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This I Believe: The Misconception of Carpe Diem

Shruthi Mekala midshot
Carter Staley
NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS
Shruthi Mekala - Hillsboro High School

My family has never been that composed, seemingly perfect clan that always “has it together;” actually, we’re that family sneaking in late to church or sprinting through the airport to narrowly make the flight. 

Our family events usually get off to a rocky start, and only even out once we’ve dealt with the majority of multiple tiny calamities, including accidentally breaking a gas pump, driving into a ditch on a foggy country road, and other random, admittedly-comical mishaps. 

Which brings me to mid-October, the day of my senior pictures. After carefully planning these pictures for the one free Saturday I had from Halloween to Christmas, my mother and I were so excited for the shoot. Until she received a text. The photographer couldn’t make it. To ease our disappointment, we decided to go out for lunch.

As we were driving, I looked around and noticed, in typical Illinois fashion, that the weather was a crazy hybrid of summer and fall. The grass was green and it was seventy degrees, but the leaves had changed to their beautiful autumn hues and the sun had a gentle, subdued glow. In that moment, I knew that I could not waste this day.

My mother and I borrowed my father’s Nikon, and we headed home to start our own senior photo shoot. But, of course, it wouldn’t be my family if we didn’t have a rather disheartening start to our adventure. First, the camera’s battery was completely dead. Then, we realized that we didn’t know how to work the camera. And to top it off, I was horrified by the very first picture in the camera’s playback. I was discouraged, but my optimistic mother, the most stubborn person I know, convinced me to persevere, and it was so worth it.

We went around to some of our favorite spots in town, taking pictures and reminiscing. I rolled around in the red leaves with my dog in my backyard, and hoisted pumpkins over my head at a local pumpkin patch. As we left the patch, I looked at my mother, realizing that we will never have a perfect day, a perfect outing or even a perfect conversation. It’s just not us. But I love that we’re not perfect. Because I find that it doesn’t matter how a day starts, but how it ends.

I think that Carpe Diem, or “seizing the day,” isn’t necessarily about crazy life experiences. I believe that Carpe Diem is more about being cognizant that every day is a fight against small inconveniences. Luckily, these hurdles have nothing on people that roll with life’s punches and strive to make the most of every moment. And now, when I look at the bleak Illinois winter in the midst of yet another chaotic morning, or when I look at our incredible portfolio of senior pictures, I feel a sense of pride that we truly seized the simple perfection of a flawed day. This I believe.

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This I Believe Illinois is an essay program for high school seniors to share their perspectives as they prepare to enter adulthood.  Each year, a panel selcts ten submitted essays to be recorded by their authors for broadcast on NPR Illinois.  Since 2007, the selected authors also deliver their essays at a meeting of the Rotary Club of Springfield Sunrise where the students receive scholarships from the organization.

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