I wasn't sure of how to write a personal statement so I started reading the sample one given to us in T&C. My first reaction was this is not a personal statement. The 'personal statement' consisted entirely of a listing of achievements. Each achievement was listed without telling why s/he decided to achieve such a goal and what the significance of the goal was. The sample paper succeeded as a concise listing of impressive sounding personal achievements, but fails as a personal statement. Unfortunately I still had no idea how to write my personal statement. Part of my problem stems from my lack of certainty about who I am in the first place. "Question Everything; Examine all personal beliefs." is my basic rule for living. As I write and revise what I have put down for my personal statement changes following my own mind changing. However just writing down my thoughts helps to solidify them.
I guess I just assumed that a personal statement should actually say something about the person and not just talk about accomplishments. My most personal statements will not be written in this 'personal statement' but rather only get written in 'love' (love as in friendship love, not romantic) letters. I know a letter accurately reflects my feelings when a voice inside my head starts screaming at me to tear up the letter and burn it. Sending a truly accurate letter opens me up to so much risk of rejection that I rarely will do that. Normally I censor everything I say to keep a boundary of hidden parts of me protected from attacks by others. Writing 'personal statements' to strangers feels dehumanizing since I write half-truths that only show the barest surface of me. Most of my writing falls into two categories:
The writings most difficult for me to write come from strange combinations of the previous types of writings. Writings for 'personal statements' for college applications are unique since they are informational writings about information that is by definition personal. The 'personal statements' I wrote for college applications were mostly worthless compilations of my impressive sounding accomplishments with Josh Cogliati existing nowhere in them. I just start feeling like a record player repeating the same thing over and over and over and over with out any thought or any me-ness in the repeating.
Another aspect of the sample personal statement was the dryness of the accomplishments listed. "I have discovered that teaching involves a great deal of learning." The author states that fact almost as just a linking sentence to bring in another accomplishment. I have helped others to learn and have learned in doing so, but that's not what I cared about. About two years ago I was helping Marketa with a math problem. I had been trying to explain it to her for about five minutes. I was beginning to become annoyed at her for not understanding and at myself for being unable to explain what I knew. Marketa was hunched over the desk and kept staring at her paper and then switching to the Calculus book. And then, suddenly she straightened, said Oh!, and the look of bewilderment disappeared, replaced by with a look of understanding. When I finally get some concept that I had to struggle to discover/understand I receive a certain feeling. Seeing that feeling in Marketa made the work of helping her worthwhile.
I don't really like this personal statement very much. But at least this piece of writing feels more personal than a listing of my achievements and vague future goals would be (and its a lot more fun to write).