My "Moment" MAG

December 16, 2008
By Melissa Nichols, Salt Lake City, UT

In movies and books, people often describe a defining moment when they figure out who they are. However, I never thought it actually happened in real life. I never expected to have a “moment” of my own. When it arrived, mine was much more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

During the spring of my junior year, my class watched a documentary called “The Invisible Children.” It was about three college students who take a trip to Africa and document their experience. At first the film was slightly humorous; the filmmakers clearly had no idea what they were getting into. One said at the beginning, “I don’t really know what to expect. I hope we don’t, like, die or something.”

However, once the group arrived in northern Uganda, the mood changed. They learned what the consequences of a 23-year war had been for thousands of children. Many had lost family and friends, some had younger siblings who were captured by the rebel army and recruited as child soldiers, others had no home and slept in alleys too cramped for us to comprehend. There was footage of night commuters and child soldiers, many younger than me.

Before long, I was sobbing. I just kept thinking, What have I been doing with my life? I couldn’t believe these things were happening, yet at the same time I knew they were. I just hadn’t been paying attention. For 17 years I was blissfully unaware in my little bubble of Salt Lake City, Utah.

When the movie ended, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Later at swim practice it was hard to understand how my teammates could laugh and joke after what we had just seen. When I got home that night, I tried to tell my parents about the film, but I couldn’t get the words out. I hiccupped and choked my way through a description and what I thought I had to do now. I was able to convince my parents to donate $300 to The Invisible Children (I am still repaying them $20 a month). I went into my room and drew a big A on my white board with a circle around it, the following day I went looking for a job to save money for a trip to Africa.

For the next week, I was not myself. Every bite of food I took I thought of Grace, the 15-year-old who was eating for two. When I went to bed, I pictured Sunday, the 14-year-old boy sleeping on a straw mat on the ground in a displacement camp. My whole perspective shifted.

Since that day, I haven’t been able to picture my future in a way that doesn’t involve going to Africa and doing what I can to help. Ultimately, this is why I decided to major in engineering. When I found out about the Engineering Without Borders program, it was as if the clouds in my head cleared and sunshine burst through. After the initial shock of discovering what I wanted to do with my life, I could see myself accomplishing everything that had now become so important to me. I could not only go to Africa, but I could use my education and skills to make a difference.

With an engineering degree, my potential for change will be limitless. I will build wells, schools, and houses. I will design irrigation systems and orphanages. Engineering is tough, but I know – in what Yeats called “my deep heart’s core” – that this is what I’m supposed to do with my life.



Similar Articles

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

This article has 34 comments.


baconzzz said...
on Nov. 8 2012 at 3:25 pm
baconzzz, East Brunswick, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments
The introduction of the essay is very well written and beautiful. The rest, though, seems slightly cliche. Africa is a topic that so many people choose to talk about to show their "generosity" and "kindness" that it's become almost exploitative. Promising to help starving children in Africa? Beautiful, bless your soul. What about all the other starving children in the world? America? China? [insert country]? I have nothing against you. Your cause is noble. It just irks me a bit that you choose to talk about Africa.

jenn22 said...
on Sep. 20 2012 at 6:59 pm
this is an amazing essay. it was short and i was in tears by the end, seriously awesome job

serqio BRONZE said...
on Sep. 20 2012 at 12:27 am
serqio BRONZE, Baldwin Park, California
4 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
dont be average, be different

what do you mean some people dont "discover it all"
truth?

serqio BRONZE said...
on Sep. 20 2012 at 12:26 am
serqio BRONZE, Baldwin Park, California
4 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
dont be average, be different

really good essay. very good job in building up to your "moment." good to hear that you were inspired and know that you will influence others more with the good you have to offer.

Deej said...
on Aug. 14 2012 at 6:20 pm
Agreed- neither do I, man.

NewsJunkie said...
on May. 11 2012 at 12:38 pm
NewsJunkie, Wilmington, Delaware
0 articles 0 photos 16 comments

Favorite Quote:
"I'm high maintenance, but I'm worth it."
-Lara Logan

Really like your essay. Can really relate to wanting to help others.

tonia17 said...
on Apr. 19 2012 at 11:17 pm
I like that in you. keep dreaming the big dreams and you'll get there eventually. i see u have a heart so keep writing. dnt mind what others say. great essay!

camatin9 said...
on Sep. 1 2011 at 2:38 pm
i dont believe her either

gn24 said...
on May. 3 2011 at 5:49 pm
All my life I've dreamed about going to Africa and helping the children and wildlife. I can relate so much to your essay. Remarkable job!

nastia said...
on Jan. 3 2011 at 11:20 am
I don't believe you, sorry

on Nov. 29 2010 at 6:22 pm
rachelchace DIAMOND, Stratford, Connecticut
65 articles 9 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If everyone were perfect, Individuality would be extinct." -Rachel Chace (me)

congragulations. this is absolutley remarkable. i'm going to nicoragua in feb to build a school for the children there. i'm part of a club at my school with an organization called buildOn , we volunteer within the community. i'm aboslutely blooming in greatfulness that i got chosen to go, i know it will be a life chnaging experience for me.

Ehardt27 said...
on Oct. 29 2010 at 5:56 pm
I read a book not too long ago about the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and it focused mostly on a kid named Sunday.  Reading that name in your essay (same kid maybe?) brought back a lot of memories and it's awesome that you are going to do something about it. And you're essay is really good :)

doll18 said...
on Oct. 26 2010 at 6:57 am
I think that this post is quite excellent and compelling. I would like my application essay to be similar to this one.

on Sep. 17 2010 at 2:32 pm
pookah22 BRONZE, Rockford, Michigan
2 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Really good essay!

Thrush BRONZE said...
on Aug. 16 2010 at 12:08 pm
Thrush BRONZE, Tegaad, Other
4 articles 0 photos 65 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Live life to it's fullest extent, it's the only life you've got" "Enjoy yourself, be yourself, love yourself"

Awesome. Very beautiful.

on Jun. 11 2010 at 7:44 pm
forgottenpenname GOLD, Troy, Michigan
12 articles 0 photos 147 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Carpe diem."

This was beautiful, and I thank you for being the person willing to step out and make a difference. :)

Every year, my school focuses on doing a few major humanitarian projects, and one of ours has been to fund the building of an orphanage in Africa. We got to see some pictures of it this year... everyone was crying afterward, we were so touched seeing how much just a few dollars from each of us has helped all of the children now living there.

Good luck and I hope you get to Africa! :)


anarchist said...
on Apr. 16 2010 at 12:38 am
I'd just like to say how lucky you are that you've really found direction and purpose in your life. Not many people discover that at such a young age or discover it at all. Hope you do well! :)

on Apr. 6 2010 at 2:30 pm
Emily.Anne BRONZE, Marblehead, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today."

Helping Africa has been a supressed passion of mine for as long as i can remember. thank you for reminding me what really matters: helping others!

I plan to persue fimmaking, and eventually go to Africa. 

What an amazing article!


Kajersej said...
on Apr. 6 2010 at 4:07 am
Good Job, Mate. :)

on Jan. 30 2010 at 4:01 pm
ColumbusFlame95 BRONZE, Indianapolis, Indiana
3 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Nobody is worth your tears, and the one who is won't make you cry."
"Pain is candy...Eat it up." - Amy :)

this year, my eighth grade religion class watched this movie too. i too felt the same way and was astounded at the powerful message that they were sending. our class has since donated money to a charity that builds clean water wells just like what you were talking about. i wish you the best of luck in reaching your goals.




MacMillan Books

Aspiring Writer? Take Our Online Course!