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“Growing Up”

“Growing Up”I’m short. I’m five foot five – well, five foot six if I want to impress someone. If theaverage height of American men is five foot ten, that means I’m nearly half a footshorter than the average Joe out there. And then there are the basketball players.My height has always been something that’s set me apart; it’s helped define me. It’s just that as long as I can remember, I haven’t liked the definition very much. EverySunday in grade school my dad and I would watch ESPN Primetime Football. Playingwith friends at home, I always imagined the booming ESPN voice of Chris Bermangiving the play-by-play of our street football games. But no matter how well Iperformed at home with friends, during school recess the stigma of “short kid” stuckwith me while choosing teams.

Still concerned as senior year rolled along, I visited a growth specialist. Pacing theexam room in a shaky, elliptical orbit worried, “What if I’ve stopped growing? Willmy social status forever be marked by my shortness?” In a grade school dream, Iimagined Chris “ESPN” Berman’s voice as he analyzed the fantastic catch I hadmade for a touchdown when – with a start – the doctor strode in. damp with nervoussweat, I sat quietly with my mom as he showed us the X-ray taken of my hand. Thebones in my seventeen-year-old body had matured. I would not grow any more.Whoa. I clenched the steering wheel in frustration as I drove home. What good weremy grades and “college transcript” achievements when even my friends poked funof the short kid? What good was it to pray, or to genuinely live a life of love? Nomatter how many Taekwondo medals I had won, could I ever be considered trulyathletic in a wiry, five foot five frame? I could be dark and handsome, but could Iever be the “tall” in “tall, dark and handsome”? All I wanted was someone special tolook up into my eyes; all I wanted was someone to ask, “Could you reach that forme?”

It’s been hard to deal with. I haven’t answered all those questions, but I havelearned that height isn’t all it’s made out to be. I ‘d rather be a shorter,compassionate person than a tall tyrant. I can be a giant in so many other ways:intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

I’ve ironically grown taller from being short. It’s enriched my life. Being short hascertainly had its advantages. During elementary school in earthquake-proneCalifornia for example, my teachers constantly praised my “duck and cover” skills.The school budget was tight and the desks were so small an occasional limb couldalways be seen sticking out. Yet Chris Shim, “blessed” in height, always managed tosqueeze himself into a compact and safe fetal position. The same quality has paid offin hide-and-go-seek. (I’m the unofficial champion on my block.)Lincoln once debated with Senator Stephen A. Douglas – a magnificent orator,nationally recognized as the leader of the Democratic Party of 1858… and barely fivefeet four inches tall. It seems silly, but standing on the floor of the Senate last yearI remembered Senator Douglas and imagined that I would one day debate with a future president. (It helped to have a tall, lanky, bearded man with a stove-top hattalk with me that afternoon.) But I could just as easily become an astronaut, if notfor my childlike, gaping-mouth-eyes-straining wonderment of the stars, thenmaybe in the hope of growing a few inches (the spine spontaneously expands in theabsence of gravity).

Even at five feet, six inches, the actor Dustin Hoffman held his own against TomeCruise in the movie Rainman and went on to win his second Academy Award for BestActor. Michael J. Fox (5’5”) constantly uses taller actors to his comedic advantage.Height has enhanced the athleticism of “Muggsy” Bogues, the shortest player in thehistory of the NBA at five foot three. He’s used that edge to lead his basketball teamin steals (they don’t call him “Muggsy” for nothing). Their height has put no limits totheir work in the arts or athletics. Neither will mine.I’m five foot five. I’ve struggled with it at times, but I’ve realized that being five-fivecan’t stop me from joining the Senate. It won’t stem my dream of becoming anastronaut (I even have the application from NASA). My height can’t prevent mefrom directing a movie and excelling in Taekwondo (or even basketball). At five footfive I can laugh, jump, run, dance, write, paint, help, volunteer, pray, love and cry.I can break 100 in bowling. I can sing along to Nat King Cole. I can recite AudreyHepburn’s lines from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I can run the mile in under six minutes,dance like a wild monkey and be hopelessly wrapped up in a good book (though Ihave yet to master the ability to do it all at once). I’ve learned that my height, evenas a defining characteristic, is only a part of the whole. It won’t limit me. Besides,this way I’ll never outgrow my favorite sweater.


“Growing Up” follows the form of discussing a physical or character trait, andexploring its impact on one’s life. Shim’s strategy is for the reader to understand hisfrustrations with his height, a physical characteristic that has played a great role inthe way he sees himself among his family, friends, and peers.

This piece works because it is to the point, honest, and straight-forward. Theopening, “I’m short,” delivers a clear message to the reader of the essay’s main idea.As the essay progresses, Shim reveals his personal feelings and aspirations. Hegives us a window into the very moment of discovery that he would no longer beable to grow. We are taken on a tour of what makes Shim tick. Being short hasshaped and influenced his outlook on the world, yet it has not diminished his goals.It is personal, yet remains positive. He recognizes both the benefits and negatives ofhis short stature and is able to convey them in a thoughtful manner. Furthermore,the essay not only lets us into Shim’s thoughts on being small but tells us his variedinterests in politics, space exploration, sports, and the arts. Shim hasn’t just told ushow his height “doesn’t limit him” he has shown us why.

“Pieces of Me”

The black and white composition book is faded, and the corners are bent. It doesn’tlie flat as many paper clips mark favorite places. Almost every sheet is covered withwriting – some in bold handwriting hardly revised, others uncertainly jotted downcompletely marked up and rewritten. Flipping through the thin pages, I smile,remembering from careless thoughts to assassinate prose to precisely wordedpoems, this journal marks a year of my life as a writer.In junior year, my English teacher asked us to keep a journal for creative writing, asa release from otherwise stressful days. We were free to write on any topic we chose.From then on as often as I could, I would steal away to the old wooden rocking chairin the corner of my room and take time off to write.As I now try to answer the question of who am I for this essay, I immediately thinkof my journal.

I am a writer

My writing is the most intensely personal part of me. I pour my heart out into my journal and am incredibly protective of it. It’s difficult for me to handle criticism orchange rejection:I can tell he wouldn’t read it right wouldn’t let the meaning sink into him slow anddelicious it would sound awful through his careless eyes I want him to open himselfup to it and let in a piece of me I want him to know this side of me no one ever hasI want him to be the one to understand let me see he prods once more I tell myselfthis time I’ll do it I let myself go but as it passes into his rough hands I see it for thefirst time it’s awkward and wrong just like me I snatch it back from him and crumbleit it falls with hardly a noise into the trash

I am a child.

Growing up, I would always ride my bike over to the elementary school across thestreet and into the woods behind it. Crab apple trees scented the fall air and thewinding dirt paths went on forever. I’d drop my bike at the base of a tree and climbas high as I could. All afternoon I would sit in these trees whose branches curved outa seat seemingly made just for me.One day I biked across the street to come face to face with construction trucks.Those woods are now a parking lot. I cry every time I see cars parked where my crabapple trees once stood:He allowed the sweet sadness to lingerAs he contemplated a world

That he knew too much about.

I am a daughter, a cousin, a great-niece.

My family is very important to me. My mother has a huge extended family and we allget together once a year for a reunion. I play with my little cousins and toss them inthe air to their squealing delight. Many of my relatives are elderly, however, and Ifind it hard to deal with serious illness in these people I love. I am also deathly afraidof growing old and losing all sense of myself. When visiting relatives, I have to cometo terms with these feelings:With the toe of my sneaker, I push at the ancient pale yellow carpet. Like all theitems in the apartment, it is way past its prime. It is matted down in most places,pressed into the floor from years of people’s shoes traversing back and forth. It willnever be as nice as it once was, that much is certain. At home it would be pulled up,thrown out, not tolerated in an ever-moving young family, not fitting in with all theuseful, modern surroundings. But here, in this foreign, musty apartment where mygreat-aunt and uncle have lived so long that they seem to blend right into the fadedwallpaper, the carpet is a part of the scenery. It could not be removed any more thanthe floor itself.

I am a friend.

I will always treasure memories of sleep-away camp and the friends I fell in lovewith there. Many of these people I have managed to keep in touch with, but I regretthat some I have lost:But now… the weather is changing. A cold front has moved in. the picture is barelynoticed. Perhaps other pictures of other memories brighter and newer hide it fromview. A cool breeze steals in through the open window, and the careless wind knocksdown an old picture from the bulletin board. The picture falls in slow motion, takingwith it a far-off memory. It comes to rest behind the desk, lying on the floor, neverto be seen again. Its absence is not even noticed.

I am an incurable romantic.

Leaving a party one night, I forgot to return the sweatshirt I had borrowed:

Touching the small hole

In the bottom corner

And the stray thread

Unraveling the sleeveI lift it up

And breathe in its smell

I smile quietly

It smells like him

 I am a dreamer.

I am a dreamer.I often sit in class and let my imagination take me wherever I want to go. I love toread stories of mythic Camelot or the legendary Old South, losing myself in my favorite books:

The three dimensional

Kaleidoscope fantasy

Of far-off lands

And courtly kingdoms

Of passion and romance

And high seas adventureIs shining with vivid colors

And singing with non-stop noise

My journal from eleventh grade not only chronicles a year of my life, but it tells thestory of who I am. It is the closest I can get to even beginning to answer that difficult question:

Tell them she says just tell them who you are let them know what makes you ticktick tick the clock is counting down I can’t wait to get out of here just a far moreminutes smile and pretend you care tell them who I am in 358 words double-spaced12 point font as if I even know as if I could even if I did on a single sheet of paperwhy I cry why I laugh why I want so badly to go to their lovely school

I guess I do know one thing about who I am.

I am a writer.