Christine - Livermore, California
Entered on May 7, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
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I believe in staring: in being so captivated by something that I cannot help but to continuously fix my eyes upon it. To me, staring is giving what I love more than just a passing glance. Although some may see it as an indication of social awkwardness, I view staring as way to appreciate what I might have otherwise taken for granted.

Children who gaze at what fascinates them are told that “it’s impolite to stare,” yet staring is actually an expression of thankfulness: a way to disregard a carefully crafted façade created to hinder enthusiasm. By staring, I dare to show partiality, even passion, toward what I love.

I haven’t always felt this way. When I first noticed an erratic beating in my chest, it triggered an abrupt halt to everything routine about my life. The jarring change left me winded and horrified of the rare form of heart disease that suddenly overwhelmed me. The day I was admitted to the hospital to undergo the extensive heart surgery, I was terrified that I would never escape from my nightmare. I was haunted by a fear of death, but more poignant was my fear that I had not fully lived my life in appreciation of everything that was mine. Why had I spent so much time allowing myself to only get a glimpse of what I loved? Why had I tried so hard to control my enthusiasm and passion?

As I was rolled into the operating room, I stared at the ceiling tiles whizzing by, trying to distinguish each crack and stain. I wanted nothing more but to stop and stare at the ceiling to prevent the imminence of surgery. The anesthesia began to take effect and soon my view of the bright lights and bustling nurses blurred. As I slipped out of consciousness, I vowed that if I ever woke up, I would stare more often. Not at a bleak ceiling with ominous connotations, but at everyone and everything I never bothered to see before.

I didn’t notice the constant beating of my heart until it went amiss. I had to experience a life-threatening ordeal to make me realize the importance of staring. Now, by refusing to courteously avert my eyes to those blushing in embarrassment, I have learned how to truly appreciate what I love. I gaze in awe at the elderly couple meandering slowly through a crowd, mesmerized by their patience and love for each other. I stare at the father who is so enamored by his young daughter, he cannot help but smile. I stare at the homeless man who shamelessly composes masterpieces on the sidewalk. Despite many sideways glances, staring at other’s overflowing love is what I need to fully appreciate the life that I am living.

Similarly, I have discovered the secret to my own contentment is taking the time to stare at what I love. I gaze at a breathtaking sunset until its beauty is burned onto my retinas and superimposed upon the landscape. I explore more deeply the contours of a loved one’s seemingly familiar expression. I gaze longer than what is socially acceptable at what really puts a smile upon my face.

The change in how I looked at the world was the difference between complete chaos and stasis. Between a deafening shriek and a whisper. Between a crashing waterfall and a stagnant puddle. And this difference made all the difference.