Clare Shanahan’s College Essay

Clare Shanahan's College Essay

Clare Shanahan, Editor-in-Chief

My brothers have always been extraordinary: talented athletes, gifted students, archetypes of the perfect child. When I was younger, this devastated me. Everyone had something they were good at that made them special, but I just didn’t seem to hold a talent for anything in particular. I tried what seemed like an infinite number of activities and yet my efforts always seemed to produce only tears and emotional breakdowns. I painted countless landscapes even when each seemed to look less like my reference portrait. I sang and played piano, and I tried out for school musicals, yet I only landed ensemble roles, and my brothers never failed to inform me of how “tone deaf” I really was. I played soccer and lacrosse for years, and as my teammates improved their skills, I remained out of the way, failing to touch the ball even once. I failed at everything I tried, and to 10-year-old me, it seemed as though my name was simply skipped over when each person got their “prospective talents” checked off on their birth certificates.

When I finally hung up my soccer cleats and put away my paintbrushes, I found that there was one ‘talent’, or at least hobby, that I had been ignoring. I had been ignoring the books that I’d always turned to when I had nowhere else to go, ignoring that they were there each time I failed at another activity or felt underappreciated by even my closest friends. For me, reading was not simply something you did in school because it was required; even at a young age I spent all of my free time reading. I can still remember the first book I read on my own – Put Me In the Zoo by Robert Lopshire – and the most recent book I read for fun – The Shining by Stephen King. While they stick out in my mind, these two books are simply the end-caps of an entire library of literature that teaches and guides me every day.

In the formation of this library, I have met thousands of characters, each of whom now constitutes a part of me and my story, no matter how small. I met Luna Lovegood, the quirky girl wizard who, despite frequently being right, was often called crazy and learned that it’s okay to be myself especially when other people try to put me down. I hopped trains and busses with Mim Malone who was willing to do anything to help her sick mother and learned that there is always someone out there who feels the way I felt, someone who understood me better than anyone else at the darkest point in my life. I came of age with Noah and Jude Sweetwine in a vivid landscape of color, tragedy, and complication and learned that as I grow up, people who I think I know will become mysteries to me and I can’t understand what anyone is going through from the outside. I have also met characters who don’t resemble me at all. I watched Jack Torrance and Louis Creed lose their minds and do unspeakable things to their families for their own personal gain; from them, I learned the horrible lengths people will go to when they are desperate. 

Through literature, I have seen both beauty and terror and known that I was seeing a reflection of the world I am growing into. It is the books I’ve read and the characters I’ve met along the way who have shaped me into the person I now see myself as. I am not a failure. I have value even if that is not reflected in a number of goals scored or standing ovations received. I am a collection of the characters and worlds of other authors, and I am ready to use their teachings to write my own story.

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