Teetering on Two Wheels – My Story

Below is the essay I wrote for my application to Princeton.

I have always revered my father. As an infant, he would bounce me on his lap, exuding a feeling of serenity and warmth. When he first taught me to ride a bike, he was the most patient teacher imaginable. He urged me on when I was the most frightened and told me not to worry, I would not fall. And if I did, he would be there to catch me before I hit the ground. His words were comforting and reassuring, and I always believed them.

And then the day arrived when I knew he would not be there to catch me.

On June 29, 2010, I had to withdraw from the school I had dreamt of attending since I was six years old, the place where I felt like I belonged. After two short years of benefitting from this amazing institution, my journey would have to take a radically different path. I had never felt so disappointed in all fourteen years of my life.

My dad sat across from me in the living room, a shadow of gloom cast over his face.

“I’m so sorry,” he muttered, unable to look me in the eyes. His pain was palpable. I tried to maintain a strong exterior but inside, I quaked.

That night, as I lay in my bed, the whole house was still. But the thickness of walls could not hide my anguish. In my mind, my family’s inability to pay for my tuition signified the end of the world.

Faced with this inevitable conclusion, sleep eluded me for several days. I could not let go of the fact that I would have to leave a school that challenged my ideas and perspectives, and fuelled my passion for learning in both tangible and intangible ways. St. George’s School offered opportunities academically and athletically that were unmatched in my world, that I had just begun to explore in my first two years. The intellectual challenge, coupled with the genuine camaraderie and brotherhood that I felt, convinced me that I had to find a way — any way — to stay at Saints.

Fast-forward two weeks. I found myself on the phone with a representative from one of the largest online marketing agencies in Canada, making my case for how I could help deliver quality leads to their advertisers. I stammered nervously, trying desperately not to sound like a fourteen year-old. My eyes darted between my notepad of strategic answers, and the large flow chart in front of me that included the response I had crafted for every “Yes” or “No”. The conversation that felt endless finally culminated in his gratifying last words, “How quickly can you get started?” Every day that summer, I attempted innumerable things that failed, but I trusted my abilities and had faith that eventually my work would pay off. And it did.

When I returned to school in September, I felt truly fortunate. It was very fulfilling to realize that the training wheels had come off and I had been able to positively impact a situation that I initially thought was beyond my control. As I walked through the hallways of my school, I had a new appreciation for my peers and faculty, as well as the opportunities that were once again presented to me. From that point onwards, many aspects of my life came together. As it turns out, my newfound appreciation shone through to my peers and they gave me their support in Student Leadership elections. I was fortunate enough to win four national championships with an incredible group of teammates. And to top it all off, I had a business that was growing every day.

What began as a journey to try and pay for my education evolved into something much more significant. At the time, I felt as though my dream was coming to an end, yet today I am grateful that those were the circumstances. Had I not been faced with the possibility of leaving St. George’s, I would not have worked as tenaciously to succeed. I experienced firsthand that meaningful adversity can be an impetus to meaningful change.

Today, as I ride my bike alongside my father on the seawall at Stanley Park, I realize that even though he was not there to catch me this time, I learned a lesson that I will never forget. That summer, I did not know whether I would be able to ride alone, or fall, but I pushed myself to teeter on two wheels — perhaps a lesson he was trying to teach me all along.