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She thought my dear, private story was the perfect essay to be read by college admissions officers who didn’t know anything about me. Weren’t these the essays that would catch admission officers’ attention and impress them to no end?But my mom knew me so well—she could immediately see that this essay showed my core values and how I came to be who I am today.In our house, language is not broken but rather bursting with emotion. There are friendly snakes in the cupboard and snacks in the tank. She’s an award-winning journalist, playwright, and poet.
It may have been a risky move—but it was me on paper, through and through.
The Common App essay is essentially a place to show admissions officers something that can’t come across in a list of honors and awards.
When she began to cry, the class president stood up and said, “That’s enough.”“Be like that class president,” my mother said with tears in her eyes.
The class president took her under her wing and patiently mended my mother’s strands of language.
Everybody else’s parents spoke with accents smarting of Ph. When my mother moved from her village to a town in Malaysia, she had to learn a brand new language in middle school: English.
In a time when humiliation was encouraged, my mother was defenseless against the cruel words spewing from the teacher, who criticized her paper in front of the class.
For a long time I had wanted to write something that would be a sort of tribute to my mom’s struggles and a testament to our relationship.
This piece emerged from my fingertips fairly quickly as I indulged in my creative writer instincts: My mom, moved by my essay, suggested otherwise. Weren’t we told not to write about the “immigrant” experience? At that point I had written other essays I was considering for the Common App: essays about growing up as the youngest journalist on the red carpet, entering the world of theater as a playwright, or committing to Asian American representation in mainstream media.
Suddenly, understanding flower is flour wasn’t enough.
I rejected the English that had never seemed broken before, a language that had raised me and taught me everything I knew. My mother spread her sunbaked hands and said, “This is where I came from,” spinning a tale with the English she had taught herself.