Tuesday, April 16, 2013

American Voices-winning essay by Latin's Jaclyn Burton

Jaclyn Burton won the American Voices award, which is the top honor in writing from the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Jaclyn is a senior at Charlotte Latin.

Here's her award-winning essay:

I am a series of numbers.

By Jaclyn Burton

I am a series of numbers. A birthday – 8.2.1995 – a social security number, an age. I am the person who sat in bus seat number 16 on 7.5.11 at 14:36 Athens time, and I was the 36th person to enter the room the night I met the 1 person I cannot quantify in numbers. The person it took me 2 words to be interested in, 4 songs to get up the courage to talk to, 4 fingers on 1 waist to be set on, 28 days to admit I liked, and 11 minutes to say yes to. The person who, in the turn of a single second, challenged 15 years, 7 months, and 28 days of preconceptions, beliefs, and dreams.

I am a series of numbers. I am 67 inches of confusion, and 5,818 days of new experiences. My brain is a complex web of an ever-changing and extensive number of synapses and connections, constantly processing and recording. Recording every touch. Every smell. Every grain of salt. Every tear. Every freckle. I am a complex matrix of emotions, memories, and perceptions all scientifically significant and explainable.

I understand numbers. My numbers. They are simple, reliable. They always end the same way: 2+2=4 ∏ = 3.1 4 1 5 9 2 6 5 3 5 8 9 7 9 3 2 3… Life once seemed that way: quantifiable and explainable by statisticians and profit margins. As my numbers grow though so does their complexity. Somehow, between the start of the clock and the growing of the ever-ticking seconds, the answers have changed. Because I am slowly realizing that 2+2 is not the only way to get 4, if 4 is even the number we are looking for.

My computer tells me I have listened to the recorded vibrations of our song 18 hours 38 minutes and 47.4 seconds. It computes that I have felt within my ears the intonations of the voice which jumpstarts my dopamine receptors played back to me electronically 11 days, 21 hours, 45 minutes, and 42 seconds. My calendar reminds me it has been 218 days since my phone received the wireless electronic signal that it then translated into the 8 words that would change the course of my very brain chemistry. Yet I could not tell you the number of freckles on the shoulder I long to see, nor the shape of the wrinkles stretching across the genetically unique lips I long to kiss. I cannot provide the measure of the silky hair running its way through my mind, nor the inches between the fingers I yearn to fill with my own. I could not tell you the frequency at which that ever-present voice resonates, only that I have yet to find another that equals it.

 I am a series of numbers. A statistic — 13.1% - a graduate – 2013 – a majority, a minority. I am the XX in the seat next to you and the XY on your wedding day. I am four different versions of a first kiss and V3 of a genetic combination once illegal in this nation of numbers. I was once illegal in this nation of numbers. A nation that has bred me and built me and coded me for perfection: wrapping me in white gloves and blushed cheeks (Red 40).

I am a series of numbers, nothing more, nothing less. I am the sum, and the product, and the derivative. I am waiting to be counted.