Common App Essay #13

I look at the ticking, white clock: it’s eleven at night, my primetime. I clear the carpet of the Sony camera charger, the faded Levi’s, and last week’s Statistics homework. Having prepared my workspace, I pull out two 12 by 12 crème sheets and reproduce sketches of the layouts already imprinted in my head. Now I can really begin. I leave a quarter inch border as I cut the first photograph, which I then adhere to a polka-dotted paper. For a sophisticated touch, I use needle and thread to sew the papers together. Loads of snipping and pasting later, the clock reads three in the morning. I glance down at the final product and feel an overwhelming sense of pride as I brush my fingers over the many layers and pages. For me, the act of taking pieces of my life and putting them together on a page is my way of organizing remnants of my past to make something whole and complete. This particular project is the most valuable one to date: the scrapbook of my life. In the center of the first page are the words in periwinkle letters. All four of my Korean grandparents sit in the top corner, looking over my first birthday—my ddol. Underneath them are my cousins trying not to let go of their overwhelming laughter while playing “red light, green light” at O’Melveney Park. Meanwhile, my Texas relatives watch Daniel, the youngest, throw autumn leaves into the air that someone had spent hours raking up. To the right, my friends miserably pose for our history teacher who documents our droopy faces the morning of our first AP exam. The largest photograph is that of my family huddled in front of the fireplace, drinking my brother’s hot cocoa and listening to the pitter-patter of sporadic Los Angeles rain. I move over to the right side of the page. At the top, I have delicately sewn on three items. The first is a page of a Bible that was given to the soldiers at a Cambodian base where I taught English. Beneath is the picture of my group of Guatemalan girls devouring arroz con pollo, red sauce slobbered all over our lips. I reread the third item, a short note that a student of mine from a rural Korean school had struggled to write in her broken English. Moving down the page, I see the shelf display of my vibrantly glazed ceramic projects. I have included a clipping of my page from the school newspaper, next to ticket stubs for Wicked from my date with Dad. I made sure to incorporate a snapshot of my first scrapbook page featuring a visit to Hearst Castle on my tenth birthday. After proudly looking over each detail, I turn to the next page, which I’ve labeled: AND BEYOND. This page is not cluttered or crowded. There is my college diploma with International Relations listed and the school’s name left blank. A map covers nearly half the paper with stickers pinpointing locations all over the world, but I cannot recognize the countries’ names. The remainder of the page is a series of frames with captions underneath. Without the photographs, the descriptions are cryptic. For now, that second page remains incomplete because I have no precise itinerary for my future. The red flags on the map represent the places I will travel to, possibly to teach English or to partner with a charity again. As for the empty frames, they will be filled with the people I will meet: a family of my own and the families I desire to help, through a career I have yet to adopt. Until these things unfold, all I can do is prepare. I’ll continue to finalize the layout and gather materials so that I can start piecing together the next part, the next page of my life’s scrapbook.

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