One week ago we asked you, the members of the CiC community, one simple question: What consumes you? To our excitement, all of the answers we received for this first-ever installment of the Dear Reader Diaries reflect the complexity and diversity that the project aims to capture.
Here are our top picks from this month’s submissions:
Rachel — Age: 17, Home: California
- Incoming freshman at UC San Diego
- Eighties sitcom enthusiast
- Lover of Lipton onion dip
Good stories consume me.
I’ve spent hours listening to people share their lives over my mom’s DIY fajita bowls, running my fingers on the chipped dining room table as I listen to them talk. Sometimes they’re college professors from Orange County, and sometimes they’re family friends from Arizona. Sometimes they’re kids with missing teeth, and sometimes they’re adults with gray hair. My family makes them pico de gallo and guacamole and carne asada, and, in return, they spin us tales of where they’ve been and what they’ve done, essentially sending us down portals to their worlds. For a few hours, I’m not stuck in my own head; I’m trying to experience theirs.
What makes a compelling and consuming story is its depth. When a guest shares her experience as a missionary trying to relate to a culture that isn’t her own, she isn’t simply doing it for the entertainment value, and we intrinsically understand this. This is how she’s been shaped and molded, this is where she’s been, and we appreciate her for telling us. Because by revealing these conflicts and failures, she’s trusting us with a slice of her life, and that kind of trust establishes a bond of common human understanding. This is who I am, this is where I’ve been, and this is where I want to be.
This is who I am, this is where I’ve been, and this is where I want to be.
There are other mesmerizing narratives in the world — thrillers, Pulitzers, talk show epics that may or may not be true — but when I hear the words “good story,” I think of the evenings we spend ignoring the random bits of food stuck to the dinner table, swapping stories until the light fades out.
Claire — Age: 18, Home: Chicago
- Chaco-wielding camp counselor
- Lover of grape-flavored candies
- Chris Martin’s #1 Fan
During the summer of 2016, I attended my first archaeology field school in Kampsville, Illinois. My fellow archaeologists and I would rise before the sun was even visible to travel towards our excavation site, where we would squat in a rectangular pit, slowly troweling away inches of dirt and sand until the sun had set beneath the surrounding cornfields. (At the end of each day, I was disappointed to discover that the majority of tan was in fact just dirt.) Our muscles ached and our physical discoveries were minimal: some charcoal, a few pieces of “chert” rock, and a few iron concretions, if we were lucky. But slight changes in soil on the walls of our unit proved something of profound importance. This was the answer that my field director had been working towards for years: evidence of activity by indigenous peoples in the area from centuries ago, and a validation of years of hard work and research by the program. I was awestruck — I had helped discover something that would help reveal information about the history of our country.
I had helped discover something that would help reveal information about the history of our country.
After this incredible experience, I realized why archaeology consumed me. Archaeology, while both physically demanding and emotionally draining, requires tedious effort to produce results, but the thrill of discovery and the potential for new knowledge is well worth the patience required.
Doha — Age: 18, Home: Denver
- Avid listener of National Public Radio
- Advocate for the middle class
- Blunt AF
I prefer lines over curves. I prefer even numbers over odd. I prefer draping a nicely ironed scarf over my head rather than a semi-wrinkled one. I prefer a hundred over ninety-nine. My inclination toward minor details and the drive to be the best leads me to believe I’m a perfectionist.
Perfectionism, why strive for the impossible? My entire life has been overtaken by the constant chase of perfection, at times so close my fingertips brush against it before it slips away. The endless game of cat and mouse has caused me to speed past my life achievements brushing them off with the thought “I could’ve done better.”
It has taken eighteen years for me to realize that perfectionism shouldn’t consume me. Too long I have raced through life failing to realize the best moments are those of imperfections.
It has taken eighteen years for me to realize that perfectionism shouldn’t consume me.
What consumes me now? The falters of a curve, the inability to equally divide odd numbers, the wrinkles of my favorite scarf, and the strength it took to reach ninety-nine. What perfection blinds, imperfection perceives. It’s all a matter of the mind: I can set my standards to transform my “failures” into successes. An imperfectionist holds one thing over a perfectionist: genuine happiness.
Noor Kamal — Age: 17, Home: Long Island
- Hair curlier than Rotini pasta
- Christopher Nolan fanatic
- Professional Childish Gambino Lip-syncer
Richard Feynman, you are so attractive. I mean, just look at you. You have a charming smile — (like you know how freaking hot you are… you probably do) — and ah, the eyes! The eyes!
But Rich, I read your Wikipedia page yesterday. You taught yourself trigonometry and complex calculus at the age of fifteen. You lived and breathed mathematics right out of the womb, a natural curiosity that paved your way to becoming one of the best physicists the world has ever seen.
And Maryam! My lifetime role model, a female Taurus just like me! And f*** yeah, the first female Fields Medal winner (hell yeah #girlpower) — you everything I want to be wrapped in a perpetually lit fire. I was reading about you, Maryam, and how you were the first Golds Medalist in the Iranian Mathematics Olympiad to achieve a perfect score! My God!
Rich and Maryam, I love you both. Every time I read about you and other virtuosoes, I’m emboldened by your achievements. But, I’m also discouraged by my insecurities.
Every time I read about you and other virtuosoes, I’m emboldened by your achievements. But, I’m also discouraged by my insecurities.
Yes, I think that is what consumes me: dreams of getting that one answer, of throwing my chalk across the blackboard and exclaiming, “YES! I FINALLY GOT IT!” I consume fantasies of me teaching a room full of undergrads the wonders of mathematics and how numbers make up our universe. I consume sheer exhilaration when I pick up my “Problems in Mathematics” book that is filled with sweet, tiny gems and theorems.
But I consume some dejection when I hear about people like you guys because I feel like I have to be a mastermind to a succeed. I consume frustration when my mom tells me, “Only geniuses make it.”
So, this is what consumes me. Dreams, aspirations of me finding a mathematical secret hidden under pages of proofs and theorems like Rich and Maryam did, with a tiny, tiny dose of insecurity.
Em — Age: 16, Home: North Carolina
- Ooey gooey romantic
- Ben and Jerry’s ice cream flavor expert
- Has recurring dreams about baby monkeys living amongst humanity
What consumes me is the absolute immensity of all the possibilities and realities of experience that exist in this world. I’m a person who feels every emotion loudly and vividly, and sometimes the awe is so great I have to literally catch my breath and remember that we are here.
Our entire existence is manifested in neurons and synapses, and we were lucky enough to be born as human beings who have the capacity to move mountains and create oceans using those brain cells. A human’s first stroke of good karma comes for free and it comes when your consciousness awakens here with the ability to experience everything; good and bad, on this continent or the next. How lucky are we to have first kisses and first heartbreaks. Parties and picnics, best friends and families. Stress and breakdowns, music and languages. If you’re only ever happy then you haven’t wrung all you can out of this opportunity; who wants to only know what half of life feels like?
How lucky are we to have first kisses and first heartbreaks. Parties and picnics, best friends and families. Stress and breakdowns, music and languages.
Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like I’m going to burst because there’s so much love in my heart for all of this, and how it all points to one commonality: the consuming nature of how ubiquitous experiences are and how inevitable it is to live.
Victoria — Age: 17, Home: Utah
- First-ever CiC intern!
- Sings suuuuper loudly in the shower
- Cried during the final episode of The Office
Sleeping bags? Check. Pillows? Check. Mace to ward off mountain lions? Double check.
Preparing to embark on another whirlwind adventure, I manage to zip up a stubborn backpack bulging with essentials. It’s a quiet evening in late August, the brooding hourglass of summer in the sunset of its timekeeping. My two best friends and I are determined to chase one last carpe diem: an overnight lodging in the mountains. Yesterday, we were awkward adolescents mindlessly obsessing over boy bands; today, we’re fearless explorers with an insatiable thirst for adventure.
Or not. Apparently, the guidebook of parenting strictly forbids abandoning 12-year-old girls in the wilderness. It’s a disappointment, but after much negotiation, we settle for a tamer excursion: a makeshift campsite of blankets on a backyard trampoline. When night falls, we swaddle ourselves in sheets and let the vast expanse of the universe consume us. Tweens turned philosophers, we speak with purpose — of aspirations unhindered — until our eyelids surrender to dreams.
Tweens turned philosophers, we speak with purpose — of aspirations unhindered — until our eyelids surrender to dreams.
I used to think that purpose solely manifested itself in grand gestures: the kiss in the rain from The Notebook, the “I won’t let go, Jack!” of The Titanic, the let’s-try-not-to-get-eaten-by-a-mountain-lion moments of this life. But now, after gazing into infinity from a modest trampoline, I’ve learned to appreciate sheer simplicity: brewing early morning tea, tickling warm stomachs to laughter, sleeping under starlit skies. Truly, the tiny innumerable joys of the ordinary, best enjoyed in good company, grace this life with purpose.
Thank you to everybody who submitted their entry to our monthly question! Keep an eye out for the September Dear Reader Diaries prompt, coming to CiC on September 3.