Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.
Mr. Kimmel died of a heart attack the Saturday before school started.
While I didn’t know him, former students praised how he made eighth grade tolerable with his tangential dialogues on Star Wars and the power of prose. Announcements deadpanned his passing, a library alcove renamed “Kimmel’s Korner” – his honorable epitaph, which few gave second glances to; I was no exception.
Then, post-funeral reparations: the wise words of Yoda ripped, demeaned, replaced with motivational quotes when Mrs. Wilson took residency. By then I was indifferent toward English. I didn’t care; it didn’t seem like I could care. But months later, Mrs. Wilson told me to enter the Poet Laureate contest; said I had a voice and that it was just unclear and “dripping to scream,” so I wrote a few poems – teenage angst, my great forte.
Through my bad poetry, it happened. I lost the contest, but I kept writing. It came spontaneously as an overwhelming urge to express my ambivalent feelings – one’s I had never been able to express before. Maybe it was Mr. Kimmel, speaking beyond the grave, motivating me – God knows why. Or, perhaps, I was just wrong about English, because one day I found myself carrying a dilapidated Jane Austen novel to school, cradling it like I would a child. I started to love literature, pouring out these newfound, gooey emotions into flawed but passionate words. I’m actually proud of my work, I thought for once. I wondered about Mr. Kimmel. What his family was doing. How they were doing.
Just at the brink of high school and pseudo-independence, I received an invitation to an award ceremony for graduates. Sitting down in a big cafeteria, staring at the makeshift podium that, prior to the ceremony, had never unnerved me so, I wanted to crawl out of my skin as I read an event on the program: The Andrew Kimmel Memorial Writer Award. Our family’s camera stopped working when I was called up, but I was too incredulous, too nostalgic, too indulged to notice. Mrs. Wilson smiled sweetly as I collected myself, and then I noticed the elderly woman behind her.
No need for greetings. The beating of my eardrums deafened the words of the fragile stranger who gave me a kiss and hug and letter, and suddenly I knew who this was. Nervously, I had walked down stage too early, but my heart pounded and I walked back to the woman, braving this moment. She said she read my work, wanted to read more. I forgot the rest. It’s just a giant ripple of adrenaline. At home, I read the letter, thinking about her familial embrace. “We want to wish you well on your future in high school. Mr. Kimmel would be so proud. Strive higher…go for it! Sincerely, Ellen Kimmel Epstein.”
But what was this it? I never knew Mr. Kimmel, and I didn’t have to. That spirit which reverberates through his sister’s letter alone will always remain with me, a glimpse of compassion, desire, maturity. I know what I want; yet, even greater than that, I realize how badly I want it: to inspire people as Ellen inspired me; to remember Mr. Kimmel not for who he was, but for what he did. The letter vaguely speaks to me of a change I think I see. I’m not stupidly indifferent, because I know a little fraction of my purpose. I can taste it, a droplet on chapped lips, replenishing life if only ephemerally. It’s that rare sustenance which drives me to do something, whatever that something manifests into. I am ready to dive into this passion, wherever it may take me. A pool of words before me, ready to be scrambled into prose, echoing Yoda: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Deep breath, then jump.