|Meng Li of China|
Like Miguel in our previous post, Meng has written her essay in response to an assignment that asked her not only to narrate an important life event but also to probe its meaning. Meng has chosen to write about her experience with military discipline as a middle school student. Meng excels in setting the stage for the event she narrates, in building up to the crucial moment, and in delving into how she felt and what she learned. Here is Meng's essay.
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By Meng Li
When I was 12 years old, I attended a two-week military training after I had graduated from elementary school. Military training is required for most Chinese students before they enter a junior high school and again before high school and before university. I'm no exception. So I have attended military training three times, but the first one is the most unforgettable and meaningful.
I remember that we were forced to get up at 6:00 every morning, and then we needed to make our quilts like cubes before we went to have breakfast; we were forced to finish our breakfast within ten minutes, otherwise we would be punished by the instructors. Normally, the punishment was running around the perimeter of the field five times, which was about 2000 meters. So all the students needed to eat as fast as they could; then they rushed out of the dining hall, and ran to the field. We also needed to stand up straight in the playground and wait for the instructor to count off every student. What’s more, the instructor would inspect our appearance and behavior to make sure we looked like real soldiers. After this, we started running, doing military boxing and climbing across barriers. Those tasks were very difficult for the guys, not even to mention the girls. Usually after a whole day's training, I was exhausted and so hungry that I could almost eat a horse. So it is not hard to see that the military training was extremely demanding physically.
I remember that one of the parts of that training was standing on the field for one hour without any movement. I was doing very well in the first thirty minutes, but I was sweating because of the heat of the sun; I even felt that a drop of sweat was sliding down from my forehead, and it felt itchy. I couldn't bear it and I found that the instructor was standing far away with his back to me. I thought that he couldn't notice me, and then I started scratching my face. However, just when I put my left hand on my face, the instructor turned around and looked at me angrily. What's worse, I didn't realize this until a girl who was next to me poked me slightly. I looked at the instructor and found that he was very angry and he was walking towards me quickly.
I felt that I couldn't even breathe and my heart would almost pop out of my mouth as he approached me. The instructor stood right in front of my face, and he growled, "Come out." I stepped reluctantly out of the line and I felt my face turned red like an apple. The instructor commanded me to turn around to face everyone. Almost five hundred students were standing there; I faced them and I heard someone giggle; I just kept my head down and looked at my feet. It made me feel better, for at least I couldn't see anyone's eyes. I couldn't remember clearly how many hours I stood there because the shame occupied all of my mind; maybe it was two or three hours, or even more. All I wanted was to finish that training as soon as possible so that I could dash to the dorm and digest what had happened the whole day. I would never forget that day when I got the first punishment of my life, and it has proved to be the most serious punishment so far: I will never forget the feeling of being stared at by five hundred students. "What a lucky girl! How glorious I was!"
After that training, I learned that we need to think more about the result before we risk doing something. I needed to think of what would happen if the instructor found that “I moved.” If I noticed that, I guess I could bear the itch no matter how itchy my face was. What's more, the duty of a solider is to obey his or her commander no matter how difficult the task is. My fault was that I never imagined myself as a real soldier, so I didn't give my one hundred percent for that training.
I felt great and relaxed when I arrived at Loyola University New Orleans and found that the welcoming program of Loyola University for new students didn’t have this kind of military training but instead offered a thoughtful orientation!
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Thank you, Meng, for sharing your painfully learned lesson with us!
Our next post will present an essay about a life-changing experience of helping poor but eager children in a developing country.