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The Wow

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Question: Give a brief account of an experience that has influenced your opinions or attitudes.

Standing on the rough block, I peered down through the fog collected in my goggles at the grimy surface of the water below me, waiting. The buzzer sounded, an obnoxious beep that instinctively told me to lean forward and grab the edge of the starting block. I hated everything about races. In these final seconds before I dove, I pitied myself. I didn’t want to plunge headfirst through the thin layer of debris on the water’s surface. I didn’t want to fling myself forward, a steady stream of directions racing through my head as I put myself through torture. I didn’t want to give everything I had simply to get nothing back. In truth, I didn’t want anything to do with swimming.
When I started swimming two years ago, it had been solely for my own pleasure; in ten months I learned the strokes, joined a club team, and made the varsity swim team as a high school freshman. Slowly but surely, I started seeing the effects. Wet towels strewn across my floor, damp sheets smelling of chlorine, dead hair from endless hours in the pool—all were signs of an intruder creeping its way into my life. Eventually, even I began to believe the impossible: I was a swimmer. With competitions devouring my weekends and practice dominating my weeks, my new identity left no time for me to do what I really loved. When I had reluctantly taken up swimming, I promised myself that I would never join a team, but I did. I promised myself I would never give up theater for a sport that I did not even enjoy, but I did. I promised myself I would not make sacrifices, but I did. Gone were the days when I could audition for plays, write stories, or create scripts of my own—my days were taken over by the mysterious new role I belly-flopped into.

This particular race was the 100-meter butterfly, and as I settled into the sprint, I could feel myself flying. Pulling, launching, and propelling forward, I finally grazed the final wall with my outstretched fingers, lifting my head to the deafening roar of my teammates. Not only had I won the race, but I also achieved a personal best, cutting nearly eleven seconds off of my best time. I waited for the elation. I waited for the excitement, the relief, and the joy. I waited for any bit of emotion. I waited, but emptiness remained. No feeling of pride adorned my face, no smile escaped my lips—I felt nothing. Closing my eyes, I tried to remember what it felt like to love.

To this day, I remember the feeling the first time I stepped onstage. My mind raced. My heart fluttered. Everything stopped for those few moments when my lines were the most important, my voice the only noise filling the room. I had that feeling that only comes with true joy, the feeling in my heart that I belonged. Walking offstage, there was just one word to describe the breathlessness: wow. Floating in the water surrounded by my cheering teammates, I waited for my wow moment, my proof that all the hard work was worth it, but something was missing.

When auditioning for the musical this year, my director shared with us a small piece of consoling advice, “Sometimes even the best actors don’t fit a part.” Through those ten months of swimming, that is just what I was doing—playing a role I simply didn’t fit. When my teammates congratulated me and asked me how I felt, I couldn’t help but think, “What’s my line?” I had been acting all along. No matter how hard I tried to fit the role of a dedicated athlete, I couldn’t make myself love something that was not truly a part of me. That race was my last, and since then I have indulged myself in theater, finally in the role that fits me perfectly. I am not the best actress and I am not always the lead, but when I stand among my fellow cast members, I know I am the most passionate actress. I am the actress most in love with her roles, and in that moment, I embrace myself for who I am: a theater junkie, a drama fiend, and a music buff. I used to believe that happiness came from being the best at everything—but in truth, it is just the opposite. Being the best comes from being happy with everything you do. Swimming taught me to be a teammate and a competitor, but acting taught me to stop wasting time with things I don’t absolutely love. In the end, no one remembers the races they won or the roles they received. All they remember is the wow.




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AShalz said...
Apr. 22, 2013 at 4:22 am:
hey! this is truly an amazing essay. is it alright if i use your essay as a reference for mine?
 
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