Drawing My Life

Topic of your own choice: vignettes of personal experiences

By now, color and form are two essential ways I express myself. In my art I often draw myself as a stick figure with a shock of bright red hair. My family, friends, and even strangers have always commented on the thousands of freckles that pepper my body. This may be why I first began to notice the colors and forms that surround me and to use them for myself. I painted my room orange with a thick magenta stripe. I wear vibrant clothes with colorful patterns and detailed designs. I am even writing this essay through pictures. First, I draw the moments when I have learned most about myself. Then I write thoughts and words on the sketches I have made.Along the edges of the paper I write some facts about my life: For six summers, I lived with eight girls for a month in a ten-by-twenty-foot cabin. I went to Willard Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey through fifth grade and all I can remember is the playground. My younger sister gets to do things before I did, but at least I don’t throw like a girl. Orange County is full of evangelists and born-again Christians while I am an atheist. My high school was built on an old landfill, but luckily we get a strong breeze from the ocean. Each month I get a $250 allowance. Unfortunately, it is not enough for Disneyland. After six weeks in China, every time I see toilet paper in a bathroom I smile to myself. I draw two identical tall towers and two groups of stick figures. One group sits at desks in my seventh grade classroom in New Jersey. The teacher says, “If any of your parents work near the World Trade Center, go call them now.” Karen’s father worked on the top floor. He went downstairs to get a doughnut, and Krispy Kreme saved Mr. Price. Twelve others in our town lost their lives. The second group stands talking in my tenth grade classroom in California. They say, “My uncle’s friend was on the runway.” “My cousins were going to visit the Twin Towers that day.” They compete for the worst story. I make a box with a list on it: “What Do We Compete For?”New JerseyThe most exclusive country club.The best-known school.The most valuable antiques.The most “friends” in the Hamptons.CaliforniaThe fastest car.The biggest bra size.The richest husband.The youngest wife.With my marker I draw my friend Robert’s fire-engine-red Ferrari. White racing stripes glide along the length of the body and I am the stick figure in the passenger’s seat. I print words crawling around the wheels and tumbling out as exhaust: The engine explodes to life with the push of a button. Between fourth and fifth gear I feel a moment of silence, a void of movement or sound before we catapult down the Pacific Coast Highway. We are 17, and the Ferrari is Robert’s third car. This is the twisted world I now live in.Dull green and brown earth, small red temples: I draw a giant mountain bowl filled with morning silence. I am standing at the center of the bowl in a square white courtyard, watching a Tibetan Buddhist monk pray on the steps of the monastery. Through the stillness my mind jabbers: Could I live the way he does? Do I have an untapped reservoir of devotion and discipline? I think of the differences between my home and his, my life and his. So pointless, so futile. The aged monk lifts his red robe, bows his head, steps across the high threshold and through the door.

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