Life Changing Experiences

Describe an experience or experiences that have changed the direction of your life.

Helpless, the fuzzy, fat caterpillar floated in the creek near our house, wriggling bravely in a vain attempt to swim to shore. I took a stick, knelt down and extended it towards him. The caterpillar latched onto it eagerly, then hesitated a moment, as if to catch his breath before scurrying up the stick toward my hand. I scooped him up and stroked his soft, furry back, feeling a special bond with this creature I had rescued. At the age of four, I marveled at my newfound power – I could actually save a life. Suddenly, I became a backyard EMT, searching for creatures in distress. To my parents’ dismay, I brought home a series of injured birds, chipmunks and other victims of our cat’s hunting sprees. Shoeboxes became hospital rooms for small, incapacitated animals, and a reading lamp became an incubator for eggs from an abandoned bird’s nest. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nintendo no longer captivated me. My life had new meaning and purpose.After exhausting neighborhood rescue opportunities (and my parents’ patience), I discovered that animal shelters provided a whole new outlet for my missionary zeal. I spent many satisfying weekends handing out treats, filling water dishes and walking homeless dogs.In middle and high school, my interests expanded from four-legged to two-legged creatures. Reading stories to children at our local library or taking them on nature walks at the Five Rivers Environmental Center occupied much of my extra time. Volunteering at Environmental Advocates, the New York State Legislature, and the Attorney General’s Office have also enabled me to make a small but positive difference. Through my work at Environmental Advocates, I had the opportunity to research a variety of environmental issues and to compile statistical analyses of New York State Legislators’ votes on environmental legislation. At the Legislature I assisted with constituent correspondence and researched legislative issues; at the Attorney General’s office I staffed consumer information booths.Six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I remember feeling powerless as I watched her battle the disease with surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Recently, I found a way to regain a sense of control by using that experience to help others. Interning at To Life!, a local breast cancer association, has afforded me the opportunity to provide peer counseling to other children of breast cancer patients who feel the same sense of helplessness that I once felt.Is it possible that changing the fate of that seemingly insignificant caterpillar altered the direction of my life? Perhaps. For, through public service, I intend to find ways as an adult to replicate on a much broader scale the positive feelings that came from my childhood kindness to that simple creature.

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