To Live, Learn, and Grow Wiser by Charlene

Charlene's entry into Varsity Tutor's October 2021 scholarship contest

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To Live, Learn, and Grow Wiser by Charlene - October 2021 Scholarship Essay

As a person, I have always strived to achieve independence in my personal life as well as in my academic career. Regarding group projects and assignments, I considered myself to be the most reliable person. This trust comes from knowing my own capabilities. I took charge when nobody else would step up. This was my comfort zone; working alone and getting the job done. At one point, I didn’t think a social life was necessary because I was surrounded with people that didn’t care about me. I isolated myself to protect myself from feeling like an outsider. Even though I had been immensely proud, my methods were not effective once I reached college.

While looking back on my freshman year, it was the best part of college yet. It was thrilling to start over at a new school, where I could reinvent myself and grow. Deep down, I was equally afraid as thrilled by this change.

The first few weeks gave me a bit of culture shock. For the entirety of my academic career, I have been in classes with people my own age. As I sat down in unfamiliar classrooms filled with strangers, I felt uneasy. In some classes, it was obvious that some students had planned their schedules together or were highly social. The feeling of not belonging began to bite. I was never one to complain about being left alone, but this time, it pushed me into a pit of loneliness that I’d never recognized. Instead of being elated about my new beginning, I was lost more than ever.

The required reading for my English class followed a protagonist that had to face the reality of leaving his safe space in order to grow. As I read the first few chapters of the novel, Siddhartha (1922) by Hermann Hesse, I detached myself from the protagonist and his story. I chose to view it as merely a work of fiction and denied my frustration. However, as weeks passed and the story progressed, I found my own life being parallel to the protagonist’s challenges and epiphanies. The novel discusses the importance of understanding the positive and negative aspects of life through experience.

As the son of a Brahmin, Siddhartha lives a comfortable life as a result of the caste system into which he was born. He is on the path to self-actualization as he already fulfills each of the stages of the hierarchy of needs, including food, clothing, a loving family, and a safe environment. One would assume that Siddhartha would be able to become the best version of himself in the home that he has known for his entire life. However, each individual’s life is defined by their own struggles, challenges, and accomplishments.

Siddhartha leaves his home after realizing that he will not grow by staying in a static environment where a path has been made for him. The only way that he will flourish is by seeking out his own path and purpose. Throughout the story, Siddhartha encounters failure and heartache. This cycle is known in Buddhism as Samsara. Samsara, the cycle of suffering desire, and loss of consciousness, was necessary for Siddhartha to reach his highest potential. Rather than a roadblock, it is the element that makes him whole.

At a crucial part of the novel, Siddhartha’s ego dies as a result of being suffocated by distractions. As a result, he is reborn and awakened as an individual with a new perspective on the world. When an individual learns to put their pride aside to comprehend the world, one becomes wiser with their judgment. Rather than seeking answers from others, the individual learns to be self-reflective and analyze decisions beforehand.

His journey to breaking free from his comfort zone to discovering the heartbreak of the real world stuck with me. I was at a stage in my life where I needed to open up, even though I was used to being alone. I wouldn’t be able to grow or evolve, if I continued to resist. Deep down, I chose isolation because it would keep me safe from further negative experiences with others. In order to escape the endless loneliness, I had to put aside my pride and adopt a new perspective. I began to reconnect with my high school classmates after finding out that they attended the same college as me. As a result, I made some of the nicest friends I have ever had by asking my classmates about classes and their interests. Slowly but surely, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and was no longer lonely.

Three years later, I am confident in my growth and willingness to change, even if I am hesitant at first. For growth, it will be necessary to endure changes that will not be easy. However, the end result is rewarding as it leads to wisdom.