A Fire to be Kindled

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<BLOCKQUOTE>“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” --Plutarch</BLOCKQUOTE>

I asked everyone how to write a perfect college essay. “Show your passion,” they said. “Proofread” was another common admonition. The most (and least) useful advice came from my film teacher and mentor, who urged me to “just relax and it’ll come.”

I was putting the finishing touches on my piece at the end of October when four National Guardsmen showed up at my front door and told my family that we needed to evacuate our home immediately, that our house was threatened by the wildfire raging a few miles away, one of fourteen that had engulfed San Diego County in the last 24 hours.

In the subsequent week, my family was shunted from a Denny’s parking lot to my uncle’s house to my grandparents’ house. The experience ranged from long, tedious hours of scouring grocery stores for bottled water to the bizarre experience of strolling down the Pacific shoreline with my best friend, singing “I Am the Walrus” and observing how the smoke in the sky had scorched the crisp autumn morning into twilight.

Yes, I had felt sorry for the victims of the Indonesian tsunamis and Hurricane Katrina and donated to the Red Cross in the...

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