Recently, I stumbled upon a folder hidden deep in my Google Drive titled “Personal Essays (Might need later but probably not)”. In it, I found a few things I’d written over the years for creative writing classes and my college essays. Just for kicks, and because I love to read old things I’ve written and criticize myself as harshly as possible, I started looking through them. The last one in the folder, entitled “Significant Experience (There’s No Place Like Stanford; I miss my friends from Stanford. They were cool and funny and smart. Can I please go back to Stanford?)”. My habit of giving my writing obnoxiously long titles is one of my greatest talents, I think. More importantly, the essay that accompanies this title is one of the more honest things I wrote for my college applications. To explain, I went to one of Stanford’s pre-collegiate summer programs the summer before my senior year. And I absolutely loved it. I was writing more and better than ever, I was meeting the coolest people I’d ever met, and I was exerting my independence in a way I’d never been able to at home. But it didn’t start out that way. My first couple of days were lonely. After reading my essay about how I overcame my shyness and made friends, I realized I’d heard a very similar story recently. My own story. That had just been published in my local newspaper. Only it wasn’t about my short time at Stanford. It was about my freshman year at Yale. The parallels between these two experiences were undeniable and obvious and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it sooner. Maybe my experience at Yale was so overwhelming because of the huge adjustment that is college. Maybe the knowledge that Yale is not just a two week program, but a permanent, life-altering experience made it seem like the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. Regardless, I never considered that I had faced a similar situation and came out not only unscathed (except for some pretty nasty sunburn), but better and happier than when I began. At Stanford, I grew as a writer. I also grew in other ways. The people I met there impacted me so much more than I realized. My senior year was the best year of high school because I did everything. I didn’t let me scare myself like I always did before. I jumped into everything with a positive and willing attitude. An attitude that I didn’t have when I first boarded that plane to San Francisco in July of 2014. And if I changed so much after just that two weeks, I can’t even imagine who I’ll be when I graduate in 3 years. But if I stick around the crazy weirdos I met my freshman year, I imagine I’ll be an interesting, smart, kind person. And hopefully funny. Maybe pretty? Definitely not a great singer, but that hasn’t ever stopped me, so whatever. Whoever I become, whatever happens in the next few years, I think I’ll do good to sift through my Google Drive from time to time. Sometimes writing the essay doesn’t mean learning the lesson. It just means you save it for later.