Evan wrote his essay about something in which he believes - nine rules for being human given to him by his eighth-grade adviser. He says, “I was inspired by what I believe in and hold dear to me. The only way to write anything is to choose something that you really care about." At the Episcopal Academy, Evan was involved in lacrosse and music composition and performance. He plans a career in law.
The Rules for Being Human - Yale University
I question the process in which I go through life because I realize that I constantly fall short of my best. I see my life as a series of forks in a road, choices I must make to determine my path, decisions capable of leading me to a plethora of destinations. Whenever I begin to doubt my current path, I simplify the situation, asking myself not only where I want to go, but also more importantly “Are you enjoying each step that you take?" I want to squeeze the life out of each moment. I wish to value each day and live with meaning. Carpare diem volo.
My eighth-grade adviser gave me a simple document that encouraged me in this walk time and time again. I have read over all nine of “The Rules for Being Human" countless times as I lay in my bed, about to drift off to sleep, envisioning the places my path might lead. These rules apply in every situation, regardless of how frustrated, rested or experienced I may be. I walk a straight path only by accepting these rules and humbly allowing them to govern my aspirations.
Rule No. 2: “You will learn lessons." Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." Though I walk through the doors of The Episcopal Academy fi ve days a week, I learn my most precious lessons not in these classrooms but in the classroom of life, with experience as my professor. I have never been “ready" to learn a lesson. The situations best suited for teaching take me out of my comfort zone and put a fork in my road; they require me to make a decision rather than allowing me to grow complacent.
I spent two weeks in July this summer in London, living with a host I did not know, in a town I had never before seen. Yet as I boarded my plane at the end of the trip bound for Philadelphia, I felt as if I was leaving my home, instead of returning to it. I woke up each day in London unsure of what I would learn, but reentered my fl at at night amazed at the lessons laid out for me. I learned not to eat an Indian Kebab without a large water supply at hand to soothe my palate. I learned to look right before crossing the street, so that I might not meet an untimely end in London’s inverted traffi c patterns. On a more meaningful level, I found true happiness by putting aside my desires in order to love and serve those around me.
While in London, I concentrated on each individual experience, seeking to take something of value away from every moment. At home, however, I often cannot fi nd such edifying episodes. Whenever I encounter this roadblock, however, I read Rule 3 and remember that all of my decisions can teach me if I remain open-minded about my daily experiences.
Rule No. 3 : “There are no mistakes, only lessons." Dan Webster, now president of Authentic Leadership Incorporated, helped to fi rmly establish the value of making bad decisions in my mind. In choosing the wrong path, I unwittingly take the fi rst step down the road to knowledge. Before starting down this road, however, I must choose to limit the damage I have done by confronting the consequences of my decision, putting away my pride and changing direction yet again. Rather than growing angry at this point, I look for the lesson hidden in my blunder and commit it to memory. Finally, I let go of this particular debacle, retaining solely the lesson I have learned. As Vivian Fuchs once said, “Good judgment is the outcome of experience - and experience is the outcome of bad judgment."
Rule No. 4 : “A lesson is repeated until it is learned." I often fi nd myself so fully consumed by life’s paltry details that I have little time to refl ect on a picture of greater importance. When I step back to look at my progress, I fi nd that I have somehow been spinning my wheels, doing much but learning little. Almost a year ago, I wrote my first journal entry in response to this dilemma; I cannot believe that I ever could live in ignorance of such a valuable process. Writing each night on the unlined pages of my crimson book, I’m able to later use daily experiences as valuable teaching aides. When I take the time to read over past entries, lessons that I have never before recognized often become clear to me. When I read back in my journal, I search not for days in which all the facets of my life seemed to flow together smoothly, but for the times when thoughts and events have been the most misconstrued. As I relive these wrong turns, I learn to avoid repeating similar blunders.
Rule No. 5 : “Learning lessons does not end." Every event in my life presents me with new lessons, yet I often pass them by, taking no notice of their value. A few years ago, a senior urged Episcopal’s Upper School students to ask ourselves why we get out of bed each morning and automatically go to school or work. The more I thought, the more intrigued and philosophical I became. Of course, I got up in the morning because it was what I did every morning, but this answer left me unsatisfi ed. Did I go to school each day out of respect for my parents? What made me keep going? Why do I put up with these seemingly meaningless tasks? What was there to gain? As I pondered these questions though, my gaze wandered over to my bedstead, and I read over the quote which precedes this paragraph. Thus I awake each morning eager to seize a fresh day, for I always know that another lesson awaits me.
Why This Essay Succeeded...
A lot of students get stuck when asked to explain their life philosophy or beliefs. Evan avoids getting bogged down by choosing to share just a few of his rules for life. An essay doesn’t need to give the whole pie...just a slice will do.
Evan also avoids the common mistake of parroting back someone else’s words or thoughts. While he does share a few of “The Rules for Being Human," he uses examples from his life of how he has observed each rule. These concrete examples not only illustrate the impact of the rules but also help to keep the essay from becoming too much about the “rules" and not enough about Evan.
Notice that Evan is very deliberate in the examples that he chooses. His trip to London could have fi lled an essay all by itself. But by exercising restraint, which was probably not easy, Evan distills his London experience to a single paragraph that advances the overall theme of his essay.
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