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  • The exquisite, awe-inspiring nature of the Persian carpet stems from the seamless way that each individual thread creates a coherent whole. To make these works of art come to life, various patterns are delicately hand-woven with multicolored threads, each radiating a different flavor and personality. Every Persian carpet has a distinctive center and the designs that surround it help enhance the carpets beauty. Each thread must embody unique attributes to weave patterns that will add to the diversity of the carpet and not simply mimic another thread’s colors and designs. The threads work together in order to fill in the gaps of the other designs and complete the picture. One thread alone cannot form the vibrant patterns that make Persian carpets unique. The most successful designs combine contrasting hues. If the threads of the carpet were the same color, then the carpet would lack beauty and balance, like awful monochromatic wall-to-wall carpeting.
    Like a Persian carpet I am made up of a multitude of colors and patterns. I am the center of my Persian carpet and different aspects of my personality and my experiences form the outer colors and designs. One of the primary patterns of my carpet reflects the large role that my family plays in my decision-making process. Like James Joyce’s Eveline and Shakespeare’s Ophelia, I stcarpetgle to ensure that the threads in my Persian carpet reinforce my values and beliefs rather than those of others. Eveline and Ophelia both lack the courage to resist familial expectations, so they allow others to manipulate their colors and patterns until they look dull and unoriginal. However, family gives me a sense of home and belonging, a togetherness that binds my carpet. If I remove my family thread from my carpet, it would unravel like the carpet of Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. Nwoye abandons his family ties when he converts to Christianity. This choice unravels his carpet, giving him a tenuous future. Through service learning this past year, I added threads to my carpet that gave me new perspectives as I took on unfamiliar roles and responsibilities. Tutoring five students has helped me come to the realization that I have the ability to positively impact other people’s lives. As the youngest in my family, I was not used to being a mentor and teacher, but this experience has added new patterns to my Persian carpet. I embrace the individuality and conflicting desires of each thread of my personality so that the combination of my heritage, academics, passion for business and debate, and social life make my carpet a true one of a kind.
    In Hamlet, Ophelia submissively weaves her father’s choices into her carpet rather than letting her own desires and decisions boldly create their own patterns. From the beginning of the play, Ophelia obeys her father’s wishes, even at the cost of her own happiness. When her father demands that she shun her lover, Hamlet, she responds, “My lord, but as you did command / I did reject his letters and deny / His access to me” (2.2.120-122). Ophelia’s carpet does not reflect the genuine wishes of her heart and mind because she does not think for herself. As a result, her patterns are misaligned because she cannot live out her wishes while simultaneously pleasing her father. Her carpet unravels because she has woven a carpet of only one thread that is not her own. With her father’s death, she is unable to function independently because she has become accustomed to act upon his commands. In this way, she loses touch with reality and, “speaks much of her father…and beats her / heart” (5.1.5-7). “Ophelia proves to be her own worst enemy because she allowed another person to rule over her” (Literary Works Final Exam Essay 1-2). In the end, she faces a tragic fate because she fails to attain her individual desires. If she had not simply mimicked her father’s thread throughout her carpet, she may have been fulfilled by the unique pattern of an independent life.
    Hamlet made me question whether I am like Ophelia in my vulnerability. Too often I allow others to determine the colors of my threads. Like Ophelia, I have the tendency to accommodate my life to meet my parents’ expectations. In my family kinship is an essential aspect of our culture. I am expected to visit my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins at least once a week, but typically twice a week. This makes it difficult for me to put time aside on weekends to focus on my studies and involve myself in extracurricular activities. I do not want to disappoint my relatives, especially my grandmother, if I stop seeing them as regularly. Learning from Ophelia’s mistake, I can balance my familial and personal endeavors as I maintain who I am. While my Persian culture has played a significant role in my success and is literally woven into my DNA, I have to be careful not to allow cultural expectations overcome my desires and personal ambitions. I must determine the paths that threads take through my carpet and not allow my obligations to my family hinder me from fulfilling my priorities.
    Similar to Ophelia, James Joyce’s “Eveline” also allows others to weave their expectations into her carpet, at the cost of her happiness. Eveline is expected to have a life filled with “commonplace sacrifices” (Joyce 411). She initially plans to rebel against these expectations and escape to Buenos Aires with her lover, Frank. However, as she boards the ship, she cuts her threads to Frank and reverts back to being “passive, like a helpless animal” (Joyce 412). Instead of choosing her freedom, the end of the story implies that she returns to her life in Dublin, in which “she sometimes felt herself in danger of her father’s violence” (Joyce 410). Joyce uses Eveline’s character to suggest that when she gives into her family expectations, her development into an independent woman is further hindered.
    Even though James Joyce’s novel was published in the early 1900s, “women are still faced with unfair […] disadvantages compared to men” (“Disadvantages of Societies Expectations” 4), especially in the Persian culture. I realize that I am a less extreme version of Eveline; I have the tendency to submit to others instead of imparting my own unique designs on my carpet. Whenever my mother sets up the house for family gatherings, it gets to the very edge of my nerves whenever she says, “Leila, you should watch me as I prepare the food and set the table because one day you will be in my position!”, Then when food is being served, my sister and I are expected to hand out the dinner plates to my brother and other male guests, as though we are naturally meant to serve because we are women. I have always stcarpetgled to go against what is expected of me as a Persian woman. However, I now realize that if my brother and myself are equally loved in the eyes of my parents and have similar capabilities, why should we have different obligations and expectations? In this way, Eveline’s failure to satisfy herself has made me realize that if I want to become the CEO of my own company, I cannot hang around the house all day as I prepare for social gatherings. I have the choice to not abide by these expectations. I learned from Eveline’s experience that I must be a strong and independent woman following my values in order to create intricate patterns that represent who I truly am.
    Unlike Eveline and Ophelia, in Things Fall Apart, Nwoye rejects his family and cultural upbringing when the missionaries convert him to Christianity. Following his conversion, he completely fails to balance his old traditions with his new beliefs. Nwoye completely abandons his family ties instead of coming to a middle-ground that will enable him to stand up for what he believes in and follow his path as he maintains his familial relations. The Ibo peoples’ strong kinship is a foundation for their success as a community; however, the Christians such as Mr. Kiaga “encourage the Ibo people to renounce their family ties” (“Observing the Ibo Peoples Conflict” 3). The ambiguity of the ending makes us question whether Nwoye made the right decision to live without a family as his backbone. Although Achebe does not elaborate on Nwoye’s life away from his family, he tacitly implies that Nwoye’s rejection of his community “calls for the loss of [his] relatives support during times of misfortune” such as when the whole village gathers after the “sons of wild animals [had] dared to murder a daughter of Umuofia” (Achebe 11). Nwoye looses the stabilizing thread of his carpet, his family, who had once balanced the patterns throughout his carpet and helped his designs stand out even more.
    If I were to make Nwoye’s choice and abandon my family, then I would lose the strong relations that have often helped me in times of hardship and shape who I am. I do not want so many threads going in different directions such that my carpet becomes a chaotic jumble instead of a beautiful story with a common theme. My family thread helps stabilize my carpet and keep it in order. One of the most difficult obstacles I overcame was when my sister and best friend, Roya, left for college. Roya has always been there for me and her leaving left me a huge void. When I transferred middle schools, I stcarpetgled to make new friends in an unfamiliar environment in which “cliques” were already formed. I called Roya for advice, but it just was not the same as her being by my side. My eldest cousin, Sepand, knew what I was going through, so he stopped by my house and took me to Yogurtland. As we talked, I found inspiration from his experience of moving by himself from Iran to the United States when he was only fifteen. And even though he knew only a few English words, he managed to make friends by being confident. My cousin’s talk inspired me to be myself and let my true colors shine. From that point on I have never stcarpetgled to make friends.
    Service learning provided me with the opportunity to weave together all of these lessons. With my buddies and partners at Edward B. Cole I was able to exercise my voice in an environment in which I was not the youngest. I realized that I could help improve my students by supporting them the way my Persian family supports me. For example, “after the second visit, I noticed that Malerie had a trend of making excuses to use the restroom before our group began to write and would not return until a while later. During the third visit, I sat down with her and tried to figure out why she had this habit. She then admitted her phobia to write because she felt like an underdog” (“Service Learning Essay” 2). As I wrote my Service Learning Essay in December, I utilized the service learning pillar, to strive for excellence, to address Malerie’s fear of writing. It was obvious that she had the ability to become an amazing writer because she always dominated the other fourth graders at word games like Taboo or Scattergories. I recognized that she just needed a support system to gain confidence, just like I need my family’s support to have the self-assurance to succeed. To help her become a more confident writer, I had her read her essay out loud, as I wrote down her ideas. By the last visit, she was so proud of her huge transformation from writing three sentences to eight paragraphs.
    Until this experience, I felt as though I had a limited impact on the world around me. As the youngest member of my family, I never felt I was anyone’s “inspiration”. However, service learning helped me understand that even though I am the shortest thread in my community, I can still create elaborate designs throughout my carpet that will inspire other threads. Every time I visited EBC, the expressions on my students’ faces made me understand how much they looked up to me. From what they told me, I was in some ways their escape, a distraction from their hard lives, and ultimately their inspiration and motivation for success. In this way, service learning not only gave me the opportunity to help others reach their potential, but it also allowed me to realize that I have the ability to impact others’ lives.
    I see my carpet as a work in progress. As I continue to navigate through high school and add new threads of knowledge, experiences, and friendships, my carpet will better reflect who I truly am. As I incorporate new designs into my carpet, it will further assert who I want to be. Ordinary carpets have little value but carpets with intricate designs bring beauty to those who gaze upon it and leave greater impacts. I see myself as this type of carpet.
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