There aren’t many trees where I live, but it feels as if I have been living in a rainforest all my life. To me, the most interesting aspect of rainforests isn’t the average annual amount of rainfall they receive, but the immense amount of shade they produce. With roughly 40% of Earth’s plant species densely packed in a rainforest’s canopy, it is no surprise that only 1-2% of the sunlight shining over a rainforest can reach the forest floor. I have felt what it is like to live under someone’s shadow, but, growing up amidst so many accomplished people, it was as if I was just another plant on the rainforest floor.
I spent my childhood constantly being overshadowed by others. When I played soccer in an elementary school league, I was eclipsed by my all-star sister that played for a premier team. At age 10, I proudly celebrated my first gold medal in piano competition, only to have my older cousin win enough medals to earn her the honor of a gold trophy.
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For a plant growing on the floor of a rainforest, the shade of a thousand trees is a hindrance to its growth, but the shadows I lived under had a completely opposite effect. Instead of sulking in my inferiorities, I learned from them. By watching and cheering on my sister at her soccer games, I became a better player. Listening to my cousin practice piano, I gained a better sense of rhythm and tone that I applied to my own study.
The people casting shadows in my life were my inspiration and influenced me to better myself; even so, as I imitated their success, I realized that I would never match them.In nature, an understorey shrub will never grow to the height of a canopy tree. In fact, by following conventional methods, it won’t grow at all. Growing in a dark environment, a shrub must evolve to forego normal limitations on plant growth—including light dependency—and only then can it realize its full potential. While I learned and grew by absorbing the wealth of talent that surrounded me, I was shaping my aspirations to conform to that of others. I was a shrub imitating a canopy tree and limiting my own potential.In the sixth grade, however, I discovered my life’s passion—art.
Unlike anything I had previously pursued, I had no one to copy, follow, or look up to in my endeavor. Because I was forced to learn on my own, I embraced it and labored all the more passionately. For the first time in my life, I began to create and follow dreams that were and remain mine.For that reason, I acknowledge the benefit I received from the tradition of achievement that surrounds me. It is what inspires me to strive for greatness; more importantly, it is what first taught me to appreciate my own strengths and talents—to pursue my own dreams. But after spending my life yearning after a spot in the rainforest canopy that was not mine, I now aspire to establish my own, unique place beside those who once cast shadows over me.