28 pages, size 10 font, single spaced. 28 pages of research, of reflection, of picking myself apart and poring over every painstaking detail of academics and extracurriculars that have defined my past 12 years, and the ambitions, goals, and dreams that will indefinitely define my future.
As if I have a clue what the future holds.
I’ve done a lot of writing in the past year. Between grinding through scores of supplements to send off to universities, I tackled the stream of compositions and analyses and essays that typically accompany a student throughout their senior year of highschool. I poured months into perfecting my answers, every “Why - University?” and “Why you?” a carefully woven tale of how my childhood experiences morphed into modern passions, a curiosity to learn, and a willingness to join the university’s “one of a kind” Beekeeping Club (don’t be fooled, every university has one).
At the end of it all, I expected to feel this great sense of pride– a satisfaction in stepping back, scrolling through and appreciating the sheer volume of time and effort reflected in each page. But in the months following application season, when I returned to those documents all I felt was this faint sense of relief, like a wave rippling out before it ever reached shore. It felt inconsequential.
For the months of endless toil and typing I wanted a sense of accomplishment. Instead, all I experienced was the early onset of arthritis in my fingers.
So I’ve been thinking a lot about why I really write. If 28 pages worth of work didn’t give me a fraction of the joy a single page has in the past, what was it about that single page that made the difference?
A few weeks ago, my mom and I were on our usual evening walk, marveling at that unique kind of coolness that comes in the last vestiges of summer. With my move-in date for university nearing, our conversation turned to my expectations of life at university, and what I hoped to achieve in the coming months. In addition to community service and cultural events, I told my mom of the infinite opportunities to develop journalistic experience on and around campus, from the political magazine, to the newspaper, to the global affairs journal– and her eyes lit up. Pausing in the street, she turned to me, smiling in a sort of special way that only the people who truly know her know that it’s far more than just a smile.
“You know why I love to see you write? “English was something I never understood, I-I– it was always scary, out of reach– but you?” Sighing, she stared down at her hands before placing them on my shoulders. “When I look at you, when I read your work I feel proud– I feel like I accomplished something, and as a mother to see you doing what I never could… there’s no words.”
And maybe that’s all it is. The idea that my words can empower, inspire, and fulfill a dream. That beyond informing or explain, they can make someone feel something.
For so long I’ve been writing about myself– about my interests, my goals, my passions. But I’m tired of writing about those things– I want to pursue them.
I want to research, to learn, to investigate a world outside my own, to be critical of information, to question my beliefs, and understand how to articulate them in a sensitive way. In the quest to inform myself I want to do the same for others; to dispel myths and stereotypes with facts; to tell the tales of others with objectivity and respect; to share my own experiences in a way that means something, and that ties me to others in a tangible, impactful, and positive way. I want to be a voice for anyone who needs it– for the firefighters in Greece, Algeria, and Oregon, for the grieving families in Haiti, for the flood victims in Turkey, for the frontline workers in Florida, for the women and girls in Afghanistan– for my mother.
I want to write. Not about myself, not about “Why - University?” or the Beekeeping Club, but the real world. When I’m gone, my words will be left behind, and I like to think they’ll continue to speak for me and others for long after.
Voices of Youth brings together a community of individuals from all over the world, from all walks of life. We’ve all got different stories to tell, and as you share yours, as you continue to contribute to this incredible platform, every once in a while don’t forget to check in with yourself and ask: “Why do I write?”