Robin Hood: Benjamin Wagner’s Common Application Essay
In the woods, I am Robin Hood. I am free. The master of my own destiny. My face spreads into a grin, and I roll down the hill. Hiding within my imagination, a merry band of men follows along. My true company is my yellow lab and chirping birds – a delightful crew. As a child, I roamed the years away. My parent-set boundaries expanded with age, my world literally became bigger as I grew.
I spent my summer months attending camp along the shores of a little Vermont lake. Summer days burst open, filled with meadow games, sailboats, friends, trees, water, and magic. In the summer, I was never alone. Wherever I went, a jolly group of friends went with me – smiling, chanting, laughing, tromping our way through June, July, and August. As I rode the bus home in the afternoon, the cornfields passing as a blur of a mottled green, my sleepy mind returned to rest-hour stories. The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Robin Hood. My mind, when tired and content, still returns to those fabled paths. All stories I read myself as well, but stories that came alive amongst friends. Stories that felt on the cusp of reality; and on the cusp of a world greater than my own.
Summer inevitably came to an end, and the majesty tumbled as leaves floated away. Something about rec soccer never was quite as fulfilling as running through open fields. There were no rules in the meadow – no limits on my reality. I could be whoever I wanted. I missed running up hillsides with glee. I missed the passion and unchecked joy of the woods. My copy of Robin Hood fell apart in my hands – the stories absorbed by my soul, the book was unneeded. I read nonetheless – it allowed me to once again be among fellows. But I still missed the oaks and mossy highways.
Saturday mornings eventually arrived, and I jogged up the knoll – my own personal glen, wishing I had a pal named Little John with a stout cudgel. Although I wasn’t yet on the brink of a grand adventure, the fresh air and liberty propelled me. Injected life into my bones.
As I grew older, playing pretend in the woods began to feel wrong. Immature. For years, I was an intense road cyclist – the seriousness and effort of speed along pavement satisfied an intensely competitive side of me. Yet, I still craved the freedom and bliss of being in the woods – whether alone or with friends. A joy derived from presence rather than achievement. I began mountain biking on a whim – a change from the Strava-fueled stress of intervals and segments, I merely hoped for a different way to churn my legs and maybe feel the burn. I felt the burn, but more strikingly I noticed a smile break across my face, instead of a grimace. I’m Robin Hood. The wind on my face, the play of my front wheel, the joy of jumping over a log. They’re friends in their own right: they encourage me, joke with me, tell me I mean something. Their language vibrates through my tires – a unique form of code. On a mountain bike, I may not pretend to be the bandit of Nottingham, but I am alive, free, and totally in control of my passage through the world.
Others may call this feeling bliss, the pleasure of the outdoors, the benefit of fresh air, or a myriad of more common terms. I call it Robin Hood because it connects my present to my past. It unites a wide variety of themes under one roof. Whether I’m pedaling, pretending, or fighting a tree with a wooden sword, I’m reminded of my hero – of who I want to be. For as old as I get, for as complex I may claim my goals to be, what I really want to do with my life is laugh and sing in the woods. I may not really be Robin Hood – but for a few delightful hours every weekend, I’m the next best thing. A kid on a bike in the woods.