Realizing My Potential

“Chris, you won the trip to New York.”

Those were the words I’d been waiting to hear. My friend patted me on my back to congratulate me on a job well done. I heard some small applause circling through the tiny classroom. That was the moment that changed how I looked at my writing. It all happened my senior year of high school. I was in an International Relations class with many of my close friends. The first day of class our teacher told us about a contest where the winner would get an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City and Washington, D.C.

The task? To write an essay on the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Treaty. Seems pretty daunting, right? I mean, I’d never heard of this treaty before. It was going to take a lot of hard work to write an essay on something that seemed dry at best. However, I knew I wanted this trip and I was going to do the best job I could to win it. After a tireless process of writing, I had an inkling I was going to win all along. I don’t know why but it was constantly running through my head. And that’s, indeed, what happened.

I was excited when I learned I’d won. I found out later that I was the only student from the Triangle-area who’d won the trip. The other students were all from the western part of our state. I was told I could bring along one of my teachers. I ended up taking my Forensic Science teacher I’d had my junior year. It was both of our first times going to the Big Apple. On the day of the trip I was a little nervous and excited. We climbed onto the tour bus and started our 14 hour journey to the greatest city in the world.

When we finally got there that night, I was in awe. Our hotel was a couple hundred feet away from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where “Late Show with David Letterman” is filmed. It was fascinating that we had to ride up seven floors in an elevator just to get to the hotel lobby. This was all new to me. We got settled in our rooms and took a night tour of Times Square. It was everything I had hoped it’d be. The bright lights, the aromas, the sounds of horns honking. And speaking of honking horns. We learned a valuable lesson about walking in the Big Apple. If you jaywalk and a cab comes barreling towards you and the driver honks the horn you better get out of the way. They will not stop for you like most drivers do here in North Carolina.

While in New York we got to go to the United Nations and take a tour. The “finalists” from the chosen winners in the essay contest presented their essays for a chance to win a scholarship. I was not one of the finalists but I enjoyed just being there. We also did some fun stuff like going to a Broadway show and eating at a Pier in lower Manhattan, among other things. We left New York and went to Washington, D.C. where we toured the U.S. Capitol and even got to see the presidential motorcade leaving the Capitol grounds.

The trip was a blast. I’m so thankful I had the opportunity to go. This essay was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to write, no doubt. But, with the approval from my teacher and being the only local student to receive this honor, I’m much more confident about my writing today.