Grown Ups

The saying goes, “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it,” and it applies to more than just material possessions.

How is this concerned with the way that we are treated by society? We ask everyday to be treated as an adult, so when our parents, the community, our teachers, and our siblings decide to grant us our request, we must not be disappointed when we receive it in its entirety.

When I say that we ask for adulthood, I am referring to our lifelong struggle to be given privileges of independence.

As toddlers, the notion of getting to use the “big girl” and “big boy” cups, you know, the ones without lids, was an enticing concept. We learned that we had to clean up the messes that we spilled. We longed to be able to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and felt mighty when we no longer had to use a car seat.

Elementary school was filled with pleas to stay up “just a little longer”, and when we were allowed to stay awake until dad got home, we were sleepy victors.

In middle school our need to be older intensified, and we found ourselves wanting the responsibility of having a cellphone, but not the consequences of going over data, a monthly bill, or a bad decision that could never be retracted. We wanted makeup. We did not want to pay for makeup. The desire to go to the mall with some friends without Mom waiting at the food court was rampant, and we were finally entrusted with the independence to make good decisions monetarily and socially.

Then we got to high school, and we wanted that license. We were given this token of adulthood under the assumption that we would drive our siblings to practice, pay for gas, and make decisions that valued the lives of others and ourselves on the road. We wanted facial hair, like real men. We wanted to go on dates and to have a later curfew, but we didn’t want to face the report card that reflected nights with no room for homework.

We now, after almost two decades of asking to be older, are being regarded as adults. We cannot have partial adulthood. Mom and Dad cannot choose to skip work, abandon their duty as mother and father, or spend their money carelessly because they dislike certain aspects of what characterize the meaning of being grown up. We may not fall in love with everything inherent in adulthood, but we cannot have the cars, the privileges, or the respect without the responsibilities as well.

Adulthood is where we have arrived. When we responsibly accept it in its entirety and embrace the independence that it offers, that is when we have truly become “grown up.”

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The Happy List

I felt that on this fine glittery afternoon, in celebration of my newly granted freedom from studies, I should commemorate my own, as well as many others’, first day of true summer with a list of some of the things that make me happiest in this world. Now, below you will not find an eloquently composed piece of literature or content of any real cerebral value, but that is not the point. It is simply a happy list. Today is a day for celebration, appreciation, and hope for a wonderful season of fun that has just now arrived, so with that said, enjoy the favorite list and happy summer to each of you!

Popsicles, real music, rainbow things, watching a person crank their neck to drink out of the refrigerator’s water dispenser, the ocean, monkey bars, the sharp crayon, animals that don’t bite, waisty skirts, pinky promises, clouds that look like stuff, sailing, wind, garagesailing, snow, the cute shirt you thought was 25.95 but it’s actually three bucks when you walk up to the register, playing instruments that aren’t there, playing real instruments, when the blinker in the car in front of you is in tempo with your music, lit up trees, neon, ice cream, funny people, the grass you can walk in and know nothing will bite you, exploding fake cheese cans, when you finally get where you’re going, storms, wind chimes, family, soul sisters, great books that make you forget what day it is, fans, when you find something you thought you lost, finding out they like you too, remembering the funny thing your friend said 3 and a half weeks ago and laughing out loud in the middle of an exam, your treasure box, trying on a thousand dresses, ordering diet water, stealing your dads last bite of cake, realizing you won, knocking the candy out of the piñata, typing the period at the end of your 30 page thesis paper, water so hot it feels cold, hotel room smell, French silk pie, old fashion candy stores, sand in between your toes, sunsets, metal detectors, finding treasures, hermit crabs, pillow fights, auctions, contests, that spinny thing on the playground that everyone loves but no one knows what it’s called, loopy roller coasters, unlimited refills, singing, running at the flock of birds, realizing that the frog you just caught peed on your hand, your leg tickling because you were sitting funny, when your tummy stops hurting, cheese, pop out stickers, finger families, considerate hair, remembering when you realized that it was your grandma screaming your name across the Walmart, putting on that dress and everyone stares and you KNOW you  look amazing, prune hands that have been in the water too long, ice cream, Duvall street, unfathomably talented people, singing  into your hairbrush, snowflakes on your  tongue, trying to eat the blow-dryer air, glow in the dark things (especially fish) , waking up and freaking out that it’s Monday when it’s Saturday, pajamas, happy tears, remembering how your brother shut up and you could actually hear yourself think,when your teacher chucks her pick axe at you, when you drive by the hummer that ran out of gas on the side of the road, sparkly things, waves, band, when you can’t quite figure out what color their eyes are, the backspace button, right before you fall asleep, funny bumper stickers, when justice is served, milk, flipbooks, when your expecting to taste water and you take a sip only to freak out because it was lemonade, happy people, unicycles, watching your dad fall out of the canoe, slushies, being the leader, the little happy dance people do, the personal bubble, summer nights, nutella, real friends, shopping, making fun of cheesy movies, loosing all of your willpower and yanking open the oven to eat the half baked brownies with a spoon, the dream where you fly, closets you could probably play basketball in, finger-painting, sleeping, pickles, smencils, the flea market, thinking you’re going to die by meteor and then realizing it’s just a floating lantern, taking pictures, enchantment, chicken toys, the rainbow channel on TVs, trying on 30 inch heels, parasailing, having a plan, taking pictures of pictures, remembering what you forgot, when the car next to you is playing the same song, randomly  seeing your friend at the grocery store, racing each other with the midget shopping carts at Randall’s, when you’re taller then your momma, landing in a plane, sleepover camp, babies, watching mustard blow up in peoples faces, selling stuff you made, waving strangers and watching their reaction, getting  splinters in your nose because your face was pressed up against a wooden door, friends, getting a whistle, watching their face when they open the present, making it happen, saving a life, knowing that you have in fact jumped off a bridge and therefore can say that if somebody told you to jump off a bridge you would do it, writing on your hand so you remember, accidentally sleeping on your written on hand so u have squiggles on your face in the morning, Jello, naming the blister on your thumb,  when the stereo always crackles right before you get a text message, POURING rain, being unexplainably happy, frappes, people who get it, the person you can be with and never have an awkward moment, sushi, what’s for dinner?, colored eye liner, seeing someone who looks exactly like you, making playhouses out of cardboard boxes, peanut butter and pickle sandwiches,  drum line, perhaps means yes, kitties,  really old nail polish on your toes, sweet potatoes, breathtaking wind, smoothies.

What are your favorite things? 🙂

Scarier Than Any Physics Test

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If no one has told you yet, I’m a bit of an English buff. I don’t dabble much in the world of math or science, nor do I care to. For myself and all of the others out there who’d much rather write a compelling novel than a 978 page thesis on how to build a rocket ship out of pond algae, we get each other, including our innate dread of physics tests. So if you’re one who finds themselves at home among the realm of nuclear astrophysics, you’re going to have to refrain yourself from judging me and the countless others who can attest to the fact that the prospect of an upcoming physics exam is not conducive to a good night’s rest. It is just horrifying to ponder on. And even then, after every sickening time I have been assessed on my physics literacy, I have never felt more fortunate to be exiting a lecture alive as did today, and we didn’t even have an exam.

I had been deeply investing myself in my quest to discover the exact proportion in which the displacement of fluids influences the effectiveness of hydraulics (thrilling, I know) when we were ordered into a lockout of the campus. All doors were locked, students passing through were ushered inside rooms, and the lights went out. We stood at once and were instructed by a faltering voice to occupy the utility closet at the back of the room. With a nauseating aura of familiarity, our minds instantly shot to the cliché report of a falsely concerned newscaster standing in front of police cars, ambulances, and weeping chaos. Behind that, a school. Why did I not have enough fingers to count the number of shootings recently featured in the news as I counterproductively fixated on the worst scenario possible this morning? Why did I even have to raise one finger?

Danger elicits a tiered set of responses. I learned that this morning. At the base, the most nonchalant of the three tiers is indifferent acknowledgement, and then come the other two, increasing in intensity as they do with height placement.

                                Fear or Emotional Overdrive

                Genuine Concern

     Indifferent Acknowledgement

Today, I passed through all of these, graduating from each of the first two until I reached the insight, and dread, of the third.

When news of a threat or tragedy reaches each of our spheres of awareness, we react minimally, unless it is our own. When we learn of a child who was shot and killed, our immediate reaction is to feel sorry for his or her parents rather than the child’s experience, and then forget after we’ve paid our “ethic dues” of the internal reflection of remorse which occupies a fraction of a second’s time – unless it is our own child. Our response to the distant loss of a stranger is more or less an indifferent acknowledgement, a simple nod of the heart at the close of which we resume our normal patterns of life.

I am not here to say that human nature is a deranged version of narcissism in which we live our lives as uninterested and self-serving beings void of empathy because our lack of interest in other’s tragic affairs. On the contrary we, excluding a few examples, are relationship-oriented, and for lack of a better description, love-loving people who experience authentic distress when learning of another’s pain. However, the time spent in this state of unease regarding the misfortune of someone not personally acquainted with us is almost infinitesimal in nature. On that note, I am also not here to propose that we are heartless individuals on the basis that we allot minute periods of time to sorrowfully reflect on these calamities. Individuals who choose to live above ground have to learn how to adapt to the ever-flowing influx of negative information. If they were to spend the time that a close family member does grieving for a lost soul every time one was reported on the news, theirs would be lost as well before they had time to live.

With that said, I am at a loss when it comes to finding a middle ground between not caring enough and caring too much. Is the reason that such horrific disasters can affect us so little because we’ve been desensitized by a perpetual tsunami of them? Should we care more than a few seconds of our day, or is the minimal regard to others’ pain the only way to protect us from the everlasting ebb of grief’s tide?

Of course, when enough examples of a specific type of incident accumulate in the mind’s queue, such as school shootings, the probability that we perceive for the reoccurrence of that episode in our own sphere of living grows astronomically higher. It is when tragedy appears often enough that we start to worry it could affect us somehow, that we experience an actual concern for the outcome of the event rather than a simple acknowledgement that it occasionally exists and happens to other people, or the second tier.

And then, of course, there is the appearance of legitimate fear or an emotionally charged craze. The lump in your throat, the uncontrollable pounding of your heart and within your temples, the overwhelming perception of doom, the whole deal. This is the feeling that occupied that closet. It seeped through the walls and pooled onto the floor, filling the room with a noxious gas of tension and terror. Immediately, I had gone from a general awareness that bad things happen to other people, to the slight concern that school shootings had become a common headline these days, to the ambush of terror as the last sliver of light was shaved off by the closing of that closet door. The image that haunted the mental theater of every human being in that room was that of an armed gunman patrolling the hallways in search of devastation. As we fought our own minds to stay practical and cognizant of our actual scenario, we began a losing battle and Aurora, Columbine, UT, Binghamton, Omaha, and Sikh Temple stampeded a victory lap around our psyches. Our mental states were utter chaos, yet the room was silent and still, intensifying the petrified atmosphere we had made for ourselves. I stood there, shaking, mentally tracing different routes out of the building, should the need have arrived.

It was then that a dread so deep that I have never before experienced entered into my body. I thought, this is what everyone at Columbine felt.  And honestly it probably didn’t even begin to match their horror, because we had hope, we had the grace of the unknown on our side. It was possible that the campus was not locked down because of a shooter (it can happen you know), and although we still pondered on the worst, those malicious fears could not be confirmed without knowledge. Regardless, the shame and disgrace and despair that I held for those children and my reaction toward them was tangible as I suffocated. A dreadful shock ravaged me as I made the notion that the kids in that school wanted so desperately to live and be anywhere but where they were, and they experienced this mad sensation of grief and crazed need to escape from their current scenario, yet no one else truly understood. I wondered if anyone cared enough to come and get me sooner than the officers who deliberated for hours around the perimeter of Columbine before deciding to enact a search and rescue through the gunfire. I stood in that tiny area of that closet, berating myself for not giving a whole heck of a lot of thought in regard to how traumatizing that experience must have truly been for them, because now it was happening to me.

It had only taken up the span of 10 minutes, the time we spent locked in our self-made horror. In only 2 minute’s time, after the threat had dissipated, everyone had gone back to their former, tier one mode, as their personal status returned to “Me, myself, and I are not in danger, but others might be”. My peers regarded the experience as a mere occurrence in another day of their life, as if to cover up the fact that they were terrified. It was almost as if the person who tried to express how they had felt was ostracized, because it was silly to have been so scared; everyone was embarrassed. No one would admit that they had ever felt insecure or that they had ever questioned their safety. All of them had.

A man discharging his gun at a homeowner several miles from where we were was the reason for our lock down, not an intruder roaming through the school and wielding a machine gun. But every student on campus assumed they would need to dodge a bullet or two, they assumed what everyone assumes today, that there is a shooter, and because of that, they cared. They cared a lot, because it involved them.

I walked out of that closet thankful for not having to endure any actual pain or tragedy, and also wishing that the fear of a public shooter was not so readily manifested in our society’s mind. I wished that no one ever had to worry about such a deplorable act taking place, and I wished that, when indeed one did take place, that people did not have to undermine the severity of it. In no way am I endorsing the sensationalism of the media, however the extreme nonchalance and minimal regard that so many give to this issue and many other dangers our society faces is not conducive to healing, prevention, or progress. People need to learn how to genuinely care, regardless of if it is for their own sake or not, yet not allow their fear and the intensity of their feelings to reach a point where progress becomes regression.

Our world needs to set its standard on the second tier of the response to threat; we need genuine concern. Not apathetic indifference spotted with occasional remorse, nor emotionally overcharged activists, but a point of compromise and efficiency. This caring is necessary, as Elie Wiesel upheld in his speech, “The Perils of Indifference”. We need to care, because one day, when you’re the one in the closet, you’ll be glad when somebody else cares that you are there.

I know I was, and the thought that those who didn’t care could be the ones making the decisions on whether to send aid to Katrina victims, continue providing unemployment, or whether to take me out of that closet was way scarier than any physics exam.

Writing in Jail

I’m in jail. It’s ironic because the fact has been proven that educated people are marginally less likely to be incarcerated. And I suppose it’s actually only funny if I tell you that the reason I’m in jail is because of school. Now you can laugh.

I read the first paragraph of a book, and it was incredibly insightful and beautiful. They were describing a forest and the way they placed the words onto the page made each letter practically skip into my ears. Well, I suppose you don’t really hear words spoken in a book, but my eyes did a pretty darn good job of telling my ears the story. It’s like listening to a truly talented orator telling the story aloud. They can be geysers and waterfalls when they need to be, letting the pool of golden letters arrange themselves just so on the tip of their tongues.  They spring forward in little swirls. Each chilled syllable continues its whirling around every set of eager ears in the room like snowflakes, until a single flake lands on the tip of an eyelash. It is a cold and refreshing splash of design to be guzzled eagerly like a cool glass of peach tea on a humid summer night. It’s dormant and frosty meaning is then slowly melted by the mind of the listener. They contemplate the exact meaning of what was said with the heat of intrigue, and as the concept is understood and internalized, the wintry drop that remains from those delicately trained syllables leaps from the lash, in a sacrifice for the next vital piece of the story. You see, because even as beautiful and captivating as that drop of the story became to you, there is a more beautiful snowflake soon to arrive that glitters even more than the one before.

Of course, not once was a sparkling piece of snow literally on your eyelid, but one can almost feel the thrilling sensation of frost slipping through their eyelashes as a cool water droplet, and the sound of clicking ice cubes, and the singing of bells. That’s also amusing because eyes don’t talk, that’s what mouths are for. Speech really is not the first thing you think of when you read a book, but it’s what the book is doing. It is talking to you, and I suppose that is why people get lost in them, lost in awe. You may get lost in a painting as well, but not all intended feelings and meanings can be conveyed at all times.

For instance, try to illustrate the exhilarating feeling experienced by a father as he holds his son close to watch fireworks on the fourth of July for the first time. He and his wife had gone through hell and back to be able to begin a family. Even after their son’s birth, the reward for their love and dedication, doctors informed them that their boy was most likely going to die in the first couple of days. Against all odds, he became a healthy 6 month-old, and now the three stand beneath the night sky and watch it explode with light. The wife kisses her husband on the cheek and they smile at each other with a purity of joy that is seldom witnessed; it’s shining in their eyes. The father looks down at his healthy baby boy and watches as his little miracle stares beaming up at his first fireworks show out of many to come. Now convey the entirety of that situation to a complete stranger with a still, 2D piece of paper. It’s impossible. How do you even begin to tell that story with a picture? You need thousands of pictures to illustrate just how beautiful that moment is. I guess that’s why someone thought movies were a viable solution to the artist’s dilemma.

Either way, you see where my fascination with the writing of stories and amazing people and every beautiful thing in this world comes from. And I want to write my own story. I think I could. I want to do a lot of things. I want to travel. I want to learn Japanese. I want to scrapbook. I still haven’t been able to start on my freshman year scrapbook that will tell the story of all of the amazing things I saw and adventures that I partook in. That was years ago. People keep bringing up little things that took place in the past and I go, “Oh yeah!! That was incredible! How did I forget about that?!?” How DID I forget about that??? That’s another reason people write, because the loss of a gorgeous memory is a sick thing. To have to worry about potentially letting it go to waste off in a land where all forgotten things go is a burden that can be lifted by writing the wholeness of the moment down where it will never be misplaced. I can feel some of those memories sneaking off, not like they want to, but like some monster hiding in the dark corners of my mind is dragging them slowly away, like a cold child gingerly pulling the blanket off of her parent’s bed so as not to wake them. Those wonderful times last year are slipping, and I need to solidify them in that book where I may simply open it back up and the flood of reminiscence it brings along washes my golden memories straight from those sneaky claws. Even so, I’m worried that when I eventually do attempt to recollect all of those times, the pointy nails will already have done a number on the actuality of what happened.

I want to adventure, I want to explore, and I want to live. All of these things I have not been able to do in a very, very long time, and I miss it dearly. I feel like a slave to the institution trying to give me freedom in life. I have these horrible what-ifs often; what if I didn’t have a speech contest, band performance, or literally a mountain of homework every weekend? The whole point of school is to prepare us for the future, allow us options in life. I have no options at the moment. Sometimes I feel like if they just cut off the massive burden for a while I could be successful just on my own. I could discover this wonderful idea, or be the new J.K. Rowling, or Stephen King or do something extraordinary and make my own trail. It’s almost like this influx of information is stifling my ability to produce my ideas in any effective way. I’m stuck every spare moment of my day doing something for someone that I don’t want to do, and when I finally decide to just stop for a while to do something I want to do, I can barely move I’m so exhausted. But if I ever want to write I need inspiration, which is fueled by the experiences one gets when they go do something; they put themselves out there. What happens when there’s nothing left to write about? Then they’ll be sorry, or at least I hope, because that means they missed my writing, and THAT means that they liked it. : )