The first step to a literary life is an education. For most of us (nowadays) that means college, and for those of you trying to make the transition, here is some inspiration! (It works for grad school personal statements, too, for you student-loan burdened baristas out there.)
Two days ago I was walking down Seventh and I turned around and wondered why it was that I wasn’t going to Central Park, but I knew that it was because just a week before that I had seen a movie at my friends’ house and they served us Coca Colas and we drank them with paper straws — Who even has paper straws anymore? — The kind with stripes? But we had them as we ate the same popcorn that you’d normally have at a theater and I thought how great it would be to always be with people who thought about drinking out of paper straws as James Dean rides a motorcycle down a lonely highway into the city where he could hang out with me, and maybe let me wear his leather jacket (if you wait for just a second, I will tell you about college) and it brings to mind the want/need dichotomy (I need the jacket? I want James Dean). Will piling on books bring me closer to thought and will that bring me closer to you? Let me in to your college or I will pound on the gates, yelling “Let me in!” until they open. C’est la vie.
The teacher stands in front of the students. Fluorescent lights flicker. They cast off light that is gray and green. The teacher says something. The students write down what the teacher says. They write his words into spiral bound notebooks. The notebooks are on their desks. Their desks are in rows. I sit in one of these desks in a row. I do not hope for change. The bell rings. It is shrill. I walk to the meeting of the National Honors Society. I am the parliamentarian. I am organizing a blood drive.
I will write my essay myself. For my parents and my tutor have too much on their hands, with the photocopying of my resume, the assignment of standardized scores; they must recruit teachers to write recommendations. How wonderful is it to speak of oneself! At least, to think, with the grass just ceasing it’s growth and the last dead rustlings outside, that one fall will replace another fall and soon I will be at University! I think now, and I say I think because of course, though I have spoken to my cousins — Who are all doing quite well in school! — I do not know what exact pleasures await me, but I do know that a crispness, of mind, yes! And also of the air, of watching the birds head south again above me as I carry around my texts, that there will be a home for me among my classmates. My own capabilities being what they are, sometimes limited and sometimes less-so, that (and I do pose this question of limits to my parents, they see none, they claim) success awaits me no matter what it is I choose to do. It is with pleasure, then, that I offer myself to your institution.
I sit, fingers hovered over the slightly raised letters of the keyboard. As I type I feel my heart quicken with desire — I want to go to college. I see the professors, looming as they instruct me, their warm breath filling the classroom with knowledge. Their wise words instructing me. One by one, they will break my preconceived notions, tearing me to pieces (intellectually). Each revelation will torture me. “Could I have once thought this?” I will think, no. Every idea will bind me, until all that was left of my old self is a puddle of clay at their feet, ready to be molded by their strong hands as their fingers piece me together, and I am formed again in their image.
Nick looked at the river. It was moving quickly. He would not leave in the fall. (Please withdraw my application. There is nothing you can teach me. Regards, E. Hemingway).