It seems that older you get, the more difficult it is to encapsulate your life story into just a few pages. I’m still working on my CPE residency application essays. 5 major questions: one about my life in general, including major events/milestones, current family dynamics and other social supportive relationships; one about my faith journey, another recounting an incident where I’ve helped someone and my evaluation of it, a chronology of work/vocational history topped off with a statement about current work relationships, and lastly one covering my expectations of CPE/what I hope to gain from it. It’s a lot to fit in a small amount of space. I’ve heard the supervisors/application readers get bored and/or stop reading after about 10 pages of essay-writing. So, that is my goal. It is daunting, to say the least.
I have been thinking about what I will say for months. Still, every time I try to compress my life into so few pages, the judgmental, blinking cursor at the top of an entirely-too-blank page stares back at me. I wasn’t concerned about including everything, but certainly the important things. I was concerned with including the right things. The things that exemplify who I am and why CPE is a good fit for me. It has been overwhelming.
I then decided to try a more surgical, straightforward, logical approach. I attempt to divide the appropriate number of pages over each question. This too proved difficult. I began to answer the first question, knowing I only had 2.5 pages to do so. I wrote and wrote with honesty. When I arrived at the end of my page quota, I realized I’d only said a third of what I’d hoped to say. Yet another failed approach.
It occurred to me that I was being entirely too chronological and not nearly relational enough. While I am still young, there is no way I will be able to fit all of the major events from my most recent, formative years (everything since college?) into the aforementioned page confines. While there are many important chronological mile markers that have influenced my life in the past five to ten years and continue to influence who I am today (graduating from college, getting married, moving to Austin, starting seminary), for the purposes of these essays, which reflect WHY I’m applying in the first place, I decided to limit my responses to the things which have been the most formative to who I am today, sitting here, attempting to tell my story. While there are many important events worth mentioning, for the most part, that which has been the most meaningful are the people in my life. Those who continue to impact my development. Those who support and challenge me in both positive and difficult ways.
Perhaps this is an obvious conclusion. I think it is one I needed to draw in order to write all that I have to say for my essays, in a way that is authentic. I think realizing this is the only way I could say what I need to about myself, who I am, who and what I love, where I have been, and where I hope to end up in ten pages or less.