I was about to send this in tonight, but I wanted to just post it in case anyone had suggestions. This was shortened to 500 words (down from about 1,300) for a particular school. Please let me know if this is effective and if it needs any changes!
We moved to Colorado in the spring of 1995. Following a bitter divorce, my mother needed a fresh start. And just as the foot must go where leg leads, two small children followed their mother halfway across the country.
Colorado meant a few things. Though we had no family, friends or any reliable source of income, we moved into a one-bedroom apartment and soon enrolled into school. There, my Chinese heritage held little social value and I effectively transformed from Eurasian to “not White” and, because we were poor, “Mexican.” Public opinion or not, we loved, ate and fought with Asian sensibility. Our immediate family was impenetrable. So when I began to realize the full extent of my mother’s mental illness, I was alone.
Avoid the Irish. Don’t wear red. Watch out for trucks. Her delusions demanded constant attention even as I fought to separate my identity from hers. It also fueled our isolation, and ultimately, socioeconomic status. In 1999, our financial situation had worsened and we returned to New York to live with my grandmother. By then, I had become the culmination of my upbringing. Not entirely Chinese or White, Christian but with Jewish roots, I abhorred ignorance. I loved the city – with all of its lights, museums and food – and yet, I missed the simplistic countryside. I was a living contradiction, defined by my unbelonging.
A love for language, a commitment to academics and an affinity for debate—traits that emerged out of necessity ultimately led to the beginnings of self-realization. In college, I studied the contemporary masters of global literature—Said, Rushdie, Lahiri. They served as lenses through which to self-reflect and grow. And my inability to fully associate with any one ethnicity, religion or even economic status – the same inability that drew me to these writers – enabled me to empathize with a variety of people.
After college, I joined a hospitality design magazine, interviewing designers and manufacturers worldwide. In doing so, I noticed a prevalent theme – China. While domestic manufacturers griped about the movement of business abroad, Chinese factory workers struggled under the pressures of low production costs. This inspired me to contact China Labor Watch, an NGO dedicated to ensuring the compliance of Chinese factories with international labor law. Today, I edit and strategize written material for the organization.
My decision to pursue a career in law did not come about haphazardly. Rather, it was my initial dependence upon and, later, commitment to expression that gave way to such a desire. Expression, which cannot exist without the right to speak, is just as important as any other right – the right to work under fair conditions, the right to pursue happiness. And just as I once felt marginalized, though not by any traditional institution, I now seek to give voice to other marginalized populations. I believe that this drive, paired with my broad societal perspective, intellectual pursuits, academic proficiency and analytical nature, will serve well in the advancement of legal policy and practice.