Think carefully about the issue presented in the following excerpt and the assignment below:
Abraham Lincoln said, "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." In other words, our personal level of satisfaction is entirely within our control. Otherwise, why would the same experience disappoint one person but delight another? Happiness is not an accident but a choice.
Assignment: Is happiness something over which people have no control, or can people choose to be happy? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.
Happiness is an elixir to all diseases, so everyone wants happiness and most of them think that it comes from success. But even if we fail something, we can still choose to be happy.
Last year, our school held a basketball competition. Our class had entered into the semi-final and all the students in our class were very excited. Moreover, we had just beaten the team which was considered the best in our grade and my classmates were hopeful that we might enter the final game. On the day of the semi-final, the players of our team went to the field in our cheers. But as soon as we saw the members of the other team, we knew it would be a hard match. One of the players in their team is as tall as 1.93 m, much taller than any of our players and we also learned that their team was the only one which hadn’t lost a single game.
The match started. To our disappointment, our team wasn’t playing well, and the best player in our team was followed by the tallest in theirs at every pace. Anxious and worried, we girls jumped onto the platform beside and shouted at the top of our voices. After sometime, it seemed that our cheers had gave my classmates some energy and they began to catch up, slowly but gradually, we were only two points behind. But just at that time, the first ten minutes were over and we came to a stop. The players were tired but hopeful, and we kept cheering them. However, when the match started again, our opponents seemed to become stronger. They got more points and we were soon eleven points behind. Meanwhile, our throats were burning, but we kept shouting for our classmates. Though we caught up some points, at last we lost by only one point.
When we got back to the classroom, all of my classmates were disappointed and sad. One of the players even cried. But our teacher came in at that moment and said, “Cheer up everyone, we just lost by one point and we are already the top four. We still have a match and let’s get the third place!” Then one of my classmates suddenly went to the dais and wrote something encouraging on the blackboard and one by one, over ten of our classmates all wrote down the words they wanted to say. All of us were greatly encouraged and smiled. We felt a sense of happiness even though we didn’t win.
So if we choose to be happy, we’ll be happy. It’s all up to our choices.
College: Harvard University
Too Easy to Rebel
In my mother’s more angry and disillusioned moods, she often declares that my sisters and I are “smarter than is good” for us, by which she means we are too ambitious, too independent-minded, and somehow, subtly un-Chinese. At such times, I do not argue, for I realize how difficult it must be for her and my father—having to deal with children who reject their simple idea of life and threaten to drag them into a future they do not understand.
For my parents, plans for our futures were very simple. We were to get good grades, go to good colleges, and become good scientists, mathematicians, or engineers. It had to do with being Chinese. But my sisters and I rejected that future, and the year I came home with Honors in English, History and Debate was a year of disillusion for my parents. It was not that they weren’t proud of my accomplishments, but merely that they had certain ideas of what was safe and solid, what we did in life. Physics, math, turning in homework, and crossing the street when Hare Krishnas were on our side—those things were safe. But the Humanities we left for Pure Americans.
Unfortunately for my parents, however, the security of that world is simply not enough for me, and I have scared them more than once with what they call my “wild” treks into unfamiliar areas. I spent one afternoon interviewing the Hare Krishnas for our school newspaper—and they nearly called the police. Then, to make things worse, I decided to enter the Crystal Springs Drama contest. For my parents, acting was something Chinese girls did not do. It smacked of the bohemian, and was but a short step to drugs, debauchery, and all the dark, illicit facets of life. They never did approve of the experience—even despite my second place at Crystal Springs and my assurances that acting was, after all, no more than a whim.
What I was doing when was moving away from the security my parents prescribed. I was motivated by my own desire to see more of what life had to offer, and by ideas I’d picked up at my Curriculum Committee meetings. This committee consisted of teachers who felt that students should learn to understand life, not memorize formulas; that somehow our college preparatory curriculum had to be made less rigid. There were English teachers who wanted to integrate Math into other more “important” science courses, and Math teachers who wanted to abolish English entirely. There were even some teachers who suggested making Transcendental Meditation a requirement. But the common denominator behind these slightly eccentric ideas was a feeling that the school should produce more thoughtful individuals, for whom life meant more than good grades and Ivy League futures. Their values were precisely the opposite of those my parents had instilled in me.
It has been a difficult task indeed for me to reconcile these two opposing impulses. It would be simple enough just to rebel against all my parents expect. But I cannot afford to rebel. There is too much that is fragile—the world my parents have worked so hard to build, the security that comes with it, and a fading Chinese heritage. I realize it must be immensely frustrating for my parents, with children who are persistently “too smart” for them and their simple idea of life, living in a land they have come to consider home, and yet can never fully understand. In a way, they have stopped trying to understand it, content with their own little microcosms. It is my burden now to build my own, new world without shattering theirs; to plunge into the future without completely letting go of the past. And that is a challenge I am not at all certain I can meet.
1.This is a good strong statement about the dilemma of being a part of two different cultures. The theme is backed by excellent examples of the conflict and the writing is clear, clean, and crisp. The essay then concludes with a compelling summary of the dilemma and the challenge it presents to the student.
2.A masterful job of explaining the conflict of being a child of two cultures. The writer feels strongly about the burden of being a first generation American, but struggles to understand her parents’ perspective. Ultimately she confesses implicitly that she cannot understand them and faces her own future. The language is particularly impressive: “It smacked of the bohemian,” “subtly unChinese,” and “a fading Chinese heritage.” That she is not kinder to her parents does not make her unkind, just determined.
College: University of Pennsylvania
If an undergraduate's time is spent eating, working, socializing, and sleeping, I expect that I'll spend large chunks of my time in the cafeteria, the libraries, and the dorms. My days will most definitely be hectic. As I run across the quad to my history class, I'll already be thinking of where I'll be heading after that.
Sometimes I'll be running to a big round table in the Food Court. This table seems to be a magnet for my eclectic friends. One of the guys, a saxophonist with whom I play the oboe in an ensemble, is trying to get his own avant-garde band some places to play. Another student writes an editorial column for the Daily Pennsylvanian; he always seems to be searching for a hot topic with which he can stir up a ruckus. A French major who sits next to me in French class uses French verbs in conversation, causing some confusion for the rest of us. We tend to talk about everything from the Beastie Boys to the controversy over political correctness. We sit for hours sharing our mashed potatoes and discussing activities to collectively embark on for the weekend. I suggest some rock climbing in the Shawangunks of New York State or an art show in Philadelphia.