By Laura Telfer
I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and unlock my imagination. I allow my mind and body to become one, harmonize with my surroundings, and enable myself to find that place where I am perfectly content. Exhale. As I recollect, I am drawn to a scene from a movie. I try to concentrate on that image, but various sounds overwhelm my senses. A patch of blue dominates my vision. Suddenly, I am submerged in water. My eyes sting, and my imagination consumes my body. Silence. When I open my eyes, my senses are enlightened by the ocean's clarity. I lift my head and am greeted by two familiar faces, Marlin the Clownfish and Crush the Turtle.
All things Finding Nemo are scattered about my bedroom--posters, stuffed animals and even a night light. Their presence causes the best scenes to replay in my mind when I meditate. I let my imagination explore and relive the lessons Marlin learned through his journey. Marlin's experiences renewed his enthusiasm; he became a passionate, lively, and risk-taking child again. I no longer see him, but myself, learning the value of a creative engagement with life.
Imagination is the infrastructure of reality. When I teach at my church, I use my imagination to craft puppet shows for the children to keep them engaged with the material. I put a screen between the door and place a puppet in my dominant hand. I usually play the role of Fireball the Dragon, who often gets himself stuck in sticky situations. With the help of Ponder the Blue Monster, Fireball and the children learn the importance of friendship and Christian values. It makes me happy when I see them laughing and listening attentively during the show. My imagination allows me to connect with the kids on a more personal level, which helps me expand their horizons.
My creativity has also helped me throughout my science career. Last summer, I was selected to work with NASA engineers on eight extensive web-based assignments, which included designing a lunar colony, a Crew Transport Vehicle, and a space shuttle. At the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, I helped wire a rover that had an external structure of Legos and cardboard. I suggested adding the radiation shield of aluminum foil. Team Curiosity and I programmed the robot to respond to the inputs of a control pad, and we entered a challenge that required our robot to pick up Moon rocks and water samples under timed conditions.
When the competition began, our rover refused to cooperate and went out of bounds many times. Even after reprogramming it and replacing its arm, Curious George still could not pick up the rocks and bring them back to home base. Our failure was disheartening, but I didn't let this experience discourage me from pursuing a STEM career.
I turned toward science when my mom was diagnosed with Lupus. Her symptoms did not become obvious until I was in middle school, and she began having difficulty climbing the stairs by herself. A year later, she started chemotherapy. Watching my mom battle with this has been extremely difficult, and I intend to use my knowledge of Lupus to treat others that are struggling. I will use my creativity to design advanced medical machinery that will save lives and help patients cope with pain.
Some days I wish I could go back in time to the childhood days with the adventure and curiosity that my unbounded mind translated into an undying love for Finding Nemo. While my movie preferences have changed, my imagination is still here and still constitutes the environments where I feel most content. I build robots, play with puppets, and find inventive ways to convey my visions. Science labs and church are just two among many stages where I perform, and my imagination is still the foundation of all my shows.
Laura, a graduate from Jackson Liberty High School, is currently a freshman at Cornell.