Humor and Positivity


The Beach Boys


As a frequent visitor to the island of Oahu, I take each opportunity to explore new activities and rejoice in old highlights. In my very first visit, I was introduced to what are now some of my fondest memories.

Since the time of ancient Polynesian settlement, the Hawaiian islands have been a hub for surfing. Wooden boards fashioned from durable wood by the early settlers gradually evolved into the sleek and colorful plastic polymers we see today. On the shoreline of beautiful Waikiki, one can see hundreds of tourists, young and old alike, toting their white, orange, and red boards across the sands. Even more can be found testing out the waves.

I, for one, couldn’t wait to join in. There was glory out there, and it was calling to me. California kid – go represent, baby.

In the previous year, I met Eddie at a summer youth program back in California. He was from Oahu, and had shown me a special, personal side of Hawaii outside of tourist brochures. Here, he directed me to affordable surfing lessons at the local YMCA – 150 dollars for 10 hours. My instructor was a bronze man who arrived at the designated rendezvous with cool sunglasses and an equally cool surfboard-shaped skateboard. At this time, I was still the ultra-skinny, pasty Chinese kid who knew only of Legos, watercolor painting, and Pokemon songs. I knew right away I had to be like him.

The first thing the bronze man told us was that surfing is an intuitive activity. Your body learns how to balance itself. Yes, there are general guidelines, but other than that, feel free to move around as you like. This beginner’s longboard I have chosen for you is a slow and steady tank, resistant to both change in direction and the hungry gulps the waves. You’ll be just fine.

The first time I caught a wave (or rather, the first time it caught me), the ocean water awoke everything that was dormant in my consciousness. I embraced the moment and put my trust in the bronze man’s words. The ride lasted about two seconds, upon which the wave decided it was mealtime and guzzled me up completely. It Neti-potted my nose, introduced my stomach to some scratchy coral, and spun me around a few times to improve digestion. When I finally found my bearings, my lungs were all but depleted. I instinctively reached for the rope that bound my ankle to the board, broke the surface of the water, face-planted into another incoming wave, and after what seemed like an eternity, finally got a chance to take a deep gasp of air. I made it! I was alive. What was this moment if not my awakening from the Matrix.

The way time passes during surfing is something special. You spend hours gazing into the horizon watching for swells, yet just mere seconds catching the good ones. Those moments where you are safely planted on the board, gliding towards land with water licking dangerously at your legs, are unbearably precious and surreal. For me, it was as much a personal accomplishment to have compromised with the all-powerful waves as it was a release from my usual character. It felt great.

At the end of the first day, I walked back to the beach and sat down near some other tourists – heart pounding and my face brightened into a large grin. I felt cool, like the bronze man, and figured this masculine aura was what attracted the female glances around me. I stood there, one-hundred and ten pounds dripping wet, lanky limbs and oversized goggles to feature. I was the happiest kid in the world.


Old Man Skating




Nothing gets your reader on their good side faster than a story that brings smiles and laughter. A common misconception is that the personal statement functions as an extension of the resume – that intellectual vitality can only be found in serious, brooding topics. Usually, the opposite is true. You can create a stronger emotional connection with a stranger by showing off your fun side. Think about the Despicable Me minions. They’re evil drones – plentiful, expendable, and generic – yet at the same time, they much more than that. We adore them for their antics, positive disposition, and funny gibberish. Buy a toy minion and you’ll catch yourself playing with it, transforming it from a little ball of plastic into a real character, with a story and a personality. Behind the fun, there is substance – a substance that you build upon with your own imagination.

Imagine if you could wield the same kind of influence with your personal statement. Your reader’s imagination is your strongest asset – so cultivate it!

If you have strong academics and extracurriculars and are confident in your ability to create a balanced application, shoot for a light-hearted personal statement. It makes a great impression on a reader when you can perform well in school AND make it seem fun all at the same time. It’s a true testament to your confidence.

In this particular story, there are multiple ‘positivity generators’ – images of Hawaii, images of surfing, and a light coming-of-age story. The story makes you feel good about reading, and then make it easy for you to feel good about the narrator as a person. It guides you through a very personal experience, and also makes you an active participant. You get to feel like you are growing alongside the narrator.

The ending serves as a declaration of self-acceptance. All of us have traits we are self-conscious about. Feeling good about yourself is something that takes time to develop. But if you already have that confidence in some aspect of your life, take advantage of it. In this particular story – the narrator is dorky, but dorky in a self-assured manner. Show your readers that you love and understand who you are, and it will be all the easier for them to feel that way too.