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fremont high school 2021

Towards the end of my shift at the Santa Clara Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, an elderly homeless woman approached our team of volunteers, sobbing. Discharged from the hospital, she was having trouble finding shelter and her possessions had been stolen.

I immediately took action, working to call her close friends and acquaintances, as my fellow volunteers combed through the premises and security footage to find her belongings. Fortunately, we came to an agreement to let her stay in the hospital through the outpatient process.

The experience taught me how important it is for people in positions of authority to understand the perspectives of those they are responsible for and to work together closely to provide the best treatment, regardless of the circumstances.

My community at Kaiser was a diverse one, and I enjoyed working with people of many different backgrounds and interests. One volunteer, Yin, joined the program to fulfill requirements as a naval nurse trainee. Another one, Leo, volunteered to transition careers from electrical engineering to health care. Others, like myself, were trying to get a closer view of the medical field.

This community’s diversity showed me the numerous ways the medical world impacts people’s lives. I learned that there were many paths to success, as I met people entering the medical world through disparate and unconventional ways. 

It was a privilege to spend so many hours at Kaiser. My dream is to give back to my community and reform the way mental health is approached. Coming together with a team that shared these goals taught me that nothing is achieved without the collaboration of diverse people with distinct areas of expertise.

Hi, I’m Audrey from the San Francisco area. I love listening to, playing, and creating music, along with watching ice skating, buying clothes, and planning outfits. 

These hobbies have provided me many happy moments, making time fly, and pulling me out of personal slumps when needed.

By following fashion and noticing trends, I embrace different looks. Sometimes my outfits inspire others to try out ideas, too, occasionally creating trends of their own.

I love pop and classical music equally. Kanye West is my all-time favorite. My love of classical comes from years of playing piano in our school’s chamber orchestra.

Finally, my mom passed her love of ice skating to me, which combines music, beautiful clothing, and dancing with the freedom of speeding over ice. She also tried to turn me into an ice skater when I was little. Alas, that was one parental expectation I was unable to meet.

“The goal tempo for this song is 180 beats per minute,” Mr. Kelly explained while passing out everyone’s parts to Matt Riley’s arrangement of “Carol of the Bells” for the chamber orchestra’s upcoming winter instrumental concert. 

“So Audrey, you better play this sucker fast.”

My face fell. I was being offered the position of featured soloist in a piece where the piano played a predominant role and knew this was a unique opportunity to push my playing to the next level. However, the accelerated tempo meant my parts would be challenging to learn. I would need to condense complicated finger movements into a significantly shorter period of time. If I failed, it would be difficult for the orchestra to recover, potentially embarrassing my classmates in front of a larger than usual crowd.

I began practicing at home, but was unable to get the sections up to speed.

During the class’s first rehearsal, I anxiously made my way through the opening measures. The moment the string instruments joined, I simply could not keep up, merely doing my best to tap away at the keys. I missed my entrances and exits, throwing the entire orchestra off. Mr. Kelly repeatedly screamed my name in frustration. I was deeply discouraged.

This episode motivated me to work harder, spending day and night rehearsing the song, faster and faster, until the afternoon I informed the class that I was able to perform a run-through at the goal tempo. I began with confidence as the other instruments joined. Approaching the most demanding sections, I focused on the metronome’s cold ticking, doing my best to replicate my successful home rehearsals.

I let go of the piano to realize that the ticking had stopped. Overcompensating in my efforts to keep up, I had actually gone over the tempo.

This demoralized everyone. Subsequent practice sessions ended in bitter fights. With heated emotions, our usual methods of overcoming roadblocks were useless in stitching “Carol” together. Mr. Kelly warned that he might have to remove my solo.

I took the weekend off to relax, reminding myself that I’d break through this challenge just as I’d weathered other adversities before. In sixth grade, I was constantly bullied for being “dumb” and “fat,” despite an adept critical thinking level for my age and a healthy weight. These provocations planted deep-rooted seeds of insecurity in me, leading to the development of clinical perfectionism and anorexia.

My condition became so self-destructive that I was hospitalized for eight days. Through this experience, I learned that I needed to set goals for what I wanted to achieve in life, and find the motivation within myself. Doing things to avoid judgment would only cause further damage to my mental health. Through my difficult recovery, I adopted a mentality to completely ignore others’ opinions. 

However, when trying to work towards a solution with the rest of the ensemble in preparation for my solo, this philosophy made things difficult. I realized the input of others would be crucial to the chamber orchestra’s success in “Carol of the Bells.”

A delicate balance had to be struck between the ensemble and me for the group to collaborate effectively, a stark contrast to my rejection of outside opinions while facing a self-destructive eating disorder. Ignoring constructive feedback would only stunt my growth, despite the need for protection from damage to my self-esteem in childhood. We decided together that I would work on keeping my playing as close to 180 beats as possible to maintain a strong, unified foundation. Alterations would be added if necessary.

As I bowed to roaring applause after finishing the last glissando of “Carol of the Bells” on a rainy December day, I reminded myself that compromise is required between going my own way and caving to others’ expectations. It was a hard-fought lesson that I promise to hold on to as I step into my next chapter.


la vie en rose …


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