Castles, Kayaking, and College

What was the environment in which you were raised? … explain how it has shaped you as a person.


It’s a Saturday. I am nine years old, with my bright blonde hair blowing in the humid Corpus Christi air. Ryan and I are building a sandcastle as the sun is setting. Using the tools we made with shells and pieces of wood earlier in the day, our tiny hands work quickly to finish our castle. We decorate our castle with the seashells we found as we had walked down the beach earlier. Later, after our castle has been destroyed by the rising ocean tide, we venture alone through the sand dunes in search of buried treasure. We settle for tiny white crabs and name each one of them. “Jeffrey, Frederic, Fabio, Carly, Jack…” we say, as we point at them.

Flash forward six years later and you’ll see I am packing an ice chest with water, six bags of Goldfish crackers, and blue Gatorades, the best kind, for my cousins. We are at Coleto Creek, a reservoir known for its huge alligators. After placing the ice chest in my kayak, my cousins, sister, and I set off on a five-hour trip to paddle through the channels we predicted would be replete with alligators. We bravely decide that if an alligator jumps into one of our kayaks, we’ll hit it with a paddle.

In both of these memories, my parents are blithely unaware of the specific details of my epic...

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