The essay below was written by an 8-year Destination Imagination participant and 5-time Global Finals participant for his college applications. The student is now attending a top engineering school, and credits his acceptance in large part to his experiences in DI.
If you ask my friends about what my living room looks like, the defining word would probably be “mess”. They are right — my living room is definitely a mess. However, not all messes are created equal. The mess in my living room is a good mess, one that helps, rather than hinders.
Let me take you on a tour of the mess: Without a doubt, it is not an ordinary living room, with a couch, a coffee table, and an ottoman. Yes, technically it does have all of these, but they have been pushed to the sides of the room. Over the years, my friends and I have transformed what started as a normal living room into a creative space that functions as a building area, a shop, a design studio, or whatever other function we deem necessary. While it is not as clean as the prototypical living room, it has its own unique charm. Toolboxes, materials, and workbench stand where chairs and coffee table should be. Where framed images and paintings should be, large 20×23 inch Post-It notes adorn the walls, scribbled with bullet-pointed lists, diagrams, and sketches. The coffee table, which has been relegated to the corner, holds various supplies such as glue, screws, a soldering kit, and a seemingly endless variety of colors and patterns of duct tape. However, the most important feature is the carpet occupying the center of the room. Its modern geometric design has been progressively altered by splotches of paint, glue, and pieces of duct tape stuck to it. The damage that has been done is irreparable, but to me that carpet is worth more than any new and pristine one that could be put in its place. This carpet is where ideas are born, discussed, and built. It is the communal aspect that makes it so important to me. I recall numerous Destination Imagination meetings on the carpet, with the team sitting around, brainstorming ideas. Many a “eureka moment” occurred on the carpet, resulting in creative breakthroughs. In the many hours of working together there, my friends and I have shared countless laughs, high-fives, and inside jokes. I guess you could call it a “magic carpet”; it enables my friends and I to generate creative ideas when we need them, becomes a working space when work needs to be done, and can even transform into a campsite for a sleepover when we discover that we are still working at 2:00 AM.
When a guest sees my living room for the first time, what they see is equipment and tools and parts where a living room should be. I, on the other hand, see pieces of my childhood. I think of it fondly because over the years it has seen me grow up. That dent in the wall was made while I was working on nuclear power models in 6th grade; that line of paint on the carpet was left after painting an Arduino-controlled theater set for a DI challenge; the pieces of PVC pipe in the corner of the room are left over parts from a boom crane we made out of recyclable materials for another challenge. This room has seen me fail and it has seen me triumph. It is a repository of stories and lessons. What others read as a messy room, I read as a tale of growing up. While as I head to college I leave my living room behind physically, I know that the lessons its mess taught me will be with me for a lifetime.
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