America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
NewsSatiresFictionBooksFilmsEssays

 


 
 


College Essay: Describe a Situation in Which You Overcame Adversity

3 October 2017

Pops says that I'm not gonna get into a fancy college like Yale unless I have something interesting to write about, and seeing as I'm a blockhead (according to Pops) there's nothing doing in that department right now. So Pops suggests we go on a hiking trip to drum up some excitement.

After a few minutes out on the dusty trail it is clear that Pops doesn't know a damn thing about hiking.  He's loaded himself down with a 24-pack of Coca-Cola, in case we get thirsty, and also he's got a hip flask full of whiskey which I'm not supposed to see but I do.  We're making our way up the mountain with Pops struggling under the weight of his pack and me walking nice and easy behind him. Pops is huffing and puffing and every so often sneaking a drink from his flask which I'm not supposed to see.  He is getting a little wobbly on his feet, and more and more cantankerous as we go, saying things like “Goddamn pits in the trail. How're we supposed to avoid stepping in 'em?”

The sun is pouring down and making us sweat like donkeys, especially Pops. Suddenly there's fizzing from Pops' backpack and I just know that all the jostling around caused some of those Coke cans to burst open.  Next thing we know Pops has got all this brown liquid oozing out of his backpack and onto his shirt and legs.  So then we have to sit down while Pops takes off his pack and fixes things up. He takes a long sip from his whiskey flask and this time isn't shy about letting me see it.  He polishes it off and then refills it from a bottle of the stuff that he'd stashed in the side of his backpack.

So then we throw the busted cans over the side of the trail and get up and Pops is even more wobbly.  The sun's beating down like a jackhammer and Pops is sweating and muttering and hopping along and then suddenly BANG there's a big explosion as the rest of the cans go off all at once.  It startles Pops and he staggers around and then goes over the side of the trail.  I see him rolling down the mountain and he's shouting and cursing like a son of a bitch.

Pops comes to a rest a good ways down the mountainside and he isn't making noise anymore. So I run down and investigate.  Pops's lower body is wedged underneath a big rock and his eyes are closed and he's pretty bloody.  He isn't saying anything but I can tell he's breathing. “Pops, you OK?” I ask him, but he doesn't reply. I give him a good shake and after a few minutes he comes to.

I'm in really good shape because of all the time I spend in the gym. I go in just about every day, doing squats and leg curls and shoulder presses and pull-ups and all that kind of stuff. And I'm big.  Pops is kind of a little guy compared to me and I ought to be able to pick him right up but he's wedged in there pretty good and I don't think I can pry him out from under the rock.  I'm faced with a situation of adversity and I've got to use my wits to overcome it.

Then I remember learning something about Archimedes' principle and levers and I walk around the mountainside and find a big strong stick and a stone that I can make into a lever.  I put the stone right by the rock that's got Pops and then put the stick on top of the stone and jam one end into the crevice. Then I push down on the other end of the stick and sure enough the big rock lifts up and I'm able to grab Pops by the shoulder and drag him out before the whole thing collapses.

Now I'm left with the easier task of evacuating Pops out of there. So I ditch our backpacks and I pick him up on my shoulders and carry him up the mountainside and down the trail and back to the car. Pops is still pretty bloodied up and he's shouting the whole time and calling me a blockhead and his breath stinks of whiskey.  But I can tell that deep down Pops is grateful for me rescuing him from his accident and finding an innovative solution to a problem in the face of adversity.


Zeke Sadie lives in a scenic coastal town with his wife and daughters.  He was once a Guggenheim Fellow. His hobbies include doodling, computer-assisted drawing, Java programming listening to music, walking on the beach, cycling, and working out at the gym.