Thursday, October 19, 2017

"What makes a house a home?" by Miranda Torres-Alba

Many would say some type of affection or adoration of the physical house. Those grand four walls encasing memories and a type of motherly love raining down from the ceiling that makes the owner or habitant of the house feel secure and at ease. Not only that, but the ability to recount the years and milestones through dents, stains, and familiar sights sends a feeling of nostalgia and emotion down our bodies, creating the same feeling that one has with an old friend or possession. Although this is only one of the many major perspectives that are shared among people, it is clear that we search for comfort in physical objects and thus ourselves create a world of intimacy based off said items. For example, as a child I found great comfort in being accompanied by a toy which, nowadays, thoughts of it bring a sense of fondness to me when it was never a truly protecting or necessary thing. But, we as people like to romanticize our lives so we can find color and light in the most mundane aspects of our lives. So, this is why many would reply with the adoration of the physical house.

A house by itself is just rooms, floors, windows, tiles, lights, and doors, but once you start loving the corners of the garden, the spot where the crib used to be, the crack in the door frame due to a silly attempt to climb the actual door, the tile which has a spot that is shaped like a heart, the house gains so much value. An apartment may just be a 20 ft by 35 ft living room, two small bedrooms, a shower, a kitchen, but if the tenant creates a mental place where they can fall back onto the 20 year-old carpeted floor of the 20 by 35 room and still feel relaxed, then they would have given the apartment value and thus created a home. And, that’s not even including furniture. Furniture is the cherry on top for the concept of a home. Furniture includes pictures of your 3rd grade class where half the kids had one of their front teeth missing, the china set that you inherited from your grandma that you know that it at least dates back to WWI, the blanket that your best friend knitted for you for your 14th birthday, or the mattress that you outgrew but still use. Furniture is what you adorn your house with, making it reflect your inner you more and with that, produce a bigger sense of comfort. For example, when I was 13, I decorated my bedroom with One Direction posters because I did feel happiness by looking at them and they, as well, reminded me of a tender image I had of the band in my head (I do not have these up any longer, but I would like to add that I will be attending a Harry Styles’ concert in June). However, similarly to the toy, these did not serve any functional purpose or practicality, they were just a choice I had made to give a bigger homely sensation to a room I had found to have a great deal of comfort. So, not only does our input of energy onto the physical house create a home, but what we make of it is a substantial part, as well. What we decide to place upon the walls that we stare and visit every day is up to us, then placing upon our hands the responsibility for our own contentment and pleasure in our lives. A house will only be a home if we take care of the house, if we love the house, if we appreciate the house, and if we wish to make a home out of the house. A house is a house by itself, but with warm bodies full of love and spark inside, it can be a home.

So, you might be thinking: what’s your point? Is your point that we should go over to Macy’s or Target and buy as many decorative candles and fake plant pots to make a house truly a home? Well, no. If you find a home in buying as many “vanilla cream” scented candles and placing them in your bathroom’s tub, then that is what you should do. There is no set criteria or standard to fulfill which would make a house a home. That is entirely up to the owner and what they themselves find comfort in.  A home is what you make it.

"What is Love?" by Milk tea

Love is difficult. It’s so easy to neglect this fragile baby bird of an abstract concept or to accidentally cause it to perish. It also hurts to harm this baby bird knowing that you were the oneo inflict the pain.

I worked hard to get that relationship where it was. It took a lot of trust, skill, and some motivation, but the perfect balance of coexistence was finally there, or so I thought. I was content with the situation; it was nice being with another and simply having their presence. We hardly spoke during our time spent together, but I liked to think it was a comfortable silence.

Some days his company felt pretty forced, mainly because it was forced, and it put a damper on things because he would give me the saddest look every two minutes. Other days, as much as I loved him, I felt like he took up too much space, and he needed to go. I’d never tell him that, of course, but it was still a pressing thought in the back of my mind.

One particular day, he was lying in my bed as I did my homework. It was another one of those comfortable silences where I’d occasionally say a few words to him without receiving much acknowledgement. As I turned to look at him, it was obvious he wasn’t happy with where he was, yet I refused to let him leave. He was too important to me.

“No! Please stay!” I cried every time he made an effort to stand up. Every time he would just give me the most unsympathetic glare before sitting back down. It haunted me.

Eventually, enough was enough. With a resolute huff, my dog finally got up and jumped off my bed, scurrying out of my room as fast as his little legs could take him. He never turned back…until the next time I forced him to hang out with me.

Friday, October 13, 2017

"Begin with the Bin" by RaeKwonTheChef

I could tell you that writing comes easy. I could tell you that creativity flows through me. I could tell you that I’ve always enjoyed writing. If any of those words were shoot through my windpipes and escape through my teeth— well, I would be lying. To be honest, writing has never come easy for me, and I it never does.
Yes, I do believe I can write. Now, when I say “write” I really mean the term “loosely write”. What that means is when you read any work of mine, please don’t expect to reach some sort of enlightened state of mind or some crap like that. My writing is usually just some sort reflection of the mood I am currently feeling, just changed in terms of a certain prompt. See right now you’re catching sassy Ethan, but in a few minutes you might get angry Ethan, depending on whether or not I have math homework to do. Let me introduce another annoyance of mine— it is a huge misconception that I am some sort of writing god to my friends just because I’m in the Writing Center. Ok sure, I am above average when it comes to editing essays, and I have developed a knack for tutoring people. But I need to make this clear: I am still a normal writer! The only thing that differs me from most people is that I’m not afraid to scribble down what I think onto paper, and in the end that’s what counts.
Whenever I do write, I write for myself. Now I’m not one of those people who only writes to express themselves, but really just for my own entertainment. I find it very satisfying to be able to create something original and to later read and laugh at what I wrote. I’m not one of the those people who “writes the pain away” or writes to put the thoughts onto paper, it’s just not my style. I mean sure, if it’s an assignment like Spoken Word that happens to cross the idea of writing out my feelings then why not, but you won’t catch me at my house writing elaborate stories that have some inner motif connected to my self thought. To be honest, you’ll probably find me napping. In reality, if I have some sort of deep emotion in my mind, I either lay or sit there for a while just thinking about how sucky it is and not doing anything about it. I guess that’s unhealthy but whatever. Pizza is also unhealthy, but has that ever stopped anyone?
I guess this is the part where I talk about my one writing moment—just give me a second to find my timeline. God, this backpack is full of papers. Ah there it is, buried under food wrappers and failed paper airplanes. Let’s see what this says… ah, ok! So Spoken Word. What is it? To be honest, I never really figured that out either, but let’s just pretend that I did. Spoken Word is basically like performance art except with words, focusing on clever wordplay with tone and emotion. I definitely did not have to google the definition. It’s an assignment that I have done the last two years in my Writing Center class and hopefully will do again this year. Now, I know this may be a little hard to believe, but I am actually going to get a bit serious here. Spoken Word is a sacred part of the Writing Center because you are basically exposing yourself to your classmates and letting them know your deepest insecurities, fears, and who you are as a person. In simple terms, it’s raw. Not like WWE Raw (dammit I was supposed to be serious!), but you get the point.Ugh, scratch that last part. Here’s the point I was going to make about Spoken Word before I got sidetracked: it fundamentally changed who I was as a writer. Let me explain why.
I was writing the piece the night before (clutch, right?), and though I was cranking out draft after draft, I couldn’t find a version that I liked. One was too serious, another too jokey, one was just really weird— man, what was I thinking? I probably had written twenty different openings to my Spoken Word until I just wanted to give up. I was fed up with the trial and error, and concluded that it would be better to turn in mediocre work than nothing at all. However, at the verge of calling it quits, I decided to give it one last try— except this time with no backspace. No, I actually didn’t pry the backspace off my keyboard, but as long as I didn’t butcher the spelling of a word I kept my index finger away from that key. No matter what I wrote, I just kept on writing, no matter how good or bad (mostly bad) it went. Somehow, someway, probably thanks to Jesus, it actually worked. I had something written down that had the potential to be something great. After some major tweaking, rhyme scheme fixing, and syllable counting, I clicked the save button for the last time and sat back with pride. I finished. I finished the unfinishable. I had learned that night that I didn’t need to write something amazing the first time around. All I needed to do was trust myself and my capabilities and to let go of all the doubts I had about myself. And, ever since that night, I have been a different writer.

I would be lying to you if I told you I liked writing. I do not like it.... I love it. Although I have discovered who I am as a writer, there is still an infinite amount more to be written. And to be honest, that’s the hard part—there is no exact formula on how to write. Every time I write I do something different; I use a new word or perhaps a different format. To tell you the truth, there is no recipe to writing. There are no dos and don’ts, no right and wrongs— there is only you. I have learned that you yourself are the writer, the thinker, the most creative and intelligent individual in this room right now whether you believe it or not. I learned that we all have the potential to change the world with our words, and all you have to do is have a pen full of ink and an open mind. So write, write until your hands hurts, until the word limit has been reached, until the lead is all gone from your pencil. And then, only after doing so, write some more. 

"Paper Tears" by Kelly Shepherd

Upon me lies words that no one speaks.  Words that have been scribbled furiously with a hand that wouldn’t stop shaking.  A hand that’s connected to a heart that ept.  The heart that made me was shredded as I find I will soon be as well. The tiny holes where the pencil pressed too hard and the tear drops that smudged the words of anguish are only battle scars to me.  For although I was created by something shredded, I was made to put it back together.  

I see the hand holding me in a new light now.  I came into its life brand new and full of dreams of being handled with care and held onto for centuries.  But I see now, that that was not the path for me, nor would I ever want it to be now.  You see, I can be so much more that an old manuscript in a much shorter time.  I am a healing board.  I take the words that come out of a soul so battered and I give back some emotion to the one who feels so empty.  I make them see what it truly means to hurt and what it truly means to piece yourself back together.  From the hard tears in me, I’ve learned that I wouldn’t want to be treated with care, because then all I wouldn’t be real.  I may have been respected and revered, but that isn’t in life in the day to day.

Although I may appear flimsy, I hold the power to stop a hand from shaking, to stop a heart from breaking, to stop the tears before there are no more left to cry.  So you see while I may be about to be shredded, at least I fixed something just like me.

There’s no point in living life without truly risking everything.  To know life as only precious handling is not to have lived.  Living is being torn apart, having tears drops smudge your words, and being shredded over and over yet finding a way to put yourself back together.  So please, tear me apart with your shaking hand and your crushed soul, this is living.  I promise, I’ll come back recycled, slightly used, but stronger for it.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Perfect in Color" by Daisy

I was digging through my closet when I came across it. Under the pile of dusty notebooks and old diaries it sat, the cheeky monkey on the front still smiling. And just like that, all of the memories came flooding back to me. The poorly rounded characters, the impossible plot lines, the countless pens running out of ink. The black and white. The perfect.

            The character was Rudy Ryland. She was nine years old, and lived on 1 Main Street. Her father was the mayor; her mother the president of the PSA. I remember writing story number one in an iHop with my parents. At the time, the plot seemed completely logical: Rudy’s uber-rich parents buy a sailboat to sail from Virginia to Hawaii in time for Christmas. They leave on the 24th. Rudy’s parents realize they have no idea how to find the coast of Hawaii in the dark. Rudy sees a neon sign reading “Aloha!” on the beach. She points it out to her parents. The family safely docks in Hawaii and Christmas is saved. I called it Aloha Saved the Day, but to me, Rudy was the savior. I was so proud of producing such a perfect character that I proceeded to write fifteen more in the next month. In one, Rudy’s younger cousin opens her Christmas presents before anyone else wakes up and, when he begins crying when his parents attempt to take them away, Rudy modestly agrees to let him keep all of the gifts. In another, Rudy plays detective in order to figure out who’s been writing mean notes to students in her class. After some “skilled” detective work, including asking classmates if they had written the notes and figuring out that the perpetrator had green eyes (due to a helpful P.S. note at the bottom of one of the notes stating that they did), Rudy finds the culprit to be Kathstein. Yes, that way my attempt to cleverly mix the names Cathy and Frankenstein, as Frankie-stein would have been way too obvious.

One story that I was particularly proud of included a demerit system that was extremely complicated, not to mention intense, for an elementary school like Rudy’s. If a student received ten demerits within a day, they would be sent to the principal’s office. Teachers could give a student as many demerits as they considered fair for the student’s bad behavior or actions. As what was, at the time, a clever way of foreshadowing, the story was aptly titled “Rudy in the Principal’s Office.” In first period, Joe stole Bob’s pencil and blamed in on Rudy so as not to get into trouble. One demerit. In second period, Jane snickered at a teacher during class and blamed it on Rudy so as not to get into trouble. Two demerits. During recess, Alex broke Anne’s toy and blamed it on Rudy so as not to get into trouble. Three demerits. By the time recess came along, Danny full on punched Andy. Danny, not having seen who had hit him, believed Andy when he said that it had been our misunderstood hero. Four demerits from the gym teacher and to the principal’s office it was. The principal, having never met Rudy in her life, immediately declares her innocent after seeing that she had a straight A record. The story finished with all of the students who had done Rudy wrong throughout the day coming to the principal’s office and apologizing. They closed with the line: “And the words Rudy in the Principal’s Office will never be heard again!”

It was just a few weeks after my masterpiece had been finished and my Girl Scout Troop’s talent show was approaching. Act after act, the little girls belted out pop hits from a karaoke machine or yanked the bow against the strings of their beginner violins. My pink polka-dotted notebook with the smiling monkey on the front felt heavy in my lap. I was the only one with a book. Finally, after one of my troop members completed her stunning rendition of hot cross buns on a viola, I was called up to perform. I approached the stool provided for me with my head held high, knowing that what I was about to read was going to blow the audience away. I cleared my throat.

“Rudy in the Principal’s Office,” I began, holding the picture up for the audience as my classroom teachers had done so many times before.

“Well, spoilers!”

Shocked, I snapped my head towards the audience to see who had said that. It was the hot cross buns girl. I shook my head to ignore what she had just said and continued on. Within minutes, the girls were yawning, putting their heads down on the table, or talking amongst themselves. I attempted to read louder, to hold up the pictures more clearly, to talk less monotone. Still, by the time I had finished, only a few of the parents even noticed and even fewer clapped. I was appalled. The story that I had been so proud of couldn't even keep an audience of 20 captivated. Maybe my perfect world wasn't so perfect after all. I closed my notebook and sulked back to my seat. After the presentations were all finished, we excitedly gathered to discuss each other's performances. After the initial “I loved the song you sang” and “My sister plays that instrument too,” the focus fell on me.

“Your story was, uh, interesting,” one of the girls said. She was honestly trying to be nice. One of the others laughed.

“Why would all those people just happen to blame the same person? Did they have a secret meeting beforehand?”

The girl was genuinely curious, but it didn't make me feel any less terrible.

“And why didn’t the kids who had gotten stolen from just tell the teacher who the person actually was?”

Some of the other girls nodded.

“Why would the principal excuse Rudy simply for getting good grades? That doesn't mean anything about her personality.”

I had never even thought about these questions, but hearing them out loud made me rethink everything. Then the biggest statement of all:

“Rudy is so annoying. Sure, she didn't do anything wrong, but that's what makes her so unlikeable.”
What did she mean? Rudy was the ultimate character! If you had good grades you must have good friends, good style, good character… right? The truth was that Rudy Ryland was a Mary Sue character: perfect grades, perfect friends, and a perfect family. Rudy Ryland was the epitome of what I wanted to be. The realization that I had created a perfect character whom nobody liked flooded my mind. What was so fun, then, about wanting to be flawless when flaws were the only thing that made you interesting? That day, I decided that I wanted to be nothing like Rudy. I loved Rudy, not for being the goody two-shoes that I had created her as, but because she had taught me what not to create. I thanked her and placed the notebook on top of a pile of similar journals and diaries in my closet and closed the door on the cheeky monkey, still smiling at me.

The truth I learned from Rudy was that nothing is black and white. As a writer, I had the power to create anything, so why not create something perfectly imperfect? There are no perfect heroes or perfectly evil villains; rather, there is the hero that only wants fame, the villain that steals to help their family, the Rudy who maybe only gets all A’s because they have no friends and spend all their time studying. After all, she was so perfect that she was unlikeable. People are not ideas, and ideas cannot be people.

After all, why write in black and white when you can write in color?

"Slaying the Dragon" by Casey Plissken

“The dragon had finally been slain; the girl was let down from his clutches. Taking her in his hand, the two began trotting back towards the village”
Writing this way came so naturally, it was almost careless. I thought, and I wrote. An idea popped into my head, and I already had a narrative built around it. I set aside the keyboard and stared at what I had been working on. A short, B-list production which I was proud of nonetheless. It feels good to make something. To finish a product that you started. To do it all on your own not bound by the rubric of a teacher or the hateful eyes of the public. To just take time out of your day and write down what you did, what you thought about, and what you dreamed.

It feels good to make something.

“The assignment is due in two weeks. The prompt must be answered, the directions must be followed, and the essay must be complete to the best of your ability. If the prompt is strayed from I do not care if you wrote The Hobbit, Harry Potter or 1984.”
Two weeks. Fourteen days. I thought for a second. Three hundred and thirty six hours. More than enough time to write a masterpiece if you plan it well. I eyed around the classroom and thought to myself.
Then again...
I went home and typed Inferno at the top of a page. Thinking to myself about the burden to come, I sighed, stretched my legs and began work.
            Two hours later, Inferno remained the only word on my paper.
            “What do I write... What do I think? How am I supposed to start this? Finish this? Or better yet, get at least a sentence down?”
            Truth is, I had written a sentence down. And then erased it. Then I wrote another; erased that one too. Write, erase. Write, erase. Write, erase. After two hours of nothing, I figured that the best thing to do was just write and leave the poorly written sentences on the page. An hour later, at the very least I had a paragraph. At the very least I had something. Three hours sitting down staring at a screen; I had to get out and do something else.
            Six days left. I had got caught up with other work and now less than half the time remained. My paper, of course, was exactly as blank as it had been left. “Three more paragraphs” I told myself. Looking back on what worked last time, I took a seat, and prepared myself. Glancing at my phone, a small vibration led to a little message pop up from my friends who wanted to play basketball.
“Where have I seen this one before” I thought to myself. The kid who forgets to do his work and stays inside studying and working whilst the rest of the school’s populus is at the pool, beach, playing in the snow or maybe even basketball. I turned off my phone and, for a second, saw my face’s reflection in the black screen before I set it down.
“But whose fault is that?”
I couldn’t stand hearing the shouts outside from the nearby hoop, nor the light reflecting off the computer screen making it hard to see. The windows were now closed and the doors were now shut. A blindingly bright computer screen piercing a dimly lit room; the carpal tunnel already building up in my worn-out hands; the scoliosis from sitting here hunched over for hours on end; the hours, minutes, seconds, and life slowly drifting away. Of course this is an over exaggeration but I felt it as i slowly typed away with seemingly no end in sight. The lifeblood, the enjoyment of writing, all of its fun and possibilities were seemingly being sucked out of me, like everything I had ever written had led up to a research paper on a 700 year old book instead of what my brain was telling me to write. Finally, hours later, the last paragraph is finished. A good paper? Absolutely not. But a starting point for something better? Certainly.
Five days pass. I had to give myself a while to not only catch up on all the work I had to set aside just to write the essay, but to give my brain some breathing room in between harsh sessions of seemingly endless writing. The last day. It all comes down to this. I sit down, stretch my legs for the last time, and my phone buzzes. A small vibration led to a little message pop up from my friend who sits near me.
I sighed.
Being myself, I couldn’t deny helping someone especially one who I’ve known so long. And so, the next 3 hours were spent on assisting him with his writing. He was not a bad writer, per se, but I could easily pick out the faults in his narrative structure, content and grammar. As we finally finished up, he thanked me for helping him and was surprised that I finished my essay already, knowing all the class would be working till the midnight hour.
I sighed.
But I didn’t want to make him feel bad. And so that was that. Finally, my own paper. 20 minutes later, I receive a class reminder. It's from the teacher
“As of this point forward, I will no longer be answering questions from students. Good luck on finishing your papers!”
Its that condescending exclamation point that always gets me. I suddenly became irate, pissed off that I spent hours tutoring this guy and not asking questions on and bettering my own work. So then the rush began. Fixing this sentence. This part doesn’t fit with the theme.
Theme theme theme! What does that even mean?!
After repeating the same words long enough, sometime you say them and feel as if they aren’t real. The same is true when writing a paper. I thought and repeated the idea of theme so much that I forgot what I was even doing. But the hours kept drifting by. And when the clock struck two AM, I realized that this is the best work I can turn in. If I continue more, I will second-guess myself to the point of rewriting the entire essay. And so the printer spewed my paper out, almost looking like it regurgitated it. Not even the printer wanted to touch my words.
The next day, I walked into class, let go of my paper, and thus lifted a 20 tonne weight off my shoulders. And then immediately put it back on as I realized we weren’t getting it back for a week. Having to wait a week, sitting so on edge that I fell off long ago, just to see if my paper was good enough. I sat down and prepared for this class’ lecture. My friend in front of me turned around; he smiled and thanked me.

One week later, the day had finally arrived. The time was nigh and the moment just right. The class silent, waiting for disappointment or awe to be handed back to them. The teacher passed back my paper. I didn’t lift up the rubric yet; I looked through the pages and saw a decent amount of purple marker. The red marker. Every student knows the red marker. Turning to the rubric, I scan down the lines for the final mark, ignoring the break down entirely.
            I did not shout, tell the people sitting next to me, or even exclaim inside my own head. I just let go. I was now 20 tonnes lighter, a thousand times more satisfied.
            The teacher continued to pass out papers, the last landing one desk ahead. My friend in front of me turned around; he smiled and thanked me. He got a B+, and seemed far happier than I.
            I smiled back.
It feels good to make something.

It's strange. You’d think Joey Chestnut, 10 time hot dog speed eating world champion, would never touch a hot dog for months after competitions, but I wanted just a little to take me off the student’s high of receiving a highly-marked paper. I continued my story from before, wanting to write a proper conclusion to an epic tale.
But this time, I kept running into walls.
I couldn’t think of anything. Then I started to go back on what I previously wrote. I looked at each sentence and thought “Does this really serve the paper’s main idea? Does it support my claim and the overarching theme?”
And hours later, my fantasy tale looked different. This time more structured. But it felt almost... hollow. I was no longer telling a story about a strong knight, I was proving an assertion about why he was strong. Something was lost.

Something that felt so natural before. 

"What makes a house a home?" by Miranda Torres-Alba

Many would say some type of affection or adoration of the physical house. Those grand four walls encasing memories and a type of motherly l...