Creative Essays

Creative nonfiction and personal essays


Education has always been important in my family. Prior to the earliest time I can remember, I am told, my mother and father read to me nightly. My family has a deep background in books, my father being a collector and my mother working at a library. My father loves books, in every way I can think of. He loves to read them, as do the rest of my family, but he has a collector’s interest in books that we lack.

He once wondered to a local library to check if they had a book sale. They did indeed have a book sale, and he bought quite a many books from their shelves. Soon he became a volunteer, and then the organizer, and soon had his own key to the library.

As the relationship between my father and me goes, I started going with him to the book sale. I loved reading and I helped him a little also. We discovered that the special semiannual book sale was coming up. I came with my dad that morning and we began carrying boxes of books out to the tables. We observed a tag sale across from us that apparently went hand-in-hand with our sale.

I was given the job of collecting money, and the day was going well, for we had already made nearly four hundred dollars for the library. At one point a small boy began his ascent up the small hill from the tag sale. He was only seven or eight by my estimate, and he went directly to the table marked “children.” After a minute or two he had found four or five books that he liked, put them in a neat pile and started his way back down the hill to the tag sale.

Nearly a minute later he came back with a rather sad look on his face.

“What’s the matter?” I asked him as he took the pile and placed the books back on the table. He shrugged and I pushed.

“You don’t want those books?” I asked. I could tell he was shy. We already had something in common.

“No, I can’t get them.”

“Oh? Why not?” I asked. I could sense that he wanted them.

“Because my mother won’t give me the money for the ‘stupid books,’” he answered.

“I’ll tell you what,” I began, “If you promise to enjoy the books, you can have them for free.” A small smile arose.

“Thank you, I sure will enjoy them.” He said and picked his books out of the pile. He smiled once more and walked happily down the hill. I felt rather good about what I had done at that sale and was mildly surprised to see the same small boy at the library nearly two weeks later. He read the books I had given him and he had come back for more. He knew there was a library, but told me that all the books were so big he couldn’t understand them.

“Did you try the children’s section?” I asked. He looked at me in confusion.

“What? I came from up the stairs,” he pointed, “I didn’t see any children’s.”

“Of course you didn’t. It’s down here.” I pointed him in the way of the children’s room. He seemed astonished at the number of books. I lead him through and explained.

“There are some books that are stories, called fiction, and some called nonfiction. Nonfiction is real. You can use those for help on school reports and stuff like that.” I showed him to the computer card catalog, which at that point in time was not a high tech machine to say the least.

“You can use this, by typing in what the title or the writer of the book is, to find something you want to read.” I showed him by demonstrating.

He looked pleased, like he was going to enjoy it. It was getting on to six o’clock, and I wondered why he was out so late.

“Do you have to go home to dinner?” I asked.

“No, we don’t usually have dinner as a family. My Mom works really late and…” he paused, “My Dad doesn’t live with me. My older brother usually fixes us something.”

“Cool. What’s his name?” I asked.

“Jamal, I like him.”

“Well, the library closes in a few minutes, but if you saw anything you wanted at the sale you can go get it.”

“But I don’t have any money.” He put his head down.

“That’s OK, just our little secret.” I smiled, and he returned it. Ten minutes later when he left he had 8 more books. I told him next time he came I would get him a library card.

That I did. I also found out his name: Freddie. He took out some books, and I warned him that he had to bring him back on time. He promised to. The next and last time I saw Freddie was when he came to return those books, nearly a week later. He was a bit reserved, but grabbed twelve books he liked from the sale.

“I’ll see you next time.” I told him but he didn’t turn back. To this day I don’t know why, but I suspect he knew he wouldn’t see me again.

I doubt that I’ll ever see Freddie again, but he made me appreciate my own position. I suppose that I helped him out by teaching him a couple of things and giving him some books he liked. Maybe I even made a difference, and while I do feel good about it, it makes me feel a bit sour. I wonder why young Freddie had to be given books by somebody he didn’t even know when my parents had given me books at the hospital an hour after my birth. Why did I get two parents who loved and cared for me and each other so greatly, but Freddie have a mother that worked all day long, and a father he didn’t know?

To this day I hope that Freddie learned at least one thing from me. A better word would be inherited. I hope that maybe he inherited that love of reading that is so prominent in my family, yet apparently so foreign in his.

Falling Action

My best friend Erin Rogers and I were together all the time, doing nothing without the other. But one day I realized that somewhere along the road somebody failed her, and every day I cannot help but wonder if it might have been me. Everything she went through, I was there for her, but I guess some things are too hard for even friendship. Not a day goes by that I don’t remember. How could I ever forget? I’m sharing this story for the first time since it happened.

The last time we had no worries, well, that were apparent, was on August 20 of ’97. We spent the night in her basement under the stairs. I can still taste our dinner of cold macaroni and cheese on our breath, and feel sticky sweet butterscotch on our fingers. Rebecca St. James’s “Side By Side” blared through our ears. “Together forever, that’s the way we should be,” we sang aloud. We laughed, and talked about everything and anything. I will never forget that night, one of the best nights of my whole life,and the night where it started to end. A climax of sorts—the end of the rising action; the beginning of the falling.

Erin’s parents divorced when we were in sixth grade. Erin was torn apart mostly because her mom wouldn’t keep her, and her father was an atheist. Erin and I both had sadistic older brothers at this point. In March of ’96 my brother was sent to Three Springs, in Paint Rock Valley. Today I refer to this place as hell. Erin’s dad quickly remarried—a prostitute. Erin was always upset, but we always talked and prayed about it, so it seemed to be resolved. Still, one day I noticed her smile drop just slightly, only enough for a best friend to notice. I tried to talk to her but nothing seemed to help. At first it was just not being together at all times, and then it was her eyes. They became so sad, making the hurt so visible.

By September ’97 she had started to waste away. She wore all black, practiced self-mutilation, and obsessed over death. I had never been so worried or scared in my life. I never wanted to leave her alone with her thoughts. But the inevitable happened. The last time I saw her in a way that broke my heart was at church. It hurt so much to see her in such despair and know that I couldn’t help, so I stopped going to church altogether.

On November 12, 1997 I got a phone call. “I’m going to Three Springs. Don’t forget me. I love you,” she tried to say through her sobs. I can safely say that I hate Three Springs. I told her I’d love her forever, that she’d always be my sister at heart, and to stay strong. She didn’t take that advice. January of 1998 she was free. I never saw Erin again. My best friend forever decided forever had to be cut short. I like to think she took my smile with her.

For a while I struggled with depression and suicide. We moved to Madison for a fresh start, but every day I’m reminded of her in some way, and I cannot help but think, What if? Her parents and I have a mutual disrespect for one another right now. A great person was destroyed. By what, I am not sure. But that makes it no less real.

In Defense of a Teenager’s Right to Question

Teenagers are known for their bizarre mood swings, questioning minds, and incessant energy. These traits mixed in with a parent’s habit of denying a teen’s request without a justification are common causes for many of the conflict between parents and teenagers.

This occurs because in childhood “no” is accepted without question—a child is not mature enough, in many cases, to question, but that is not in a teen’s nature. They are no longer children and should not be treated as such. It is wrong for parents to say “no” without any reason. In doing this they are inciting a teen’s anger and encouraging rebellion, therefore causing conflicts that disrupt the peace in a household. For example, a classic fight between parents and their teens can be about permission to go to a party. A parent might know that at that party, their teenager might be offered drugs. If a parent states this concern as a reason why he or she is not letting the teen go, then there is a better chances that this teen will understand and that together they will come to an agreement. Perhaps the teen, out of his or her own free will, eventually will decide not to go.

The situation mentioned previously shows that behind such an empty word as “no” there always is a reason. Adults are given explanations, even if they are not quite obvious—why should it be different with teenagers? Although they may not be as mature as adults, teenagers are perfectly capable of analyzing and understanding the reasons why certain ways of conduct, dressing and actions are prohibited. In fact, most are likely to accept and even agree with a parent provided he or she actually sits down and discusses the matter in a mature and civilized way.

In any case, contemporary and classical education teaches us to question. This is a method through which people learn to think for themselves. The right to question is, in fact, human nature, as well as essential. All people have this right and it would be discriminatory as well as an act of tyranny to deny to the right to teenagers simply because of their youth. If anything, a teen’s right to question should be encouraged. How are teens expected to grow and learn if no one teaches them—merely gives them vacant answers such as “no”?

Knowing this, however, many parents still hold on to the detrimental habit of assuming that teens don’t have the right to know why they are being denied a request. It is foolish to think that the curious mind of a teenager will be satisfied with just a simple “no.” Parents have the option of helping their teens grow, teaching them as well as keeping the peace. By justifying their reasons why something is right or wrong they send a positive message: they want their teens to learn, and they care enough to take the time and teach them. After all, if teens always accept “no” and never question, how will they be able to stand up for themselves?

A Foreign Persona

I feel safe. I feel home. I feel right and accepted whenever my mind wanders back to that room. I feel magical, and I feel knowledgeable. I was a regular.

From January of my freshman year in high school through May of my senior year, I spent my afternoons in a wondrous place, where I left myself at the door. With possibility as my escort and faith as my companion, I dared to live a dream, which only I had the power to pursue. Just arriving at the door, I gained the incentive, the adrenaline rush. I wanted to be her. As I neared the front, swashbuckling through onlookers, I felt a certain privilege overcome me. I felt as though the world was watching and I had the future mapped out in my mind. Her fate had been memorized.

Behind the dark curtain, my family awaited me. Soon, we would all take on our alternate personalities to entertain the onlookers and to tell their stories. We had spent endless hours preparing for the next three days—not even three days: seventy-two hours—six of which would be crucial. But it didn’t matter. In just seventy-two brief hours, their lives would end and ours begin again, but it didn’t matter. The thrill and excitement would last a lifetime.

I never imagined I would find my safe haven in a place where I was forced to bare all; unveiling myself to dozens of strangers. I found comfort in the fact that I was not the one being exposed; however, it was my resolution to portray her as well as she may have done if given the opportunity to, herself. My mind, my own enemy, I cleared every thought which did not pertain to that exact instant, and allowed my imagination to run rampant, abandoning my fears and myself, taking on a foreign persona.

This seventy-two hour interval would occur three times a year for four years. I could never imagine what the last minute, of the last hour, of the last day, of the last year would bring with it. The time when the roles would be reversed and her life would go on, without me, leaving myself as my only companion. But, eventually, the day did come, and somehow I left her, alone behind the dark curtains with my family, hoping that someday we would be reintroduced for another six hours.

Guilty Land

The wind on its course, set by some unseen navigator, gently caressed the trees as it ambled on…


It seemed to hint that it was only a foretaste of the impending holocaust which was in preparation for the great beginning of its oppressive tyranny.

The sky turned cold…

From seemingly nowhere, a giant monstrosity, like a judge, clothed in deep blackness, stepped onto the heavenly stage…

The sun cowered as it was drawn away and imprisoned behind doors and walls of darkness, enveloping its light, cutting it off from the world below.

An eeriness brooded over the earth. The seas grew restless. The great, dark tyrant maddening them like hungry savages waiting to gorge themselves on their prey.

The slamming of doors and the latching of windows could be heard, almost in spontaneous chorus, for we knew what was coming…

Lightning tore across the sky, seeking to bring ruin on the tallest, unlucky victim it could find in its brief but relentless mission.

A low, heavy rolling sound prevailed over the mountaintops, like a jury gloating heartlessly over the sentence meted out to the unfortunate soul.

The cloud, like a commanding officer, lined up its troops, all brilliantly dressed in cold, white uniforms, ready to destroy at the command…

Dissipation was ordered.

The fleet of deadly bullets (summoned to action) was set on course beyond the point of no return to fulfill a destiny of courage, honor and self-sacrifice.

Plants of all shapes, sizes and ‘walks’ of life were crumpled under the heavy blows of the nefarious hailstones and beaten to a pulp.

Tin roofs caved in like foil, exposing all they had to protect, like a new box of tissues being broken open and its contents torn to shreds.

Cars, as if made of balsa wood, were ruthlessly pelted, like targets at a shooting range; they buckled, bent beyond repair.

The ignorant animals in the fields were not even found innocent. They were struck down one by one, disintegrating under the ceaseless shelling of damning hailstones. Bodies were left to rot on the open plains that resembled gigantic abattoirs.

The judgment had been successfully carried out and the sun was set free once again to roam the skies and heal the broken land with its warmth.

The heartless laughter of the evil beast and his jury could still be heard in the distance as they slowly subsided over the horizon.


the invisible navigator saw fit to direct the path of the wind to caress our trees again, and…




its secret warning.

My Journey

The Greek playwright Sophocles presented the following riddle to the main character in one of his stories: What animal starts out on four legs, then moves to two, and then to three before dying? Of course Oedipus Rex answers correctly: man, who crawls as an infant then walks erect in middle age and finally uses a cane in the elder years. The journey of life follows much the same arc; we evolve from needing influence and guidance to finally reaching that point where our lives are up to us. I consider myself very lucky up to this point in my journey. Some people become sidetracked and wind up on a far different course than initially planned, but the detours I made have only assisted in embellishing the individual instead of devouring it.

According to Freud a person’s most important period to grow personality ranges from birth to six years. In that span my biggest influences came from my family. When I think of that time before kindergarten, the single most important person to my development was my grandmother Carmella. She didn’t graduate from college or sell wheat futures in the stock market, but she had wisdom and tenderness so few possess. My parents worked, so each morning my mother would drop me off at Grandma’s house. I didn’t realize it then but in retrospect, this woman has led a remarkable life. She birthed three sons all by Caesarian section, lost a husband in middle age, then all but raised a grandson for half a decade. She taught me how to walk and gave me my first piano lessons. She remains close to all her grandchildren yet her and I both know she holds a special place for the first one.

When I began school, friends began to shape paths for this journey. In the beginning we hardly know these classmates. Common interests and experiences bond or repel certain people to others. I didn’t understand what friendship meant until August 16, 1997, though. That morning, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car and ran into two utility poles and a tree while going 40 miles per hour. An ambulance rushed me to Memorial East and within a few hours the first person to visit me outside of my immediate family was my friend Matt. I hadn’t shown up to bowling that morning so he called my house then came to the hospital. Nobody made him come to see me so quickly but he did. I will never forget the look in his face as he stared down at me. Hopefully every young person can look at two loving parents for guidance and help. I know how fortunate it is that I live with both of my natural parents, and that they both want the best for me. My parents embedded the values I cherish today into my spirit: the difference between right and wrong, the correct way to deal with anger, the importance of dedication and hard work in life. Those seem like clichés, yet it is society that refuses to hold those basic principles sacred anymore. I consider it an honor and privilege to have parents with common sense and self-worth.

Other things have also affected the path I continue on today. Music certainly opened doors and exposed undiscovered emotions. Playing the saxophone, conducting, and even composing allowed this aestheticism to flow out from the depths of my being. Without becoming an artist I certainly would not understand my potential or the self-discipline that reaching a particular goal entails. Listening to poetry and music has helped to forge the Nick Capezza of today. The sonnets of William Shakespeare and symphonies of Beethoven express desires and feelings that I have yet even to discover. Without those outlets to describe the indescribable, I would probably be a more isolated and confused person than I am today.

Now that I have pinpointed what has pulled me to this point in the journey, maybe it’s time to discuss what will pull me further down the line. The overwhelming spectacle of college life certainly will play a hand in the Nicholas Capezza of tomorrow. Professors, fellow students, academic advisors, and even the nurses in the infirmary may all give insight and knowledge into an area of my psyche yet to unravel. Without parents there to kiss the tears away with milk and cookies, college will become the ultimate test between temptation and my inner-strength and the morals I have placed for my own behavior.

Possibly the biggest choice of any person’s life remains what vocation to go into. Even areas people have skills in may not give enough satisfaction to turn into a career, whether that satisfaction stays financial or otherwise. Whatever occupation I choose, I sincerely hope that the trek will remain on its uncertain and awesome course.

Throughout this journey of life many outside forces manipulate whom all of us become. These demons shake each individual in different ways, making it so the simple question, “What is quality?” cannot have a true answer. To me, quality means taking responsibility for one’s actions and standing tough in the eyes of a challenge. Quality includes honor, loyalty, and the instinct to do the right thing. Now who created my personal connotation? Through every relative, friend, and composition it boils down to me. I have taken all these beliefs and crammed them into a six feet, two inch frame. The real journey lies ahead, the journey from young adulthood to old age. I only pray this journey includes many travels and few destinations.

The Gift of Independence

A Privilege, A Responsibility

Our independence is a gift to us from our ancestors. Unlike other gifts, the price they paid for it was eternal. People such as José Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo gave their all in a white flame of sacrifice on the altar of their nation. They lived, suffered and died for their noble cause, knowing they might never see the next sunrise. Still, they fought on.

Andres Bonifacio said: “In the fury of your struggle, some of you might die in the midst of battle, but this is an honor that will be a legacy to our race and our progeny.” Together with Jose Rizal and countless others, their words of inspiration fill our minds and hearts like blood clots of revelation from the wounds of humanity. They, like many others, answered the call of our native land—the call of freedom.

We should look back on the glories of the past with profound pride, remembering the sacrifices as we till the fields that have soaked up blood from countless battles, as we idly cruise through cities that stood witnesses to the marks of history and as we look upon the faces of our fellowmen, knowing that it is for them they fought. Lives were lost all throughout the dark moments of history and yet these moments are the ones that have further strengthened our patriotic love for our motherland.

Our independence is tempered by a responsibility. This responsibility calls for all of us to work hand in hand to make sure that the efforts of the heroes behind our liberation will not have been in vain.

Because of our freedom, we are now of a mind to make our own personality as Filipinos. We shoulder the responsibility of creating our own history to add to the golden pages of time.

Some say that the age of heroism is past. But if we observe closely, we will notice that at one time or another, someone, somewhere is bringing new meaning to the name Filipino. We will all stand firm, fighting for God and country. After all, for what greater or nobler cause is there than to fight than the ashes of our fathers and the temples of our gods? An age without a name is equal to one hour of sweet liberty.

The Philippines is no longer an obscure blot on the map. We have passed the test of time as the Centennial Celebration has doubtless proven. The Philippines is enjoying a century of independence, but we must also move out of the past and into the hands of the new generation.

Our country is a work in progress. As citizens of this country, we must do all we can to help. The people are the nation and it is up to us to keep the torch of freedom burning.

(This an inspirational essay for teenagers in the Philippines, my country)

The Eternal War

Waging within us all is a kind of war. For some the war seems quickly won, with a victor easily decided. For others the battle is slower, more drawn out, but in no way less intense. But for a few, the battle is a lifelong struggle against a seemingly overwhelming foe. Ironically, it is often times these people that appear to be the calmest ones of all, the ones that act as though there is no conflict at all. Ah, but it is only an act, for the battle is very real.

Some desire to do good. They excel at all that they do, and they seem confident in the assurance that they will do well. Yet a heart-piercing search will reveal them to be little more than wandering waifs searching for fulfillment, contentment, and, most of all, peace. In this confusion and struggle, these are the people that will strive to please others in a vain search for peace, but other’s pleasure brings only an empty contentment. So the battle continues, growing only more and more fierce.

On the outside, these people seem calm, undisturbable, but they are like tranquil lakes. The surface is smooth, but beneath that surface lies a world of turmoil. Predators feed on their helpless prey; oxygen is greedily consumed by all in order to survive; currents run eternally, pulling everything unanchored along with it. Everything in this underwater world is in its place, yet a cruel relentlessness always drives it, keeping it from a perfect peace. It is from this so neatly organized chaos that inner eyes look up—searching—always searching, for assurance and peace. Gazing upward, a shaft of sunlight is seen penetrating the surface like a ray of hope. And all is calm—for a moment. Quickly the chaos dissipates the light, scattering the hope like a sound on a windy day, and once more the lost waifs are alone in their self-created darkness.

Occasionally, it appears that all the problems have been solved. For a season, impossible dreams are dreamt and deemed within reach, but soon reality descends, suffocating those dreams. The pain is bitter, yet it is clung to desperately as a drowning man clutches a lifeline. The pain cannot be left; it is craved in an illogical manner. At the same time, these poor waifs grow more timid. They allow themselves to hope less and less, always fearing the disappointment and pain of shattered dreams.

Such is the eternal battle between good and evil in perhaps its most potent form. The form that is waged on the battlefield of a human heart. Unlike physical wars, this one cannot be called off. It will continue raging until one wins and the other is destroyed. Unlike earthly battles, casualties cannot bring it to a halt. The fire feeds on itself, burning fuel only to find it immediately replenished. This is the battle contained in the human body. This is the battle of all time. Its complexities rival those of the human psyche, but its answer is many times more difficult to grasp.

Perhaps the worst part of this war is wondering whether one faces this battle alone. Are there others struggling with this war? Does good and evil battle within someone else? Or is a person truly as isolated as he or she makes herself feel? The answer may remain forever unknown, so the timid warrior hides. She hides behind a smiling face and a laughing voice. He hides behind physical exertion and mental strain. They hide in the crowd. They blend, and, like a chameleon, rarely expose their true colors. They think no one else will guess of the secret war they wage against themselves; but they hope, they pray, that someone will see through their calm surface to the deeper waters below. And the war wages on.

But, wait! Look! A beam of sunlight penetrates!