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Hurricane Transformations

Jason Y. Shah

Harvard University

I used to spend endless nights wide-eyed, anxiously dreading a high school life teeming with harsh peers and hollow hallways, immersed in a cold atmosphere eternally void of familiarity’s warm embrace. I’ll admit that this is not a hopeful vision; nevertheless, I certainly risked accepting this ugly reality when I supported my family’s decision to uproot itself and move from New Jersey to Florida after my freshman year.

Somewhat flexible, my parents gave me a significant voice in the decision, as I would be most profoundly affected. Yet, I had spent my entire life in the same cozy center-hall colonial in the same New Jersey suburb. I had known my friends since youth, when we had snowball fights during the icy winter and ran through lawn sprinklers during the summer. Teachers knew my family and cordially greeted me in the halls. I could never move. In my mind, I was set!

Or was I? Instinct tugged at my heart, something was missing in my life because life is not about being “set.” Lured by the concept of a fresh start, I yearned for the chance to write my own story. As the son of Indian immigrants, I had adventure in my blood; the time had come to venture beyond my comfort zone and stake a unique claim in Florida.

The first few months were trying; only birds joined me during lunch, and I spend weekends alone writing introspective poetry. My fifteenth birthday centered on a family discussion about our affection for our new home while Hurricane Charley pounded the life out of Florida. I regretted moving. By fortuitous research, however, I learned more about innovative entrepreneurs who were shaping our world. I have not looked back since.

My self-inflicted adversity finally evoked personal growth. I constantly introduced myself to strangers and pursued my passions in different activities. By launching and supporting community organizations, I transformed into a proactive leader as I overcame difficulties in varied contexts. Continuously seeking challenges in the community and IB Program, I teamed up with other motivated citizens and students to thrive and contribute to my new home.

Today I am highly involved in my community with many friends and mentors. Nobody knows me for my family or childhood, just for who I am today. The results of my own decisions and actions mean much more than what has been bestowed upon me. I would risk it all again because I know that I can only enjoy what I have earned. Breaking away from the risk-averse crowd that holds an exaggerated fear for what can be lost has been refreshing. I have gained trust in myself to defy odds because I never would have dreamt of the happiness and accomplishments that I have been honored to achieve in Florida. College will certainly thrust a fiercer Hurricane Charley at me, but I will stare it straight in the eye and exceed expectations, eventually leaving an enduring legacy for the world through my entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavors.

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