Square One


So I was reading about the University of Chicago, which asks newly admitted students to propose essay questions for future applications. This seemed like an interesting idea and I found myself reading over a few of them, wondering how I would choose to answer them. I’m certainly not trying to get back into college, but the whole point of an application essay is to find a way to tell the reader something about yourself in a way that showcases who you are and why they should be interested in you. It’s some very tricky writing.

It seemed like an interesting exercise to practice writing one.

I went to the internet and found a website that included the prompts. In light of yesterday’s post, I thought that prompt number one seemed appropriate:

Essay Option 1.

What is square one, and can you actually go back to it?
—Inspired by Maya Shaked, Class of 2018

All through my high school years, I was very concerned about The Box. I really wanted to Think Outside The Box. I really did not want to be Boxed In. I didn’t want to end up in a cubicle or find myself going through life accomplishing things just because they Checked The Box. The idea of squeezing my life into straight edges and right corners seemed inauthentic somehow- like I couldn’t possibly be myself if the entirety of my life fit into a box.

And then I packed everything I owned into boxes and went away to college.

I continued to distrust The Box. It still felt… limiting. Modular. Constrained. But college was a bigger world than high school and The Box didn’t feel so limiting anymore. It didn’t seem quite as important to fight against it, which gave me a lot more time to think about other things like theatre and artwork  and learning how to live on my own without eating pizza every Sunday night for dinner when the dining hall was closed. When I graduated my life still fit into boxes. When I moved into my own apartment, my life fit into boxes. When I moved across the country my life fit into boxes inside a box truck. Still, with each step, the world seemed to be getting bigger, not smaller, and The Box wasn’t holding me back so much as it was helping me to move forward.

Which brings me to the topic of square one.

Square one is when The Box opens into a new, wider world. It is a beginning on top of an ending: the GO square on the Monopoly board where a new round begins and there may or may not be two hundred dollars of salary at the ready. It is not only possible, but necessary to go back to square one: that is how the box gets bigger. That is where you grow. As of yesterday, I came to realize that I tend to circle past square one every four years or so: whether that means graduating from college and moving out on my own or getting married and moving across the country, it is always a beginning on top of an ending: each one a step towards a bigger whole.


~ by Gwydhar Gebien on July 4, 2016.

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