Setting Sail

Consider the books you have read in the last year or two either for school or for leisure. Please discuss the way in which one of them changed your understanding of the world, other people, or yourself.

I am a traveler, continually guided and inspired by the Homeric hero Odysseus while leading a life marked by departures and subsequent beginnings. The first journey began on November 9th, 2000, when my family and I left China in pursuit of bountiful opportunities in the “beautiful country,” the direct translation of “America.” Though eight years have passed by, the emotions imparted by the departure still resonate within me. Like Odysseus, whose goodbyes with Greece filled him with apprehension, as a young child, I too was doubtful about the life ahead after the initial excitement had subsided. Gradually, through overcoming minor struggles, such as joining in a game of Four Square instead of collecting pebbles in solitude at recess, to more significant ones including presenting my first oral book report in front of my fifth grade classmates, I now realize that my farewell has instilled in me an eagerness to embrace opportunities and a more enthusiastic and courageous attitude towards new experiences. Odysseus’ parting with his homeland is comparable to my own, yet it is the Achaean’s persevering character that truly inspires me. Despite conflicting forces that beleaguer Odysseus, the hero triumphs at last. Circe’s and Calypso’s seductions fail to erase the familial devotion of Odysseus, who is ultimately disillusioned and continues his journey. Equally admirably, the hero gives Elpenor, a young man who dies after falling off of Circe’s roof, a proper burial to relieve him from afterlife sufferings. Odysseus’ loyal and dutiful temperament has impacted me in ways I did not anticipate: seven years after the initial journey, departure, accompanied by arrival, once again steered me away from the constancy of life. In the summer of 2007, my father relocated to another state. Several months later, my sister, the Telemachus of our family, was born. With responsibility and strong will, I have learned to successfully balance personal pursuits and familial duties, equally significant and meaningful aspects of my life. Although both my father’s relocation and my sister’s birth were unanticipated events, I have gained valuable perspective from them. Through these experiences, I have come to realize that the beauty of life lies in unforeseen events; which if treated with an open-mind, are not obstacles but rather opportunities for maturity and growth. Interestingly, much of Odysseus’ impact on me also derives from other characters’ actions in Homer’s epic. Though the hero’s own capabilities are undeniable, his ultimate homecoming cannot be attributed to his brilliance and fortitude alone. A myriad of other characters, including the goddess Athena, the god Hermes, and King Alcinous of the Phaeacians, come to Odysseus’ aid throughout his journey. Moreover, the faithful Eumaeus, a shepherd, Eurycleia, a servant, and Argos, Odysseus’ dog, remain unchanged for twenty years, anticipating Odysseus’ return despite rumors of his death. Although these supporting characters are not gloriously portrayed, their roles in the hero’s homecoming are no less significant than that of his own. Due to this awareness, I am more appreciative of the support and encouragement of family, teachers, and friends and try to provide others the same assistance. In certain ways, we are all Odysseus; we are all his helpers. Throughout his eventful and at times misfortunate travels, the protagonist evolves from a man of hubris to one of more humility. Odysseus’ transformation epitomizes my fundamental belief in the duality of man’s strength and fragility and demonstrates the essentiality of both self-reliance and interdependence. As the sea wind awakens from its hibernation and the tranquil tides evolve into charged waters, I look forward to the future. But unlike the fated odyssey of the Achaean hero, which ended twenty years after his departure from Ithaca, my own is a continuum because life’s kaleidoscopic endeavors are endless. Wherever the next journey may lead, I will embrace opportunities, as did Odysseus, with the same intellectual and thoughtful fervor essential to the attainment of wisdom. A zealous voyager in ceaseless pursuit of knowledge, insight, and growth, I am, once again, ready to set sail.

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