If string theory is really true, then the entire world is made up of strings, and I cannot tie a single one. This past summer, I applied for my very first job at a small, busy bakery and café in my neighborhood. I knew that if I were hired there, I would learn how to use a cash register, prepare sandwiches, and take cake orders. I imagine that my biggest struggle would be catering to demanding New Yorkers, but I never thought that it would be the benign act of tying a box that would become both my biggest obstacle and greatest teacher.
On my first day of work in late August, one of the bakery’s employees hastily explained the procedure. It seemed simple: wrap the string around your hand, then wrap it three times around the box both ways, and knot it. I recited the anthem in my head, “three times, turn it, three times, knot” until it became my mantra. After observing multiple employees, it was clear that anyone tying the box could complete it in a matter of seconds. For weeks, I labored endlessly, only to watch the strong and small pieces of my pride unravel each time I tried.
As I rushed to discreetly shove half‐tied cake boxes into plastic bags, I could not help but wonder what was wrong with me. I have learned Mozart arias, memorized the functional groups in organic chemistry, and calculated the anti‐derivatives of functions that I will probably never use in real life—all with a modest amount of energy. For some reason though, after a month’s effort, tying string around a cake box still left me in a quandary.
As the weeks progressed, my skills slowly began to improve. Of course there were days when I just wanted to throw all of the string in the trash and use Scotch tape; this sense of defeat was neither welcome nor wanted, but remarks like “Oh, you must be new” from snarky customers catapulted my determination to greater heights.
It should be more difficult to develop an internal pulse and sense of legato in a piece of music than it is to find the necessary rhythm required to tie a box, but this seemingly trivial task has clearly proven not to be trivial at all. The difficulties that I encountered trying to keep a single knot intact are proof of this. The lack of cooperation between my coordination and my understanding left me frazzled, but the satisfaction I felt when I successfully tied my first box was almost as great as any I had felt before.
Scientists developing string theory say that string can exist in a straight line, but it can also bend, oscillate, or break apart. I am thankful that the string I work with is not quite as temperamental, but I still cringe when someone asks for a chocolate mandel bread. Supposedly, the string suggested in string theory is responsible for unifying general relativity with quantum physics. The only thing I am responsible for when I use string is delivering someone’s pie to them without the box falling apart. Tying a cake box may not be quantum physics, but it is just as crucial to holding together what matters.
I am beginning to realize that I should not be ashamed if it takes me longer to learn. I persist, and I continue to tie boxes every weekend at work. Even though I occasionally backslide into feelings of exasperation, I always rewrap the string around my hand and start over because I have learned that the most gratifying victories come from tenacity. If the universe really is comprised of strings, I am confident that I will be able to tie them together, even if I do have to keep my fingers crossed that my knots hold up.
Her heart monitor flat lined; my heart stopped. As the room around me melted into a blur of the emergency crew trying to revive her, all I could think about was how young she was. It was the first day that I was allowed to oversee a chemotherapy treatment during my summer internship in the cancer ward of Hastings Hospital. The patient had a type of kidney cancer known as renal cell carcinoma (RCC). I didn’t know it at the time but she had a case of metastatic RCC where the cancerous cells travel to other organs; she passed away due to intracranial hemorrhaging. Amidst the apparent chaos in the room, I carefully observed Dr. Hennigan—the Primary Investigator conducting the research I was involved with. Watching him work with such quick dexterity with every patient he had over that summer had more than convinced me that Dr. Hennigan was a phenomenal doctor; however, even this was not always enough.
That moment not only solidified my desire to become a doctor, but it also made me realize that I must strive to obtain the best education that is available to me in order to save the lives of my patients. To do so, I would like to continue to explore the research world to broaden the already vast knowledge that exists in the medical field. I want to have the opportunity to be involved in cutting edge research at a prestigious institution. Attending a prestigious undergraduate institution will also heighten my chances of being accepted into a world renowned medical school that will provide me with all of the necessary skills to become a lifesaving physician. As a medical student, I would apply my critical thinking abilities— as well as other crucial talents obtained from my education—to real life patients in order to provide phenomenal care. My aptitude for learning quickly will prove to be an asset in the fast paced curriculum of medical schools.
In order to obtain my life‐long career goal of becoming a doctor, I must first learn all of the basics as a biology major and become a well‐rounded individual to mold myself into an outstanding health care provider. As a doctor, the next time I am in the situation where a patient flat lines, I will not stand idly by; I will be able to actively save her life.
The most exciting time to live in Vermont is mid-February. This is the time when one is given the privilege of a 30-minute walk to school in sub-zero temperatures, with a 30-minute trudge home in the dark after a long day. It’s been four months since winter began, and it’ll be two more until it’s over. The firewood is being rationed to keep the house at a barely livable temperature, a steamy 50 degrees, and colds are so rampant that people lose half their body weight in phlegm each day. Yet, however dull Vermont may seem to students and teachers as they wrap themselves in layer after layer of flannel, make no mistake, today is the beginning of an era. Today is the day when Isaac (that’s me) starts his job of putting smiles on grim faces as the reader of the morning announcements.
“But Isaac, that job is super boring! You just read what’s written on a piece of paper,” is what an uninformed person might say, someone who obviously doesn’t know about my passion for annoying the tired and melancholic with smiling positivity. While expression and humor has not historically been a part of this process, and while ad-libbing has been strictly advised against, I go for it anyway. And why not? The worst possible outcome involves only a stern lecture and an expulsion from the job.
Fortunately, there is not much going on this week, which means I have some wiggle room with what I can say. The loud buzz of the intercom whines throughout the school, and the silent apprehension of the day is met, somewhat unexpectedly, with a greeting of 20 “yo’s” and a long, breathy pause. I artfully maneuver someone else’s writing into my own words, keeping the original intent but supplementing the significant lack of humor with a few one-liners. I conclude by reminding everyone that just because the weather is miserable today does not mean that we have to be as well.
Luckily, the principal loves it. And despite the fact that I urge everyone to interrupt my history teacher’s classes to wish him a happy birthday, I get to keep my job for another day. I have people coming up to me left and right, telling me that I made them smile. When I hear that, I smile back.
For the rest of the month, I work to make sure that people hear my message: even though we are at the time when school and winter are beginning to seem endless, there are still reasons to grin. I urge people to attend basketball games or sign up for spring sports. I announce birthdays and other special events. Before every day, I make sure I have a message that will make people think, “you know, today might not be so bad after all.” After my month ends, the announcements have been changed. The next readers tell jokes or riddles, or sing songs and invite others to sing with them. I watch the announcements evolve from an unfortunate but necessary part of the day to a positive and inspiring event. It is now more than just a monotonous script; it becomes a time to make sure that everyone has at least one thing to smile about.
Life shouldn’t have to be a dreary winter day; it should be the satisfaction of a good saxophone solo or the joy of seeing one’s friends every day at school. It is the enthusiasm of a biology teacher, the joy of a sports victory, and even the warm messages of a disembodied voice on the intercom. I use that message to help freshman feel less nervous at their first race or to encourage my friend to continue taking solos in jazz band. And in the most dismal time of year, I use that message in the daily announcements.
This material is for Johns Hopkins University use only.