Thursday, April 26, 2018

"Ivy League School" by Monica Cody

When I was a young child, I knew that I wanted to go to Harvard. To study what, I don’t know. I barely knew what Harvard was, other than that it was prestigious and arguably the best university in the United States. I dreamed of it constantly, thinking constantly of my own successes in the future. When I visited my grandparents’ house in Princeton, I decided I wanted to go there instead. My mom indulged my excitement about my future academic plans and told me that I was an incredibly smart child, and that I could definitely get into Princeton. My childhood was defined by my consistent dream of attending an Ivy League, irrational compared to the ideas of my peers.

When I was preparing to attend public school for the first time, I sternly promised myself that I would not make a single friend while I was there. Although it sounds strange, I was positive that I didn’t want to have anyone distracting me from my goal of getting perfect grades. I was terrified of falling into the pitfall of social life, worried that I would eventually put friends over school and fail miserably. Princeton was the shining city on the hill, the prestigious award for the meager troubles not having any friends would bring. Over Thanksgiving dinner the year before I planned to attend public school, a cousin complained about a D she had received on a biology test only a few days previously. Being a snide little seventh grader, I thought in my head, “That will never happen to me. I’ll get As, and only As.” I had no idea how misinformed I was. When I got my first F on a quiz during my first quarter of eighth grade, I cried.

I had no idea that my lack of knowledge about studying and the snobbish belief that I was somehow ‘above’ studying because I thought I was smart would hurt me. I had no idea that my previously buried low grade anxiety and depression would keep me from working and turning in assignments. Child psychologists have studied the effects of how children being labeled as ‘gifted’ ‘talented’, and ‘smart’ grow and learn compared to children praised for hard work instead of supposed brainpower. The children given the labels of smart or gifted suffered later in their lives, as being repeatedly told these positive affirmations about talent gave them false ideas about themselves, and it was difficult to adjust to being an average teen/adult. Children who were told they were hardworking, on the other hand, tended to do better, in terms of academics and mental health. They didn’t believe they were too good for studying, and they used the positive language of being hardworking, an attainable trait (unlike brain smarts) to bring that to reality.

In a way, this is a story about growth. Failing as an early teenager taught me that success didn’t just mean straight As in high school and an Ivy League acceptance. Additionally, one of my relatives ended up attending Princeton - and disliked it. The people were often unfriendly and highly competitive, more interested in their individual successes than a feeling of community around the school. Learning about how my cousin (not the same cousin as mentioned earlier) had felt about the school helped me peel off the shiny veneer that made me believe that an Ivy League was absolutely perfect and the ticket to a great college experience. As I grew and changed and failed multiple times over the course of three years, I learned more about who I am as a person and what I actually want in my life.

"Theatre" by Miranda Torres-Alba

Theatre; the activity or profession of acting in, producing, directing, or writing plays. This is the definition that Google provides for “theatre”. However, although very technical and generic, theatre is so much more. And, let’s not get confused with “so much more”; do not assume that this is an overall positive and encouraging “so much more”. This “so much more” is a complex and grey “so much more”. Nevertheless, we do it because we like it. Maybe it’s a bit of a masochist lifestyle, yes, but isn’t every passion? Doesn’t everything we do take a bit of sacrifice? Don’t our hobbies take a bit of us so in return we can enjoy and embrace what they are?

I guess it all started when I was six (maybe seven?). My school, err, the secondary school my school lead to, really, was putting up a production of Dracula. I remember the big, grand, auditorium the school had rented downtown for us to see the show. Not see, but… see. I still remember my class walking in, velvet seats, that were too tall for the tips of my toes to sweep the floor when sitting, filled the great theater space. The ceiling was taller and more adorned than any ceiling I had ever seen. Since I had attended performances before, I was anxiously awaiting for the moment where the Earth slowed down and so did time, where every living thing fell quiet, where perhaps the only thing you could hear were small delicate steps that thought themselves gone; the moment where the lights went down and the room was black. Then, white. A white gleam burned in front of my eyes and shone across dozens of other faces. And, then, the first line. That’s what theatre is and that’s what theatre was to me; one moment of blood rushing and anxious feet and a second of inquiry where whatever appeared in front of you was whatever you wanted the most, right there and then.

But, the behind the scenes is not as glamorous as maybe Ryan Gosling may paint it to be (to everyone’s surprise, you can’t dance around space just by walking into a planetarium). Being backstage of a production is a one-of-a-kind experience; it’s ache, it’s bruises, it’s sore feet, it’s running, it’s one minute changes, it’s squinting in the dark. It’s 6 hour rehearsals and coming home at ten o’clock with matted hair and a pale face when you have two tests and a project due the next day. It’s seeing the same thirty people everyday and getting close and oddly intimate (see: changing backstage) with them, even if you had never met them before the past two months of scattered rehearsals. Theatre is like breathing in a fresh room after having ran for twenty minutes; it’s hard to breathe and the cool air doesn’t help because it feels sharp against your lungs, but you have to persevere through it because all in all you like it and you know that it’s good for you.

Theatre, however, whether I’m daydreaming about Chicago (the musical, not the band) or  I’m complaining about coming home at 10:12 PM on a Tuesday (see: last Tuesday), it will always be a part of me and will always have a place in  my heart. It can be tedious, yes, it can be unfair, yes, it can be exhausting, yes, but it’s a beautiful journey and product and effort from many people with different backgrounds and talents and… that’s a gorgeous, human thing. And, that might be my favorite part. Anyone and anybody can have their input and their own expression. Whether tech or acting, their individuality makes a show colorful and full of life. Theatre can be a pain in the ass, but there’s no business like show business.                                                                                          

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Driving with My Dad" by Quit Yolking my Egg

In hindsight, it is probably not the best idea to let a 12 year old drive a car across train tracks.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a bad driver. I have just never formally learned how to drive before. And I’ve definitely never learned what to do when encountering train tracks. In my mind, trains weren’t even in use anymore. I’d never seen a train before, and because of that, trains didn’t exist.

My aunt and uncle live on a small property in middle-of-nowhere Annville, Pennsylvania and we visit them every once in awhile. My family drove separately; me and my dad in one car, my mom and my sister in another car. We are driving separately because we are bringing furniture to my aunt and uncle and it didn’t fit in one car, and naturally, I wanted to go with my dad. It’s horrible, but a main reason for that was because I knew there was a better chance that he would let me drive once we got to Annville than my mom.

As he turned the car onto an unkept gravel road that seemed like it was misplaced in the middle of a corn field in Annville, I had the nerve to ask, “Can I drive the rest of the way to their house?” I didn’t know what to expect; on one hand, my dad is a fearless and fun dad who did some crazy things in his childhood (for example, he used to ride dirt bikes without shoes or a helmet and bungee jumped into the grand canyon with no hesitation), but on the other hand, letting a 12 year old drive is just a little bit ridiculous.

My dad thought about it for a moment, then pulled over to the side of the road. “Don’t tell your mom about this,” he grinned and laughed.

Wow. Now that I know this is actually happening, I have no idea what to do. The one thing I know to do is act confident; confidence is key and I have to fake it until I make it. I don’t want to let my dad down by acting like a scaredy cat and I also want to show him how independent I am and make him proud by not asking for help.

We both open our doors and get out of the car. I race around the front of the car as if we’re playing chinese fire drill. I sit in front of the steering wheel and suddenly feel the immense power and responsibility I now hold in my hands. However, I am not too worried because there is nothing I could crash the car into except for corn.

I move my hand to the gear shift just like I’ve watched my parents do a thousand times, but when I shift it to drive the car unexpectedly lurches forward, as does my heart. My dad tells me that it was because I didn’t have my foot on the brake when I shifted gears, but in my mind, I’m thinking that I don’t even know which pedal is the gas or the brake. I have no idea why I’m doing this. I start to grow some doubts and fear. I obviously have no clue what I’m doing, but I keep going. I tentatively tap the pedal which I’ve now deduced as the gas and the car moves forward. The road is straight so I’m barely even thinking about steering and I’m only focused on hitting the sweet spot of the gas pedal to give me a steady 15 miles per hour.

I glance at my dad and start to smile; I’m driving! In that couple of seconds spent looking at my dad, I don’t see the train tracks right in front of the car and when my dad yells out, “Stop!” I accidentally swerve right onto the tracks and end up facing the car towards the nose of a train headed right for us.

Well, that’s not good at all.

The conductor blasts the horn continuously as if we can’t see the train less than 100 yards from us right in front of us and it jars my brain. The sound of the horn and of the rumbling tracks rattling increases my panic to sheer terror.

My dad stays calm so I scream for the both of us and accept our fate. But my dad has different plans and quickly changes the gear shift to reverse and slams his hand onto my leg that is on the pedal and we jerk backwards. He whips the wheel and we end up doing donuts out of the way of the train. This must be what the people in The Fast and The Furious feel like whenever they do anything. The moment we get out of the way of the train’s way, it barrels by less than a foot from the front of our car and the horn can be heard passing and getting farther away.

My dad and I sit still in the car for a few moments, with only our labored breathing to break the silence. My heart seems to be going 100 beats per minute and pulses in my ear so loud I think my dad can hear it. “We’re not telling mom,” is all my dad says.

Now, I am 16 and the thought of driving is no longer daunting. I will be getting my license soon and I would like to say that I have somewhat improved since that day when I was 12. What was once so scary to me, a result of the near accident, is now just something that everybody does and will do at some point. I drove a lot earlier than I should have, but at least I drove with my dad when I had the opportunity and have the memory to show for it.

"Mango" by Snapdragon

Staring into the bowl, a melancholic wave washes over me. The barren white ceramic concave container seems to mock me, telling me that I am not worthy of more food. However, today will not be the day that I succumb to the imaginary taunting of the bowl that sits atop my counter. With my last ounces of strength I push my feet hard against the wooden floor, rising from my seat. I walk briskly toward the door leading my garage, and on the way grab the maroon lanyard that adornes my keys. I push the button large button and the grey garage doors lifts from the hot pavement. I fling the heavy door open and position my seat toward the steering wheel more. My key ignites the black car with a rumble from the engine and the sudden presence of music fills my car. My hand reaches for the gear shift, allowing the automatic vehicle to be put into reverse, and I whip out of the steep driveway.

Driving down my neighborhood, I see my beige house disappear through my rearview mirrors. Going 25 down the road, and of course obeying all traffic signs, I am at giant within 5 minutes. I pull into the parking lot, watching for pedestrians leaving the shopping center, and find a rare empty spot near the front, which I pull into. My hand grasps the gear shift and my car is out into park, slightly crooked within the space. 

With my keys in one hand and a crumpled 10 dollar bill in the other, I storm into the grocery store. The glass doors open, signifying that I am now entering the home that holds my most favorite food in the world. I take a right, awkwardly bumping into a customer who had just made their purchase, and made my way to the produce section. I walk through the aisles, searching for the forbidden fruit, hoping to get at least one. Alas, I can not find any, and after 5 minutes of looking thoroughly I give up hope, hanging my head in defeat. But before I can make my exit, I catch the eyes of a woman, clad in a yellow shirt and black pants, and a smile invites me to ask her where I can find what I am looking for. She points me in the right direction and my quest continues. Finally, the moment I had waited for so long had arrived. In front of me we’re 15 orange fruits, wrapped with their natural green rind. I picked one up, squeezed gently, and noticed the fruit caved slightly, telling me that they were ripe. I urolled a transparent bag from the spool that it sat on, and placed 5 of the fruit into it. Realizing that 5 would not suffice for the amount of hunger that had befallen unto me, I grabbed another bag and subsequently placed 5 more into that one. 10 in total and I was ready to check out. 

Excitedly, I speed walked over to the self checkout line, at the exact time someone was leaving from their station. I walked up, instantly hitting the english and forgot card options, a habit that I had acquired from the constant trips to the store. I clicked on the fruit picture and selected the correct amount of items I had picked up and sped home. I arrived and grabbed a cutting board, grabbing a single fruit from the bag, and a knife from my drawer. I cut it in half and sliced it 5 times, both horizontally and vertically, essentially crosshatching the inside of the fruit. I then held the edges of the rind and lifted it up my dry lips. After the first bite, I leaned back into my chair, and looked out the window to see kayakers on the lake, and I was at peace. Just me, the lake and my mango.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

"When You Look in the Mirror" by Snapdragon

When one looks in the mirror they don’t really see themselves. Their eyes scan over their flaws, their crooked teeth, the fat on their stomach, the unruly curls that lay on the top of their head. We try and fix what we do not like, getting braces, straightening their hair, and going on diets. Dieting is something that everyone does, whether it’s portion control, juice cleanses or just vegetable based meals. People will claim vegetarianism or veganism in attempts to not appear vain about their striving to lose weight. I’m not trying to discredit those who actually believe and follow the beliefs that these lifestyles are founded on, just those who don’t follow them because of the right reasons. It is proven that dieting works, time and time again, before and after photos are posted after each advertisement for different ways to lose weight.

However, while we see the physical results of every diet we rarely see the psychological differences that dieting inflicts. Does this process of something harsh regiments really make the person happier. I believe that it depends on the reason the person begins to diet for. If it is for the sole purpose to boost their appearance and have a skinnier body, they will never be fully satisfied physiological. While weight loss if healthy, there will always be someone who is skinner, someone who is more fit than you. So this constant craving to be satisfied with your body image will never be satisfied. Thus, through pursuing a diet in order to fit the societal standard of what an attractive person looks like, commits oneself to an eternal struggle of appearance. On the other hand when one decides to go on a diet in order to be healthy, then they might find solace in their attempts to lose weight. Someone who is losing weight in order to reach a goal so they can avoid health issues will be able to maintain their diet for a longer period of time. While someone who wants to change their appearance will continue to search for diets that make them even more skinnier, someone who is dieting for health purposes will find a diet that works for them and continue to follow it in the long run. Someone who is dieting for health issues will also have more realistic goals for themselves, because they understand the reality that dieting entails.

When you really think about it, all of this is is unimportant, because of the 4 dimensions of reality, depth, height, width and the temporal dimension. The other three dimensions are pretty self explanatory, they’re what makes up our physical reality. However the temporal dimension is extremely complex, because it is the dimension of time. This dimension is in a constant state of dissipation, ever changing and moving out of balance. Imagine a cigarette, when it is used the smoke exits from the cigarette, but the smoke will never go back in. Since time is continuous, there must be a time in the temporal dimension where time goes back, all the way until the beginning of the dimensions. It is an interesting concept to think about, and it directly relates back into one's daily life. The choices that we make affect our future, however, the butterfly effect will soon reverse and your choices will becoming miniscule in the eyes of the vast universe. Obviously, I have ventured off from my original boring prompt that someone suggested I write about, and this decision will spark other things in my life, but it won’t dictate the future of the universe.

"You Come to Me" by Kelly Shepherd

You come to me and you tell me you are NOT okay
that nothing is right
that every breath you breathe
aches with the fire of a million suns
that each step you take makes you shorter inch by inch
until you are too small to even muster a wiggle

You come to me and you tell me it is NOT okay.
It is not okay how one second you’re flying,
laughing, wind in your hair as you run,
and the next you are stuck
motionless, curled in a corner
hands around your ears, nails digging into your scalp,
screaming for someone, anyone
but still there’s no one.

You come to me and you tell me that life is NOT okay.
Your life feels as though its in shambles,
like a broken glass scattered across tile floors.
You feel as though you are bleeding out as you attempt to gather
the sharp edges of the broken pieces of your life.
As your hands shake and knees wobble,
you start to crumble too.
You feel yourself falling down to the glass below.

You come to me and you tell me that your past is NOT okay.
That what you went through was a lonely desert,
surrounded by only the questions
and the doubts so intense that you don’t know
What’s up
And what’s down

I go to you and I give you my all.
I tell you how the scars life leaves only make for a beautiful story
How there is so much more to life.
Life isn’t black and white
Perfect or shambles
Life finds a way to be everything all wrapped up in one
Shambles tied to together to make your own kind of perfect

I go to you and I give more than I have to give.
I tell you that I have been there.
The tears, the agony, the pain that I thought wouldn’t recede
The hopelessness, the helplessness.
Everything I’ve hid for years lies bare for you.
To help you.
But then,

You come to me and you tell me you are NOT okay.
You tell me you need more,
More than everything I have to give.
You want perfect and blissful ignorance.
You push my past away and wallow in the anger you feel
The anger that you say you’ve felt since we met as
Little princesses playing on the playground,
Yet I didn’t know.

You come to me and you scream at me that it is NOT okay
But I gave you my secrets, my tears, and my support
And you throw it in the trash with the rest of your dreams
As you slip further and further away from the person I knew
I watch as you let yourself go and reduce yourself to
Only your depression.  

You come to me,
But love you as I may, I can’t break myself down to a shell
A shell I am well familiar with,
Just for you to walk all over me and hide.
Life is so much more than this.
You just have to make an effort to find it.  

"Ivy League School" by Monica Cody

When I was a young child, I knew that I wanted to go to Harvard. To study what, I don’t know. I barely knew what Harvard was, other than th...