Portrait of a Change

Describe an event or experience that had a significant impact on your identity.

Suspended on the wall of my father’s office is a photograph of someone I once knew well yet now barely recognize, a girl with a thick mane of platinum hair and a bronze, painted face. Images of this girl dance through my memory whenever my eyes fall on the picture. I recall the doctrine to which she strictly adhered throughout her first year of high school: natural scholastic ability would serve in place of studying, something done only by “nerds.â€? Most of her time was spent socializing, for she was always eager to be well-liked and to have fun; yet I remember how that desire for acceptance often overshadowed her judgment, such as when she accepted a ride with a drunk driver because she was afraid refusing would alienate him. As confident as she may have appeared on the surface, in reality she did not respect her own beliefs, listen to her feelings, or deeply value her life. Looking at her photograph, it is hard for me to believe I was once that person. My transformation from this confused girl into who I am today has been greatly influenced by my experiences in the fine arts.For as long as I can remember, I have loved to perform and write, but it was not until the summer following my Sophomore year in high school that I felt these passions truly impact my life. I had never believed that I needed to expend much effort to succeed in acting until I enrolledin the Willows Theatre Summer Conservatory. When I stood before the directors and fifty other students, performing a monologue for the fourth consecutive time and speaking each line with such fierce intensity that my face began to resemble a shiny red apple, only then was I able to comprehend the amount of energy and focus a great actor must have. Moreover, both the Conservatory and the creative writing seminar I took that summer taught me the power of my own feelings and convictions. Livia, the Conservatory director, showed me that to truly become a character, I must look inside myself and use my own emotions to convey what the character feels.Similarly, I learned from Lisa, my writing teacher, that “it is ALL material,â€? meaning everything I think or perceive can be shaped into a work of literature. From these experiences, I gained a deeper self-knowledge, learned the value of my own opinions, and realized that no matter how much natural talent I have in any area, I will not excel without extreme dedication.My change in outlook is reflected in the personal choices I made thereafter. Formerly, I had been hesitant to express original ideas, but the confidence I gained in voicing my opinions deepened my existing friendships and helped me connect with others who shared similar values. I discovered friends who love to write, and our initiative led to the founding of the Creative Writers Club. I also began to think seriously about how sheltered youth are in Orinda, my small suburban community. Many students at my high school tend to simply turn a blind eye to social issues such as AIDS and suicide, so I decided to run for student government on the platform of increasing awareness at Miramonte. I was elected to the position; however, I met with some opposition from other student leaders and soon discovered that implementing my ideas was going to be a difficult task. The tenacity I learned on the stage has been an invaluable asset in my job as Student Body Vice President, and because I persevered and gathered the support of others, my school is now organizing a charity benefit dance and an assembly on the causes of suicide.Performing and writing have played a pivotal role in all aspects of my life throughout high school, and they will influence me greatly in the future as well. Although I do not know whether that future holds a career in entertainment, in any profession I choose, from psychology to linguistics, I will employ the diligence, assertiveness, and insight the arts have given me. My arts background has also created in me the belief that life is a constant search for a deeper understanding of self and others, and I plan to continue learning, in and out of school, for the rest of my life.As I sit composing a short story on the computer in my father’s office, my gaze falls on another photograph hanging from the wall opposite the portrait of the girl. A young woman smiles thoughtfully down at me from the height of a raised stage, several strands of her golden-brown hair tumbling out of a tall hat. Her stance is straight and graceful, and her amber-colored eyes are bright and determined. Yet what I notice most about her is that despite the thick stage makeup covering it, her face bears the unmistakable glow of pride.

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