2011 Winner: Kathleen Costello

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Kathleen Costello, age 17
EDCO Massachusetts Winner
Senior, Ursuline Academy
Dedham, Massachusetts

“Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Henry David Thoreau encourages all people to focus on simplicity, and breaking down one’s life to the bare minimums.  Certainly in this day and age, simplicity is very hard to come by.  It seems as though every person is a “busy body.” Young children have dance classes, little league games, and school festivities.  Adults are responsible for carting their children to such events, putting food on the table for them three times a day, taking care of every financial need, and setting good examples on a daily basis for their children to emulate.  

Personally, as a 21st century teenager, it seems as though simplification is nearly impossible to obtain.  Time for simplification was most desperately needed when I entered the universally dreaded junior year.  Ironically enough, it was also the year when Henry David Thoreau was incorporated into my high school’s English curriculum.  I attend a very competitive, rigorous academic-based high school, in which the students are not only completely dedicated scholars, but almost all are also three season athletes, musician, dancers and/or artists.  Time management was a skill we all had to acquire quickly! 

My weekly living went something along the lines of: go to school, attend soccer, basketball or softball practice, go home, shower, eat dinner, do homework until midnight or later, and wake up, sometimes before the sun even rose, in  order to finish the homework that was not complete prior to 1 am.  In addition to the daily stresses of being an honors student and athlete, my first family –related death occurred right before mid-year exams.  The emotion stress of losing my grandmother, helping my grandfather cope, and explaining the situation to my eight-year-old brother left little time for my studies. 

Unfortunately, oftentimes, it seems as though it takes a tragic event to open one’s eyes to the truly important things in life, but the death of my grandmother surely did help me realize what my priorities should be.  Certainly school work and athletic teams play important roles in my life, but I have come to realize they are undoubtedly not the most important.  In Walden Thoreau writes: Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify!” Personally, for me, this translated into: do not worry if you received an 80% on your AP Chemistry exam, fouled out of a basketball game, or have no idea how you’re going to write that term paper that is due in a month.  Rather, it means view each day as a gift, not as a right.  Take care of what needs to be taken care of one day at a time, without prying too far ahead into the future.  Appreciate the “little things.”  Do not take for granted people that are in your life today that may not be here tomorrow and do not be absorbed in insignificant matters.  Thoreau’s belief that living a simpler life will make our lives richer in various ways is something that I also have come to believe.