high school

Thank You for Teaching Me to Learn.

When you graduate from university several things happen at once.

First, you realize that it all went by–primary, secondary, university–much faster than you thought when you were 5 years old and dreaming of going to “big kid school” with a grown-up backpack and fancy pens of your very own.

Second, you start to miss things that don’t make sense like the person with the cool jacket that you never got to know, laying on the concrete while waiting for your ride, and the feeling the first day of your last semester.

Third, you suddenly don’t know what to do next, not really.

When you’re a month out of university and you aren’t starting graduate school until you’re moved across the country, you start to look back because the future is too uncertain to contemplate. You start to wonder what you did right and what you did wrong. You start to see what the grey area of your education contains.

That’s where I am today. I’m floating, weightless, in the grey area between what I did and didn’t do to get to where I am today, and for some reason one phrase keeps coming back to me: “thank you.”

Obviously I’m thankful for having graduated, especially without any debt, but there’s something, or rather a collection of someones, that I’m also thankful for–the teachers and professors that helped me get to this point. This post is dedicated to them and all the “thank you’s” I should have said before now.

——

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit (John Steinbeck).”

——

Mrs. Thornton,

You were the first teacher I ever had. You were the image that I had, from fall of 1999 onward, of what a dedicated teacher was, and every other educational figure was internally scored on a scale based on you. You taught me to write beautifully in cursive, read books like they are going out of style, and create anything and everything whenever possible. You were the last teacher who ever had to tell me to stop chatting with my friends and the first to tell me that not talking to my friends during class didn’t mean I should ever let anyone stop me outside of it. You awarded me a trophy for “citizenship” and taught me to sing Spanish. It is because of you that I have penmanship that others still compliment and bookshelves full of journeys I can take at any moment, as well as a voice and a desire to learn and create, that no one can ever stifle. Thank you.

——

Ms. (who may now be Mrs.) Nawrocki,

You were the youngest teacher at the school that year and still relatively new to that all-girls Catholic convent school, just like me. You encouraged me to read, even when it meant that I spent all three breaks each day sitting at a picnic table with my face buried in pages. You coaxed me into making friends, even when I was ready to stay off to the side and prepare for the next class. You made me talk things out with those friends, even when we made each other cry at recess because none of us knew how to handle multiple friendships. And, when I wasn’t in your class or grade level anymore, you still said “hello” in the courtyard and asked about my family. When everything else made me feel like a misplaced and awkward child–and even as you interviewed me for your thesis–you made me feel better, normal. Thank you.

——

——

Ms. Person,

When I walked into your class the first day of sophomore year, I was exhausted, nervous, and more than a little skittish. So, all in all, it was a pretty normal day for me. Throughout the fall of 2008 semester, I don’t think I said more than 10 words that didn’t relate to presentations and other assignments, but you taught me so much about writing and the world of nonfiction. Then, the spring semester happened, we talked about my book reviewing, and suddenly I was applying to be on the yearbook staff and being grouped with the students that were doing the same. Everything seems to have passed in a whirlwind after that: I was writing in styles that I didn’t even know how to do before you, I was using a camera that you put in my hands, and I was learning to love a school that you made me see differently. It’s because of you that I learned to enjoy the microcosm of society that is high school and I didn’t simply retreat into my neon-sock-wearing, review-writing, antisocial, pessimistic, sophomoric self. You helped me grow into myself and truly appreciate those around me; you’re a large part of the reason I see and love the world the way I do. I sincerely hope that I know you for many years to come. Thank you.

——

Mrs. Ramirez,

I think that everyone, at some point, has that teacher that they desperately want to impress for reasons that they don’t even understand. For me, that teacher was you. I walked into your class with my heart set on enjoying my best subject and I was hoping against all hope that I would have a teacher that loved English and writing instead of merely teaching either subject. You did. To my 16/17 year-old self, who thought about everything in terms of lyrics, you personified the notion of a “heart so big it hurts like hell.” Feeling and caring positively exuded from you, and your assignments made me care and feel too, and that was an incredibly scary thing for a teenager. Sometimes I would put off your weekly essays just because I was scared that I would feel too little or too much and my writing abilities just wouldn’t be able to match the emotions and ideas I was supposed to convey. You made me tiptoe a careful line between comfortably loving writing on my own and the abrupt realization that there was a lot about the literary world that I had left to explore. It’s because of that I realized there is no end in sight when you love something, there is only the passion of the process. Thank you.

——

Dr. Dumas,

The first day of class, you admitted that students and other professors called you Doctor Doom. You told us that your British Literature II course would be hard and that people typically failed or just barely passed. I think your speech was supposed to scare us, but I don’t remember being scared. As the weeks ticked on, you threatened us with bad grades, put us in our place with hard questions, and generally tried to personify Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the dragon. It was exciting because you truly made me work for my grades. You made me run across campus to buy a test scoring sheet and defile a textbook by making notes in the margins. You made me discuss the works we read and admit my opinions before others could give theirs. You made me speak out when you saw my nose crinkle up at other students’ comments. You made me live up to my choice of a front row seat, and you didn’t allow me to be an insignificant 17-year-old among 21-year-olds. I usually hated any grade below an A, but I was incredibly proud of the B I got in your class because it was by the cramps of my hand and sweat of my brow that I earned it. When I dropped off my final paper at your office, I had never felt more accomplished. Thank you.

——

Professor Bayless,

If I had to point out a teacher or professor that I would most like to emulate, I would point to you. It’s not because I adored your lesson plans or got to know you personally, but because you love the material you teach. When I was in your courses, there wasn’t a single day that I felt as if you didn’t want to be there or that you resented what you were doing. Despite teaching being your job and a job being necessary to pay for all aspects of life, you didn’t seem to resent it like some professors do. Yet, you also didn’t settle and allow your job to become your life. When you spoke about your poetry, your wife, and the degree in creative writing that you got in spite of societal protestations, I couldn’t help but to feel encouraged in my own endeavors. If nothing else, your brand of optimism and insight was contagious. While I was only lucky enough to be able to take two fine arts courses during my degree, those two courses and you forever changed the way I look at art. You may not have taught me the quote, but you taught me the lesson: “Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul” (Oscar Wilde). Thank you.

——

Dr. Redmon,

For a while, I felt as if you were my only professor. That is to say, how often does a student have the same professor as their advisor and for two or three classes for three semesters in a row? But, I think the feeling spawned from more than just the frequency of our interactions–your courses contained such poignant material that I couldn’t help but to think about the courses even when I wasn’t in them. You taught me about literature and films in such a way that the lessons resonated outside of the classroom and discussion boards. You taught me how one discussion or one piece of material can transcend that physical experience or existence. When I completed the assignments for your class, I felt like I was doing so much more. As I wrote about religious, historical, and literary modes of early American literature, simulation in films, and the sexualization of female characters, you made me realize putting pen to paper or fingers to keys was only the first step in changing life and society. You made me see how vital my education is to the world I live in and that, despite frequent dismissals of an English degree, skill with words and the ability to see beyond the obvious may be precisely what makes life worthwhile. Thank you.

——

Advertisements

My YA Life in Book Titles Survey

Hello dearies! University has really been eating up my time, but I wanted to post another survey that I found over at The Perpetual Page Turner. Essentially, you think about who you were as a teenager and answer the questions in book titles of books you’ve read. Its really fun to do, especially if you have shelves of books or a Goodreads page to scroll through. Enjoy!

———

You

Untitled

  • How would you describe your 16 year old self: Bright Purple: Color Me Confused
  • When You Looked Into The Mirror What Did You See: Uglies
  • Your 16 year old self’s outlook on life/motto: Can’t Get There From Here < I was totally a “glass half full” kind of chick. >
  • How You Think People Would Describe Your Personality: Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd 
  • Describe An Insecurity In High School: The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things
  • Describe Your Worst Trait As A Teen: Bad Connection < I was awful with people my own age. I’d babble about fanfiction, forums, and books, while everyone just stared…okay, maybe only some people stared. >
  • Describe the contents of your diary/journal: Freaks and Revelations
  • Your biggest Fear: Pushing the Limits < It sounds silly now, but I was terrified of doing too much, being too much, and going too far. Like, in anything and everything. >
  • You excelled at: How Not to Be Popular < Not a complaint, just a fact that I quite liked. >
  • You were always concerned about: The Rise and Fall of a Tenth Grade Social Climber < Please, someone, explain the social hierarchy of high school. I understood it about as well as a German listening to a Russian talk about tea. >
  • You Thought Your Life Was: Elsewhere <It was always about the future, yo! >

Love Life

Untitled2

  • How would you sum up your high school love life: Along for the Ride < I was very much the “what in the world is going on” type. >
  • Describe your most serious boyfriend from high school: Empty
  • Describe your first kiss: Notes on a Near-Life Experience < It was one of those things where it kinda happened and it was kinda awful, so let’s just pretend it totally didn’t happen. >
  • Your philosophy on dating/love: Something Like Fate
  • Describe Your Worst Break Up: So Yesterday < Why relive a bad moment, I’m so over it haha. >

 

Family

Untitled3

  • Your relationship with your mom as a teen: Allegiant < She was/is very much the “come to your defense without provocation” type. >
  • Your relationship with your dad as a teen: Just Ask < He was/is very much the “silent but supportive” type. >
  • Your relationship with a sibling: Far From You < He dropped off the map around the time I realized card stock was way cooler than construction paper, and that baking was better than cutting play food out of paper, so he’s missing out, man! I’m a genius with card stock and baking now. >
  • What you thought about your parents rules/parenting style: The Unwritten Rule

 

Friends

Untitled4

  • Describe you and your best friend at 16: What Happened to Goodbye
  • Your Social Status: Dreamland < I was the listener or therapist among my friends, so I spent a lot of time trouncing about in my and other people’s heads. >
  • Describe Your Group Of Friends: Extras < Island of misfit toys, anyone? >

 

School

Untitled5

  • Your Perception Of High School Upon Entering: Soul Harvest < Yeah, I wasn’t a fan. >
  • Your relationship with academics: Perfect Chemistry < Academia, I was good at…the other people participating in academia, not so much. >
  • Your Weekends Were: Ballads of Suburbia
  • If Your High School Life Was A Movie It would be called: I Am the Wallpaper < I was incredibly happy to be a wallflower socially and a teacher’s pet otherwise. >
  • A Class You Wish High School Would Have Offered: The Truth About Forever < Philosophy! >
  • Your Senior Year Was: My Most Excellent Year
  • Describe prom: It’s Kind of a Funny Story < Friends, annoying people, way too many seniors bringing freshman dates, and cinnamon twists. >
  • When High School Ended It Was: The Call of the Wild < College, baby! >

 

The Future

Untitled6

  • How You Felt About The Prospect of College: Becoming Me
  • How You Thought Your Life Would Be At 20 (insert whatever age you are now): Come Alive < I was a bit over zealous and optimistic about how different life would be at this point. >

 

Your Life Now

Untitled7

  • Describe Your Love Life: Fangirl < I’m in love with characters, places, and whole fandoms…my actual love life is radio silence. >
  • Describe The State Of Your Friendship With Your High School BFF: Chain Reaction < This refers to multiple people, so we’re all just adjusting in the fallout of growing up. >
  • Your Relationship With Your Parents Now: Every Day < Like most relationships, it’s one day at a time and a lot of conscious choices. >
  • Your Thoughts On Your High School Reunion (either if you had it or if it’s upcoming): The Time Machine < I’m not so sure how I feel about a reunion yet. I’m still in the “it’s over!” stage. >
  • Biggest Lesson You Learned In High School: Cracked Up to Be < Basically, in my experience, if you stop worrying about everything high school was supposed to be, and just experience it as it comes, then high school is a lot better. >
  • One Thing You WISHED You Had Learned: The Rules of Survival < It really frustrates me how much  schools fail to teach students when it comes to skills and everyday adult tasks. I was lucky with my parents’ practical teaching, but a lot of people weren’t. >
  • Advice You Wish You Could Have Given Your Teen Self: Chill: Stress-Reducing Techniques for a More Balanced, Peaceful You < Simmer down now, young one. >
  • Something You Could Learn From Your 16 Year Old Self: Honey, Baby, Sweetheart < For the love of all that is literary, I really need to remember to be nice and semi-affectionate to new and old people instead of just the people I’ve known forever. >

———

Let me know some of your answers in the comments!

Open Letter to a Potential School Shooter:

School-Lockdown

I’m not going to tell you not to do it. It’s been said a dozen times already.

I’m not going to tell you that there are better ways to handle the problems of the world than violence. I don’t know if that is true.

And, I’m not going to tell you that everything will be okay. Maybe everything is damaged beyond repair.

Instead I’m asking you to listen to a story and then I will listen too.

I wasn’t much back in high school. Oh, I did my work, I got high marks, and for the most part I played the part of the upright student who had it all under control. I enjoyed the friends I had, and I lived for the long writing assignments in my English and history courses. But, I felt older and more tired than I thought my true age would entail.

A lot of the time, I was a ghost walking through halls where I simultaneously hoped someone would notice me yet dreaded the awkward exchange if they did. Most of the time I was okay with that paradox though. I was okay with being a wallflower and an academic. But, sometimes I was incredibly uncomfortable. Angry even.

I was upset that no one saw me. I was confused by the fact that no one in the world seemed to care about anyone else. I was irritated that I was never the person the teachers noticed or my peers gravitated toward. I was enraged by the students that cheated their way to the top and the others that played their way to the bottom. And, most of all, I was infuriated with myself for being “me.”

For most of my high school career, I was that person. I might have worn neon clothing, written essays far over the minimum requirement, participated in numerous clubs, led a yearbook staff, gotten accepted to all my colleges, and laughed at lunch, but I wasn’t “okay.”

Here’s the thing: I was never consciously going to become part of the small but ever-increasing number of people who bring weapons into schools. When we were doing lockdown drills, I was never the kid that people said would bring a gun. I was more likely to be asked to help with homework or to take pictures at the dance.

But, maybe I could have been that kid at some point. Maybe, at some point, I was desperate enough to have unconsciously become that. Maybe I was closer to the edge of self-destruction than even I knew. Maybe we were all at that point once, when high school was grinding us into dust, testing us before we were even fully developed.

It really could have been any of us.

Maybe the girl behind me in class had a gun in her closet. Maybe the teacher proclaiming peace was thinking about building a bomb. Maybe the group at the end of my lunch table had it all planned out. Maybe we’re all capable. The difference being only that a select few will act–only a few will realize or exemplify the animal side of being human.

Looking back on it now, I realize that no one was okay. High school was but a moment in time. Our lives were in upheaval then because that is what growing up entails. But, eventually, it all levels off, if only we’re able to see through the clouds during those dark days.

The thing is though, in those dark days, we can’t see–or, maybe, we won’t see. Because of that, it could have been any of us.

So, I need you to do something for me.

For you.

I need you to win.

You see, if you do this, if you go after this permanent solution to a temporary problem, and we’re all truly the same, it means that we all lose. We all fail. Together and at once.

If you pull the trigger, set the fuse, or take the punch, all of us–the whole of the human race–lose. We lose the fight and the war. We cave to a flawed fate. We lose the lessons of the past, the thrill of the present, and the possibility of the future.

If you do what you are thinking about doing, we have nothing.

I need you to stop and think about this once more. I need you to decide to win, for all of us. I need you to see the fight through. I need you to shirk fate. I need you to forget about everything that is wrong and I need you to make it right.

I need you to succeed over all the people whose voices echo inside of your head at 3:00 A.M.

I need you to not do this because, we’re the same, and we win or lose together.

Put it all down. Breath it all out. Feel it all and then let it go because everything you’re experiencing doesn’t last.

Let’s show each other what we’re made of–that we’re stronger than even we expected.

Let’s win this, once and for all.

Let’s win this together, all of us.

Everyone needs this win.

—————————-

Disclaimer:

Please note that this post and the author in no way condone violence of any kind. This post is merely a written exercise intended to provoke thoughts and a conversation regarding school shootings, and the related topic of workplace violence, as both topics have been increasingly debated in recent days. It is this author’s personal belief that such topics must be discussed in order for any manner or level of societal to occur and theoretical exercises such as this may facilitate discussion.

If a given reader intends or feels the urge to commit such violence as that which is alluded to and described within this article, please seek assistance by contacting one of the hotlines listed below or emergency services by dialing 911 (US) or 999 (UK). I heartily encourage said individuals to defy any violent or dangerous urges that might come and seek help that is so readily available.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

LGBTQ Crisis Call Center: 1-866-488-7386

Additional resources can be found here.

—————————-

Share your thoughts in the comments or feel free to contact me if you would like to guest post. Best wishes, dearies.

A Soldier At Heart.

I remember when I was younger, and I would watch my father get dressed each day and head to work, stopping to put on his hat or beret at the doorway. I remember accompanying him to formation one day and quietly standing at the back as I watched with a confusing fascination as these lines of men and women wearing identical uniforms stood at attention. I remember asking question after question about the ways of the military world as I secretly contemplated whether I could ever bear to be separated from it.

Here is the truth, my mind and heart on a platter–I feel called to the military. Some people feel called to religious and ministry life by God. Some people feel called to teaching by their love of children or education. Some people feel called to a type of art by the beauty and loveliness of it’s form. But, what about me?

My life has been thoroughly immersed in the world of the military since just before the second year of my life. All through this time, I have had a fascination with the way the military works, the security it provides, and the people involved. Now comes the tough part of life–understanding what this fascination means.

The fascination did not end with childhood nor adolescence. When my senior year of high school was drawing to a close, I briefly considered forgetting college and simply joining one of the military forces. The key word being “briefly.” Even though my father was a soldier and is now a veteran, I did not think that my family would support my military pulls. Even though I wondered at the draw the military held for me, I would not cave into it. When I began college only a few months ago, I again wondered at the idea of joining the service, but dismissed the idea as irrational–after all, what was there in the military that I could possibly want when I was already a college student?

Now, only a few months later, I am reconsidering my dismissals. Some people are meant for other things–the arts, the sciences, the ministry-but I have this strange feeling that I have been denying what I am meant for. I want to be a Navy soldier, and I will not stop until I become one. I am a soldier at heart.