The Opinion Section created the column “Argus Apps” to humanize the college application process. Common App essays normally only exist within the framework of college admissions, alongside a list of accomplishments, extracurriculars, and test scores. With “Argus Apps,” we’re revisiting old Common App essays written by Wesleyan students to think about where we’ve been and where we’re going. In this edition, we hear from Assistant Sports Editor Oluchi Chukwuemeka ’26 about her college application essay journey.
One thing that I never thought I would do would be sharing my personal essay on a platform that everyone could see. But then again, I am much different than I was in eighth grade. As a sophomore in college, I still feel the pain that my eighth grade self felt when she was turned away for feeling lost. I feel the same pain that she felt when she was exiled for feeling depressed, being left by her teachers and friends to find her own way back to being healthy.
Looking back at that time in my life, you would think that I would be angry. And I have every right to be. I was told to leave my private school after expressing my feelings of loneliness to some teachers and friends. Who wouldn’t be angry? After years of feeling numb to that phone call, the same call telling my eighth grade self to withdraw from the school that I was starting to call my home, I am no longer angry. In fact, I am grateful. The same phone call that I received inspired me to advocate for not only myself, but also others who have also experienced stigma surrounding their mental health struggles. The same phone call that was meant to destroy me actually helped me find my faith and understand all aspects of my identity, whether it was figuring out what it means to be a Black woman or understanding the experience of being a queer woman.
To my younger self: I would encourage you to allow yourself to feel hurt and vulnerable. While I do understand that it is beneficial to be positive and uplifting, it is ok to feel sad, especially with such a pivotal moment in your life.
Sitting right now at my laptop, I realize how grateful I am to revisit my common app essay, regardless of how painful it might be. Revisiting this essay helps me to understand my strength and perseverance to carry on in this life despite every trial that it gave—and continues to give—me.
The Steps to Liberation
I believe that your identity as a person can also include weaknesses. Your identity is your inability to accept the challenges of your life, but also your ability to rise. Oprah Winfrey once said to “turn your wounds into wisdom.” And, somehow, that is how I view my identity.
As a child, I was jubilant. I would go to the dandelions and make a wish; after wishing for the safety of my family, I would blow on the seeds as hard as I could. And when the seeds would blend with the wind, I would wonder what it would be like to fly.
When I was in 8th grade, I started going to a private school. After just a few months, I realized how perfect everyone was. They all wore the same uniforms, they all obtained good grades, and they were all friends with each other. With my colored hair and my flowers, I could not be any more different.
I am a black woman. My hair is styled as curly tight strands which explains why it gravitates upwards. I use my hair to make a statement. I use it to demonstrate my eccentric aesthetic. I’m not supposed to be depressed. I’m supposed to be strong. I’m supposed to be beautiful. Because that is what black is. Black isn’t supposed to be a weakness.
I never knew what people meant by a “trigger.” It was only until I was forced out of my private school that I understood it. I was told that I had to withdraw because I had depression. Whenever I would hear the word, “withdraw” I was no longer 5’11, but 2 feet tall. I was no longer on the piano, but in my bed all day. I was told that I would not be able to survive my classes. I was told that I could not be the person that I have always wanted to be. It’s crazy how much power one word could have over you.
Black is beautiful.
I didn’t know it then but I never truly knew what being a black woman meant. A lot of the time, when we use the word, “beautiful” we mean it as a way to see the person as the epitome of perfection. But, that’s not what it should mean. In fact, it is essential to normalize the relationship between beauty and imperfection. Beauty can be our fears or our deepest desires. Beauty is making mistakes. Beauty is eliminating the mental health stigma.
Unlike what many people say, my mental health cannot stop me from succeeding. In fact, I am grateful. My gratitude is what I associate with my depression. I am grateful that I learned to rise in consistency with my challenges. My depression encouraged me to pursue a career in psychology to understand the consequences and cognitive processes of human beings. My depression inspired me to develop a charity for people with similar conditions. My charity is for the people who want to take their mental health conditions minute by minute and for those who need a voice.
Every day is a step towards your destiny. Every trial and tribulation is meant to demonstrate your strength and your desire towards freedom. Every journey leads you to a little piece of happiness.
My identity does include weaknesses. And that’s what makes me beautiful. And a black woman. I do not believe that my depression is a weakness though. I see my depression as a strength. A strength that inspires me to rise everyday. I am an nwanyi sri ike.
I now know what that little girl meant by flying. When I am flying, I rise to greater heights.
When I am flying, I soar through the clouds with a sense of liberation.
Only you can free yourself.
Oluchi Chukwuemeka can be reached at email@example.com.