The Day Before Yesterday

The day before yesterday.

The day before yesterday, we arrived at school after the weekend and were all drearily ready to start the day. The kind of smiles were flashed to each other saying “Hey, I don’t really know you but I don’t want to come off as rude,” as everyone walked to their first period.

I sat down in Spanish class on the cold plastic seats and wished I had worn jeans that day. I pulled out my binder and homework, and began to listen to the Spanish words that came out of Mr. Risser’s mouth, talking about how our weekends were, and giving us the “Refran of the week.”

The day continued as normal and finally, it came to an end, ending in a hardy soccer practice in the cold, and as night snuck up on us over the mountaintops, engulfing the players in the immense darkness.

I rode the bus home as normal and we were laughing and talking more than normal, but finally, sleep caught up to us and the bus went silent.

I returned home and started on my Chemistry homework. I started getting calls from some of the dormers, as well as, day students. I first declined them all thinking they just were asking homework questions, but this was not the case.

I finally figured out about the fire when my friend, messaged me saying “THERE IS A FIRE.” I immediately responded, and my heart dropped as the words, “It’s at school” appeared on my screen.

The whole night phone calls were made and I could not stop constantly checking up on the status of the fire.

The power went out around nine that night and even though it suddenly became dead quiet I heard voices dancing around in my head reminding me of the worst, which turned this deafening silence into the loudest noise I have ever heard.

I was driving myself mad, and I couldn’t handle it anymore so I shut my phone off and tried to sleep, but the noises continued and I laid awake for a long period of time thinking about the future of the school.

The next day, the fire had reached Ventura, my hometown, and the air became heavy and filled with dense black smoke. The water became contaminated, and the entire town seemed as if a zombie apocalypse had started.

Masks were being worn everywhere, and no sounds were being made. Inhaling the air was the same level of toxicity as smoking cigarettes, so every crack where the air could have crept into my home was plugged up with towels and plastic.

I went to my friend’s house to seek refuge, while my home was full of the co-workers of both of my parents and my brother’s friends. We called many of the dormers and alerted everyone still on campus at the Lower School that our houses were open to them.

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Ojai was on fire; the hills were blazing and lit up like a Christmas tree. The sky was filled one way with giant puffs of blindingly red smoke, and the other with jet-black smoke, converging in the middle and creating a great divide. More than half of Ojai fled to relative’s houses and the small town felt emptier than ever.

My heart wouldn’t stop beating out of my chest because no words of the fire affecting the school had been said until around one in the afternoon when a heartbreaking, mouth quaking, tear-bringing picture was released.

It showed the science and technology building burned to the ground with flames rising up over the remains. When this picture was sent to me and my friend, we sat in silence not sure what to say or do because now we knew that the fire was right on top of our school, our home.

The next day, I went to the barn to get out of the smoke. Looking in the direction of Ventura all you could see was a thick cloud of black smoke covering the town like a baby with a blanket.

The air was so static and dry, and the wind blew fiercely through the canyon, knocking the jumps down and blowing huge ashes through the air and landing on the ground making a sort of white snow upon the ground.

The day went by quickly, the only thing that was slowing it down was the consistent check-ups from my mother and my friends about the school and the towns.

The fire had blown through Ventura bringing down hundreds of structures including houses of very close family friends and was still burning up top the “Two Trees Hill” and making its way to the beautiful town of Santa Barbara.

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That night I laid in bed, thinking about what happened and how quickly things can change. Experiences like this make one think about how much you take for granted, and how little you think about natural disasters like this affecting your home and your life.

I have always seen natural disasters and tradgedies happening around the world from watching the news, but never did I think that I would be stuck in the middle of one of them.

2017 has been a year of disasters, deaths, and controversy all over the world, this fire was just another thing on the list that if someone outside of the lstate saw on the news would probably pay attention to but wouldn’t really care about, or go on thinking about, or wouldn’t have it racing through the back of their mind for the rest of the year and probably the next year as well.

It would have little to zero effect on them because it doesn’t affect them personally, but that would also be me if I had seen an incident such as this on the news happening in a far-off state such as Oklahoma or Texas.

But one thing, and probably the most important thing I have learned from the fire, which was just contained two days ago, after spreading over more than 440 square miles, is to not take anything for granted anymore; because at least once in your life something will be happening to you and it won’t be just be something you saw in the news, it will be something you saw with your own eyes and something that you felt with your own heart.

It will leave you thinking about it for the rest of your years on this planet. That is what life is, a bunch of things that you would never expect to happen, and things you never thought could happen to you because you feel safe as though you are in a glass box, safe from everything, but one day that will not be the case. And that is the day that everything changes and, hopefully, for the better.

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Dear College Reader…

On the paper/computer application in front of you is me, or at least all you get to see of me before you deem me good enough or not.

It takes you 650-1000+ words for you to supposedly understand who I am, who I know myself to be and who I want to be. Yes, I wrote the words, I told you the stories, I’ve built from what I have in me, who I think I’m supposed to be. I’ve compressed seventeen years of life into eight or nine paragraphs expressly for your viewing pleasure.

But, reader, this one is different, this one will tell a different story because what you don’t see in the typical “What have you done to better your community” and “What is your passion” supplements (which have a strong undercurrent of “be impressive, we’re watching you”),  are the long nights, the tears and disgusting tissues, the pacing, the self-judgment, the pain of feeling so insanely inadequate that every achievement feels like a trivial pursuit or worse- a lie.

Painting Credit: Antoine Stevens

I’m here to tell you that I am more than just 1000 words. I am an incomplete but also fully whole person, and that I have not a f*$%^&g clue who I am, who I’m going to be.

I feel as if for the past six months I have been folding, bending, and working against every instinct I have to somehow force myself into a two dimensional version of myself.

I don’t blame you reader because you will remember that I am a person — a breathing person who worries and is bad at things, who is vain, loves shopping and small trivial things, is selfish and is trying all the time to be good enough for my friends, family, and the opportunities I’ve been granted — behind that application. I hope.

I have hidden behind pseudo-confidence and humor the fact that I am terrified of not being as good as I think I am, that my secret fear, that everyone lies to me when they say I’m good at something to spare my feelings, will be true.

I am terrified to have my future rest in the hands of someone else, because it rests in your hands. I’m scared that what you see on those applications is not the best me because I couldn’t get the right words out.

If I’m completely honest with you, reader, applying to college has made me feel like crap. Everyone else seems to have things figured out, they’re writing easy but I can’t remember how it was to breath without feeling like an anvil is sitting on my chest, without typing triple letters because my hands are shaking so badly.

I don’t know what I want and I don’t know what you and the college you represent want, but I just pray that I am what you want.

I hope that my sleepless nights, my years of homework, my work, my words, my bending and near breaking, my near misses, my wins, my losses, all my books, my stories, my short mostly un-lived life is enough for you, even if you don’t get to see all that in my edited, word pinched application.

Please let me be enough.