Student or Learner
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n a famous quote by José Ortega y Gasset, the Spanish philosopher proclaims, \"Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia\" (1914). José Quintans, master of the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division at the University of Chicago, sees it another way: \"Yo soy yo y mi microbioma\" (2012). You are you and your..? -Maria Viteri, Class of 2016
I am me and my white shoes
Before a test, I always wear my white pair of converse.
I do not believe in good luck or bad luck, on the contrary, I am a faithful proponent of free will. I believe
that each person draws their own paths through their decisions and the challenges they undergo. Is
unfair to blame fate for every single mistake we make, and is equally unfair to forget it when greatness
is achieved. My friends and I often discuss whether fate has a protagonist role in our lives.
-How can fate not exist, we are here because of it, don’t you see it? -Veronica asked me, her
eyes rolling toward the ceiling, she already knew my answer.
-There is simply no fate, only circumstances-I told her.
I had always dreamed of having the trendy shoes known as converse. I had gone through every store in
the city of Havana looking for my perfect match; however a single detail often ruined the date: the color
was either too bright or too dark, the lines too thick or too thin, or simply they weren’t meant for me. I
knew my match was out there, somewhere; but where? I told my mom about my theory and how if I
didn’t hurry up and find them someone else might steal my perfect pair, and that would be a disgrace,
because then, for sure I would be doomed. My mom told me she would buy the shoes just to stop
hearing about them, and just when I thought it was one of her jokes; she surprised me.
In seventh grade, the day before starting middle school, back in Cuba, I finally received my first and last
pair of converse. As soon as I opened the box I realized that we would inseparable. I put them on
without hesitation, and they fitted perfectly; their white body kindly hugged my feet, and the fine black
lines on the edges highlighted their elegancy. My mom had hit home run! From that day on, I never
went anywhere without my new shoes.
Before meeting my pair of converse, I used to be really shy when speaking in front of a big audience, but
I would always try to challenge myself. I was president of my middle school and I had to stand in front of
the entire student body every morning to recite the schools’ news. It was a nightmare. The words in my
mind never made a sound, instead only pieces of them dared to cross the frontier beyond my throat; my
speech was often dislocated and made little sense.
Throughout my latest childhood years, I tried to overcome this problem, not only by constant exposure
to it, but also by assisting to public speech classes and by writing poetry. Poetry became a therapy that
helped me to understand the world I was in with new eyes. I began to walk, with my new white shoes,
paying attention to the falling leaves, to the green grass and to the smell of sunlight; and I kept them
well guarded in the box of memory, which I would open again once I had found a suitable pencil. Poetry
however was not a solution to improve my skills in public speech.
Three days after first meeting my pair of converse, I had a huge presentation in my science class. We
had to talk about the beginnings of our existence, how we started as almost apes and became humans
as a result of our innate curiosity. We designed the first tools to work, which imposed a challenged for
the rusty and bended bodies of our ancient relatives. They became bipedal to work more efficiently,
their brains enlarged to contain all the information they were discovering and their behavior for the first
time was characterized as human, dividing the horizons of the animalistic universe. I was in loved with
the topic I had to discuss, with its importance. But I was also terrified of not being able to present it due
to my fear. That morning I woke up two hours earlier than I used to, I put on my pair of converse, and I
walked slowly to school. Inside my head I held a secret conversation with my white friends, and together
we watched the sunlight, now brighter than ever, we saw the dew in the awakening flowers, and the
empty streets, and for the first time I realized that even in the loneliest moments of my life, I am never
alone. Home is always with me. That morning I decided that my speech was going to be perfect; I
pictured all the words dancing out of my mouth, making sounds that were just right, and the image gave
me a strength that was unknown to me.
I was the last one to speak up that day, and as soon as I stood up, I looked down at my white shoes, and
they gave the assertion that I needed, my presentation was almost flawless, everyone was impressed at
how well I had performed, and knew that I had overcome my greatest fear. When I arrived home I told
my mom about my amazing experience at school, she knew, better than anyone, how terrified I was of
How did you overcome your fear? – My mom asked me, enthusiastically
I only needed a little help -I responded, winking at my new white shoes.
From that day on, every time I have a test or an important event, I always put on my old white shoes,
they have been with me for five years now, and together we moved to a new country, crossed oceans
and lived the most memorable experiences. Although, I do not believe in good luck, my pair of converse
remind me of home; providing me with the strength I need to overcome even the greatest fears.
We like to help when we can, but we don't help with homework assignments. Your teacher wants to know what you can do, not what we can do.