“Have you ever noticed that the people never rip the paper off their gifts? The boxes are rigged so that the lid will simply lift off.” Some time after sharing this insight with my friend Jennifer, I received a birthday present from her wrapped in such a way that the top came off without tearing the blue paper. I kept the special box and placed my birthday cards in it along with a few other letters I regarded as treasures. Since then, I’ve moved across the country twice, but the box remains on the top shelf of my closet, now joined by two other shoe boxes, a pink, heart-shaped container, and a hand-woven Guatemalan bag—all overflowing with the letters that chronicle so much of my life and so many of my friendships.
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My inability to part with any of my letters—from the shortest note from Grandma to one of the hundreds of letters from my friend Melissa—cannot be easily explained. Certainly the love letters play upon my conceit, gently building my fragile teenage self esteem. Beyond these, however, lie the babbling prose of girlfriends, the one note I received from my camp roommate, and the letter accompanying the black and white photo of John, Paul, George, and Ringo which I won in the “Eight Days a Week” Beatles sweepstakes. I treasure each of these and hold tight the history locked within them in my changing world; to quote the opening of one of Melissa’s letters, “Life is so wonderful, and so unfair, and so confusing.”
Throughout my life, I have clung to any concrete portion of the world I could get my hands on, and I have developed a deep trust in, and yearning for, the written word. Unlike spoken words, written words have a timelessness; they hold a promise forever, and they bind the writer to his promise indelibly. Smashed between a slumber party invitation and a post card from Florida, my great grandmother will always be waiting “with love” inside a card decorated with lavender flowers. When someday I get married, my first boyfriend will still miss my “soft voice and soft eyes.” I rarely need to check these reminders that I can never stop being loved, being a friend, and making a difference in the lives of others. I am always conscious of the gathering that awaits me in the dusty boxes. Each time I receive a new letter, I carefully place it into the little life museum perched on my closet shelf.
This essay lacks interest, especially because it begins with trite language: “Have you ever noticed…” Though the applicant does a good job of providing specific details, she goes overboard, providing too much disconnected information that she ties together into a generic idea: “…I have developed a deep trust in, and yearning for, the written word.” Though there is nothing wrong with this statement, the writer never intimates if or how she has expanded her love of writing—aside from keeping every letter she has ever received. This could be construed as a negative character trait: the inability to let go (“Throughout my life, I have clung to any concrete portion of the world I could get my hands on…”). College is a time for rethinking oneself, and such a fervent focus on reveling in the status quo could cause an admissions officer to infer slight immaturity in the applicant. The deathblow comes with the use of clichéd rhetoric near the end: “…making a difference in the lives of others.”