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If at any given moment there is not at least one child screaming, one dog barking, any variation of an alarm sounding and/or someone “practicing” an instrument they don’t actually know how to play, something is awry in my house. Generally, any kind of silence indicates either that irreparable destruction is in the process of being concealed, or that something is being plotted between recently forged alliances of siblings. On a consistent basis, my house can be accurately characterized as both a war zone and an insane asylum. Growing up alongside four younger siblings, a few animals, and the occasional unlucky wanderer who ended up the midst of our free-for-all, I have grown accustomed to a consistent state of unpredictability and chaos. I am a Slowe.
Over the years, my last name has adopted a certain infamy in our small town. Attendance on the first day of school is characterized by the calling of my name (an incorrect pronunciation of Elsie as Elise), and then “Oh! A Slowe!” My response to this has varied over the years, but I can clearly remember one in particular, sixth grade, when I think I tried to deny that relation. That morning, my two youngest siblings, twins and three-years-old at the time, had taken it upon themselves to leave the house at 5AM for a “stroll,” as they would later identify it. Among a frantic search by the entire town police station, they were found at a local park, playing on the swings. Completely naked. But hey, it was hot outside. Who could be bothered with clothing? Certainly not them. My teacher, through tears of laughter, was careful to convey this in detail to my class. It was my first year of middle school, where my primary priority was to be “cool.” I found myself less than thrilled to be a Slowe that morning. I blamed them, in a fit of rage, for destroying my reputation. It was tough being a sixth grader.
I now recognize that memory with a smile as one that will follow me well into adulthood. Many days in our house come with memories like that, and with the passing years, each one has enhanced the love and pride I hold for my little band of misfits. Even if we’re not particularly “cool” all the time. Evidently, each summer has given way to a new story about my family on the first day of school, even as we moved through three different towns. I’m realizing now that this was my last year of that, and what a bittersweet realization that is. It’s the end of an era.
Growing up as a Slowe, a fact beyond my choosing, has left a permanent legacy on my heart and a spot in my soul. As the oldest sibling, the idol, the protector, and the sometimes unfortunate leader of chaos, I will trace my own legacy in the stories that are yet to come, especially in those that will be told to my brother and sister’s classes when they enter middle school themselves next year, and I am gone.
Despite the number of times that I swore to have disowned my family, I would trade nothing for each of the memories, ludicrous as they are. This is who I am. It’s who I’ll always be, and I am thrilled to carry into the world the same thirst for adventure, the same love of the absurdities that shape us, and the same excitement in finding myself a few steps off of the beaten path. My family has left me with a special way of embracing the world around me, despite its imperfections. Although I will at times feel lost without them next year, I will find my way after navigating eighteen years, and many to come, as a Slowe.