Below is an essay by Nico Vit that he submitted to the University of Edinburgh for his school application – you’ll see why he got in once you’ve read this beautiful story.
Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you experience there and why is it meaningful to you?
Trees. I hate trees. They’re tall, they’re ugly, they’re much too necessary and they have no sense of individuality.
I have spent over 150 days sitting in a canoe looking at trees. Eight hours a day, alone, my thoughts and mind wandering, exploring my innner self. No iPad, laptop, video games or television, just time alone with myself.
Everyday I would sit in a tin can, as the hot summer slowly cooked my inner thighs; the feeling in my biceps sapped and my energy gone as I forced my boat forward at a steady pace. My body was constantly active, but this activity was nothing compared to what was going on in my brain. I can not say that I remember every little life changing revelation I have made but the one revelation that definitely sitcks out in my mind is the one I made conerning trees. In my canoe, I quickly got sick of looking at trees. But, the more tress bored me, the more I realize that they represent exactly what I do not want to become. The lack of individuality is something that terrifies everyone. Everyone thinks they are an individual, and I have to say that I, too, am guilty of such a vain assumption.
One day in a canoe, all of these thoughts were racing through my head. I was completely zoned out, when all of the sudden I heard a shrieking, scraping sound. My boat had come to an abrupt stop because a tree had fallen into the water directly in the path of my boat. This tree was no longer just another tree but one that directly impacted my life. There were millions of trees in that forest, yet only this one had affected me. No on else was bothered; just me an my canoe. I realized then that to make my impact in the world, I had to be the fallen tree. I do not mean fallen in the sense that I wanted to be decrepit or dead; instead I just had to go out of my way to make a difference in people’s lives. Attempting to do so in a general sense would not be effective and therefore, if I wanted to impact individuals positively, I had to do it person by person.
The place that is most meaningful to me has to be the wilderness. I am a city boy, I live in the middle of urban sprawl, I take the bus, I go to the movies, and I am very comfortable amongst smog and loud noises. I am also an admirer of our country’s greatest leader, Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
Trudeau, too, is an alumnus of my camp. He contests that “What sets a canoeing expedition apart is that it purifies you more rapidly and inescapably than any other… paddle a hundred kilometers in a canoe and you are already a child of nature.” I believe much of his integrity and joi de vivre came from the time he spent with himself alone in a canoe. Much of my soul, too, comes from the canoe.
The wilderness is not about ecosystems and fauna. To me, the wilderness represents my mind. It is complex and sohpisticated, occassionally difficult to navigate. Even though I might be afraid, the wilderness and the wilderness of my mind is where I feel most at home. The fatigue of the difficult parts of every adventure either into my inner self or in the outdoors had made those beautiful moments of discovery so much more pleasurable. If the adventure had been easy, what would I have learned?
Since I can not always be in my canoe, it comforts me to know that in the midst of all the pungent smells and swamped expressways of the city, by closing my eyes, I can get lost in the world of deep lakes and tall trees by exploring my mind.
– Nico Vit, Ahmek Counsellor