-Inspired by Benjamin Nuzzo, an admitted student from Eton College, UK
The letter X is a two-dimensional figure, but it takes three dimensions to draw. After tracing the first line on the paper, you need to pull the pen upwards and move across a third dimension, through the air, before dropping it back down onto the paper and making a second stroke to complete the X.
The short period in which the pen leaves the paper is critical. The pen cannot perform its duty in the air. It cannot write. It is deactivated, stuck in a limbo that cannot be avoided, until the writer decides to return it to the page.
For me, that limbo is called Bollinger Canyon Road. Bollinger is the longest stretch of asphalt that connects my mom’s house and my dad’s house. I drive it nearly every day, sometimes multiple times, because parental custody of myself and my siblings switches every one or two days. I know the street so well that I’ve memorized the speed limits, and I move into the correct lane many miles before I have to.
My journey across Bollinger is repetitive, but I’ve made the best of it by using the fifteen minutes of driving to relax and expand my mind. I’ve blown off steam after a frustrating volleyball loss by blasting U2 songs and letting the emotion of the lyrics wash over my body like rainwater. I’ve pictured what my life will be like in ten years, imagining myself holding business meetings in a New York skyscraper or flying across the Atlantic Ocean to consult with the prime minister of the UK about STEM education. I dream of being a modern Renaissance woman, a person released from the expectation to only master one subject, who instead chooses to excel in sports, business, writing, music, and several languages. I’ve even fought my way through four albums of Italian language learning podcasts. Repeating every conjugation of the verb “mangare” while I wait at a red light might seem ridiculous to the driver next to me, but I know that it will be worth it when I can one day write poetry in the most beautiful language in the world.
For a long time, Bollinger Canyon Road made me feel like the pen in mid-air: lost, empty, and caught between two destinies. It was easy to solve my impatience with the drive; I simply filled it up with music, daydreams, and language tutorials. The more difficult task was reconciling my feeling of home, since I felt torn between my mom’s house and my dad’s house. I thought I had to prioritize one over the other in order to feel grounded and whole. Some days, I would tell myself that my dad’s house was my real home, and other days I would believe the exact opposite. I was so busy trying to make a decision that I didn’t realize that I was forming powerful connections to both my mom’s house and my dad’s house. While I was looking inward, the unconscious part of my mind found sanctuary under both roofs and savored the traditions of both halves of my family. If I had spent all my time at one house, I would never have felt connected to both, and I would be incomplete. It was the constant transition I thought was a burden that eventually brought me balance.
When I finally complete the drive, I’ll walk into one of two very different dwellings. My dad’s house is simple and clean, full of high-tech gear and a spacious couch. It feels like a college dorm, rich with intellectual opportunity and midnight rock duets starring my siblings and me on piano, guitar, and vocals. My dad and I love to spar about politics over our microwaved dinner and then watch the news afterward. Late nights are filled with Nova documentaries, piano duets, and s’mores with my siblings in the backyard, as we gaze at the stars and debate the existence of God.
At my mom’s house, I’ll walk into a forest of homey decorations, dirty laundry, and mouth-watering Polish food. It feels like a camp, with adventures hiding in every room. I’ll build a pillow fort with my little sister, snuggle next to my dog for a nap, and engage in high-stakes negotiation with my brother for the one laptop charger that hasn’t disappeared. After dinner, I’ll battle for control of the TV remote and lose out to The Bachelorette every time. It’s a bit louder and busier, but it also feels more full.
The letter X is also balanced. To lift the pen from the paper, drag it through the unfamiliar air, and re-enter it into the black-and-white world is to temporarily sacrifice comfort for magnificent symmetry. My life will always have a transition period, whether it’s starting my own technology business, writing a book of iambic tetrameter poems, or conducting cryptography research in Switzerland. I know now that the transition is more than a short time of uncertainty between important events. It is a crossroads, an opportunity to be welcomed and chased. To find X is to break from continuum and draw a new line at a surprising angle. By embracing the transitions in my everyday life, I give myself the chance to be change my mind and find personal growth in unexpected circumstances.
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