As I look forward to the upcoming holiday season, I'm excited about the media's retrospectives on 2009. Toward the end of each calendar year, I immerse myself within the plethora of year-in-review magazine issues and television specials. I even incorporated my quirky interest into my college admissions essay, which remains my favorite writing piece of all time to this day. Read this updated version of the essay, and check back here for continued coverage of the Best and Worst of 2009 (and the Best and Worst of the 2000s!)
At age 14, I received a book for Christmas entitled The Top 10 of Everything. Compiled by Russell Ash, it contained captivating photographs and top 10 lists regarding, well, everything. It was my favorite gift that year. I spent hours curled beside the tree, reading about the world’s longest rivers and the most popular girls’ names. My parents couldn’t understand why the book had sparked my interest so much. They saw it as just a book; I saw it as a door to the world. Whenever I immersed myself in its pages, I escaped dreary winter days in a small town and traveled to Australia and London. From the comfort of my living room, I witnessed the 1986 appearance of Halley’s Comet, albeit sixteen years later.
I had actually become interested in lists years earlier. Throughout 1999, Time released special issues chronicling the Twentieth Century’s 100 Most Influential People, including inventors, scientists, and world leaders. When these magazine issues arrived at my house, I stopped whatever I was doing to read them. That December, the television series Biography ran a special on the 100 Most Influential People of the Millennium. My family watched the show together, trying to predict who would appear on the list. As the list counted down to number one (Johann Gutenberg), I was intrigued not only by who made the list but also the reasons for which they were chosen.
As the hype over the new millennium waned, so did my fascination with lists. The Top 10 of Everything revived my interest, which continues to this day. I love reading magazines declaring the Top 25 of this, or the Greatest that, and watching television countdown specials. While some of these lists involve topics less significant than those once covered by Time and Biography, they still influence me. My all time favorite list, VH1’s 200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons, for example, enabled me to meet entertainers, politicians, journalists, and athletes. I admire these people for their contributions. Just as Gutenberg, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein have done, the Pop Culture Icons have been living their dreams and making their mark on society.
Studying countdown lists has certainly been recreational for me. During the holiday season, I seek out year-in-review lists from publications ranging from The New York Times to Entertainment Weekly, lists which I still read seated near my Christmas tree. Yet the impact these lists have made on me surpasses mere leisure. They have inspired me to pursue my dreams and create my own story. While it is unlikely that I will achieve the prominence that these list-toppers have, I will emulate their enthusiasm with each coming day and opportunity. I will try new things, meet new people, travel to new places, and follow all my dreams.