Creative Personal Essay

Can you hear me now?” I am a small, diaper-clad toddler, holding a landline telephone close to my ear with sticky, jelly-covered fingers. A smile spreads across my face as I run to the next room, asking the same question. “Can you hear me now?” On the other end, my Mom smiles and indulgently answers, “Yes Hannah, I can still hear you.” My investigation continues through every room in the house, asking the same question. From that point on, I’ve been on a single-minded quest to find my voice and test the limits of how I can use it, although I ditched the diaper awhile ago.

The purest, most elemental way I use my voice is when I sing. I hear Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling In Love on my iPhone and my body sways in time to the music. I sing the lyrics, the backing vocals, and air-drum the beat. I am aware of the persistent protests from my sister Emma and other family members in our minivan—not nearly a big enough stage for my one-woman show—but I cannot help but sing my heart out, using my voice to display my passion for music. When I sing, I am unapologetically myself, it is what makes me who I am.

But life is not always full of harmonies. And if you ask my friends and family, I’m pretty vocal when it comes to expressing my beliefs and values. Recently in my history class, I became involved in a spirited discourse with my teacher over the role of “Dreamers,” individuals who enter the country undocumented as children. My teacher argued that these individuals are not entitled to an education. I vehemently disagreed, and so, a passionate discussion ensued, the lesson plans put on hold for the day. I was proud to voice my opinion, while respectfully debating and listening to my teacher’s voice.

Let’s go Jill, move it!” I also use my voice to inspire others as a coach on my summer swim team. During our meets, I cheer for them so loud that at times I lose my voice. My passion and encouragement for these kids stems from an unsurprising source. Swimming has been full of challenges and triumphs and pushed me to a better understanding of myself and my limits. From the 10-year-old whose anxiety prevented her from competing, whose voice allowed her to cry, to the 17-year-old who trained relentlessly for a national meet, suffered an injury, but used her inner voice to complete the races anyway. So when the kids on my team are crying at 7 AM because the water is freezing, or they don’t want to race because they’re afraid to fail, I encourage them to take the plunge, to go for it and jump headfirst into the new experience.

More than anything, I pride myself on my inner voice. My ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and act accordingly. I use it to psych myself up for a swim meet or a test. I use it to overcome my internal struggles and move forward with my daily life. And despite what is going on around me, to focus on myself, to never feel like I don’t deserve to achieve my best and to pursue my goals. From the diaper-clad toddler, to the anxiety-ridden 10-year-old, and finally to the 17-year-old who is open to debate and new opinions, my voice has grown and I have been able to use it in every facet of my life, whether it be school, swimming, or extracurriculars. That’s why I’m proud to have this voice. One that I never take for granted and will continue to fine-tune in order to shape my life. Moving from room to room, place to place, to new experiences, answering the call and using my voice to further myself and the world around me.

The things I love…

It’s the little things. Breaking perforated seals on just about anything. Getting a burrito bowl from Chipotle. College sweatshirts. My twin sister, Emma. Jumping into bed after a long day at school. Singing as loud as I can for as long as I can, especially to Disney songs. My dog, Molly. Seeing my family succeed. Laughing so hard it hurts. The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. “Best of Vine” compilations on YouTube. Achieving a lifetime best in swimming. Dancing like nobody’s watching. Project Runway. Clothes fresh out of the dryer. Cake batter frozen yogurt. Michelle Obama. Drinking water with a superfluous abundance of ice. The movie Good Will Hunting. Driving and blasting the radio. Exploring new places and taking “artsy” photos. New York City. The Great Gatsby. Fresh flowers. And most of all, what makes me happy are the possibilities of the future. At the time I am writing this I have no clue what I am doing with my future. But I guess that’s the beauty of it. I don’t know where I’m going, but I have the confidence that wherever I end up I will be able to flourish and accomplish all of my goals. Yes, the aforementioned list are things that make me happy on an everyday basis, but my future is what makes me the happiest as a whole. The world at my fingertips and my distinct ability to choose the direction in which I go next.

My favorite word

Inconceivable. A recent box-office flop starring declaration-stealing Nicolas Cage. A phrase uttered by Vizzini throughout The Princess Bride, each time with a lisp and flawless comedic timing. A promise of adventure and the wonders of make-believe, as the inconceivable came true during my younger years. Santa was real, I was a Disney princess, and Kim Possible was my best friend. A prime example of the mnemonic rule of thumb i before e except after c. A fundamental element of my favorite quote, “To stop the flow of music would be like the stopping of time itself, incredible and inconceivable.” An appropriate adjective to describe the Oklahoma City Thunder’s squandering a 3-1 lead against the Golden State Warriors in 2016. But most of all, inconceivable means to me that something is unthinkable or impossible. While some would be discouraged by this word, inconceivable inspires feelings of hope and motivation within me. The prospect of something being impossible simply encourages me to make it possible. The word inconceivable evokes one of the most integral philosophies of my life: to embrace a challenge.