2011 Essay Winner: Veronica L. Alvarado

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Veronica L. Alvarado, age 18
Winner, Age Group 16-18
Senior, Sacred Heart Academy
Hempstead, New York

I am a child of the mass media generation. The instant that the latest news breaks or the second that my friend changes his or her Facebook status, I am informed. With the push of a button or the click of a mouse, I can connect to whomever, whenever I want. Technology is so pervasive in my life that even when I am by myself, I am not truly alone, as long as I have a cell phone within my reach. My world is dominated by this instantaneous access to others – their thought, their feelings, and their actions.  How am I ever supposed to discover who I truly am when my life is bombarded constantly by other people? 

Knowing that I was to write this essay, I decided to embark on an experiment. I am an avid runner, who daily exercises with several fellow runners. For the purpose of my experiment I decided to run by myself for a week, in the early hours of the morning, to ensure that I did not encounter anyone else. The alarm clock sounded on Day One of my trial at 5:15 am. Lacing up my sneakers and beginning my run, I believed that I had gone completely insane. I was awake before the sun had risen! But as my run progressed, I began to notice just how calm I felt. My mind was clear. I thought only of the poetic weeping willows that I passed, and the beautiful sunrise that I was witnessing. At the conclusion of my workout, I was astounded that I had just spent at hour by myself, meditating only on the beauty of nature, I was superbly blissful.  

The rest of my weekly runs continued in the same vein as the first. I was able to take notice of birds and squirrels, flowers and bushes, all of which appeared intensely handsome to me. For an hour a day, the small creatures that I ran past were enough companionship to satisfy me fully. I did not miss the idle and inane chatter that often cluttered my runs with other athletes. By the end of my week of tranquil runs, I realized that, as Thoreau predicted, my solitude, once simplified, was not longer solitude.  My time away from my friends, my television, and my cell phone was so enjoyable that I still devote the lone hour to myself once a day, whenever I have the opportunity. This experience has also motivated me to make other changes in favor of simplicity in my life. I now restrict my time watching television to no more than one hour each school day and turn off my cellphone before I go to sleep. Thoreau once said, “Our lives are frittered away by detail.” After experiencing the joy of minimalism and solitude, I am resolved not to live constantly in mass updates and notifications, but rather to relish the uncomplicated simplicity, just as Thoreau would have wished.