Finding Your Animal Totem

Common application “What make you, you?”

“On Thursday,” announced my religion teacher, “we will be going to the zoo to find our animal totems.” For those that don’t know, an animal totem represents the Native American belief that each person has a connection to a specific animal. I was excited to begin my search, and as soon as we got to the zoo, I began to march around looking for my true animal companion, my guide through the journey of life. Every animal I examined, though, had its faults: the lion was too proud and vain, the wolf too devious and misleading. Distressed, I sat down on a bench to reflect, looking for any help that I could get. At that moment, an animal slowly emerged from beneath a pile of wood in the exhibit across from me and began to stare at me as if it had recognized me from a previous life. That animal was the beaver. When I considered my own strengths and weaknesses in relation to those of the beaver, I knew that I had found my animal totem. The beaver is an animal that is reliable, stable, and hardworking — all qualities that I am very proud to possess. Year after year, the beaver works to perfect his lodge by tediously creating dams in rivers and lakes. Other animals rely on the beaver’s industriousness to help protect the ecosystem in which they all live. I believe that reliability is achieved only through consistency and hard work, and I enjoy being a person on whom others can rely. People often come to me to ask for help and advice, and that is a personal characteristic that I cherish. During my time playing ice hockey, I have never been a boisterous leader, but I have nonetheless served as captain for my last three teams. On and off the ice, I lead by example, offering encouragement rather than intimidation. I take pride in the respect I have earned from my teachers, as demonstrated by their positive comments on my report card. To me, being attentive and respectful is something that should be expected from everyone. Being reliable, though, is the reward you get for doing the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons. Though the beaver must build its lodges and dams in order to survive, it still has to work hard to accomplish that goal. I consider myself hardworking as well. I always put in the effort to achieve my goals. For example, I remember that when I first started playing guitar, I thought, “Wow, this is way too hard; I will never be able to do this.” After several years of diligent practice, I recognize how much those monotonous drills have paid off for me. Without the effort I put forth in the beginning, however, I would not be able to play like I can today. That point seems self-evident, but it is amazing how many people are not willing to persist in order to succeed. It is amazing how many people complain when they do not get the results they expected. That is not to say that I am perfect — believe me, I am not. I do my fair share of procrastinating and make my fair share of mistakes. Just like the beaver, though, I have benefited greatly from hard work. My class field trip was very important to me because I was able to find my animal spirit and evaluate my strengths. After researching the beaver’s totem, I found that the Native American people revere the beaver for its ingenuity and dedication. Although I don’t really believe that I am spiritually connected to a beaver, I do take inspiration and encouragement from its hard work and commitment, traits that I work hard to embody in everything I do.

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