Autobiography Project

Created By Lauren Isaacs

Chapter 1: My Name

With utter dismay, the words, "Laurel, meaning a type of evergreen tree with leaves on it," leaped out of the computer screen. I figured there must be a very good reason I was named after a plain, pathetic tree.

"Lauren," my seemingly brilliant mother explained, "oh, your father and I named you that because it sounded pretty and because we have only known good, decent people with that name."

"Hmm, you're telling me that no research went into the meaning of my name, and you named me Lauren because it wasn't the name of a serial killer, dog, or someone you detested?" I could not believe that my two very scientific parents chose my name on a whim, especially because my mother knows exactly how important a name is.

My mother was born in Korea, and came to this country when she was three years old. Her full name is Yoon Jung, but my grandfather changed that to Yoon after the neighborhood kids started calling her "Yoon Tongue." My grandfather is a psychiatrist, and I think he was off base when he didn't just give her an American name. As first generation immigrants, my grandfather preached "integration" to his children. I am not sure how integrated someone can become when their name sticks out from a classroom like a bad haircut. The funny thing is that as my mother became older, she began liking her very different name. I guess the horrors of her childhood made an indelible impact because she named me something that fades into any classroom.

I stomped down the stairs like a whale going back down into the ocean after it breaks the surface. I went back on Google, searching for some deeper meaning of my name. Laurel turns out to be a very special tree. The leaves are unique and symbolized the highest power and victory in Ancient Greece. Phew, I thought, even though the name is common, the meaning is not. I was relieved to see that Lauren was a great name to live up to.

While I was on a roll, I begged my mom for an explanation behind my middle name, Zoe. She fortunately knew the meaning of this name which restored her brilliance in my eyes. Zoe is Greek and means "life." Howard, my dad's dad, died from a treacherous battle with colon cancer a year before I was born. In Judaism, it is considered honorable to name a child after a beloved dead person. She explained the Hebrew name for life was Chaava, which she didn't think sounded too good. I wish she had been honest with me and said Chaava broke her number one rule of being too different. Wow, I thought to myself. Maybe my first name is stupid, but my middle name could be the best middle name any kid could have. My name is Lauren Zoe Isaacs, and this is just the beginning of who I am and where I am going.

Chapter 2: The Day I Was Born

  • My birthday is May 7th, 2000.

  • 5,509 days have elapsed since my birth (as of June 7, 2015).

5 famous people born on May 7th:

  • Johannes Brahms- composer

  • Sydney Leroux-soccer player

  • Eva Peron-political leader

  • Johnny Unitas- football player

  • Katie Douglass- basketball player

Important events that took place on May 7th:

  • May 7 1664 - Louis XIV of France inaugurates the Palace of Versailles.

  • May 7 1718 - The city of New Orleans is founded by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville.

  • May 7 1824 - Beethoven's 9th Symphony premiered in Vienna.

  • May 7 1840 - The Great Natchez strikes Nathcez killing 317 people. It is the second deadliest tornado in United States history.

  • May 7 1846 - The Cambridge Chronicle, America's oldest surviving weekly newspaper, is published for the first time in Cambridge, Massachusetts

  • May 7 1847 - The American Medical Association is founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

  • May 7 1895 - In Saint Petersburg, Russian scientist Alexander Stepanovich Popov demonstrates to the Russian Physical and Chemical Society his invention, the Popov lightning detector — a primitive radio receiver. In some parts of the former Soviet Union the anniversary of this day is celebrated as Radio Day.

  • May 7 1915 - Japanese 21 Demands Ultimatum to China (Commemorated as National Day of Humiliation)

  • May 7 1998 - Mercedes-Benz buys Chrysler for $40 billion USD and forms DaimlerChrysler in the largest industrial merger in history.

  • May 7 2007 - Israeli archaeologists discover the tomb of Herod the Great south of Jerusalem.

Cost of certain items in the year 2000:

  • A postage stamp cost $0.33.

  • The manufacturer’s sticker price of a luxury car (Mercedes-Benz S500 4 door sedan) was $77,850.

  • The manufacturer’s sticker price of an economy car (Nissan Sentra CA 4 door sedan) was $14,799.

  • The average cost of a four bedroom house in Media was $300,000.

  • A gallon of milk cost $2.78.

  • A movie ticket cost $5.39.

President of the United States in 2000:

  • Bill Clinton

The Must Have Toy in 2000:

  • Razor Scooter

Memorable movies released in 2000:

  • Gladiator, Remember the Titans, and American Psycho

Biggest movie stars in 2000:

  • Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Russell Crowe

Most popular TV shows in 2000:

  • CSI, Gilmore Girls, and Malcolm in the Middle

Most popular song of 2000:

  • Who Let the Dogs Out

Important achievements in sports in 2000:

  • The 2000 Summer Olympic Games were notable for a first place tie (2 gold medals were awarded) in the 50 m men’s freestyle (Anthony Ervin and Gary Hall Jr.).

  • The St. Louis Rams won the Super Bowl and the New York Yankees won the World Series.

Fashion trends in 2000:

  • Women’s fashion was minimalistic, more feminine, and bright in color (hot pink, blue, and yellow were popular shades.) Men’s fashion focused on leisure wear, although polo shirts and cargo pants were also popular.

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Chapter 3: Storage Trunk


My maternal grandfather came to this country in 1968 for his residency training. When he left Seoul, he boarded the plane with eighty-two dollars in his pocket. It started to rain soon after the flight took off, and my mother, who was three-years-old at the time, started to cry because he had left without an umbrella. In Tokyo, he bought an umbrella and an AM-FM radio. By the time he landed in Cleveland, he had thirty-two dollars, an umbrella, a radio, and a heart full of the desire to achieve the American Dream.

My grandfather was the oldest son of six children, and he was so well-respected in his village that he was sent on dangerous missions as a messenger during the Korean War at the age of twelve. He was left an orphan in high school and became responsible for his siblings at that point. He completed college and medical school in six years, served his mandatory four year army term for the South Korean government, and decided to take an exam that would allow him to receive his training in the United States if he scored well enough. Needless to say, his scores were at the top, and he dreamed of a better life for his family.

My grandfather completed his residency in Cleveland and then did multiple fellowships before settling in Pittsburgh. My grandfather is a psychiatrist, which means he practices a branch of medicine that demands an exquisite understanding of the English language. The patients he sees are not coughing or bleeding to death; they can only verbally communicate what is wrong through their words. The choice my grandfather made to be a psychiatrist is sort of ironic because the easier choice would have been something like surgery where he would never have had to open his mouth. My grandfather says he chose psychiatry because it was the greatest challenge he could have undertaken at the time. The choice to take the path that is seemingly insurmountable is a trait I identify with. I know there are people out there smarter and more talented than me. However, I have this desire to take on challenges that everyone says I cannot do. It is good to know that this gene was passed down to me from someone I respect so much.


My paternal grandfather was a devout Jew in the 71 years he was alive. He was the type of Jew who would spend the entire morning, afternoon, and evening in the synagogue during the High Holy Days. During services, you could always spot Howard, my grandfather, because he had the most plain, unassuming Tallit covering his shoulders. That was the type of man Howard was -- never one to stand out in a crowd. His calm, peaceful nature is what made him special. He did not need to be loud and certainly never made a public spectacle of himself in private or in public. He received his Tallit on his Bar Mitzvah over sixty years ago, and it was passed on to my father after his death. When it came time to choose my Tallit for my Bat Mitzvah, I knew that it was my grandfather's that I wanted to wear during the service because I was now the oldest of the next generation to carry on the tradition of the Isaacs family. I was born one year after Howard died, and I felt like wearing his Tallit as my own would honor the memory of the man who is a part of me. My faith is incredibly important to me, and I am pretty sure that this trait comes from him. He was a quiet man who always did the right thing; he passed this on to his son, my father, and I'm pretty sure this need I have to do the right thing comes from both of them. I wish Howard were alive today because there are so many things about Judaism I want to ask and talk to him about.

Chapter 4: My Personal Alphabet

  1. A is for athletic. Being physically fit is as important to me as being mentally fit.

  2. B is for believer. Believing that I can overcome anything with hard work is my mantra.

  3. C is for champion. In my eyes, true champions never give up and give one hundred percent all the time.

  4. D is for dynamic. I would like to think that my character would continue to be dynamic as I age instead of static.

  5. E is for effort. The end result of any undertaking is not as important as the journey you take to get there; I measure success by the lessons I have learned achieving a goal rather than any grade or score I receive.

  6. F is for family. My family means a great deal to me; I am so lucky to have so many people who love me.

  7. G is for giver. I love giving gifts to people more than I like receiving them.

  8. H is for hopeful. I am the eternal optimist who seems to find the silver lining hidden behind otherwise depressing situations.

  9. I is for imaginative. Scrapbooking and writing stories are creative outlets for my imagination.

  10. J is for Jewish. Carrying on my religious faith is not a burden to me in any way; I feel being Jewish has enriched my life and made me a better person.

  11. K is for knitter. I wish I had the time and patience to become an impressive knitter, but I sadly do not.

  12. L is for leader. I am most proud of my role as a leader on my swim team.

  13. M is for motivational. If I can motivate one person to make a change in their lives for the better, I will have achieved one of my personal goals.

  14. N is for nostalgic. My paternal grandmother’s Alzheimer’s makes me nostalgic for the days when she would tell me stories (and gossip) about distant relatives.

  15. O is for opulent. I love the opulence of the Palace of Versailles; I do not think I would have been happy if I had lived during the Dark Ages.

  16. P is for perfectionist. Aiming for perfection is a noble goal; however, it is dealing with imperfection that is more so.

  17. Q is for quarrelsome. My parents never neglect to chide me for quarrelsome behavior towards my little sister.

  18. R is for responsible. As the first-born, it is very important that I remain responsible at all times.

  19. S is for squeamish. I am incredibly squeamish around bugs of any kind.

  20. T is for teammate. Being a good teammate is more important than winning a race, in my opinion.

  21. U is for unique. I strive to be different from others; I do not want a single word or number to define who I am.

  22. V is for virtuous. Even though it may be the harder way to get through difficult situations, I make an effort to be virtuous.

  23. W is for warm. I am warm at heart; being kind to others is important to me..

  24. X is for xanthoriatic. Reciting poems is my weakness in English; I would like to think that I am pretty solid in all other areas.

  25. Y is for youthful. I hope I will remain young at heart even when I’m fifty.

  26. Z is for zealous. Swimming is my passion; when I’m training hard for an important meet, my passion becomes a little excessive.

Chapter 5: A Family History (Thanksgiving)

Thanksgiving in my family is usually spent with my parents, sister, maternal grandparents, Aunt Ellen, Uncle Max, and cousins Emerson and Alex. Some years we travel to New York to spend the holiday with my father's family. This year, with my father on call at the hospital, we spent it in Philadelphia. The time spent in the car was zero because my mother hosted Thanksgiving at our house. Not having to waste time commuting is always a good thing.

Our Thanksgiving meal is pretty standard, with turkey, dressing, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and a variety of desserts. My grandmother says that the first time she prepared a turkey for her family in America was memorable because she did not eat it. Turkey, and any meat for that matter, was a luxury in Korea, so she remembers her stomach hurting because it was not used to such a rich protein. Fortunately, as my mom and her brother got older, her stomach got used to eating turkey, and she learned how to prepare a delicious bird every year. My mom and my Aunt Ellen have been taking turns hosting the Thanksgiving meal whenever we don't travel to New York. The two of them think it is too much work for my grandmother; if Grandma knew they were worried about how old she is getting, I do not think she would be pleased.

My grandfather is a psychiatrist. He came to this country for his training and ended up staying because it was the "land of opportunity." Celebrating Thanksgiving was important to him when my mom and her brother were young because he believed integration and fitting in to the American traditions and way of life was paramount. In fact, he passed on the importance of celebrating Thanksgiving to my mother because she always made her way home to be with her family every year after high school. Surprisingly, this was the one holiday she always made sure she had off during medical school, residency, and fellowship.

Thanksgiving is also important to my father's family. My Aunt Mary Beth, the wife of my dad's older brother, is always the host of Thanksgiving for the New York family. My Grandma Isaacs used to host Thanksgiving before Alzheimer's took over her mind.

As far as family customs and traditions, the one thing that remains constant about the holiday is that it is never celebrated with just my immediate family. Even when my grandparents or aunts, uncles, and cousins are not available, there is always some stranger at our Thanksgiving table. The stranger or strangers is (are) usually some person(s) my parents know from work that they "feel sorry" for for being alone. My Uncle Max and Aunt Ellen also adhere to this tradition because there is always someone who is not an immediate relative at the Thanksgiving table when it is Aunt Ellen's turn to host.

Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for all the good in your life and to share in your good fortune with others. My favorite tradition is meeting the strangers who grace our Thanksgiving table. Meeting new people who have interesting lives is always a highlight of my Thanksgiving experience.

Chapter 6: And the Band Played On (Music)

Music plays a fairly significant role in my life. Playing an instrument has taught me the importance of practice making perfect. I love the sound my cello makes when the bow and my fingers move in unison. In addition to making music, I love listening to contemporary artists as well as artists from the past. I use music during swim meets to pump me up. Music also helps when I’m having a bad day because it provides an escape from stress.

I listen to all genres of music, although contemporary pop is probably my favorite. During swim meets, I listen to fast, booming, pump-you-up types of music on my iPod. At home, I like listening to One Direction. When I’m in the car with my mom, we listen to top 40’s. When I’m in the car with my dad, it is the Beatles and only the Beatles, 24/7.

A brief list of the artists I enjoy listening to is below:


  • 5SOS

  • Ed Sheeran

  • Ariana Grande

  • Pitbull

  • Usher

  • Meaghan Trainor

  • Onerepublic

  • Maroon 5

  • Sam Smith

  • Bastille

  • Fifth Harmony

    A list of songs that I love are below:

  • Steal My Girl- One Direction

  • I Want- One Direction

  • Moments- One Direction

  • Pompeii- Bastille

  • Maps- Maroon 5

  • Stay With Me- Sam Smith

  • Counting Stars- Onerepublic

  • Brighter Than The Sun- Colbie Caillat

  • I Gotta Feeling- Black Eyed Peas

The song, "Rumor Has It," by Adele is special to me because it was the walk-out song played for the finalists swimming in the 200 breast at the 2012 Eastern Zone Championships. I felt so blessed and proud to be rewarded for my endless hours of practice; in fact, I used this song again for my grand entrance during my Bat Mitzvah reception, just because it reminded me of working so hard to achieve an important goal.

If I had to choose one personal theme song, it would have to be "Brighter than the Sun," by Colbie Caillat.

"Brighter Than The Sun"-- Colbie Caillat

Stop me on the corner

I swear you hit me like a vision

I, I, I wasn't expecting

But who am I to tell fate where it's supposed to go with it

Don't you blink you might miss it

See we got a right to just love it or leave it

You find it and keep it

Cause it ain't every day you get the chance to say

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky

Shining how we want, brighter than the sun

I've never seen it, I found this love, I'm gonna feed it

You better believe, I'm gonna treat it better than anything I've ever had

Cause you're so damn beautiful

Read it, it's signed and delivered let's seal it

Boy we go together like peanuts and paydays and Marley and reggae

And everybody needs to get a chance to say

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky

Shining how we want, brighter than the sun

Everything is like a white out, cause we shika-shika a shine down

Even when the, when the light's out but I can see you glow

Got my head up in the rafters, got me happy ever after

Never felt this way before, ain't felt this way before

I swear you hit me like a vision

I, I, I wasn't expecting

But who am I to tell fate where it's supposed to go?

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky

Shining how we want, brighter than the sun, yeah

Oho, yeah, oho

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, we could be the stars, falling from the sky

Shining how we want, brighter than the sun, yeah

Brighter than the sun.

Brighter than the sun.

Brighter than the sun.

Oho, yeah, oho

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

Oh, this is how it starts, lightning strikes the heart

It goes off like a gun, brighter than the sun

I like this particular song because of how positive and uplifting I find the melody and the lyrics. Even though it probably was meant to be a love song, I connect more with the positive notes of the song. This song was part of the soundtrack for the movie, Soul Surfer, and is as upbeat as the main character, Bethany Hamilton.

This song represents me because I see my personality as uplifting as the melody. I see my soul as bright as the sun, and as bright as the stars falling from the sky. I believe I can achieve anything and be as bright as the sun.

“But who am I to tell fate where it's supposed to go with it” are the lyrics most meaningful to me. Fate is never predetermined when a baby is born. Fate is determined by the individual as they grow up and make choices on what sort of direction they want to make in their lives. The fact that I believe my fate will be as “bright as the sun” is why these lyrics are so meaningful to me.

Chapter 7: Room Sweet Room

Walking into my room is often times described as being a unique experience. Even before opening the door to my room, there is the distinctive smell of chlorine. Eighty percent of my room is comprised of swimming stuff and the other 20 percent is a mixture of pencils and photos. The first thing that you notice when you walk into my room are the posters and magazine clippings all over the walls; even the ceiling is not immune to being plastered with swimming-related clippings. There are so many swimming posters in my room that it covers up the mint green paint color of the wall. The posters of various Olympians represent the heroes I want to emulate one day, but the quotes related to swimming inspire me to work hard in the pool and in my everyday life. Once you get past the wall art, there are about 100 swim caps (not joking) on the top of my desk at eye level. I cherish each and every one of these swim caps because every single one has memories associated with it. There are caps too small to fit on my head now, but that fit my seven-year-old head just fine. The one currently on top is the cap personalized with my last name that I wore in my final Junior Olympics a month ago. The next thing you will see are a couple hundred colorful (mostly blue- just kidding!) ribbons. The only reason they are in my room is because my mom told me they were taking up valuable space in her bedroom drawer. These ribbons actually don’t mean as much to me as the times imprinted on the back of each one. I used to care about getting ribbons when I was little, but ribbons are like fluff in writing -- ultimately unnecessary in the big scheme of things. The next thing you can’t miss is the collection of hair elastics. You would think I was a modern day Rapunzel. Swimmers need hair bands so they can stuff all their hair under their cap, so it is a necessary piece of equipment for swimmers with longish hair. I’m embarrassed to say I love each and every one of my hair bands. When one snaps or breaks, I miss it terribly, even if it was a common-appearing one of a boring color. At my desk are the numerous boxes of plastic containers filled to the top with writing utensils. Each container is organized by contents, degree of love, and age. I probably have an estimated 1,000 writing utensils organized in obsessive compulsive fashion. One of my goals this summer is to actually count the total number of pens, pencils, and highlighters. Staples and Office Max are my favorite stores. The only exciting part of going to the grocery store is visiting the aisle with office supplies. I’m so territorial with my school supplies that I find it difficult to let even my sister borrow a pencil. I view my pencils as little sacred sticks, my pens as inks of joy, and my highlighters as bright as their name. If my mom really knew how many mechanical pencils I have, she would probably put me in therapy. Finally, you will find lots of pictures of me and my sister. We are only 15 months apart, and as close as two sisters can be. Jordan is my best friend, and the pictures of the two of us remind me how lucky I am to have her. I would want to be her friend even if I wasn’t related to her. These are the components of my life in 156 square feet!

Chapter 8: Flashback

Only swimmers know how valuable half a second is. My goal for the summer of 2012 was to make the qualifying time for Eastern Zones. In my mind, if I put in the work, I would get results. Long story short, the hours I spent training yielded only failure. The disappointment I felt was so awful that it still brings tears to my eyes recalling how close I came, but not close enough to seal the deal.

My mom always tells me that you should never be afraid to fail because only through failure can you learn how to succeed. These words helped me begin to heal and to come back with a vengeance.


The day I want to relive is the day I was rewarded for all the hard work I put into my training. At the short course Junior Olympics (JO’s) the spring after I failed to qualify for long course Eastern Zones, I dropped a whopping 6 seconds in the 200 breaststroke in one day. My prelim time was a personal best; dropping another 3 seconds at finals was the icing on the cake. I swam so well that I was one of three swimmers selected to represent the Mid Atlantic at Short Course Eastern Zones in the 100 and 200 yard breaststroke. The utter joy I felt and the relief I felt that I had redeemed myself from the failure I experienced the previous summer are memories that I wish I could relive over and over again.

The following season I would need these memories to help me deal with horrible swimming times. I really don’t know why I performed poorly at meets during the 2013-14 season, all I know is that each bad swim would cause my mind to wander and think about giving up. The only thing that made me come back to the pool after every bad swim was the memory of the 2012-13 season. Fortunately, this past 2014-15 season has been a good one, but that is because I have already lived through and survived the nightmare of dealing with “failure.”

Putting in the work and coming up short in the pool has helped me survive my first year of high school. You would think that studying for a test translates into an excellent grade. Well, I have learned this is simply not true. Getting a bad grade after putting in the work is actually no different from training hours for an event and coming up short. I measure my worth not by a time or by a grade but by the effort and energy I have put forth. That’s why I am a winner, in my eyes, every time.

Chapter 9: My Own List of Lists

  • People who have influenced me

    • Mom- She allows me to make mistakes because she wants me to be strong and independent. She teaches me the importance of good manners and doing the right thing.

    • Dad- He reminds me it’s okay to be an overachiever and to not be afraid of hard work. He’s also pretty good at keeping things in perspective.

    • Coach Kupperman- He taught me that swimming, like life, is not a sprint but a marathon.

    • Reisa Mukamal- Serving as my Bat Mitzvah tutor, she was more than that for me. She is the epitomy of a good person. I hope I will be as kind and compassionate as she is when I grow up.

    • Jordan- Younger sister. Although I don’t like the fact that she’s smarter, prettier, and more athletic than me, she is the best friend any girl could have. The competition she provides at home has made me try harder to be like her.

    • Ms. Lobitz-She taught me how important it is to read for details. I actually finally realize that you need to know the details to really understand a story. I still miss a lot of details in my reading, but I would like to think I’m getting better.

  • Places that make me happy

    • My house- This peaceful rectangular place is where all of my memories started. If anything bad happens to me in the future, I know I will have a place to go.

    • WESTTOWN AQUATICS POOL- People who swim competitively know that the pool is their second home. This is totally true for me, and it’s also the place where I sweat gallons in one workout and at the same time am having a blast with my friends- each of us motivating one another, “you can do it; just one more lap!” Swimming is not just a sport for me and my Westtown friends, it’s a lifestyle. When normal teens are going out Friday night or sleeping in on Saturday morning, I am staring at a black line at the bottom of a pool with my Westtown friends.

    • Beth Israel-My synagogue. It is the place where I got an understanding of what my religion is really made of, and the starting point of my Jewish education. Everyone is so welcoming there, and I enjoy spending time there.

    • Upper Darby Life Center- I never experienced poverty until I stepped into this place. As I am leading a charmed life with no responsibility other than to go school, there are people who are hungry and wait in line for hours waiting to be fed at the UDLC. Serving food that my mom, sister, and I make earlier in the day, along with members of my temple, to these unfortunate people makes me feel great. They are so grateful for the food that I don’t even notice I’ve been on my feet for over three hours.

    • Bermuda- I went when I eight years old to this beautiful island. It was so peaceful walking the smooth beaches with my mom and my sister. It was another place of sanction for me, and I hope I can go back another time in my lifetime.

    • Places in the forest (especially Jamaica) where there is ziplining- I LOVE heights and the adrenaline rush that you feel before you let go of your line. The scenery is so spectacular hundreds of feet above the forest floor; it’s an amazing place to be.

  • Places I would like to go

    • Colorado Olympic Training Center- Training with Olympians is just a fantasy to me, but you never know.

    • Maccabi Games- Exclusive games held just for Jews in Israel. This is my one of my ultimate goals for swimming; this dream may be more feasible than going to the Olympics.

    • Summer Olympics-If not as an athlete, then as a spectator. I never get tired of watching swimmers at a meet.

    • Galapagos Islands- Ever since my cousins showed me pictures of their expedition back in 2014, it sounds like such a surreal trip. It’s definitely ranked in the top five on my list for places where I want to go.

    • Disney World- I want to go again because I barely remember it from when I was five-years-old.

    • Mt. Everest- I’m always up for a challenge, and this is probably the biggest challenge I will ever take on, if my parents will let me. When I thought of the idea after reading about some boy who did it back in sixth grade, it was surreal, but lately, I’m thinking training for and completing something like that would be pretty cool.

  • Things in people which I like

    • HONESTY- honesty is number one on my list because people lose my respect if they are not honest.

    • Humor- I enjoy laughing, especially when life is not funny.

    • Loyalty-Standing by those you care about and expecting the same in return from a friend.

    • Compassion and respect for all creatures great and small

    • Ethics and morals- I cannot stand people who don’t do the right things.

    • Manners.

    • Daring but Cautious - in other words, someone with the guts to try.

    • Round (Personality)- Someone who can talk about anything and everything because they are multidimensional.

  • Things in people which I dislike

    • LAZINESS - the kiss of death for any group project, especially when they’re on my team.

    • People addicted to smartphones - put the phone down and look me in the eye.

    • Disrespectfulness-they need to read Emily Post.

    • Cheating, Lying, Plagiarism-why are they never caught?

    • Complainers- just be quiet and do the work.

    • Disorganized- I’m a clean freak, and I hate people who don’t know where anything is; it aggravates me.

    • Being two-faced or fake- I guess this is the opposite of being honest.

    • Low self-esteem- being their friend is a full time job because you’re so busy telling them they’re not fat or not stupid, etc. Having friends who are confident in who they are is a lot easier.

    • Flat- People who are boring and have nothing to talk about.

  • Things that worry me

    • There’s nothing that worries me more than disappointing myself. This is the only thing that worries me; for that reason I only have one real thing that worries me. The other things on this list are minor things that worry me.

    • Global warming and the melting of the polar ice caps

    • Reliance on foreign oil

    • The whole college application process

    • Getting a real job

    • Learning how to drive

  • Things I would like to know how to do

    • ICE SKATE- I am so scared of the ice, even though it is water that is frozen.

    • Draw

    • Knit

    • Cook & bake like a real chef

    • Run- Although I run a 7:30 mile, I would like to go a sub-6 minutes like my mom did when she was my age. Yes, under 6 minutes.

    • Scuba dive

    • Sing- I cannot sing for my life, even with autotune.

  • Things that have moved me

    • The memorial service of Yehuda Nir

    • Meeting a Holocaust survivor

    • Chanting from the Torah for Jordan’s Bat Mitzvah

    • Remembering Grandma Isaacs before she had Alzheimer’s

    • Seeing the same little girl run to her dad and give him a hug when she gets off the school bus on the way to swim practice.

    • Reading about Harper Lee and wondering whether she is the victim of elder abuse. Does she really want this new book to be published this summer?

    • Jordan’s pictures she drew of the characters in the new Carl Hiassen book.

  • Ideas that intrigue me

    • TO DO AN IRONMAN!!!- This would probably be one of the most physically grueling things I have ever done, but it’s worth an attempt. I asked my mom if I could do one in a year or so, and she said that I would have to train for a couple of years to do it especially because I hate to run.

    • Run a marathon- I can’t even count on 2 hands how many she has done. I don’t think I get the running gene from her, so I would like to finish a marathon at least once in my lifetime.

    • Winning a Pulitzer Prize. Winning a Nobel Prize in Literature would be even better.

    • Making an Olympic Trial Cut in the 100 or 200 Breaststroke.

    • Swimming in college.

    • Becoming an adult.

  • My personal favorites

    • Swimming :)

    • One Direction even minus one band member

    • Pencils, Pens, and any other type of writing utensil

    • Listening to music

    • Reading

    • The movie Pitch Perfect

    • Shopping

    • Getting swimsuits

    • Reading anything and everything related to swimming

    • Missy Franklin

    • 5SOS

    • Sam Smith

Chapter 10: Poem

Taurus (my Zodiac)

Fabric flowing free in the wind;

Crimson in color with hues of ochre,

Poised with a sword, the matador awaits.

Horns atop the head flicker;

Saliva streams from the foaming mouth,

And towards the cloth he charges.

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Chapter 11: Lesson I Learned After It Was Too Late

When I was in second grade, I spent more time in the guidance counselor’s office than in the classroom. Looking back on it now, I’m not sure why I used tears as a coping mechanism when I felt stressed. I never cried at home or with my friends, but being at school seemed to trigger something inside of me. My second grade teacher basically didn’t want to deal with me crying over nothing so she sent me to the guidance counselor. Every day I remained in the classroom was considered a good day.

Fortunately, my third grade teacher made it clear that the guidance office was not an option during the day. I still cried for no reason, but it just happened a lot less. Missing so much classroom time affected me academically. I performed poorly on PSSAs in elementary school, so much so that I had a reading specialist for three years. Ms. Preg, the reading specialist, was incredibly patient with me, and I wish I could thank her today for all she did. Without her, I would have entered middle school in alternative classes. My confidence rose in middle school as I found it was much easier to learn when you were not crying your eyeballs out. I was incredibly lucky to have had wonderful language arts teachers throughout middle school. I was introduced to books that I never thought I could read or understand. As I became a better reader, I found that my writing improved. People other than my grandmother thought that the words I put on paper were interesting and worth reading.

I sometimes wonder how much more intelligent I would be today if I had opened my brain to learning rather than having wasted energy crying in second grade. Maybe I would have read a book a day like my sister Jordan, naturally a non-crier. I suppose the important thing is not that I made a mistake, but that I dealt with the mistake admirably. For that reason, I don’t want to waste energy feeling regret over this mistake. Why feel regret when you can redirect this negative energy into something positive?

****I was terribly saddened to learn that Ms. Preg passed away from cancer during my middle school years. Her son is in my English class this year, and I hope to let him know just how special his mother was to me.

Chapter 12: Year In Reading

Reflecting back on my year in reading, I honestly cannot say that no book I read was a waste of time. Even the worst book I read, Swim the Fly, had some value because it provided multiple entries for the scavenger hunt, which translated into more extra credit points in English. Swim the Fly read more like a script for a bad Hollywood sitcom than as an example of good writing. After reading this sad excuse for a book, I decided to read a "classic."

The "classic" book I chose was The Stranger. This was the first existential book I ever read. I could not identify with the main character, Mersault, because he was so different from me; however, I sympathized with his plight as his judgement of execution was due to the fact that he strayed from the expectations of society.

Having to choose from different genres in the scavenger hunt led me to choose a book about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transvestites. The book I chose, Under This Beautiful Dome, was recommended on Good Reads. It was a love story about two married people who just happened to be lesbians. The injustice of how homosexuals are perceived by society was painful to read about. What was even more upsetting was how the author, Terry Mutchler, a lesbian, thought homosexuality was a sin against God. Fortunately, years of therapy and writing about her relationship with Penny Severns seems to have helped her.

There are three pieces of work that were the most meaningful to me this year. The first is The Ox-Bow Incident, which was recommended to me by Magister Stevenson. Initially, I was appalled to discover it was a Western. However, once I realized that the message of the dangers of a pack mentality were applicable to society today, I began to appreciate the book for what it was. The second was The Lost Childhood, by Yehuda Nir. I came upon this book, by chance, as I looked for books about children of the Holocaust. The book made such an impact on me that I combed the Internet for any and all information about the author. His memorial service lasted over an hour, and I listened to every word. Hearing the eulogies touched me and made me wish he was my grandfather. Finally, the last piece of work that touched me was a poem by W.H. Auden, "Leap Before Your Look." I have to admit that reading poetry was basically meaningless to me before I started ninth grade. I'm not sure whether it was the rubric that we were forced to fill out or a bolt of lightning that shed the light of understanding on me. Regardless, the poem is memorable because it represents the first time a poem "made sense" for me. My plans in the next month are to complete my research on W.H. Auden and complete an explication on this poem.

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Chapter 13: Friendship

WHO: Brianna Messam

WHAT: Eat lunch together and do homework in the library together.

WHERE: Brianna came to sit with me and a group of my friends at lunch one day in middle school.

HOW: We make each other feel like we are good people, and that we will accomplish big things in our adulthood. In addition, we joke about us two making the big bucks out of everyone in our grade. Also, we both think that there is nothing wrong with not having social media and being a hard worker.

WHY: Brianna and I are friends because we care about being successful people in the future. We don’t care about our looks, and most importantly we don’t care about what people think of us. I feel like this is important because our lunch conversations never consist of having low self-esteem about one’s self. It’s always about the positive things in both of our lives; every now and then, a “bad” test grade would be thrown into the conversation as our subject for the lunch period. Brianna and I are always there for each other, and that includes me taking time out of my swim practice time to help her on a school related problem, or a family problem, and her doing the same thing for me (even if it requires her to wake up at midnight to help me). Both of us know that we have “no life” compared to the kids in our grade, but we look at it as being cool and getting ahead in life.

WHO: Swimming friends (our texting group is named, “Lane 2 Swimming Squad”). This consists of my 5 swimming friends and me.

WHAT: We swim together in the same lane for two and a half hours at swim practice every day.

WHERE: When my sister and me came to our first practice at Westtown, these four girls were there for us to feel like we were welcome.

HOW: We all motivate each other so that we can complete the vigorous sets with a good attitude and a little bit of pain. As the lane leader, my job is to put things into perspective for my teammates and tell them that everything will be all right, even through the hardest times.

WHY: These five nerds are my friends because all of us have similar goals that we want to accomplish in and out of the pool; one of the many goals is to be successful. All six of us can admit that we lead multifaceted lives, which includes juggling school (only my sister, Jordan, is in my school district) and swimming at the same time. It’s comforting to know that these girls share a common goal to be the best we can be in life.