Every year, the New York Times’ Ron Lieber asks high school seniors for their college application essays. He selects a few, showcasing what’s on teenagers’ minds about work, money, social class or related topics.
“We adults don’t talk about money and our feelings about it often enough,” Lieber says, “so it only seems right to try to learn from the teenagers who have figured out how to do it well.”
Yesterday, he published 4. Among them: Staples High School’s Tadeo Messenger. Lieber describes Tadeo’s topic as “an unlikely conveyance in upscale Connecticut.”
My friends and peers don’t understand my relationship with Big Betsy. This is mainly due to the fact that Big Betsy is far older, louder, and larger than what is considered “normal” at my school. She is constantly surrounded by others who serve the same exact purpose, but are more elegant.
Big Betsy was always different. Every time I went out with her I could feel judgmental eyes wondering why a kid like me would even want anything to do with her. Despite this, I was always proud of her and what we accomplished together. She was made fun of relentlessly, but I always knew deep down that we had something special together.
It was like we had known each other for years when I first laid eyes on her. I was sure that we would stay together for a long time. Since the day I bought Big Betsy on Craigslist, I have loved her unconditionally. I still remember driving down the winding country road to the seller’s sprawling ranch and instantly falling for her. The way that she glistened in the sunlight beckoned me to her. I had no problem spending the money for her that I had accumulated over years of saving birthday gifts, doing undesirable odd jobs and babysitting unruly children. To me, she was worth more than my entire bank account.
Big Betsy has been loyal to me throughout the past couple of years. She even provided me with the opportunity to set up my own business, The Westport Workers. My friend and I realized that all the dump-run services in our town were grossly overcharging their customers, so we decided to provide an inexpensive alternative. We have worked countless jobs together, including transporting an antique bar counter 50 miles away for a Gilmore Girls fan club meeting and hauling a battered boat motor through knee-deep sludge to dispose of it at the dump.
Big Betsy and I are constantly relying on each other to get things done. In the blistering summer heat she would wait patiently for me while I pulled weeds for hours on end. With sweat trickling down my face, I would take shelter from the sun in her soft embrace. She and I made a respectable living through our business, and I would always make sure to buy her the things that she required to keep her going.
Not only has she been a great truck, she also helped me to realize how little other people’s judgments of me matter. I used to be shy and avoided differentiating myself from my classmates because I was very concerned about what others would think about me. In a school almost entirely minority-free, I was always uncomfortable with my ethnicity, and even my name. I felt extremely self-conscious every time that I pulled into the high school parking lot filled with Mercedes, Jeep Wranglers, and BMWs.
However, as time went on, Big Betsy became a bit of a local celebrity and I became more confident, and not only while driving. I found myself less anxious when voicing my opinions, applying for leadership positions, and challenging myself to do better in all aspects of my life. Big Betsy made me realize how damaging it can be to my potential when I become unwilling to stand out or take the risks required to achieve my goals. If it wasn’t for her teaching me how to be confident in myself and that it is good to be pushed out of my comfort zone, I would not be nearly as happy as I am today.
(Tadeo Messenger is now a freshman at the University of Michigan. Click here to read all 4 college application essays from the Times. Hat tips: John Karrel, Jim Honeycutt, Stefanie Lemcke, Jo Ann Davidson, Mary Hoffman and Carl Volckmann.)