How Grief Helped Me Recognize My Vulnerability

Common App Essay—Describe an obstacle or challenge and how you overcame it.

I search “how to grieve properly” in the naive but hopeful belief Google knows the answer. An article tells me “broken crayons still color.” This strikes me as not only condescending but false. I am in pain and I am healing, but I am not broken. My father’s death does not define me; I control what defines me. I have always liked having control. But it took losing control to recognize its limitations.

Throughout high school, I wanted to be the girl who did it all: academics, ballet, extracurriculars, and eight hours of sleep. So I controlled what traits I put on display. I could, with some sleep deprivation and Quizlet-making, manipulate my grades to serve as a tangible means of control. I brandished novels like Jane Eyre around my English teacher and spent hours studying pages of notes to impress my history teacher in class the next morning. I created an environmental club, accepted the role of yearbook editor, and ran for Student Body President all to prove I wasn’t just a good student— I was perfect. I attempted to do it all while appearing charming, hardworking, and in control.

With a high degree of internal conflict, I felt myself becoming the overachieving golden girl I had envisioned. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy the image...

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