In Pursuit of the Sublime

Goal: 40,000.

I wrote because it made me somebody else—somebody who mattered.

The power of writing, I believed, existed solely in one’s ability to pursue the sublime. So I wrote to create different, better manifestations of my life.

I grew up dreaming and writing (and thinking they were the same) about being a Hermione Granger with Harry as my sidekick battling twenty Voldemorts (twenty!); my stories were dynamic.

I was cool.

Status: 5,000.

My mom once joked that I should audition for the role of Cho Chang. I threw a chopstick at her. Cho Chang was weak, so terribly weak that Harry dumped her.

I knew why she said it though—I rarely existed in books and when I did, I was the Cho Chang, the inconsequential, insignificant Asian girl who could never assert herself.

In a fit of spite, I killed my Hermione, realizing I could never be her.

Status: 1,000.

Somebody once told me to read The Joy Luck Club but I never bothered. A book about a bunch of Cho Changs couldn’t possibly be sublime.

Instead, I buried myself in the books hidden under my bed, away from Mom, about girls in high school who didn’t do anything besides fall in love. So, to improve my own story, I decided to fall in love with the first boy to call me pretty.

I was satisfied.

Status: 8,000.

Living life vicariously was comfortable and easy.

Perhaps that’s why, at fifteen, I paid no mind to my grandpa’s deteriorating health or my dad’s anxiety. Because these were not the kinds of pain I had ever read about, I didn’t find them good enough to write about.

So, I went looking for better inspiration—for more mockeries of love, ways to validate my insecurities, and priorities that shouldn’t have been labeled as such.

It was all so cool that I couldn’t stop writing about it.

Status: 11,000.

During this magnificent, glorious streak of writing, dreaming, and pretending, I learned that 40,000 words make a novel.

I had to do it. Once I get published, everybody would get a taste of my sublimity. Mom and Dad would be so impressed. I’d probably even become famous! Hence, I became fervently obsessed with word count and cared for little else.

Status: 15,000.

But then I turned seventeen and finally began to process what I had experienced years earlier. I had been witness to my grandpa, reduced to flesh and bones (but hardly any flesh), barely clinging to life in a maggot-infested hospital in Dengzhou—something I had forced myself to forget.

Suddenly, I couldn’t keep pretending that crafting a fictitious version of my life on paper could replace what is real.

I erased everything.

Status: 0.

I started over.

I wrote about my real thoughts, my family, the times I was happy, and the times I was not. I wrote about my grandpa.

I showed Dad. I thought he’d be proud.

He was not.

What? You wrote this? Why? What are you trying to prove?


For the first time, nothing. I’m just writing about life.

But you should keep that private. It’s too revealing and distressing. It’s not…


I know.

It’s. Not. Sublime.

I crumbled.

Then came the summer before my senior year. I finally read The Joy Luck Club.

In the entire novel, I didn’t come across a single Cho Chang. What took the place of sublimity, instead, were real people. Mothers and daughters who breathe and hurt and love.

I laughed and cried and began to write.

Status: Not counting anymore.

I don’t write to create the next Hermione, become the best cliché, or impress Mom and Dad. I write to express the thoughts that are most real to me, ones I cannot confine any longer.

I am real and I care about being real—that is my power, not just as a writer but as a person.

Admissions Committee Comments

We were impressed by Kaylee’s ability to creatively relay important information about herself. The unique format of her essay suited the content and also showcased her passion for writing. What the essay did particularly well, though, was effectively explore experiences (both small and large) that shaped her growth as a person and writer. Her conclusion to write for herself, rather than to impress others, demonstrates her maturity and confidence. Through these anecdotes, we got a better idea of the kind of scholar she is outside the classroom—something not found anywhere else in the application.

On Potatoes

“If you had to choose one food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

Having had this question asked of me many a time, I realize that such an inquiry must be considered practically. The correct answer would keep me happily sustained for the rest of my years, whereas the wrong choice could leave me tormented until I wither away from monotony. If I chose macaroni and cheese, per se, I’d be trapped consuming glutinous pasta, tacky milk-fat, yellow dye No.5, and copious amounts of sodium, forever. But if instead, I call upon my contentment understandings and assess my options accordingly, I may arrive at an indefectible conclusion. And after much deliberation, I believe that I have come to such a response: potatoes.

These tubers are the perfect sustenance due not only to their nutritional qualities but, most notably, to their remarkable versatility. Potatoes may be prepared in a myriad of dishes.

Creamy mashed-potatoes come first to mind, with their fluffy hills of whipped-bliss gracing one’s tongue so delicately. The thought of golden tater-tots follows; deep-fried potatoes cooked perfectly so as to create a slow crunch when chewed. Then are characteristic french-fries—shoestring or steak, skin on or off. Baked-potatoes, latkes, hash-browns, gnocchi—all respectable meals. And one mustn’t forget potato-chips when searching for alight snack.

Oh potatoes, how I love you. And when asked what to eat exclusively for the rest of my life, I will enthusiastically respond “potatoes!”, for by picking one, I choose an abundance.

To a casual onlooker, this question may appear inconsequential in its hypothetical nature, but as they say; you are what you eat. My inclination towards the varied is not contained to my food habits—it is a recurring theme throughout my life. I regularly switch from my mom’s house to my dad’s. I’ve moved twelve times. I have a fifteen-year-old sister and a two-year-old brother. I’m a dog and a cat person.

This variation tends not to leave me with an aversion to commitment, but a disposition towards diversity. I am interested in many things. So one must understand how I have struggled, faced throughout my education with the question, “If you had to choose one subject to study, one occupation to pursue, one thing to do, for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I love to play viola; I get a rush communicating without-words to my quartet members in order to convey a musical message. I am at my happiest reading a good book; their complex stories captivate me and I aspire to write a novel of my own. I want to make laws that improve my country; all people should have a shot at the American dream. I am passionate about protecting the environment; reducing our effect on global-warming is of the utmost importance to me. I want to help those in need; people still don’t have access to clean water and I want to use my privilege to help change that. I strive to become fluent in Spanish; traveling the world is a dream of mine. Recently, I have discovered that I really like to code; I’m sure in the coming years I will explore things I didn’t know I was interested in.

I don’t have an answer to what exactly it is I want to do for the rest of my life. I love English and political science, but I have yet to find such an all-encompassing response as potatoes. What I’ve realized though, is that I don’t have to sacrifice all for one. From each of my interests I learn things that contribute to who I am and shape how I see the world. Eventually, I will focus my path. And when I do have an answer, I will go forth with the knowledge I’ve gathered from each of my varied interests; and I will never stop learning.

Admissions Committee Comments

Devon opens his essay with a story that is relatable to many: Struggling through a difficult activity (rock climbing in this instance) yet feeling determined to finish. The author effectively expands from this one experience to how his learning style has changed in the past few years. Through his essay, we get a sense of Devon’s growth mindset and can envision him continuing to develop as a student and individual once on our campus.
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