last february, a friend of mine was faced with a task of writing an admission essay of (i believe) 350 words or less for a graduate program. on the basic level, he was asked to write about an obstacle that he’s overcome. of course, what they never say is that this must be done in such a unique way that the essay stands out from the slew of other essays that are in the same applicant pool. being the creative guy my friend is, he wanted to liken his particular experience to that of a chess game. for my part, feeling the sudden 5 am inspiration that is very rare, i wanted to take a stab at writing his essay as if i were him:
My father has always been mystery to me—solid-faced, quiet and a bit guarded. Sturdy and still, we would play chess in the living room long after the rest of the family has retired. And yet, there was something revealing about the way he played – as if every strategy was spoken word; every move, a confession. My father taught me about my life and destiny through our games of chess.
In a way, my family has always been kind of like a chess game. A family of refugees, my parents sacrificed ties with relatives for the success of our family much like chess players sacrifice interaction with others to win. And then there are my family members themselves, who are each formidable chess pieces in their own rights. My sister, Connie, is headstrong, destined and linear. An unyielding force, she was our bishop. Our knight, Alexa, passionate and protective, she takes risks to defend distressed family members. Much like a chess game needs the king, our family would fall apart without our mother. My immovable and firm father was our chessboard.
And me—well, I’m the pawn. The only boy, it’s always been my responsibility to scout the terrain for my sisters, pioneering into destinies yet unreached. As the son, this has been a monolithic pressure. I’ve always feared that I will never reach the level of my father’s success; much less surpass it. But as a pawn, I must trudge on, to advance regardless of the obstacles in order to reach the end.
I now understand that my father’s success is not something to fear and he was not someone to surpass. As my chessboard, he wants to guide me, to provide a foundation so that I can reach the other side. And in the end, I won’t become a bigger, better chessboard. Rather, I can be whomever I want, free to define my success in ways the hard lines of the board never could. That is a success unique to me.
(names have been changed)