This I Believe

Caitlin - San Antonio, Texas
Entered on April 3, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.


I believe that the individual soul is impossible to define, that there are hidden elements to people that add depth to their presence and make them so fascinating to others.

Growing up, I always viewed my little sister, Cara, as a sort of living doll. She was a great source of entertainment, never refusing my wish to bedeck her in my mom’s dresses and slather her pudgy little cheeks with rouge. Since we’re three years apart, I was always a step ahead of her in terms of maturity. Or at least I considered myself to be.

As the years passed, almost everything about us changed. Despite this, my perception of Cara remained the same: she was still the easily-manipulated little sister who existed solely for the purpose of carrying out my various schemes. I never really gave thought to the fact that she had her own redeeming, unique qualities. That there was so much more to her that I could discover.

However, several years ago, that all changed. As we were sitting on a plane, looking out the window at the golden lights of San Antonio winking in the night, my eyes were suddenly pulled from the urban landscape and onto Cara’s face. Although I knew her features better than my own, something about them was different. It was as though a spark had lit up somewhere inside her, far brighter than the lights outside, and it was reflected in her facial dimensions. At that moment, I realized that I had never really looked at Cara before. Not only had I never really looked at her appearance, but I had failed to gleam anything other than the surface of her personality. For the first time, I became aware that there were dark, undefined places tucked away within her conscious, doors that were closed and waiting to be opened.

This incident made me reevaluate the way I had always seen people, rigidly categorizing them and drawing basic conclusions about their personalities. Throughout my life, I have tried to define people by things such as their relationships and experiences, their beliefs and their dreams. However, none of these constrictive ideas will ever be sufficient. People have a certain essence that fills them with all sorts of qualities that are visible at one moment and gone the next.

Each day, I have allowed my perceptions of Cara to change as I learn something new about her. By questioning how I see her as well as others, I have become increasingly aware of the subtle, yet essential qualities that make people so much more than the brief glimpses I often catch.

In many ways, people are as elusive as fire. The essence of fire is plasma energy, just as the essence of a person is their unique personality. People are always evolving in the same way that flames constantly flicker and dance, forming delightful shapes as they burst with sparks. I believe these sparks are what truly make up an individual, for they are always there to contemplate, to discover, and to keep people asking themselves who they really are.