The Third Shot

Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

On any given dusky afternoon, I find myself asking the pressing question: Will I make it a third time in a row? I raise my arms, examine a dulled orange orb clinging to my aching, sweaty palms, and squint at the near-invisible net. Far from aspiring to become an NBA player, I use my recreational basketball skills as a daily relaxing ritual. I fall into a rhythm, a fluctuating combination of layups, free throws, and outbursts: “3…2…1!” I imagine shooting the game-winning basket in the last seconds of my coliseum game. But, no matter how tired I am, my workouts always end the same: three baskets in a row. Of course nobody is there to enforce this law, but it feels wrong to leave without accomplishing this arguably foolish task.

My tendency to set arbitrary goals serves as a sort of closure for me. Seeing the third basketball swish through the net evokes such a euphoric feeling; it represents a consistent end. I admit it – I need closure. I enjoy stories with a beginning and ending; I furiously research movies that end with cliffhangers after watching them; I demand answers to unsolved problems: Is there a universal cure for cancer? How can we stop aging? Where do we come from? It thrills and perplexes me that explanations currently unperceivable to the human mind will someday answer such questions. Therefore, I approach each pursuit as a basketball challenge I have to complete: knowing I will miss many shots along the way, I will persist until I make my magical three and reach a conclusion that satisfies.

While the third swish of the net is always an enjoyable sound, my true satisfaction from this self-imposed three-shot test stems from the journey the basketball takes: the perfect backspin, the initial angling of the shot, and the beautiful arc of the ball’s trajectory. Likewise, the most meaningful aspect of my search for closure lies not in the actual discovery of the truth, but in the arduous journey of reaching such a conclusion. It’s within these journeys that I expand my perspectives and understand new viewpoints through interactions with other individuals. In my search for technological ways to alleviate human suffering, for example, I’ve started to question the meaning of “impossible” after interacting with Mick Ebeling, an inventor who 3D prints prosthetic limbs. Like every three-shot challenge, no pursuit I undertake is ever the same. I have the opportunity to stretch my perspectives to great lengths in any direction I choose, to learn from the untapped memories and experiences of unique individuals. It all exists within the journey.

So will I make three-in-a-row tonight? I raise the basketball up in the air and fling it with calculated force. As I watch the illuminating orange sphere twirl in the air, I remember that my need for closure transcends the final conclusions I reach. Each question I seek to answer holds a journey, an arduous mid-region to traverse, that will inevitably expand my viewpoints, values, and beliefs. The ball swivels on the rim before finally dropping into the white mesh. A day’s journey has ended; a new one has just begun.

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