2011 Winner: Minna Wang

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Minna Wang, age 15
Winner, Age Group 13-15
North Utah Academy of Math, Engineering & Science
Layton, Utah

A long, long time ago, there was a little girl who wanted everything.  She knew what she wanted to be when she grew up – rich, famous, and married to the perfect boy.  She wanted everything, from a huge mansion with a spiral staircase, a huge close, and a pool, diamonds and a pony.  She wanted money and fans.  Some us would call her shallow, but please remember that she was only a child.  Obviously, I was this little girl. 

I used to look at people, even my own parents, wondering how they could stand to live in a little town, unrecognized and under-appreciated.  Wondering how they could be so happy when no one ten years from now would know their names. I liked to feel busy, important, complicated and sophisticated, even at that young age.  I would ask questions, hoping to find something in my family’s history that could make me special, famous among my small circle of academic acquaintances, and I’d be moody and desolate enough to make up fascinating stories of my ancestors’ pasts to entertain myself when I realized that the answers I craved were in short supply. 

Then I grew up some, I started reading and I found a curious trend – the more money or fame people had, the more they wanted.  Pop stars, billionaires, even little entrepreneurs with big dreams, they all wanted the same thing I’d wanted when I’d been six years old. And after reading tabloids by the grocery store check-out counters, another small but important detail presented itself to me.  These people weren’t happy.  How was it that rich, famous people could be depressed when some people living in poverty could be happy as anything? The question puzzled my elementary mind.  And it stayed in the back of my head all though junior high, when I would start to want material things again, like jewelry and the newest outfit, and now that I’m in high school, when I’m trying to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life, this question has put itself into my attention once again.  And I think I’ve found the answer.  In essence, simplicity is perfection. 

When people try to obtain wealth or social status, they are searching for perfection through approval of others or even their approval of themselves.  They fail to realize that the simpler a life is, the closer to perfection they will come.  And the closer we come to perfection, the happier we will be.  Thoreau teaches us that a complicated, intricate life only makes us feel alone and weak, not accomplished.  To me, his belief of “living deliberately” is simply to live with one intent – to be emotionally spiritually content.  Not financially or socially, but instead to be free from the opinions of our peers.  By keeping our goals simple, our needs are simple and our wants have all but disappeared.  Life is simple.  And we’re happy.  And that’s what matters most.