Portrait Project


Each year we ask our classmates a straightforward, simple question taken from the last lines of a poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Mary Oliver. We share with you intimate and candid responses to this question, "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

The Summer Day

by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself
  out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out
  of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and
  forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her
  enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and
  thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open,
  and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention,
  how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down
  in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how
  to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Send Comments/Questions.
Read people's comments about the Portrait Project.

Class of 2005

Emily Anadu

When I was eleven, my mother, two sisters and I left my father and a very comfortable life in Nigeria to live with my grandmother in Texas.

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Matt Beecher

Send me to a grocery store-I'm happy there.

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Valerie Bockstette

I plan to build trampolines. Remember jumping on one as a kid - the more you jumped, the more support you got - and like magic - you rose higher and higher, as though you could bounce forever?

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Robyn Bolton

I want to be an Ambassador of Ridiculousness.

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Chris Chang

I want to forge my own path.

When I was young, I blindly accepted the definitions of success that others held. Success meant straight A's, prestigious institutions, high-paying jobs.

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Zhongjue (Drew) Chen

I remember feeling completely out of place standing in front of a roomful of curious British classmates. My heart pounded and my flushed face beat red as I tried to introduce myself in broken English.

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Suzanne Floy Gauron

I cannot answer the 'what,' but I do know the 'how,' and maybe that's enough.

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Christy Gibb

My parents were newlyweds on this campus. They'd been married six months and my mother was nineteen. They came from Manitoba, drove a 1966 Mustang, and carried Christmas trees through the snow.

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Paul Gomopoulos

A martial arts instructor told me once that at first a punch is just a punch.

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Rebecca Garrison Greenawalt

Who am I? A freckle-faced girl from small-town New Hampshire. A daughter, sister, wife and friend. A musician, a student, a classmate, a colleague, a confidant.

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Dana Hamerschlag

I remember pulling the covers over my head at night in the dark-completely cocooning myself inside.

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Jean Jinsun Kim

My mother worried I would never get married because my knees were too ugly.

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Athena Ko

I am a gemologist by training. I know a piece of rough looks like any other pebble that gets caught in your shoe - it's the skilled eye and hand of a lapidary that unleash the brilliance, fire and scintillation of the diamond within.

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Nvalaye Kourouma

I was seven and I was dreaming of a toy car. I made my own out of wood. I looked at my new toy and it made me very happy.

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Brian Kreiter

I will not race to climb the nearest and steepest hill only to find myself looking backward, wondering if my sacrifices were worthwhile.

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Matthew Mahoney

When the Dalai Lama suggests we approach love and cooking with reckless abandon, he underlines the role of creativity - of dreaming beyond our current selves - in creating happiness.

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Ian McLean

I want to make people laugh.

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Andrew Meade

I plan to have you read this sentence. Score!

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Yael Melamed

When people find out that I had cancer, their first words are usually, "I'm sorry." I always respond with the same, "Please don't be, it's the best thing that has ever happened to me."

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Tamara Lynn Nall

"Faster than a speeding bullet... able to jump buildings in a single bound... it's a bird, it's a plane, NO!... it's Superwoman!!!" I want to be a role model to show the world that a woman can do everything...

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Leea Kevan Nash

I plan to live my life returning the extra 5¢ the cashier gives me; and then I plan to live discovering exactly how that became my instinct, so that one day I can teach my own children to do the same.

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Nelya Nikonova

"I want to live... I want to live... A chance to live my life,
I want to search far and wide and have a reason to wonder why... "

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Brett Odom

Live every day knowing that someone will write my eulogy tomorrow.

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Irene So

First of all, I want to buy my dad a big, fancy new car.

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Kimberly Dionne Spears

I want to dispel the belief that "every man is an island" because I refuse to live bound by the ignorance that isolation brings.

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Kate Terry

Sometimes I think my skills are prosaic among the flashier feathers around me.

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Navroz D. Udwadia

"God," it is often said of India, "must have loved the poor. He made so many of them."

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Sarah Lind Wimmer

I will dance. My eldest brother inherited all of the athletic genes and my formal dance training ended when I outgrew my tutu.

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Joshua Wyatt

One day, I will welcome people as they check-in to my hotels.

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