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Sample Personal Statement
Deconstructed

First, here's the essay I wrote just for you:

I've just discovered the music of k.d. lang.

That's a pretty odd statement for me to make; after all,  I've bragged about knowing popular music from World War I to the present (since Daddy was a DJ;) and having 5,000 songs on my MP3 player.  And actually, I had seen and heard k.d. lang perform over 20 years ago.  I hated her.

First of all, at the time I lived in Philadelphia.  We Philadelphians congratulated ourselves on our "cool," having no room for the silliness of country music in our lives.  Oh, I might listen to the occasional Hank Williams song to laugh at, or appreciate the Patsy Cline song used in a lesbian movie, but Reba McIntyre and Clint Black were names that attached to absolutely nothing in my consciousness.  So this woman was going to have to prove herself before I would give her any serious attention, and she absolutely failed.  Sure, her voice was great, but her performance not only lacked an identity, but she self-consciously made fun of the fact that she had no identity.  She wore outlandish costumes that were caricatures of the clothes worn by other country music performers.  She wore flowered skirts and shaved her head nearly bald.  When she sang "Miss Chatelaine," she expressed a feeling of vulnerability in the lyric while performing a comedy routine with her actions.  And since she never explained that “Chatelaine” was a magazine and that she’d been named its Woman of the Year, there was virtually no way to put the lyric in anything but a comical context.  I put her out of my mind, and didn't give her another thought for 20 years.

Then, about three months ago, I heard her sing "Crying" with Roy Orbison.  I cannot recall why I was listening to this; most likely I had tuned in to You Tube and followed random links to who knows where, as I so often do.  But I was instantly struck not only by the strength and beauty of her voice, but by the integrity of her performance.  In coming out of the closet and affirming her self-identity, she had dropped the comedy from her performances and let the power of her voice become the focal point of her presence, reducing costuming to irrelevance.

I started methodically clicking through one snippet after another; within an hour, I had bookmarked  forty pieces, not even finishing one before reaching for the next!  I ran over to Amazon.com, hitting that "buy now" button on anything I couldn’t find at my local library. (Those “One Click” settings may not be as hazardous to my health as smoking cigarettes was, but they’re just as hard on my budget.)

A week later, I owned a DVD that I loved and two CDs that I hated.  But I had learned two important things: first, I really did dislike her early work; somewhere along the line, she had changed her style radically, and the "new" k.d. was the one I loved.  Secondly, the passion of her performance was so much clearer to me visually than auditorially that I vastly prefer watching her perform to listening to her music. Of course, she has many more CDs than videos, so I’ll settle for listening at least sometimes.  And I’m looking for a program for downloading and burning copies of You Tube performances. 

In the last month, I've bought a few more CDs, downloaded some MP3s (legally, of course), and broadened my horizons even further by listening to her duets with Tony Bennett and Loretta Lynn.  I've come to appreciate a bit more of country music while watching her perform at a tribute to Willie Nelson.  And I've learned that it's okay to cross something off your list when you really dislike it, but don't throw away the list.

This month, I have 5200 songs on my MP3 player.

Most people read that and say, "That's not about you."
My usual -- well, not usual, only when I'm in a good mood --
response is, "read it again, and look for ME in it."

I've just discovered the music of k.d. lang.
That's a pretty odd statement for me to make; after all,  I've bragged about knowing popular music from World War I to the present (since Daddy was a DJ;) and having 5,000 songs on my MP3 player.  And actually, I had seen and heard k.d. lang perform over 20 years ago.  I hated her.

First of all, at the time I lived in Philadelphia.  We Philadelphians congratulated ourselves on our "cool," having no room for the silliness of country music in our lives.  Oh, I might listen to the occasional Hank Williams song to laugh at, or appreciate the Patsy Cline song used in a lesbian movie, but Reba McIntyre and Clint Black were names that attached to absolutely nothing in my consciousness.  So this woman was going to have to prove herself before I would give her any serious attention, and she absolutely failed.  Her performance not only lacked an identity, but she self-consciously made fun of the fact that she had no identity.  She wore outlandish costumes that were caricatures of the clothes worn by other country music performers.  She wore flowered skirts and shaved her head nearly bald.  When she sang "Miss Chatelaine," she expressed a feeling of vulnerability in the lyric while performing a comedy routine with her actions.  And since she never explained that “Chatelaine” was a magazine and that she’s been named its Woman of the Year, there was virtually no way to put the lyric in anything but a comical context.  I put her out of my mind, and didn't give her another thought for 20 years.

Then, about three months ago, I heard her sing "Crying" with Roy Orbison.  I absolutely cannot recall why I was listening to this; most likely I had tuned in to You Tube and followed random links to who knows where, as I so often do.  But I was instantly struck not only by the strength and beauty of her voice, but by the integrity of her performance.  In coming out of the closet and affirming her self-identity, she had dropped the comedy from her performances and let the power of her voice become the focal point of her presence, reducing costuming to irrelevance.

I started methodically clicking through one snippet after another; within an hour, I had bookmarked forty pieces, not even finishing one before reaching for the next!  I ran over to Amazon.com, hitting that "buy now" button on anything I couldn’t find at my local library. (Those “One Click” settings may not be as hazardous to my health as smoking cigarettes was, but they’re just as hard on my budget.)

A week later, I owned a DVD that I loved and two CDs that I hated.  But I had learned two important things: first, I really did dislike her early work; somewhere along the line, she had changed her style radically, and the "new" k.d. was the one I loved.  Secondly, the passion of her performance was so much clearer to me visually than auditorially that I vastly prefer watching her perform to listening to her music. Of course, she has many more CDs than videos, so I’ll settle for listening at least sometimes.  And I’m looking for a program for downloading and burning copies of You Tube performances. 

In the last month, I've bought a few more CDs, downloaded some MP3s (legally, of course), and broadened my horizons even further by listening to her duets with Tony Bennett and Loretta Lynn.  I've come to appreciate a bit more of country music while watching her perform at a tribute to Willie Nelson.  And I've learned that it's okay to cross something off your list when you really dislike it, but don't throw away the list.

This month, I have 5200 songs on my MP3 player.


If you look at all those blue markings, you'll see that the essay is half about k.d. lang and half about Loretta DeLoggio. You know my background, my father's occupation, that I'm a lesbian who used to smoke but gave it up, that visual input is very important to me, both positively and negatively. You know that I look for values in entertainment, that I try to keep an open mind, and that I'm willing to give something or someone a second chance. You know that over the years I've lost, or at least mellowed, my "Philly" identity, and consciously stretched myself musically. You know that I'm impulsive to the point of obsession, and willing to make myself vulnerable by sharing all of that.

An interesting essay has to do with the writer, not the topic. Writers have proved that repeatedly, writing brilliant scenes about a leaf falling off a tree or an ant carrying a breadcrumb.

So find the writer in you and the story you want to tell; if you do it well, it will be interesting.

 

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