Middle Path

Common App Essay

“Taking care of plants is a meticulous task. It’s not at all easy like people think, young lady. Do you see how these leaves were burnt by the sun? It gives this plant such a dislikable appearance. See how by pruning the burnt leaves, you’ll make it look alive again?”

Wandering around the terrace of my family’s new house, I met her. She had small figure, tanned skin, and faded hair. The clippers in her calloused fingers flitted from one leaf to another, chopping tiny bits of sun-burnt leaves. The gardener moved continuously, with her sparkling eyes fixed on the potted bougainvillea. The more she talked, the more animated she became, her words radiating positive energy. She was so focused, determined, enthusiastic about the subject that I couldn’t help being intrigued. I sat down next to her, sticking my hand in the bush and ripping off the burnt parts with my fingertips. Her attention moved to the sick Frangipane tree. “Oh dear these roots will be ruined! I’ll spray it tomorrow, but first aid is needed, still. First we cut off the rotten pieces of root, but be extremely careful. Otherwise, you’ll end up plucking up the whole roots…”

I wondered if I had ever felt that same way about anything; this woman had a fire inside her. I hear a lot about passion, but I don’t see many people around me actually love their jobs. She had something different; the gardener was the only inspiring one I’ve encountered. She had purpose. Her charisma within brought up a question I’ve been struggling with these days. Who am I? I can’t answer it, yet, but I know who I was.

There was this fearless child who smiled at everyone, who radiated an air of confidence that made people call her “unshakeable.” She dared to hop into the growling waves of the sea when others kids held back. She chose to jump into risks instead of comfort. My “awesome” element slipped away without me realizing. I blended in. I stopped pouring my heart into my work. I let my piano accumulate dust, thinking I was good enough. My eagerness to be the pioneer disappeared: no more lead-singer, no more lead-runner, no more top-scorer. I forgot what it felt like to be filled with determination. The old me was always on fire.

But here was a clue, right in front of me, and I knew what to do. Grabbing my old canvas tote, I left my parents a note saying I was leaving for the old house. As the gate rolled up, I rushed to my room, flipping the piano lid open. I ran my fingers along the firm piano keys that still emitted the perfect tones. With each key, memories of my initial adoration for this instrument ran through my mind. The piano, like her plants, also needed attention, love, passion. Soon after, sitting in front of the piano again became a part of my routine. It was painstaking at first. A stiff sitting position and wandering mind don’t go easily together. Nonetheless, it was pleasurable again to be draining all of my energy for a target: I was aiming for the school rock club’s upcoming audition.

I met the gardener a few weeks later as she sprayed the tangerine roses. “Sorry I didn’t dazzle you like you dazzled me last time we met. But I do have something I want to show you now, if you have a minute. I want to give you a private performance when we get moved in. And eventually I’ll know as much about my piano as you do about your flowers.” I showed her the rock band’s acceptance letter. That was when things started to feel right again. I’m again defined by determination.

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