Down to Hades: Leonardo Da Vinci
If I could talk to someone who has died, I would speak to Leonardo Da Vinci. Because of his variety in style and technique, his work has greatly influenced me as an artist. As a scientist, Leonardo astounds me as well. If I could, I would ask him why he didn't publish all of his scientific findings. Seeing as he taught himself science and math, it seems to me that he would take a little more pride in his inventions like the tank and helicopter. I would also ask about his procrastination when it came to finishing his creations. Most of his machinery, paintings, and sculptures were left either unfinished or it took him years to complete. One of the last things I would ask would be about what inspires him. That, I know, is one of the most important aspects of being a scientist, artist, or philosopher. Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant man, so I'm sure that his inspiration is something that should inspire us all.
The Sirens: The Twilight Series
Like most girls, I fell for the golden eyes and perfect skin of the vampires in the Twilight series. I read the books, over and over. I watched the movies, over and over. My whole world in sixth and seventh grade revolved around the story line and the love triangle. Arguing about who was better for Bella, Edward or Jacob, was my Achilles heel; I couldn't stop myself Over the summer after the craze started, I reread the books for what seems like the thousandth time. It was then that the veil was lifted and I realized that the writing was sloppy, that the characters could be seen throughout different stories in literature, and that Edward was an all-around jerk. When I got back to school, I also realized that I had fallen in Hollywood trap of a perfect life. After some nudging from my friends, I tried to read the books one last time, to give them one more chance. I didn't change my mind. The books still anger me when I see them, for two years of my life was spent worshipping the ground Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson walked on. I fell for something that seemed amazing, and yet it turned out to be more of a letdown then anything else.
Athena's Guidance: My Mom
My mother is my mentor; she has been the most helpful and supportive in my life. She fits in with my group of friends and actually hangs out with some of them, so she isn't just a mentor to me. She's helped many of my friends with their decisions as well. My mom has taught me almost everything I know, from how to handle a difficult situation to how to make crème brûlée. Though sometimes other people think that her rules are unfair, without her helping me through life, I would be a very different person.
Loyalty: Xavier Charles
The most loyal person I know is someone I yell at, someone I hit, and someone I insult until my throat goes dry. Xavier Charles, my best friend, is faithful and trustworthy. We met early in eighth grade, when he overheard my other friends talking about how great my homemade cupcakes are. He tried one of them and he was hooked; he started sitting with me at lunch and eventually became a part of what we call simply "the group." I knew that he was most loyal to me when I found him getting ready to punch someone that just pushed past me in the hallway. Since that day, I have found myself going to him constantly for advice and ways to handle people that were being quite irksome. He knows that I am more loyal to him than anyone else as well. We depend on each other for ways to get through this crazy thing we call life.
Farewell to Ithaca: The National Young Scholars Program
The first time I left home was in fifth grade, when I went to Illinois for the National Young Scholars Program. My sister stayed with my grandmother as my parents drove me to KeKalb. I remember being so excited; I couldn't wait to be out on my own for once. I promised myself that I would meet new people, and stay in touch with them for years and years, and they would be my best friends. I kept that attitude up until I got into my dorm room, and my parents left. I slugged my suitcase into the corner of the room and sat on the bed. The room looked sterile, like a hospital. My roommate hadn't come yet, but I could hear girls in the room next to me so I went over there. They were nothing like me. They were jumping on the bed, drinking orange soda, and about two years older than me. I went back to my room.
I took out my little, disposable cell phone and got ready to call my mom. I couldn't do this; I was sure that I wasn't going to meet anyone and it would be a horrible week for me. I was scared, and homesick already when I started to dial the number. Just then, my roommate walked in. She was my age and looked just as awkward as I felt. We took one look at each other and started laughing, hysterically.
After that, I wasn't so scared. My roommate's name was Kendall, and she introduced me to people that she had known from school. Though I was still somewhat homesick, I got involved with my CSI classes and it wasn't that bad after a while. As a matter of fact, at the end of the week, I didn't even want to go home.
Calypso's Island: My Mother's High School Reunion
There's a time in almost every Army brat's life where you must fill in for your deployed parent at an event. The first that I remember was at my parent's high school reunion. My mom and dad went to a high school in a small town in Kentucky. As my mother and I walked up to the building they were having the reunion in, everyone seemed to know us and call out our names, though most hadn't seen us in years. The reunion planners had a basket set out with things to send my dad in Iraq, so I thought that the reunion was going to go nice and smoothly. Hopefully, I thought, I won't have to talk to anyone. Near the end of our gathering, everything changed. People swarmed around me, amazed at how grown up I looked. It was the most embarrassing and uncomfortable experience of my life, and I couldn't do anything about it. I wanted desperately to be back at my grandmother's house, playing on the computer and listening to music. An expanse of time that seemed like eternity passed before we could finally leave, and I practically ran out the door. Afterwards, I made my mother promise that I would never be forced to do anything like that again; she said okay, mostly because she had been uncomfortable as well when people came up to us. So far, no more high school reunions.
Defeat of the Suitors: Band Camp
I can still feel the absolute horror of band camp like it was yesterday. My fingers slipping over the keys, the sunburn on my shoulders peeling and rubbing against my neck strap, my thoughts as the director finally called for lunch break, it all comes back in a flash. My legs ached of the thought of going back in 99° weather; they screamed as we started up again day after day. I pushed, willing myself not to pass out in the middle of the field. Even as a freshman, there were no excuses. You march and do it correctly; you stand at attention and do it correctly. My body, physically and emotionally, was put to the test. I was sure that the odds were against me; by the end of the first day I felt as though my best option was to leave band completely and join something like the chess club. The end of the week came at a slow pace, but when it did, I was relieved. I was surrounded by both old and new friends; I knew then, as I looked over all I had accomplished, that I wouldn't die during marching season as I originally thought.
Circe's Advice: Kylie Logue
"Your shoes don't matter. Your shirt doesn't matter. Your new $100 jeans are stupid and probably matter the least. Life isn't about those things, so why do we dwell on them? We tell ourselves that it's for us. We say that we want to feel pretty, and those things make us pretty. It doesn't. The problem is that we are bombarded with pictures of the so-called perfect woman and we think that the only way we can be loved is to be that woman. I good person, a good friend, will tell you that you're beautiful when you're sitting on the couch watching the Titanic movie, eating chocolate, and crying your eyes out, and they'll be right. They'll be right because you are beautiful every day, whether you're in a stunning gown or your grey sweatpants and an extra large shirt. Remember that, and you'll know the meaning of this, of life."
My friend Kylie Logue said this to me when I first left Kentucky. She told me that she had sat down to write a whole speech, one that would stay with me until we met up with each other again. I scribbled it down on a piece of notebook paper, and I recently found it in a stack of papers on my desk. It was the last day of school for me at Wassom Middle School. I had just cleaned out my locker; my backpack was stuffed to the brim with cards and goodbye letters from my friends. Kylie said this to me as we walked down the blue painted hallway, and I remember thinking, "She's exactly right." Since then, I have lived my life like there really isn't a tomorrow. I go with whatever life brings me. I take it full on and handle it my own way. Though some people tend to look at me like I'm crazy, I look back and laugh because I am the one enjoying every second while they are busy trying to figure out how to get the latest trend.
Scylla and Charybdis: Getting Adopted
The most difficult decision I ever had to make was about whether to let my father adopt me or not. Technically, the man I call my father is not my blood relative, but it did not change my decision. When I was eight years old, talk about letting him adopt me came up. This was difficult for me to decide only because I would be changing my last name. At that time, it was Wilson; if my dad adopted me, it would become La Forest. I wanted desperately to hold on to my Wilson name because it seemed famous to me. I saw tennis balls, footballs, stores, all with the name Wilson. Even the soccer ball in Cast Away was named Wilson! As a young child, that appealed to me. Finally though, after a lot of thought, I went ahead with it anyway. My father adopted me and, after I asked the judge myself, I even got to keep my name. I got laughed at, I'm sure, when people printed out the birth certificate with my whole name, Laurel Emma Bailey Wilson-La Forest.
The Lotus Eaters: The Titanic Museum
One of the strangest things that I've ever experienced was at Georgia Aquarium while the Titanic exhibit was open. We went to the museum just after the TV show Ghost Hunters was filmed there. For those of you who don't know, the show consists of a group of people (TAPS) that do in-depth research and experiments about paranormal activity in buildings. There is still a lot of speculation on whether the Titanic, and its artifacts, are haunted, which I did not know when we went to the museum. What I remember most are my feelings when we entered the Titanic exhibit. I was cold, scared, and though I wanted to see the exhibit, I also wanted to leave. I had pressed the feelings to the side, laughing at myself for them, and then we entered the room with the names of people who had died on the Titanic. Just outside the door, my mom stopped to take pictures of some of the dishes that were cased in a glass container. All of a sudden, the room got cold. It felt as though ice was being poured on top of my head, rolling down and quickly melting over my skin. It encased me entirely, and swirled around my trembling body, then fell away slowly in blocks again. My mother had a weird look on her face, and I asked her what was wrong. She said that her camera battery had just died, even though she had charged it fully before we left home and we weren't through even half of the exhibit yet.
The Cave of the Cyclops: The Semi truck
My narrow escape took place while I was still in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. We were at the big intersection just after the gate; my dad was driving. To our left was the road we took to go home, and to our right was a big lot that semi trucks filled their gas tanks at. We were at a red light, and like we usually do, my family was talking about the latest movie we had seen. The light turned green a few seconds after we completely stopped, and my dad hit the gas pedal, getting ready to turn toward our home. My mom looked out the passenger side window and screamed stop at the top of her lungs. My dad hit the brakes and looked towards my mom and the semi truck that was going past the front of our car at an immeasurable speed according to my seven year old brain. The semi truck honked, loudly, like we were the ones doing something wrong during our green light.
Laurel La Forest