Prompt: Write an essay in which you tell us about someone who has made an impact on your life and explain how and why this person is important to you.
--A Rebellion of the Meek
My cousin, Trent, is brilliant. He makes stunning artwork, sometimes painting for 23 hours a day. He listens to the same song until he's gotten everything he can out of it and never needs to listen to it again. He introduced me to terrible '90's sci-fi, and 3:00 AM walks to the Shell Station. I idolized him for the better part of my childhood, filling my CD player with Nirvana and British punk to impress him when he asked what I was listening to. If he approved, I was elated. If he found the pop hits album I'd received for my birthday, I moped until the next opportunity to show him how cool I was arose.
In my unquestioning awe, I steadfastly ignored his flaws. I knew he was a little wild, at least according to my straight-laced mother. But, his shenanigans seemed harmless enough. Then, my parents decided I was old enough to be let in on the prolific family gossip. Over the next year, shock shook my adoration; Trent dropped out of school? Trent got arrested? I was heartbroken, but that didn't stop me from spending four hours the night before the annual camping trip downloading acceptable artists to my iPod, hoping he hadn't changed.
But changed he had. "I've done meth, but never cocaine. That stuff's bad," Trent confided one night, nodding authoritatively at me over Janga blocks. I nodded back, mechanically cataloging everything he said as I tried to hide my bewildered disgust. He continued, "I've held it in my hand, but I didn't do it." Pressing my palms into the floor, I wondered if he was going to preemptively answer my questions. Being twelve, my knowledge of these things was extremely limited, and I listened charily to his confession of experiences until our uncle called us outside to watch the sunset.
During the drive home, the car was unusually quiet. My sister was fast asleep, and my mom was talked out after spending the week with my aunt. Without anything to distract me, I reflected on visiting Trent. It had been strange, seeing him after hearing about his mistakes. He didn't seem as invincible, as impossibly suave. For the first time, I wasn't sure I wanted to prove myself to him. After all, his smooth words and breadth of knowledge didn't matter if he didn't use them to be the cousin he was supposed to be. Having decided this, I put on Kelly Clarkson's new album and loved it all the way home.
The frivolous importance of Trent's opinions on my musical taste masked my fear of judgment. By copying him, I didn't have to face the perils of my own individuality. Realizing that he wasn't perfect allowed me to open up to myself, and to embrace all my formerly guilty pleasures. Today, I can't name a Kelly Clarkson song to save my life, but I can name a thousand things I would be happy to share with anyone.