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"Title Pending" by Chris Collins-Pisano

Along with all of my classmates, over this past summer I was faced with the considerable difficulties of jumpstarting the college application process. It was a ravishing, bright August day in Westwood, Mass., and, once again, I found myself seated at the kitchen table banging my head against my abused MacBook. The admissions department at Emerson College probably thought it would be easier on the average college applicant to ask a creative, off-the-wall question. What they didn’t know, however, was that essay questions with non-formulaic approaches to their answers cause more grief for incoming seniors than the infamous CommonApp’s 500-word Big Essay. The question was this: If you were to write a story of your life until now, what would you title it and why? The word limit was 250. I had finally met my match.

Just a quick disclaimer, in case you haven’t caught it yet. I can’t stand titling things. The title of any paper or assignment of mine is always left until the very end, and it usually takes me longer to write that phrase or few words than to write the conclusion to the entire paper. So, the concept of titling something first, and having it communicate the crux of the entire essay, was a huge bummer. If I were Batman, this essay would have been my Joker. It represented everything I hated in writing. It made me loath my job as protector of my college application status. Every time I tried and deleted a new title idea, it sarcastically clapped in my face. It wasn’t until I was sulking in the back of my family’s Batmobile (our super-secretive red mini-van) that I discovered the title which could wrap the straitjacket around Emerson’s Joker essay, and throw it into the Arkham Asylum of my MacBook’s databank for as long as possible.

Before I write a paper, or a poem, or any other sort of assignment that could require a creative title (not just, for example, Response to Chapter 2), I write Title Pending at the top of the page. With that up at the top, I feel somewhat pacified at having something up there, and also still reminded that I have to go back and change it. It also makes me think more as I write my papers, looking for the connectors between my paragraphs which could be cause for a good title. It wasn’t until that fateful car ride that I noticed how it could also be used for a great metaphor. Thus armed, I donned my digital cowl and eventually thwarted my arch-nemesis’ attempts to laughingly derail my college process. Here’s some of what emerged:

A story of love, loss, and pretty much every other emotion known to the human race, Chris Collins-Pisano’s Title Pending is an epic volume documenting the first seventeen years in the life of a dashing young man who develops a passion for theatre and the Humanities, yet is notorious for his inability to title his papers in a timely fashion. In his quest for knowledge and collegiate fulfillment as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in the world of Musical Theatre, our plucky protagonist attempts to answer a quagmire of a question: Will he, by the end of his journey (not just to college, but beyond), be able to finally title what will hopefully be a well-lived and successful life? A cliffhanger, indeed.

And a year later, just like in the comics, my secret Batman was confronted with a new enemy. This time, the Riddler had come out to wreak havoc on my mental stability and social life. Unlike Emerson’s Joker, however, it wasn’t my summer he was planning on stealing. It was my city, my home, my Gotham; the end of my senior year at Noble and Greenough School. This time, though, he had come well-armed. My new arch-nemesis was throwing me the greatest riddle yet: one with no word count, and worst of all, no question. His challenge went something like this: Hi Madeleine, Chris and Michael, Congratulations on being chosen to speak at Graduation! I am writing because I will need the title of your graduation speeches no later than Monday, May 14 for the program. You don't have to have your speeches completely finalized by that point, of course, but I just need a title. Printing, unfortunately, can take a while. My apologies for rushing you. Sincerely, Ms. Bergeron. To top it off, this time I wouldn’t have Mr. Denning’s soothing words encouraging me through this process, letting me know everything would be great and awesome, because I was his man, his brother.

It was then that I went back to my happy-accident Emerson essay metaphor of "Title Pending." Funny how the part of your life you never want to remember, applying to colleges, is fueling a day we all want to remember for a while. At least I got something out of it, besides stumbling upon a witty metaphor which (I thought) rebelliously defied the question put to me by Emerson’s sinister admissions league. My scale of rebelliousness is very skewed from most...Looking back, I still don’t think I’d realized that I’d actually hit the motherload of moving-forward metaphors. So while we’re here, let’s address the giant metaphor in the room: what does Title Pending have to do with anything? My answer is very simple: It’s like Where’s Waldo.

Gotcha there, didn’t I? I was going to try and go for a ‘kids at Nobles are like Netflix’s streaming website with multitudes of very different movies that are all really good in their own way’ metaphor, but I don’t think it would have worked out. Instead, I came home to find that dear Mama Pisano had placed two Wikipedia articles on my desk: Where the Wild Things Are and Where’s Waldo. Mr. Henderson said the former was too dark (and that the movie was really weird), but I think Waldo works perfectly. You might have to bear with me a little, though.

So here’s my problem with Waldo: I think he’s got it backwards. Frankly, I think the whole exercise is wrong. I see some of you gasping at such a radical re-thinking of your childhood, but don’t fret.

When you go tromping off to find Waldo in those hugely convoluted drawings, you’re searching for something that is already extremely specific, pre-defined and, dare I say it, titled. So let’s suppose Waldo represents the ‘you’ that you’ve already laid out for yourself; the you that you’ve already given a title to. You’ve already tried to lay your path and future out so that, in the end, you end up looking the way you’ve planned to look. This is just like looking for Waldo; when you find him, he looks exactly like you expected. Well, ditch Waldo. Don’t even go looking for him. In fact, forget about looking in general. You don’t need to find that Waldo, that you you’ve already given a title to. There’s no need to title yourself now, and define who or what you want to end up being. I urge you to just move forward, and be aware of things you enjoy, things you may love. Make them a part of you, but not all of you. This way, you might pick up and discover new things you wouldn’t have if you’d narrowed yourself down earlier. I mean, Waldo’s really just a ridiculous looking guy in an ugly sweater.

We’re all trying to sort through the connections to find the big picture. I know that sounds like a lot of general, may-the-force-be-with-you kinda junk, but I think it’s true. There’s no hurry to tie everything up in a bow before you get outta here. You don’t need to be Turtley enough for the Turtle Club; you don’t need to have a title stamped on your forehead. You know, it’s kind of a joke. In some ways, the Riddler finally got the best of me. As Mr. Henderson told me recently, “There’s no there there.” Take a second to think about that, I know all the there’s can be confusing. I’m not sure if the process ever ends, but life’s about the journey. The Title’s Always Pending.

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"Title Pending" by Chris Collins-Pisano