A tight backstage room.
Fumes from hairspray intoxicating a tight backstage room.
bobby-pins, tan and black,
It is hot backstage,
the walls the color of earl gray tea.
The toes of the apparently perfect, are broken, bruised, concealed inside pretty pink slippers delicately touching the chalk buckets in every corner of the room.
Bustling people elegantly dressed in every color imaginable.
Dancers racing around behind the curtains struggling to find their cue.
The frightened ballerinas pacing backstage,
with visions of turns and leaps dancing in their heads.
Dance ballerina to the sound of the classical piano.
All the chaos backstage concealed from the elegance on stage.
All concealed from the wealthy parents sitting in velvet chairs.
Like so many students at this school, I don’t live at home. I don’t even live in my home country, not even on the same continent. So many people at this school took the risk of moving across the globe, to learn english and live a life on this beautiful hill with rosy sunsets and a breathtaking night sky. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
When I first came here I was 13, and to be honest, my English was pretty miserable. I still recall the moment I got on the plane to LAX, and a flight attendant tried talking to me in English. I remember how I barely understood her and froze, and thought to myself, “Holy hell, I can’t do this!”.
As the days passed, I became more and more anxious about going to school where everything is in a language I hardly know. But the second the first OVS student talked to me, it was all gone. Well, most of it. I realized that I, by far, was not the only international student, and that everyone here was willing to help me feel as much at home as possible.
I remember always looking over to my brother, seeing him talk to other students already. And then there was me, sitting in the corner with my beloved social anxiety. I imagined the next year to be like one of these movies, where the awkward new kid doesn’t find any friends. Oh, how wrong I was!
I can’t express how thankful I am for everyone here. For my roommate, who helped me with literally anything, no matter if it was about a word I didn’t understand, or where to find my classrooms, and who supplied me with snacks and BuzzFeed quizzes and “Mean Girls.” For all my friends and classmates who would never let me feel left out. And for all the teachers and faculty who do their best every single day to make this community work.
OVS, as cliché as this might sound, has helped me grow so much over the past years. I learned that change can be good, I learned how to socialize in an environment where I barely know anyone, I learned how to express myself without feeling judged by every human being around me. One of the things I learned, however, that I consider one of the most important ones, is that I learned how to write. I’m not a very good writer, don’t get me wrong. But before I came here the thought of me writing in a somewhat nice manner has never even occurred to me, let alone in a different language.
OVS has taught me so much. I know it is just a school, and it surely isn’t perfect. But it was this intimidating change that was needed for me, and so many other people here, to make high school a better memory than what it would have been without this place.
Halloween is arguably one of the most fun holidays. You can dress up like a banana, a zombie cheerleader, or even a cat. However, a certain kind of costume that is not acceptable, comes around every year. Those costumes fall into a small category: when people adopt the aspects and features of another race or culture as a costume, a joke. Some examples of this are blackface and yellowface where people will literally paint a color onto their skin to make them look like a different race. Halloween is not the proper place to display your racial microaggressions. You may not even be aware of them, most people aren’t. Microaggressions are when you say a racial slur or dress up as another race to make fun of them. Actions like these showcase how unaware our society is to the amount of cultural appropriation we experience on a daily basis. Some may take this as it not being okay to dress up as their favorite movie character of a different race, but that is not the case. Little kids can dress up as Mulan, Pocahontas, and Tiana, because they are doing it out of admiration, not disrespect. It is hard to identify when a costume goes from okay to bad. If you think someone will be offended by your costume then odds are it isn’t appropriate.
In 2012, a group of students at Ohio State University, known as STARS (Students Teaching About Racism in Society), made a series of posters to showcase this problematic Halloween trend. It is a series of six posters each picturing an offensive costume representing a racial stereotype, an actual person representing that racial group, and the same line: “You wear the costume for one night, I wear the stigma for life.”
And this is so true. Coming from a place of privilege, I don’t understand the type of oppression people of color receive on a daily basis; neither do any of the people who dress up as stereotypes of a culture. If you dress up as a racial stereotype, then you most likely don’t know anything about that particular culture’s daily oppression. People who don blackface or dress up as a nerdy Asian never have to live in the skin of people of color. They don’t have to wake up knowing they’ll be judged for the amount of pigment in their skin. Most people dress up as stereotypical racial figures to make fun, not knowing anything about what it’s actually like to be who they’re dressed up as. On November 1st, you can wake up in your safety bubble of skin and go on with life, but the group of people you made fun of the night before will continue to wear the skin and/or identity that you appropriated as a costume.
Are you an LA Devotee? I am and have been one for a while. My dad is convinced that “Californication” was written about me.
For the very few that don’t know what that is, “Californication” is Red Hot Chili Pepper’s best song and an absolute must-listen. The song metaphorically refers to the California lifestyle that Hollywood is trying to sell, it shows us that lifestyle through films, tv, social media, and magazines. Making people believe that if you come to California you can throw your life away in exchange for endless partying.
The song also reveals that the California that people think of as glamorous and perfect is really just made up and fake. The music video expands on this idea. At the beginning, all the scenes look great until all that scenery just collapses. The band members are constantly running in the video and perhaps thats their way of saying that they want to break away from this life.
However, I don’t agree with that. My experience in California has been very different.
Yes, I do see plastic surgery addicts from time to time. I also see women in full makeup at 9 am carrying dogs under their armpits just to go to a coffee shop, as well as beautiful sports cars just stuck in LA traffic, never having an opportunity to reach their full speed as they’re supposed to. Yet, those people don’t make up LA for me.
I would argue and say that Los Angeles is the only big city where I can put on a white tee and some jeans and be able to go to a trendy restaurant. People don’t feel the need to show off their wealth unlike in cities such as London or Paris. I really feel like a part of this city. It has really grown on me. Or is it just Californication?
Sometimes I contemplate whether or not after high school I should take a gap year. There’s so many things to learn by simply traveling and exploring, and I wonder if there’s too many possible adventures to simply get done in a life time. I can’t imagine them all as I’m stuck in school doing essays, endless math problems, and projects, but I hope.
As much as I picture myself being an ambitious law student in the heart of New York City, I begin to stalk the traveler pages of Instagram who share their passions to the world, and wonder how life like that would be. To take life one step at a time without a care in the world about the future. To travel freely, explore different cultures, or learn for mere enjoyment rather than cramming in information for a final exam.
I’ve had the privilege to travel before. From galloping horses through Ireland’s terrain to swimming with stingrays in the Cayman Islands, highlights of my life have always included traveling. But if I’m honest with myself, I probably won’t become one of those people who are in a new country every week, and that’s okay, but there are two things I know I want to do before I die.
Backpacking through Europe. This has always been on the top of my bucket list. I just want to go with a group of friends traveling city to city via train, bike ride through Amsterdam, go to the art museums in France, or swim in the oceans of Greece. There’s so many opportunities in Europe that there wouldn’t need to be a full agenda to make the trip enjoyable.
2. A horseback riding safari through Africa. I didn’t even know this was a thing until a couple months ago, but it’s been on my mind ever since. I’ve always wanted to go on an African safari, but being able to do it on horseback would make it ten times better. Just picturing galloping through the Savannas near the zebras and the antelope under the bright sun, it seems to surreal to be true, but it is.
These are just two things out of a dozen. The world is so big that exploring every inch of it in such a short time seems impossible. But I want to make sure that I discover as much of it as I can.
I collect memories in my head like a child picks up change off the pavement.
A visual: Boy walks home on the sidewalk, making sure to hop over every crack in the pavement. He spots a penny, examines it between two pinched fingers and deems the coin a lucky charm, then stuffs it into a pocket for safekeeping.
Change, what a funny thing it is.
I often find myself reminiscing on the past. In some ways I guess that could be a good thing, looking back on old memories. Mostly though it just makes me sad.
Photos, journals, memories, they all hit you with this bittersweet nostalgia. Sometimes I wish I could go back in time, just to relive a particular day.
Over the past few years I’ve made connections with different people, some of whom I’ve come to genuinely care about and love. Sometimes I look at some of them and wonder if in ten years I’ll still remember their face, name, or the reason why I was friends with them. It sucks, but the fact is that for a lot of them I probably won’t.
Maybe I’m afraid of change. The more I think about the past the more it makes me dread the future. I wish it wouldn’t go by so fast. I don’t want more of my friends to graduate. I don’t want to get older. But they will; I will.
I can’t control time, no one can. So I guess all I can do is take it in while I can. The good, the bad, and everything in between.
A memory: Last night I was eating dinner with four friends. I hold an imaginary camera out in front of my face and pose, making fun of the boy sitting at the end of the table. “Hey,” he says, “you have to squint your eyes more if you want it to be accurate.” A hand smacks down on top of the table, legs kick out in front of chairs, a forefinger pushed against pursed lips reprimands us for the eruption of shrieks and giggles. We laugh so hard that our stomachs ache and tears spill out of our eyes.
I hope that I’ll remember that moment, even though it’s sort of insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But, hey, it’s the little things that count, right?
In that moment I realized that I have some wonderful, genuine people in my life, and I’m so lucky to be able to call them my best friends.
A piece of advice (for myself and whoever might be reading this): Keep picking up all the pennies you find, even if they don’t seem lucky. Everyone can use a little spare change.
This will probably be the first and last post where I’m this free-spoken, but I know this will be therapeutic. I know we all have bad days, but what do you do when the closest people to you are just gone in a matter of seconds? What do you do when suddenly that someone becomes just a memory and you realize that you can’t make any new ones with them?
As I’ve found out for myself when everything is going great, suspiciously good, the universe has to balance it out. The Bob Ross quote, “Gotta have opposites dark and light, light and dark in painting. It’s like in life. Gotta have a little sadness once in a while so you know when the good times come. I’m waiting on a good time now,” me too Bob, me too.
In moments like this, you feel like an outsider to the world and you just want to get away, distract yourself somehow. But I’ve forced myself to accept and face the facts: time heals, but you need a lot of it.
I’ve always been careful. All my life. I always lock my door. I never drive when I’m tired. I don’t leave the house by myself when it’s dark out. It’s things like that, that show how paranoid I am. I’ve always been careful.
Until I wasn’t.
One. Single. Time. Who would’ve thought that I would end up like this. I will end like this. My life will end like this. Because of one careless step.
I look up to the sky, watching the pink of the sunset slowly fade into a purple-grey. Soon it will be black. And no one will find me.
I’m laying in a crevice, between the cold unforgiving rocks, where I fell about an hour ago. Underneath me are old leafs and dirt. But I can’t feel them. I really can’t feel anything, not even the crack in my spine I heard earlier.
Holy hell, this is it.
Suddenly I start panicking. I will never get out of here again. I will starve or get eaten by a mountain lion or freeze to death. I will die.
I can’t get up. I can’t run away. I can’t even move my hands to wipe away the tears that are blurring out the branches rocking above me. I try to scream for help, but my voice is drowned in fear. The more I try to make a sound, the more my hope gets swallowed by the silence around me that is only anticipating my end.
Maybe I can fall asleep. Maybe I wouldn’t have to be awake any longer, only to wait for that light tunnel and the blackout.
I close my eyes. But the dead silence is literally killing me. I try to sing to myself, a lullaby from when I was a kid. One that my mom would always sing to me. “Fall asleep, covered in roses. Tomorrow morn, if God wills, you’ll wake once again.” Seems like God doesn’t want me to wake up tomorrow, huh?
I keep singing it to myself, hours pass, and now all the song consists of are voice cracks choked on tears.
A piece of my hair fell in my face. I can’t even move my hands to get it off. I don’t really care. I feel my body getting tired now. My eyelids get heavier, until I just keep them closed.
I think I give up.
Is it even giving up, when there’s nothing else you can do? It doesn’t matter. I feel myself drifting off to sleep. I know that I probably won’t ever wake up again. I will never see the sun again. I will never see my family again. I will never live again. And all just because of one careless step.
In an interesting turn of events, Ed Skrein, who was originally set to star in Hellboy, backed out of his role this summer because of his character’s mixed-Asian decent. Now, I’m upset that not enough people are talking about this. Hollywood is known for casting white actors in place for roles that are for people of color. However, Ed Skrein is the only actor, that I’ve heard of at least, that has declined a role because of this reason.
This is big news because of how rare it is. We’ve seen actors and actresses with amazing, prolific careers ignore whitewashing and accept a role that a person of color deserves. Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson played main character Major Mira Killian, adapted from the Japanese manga series Ghost in the Shell. The movie barely saw any profit, less than 70 million made in its entire box office career. Matt Damon starred in the Great Wall, a movie literally about a white man leading a gigantic Chinese army against monsters attacking the grand fortress. Most recently, Netflix released Death Note, starring Nat Wolff, another adaptation of a popular Japanese manga.
Talking about Death Note for a moment, back in 2015, when Nat Wolff was announced as the film’s lead, Light, there were obviously mixed responses. One came from up and coming actor, Edward Zo, who was denied the opportunity to even audition for the same role. Why? Because he was “too Asian.” Here is his story below:
Something he said really stuck with me. “Hey, your story is really cool. Everything about this story is awesome, except you,” he said, when explaining what whitewashing feels like. What directors are doing is taking away the authenticity of a story. You don’t see white actors playing slaves, it’s not their story to tell. Manga, a style of Japanese comics, is quintessentially Japanese. Not white. What you get are stories that stay with Japanese adults and kids alike. Why take that essential part away in the movie version?
What I just talked about are just actors stealing roles from Asian, more specifically Japanese, actors. I could show hundreds of examples of Hollywood whitewashing. Some older movies even use blackface and yellowface instead of just hiring people of color. What all these movies have in common nowadays are their social media outcry based on their faulty casting. I hope that Skrein’s decision and the obvious negative effects it has on a movie’s reviews will deter Hollywood from whitewashing in the future.