The Circle Game

Please write an essay (250 words minimum) on a topic of your choice.

“If your house was on fire and you could save only one object, what would it be?” Juan answers, “My iPod.” Mary answers, “My flute.” Then it is my turn. We are rattling along a country road, playing the circle game to pass the time. The members of Venture Crew twist in their car seats, waiting somewhat impatiently for my answer. What would I save? My quilt? A book? My vintage records? I fumble with the zipper of my bag and pry into its pocket, searching for a piece of gum. And then it hits me. Quite literally, as my hand bumps into its corner. Grasping its metallic spine, I run my thumb along its soft, worn edges. “My sketchbook,” I respond. Colin nods approvingly while Mary notes, “Good choice”. They all think it’s a simple collection of my drawings. But it is more than that. My sketchbook is a rough definition of my persona. For starters, it is composed of recycled paper. The cover is a little streaked with dirt, giving it character. Upon its sheets sprawl the best climbing trees in Austin, five-second sketches of grasshoppers (often unfinished, as grasshoppers tend to be very unreliable models), and studies of carnivorous plants. I bring it with me on all my escapades. An instructor from the UT Academy of Architecture once told me, “After you draw something, you’ll never forget it.” Since then, I’ve started to almost obsessively document everything that is dear to me. Places, faces, moments and motions. Flipping back through its pages, I can go back in time. There’s the gorgeous leaf I found at summer camp, forever emblazoned on a thick, creamy page. There’s Al the jellyfish from the New England Aquarium, weaving through a mess of facts. There’s documentation of my best friend’s top five silliest faces, reminding me of the euphoric days of summer. My drawings are not always accurate representations of the people and places I love; that is what photographs are for. In my human art, I capture impressions of personality.My sketchbook doubles as a somewhat chaotic agenda for my somewhat chaotic life. Or better yet, a collection of lists. Books to read, movies to watch, terms to Google. Creative gifts for friends and family. Ideas for practical jokes. Some pages contain journal entries that praise the brilliance of the world around me, while others are wrinkled from salty plops of tears. A few are the rants of an environmentalist, often followed by schedules of volunteering events.Quotes hug the edges of my sketches, wrap around corners, and run into the narrow bridges between the sturdy coils. Themes range from profound to absurd, and include the sayings of men from Richard Feynman to Chuang-Tzu. Some are in French, others are in Russian. Some sections are speckled with fragments of thoughts such as “dancing robots” and “origami crab”. Many are dense with questions. Why do humans feel the need to create? Why does music affect us so much? Why do we dance? Why do we laugh? Why do we love? On my more contemplative days, I go back and reread old thoughts of mine and build upon them, adding bits of my conversation with people and facts from books I read. I’m running out of space, for every day brings new insight and new experiences that need to be documented. I’ve got but five pages left before I need to head over to Jerry’s Artarama for a new companion. Perhaps it would be more efficient to separate my drawings, quotes, and notes into different pads, but the unruliness of my sketchbook pleases me. Its contents are so diverse, revealing the many sides of Yelena Kulik, while at the same time centering on my reason for living- to learn. The circle game resumes. It is my turn, so I ask, “If you had a super-power, what would it be?” Flying, mind-reading, and controlling an army of gnomes by power of flute are all mentioned by my fellow travelers. It comes around to me. And suddenly I know what the focus of my last sketchbook entry will be. “To know everything.”

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