It’s application season, and with that comes seemingly infinite essays. My sister recently applied to the University of Georgia. One of the prompts was to write about a blackberry moment and she asked me to help her pick one. I looked at her with a quizzical expression, so she began to explain:

UGA’s 2017 Commencement speaker Ernie Johnson (Class of ’79) told a story from his youth about what he refers to as blackberry moments. He has described these as “the sweet moments that are right there to be had but we’re just too focused on what we’re doing…, and we see things that are right there within our reach and we neglect them. Blackberry moments can be anything that makes somebody else’s day, that makes your day, that are just sweet moments that you always remember.” Tell us about one of your “blackberry moments” from the past five years.

The inspiration behind Mr. Johnson’s term “blackberry moment” comes from his youth. While playing in a baseball game, someone hit the ball out of the park. Two of the players went to retrieve the ball, but didn’t return. After some time, others went to find out what happened, they came to find the two boys… and some wild blackberries.

While most essay prompts are usually answered using momentous occasions that changed who you are as a person or influenced how you saw the world, this one forces you focus on the small moments instead of the big ones. It also makes you a little more grateful in the process by considering moments you may have overlooked otherwise. It’s a unique, but difficult prompt. How can we only choose one?

This couldn’t have come at a better time as 2017 came to an end and 2018 is just beginning. Browsing through the photos I captured this year highlighted some moments I truly treasure, now that I’ve finished fall semester and all of my own application essays.

In January, I took my sister to the Atlanta Humane Society for the first time. We spent over an hour in the cat room, and I won the affection of a very large, orange cat. I was so excited that a cat has finally chosen to not only come to me, but also sit in my lap.

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Valentines Day was celebrated by handing out balloons with Alpha Xi Delta to students in the courtyard. We laughed and joked as we spent the entire morning blowing balloons and embellishing them with positive messages. As an upperclassman who is heavily involved in other organizations, there are many times when I feel as though I don’t belong, but it’s days like these that fill my heart with so much love and joy for Alpha Xi Delta.

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March was a foodie’s dream. Lily willingly came with me on my quest to find the elusive sushi donut in EAV. The month ended with a trip to Atlanta’s first cat cafe to celebrate her birthday. Sushi donuts and cat cafes would mark the beginning of our expeditions in order to find all the fresh, fun foods Atlanta has to offer.

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April brought final exams and heart aches, but enjoying Atlanta’s breathtaking silhouette from Skyline Park with Bob and Victoria one night soothed my stressed soul the way honey lemon tea soothes sore throats.

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May was focused on grandma. It’s been a difficult time for her since my grandpa passed earlier in March. I came home one weekend and spontaneously asked her to go grocery shopping with me. After much hesitation, she agreed. It had been the first time she left the house in a while, and we talked about something other than his passing. The two of us laughed as we remembered how he and I would sneakily eat pistachios at the farmers market while we waited for her shift at the bakery to end. When we got home from groceries, she asked about a Kate Spade bag, and I told her she could have it if she’d like. She walked off very happily, sporting a neon peach crossbody that sharply contrasted with her dark attire. It was the first splash of color she had worn in a long time.

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In June, I introduced Slisha and Victoria over brunch after telling them so much about each other. Both are such empowering and inspirational people who share a passion for science and succulents. From cheering each other on during late night study sessions to sending each other motivational Instagram posts, I couldn’t have asked for a better girl gang.

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In July, Emily and I were curious as to which Hogwarts house my mom belonged, so we attempted to translate the Pottermore quiz for her. It took almost two hours to explain everything, but we’ve determined that she’s a Hufflepuff.

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The first day of senior year was actually spent on a rooftop sipping frose while we anticipated the solar eclipse. It was an extraordinary way to commence senior year.

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Labor Day allowed us a “break” from school, so Emily and I leisurely strolled along the beach in Destin for an entire afternoon as we filled each other in on our lives since we had last seen each other.

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The eventful month of October began with a celebration of love at my friend’s dad’s wedding. On the trip home, we listened to Snap Judgement podcasts while I managed to capture the magnificent sunset.

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November was a month of many dissections. One classmate meticulously dissected a frog, and I was in awe of how striking it looked. Each delicate flap of skin was carefully peeled away like an onion. The oviduct was carefully strung on a pin like a pearl necklace around a woman’s neck. My classmate lifted the black, lily-pad like lobes of the liver to show me the three-chambered heart. It was the most exquisite union of art and science.

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With December comes the holidays, and with the holidays comes family. Although this year was the loneliest Christmas we’ve had without the rest of the family coming over, my mom was still determined to make it the best one yet. She suggested we wear matching pajamas, which I believe is the beginning of a new holiday tradition.

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