"When I was seventeen..."

The final tour I gave at Princeton as an Orange Key guide was memorable for a few reasons. I wore my 2012 class jacket for the first time, and wore it with childlike glee (and not because there was a happy flask in each pocket, as there would be during reunions). I had my two of my closest friends, RPM and TFC, follow along on the tour and chime in on my usual architectural and academic spiels, giving some extra insights to visitors. And while I had given my contact information to many prospective students on my tours during the three and a half years I was a tour guide, this Chinese exchange student on my final tour was the only one who ever contacted me.

I got an email a few weeks back from Johnny, who asked me to look over his essays (including his Princeton supplement) for applying to colleges in the United States. As I looked over and critiqued his work, I was inspired to go back into the archives and look for my personal statement and supplementary essays from my hoary days as a prospective collegiette. I couldn't locate my personal statement on my overactive imagination or the eloquent vignette I wrote for Tufts about my (now dearly departed dog) Buddha-dog Ziggy. But the one below is the funniest one I wrote anyway, so it's perfect for sharing on my beloved blog.

This essay was used for a few schools but was originally written for MIT, and one of my readers had written a personal note on the acceptance letter that this essay had him laughing out loud. There is a good chance that my life peaked at seventeen, when I wrote this essay. Enjoy:


   "When the phrase “self-discovery” comes to mind, I can’t help but think of nose rings and chunky-heeled boots emblazoned with the British flag.
     These take me back to my tender days as a five-year-old girl in the 90’s, when my list of role models does not yet include Leonardo da Vinci and David Kelley of IDEO. Instead, the list is composed of five very shallow individuals who exemplified beauty and “coolness”: Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty Spice.  To me, the pig-tailed little girl with a big, buck-toothed smile and even bigger dreams, the Spice Girls are quite seriously the meaning of life. They’re the epitome of fame and fashion, and the only way I can acquire a taste of their glamour in my awkward and prepubescent state is by trying to dress like them. “Mom won’t let me wear those high-heeled boots like Ginger’s, or a shiny dress, like Baby’s,” I think. But, for my sixth birthday, my mom gives me the perfect gift, the one distinctive accessory that would really make me feel like a Spice Girl: two magnetic rhinestone nose rings, rivaling those of Sporty Spice!
   I impatiently rip open the plastic package and rush to the bathroom, all too eager to try on one of the nose rings. I gaze at myself in profile, and I’m truly feeling the intoxicating effects of ‘girl power.’ But, with only one nose ring, I’m still asymmetrical. “I’m going to put the other one in, too, so then I’ll match on both sides of my face and be even cooler than Sporty Spice,” I rationalize.  So, enthusiastically, I open the second magnetic nose ring and try to position it to my liking in my nose. I hear a ‘snap’ noise from inside my head. Nervous, I’m trying to remove the rings from my nose. Uh oh. It’s no use; they’re stuck together. With every attempt I make to remove the rings , they only creep up farther into my nose until, suddenly, they’re too hard to reach. “MOOOOOOOOOM! HEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLPPPPP! They’re going to get stuck in my brain and I’m going to die! I can’t get them out. Help me, help me! AHHH!” I shout, snorting and coughing and crying all at once.
     Ever since the painful, embarrassing hospital trip that followed, I’ve learned a couple things. The first, obvious lesson I acquired: never stick magnetic objects in my nose, no matter how shiny. The second critical lifelong lesson: being myself is more important, and oftentimes safer, than being cool. I’m still a little ashamed of my foolish childhood aspiration to be a Spice Girl, but without that rejection, I’d probably still be worshiping at the altar of celebrity. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy flipping thorough Cosmopolitan or watching E! every so often. I do, and it’s rather light and amusing. However, thanks to my little Girl Power episode, I’m no longer controlled by the rarefied mirages that are most pop culture figures.  So, I am eternally thankful and hopelessly indebted to the nose rings. They taught me that I need not be defined by this week’s trends or the lyrics of this week’s number one song."