My Winning Essay

A short while ago, I submitted an essay to a scholarship held by Feldco, and they gave me a call to tell me that I won! The topic was: “How has your family contributed to who you are today.”

Who I am Today: 2017 Feldco Scholarship Catherine Haws

     Depending on where you first meet me, your first impression might be that I am thoughtful and reserved or boisterous and fun-loving. Either impression is correct. I’m a walking, talking ball of contradictions, which I guess is what you get when you scientifically combine two attracted opposites. I was the tomboy who liked church dresses (as long as they were sturdy enough to climb trees in afterward.) I am the studious class clown. I am the outgoing, friendly person who keeps to the wall and snack table at parties. I am the confident girl wearing bright colors and no make-up while internally anxiously reviewing my insecurities. Through all of my messes and contradictions, my family has loved me into who I am.

I’ve lived my whole life at the same little house on the same little street with my same little family: Mom, Dad, and big brother Ben. I could go into the good old story of how my parents met, but for now, I will just say that two “sevenths” married each other. Dad is the seventh of seven kids, and Mom is the seventh of nine. After all that, they decided to calm down and just have Ben and me. They thought that I was going to be a Joseph. Good old Joseph and Benjamin like the brothers in the Bible, but no, I went and spoiled it all as a Catherine. They soon forgave me, although Ben took a bit more convincing, but he has since come around.

One of the largest influences on my life has been my education. My parents chose to homeschool Ben and I, and I am forever grateful for that choice. Now, I imagine you have questions. Do you have friends? Are you socialized? Is it true that homeschoolers wear pajamas? I am happy to ease your mind with three easy answers: yes, yes, and oh yes. I am also happy to say that as one entering my junior year of college this fall, I am doing just fine.

With my Mom carefully planning my upbringing utilizing various curriculums, my education has been unique. No one else in the world has had exactly the same education that I have. Mom researched the books I read, organized field trips, enrolled me in 4-H, and drove me to theatre practices.

Something I love about Mom is that she supports my interests. Early on, I displayed my affinity for the written word by scribbling my first book with a black crayon at age five. She encouraged my endeavors by reading my stories, critiquing plot holes, and correcting grammatical mistakes. Although I did not appreciate the frank advice at first, I treasure it now.

Along with my scholastic education, my Mom has educated me about myself and about life. We’ve shared many a heartfelt conversation on the couch, in the car, and in the kitchen. Mom is now like a friend, and I fondly look back on all it took to get us to this point. I will always be her little girl, even if I am a few inches taller.

Now for my Dad. Again and again I try to explain my Dad to people, but I conclude that you just have to experience him. Dad is like a character from a book: larger than life, quirkily endearing, and absolutely unpredictable. He has been known to wear seven layers of clothing at a time (I counted), he enjoys watching chick-flicks, reading me bedtime stories (even though I’m in college), playing board games with extravagant house rules, and most of all he loves people.

Walking with Dad through the grocery store takes longer because he always sees at least two people he knows. The best thing about him is that he loves making people feel special. He can talk to anybody, and when he walks away, they are left smiling. He is the most encouraging man I know. Every piece of my work I’ve shown him is hailed as if I’m the next Shakespeare (which gets balanced out by the blunt critiques of my Mom and brother.)

I am sure that my level of confidence has been boosted and polished by my Dad. He has always believed in me, and I know he always will. I have never been given reason to doubt his love for me, and although I will never quite understand him, I dearly love him and will always be his little girl.

Now for the brother. I know I’ve got less space for this guy, so I will try to convey an encyclopedia’s worth into the words I have left.

I have always looked up to Ben (both physically and metaphorically.) As kids, we played for hours creating elaborate, swashbuckling adventures with stuffed animals. I watched over his shoulder as he began his filmmaking endeavors editing together his stop-motion action figure films. He takes me on dates to the movies, and we stay until the last of the credits roll, pointing out the MPAA number, the fingerprint of the film. We take long walks and stay up late talking about anything and everything. When he came back from college during his breaks, he’d try to educate me about everything he loved: aperture, aspect ratios, ancient history, philosophy, cinematography, and symbolism to name a few. Ben has a way of making film equipment sound like God’s gift to humanity. He reads my work, freely giving his opinions, and encourages me to keep creating. From our early days of squabbling, Mom always reminded us we are a team. I look forward to every opportunity I get to work as a team with Ben now.

If you have made it this far through this memoir, thank you for hanging with me. The instructions said to write in my “own words”, and I have done just that. My beautiful family has made me curious, courageous, creative, and caring. I am thankful and blessed beyond all these words.


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I am a 7-year-old​ stuck in a twenty-something's body. I enjoy long walks on the beach and peanut butter on waffles. If the following combinations of letters mean anything to you: OYAN, LotR, F.R.O.G., AiO, OBPC, DIY Then we can be friends. And if not, we still can be friends!

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