The Step Calculator of Life
By Michelle Seucan
A whimsical narrative of my life as my step count increases.
Throughout my journey, I meet different parts of myself, from Curiosity to Shame. It’s a story of how these “people” have helped me grow.
Humans take 1.5 million steps yearly, and millions of others in their lifetime. I feel the rocks crack underneath my Hello-Kitty flip-flops, a pair I’ve had since the dawn of time. Whipping out the step tracker on my phone, a large blue number shines back at me: 17,000,000. And counting. It gets lonely sometimes, going on this journey by myself. But Solitude is an old friend of mine. We first met around 9 million steps ago when I wandered away from my family on a beach in Punta Cana. Passing by an ordinary sailor near the coconut trees, She whispered how the sailor was an astronaut lost across the cosmos, his boat a portal to the Andromeda galaxy. Together, we learned to paint the world with non-existent colors, our works born from the marriage between Observation and Imagination. But Solitude wasn’t my only companion. The daughter of Romanian and Taiwanese immigrants, I met Curiosity on the convergence of my Eurasian paths. We’d stroll down alleyways behind Eastern European castles, conversing with street performers about the educational disparities in Romania, or traversing down earthy trails by Sun Moon Lake, devouring my grandmother’s Chinese dictionaries as we did with her mooncakes. Together, Curiosity and I studied the architecture of social ladders and aspired to become lexicographers. 19,000,000. One summer’s day, I reached a fork in the road, each trail labeled with a wooden sign. Path 1: Independence Path 2: Comfort I saw Curiosity playfully dart His head from the end of the first path. So I followed Him. I emerged into a church classroom in Italy, surrounded by other students who shared my passion for learning about the world. A German boy speaking fluent Japanese. A 17-year-old professional photographer. A girl who started her own clothing business to escape poverty. Their unique paths inspired an epiphany – I wanted to learn about the stories of others. I wanted to become a storyteller. Suddenly, another student waved at me from across the room. Her name was Open Mind. 21,000,000. At nightfall, I saw Curiosity and Open Mind perched in the moon, illuminating hidden trails of literature and film that deviated from the main path. On these trails, I’d drink from Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey or watch The Talented Mr. Ripley do his tricks, falling in love with storytelling through different art forms. I began to carve notebooks from the trees around me, my ideas sprouting from little seeds into gardens of poems and screenplays. Under the guidance of Curiosity and Open Mind, my stories transformed into spoken-word performances, stage plays, and virtual Scholastic exhibitions in art museums. As my writing evolved, a new friend began tending to my gardens. Her name was Voice.
23,000,000. The February wind blew in our faces as Voice and I ventured up a hill to the NY State Capitol. The most important path of my journey. You see, millions of steps ago, I didn’t just meet Curiosity on the convergence of my Eurasian paths - I met Shame too. He’d appear in the form of racist mockery or questions of What are you? For the longest time, I hated my differences. But Voice changed that. Stepping up on the podium, I shared my story to empower others. In the crowd, I saw Her smiling at me like a proud mother. Since then, Voice and I protested injustices at the NYC Department of Education, traveled to Peru and England to amplify the misrepresented sex-education stories of students, and interviewed musicians and producers on their experiences with mental health and inequality. Down these paths, we became storytellers. 25,000,000. My seventeenth birthday. I follow a rose-colored path to one of my gardens, where a celebratory picnic, thrown by Solitude, Curiosity, Open Mind, and Voice, awaits me. Together, we raise our glasses of coconut milk, honoring the step calculator of my life. Here’s to 25,000,000 steps… And millions more.
Taking Root: The Girls Write Now 2022 Anthology
For more than two years, our young writers have weathered an adolescence shaped by an ongoing global pandemic. But a harsh climate can also produce work of rare depth, complexity, nuance and humor. The Girls Write Now mentees in this collection have found new ways to build community and take root. This anthology is a catalog of seeds—each young writer cultivating a shimmering, emergent voice. In short stories, personal essays, poetry, and more, they reflect on life-altering topics like heartbreak, self-care and friendship. The result is a stunning book with global relevance of all this generation has endured and transformed.
It all started in November, when I finally woke up from my fever dream of a senior year and realized I had to begin my college applications! Gone were my worry-free evenings catching up with friends or listening to music without a single thought. No, no, I had to hunker down and begin to dissect myself in order to present who I am in 650 words. Impossible, right?
The story of how this particular piece came to be was quite a whirlwind. In fact, the earliest version of this piece was born from a free-write that my mentor Stevie and I were doing one November afternoon. I can’t recall the prompt, but I remember writing about my summers in Romania, where I’d often spend my days walking down different mysterious trails and meeting mysterious people. That idea soon grew into a metaphor for my life as I explored it further as a potential college essay. There were so many versions of this essay that I spent many late nights working on: I believe at one point I had 10 different ones!
I eventually arrived to this final piece after many weeks of writing and re-writing, trying to reflect on the different aspects of myself that have developed throughout the years, and which memories were formative enough to inspire my growth.
All in all, this is a story of how I came to be until now. The truest thing I’ve ever written about myself.
Michelle Seucan is a writer and poet who is currently a senior in high school in Staten Island, NY. She is the Arts & Culture Editor of HALOSCOPE and the Co-Director of Research at ReDefy. She is also a Teen Activist Project organizer at NYCLU and previously the Co-Director of Journalism for Finxerunt, a student-run nonprofit that aims to address socioeconomic issues. She is an internationally published poet and has won several Scholastic gold & silver keys, along with being an American Voices Award Nominee. She is looking forward to building her network and honing her craft as a creator.