Make Your Own Time

A Personal Statement Essay written for College Applications


Newest Commodor: Harley was accepted to Vanderbilt University and will be attending next year.

Harley Dichter, Student Contributor

“Of my daughters, I know that you’ll appreciate this the most,” my mom said as she handed me a brightly-colored wall calendar decorated with a different fashionable high-heeled shoe for each month. My eight-year-old self was intrigued by the grown-up shoes that I wanted to wear so badly, which made putting entries into the calendar an event in itself. 

At age eight, the most momentous entry I made in the calendar was the time of my favorite TV show, iCarly. Nonetheless, I can confidently say that being an uber planner has become an essential piece of my identity. Some people believe you have to make your own luck, but I believe you have to make your own time. I’ve graduated from this inaugural shoe calendar to keeping several records of my life simultaneously, some on paper, others on my computer or phone. My days are divided into color-coded chunks: sports are green, school is purple, and social commitments are pink. Being a planner keeps me organized, but, more importantly, it also keeps me balanced. Being efficient opens up my day so I can play in a field hockey game and still have time for family dinner and game night. It may sound oxymoronic, but if I carve my day into concrete slices, I can babysit, participate in a Ping Pong Club meeting, and make time to donate food to the local food pantry all in one action-packed day. This seeming rigidity actually gives me freedom. 

I sometimes wonder whether my planning trait is the result of nature or nurture. Like me, my mother is hyper-organized (that’s why she knew how much I would love the shoe calendar), but my two sisters and my father are the polar opposite. It’s become a running joke in my house that my family is divided into two teams captained by my parents: Team Kenny and Team Shoshana. Team Kenny is messy, often procrastinates, and spontaneous. Team Shoshana recognizes that organization is the key to success.

My thirteen year old sister, who has ADHD and dyslexia, has found online school extremely challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic, so I stepped in to help. Since both my parents work, I took on the role of teacher, mom, organizer, and life coach, helping her manage her workload, plan out the days where she didn’t have a teacher in front of her, and communicate with her teachers via email. We made color-coded schedules noting when her teachers offered extra help so she was able to ask questions when she was struggling. Essentially, I acted as a human calendar to help her get back on track. In helping my sister, I performed a time management experiment that successfully converted her to Team Shoshana. As we returned to in-person school, she was able to wean herself off my organizational methods, internalizing my system and modifying it to work for her.

 Helping my sister made me think back to what I was like at her age. All of my old paper calendars reside in a cabinet in my attic. Sometimes I climb the attic stairs and flip through them to reminisce on my past experiences. I can’t believe I used to do gymnastics three times a week or spend so many weekends at the mall with my middle school friends. These days, I use an app on my phone where I record a one second long video each day, which gives me the opportunity to select notable moments that I want to hold on to. Whether I’m keeping a record of my life on a shoe calendar or an iPhone app, I love to have this record of my life–who I am, who I was, and who I will be on the blank calendars to come.