Thursday, January 13, 2011

Entry 123: Help Me Go To Law School!

Hey peeps-

I was drafting a personal statement for my application admissions.  Tell me what you think of it!  All critiques welcome.

                Try as I might, producing any sort of a pleasant sound on my new trumpet seemed impossible.  After inheriting my father’s trumpet and collection of old jazz records in seventh grade I had an idea of what a trumpet should sound like, but sadly after my first three full days of practicing I just couldn’t get my rendition of Mack the Knife to sound anything like Louis Armstrong’s .   Luckily, and unbeknownst to me at the time, I had a peculiar trait that others would later describe as “stubborn.”  I didn’t have the confrontational form of stubbornness that often gives the term a bad name, but rather the type of playful persistence that would lead me to coax, plead, bargain with, and befriend any challenge that I set before myself.  Pursuing a dream of being a professional trumpet player not only allowed me the chance to earn a degree in music, but taught me that striving for a goal can be as rewarding as achieving a goal.

                Despite having a natural aptitude and abiding love for playing music, circumstances beyond my control during my last two years of college forced me to look outside of music and see that my curiosity and enthusiasm were more broad-minded than I realized.  After taking medication to control a mild case of hereditary tremors for several years, the quivering of my hands and lips worsened to the point where medication no longer helped.  Though I joked about my new style of vibrato, I was disheartened by the prognosis I received from doctors at the Mayo clinic. I was told my options were to either increase my current medication to levels that would cause severe side-effects or to attempt experimental surgery and implant an electronic chip in my brain.  I am still not convinced that the doctor who recommended the latter was not pulling my leg, but I nonetheless decided to scale back my ambitions of trumpet playing and focus more on other areas of interest. 

                A fact that I had not appreciated until this decision was how many hours per day were necessary to play an instrument at a high level; after circumstances allowed me to reign in my practice routine I found myself with more time in the day than I knew what to do with.  I ended up using much of this time to vigorously throw myself into the issues that were presented in my classes, and not a small amount of time seeking out new and exciting hobbies.  I found that I could experience a similar level of creative satisfaction from presenting a lengthy speech about modern education reform as I could from mastering the art of cleaning out the carburetors on a snowmobile.   More importantly, I learned a valuable and personal lesson about seeing setbacks as opportunities. 

                While my growth as a trumpet player had stalled, my drive to better myself on a daily basis had only increased.  It became easy for me to translate the discipline of musical training to other subjects.  Today I can just as readily picture myself as a sports announcer as see myself working on deciphering the human genome.  A career as a fiction writer is as plausible as managing a small business.  Despite a wide range of interests, I have always held a special place in my heart for logic, reason, and a well-crafted argument.  The process of creating a strong argument and defending a certain point of view contain a lot of the same intense and improvisatory elements for me as playing a live jazz solo.  The unrivaled enjoyment of using my mind in this capacity leaves no doubt that I want to become a lawyer, and using my talents to create a more just and peaceful world is my undeniable calling.


  1. Fantastic. If it doesn't hold their attention more than a statement starting "since the age of 9 I always wanted to be a lawyer" then you don't want to be at their school anyway.

  2. Wow, Caleb. First, I never knew about the tremor. So THAT's why you don't play anymore! I'll just have to replay my old recordings (including Shosty 5 from high school... remember that?) to hear you play again, I suppose.

    Second... that was exceedingly well-written. Any person who reads that and DOESN'T accept you is nuts. I'm assuming this is for a grad/law school application?


  3. Thanks!

    And yes, that's pretty much the dealio. I still play, but not as often.

    Yes, I remember- that was one of my favorite concerts ever!

    I'm thinking about trying to get a letter of recommendation from Lady Ga-Ga. Any thoughts?

  4. hey! ran into your blog from 20sb..I was in the process of applying to law school before I quit and decided to go for a master's in writing. that being said, i love reading other people's personal statements, and i think you have a great one. the intro paragraph and the lead in to why you want to go to law school is great - very captivating and not cliched or overused at all. good luck with the apps!!
    <3 niree

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