Out of the Box
When I was little, I had a huge cardboard box. I loved it. I would crawl into it, close the lid, and find myself in a slightly stuffy, well-defined space. Who is in the box? Valerie is in the box!
Boxes are great on a physical level. But compartmentalizing myself isn’t so easy anymore, because once I was old enough to understand metaphors, I learned that boxes are ways we separate and organize elements of ourselves. Big or small, crazy or serious: we copiously label mental boxes with adjectives and usher in every noun that fits inside.
Labels are helpful. They give us structure, organization. However, what happens when a single label isn’t an adequate description? I was a sponge-like child who soaked up knowledge instead of salt water. Learning to read wasn’t a chore; it was the gateway to understanding road signs and backs of cereal boxes and cookbooks. I loved science: it meant understanding nature. I loved math: it meant understanding distances and time and quantity. I loved everything.
Then came boxes. My sister developed into an “English” person, denoted by her disgust with math classes and love of writing. A friend advanced rapidly in the arena of science; streamlined for a career in biology amidst the natural environment he loved. Everywhere I looked, people expressed their own special talent, a box with a distinct label. I excelled in school, but had no single talent to show me a box I would fit into.
I am lucky to have both innate gifts and external circumstances that give me a broad span of opportunities to pursue. However, it sure makes declaring a college major difficult! That was one of my incentives to take a gap year in Ecuador last year instead of immediately enrolling in college: I hoped taking a step back from the role of a “student” would allow me time to discover who I truly wanted to be.
Ecuador did guide me, though not in the clear-cut terms I was expecting. My experience gave me a new perspective on majors: Instead of confining boxes, it was studying something you enjoy and have strength in, that then branches into a career. This more organic view has helped me grow and answer the big question of What I Want To Do With My Life.
I like language. I have strong memory for words and patterns, two important skills for written and spoken languages. I like to think about how meanings differ between languages. I like science, interpreting patterns occurring in nature’s language.
I’m going to double major in Foreign Languages and Linguistics, with a minor in Marine Sciences, and see where my career will grow from there. Perhaps I don’t fit into the set of boxes I have been conditioned to accept and use. I am learning to leave those boxes behind, though, and revel in the unique mixture of essence that is me. I accept that I am not a math person or history person, and never will fit into a tidy box. I love being who I am, though, and I am happy that UAF gives me the opportunity to express the multiplicity of my interests.
Anyways. Besides the fact that it was pretty close to EXACTLY 3000 characters (the max length) I feel like that was the first time I didn't filter things as much. Usually for a scholarship, I would make stuff up about how it would be a perfect fit and the attributes of the college/money-giving organization that I admire. And it's worked for me. I hope this works for me too on a financial level, but also a real level. Because I liked my other scholarship essays, and I was truthful in them, but I really enjoy the open honesty of just writing about what I want to write about.