by the 2019 Senior Class
Watershed’s 2019 senior class is approaching the end of the college application process, and now—the time between hitting “submit” and receiving a decision—can feel like a kind of purgatory. The Watermark has gathered some of these seniors’ favorite pieces from their application essays to share and celebrate their hard work.
Since I was twelve, when I started writing my first and admittedly rather dreadful novel, I have regularly carried pens around in my shoes. It began as an autumn-to-winter ordeal, a writerly capitalization on the extra storage space afforded by winter boots, but has made its way into the other seasons through the acquisition of high-top Converse and thinner ballpoints. And, though I often end up losing writing instruments as a result of this peculiar habit, and despite one broken ballpoint that resulted in a permanently ink-stained pair of sneakers, I continue to do so—and expect I always will.
"When I was fourteen, I could barely walk up the stairs. I took them one by one, like an old man, because of a condition I later discovered affecting the cartilage in my knees. It was during this difficult time I discovered immersing myself in video games helped by giving me a much-needed escape and introduced me into the world of coding."
I had assembled my tarp-fort the previous afternoon, moved the branches and logs, to lean against the trees and bind together with rope. I pulled the orange tarp taught from all four corners. My instructor complimented me on its quality: “A whole bear could fit in there,” he remarked. If this were a work of fiction, readers would commend the author for their use of foreshadowing.
Like every other morning on this trip, I woke up cold and damp. I lay face-down, attempting to will away the chill that slowly crept through my sleeping bag (which was so old that, when one looked through it towards a light, the like matted insulation looked like storm clouds). The hood of the bag made my face feel as though I was in a public swimming pool: slimy and gritty. My whole body had slid downhill during the night, leaving me only half-covered. I woke up slowly. I could see the light that made it through the bag, tinted orange from its journey through the tarp. Then I heard the grunting.
A whole bear could fit in there. The words echo in my mind.
I strained against my own shivering, willing the beast to move on without taking notice of my burrito-style existence.
As a toddler growing up in Saratoga, California, I spent much of my time exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium, watching the amazing sea creatures swim effortlessly in their habitats. I also spent time exploring the tidepools along the California coast. Every July, we traveled to Vancouver Island where I spent countless hours exploring the tidepools that hug the bottom of the cliffs nearby. Wandering the beach inspired my curiosity for the ocean and the creatures that live within. Watching the waves crashing and the sunlight catching the crests, my mind took me beneath the waves. I had so many questions. Without teeth, how could the starfish eat the mussel? How could a starfish breathe on land? Did any sea creature sleep? By the time I was six, I had discovered my passion - asking questions and finding answers about the ocean. Summer after summer, I set out to discover answers to the questions that occupied my thoughts.
It was 4:30 am, and I awoke for the fourth time that night to water dripping all over me. I gazed up at the ceiling in the dark room to identify where the water was leaking from. I pushed my rusty, metal bedframe and mattress across the soaking wet cement floor to a new location once again—this time in the center of the room. The next morning, I was awakened by aggressive, rushing knocks on the door from my homestay mother announcing that she needed help emptying the water flooding the house. She handed me a bucket, and we got to straight to work.
Because every movement I did required energy, and I only had a certain amount of energy to expend each day, I had to pay extremely close attention to exactly what I was doing in each moment. No longer could I casually grab an object off the table without a thought. Instead, I had to be vastly conscious of the fact that I was about to pick something up. I had to think about the best way I could pick it up, how heavy it was and how long I would need to be holding it. Then, when I picked it up, I had to concentrate on only one thing, holding that object, and whatever it is I was planning to do with it. So, even the act of picking up a glass of water and taking a sip became a careful and almost religious experience. This was my life for over a year. I had to be “on” all the time, in each moment, staying attentive to exactly what I was doing, and how I was relating to my experience. It taught me something that I think very few people in the world get the chance of learning. It taught me to be observant and aware, to think through my decisions critically, and to not act impulsively or ignorantly.