Saturday, January 17, 2009

College Admission Essay

Found this one as well, in the treasure trove of old computer files my Dad brought up this weekend. This was what got me into Cornell..... well, either this or being a girl and applying to Engineering school. Hmmmm... wonder what had more impact.... ;)

He was old—about eighty-five, perhaps, but despite his age, he kept a straight posture and looked tall. He was very reticent; rarely could you hear him objecting to someone’s opinions, and never expressing his own. Large dark eyes embellished his thin face, wrinkled and pale; they seemed to be brightly black when he was excited or angry; but most of the time his face bore expression of wallowing in grief, and they were of a sullen dark gray color. He usually was wearing an old-fashioned suit; he liked autumn, apple pies and music of Tchaikovsky.

He was a neighbor and an old friend of my grandfather. His house was small and very old; inside its smallness was divided into many rooms, filled with the smell of wooden furniture and the ticking of the old clock. One of the rooms had a piano in it; the room was small, the piano was gigantic, and it looked as if the piano was standing in a box. The tables, desks, drawers and chairs were what one might call “impractical”—they were made out of pure wood, had curved legs and polished tops. Paintings crowded the walls; they hung in heavy frames that someday were golden, but became gray with dust. The paintings and furniture looked expensive and refined, and they were in strange contrast with the dust surrounding them and with the tiny rooms. Books were in every spot of the house; many had their spines covered with metal, their titles printed with golden letters. Some of them were written in languages that I didn’t know; some of them were written in strange looking Russian. He would usually sit in an armchair among those books, his back straight, his head bowed to a book, the light of the lamp making his white hair yellowish. Tense silence filled the rooms; the only sounds were the striking of the clock and whisper of the turning pages. It seemed that this silence became a part of him, because when he came to my grandfather, the same silence took over my grandfather’s house. And when he died, the silence in his house died with him too.

Several years after his death I came over to my grandfather’s house and, going through the books, I found an old torn notebook. Time made its pages yellow and the ink—pale, yet I was able to read the name of the grandfather’s friend on it. I started going through it; the notebook contained thoughts on one’s responsibilities to the society, on crime and punishment, and on the influence of one’s actions on the society. I put the notebook aside—it was nothing of interest to me.

My grandfather came in; he picked up the notebook and said, “Did you read this?” “Yes, a little of it; there’s nothing special in it anyway. Just some philosophy stuff that doesn’t really mean anything.” My grandfather sat down. He said, “When my friend was your age, he thought so too; that’s how he ruined himself. He paid a lot for these philosophy notes.”

“He joined the Communists during the revolution of the 1917,” my grandfather continued. “It was not even the Communist party that he joined, but the Communist idea. He came from a noble family; he was young and na├»ve; he wanted to change the world, to make everyone happy. As soon as the Communists took over, they began the “purgation of the society”. He, as many others, was denied most of the human rights as “a former capitalist and a present enemy of the people”, and was lucky to stay alive. But the greatest torture for him was the memory of his helping the Communists; he felt responsible for the broken lives and terrible deaths of many people; that responsibility was a tremendous weight for a person to carry. The results of the revolution terrified him; the thought that he helped to reach those results terrified him even more, but he couldn’t fix anything. His past actions influenced his future.” He paused. “Everyone meets his own past again sooner or later.”

I am now seventeen and considered to be a grown-up, who understands things. The notebook of my grandfather’s friend is lying on a shelf among my other books; sometimes I re-read it. You know, with years I grew to like the music of Tchaikovsky.


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