Posted by: Staff | 02.06.2008

College Essay IV: Taylor – “The Mad Ones”


One day about a year ago I declared, “I am definitely a spontaneous person!” My friend Sarah responded with a chuckle, “Really now?” Offended that Sarah didn’t think of me as spontaneous, I began to tick off on my fingers the reasons why I am a spur-of-the moment kind of gal. Before I could finish my reasoning she interjected with several examples of why I am the most methodical person she knows. As if someone who diligently creates to-do lists and calendars can’t be impetuous, too?

Sarah wasn’t trying to insult me, but I was quite frustrated. I admire people who are instinctively impulsive, and I think it’s intriguing to live life on the edge, experiencing everything and anything instead of living out a mundane existence in anticipation of the day you die. It wasn’t until someone pointed out that I might be heading on a straight path to the latter that I began to question whether or not I had the rash and whimsical gene embedded in my DNA.
My father, a truly unstructured person, kindled my fascination with spontaneity.
During spring break of my sophomore year, instead of visiting family or a whirlwind trip to national monuments and museums, my dad took my sisters and me on a road trip across California. We drove down the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco all the way to Mexico, hardly ever losing sight of the ocean, and then back up to L.A. I had spent the week before laying out a very detailed itinerary, complete with online reservations, that my dad took one look at and with a laugh tore into pieces. Apparently predetermined plans take away from the “experience” and ruin the “spirit” of the trip.

At the beginning of the week I sat squirming in the back seat and refrained from asking, “What are we doing next?” or, “Do you have any idea where we are staying tonight?” After a few days of what seemed like chaotic driving I decided my father wasn’t about to change and I might as well enjoy the scenery as best as I could. And as soon as I relaxed I realized just how beautiful the view of the sunset was from the cliffs in Carmel. Though we never stayed at the charming bed & breakfast I had researched in Santa Rosa, and we missed our scheduled visit to the Monterey Aquarium, I can’t imagine a more thrilling vacation. We saw Sausalito in a dense blanket of early morning fog, the birthplace of an entire generation at the corner of Haight and Ashbury, the busy pier in Long Beach, the movie stars’ concrete hand imprints in Hollywood, the slums of Tijuana and all points in between.

This trip coincided with learning about the Beat Poets in my English class. We had just begun to read On the Road, and though my trip was much more modest than Sal Paradise’s, I could sense the connection with America that Jack Kerouac wrote about feverishly. Kerouac is an author who inspires motion. He speaks to a different part of the American spirit—the one that yearns to discover. I remember reading, “The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a common place thing, but burn burn burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” I hadn’t really understood why on earth Kerouac would want to know crazy mad people that burn like yellow Roman candles — until this trip.

Growing up, though I had the same complexion, eye color, curly brown hair and round rosy cheeks that my father had, I did not share his instinctive spontaneous nature. Yet, on this trip I became more like my dad, an honorary member of the Beat Generation. Though Sarah may never consider me a spontaneous person, I will never forget this unusual vacation. It was new and uncomfortable for me, but I threw my inhibitions to the wind and experienced everything and anything I could, and was glad that I did.

Taylor will be attending Colby College


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