Like many high school seniors, I am currently nearing the end of the application process, and I am scared out of my mind. I decided it might help calm my nerves to node my application essay, and hopefull get some feedback. I'd appreciate it if no one would vote on this node; just /msg me with any comments or suggestions, please. Thank you immensely.

Last year, I learned that one of my best friends had started smoking pot. She wasn't smoking often or heavily enough for me to have cause to worry about her safety; she did it more as a form of recreation, with some other friends in someone's basement. Most people my age don't seem to be bothered by that sort of thing (I know most of my other friends weren't), but it deeply disturbed me.

I have a strong mistrust of drugs, legal as well as illegal. A few years ago, my younger sister was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, a chronic disease of the colon. Her doctors put her on steroids, and started her on various other treatments to try to get her body back under control. The steriods made her inflate like rising bread dough, which didn't make puberty any easier for her. She got picked on at school, became severely depressed, and eventually refused to go to school altogether. When she was in seventh grade and I was in tenth, Mom took her to a program at a hospital where they put her on anti-depressants, which reacted negatively with the other medications she was on. Her doctors spent the better part of a year trying to find the right combination of drugs and therapy to make her normal again, during which time she was a monster. It was truly frightening--my cheerful little sister had become a five-foot-tall terror, throwing tantrums at the drop of a hat; threatening my parents; trying to beat us up, or beat herself up; threatening suicide; crying and screaming and throwing things. I saw first-hand what experimenting with brain chemistry can do to people. It was also disturbingly difficult to tell whether my sister's behavior was under her conscious control, or whether it was ultimately attributable to the foreign chemicals in her brain.

My dilemma, therefore, wasn't the usual "Should I give in to peer pressure?" problem that many teenagers expect to face; in this case, there was no peer pressure. My problem was one of how to deal with having a friend who regularly did and enjoyed something I disapproved of. I tried to talk to her about how much it bothered me. She accepted and respected my discomfort and even offered to avoid mentioning it in my presence if it made me uneasy, but made it clear that she wasn't going to stop just because I didn't like it. I eventually came to realize that, whether I like it or not, I can only exert so much influence on another person. I put aside my disapproval and let the friendship continue, somewhat different now, but still intact.

Both my friend and I made up our own minds with regard to pot, and we'll have to live with each other's decisions. I did what I felt was the right thing to do: I explained how I felt, and I did not back down, nor did I sacrifice the friendship. It is in some ways a lonely resolution. However, as Mary Oliver memorably said in her poem "The Journey", I continued to stride deeper and deeper into the world, determined to do the only thing that I could do--determined to save the only life that I could save.