All my knots usually came in handy. In 8 th grade, I won a competition in the Boy Scouts with a square knot, beating the instructor who taught an alternative knot that took longer to tie. After at least 50 failed attempts at the step-by-step process, my trusty blue rope finally bore the complex, dense sphere of rope. After hoisting myself into the treetops that day I dangled for several hours due to that hastily tied Slip Knot. When my dad finally returned from work and saw me, he lugged over an extension ladder, and laughed as he untied me from the tangle he inspired years earlier.
Comparing these knots, I learned that the effort and persistence I invest in a challenge like tying a knot translates into a certain lasting power. A Slip Knot is extremely easy to tie, but disappears with a quick pull on the rope. In so many other parts of my life I have experienced this similar relationship: that the more I try, the more useful and permanent the reward.
I expect that my knot-tying adventures, and the related lessons, even the most embarrassing ones, will help me through any future hang ups I encounter from here on out. So we started by thinking of qualities, talents and interests he had that would make him an effective engineer. One of the qualities was that he was a problem solver. And one of his hobbies was knot tying, which is a form of problem solving.
The next step was to find an example of Brock applying his problem-solving skills in real life. Problems can come in many forms: challenges, obstacles, crises, phobias, idiosyncrasies, life changes, etc. When Brock mentioned the time he got stuck in a tree because of his knot-tying ability, we both knew instantly he had hit upon a hot topic.
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He would reach out to me and hold my hand while I told him about my day: if I got a good grade on a paper; if a teacher liked one of my comments in class; or if I did two pirouettes instead of one. He would smile and tell me how proud he was. Nothing made me happier—except the hope that I was also making him happy. The reason my dad was there for me almost every day of my life was that he was diagnosed with cancer and homebound since I was an infant. I went to him for all of my needs. If I had a problem with a friendship or a relationship, if I was scared of the dark, and especially if I procrastinated on a paper, he would stay up late to help me no matter how sick he felt.
In a way, he was my life coach, personal therapist, best friend, and dad all in one. But at the same time, he leaned on me. By the time I was 10, he could no longer eat. My mom stopped cooking. From then on, we no longer gathered around the dinner table. Not only did I have to learn to cook for myself, but to feed my dad through his feeding tube as well. Then during my freshman year when my mom left us, I took over her responsibilities.
Last year, after I turned 16, he had to go on oxygen 24 hours a day and was bedridden. I could not have friends sleep over, stay out late, or bake cinnamon pancakes because the smell bothered him. When we had to put our house on the market, I raced home every day and frantically cleaned it for showings. I never talked to my dad about my own struggles or fears because I did not want to worry him.
We were both trying to make each other feel better. My goal each day was to make him smile and relieve his suffering any way possible. But when he left this earth, I felt like my purpose was gone. I was lost.
There was no one at home, no one to stay up late and help me with my schoolwork, no one to help me decide what were the right colleges to apply to or what field or major I should consider. Going back to school after he died was the hardest thing, but his passion for education motivated me to resume my classes and get the best grades I could despite my sadness.
My dad put me first, and I put him first. Now I am learning how to put myself first. I now have a life coach, practice meditation, keep a daily journal, and have guardians who love and guide me.
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In meditation, I am learning to have empathy and compassion for my mom, but at the same time respect my own needs first. And I know it was very challenging for Alex to condense her story to under a mere words. At first, I tried to encourage her to find a different topic, since her dad had only passed away months earlier and she was still grieving. But it became clear that she had to write about this. Nothing else was so defining in her life; nothing even came close.
The challenge of writing about such a traumatic experience was to keep the main point about herself. The objective of a college app essay is to reveal your unique qualities and character, and not just tell a poignant story, especially about someone else. Alex did a great job of relaying what happened to her dad and herself so we felt the impact, but mainly focusing on how it affected her. She gave the essay a sharp focus by extracting one part of their complicated relationship—how they each supported the other—and starting the piece with a moving example anecdote of how that worked.
Also, despite the tragedy of his death, Alex did not allow the reader to feel sorry for her, and kept the message positive and hopeful—just like she is. After two hours of intense racing on the open water, we thought our day was done.
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Instead, our coach ordered us to race another five miles home, rowing as hard as when we came. Stuck in the middle of the harbor with seven other teammates in the crew boat, there was nowhere to hide. Drained and exhausted, I could feel my eyes starting to close. Tunnel vision set in.
For a few moments, I blacked out. I had been here before. This was the point where I had to push my body to do the opposite of what my brain wanted me to do: Go even harder. When I first joined the team as a freshman, I only knew a little about this sport. My older brother warned me about the ridiculous hours and tough workouts.
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The one thing no one told me, though, is that to row crew you had to be a little crazy. After four years of rowing crew, I realized that this was exactly what I loved.
This zone that I get into allowed me to break down new mental and physical boundaries every day. It gave me the satisfaction of knowing I went harder than any other previous day. I never even knew I had this type of mindset until I started crew. Not only did this bring out my new mindset, but it grew each day. Every day I looked forward to pushing myself to my limits—and then climbing down deeper into that well to exceed my prior limits.
Knowing that it was only my mind holding me back from going any harder, I learned to reverse my thinking so I almost craved the pain to make myself go faster. My intensity, drive, but mainly the nature of my competitiveness has been somehow honed, sharpened and brought to light for me. I feel motivated and empowered.
As we brought in the boats, my teammates and I re-capped the painful details, laughing at the same time.
None of us could wait for the next day to break another barrier. Call us crazy. We like it that way.
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But he kept pushing to write about crew. This essay showed me that you can write about anything—even the topics that are often flagged as overdone or potentially boring to read sports, mission trips, pets, etc. I still believe you need to be careful of those topics, and that the key is to find something interesting that happened within those topics.
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Brooks essay is not just about crew, but how those punishing practices re-shaped his DNA. Once he focused on the crazy quality of crew, Brooks was able to brainstorm a real-life example to craft into an anecdote for his introduction. Instead, he just shared one example and we got it immediately.
You felt his pain.
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Then he hit us with the unexpected: He not only endured this craziness, he loved it. Verizon Media will also provide relevant ads to you on our partners' products. Learn More. To give you a better overall experience, we want to provide relevant ads that are more useful to you. For example, when you search for a film, we use your search information and location to show the most relevant cinemas near you. We also use this information to show you ads for similar films you may like in the future.
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