Happy Burnday

Today I am turning 17. Living at boarding school, birthdays are honestly the best. Not only do I get a birthday party and a cake at night, but I also get to spend all day with my friends.

Today has been amazing and I’m so thankful for the people around me that make every birthday so special. But exactly one year ago, my day looked a lot different.

Photo Credit: guideposts.com

I had just found out that my dorm had burnt down. I was just packing to leave again, to get away from the smoke. I had none of my own clothes to wear, none of my belongings with me. My then-boyfriend had just ditched me to hang out with his friend on possibly the worst day of my life. My family was trying so hard to make my sweet sixteen as good and peaceful as possible, but there wasn’t much they could do. My life had just been turned upside down.

I can’t believe that was already a year ago. The hills and trees still look burnt, we still live in mobile homes, and the pictures of the fire still make me sick. It seems like yesterday that I was screaming at the orange skies that were burying the sun behind smoke to go away, to go back to normal, to turn back the time and make this all go away. But there was no turning back, there was nothing left to do. Nothing left to do, besides trying to forget about everything for a day. Trying to imagine that we were going on vacation and not evacuating from a wildfire. Trying to imagine that my friend and I were watching Riverdale in the girls lounge, not on my sofa at home with amber alerts going off next to us. Trying to imagine that everything was like it had been 48 hours earlier.

Now, a year later, I know that nothing is really still the same. We don’t live in the same rooms anymore, we don’t have the same buildings anymore. I know that, and I’m finally beginning to accept that. I know that there is nothing left but to move on.

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Applying or Buying?

I spent $410 last week. No, I didn’t go shopping. No, I didn’t buy all my Christmas presents at once. No, I didn’t have to pay for medical bills.

Photo Credit:  theroarpost.com

I spent $410 on college apps within only a week.

I understand that having to pay some amount of money, to make sure that the people applying to schools actually mean it, and that it takes work to read through my applications and make their decisions. But, why should I have to pay $180 to send my AP scores to the colleges that I might not even get in to?

Personally, I have been able to spend that money on my applications. I didn’t like it, obviously, but I was fine. But, there are enough people in this country that don’t have those $410 to gamble with.

We all know that many families aren’t able to send their children to college because of the insane tuitions. But now, imagine not even being able to apply to the school of your dreams because it is too expensive. I know some people can get fee waivers, but even the fact that this is necessary freaks me out a bit.

I see the reasoning behind all the costs. I see why it would be necessary. I just want to point out how flawed all this is, if you think about it.

Open Your Eyes

Open your eyes.

Is this what you wanted all along?

Four score and seven years ago,

you thought you’d forever be free.

Is this liberty to you?

Open your eyes

and tell me what you see is just.

Dead children in school hallways,

cartridge cases underneath bar stools,

mothers too exhausted to cry

because they had to outlive their children.

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Open your eyes

and tell me again

that this is just for us all.

We are not primitive,

we need no weapons to defend our honor,

no death to feel alive and safe.

Your thoughts and prayers are with us

and your gun is pointed at our chests.

Think and pray if you think that helps.

To amend means to change,

not to rely on for eternity

disregarding how many lives must go.

Open your eyes

and tell me

the blood in the hallways isn’t on your hands,

the cartridge cases aren’t yours.

Change must happen, if only you’d see.

Please, for the people,

open your eyes.

 

A Red-Hot Reminder

There is another wildfire.

It started in Thousand Oaks, which is about an hour away from here, and it’s already taken 10,000 acres of land.

Photo Credit: cdn.cnn.com   (Thousand Oaks)

I try not to let it trigger me; I try to see it as one of the many catastrophes that have become a norm in our lives. But, I hear the wind blowing through our mobile dorms, that we’ve lived in since the Thomas Fire, and I can’t help but remember.

I remember it all. I remember the red cloud rising up behind the hills. I remember the dorm meeting we had, how they told us that the winds weren’t blowing our way, that we were safe. I remember having to evacuate in the middle of study hall, leaving nearly everything behind without even realizing that it all would be gone the next day. I remember finding out that our campus caught on fire. I remember not being able to leave the house without a smoke mask for days and it always looking like the sun was setting. I remember staring at that bright red sun, hoping for our clean blue skies to come back.

I don’t want to be dramatic. It could have been so much worse. But, being reminded of the fact that so much is gone and will forever remain gone and that, right now, there are people going through the exact same horrible thing, isn’t exactly pleasant.

Maybe I’m being oversensitive. Maybe I should be realistic and move on. Eventually, I will move on, but not quite yet. For now, I’ll be sitting on my bed, trying to tune out the wind pressing up against my window, staring at my packed bag in the corner.

Photo Credit: accuweather.brightspotcdn.com    (Thomas Fire)

The Middle Layer

I have never been the smart one in a group. In my close friend group, I definitely am not. Out of my siblings, my sister has always had better grades than me. In most of my classes, I tend to be just about average.

I’m not saying that I am stupid, because I know that’s not true. But, I usually feel like I am, as I said, just average.

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I haven’t ever really had an issue with that in the past. I’m fine not being the best, the smartest, because that always gives me a reason to improve. I think it might even be good for me to control my competitiveness.

But, this is my senior year. This is the time for me to apply to the colleges I am dying to go to. This is the time for me to show them that I deserve to get that acceptance letter and hit that enroll button on May 1st. But, how do I deserve that, when I am just average?

My grades are okay. My SAT is less than I would like it to be. My essays are a little whack. Will that be enough? Will the college readers recognize some unique spark in my application or will they, with no second thoughts, throw me on the mediocre applicants pile?

I know that instead of complaining about all this, I should probably work on my college essays, study for the next SAT, and maybe start that assignment that’s due tomorrow. Even if I do, well, I will probably still be average.

Man’s Best Friend

My life started with Jeannie. She was a yellow lab and she was the sweetest thing. She’d let me sleep in her bed; dress her up; and race her through our garden, without ever questioning me. I was the tiny human she was protecting.

I don’t know how often I’ve heard the story of me sleeping in my crib in the garden when I was a baby and a delivery guy walked in, apparently too close in Jeannie’s opinion. She got protective over me and bit him in the butt, chasing him straight out the door. What a good girl.

Two weeks before her seventeenth birthday, she had a stroke. I remember that morning so clearly. It was a Saturday, blue skies already so early in the morning, which is rare. I saw Jeannie lying outside in our garden, my parents sitting in the grass next to her. They looked so sad, so upset. They told me she had a stroke, but eight year old me didn’t know what that meant. I told her it was all okay, that she’d get better. I promised her. But, my dad had already called the vet to put her down.

Later that day, we went to my grandparents’ house to burry her next to Lea, another yellow lab who had died years earlier. I remember the last time I saw her, my dad told us to say goodbye. She looked so tired and ready to go to dog heaven.

My parents said they wouldn’t want to get another dog for another five years, but  a few months later, we got Pepper.

When we visited Pepper and his brothers for the first time, I’d never seen a dog get so competitive over food. He was just a little, black dumpling with fur, so clumsy and already so, so sweet.

I can’t believe it’s been seven years since we got him. We taught him everything you would expect children to teach a dog: we taught him to jump, hop on tree trunks, roll over, play dead, balance food on his nose, shake, sit on chais, and probably so much more that I just can’t think of.

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One thing you must know about Pepper, that I’ve just mentioned, is that he would do anything for food. But, also, that he would eat anything in this world. When he was four months old, he ate my sock straight from my foot. A year later, he ate my toy horse, some tape, and another sock. He ate an entire mango, including the pit, and a whole loaf of bread, making him so sick that we had to bring him to the vet. One time, he wanted to eat the raspberries in our garden, but,, instead swallowed an entire branch of the bush, which obviously got stuck in his throat and had to be surgically removed. He still has a scar from it, that idiot.

When I left to go to boarding school, the thing I missed the most was him. I begged and begged my parents to bring him with us to California and they did. Right now, he’s 10,000 kilometers away from home. He loves the beach, the American food, the attention he gets for his shiny coat, and his smile. What a dog.

I don’t know how many more dogs I will have throughout my life, but I sure hope it’s a lot. I can’t imagine myself without a dog and I hope I’ll never have to. They certainly deserve to be called man’s best friend.

The Curse of The Writer’s Block

We all know writer’s block. You want to type and create, but, no matter what you throw on to your page, it pretty much sucks.

Sometimes, you have an idea you want to write about. You keep trying and trying and typing and deleting and editing and, eventually, slamming your head on the keyboard. Sometimes, you don’t even have anything to write about and, honestly, that’s just a lost cause then.

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I don’t think I’ve ever had as much writer’s block as this year. I have so much I need to write. Reading journals. Blog posts. Articles. 10 billion college essays. And, most of the time, I cry over my weirdly-constructed sentences that took me 5 hours to write.

So, what do I do? What I find to be surprisingly helpful is to write. Just write anything. Write about your day, about your favorite food, about anything you can possibly put into words. Scribble in your notebook, your journal; just write anything. At one point, the nonsense you are putting down on your page will turn into something somewhat comprehensible. Keep writing and, at one point, you will be back to where your true writing capability actually is.

Writer’s block is a curse, a spell put onto students to make them even more frustrated and mentally unstable than they already are. But, don’t worry, it’s only temporary!