Monday, April 6, 2009

It Becomes.

Since college admissions 2009 are functionally over, I feel a strong desire to share this with the world (and to procrastinate by creating this post in the first place). It is cliche and overly passionate, but who cares anymore? Not Maria.

The following presentation has been formatted to fit your screen (sidenote: man, I miss the nineties).

Note: for those of you who live under a rock and hence don't have a clue what DI is:
First of all, do not fret; nine tenths of the world is in your boat... which probably implies that it's a sunken boat, and in that case I apologize. Not.
Hmm. I switched idioms within a single sentence. Attention spans are overrated.
Second, please take a moment to explore the world.

“WHERE IS THE DUCT TAPE?!” Panicking, I shout to Anna, who at that moment is lost in a tornado of white sheets and obviously doesn’t know where the sticky roll has escaped to in the last thirty seconds since she used it. After precious minutes lost, it is rescued from a cardboard box of ancient afghans, glass test tubes, and carefully drafted scripts. Monique and I frantically assemble a backdrop, hanging six painted panels onto an out-of-place closet rack with zip ties, eye hooks, and the prized blue adhesive. Phoebe stumbles awkwardly around a camping cot, coaching Jackson to scream like a banshee, literally, while Carrie cradles a raw egg, an essential component of our upcoming eight-minute performance, as a mother with a newborn. The clock ticks. Our last hour of time disappears like space in the Star Wars trash compactor. I am claustrophobic. Jackson thrashes about, struggling to simply walk through doors in his mountainous eight-foot harbinger of death costume, and Evan sits tranquilly, the odd one out, creaking in a rocking chair like a grandfather dozing to sleep. Have I lost my marbles? No, really, where are my marbles? I’ve lost the first prop.

Nine days. We have one week and two days to finish—or start—preparing for the regional Destination Imagination competition, the first in the sequence. Nine days. The current draft of the script reads, in full, “The time has come,” the opening line. Well, the time has come—the time to create set, dialogue, costumes, and on-stage chemistry that strikes an audience and authenticates a scene.

“Could you just stop YELLING at each other?” Nine days. We have argued through the past three months, forever disagreeing on everything imaginable pertaining to our skit. Time wanes. It is impossible. We have nothing to showcase except mere ideas. Mere ideas don’t win competitions. Nine days.

Ten minutes to show time. I am ready. This is my element. The last traces of nerves trickle away, butterflies flutter anywhere but my stomach. We wait. Monique jokes about the resemblance between her costumed character, the formulaic, quirky scientist, and our dorky AP Chemistry teacher back in Wisconsin, for we are currently at Destination Imagination Global Finals 2008, performing for the world in moments.

“Hey, what was that for?!” Anna, sparkling head-to-toe in varying shades of green, snaps my red suspenders and flees my wrath, seeking refuge behind the backdrop we will carry onstage. Jackson tries, hilariously unsuccessful, to imitate Evan’s “Banshee Macarena” from practice with the backpack puppet’s exceedingly long arms. We horse around as if rehearsing rather than preparing for the performance of a lifetime until we are escorted to the final backstage area.

“Shhh!” Here, we simply exchange our boisterous clowning for silent laughter characteristic of only the best of friends.

“AUDIENCE, are you ready?” Cheering.

“APPRAISERS, are you ready?” A clever response.

“TEAM, are you READY?” The Michigander announcer clad in a brightly-colored vest and top hat and pinned with a nametag that reads, Hello, my name is NOT DAN, inquires enthusiastically.

“Ceud mìle fáilte,” A Hundred Thousand Welcomes in Gaelic, the seven of us recite, inviting an audience of friends, family, appraisers, and complete strangers to the performance of our Irish tale here on the world’s stage at the Olympics of Creativity.

A verbal explanation of Destination Imagination is devoid of meaning. I robotically recite to those who ask, “DI is a creative problem solving group where teams of up to seven members create an eight-minute skit to solve a challenge,” but both I and the inquirer leave the conversation with a certain uneasiness. One cannot explain DI—one must live DI to comprehend the true essence, and even an eight-year veteran finds new phenomena within the program and within herself each year. A simple sentence does no justice to that which could be—and is—told through thousands of participants’ undocumented scripts, complex memories, and indescribable experiences. What I can do, however, is transmit my own to whomever I know. I cannot define DI, but I can share my experiences and define the results to a friend, intoxicating both a listener and myself with memories while spreading the spirit of DI.

We departed Knoxville in our borrowed, gas-guzzling Winnebago accepting a respectable fourteenth place in our division of roughly fifty. We had reached our prior-set goal to traverse the ranks to the top fifty percent and had improved from the previous year’s competition. Though I left content, I did so not because we had outscored a competitor from Germantown, our longtime rival in both the state and global divisions, or because I had witnessed Hudson, our state champion counterparts of a different challenge, dash to the front stage during the closing ceremony to claim their first place trophy of world-domination, but because of something bigger and perhaps incomprehensible. During the four days I spent trading pins, the most popular global finals activity; creating synchronized swimming routines with teammates in the University of Tennessee’s Olympic size pool, a favorite pastime; performing under the paradoxically most important and least stressful situation thusfar; and bonding with new and old friends alike, I had transformed.

Somewhere between the formation of the tossed salad of a seven-membered team in September and the unfathomable feeling sitting on the floor of a stadium stacked one hundred tiers high with twenty thousand people all extremely different, crazy, bizarre, and incredibly diverse yet all gathered at Destination Imagination Global Finals, I discovered why I live, why I have come to love these people, why I believe in a higher power, and simply why. I live for the moments that, among my fellows—those who proudly proclaim, “I DO DI,”—I feel alive and radiant, and through this, Destination Imagination becomes an enthralling lifestyle rather than a mere extracurricular activity. I am living DI, and I can—and will—breathe energy, through creativity, into the few corners of the world not yet reached.