The following is my first attempt at a college personal essay. I will be publishing all my essays as well as in a series of them. Please feel free to give constructive criticism. Please do not feel free to steal this for your own college essays (I’m looking at you procrastinating seniors). Enjoy
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —
I’m a chronic nail biter. Depending on which of my peers you ask, the worst in existence. I bite my nails until I bleed, and I peel away my skin creating scar tissue that is currently erasing the top portion of my fingerprint. I’ve even found myself in the routine of obliviously chewing on my dismembered cells to the point of swallowing. It’s disgusting. Absolutely revolting. I can admit that. As I sit in my classes and nibble away, everyone I know will inquire at some point, “why on earth do you do that, is it a nervous habit?” They all think they’re some kind of saint, who will save my poor wretched soul simply by telling me to “stop that”. So I tell them back.
It isn’t a nervous habit. And furthermore, at the end of the day, I don’t care if it’s bad, or why I do it. I think it started as a habit out of stress (yes, that’s different than nerves) around when I was in 7th grade. I walked into school one day a normal kid and walked out with a stronger immunity to contact borne disease. And although I have time and time again vowed to never nibble another nail, my stress induced habit has evolved to be a part of my life. A part of me, really, that I might never get rid of.
Away I bite. When I’m reading, I bite my nails. When I’m on my phone, the other hand is busy being bitten. When I get writer’s block, I bite my nails. I like to buy into that mumbo jumbo about people with messy handwriting simply having minds too fast for their hands to keep up with. To me, biting my nails is a little push on the gas pedal. If I could bite my right hand’s nails and write at the same time, I think the acceleration would show.
As a writer I experience hours at a time — sometimes days when i’m unlucky — that are wasted at a screen or page with no thoughts to pour, no bulbs to ignite. I love creativity, but I find creativity hard. It’s the long grind of a line in a lake on a dew soaked morning of fishing. Quiet, still, and full of nothing. You have to be patient for the payoff. I see the work of the more experienced and I think, “surely they can catch so many great fish because they’ve learned to be patient better than I have,” after which I will always think “but nobody can be patient for that long”. It’s a metaphor for creativity, not just a tangent. I’m not positive, of course, but I think creativity comes to almost everyone in ripples, which are smaller and less impressive waves. Some fishing enthusiasts use lures and shiny things to help improve their trade, others use little tricks to keep their mind occupied while they wait for a bite. I use nail biting. My line is never even cast if I haven’t started biting my nails.
. The gears in my head will turn at the same pace that my teeth can chatter along my cuticle. As you can imagine, every second is vital when I have limited real estate to graze on. The constant struggle I face against the vehement dissatisfaction of my friends and family toward my habit is an annoyance enough, but the knowledge that they will never understand the weird light in which I hold this ritual frustrates me all the more.
. But alas I write. I write and I bite. I write and I bite. Really it’s a shame that this clever rhyme is made unappealing by all the “nail biting” undertones. I write and I bite because I need to bite to write and I need to write to survive. I enjoy writing so much that I feel shudders in my bones when I have an unshakable idea. Writing makes me who I am, and a better person every day. There is no simpler way to know why you are on this earth than to sit down and attempt to write a letter to yourself detailing exactly that. If it takes you a thousand tries, then at least you know you’re on this earth for something important and hard to grasp. And if to bite my nails is to help me think, to write, and to express — to quite literally do what I love — then I will bite my nails until the end of time. I’ll bite my fingers to stubs and then nibble on my bones because I can’t get through the day without it.
. Throughout my life I’m sure I’ll meet plenty more people who will try and tell me things a lot more meaningful and a lot less nice than “stop that”, things which will deserve so much more of my energy to deal with. For the time being though, as long as I have stories to tell, I’m happy with ignoring the kindness of my peers in order to be a more kind person myself.
. One of my favorite authors and biggest idols in the writing community is Joseph Heller. Catch-22 is likely the most influential book in my life, but ask me again in 50 years and I might give you a different answer. A moment that sticks with me is when a character, Dunbar, has a fight with a man named Clevinger about the purpose of living. Clevinger asks him who would would want to live if life has to be full of unpleasantness by nature just to feel long. Danbar says “I would”. When Clevinger asks why Dunbar replies cold and hard “What else is there?”
Why do I write you ask?
What else is there?
Why are my fingertips always wrapped in bandages?
What else is there?
And why would anyone in sane mind and spirit write their ever important college essay about a silly nail biting habit when others in the world face insurmountable challenges, the likes of which you will surely read about?
To me, what else is there?
I will not stop it.