This is an essay I wrote. It’s my common app essay, which means, no, you can’t steal it. Or, rather, you can steal it, but you have to also give me credit and if you don’t, I’ll send attack pugs to attack you. The super ugly miniature kind that ride around in purses. Enjoy
I was lucky as a kid. I would read something and understand it, and then put it down and read something else.
Everything was going pretty well for me until my junior year. Early Fall. That’s when I decided, on a whim the size of Rhode Island, to check out Ulysses from the library and instead of doing something sane and rational with it—like using it to kill our world-famous jumbo-sized Arkansas rats, or collecting pressed flowers—to read it.
So I did. It took two weeks, an insane amount of mental concentration, and a 13.6% increase in coffee intake to get it done, but I did.
The first thing I said when I put the book down was, “What the fudge just happened?” Except for I didn’t say fudge. Sure, I had read it, but had I understood it? No, I didn’t. Who was Leopold Bloom? How did he end up in a brothel? Why did he turn into a woman? WHAT IS GOING ON?
Truth is: Joyce went way over my head. If my head were a falafel stand in Midtown, then Ulysses would be the Empire State Building.
This is the part where I emerge triumphant. I decided wasn’t going to let any old book beat me—James Joyce, that stupid Mick, had just made my list of things to do. So I did some intellectual training. I tore through his lighter fiction, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Dubliners, and worked on my bad Irish accent. By golly, I was going to do this, and do it right!
By Christmas, I had declared myself ready. We were in Houston visiting family at the time, and so I managed to pick up a cheap paperback copy at a Half-Priced Books. Once again, my good judgment fled me and I read it. It took 3 weeks this time, and an undetermined amount of Tylenol, and I might’ve understood 20% of it.
Some might consider this a critical mission failure, but not me. No, I knew that I was lucky—the fact that I’d made it through not once, but twice, and without my head exploding? Long story short, I sacrificed a bunch of goats that night.
The point that I’m trying to come to is that if reading Ulysses taught me anything, it’s that you’re not supposed to give up. Sometimes it’s better to let the Universe kick the poop out of you, to throw random syllables and Magna-Carta length paragraphs at you, to prove that you can take it—that you’re tough, and you won’t be intimidated by any cosmic laws intent on turning you into a ball of human-shaped mush.