Tuesday, November 12, 2013

[STUDENT ESSAY] "I am not the only one" by Sarah Donnelly

By Sarah Donnelly

Mistakes are often painful. They are usually unwanted and can result in feelings of regret. Therefore, to consider a mistake as 'interesting' seems counter-intuitive somehow. That said, it was certainly a result of mistakes, in which many of the most significant developments of our world came about. Moreover, mistakes do not exist in isolation, and it is normally the cumulative effect of one mistake leading to or building on another that allow for interesting results.

My most interesting mistake must therefore be my three-year-old thought that I was the only 'Sarah' in the world. It is well-documented that up until a certain age, children are unaware of others in a somewhat self-involved way. The existence of others simply do not occurr to them. It had certainly not occurred to me. Not until I was learning to read, and saw that the author was named 'Sarah'.

"But I'm Sarah!" I exclaimed to my mother.

She smiled, "Yes, but you're not the only Sarah. She's called Sarah too."

The words echoed in my head. I traced the letters of the name on the book cover. Once, so familiar; now: suddenly strange and foreign. I was silent, the startling new concept too difficult, too big and even awful to try to speak about with my small words. How could that be?

I was uncertain. "I'm Sarah?" I wanted reassurance that I wasn't at least wrong about that part.

In my memory now, my mother's smile was kind and knowing and loving; I think she could see that I was having the realisation everyone must go through at some point: that we are not unique, that we share our names, that we share the planet, and that at first, this is quite an eye-opening, if not mind-blowing idea.

Gently, she reassured me. "Yes, you're Sarah. But she's Sarah too."

It was like seeing in colour for the first time. This one new thought opened my eyes to the enormity of the world around me. It was frightening, it had shaken my belief-system, but it was a sharp wake-up call that made everything fascinating. It led to burning questions and intense desires to know and find out. It resulted in endless curiosity about people and places. It inspired a passion for learning.

Most important of all, my mistake taught me my own insignificance, the most powerful remedy against arrogance and superiority. I have never forgotten it.

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