My dad was recently cleaning up his computer files and found my admissions essay to Harvard College. I haven’t so much as looked at the essay since 2008, when I applied. Attending Harvard was a tightly held dream of mine since 8th grade. My senior year of high school I did apply and was interviewed, but ultimately turned down.
And I’m so glad I was.
I ended up exactly where I needed to be, at an amazing college that granted me an amazing education; not to mention landing in a town where I met and married my husband.
It’s funny to read this essay 5 years after it was written. How much has changed! How much I’ve changed. Though I think I’ll need some time to process all of the nuances, I wanted to share this piece of my rambling past with you.
An unmistakable rumble interrupted the still night. It was the sound of the rolloff truck that habitually lands in my driveway; and as usual my father climbed out of the green trash machine, his blue coveralls smeared with dust and grease. Within a matter of seconds my living room had become a processing center for other people’s trash, which was apparently our treasure.
“Look at these women’s socks, still in the bag!” exclaimed my mother.
“Wow! A Lego table!” my brother and sisters shouted joyously, “Thanks!”
I was less amused, “What are we going to do with all this junk?”
Dad, ignoring my question, triumphantly displayed a metal contraption, “We could sell this on eBay!”
Ironically, within twenty-four hours of this dumpster diving extravaganza, I found myself in a very different situation. Elegant velvet seats cushioned my little black clearance dress as I waited anxiously for the curtain to rise on Verdi’s Rigoletto. As the orchestra began to tune, my mind began to spiral into a world of wonder.
So, how does a girl leap from the Dumpster to the Opera? My dear grandfather explained the paradox best.
“You’re just a rich poor girl I ‘spect.” He proclaimed in a deep Southern rumble, and that’s precisely so.
Speaking as a girl from a lower middle class Southern home situated in a town with one stoplight, I’ve had so many fortunate opportunities to experience life above my means. Generous family members and friends have treated me to lovely clothes, expensive furnishings, nights on the town, and European holidays. But at the end of the day, as much as I appreciate these gifts, my family’s struggle remains.
Rather than succumbing to discontent with my situation, I’ve formed my own philosophy about financial limitations. As opposed to viewing class structure as a vertical totem pole, I see social realities as simply offering different horizons. Because my eyes have been opened to the delights and disillusions of a variety of ‘horizons’ as it were, I have become a much more appreciative and culturally aware individual.
After all, I have really been doubly blessed by the lessons I’ve learned from the Dumpster and the Opera. Having these dual perspectives gives me an edge on life as I take and apply my worldview as a “rich poor girl” to every diverse and eccentric experience.
Since eighth grade I’ve been thoroughly convinced that a Harvard experience will fully educate, complete, and refine this diamond in the rough.