a story about the bonds that hold youth and age.
Dear Admissions Committee,
In my life, the three most important values are hard work, perseverance, and empathy. Hard work is the great equalizer, perseverance is what sets you apart, and empathy is what gains you perspective and meaning. These definitions have changed for me over the years, and while my experience still may be minimal in the world, these values have been prevalent throughout.