One Year

One year ago I remember clearly.

I had my guitar on my shoulder, leaving the warm dorms to trek across the chilly campus to my weekly music lesson, but the air was different than usual.

Everyone was huddled outside, talking as they saw smoke in the distance and hues of red burning in the sky that felt so distant at that moment.

“Are you really going to your lesson right now? There’s a fire,” my friend asked me.

Of course I would go to my lesson. It was my favorite part of Monday nights. Plus, the fire was nowhere near us, nothing would happen, and nothing would change.

Oh, how I was wrong.

Everything changed.

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Yet, so many things stayed the same.

One year later, I’m getting ready to go to my Monday night guitar lesson.

I have a new guitar, but it means so much more now. I appreciate it more now.

I’m still in a dorm room, wondering what I’ll be getting for secret snowflake tomorrow.

But I’m in a new dorm room, with a new roommate, on a new part of campus.

I don’t have the same clothes I had a year ago. The same photos, yearbooks, or blankets.

But, I have the photos I’ve taken since then.

My stuffed animal and All Time Low pillow I saved from the fire.

I still have the memories of the fire.

The ones that haunt me.

The ones that bring me to tears thinking about what I lost, what my friends lost, and what the whole school lost.

But, the memories remind me of how I became a stronger person since.

How my friends became stronger.

How the school became stronger.

How the county’s stronger.

More united.

More appreciated.

I still remember the day I returned from Christmas break and stepped on to campus and moved into the new dorms.

Being welcomed by overwhelming support, welcome back goodie bags, and hugs from my friends.

Seeing my horse for the first time since the fire and knowing he was safe and healthy. That all the other horses were safe.

The fire was so destructive, so horrible, but so many things came out of it that I’m more thankful now for than ever.

It’s been one year and I’m still sensitive to the scent of smoke and fire, to the sound of news about other California fires on the TV.

But, one year later, the mountains are a little greener.

My home is still stronger than ever.

And that’s the most beautiful thing of all.

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Goodbye

Over Thanksgiving break, I had to make so many goodbyes.

To my childhood stuffed animals, the ones I didn’t want to let go, but the ones I knew I wouldn’t really take anywhere with me. So, I gave them away instead.

To the pajama shorts my mom bought for me at Walmart in third grade, the ones that surprisingly fit me all the way to twelfth grade. Even though they still fit, it was time to throw them out when they were ripping away at their fragile seams.

To the room I spent weekends in at my grandparents’ house growing up, Now, it’s being remodeled. Things that meant so much to me back then are meaningless now, packed away in stacked boxes.

But there was one goodbye I haven’t made yet, because I’m too scared to accept the fact that now might be the time I need to say goodbye.

And that’s to my dog. When I was in first grade and my mom went to pick me up from school, she told me she had a surprise for my sister and I. The first thing that came to my mind was candy, but when she was opening the back door to the car, I was not expecting my sister to be holding a six-month-old, Rhodesian Ridgeback-German Shepherd mix puppy rescued from the pound.

Now, twelve years later, that dog is still in my life, but so much has changed.

It started with him being by my side every single day.

Then, when I moved away, I could only visit on weekends.

Then, life went on and visits turned into rare occasions when I’d go to my grandparents house. When I’d enter the house, he’d come running up to me, barking, and wagging his tail.

Now, he’s still there, but he’s older. He doesn’t run, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he can’t. He still follows me around the house, though, his tail still wagging. It’s still wagging even when he lies down, but the pain is still there. It’s obvious and it hurts me knowing it hurts him.

Having pets is one of the most joyful and painful parts about life. Because they bring so much joy, so many happy memories, but, also, so much pain when they’re gone.

But, he fought so hard for so long and I know that it’d be selfish to hold on longer. That if he needs to go and it’s his time, then he should. He should know that he was the best dog I’ve ever had the privilege to have.

I didn’t say goodbye. I gave millions of kisses and hugs, but my goodbye was temporary. It held a promise that I’d be back to see him again, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep that promise.  I don’t know how long he’ll be around and I don’t know how long it’ll be until I visit again.

I’m so scared to say goodbye, so I won’t. I’ll say I love my dog. I’ll say I’m thankful that he lived with me throughout my life and that he is so strong for fighting though he doesn’t have to. And that he’ll always be the best dog, my dog, no matter what happens.

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What I’m Grateful For

So many things happened in 2018. Shootings, wildfires, and many other tragic events. In the midst of all the chaos and catastrophe the world is facing right now, it’s the small things in life that make me the most thankful and make life enjoyable.

My horse who always waits for me at the end of the school day.

For my roommate, who deals with me screaming in confusion and frustration at Criminal Minds and who also deals with my annoying rants and constant requests for food.

Being able to go home after being away at boarding school and knowing it wasn’t destroyed by the California fires.

For my friends, who are always there for me even if I’m not the nicest friend at times.

Seeing my top three favorite bands in only three months.

And that all those bands have recently released new music.

Opening up my mail box and seeing my first college acceptance.

Getting a $20,000 annual scholarship for that accepted school.

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Seeing my dog when I drive back home today, knowing that he’ll be wagging his tail and running towards me when I arrive.

Still being really close friends with the girls from my old school.

That my back fracture doesn’t affect me from riding.

In two months, I’ll be eighteen years old.

The stars that put me to sleep and the sun that wakes me up.

For broadway musicals, that it’s almost been one year since I’ve seen Hamilton.

For living so close to Disneyland and living on the beach.

For getting to learn something new every day.

For becoming a better version of myself every day.

For finally accepting myself for every physical quirk, every mental flaw and knowing that my days where I’m at rock bottom last temporarily. That when those days end, there are still so many things I can be thankful for.

Enough Is Enough

February 14th, 2018, a day supposed to symbolize love, will now forever be a reminder to students, friends, and families of how seventeen students were murdered in the last place kids should have to worry about being killed – a school.

October 27th, 2018, was the day when eleven Jews were killed in a synagogue, a place of worship.

November 7th, 2018, was the day college students were enjoying a night out at a bar and 12 people were murdered.

All of these people died at shootings. All of theses deaths were at the hands of horribly evil people with easy access to guns.

When will enough be enough?

How many people have to die until change happens?

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How many parents have to send their kids to school one day not knowing if they’ll ever get to see their child again?

How many kids have to walk into school every day and go through classes scared of the possibility of being put on lockdown, getting injured, or getting killed?

How many people have to say goodbye to their best friends, partners, and loved ones?

The answer is too many, because people would rather have their rights to guns than have children live.

The right for someone to live should override the right for someone to have a gun.

Yes, guns don’t kill people, people do, but people use guns to kill. People have such easy access to guns that the line blurs and guns themselves are just as much of a threat as the people who have the right to hold them.

We’re not asking to outlaw guns, but we’re asking for restrictions. We’re asking to make schools safe again. To enjoy time at concerts, restaurants, churches, mosques, and synagogues without having to be afraid of being shot at.

Because enough is enough and change needs to happen.

Time Flies By

When I think about May 31st, 2019, I think about what I’m leaving behind when I walk across the amphitheater to get my high school diploma.

I’m leaving behind the campus I’ve called my home the past four years, the classes where I challenged myself and found my passions, and the teachers who helped me find those passions. I’m leaving behind my friends, who I won’t see at breakfast every morning or go on camping trips with anymore.

These last four years weren’t always easy. As much as I’ve loved them, they were some of the most challenging years of my life. But, one thing made life away from home just a little easier to manage and it wasn’t my teachers or friends.

It was my horse. A bay, appendix quarter horse named Time who I’ve been riding since my freshman year. My family always asks me what I’ll miss the most about OVS when I leave and the answer is always the same: Time.

When the Thomas Fire came on December 4th, 2017, I panicked as we were evacuating on the bus thinking my horse wasn’t going to make it out alive. I cried myself to sleep, despite the constant reassurances. Over the summer, I ended up crying again when I went three months without riding and, more specifically, without riding Time. I don’t know what’s going to happen when I have to say goodbye to him during the last week of school knowing that it’ll be the last goodbye. Knowing hat I won’t be getting back on once summer is over. Knowing that one day, towards the end of May, I will untack for the last time and possibly never get back on him. That, the following September, he’ll get a new rider and I’ll be at a university in a completely different city. I hope that rider loves that freaking horse as much as I do, though. Sometimes I wonder if that’s possible.

So many things happened the last four years with Time by my side. I went with him to my first horse show, on my first horse camping trip, my first dressage clinic, and my first injury, which he gave me after he threw me off at said horse show. Even though I got a fractured back, the story was still funny and memorable.

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I can imagine leaving OVS and going off to college, but I can’t imagine leaving Time. I can’t imagine my school day not consisting of me going to the barn at the end of the day and getting on him whether the lesson ends up going well or not. I wish I could take him with me to college, but it’s probably not possible.

Last Friday, my aunt and uncle came to watch me ride. “I don’t understand how some people just let go of their horses or sell them,” my aunt said. “They’re pets too.”

Time may have not be mine legally, but he is mine. At least, I like to say he is and, at least, many other people thought Time was mine before I told them he wasn’t. But, he is my horse. The horse I’ve ridden for all of high school and the animal I’ve developed a bond with.

I’m not ready to let Time go, but I’ll have to and I will. Even if it might be one of the most painful things I’ll ever have to do.

Heartbroken

A couple days ago, my friend said to someone that it triggered her seeing couples affectionate in public, because it reminded her of how her ex wasn’t around anymore.

I added onto the conversation by saying that’s how I felt the past three years, not the missing an ex, but about being affected by seeing couples in public.

She responded by saying it wasn’t the same and I understood it wasn’t the same; that I haven’t experienced letting go of someone you’ve loved for so long.

But, being alone the whole time sucks just as much and I wish she understood that, because she pushed my feeling aside as if it didn’t matter how I have been feeling for most of my high school years.

The last three years, I watched my best friends fall in love and have boyfriends who loved them just as much and I was all alone. My subconscious constantly reminded me that they would always choose their boyfriends first, that they would always love them more. I don’t really blame them, though. If I had someone like that and a relationship like that in my life, I’d probably feel the same way, act the same way, and be the same way. It still hurts being the fifth wheel, instead of simply being a friend. It still hurts knowing no one would feel that way about me. I knew they were happy, though, and I supported their happiness. But, all I wanted was that they knew the slightest bit how it felt for me.

I’m always the one to say I don’t care about relationships. I say that I’m not clingy enough to be a girlfriend or that I’m too focused on friendships, academics, and equestrian to even think about being in one. In reality, that was a big, fat lie. I guess it’s not the relationship itself I craved, but wishing to be someone’s treasure or world, to have someone love me as much as I love them, even for a short period of time. I hope they’re thankful for it forever, even if it wasn’t permanent, because it’s something I’ve never experienced yet.

And something I’m scared I never will.

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Emo Nite Day

Maybe it hasn’t been my year, but it has definitely been my weekend, because, on Saturday, I got to see my favorite band for the fifth time.

This time was the first time I’ve ever been to Emo Nite Day. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting to happen, but the experience was way better than I ever could’ve imagined.

First of all, I never thought I’d be in a room full of hundreds of people jamming out to iconic emo songs, like I Write Sins Not Tragedies and Welcome to the Black Parade. The crowd during those DJ sets was just as exciting and wild as when the bands came on. It was an incredible feeling to scream all the lyrics with people who were screaming along with me and weren’t judging if my voice was horrible or not (sorry to the people near me because my voice was, in fact, horrible and really, really loud).

Saturday was the first time I ever got to see 30H!3 live. I only became a big fan recently, but their songs were still a big part of my childhood and I went crazy when they went on stage.

Then, I saw Mayday Parade. The last time I saw them was in seventh grade, but my friend and I continuously joked about how they never came to So-Cal. The times they did decide to come on their tours were weekdays or vacations when we were both out of town. Mayday Parade was one of my favorite bands during middle school, but I lost hope of seeing them live again.

But, I screamed when I heard they would be playing at Emo Nite Day alongside All Time Low and my middle school dreams were coming true. I was finally seeing Mayday Parade again and I got to hear Jersey, my favorite song by them, for a second time.

At the end of the night, after standing for six hours for the moment I’ve been waiting for since I bought tickets in August, All Time Low came on stage. The set was only an hour long, but they played all my favorite songs including Stella. Saturday night was the first time I ever heard that song live and I have the video to prove it, though my voice was louder than the singer’s voice in the microphone. Besides that, I finally checked off sitting on someone’s shoulders at a concert (Shoutout to my friend for keeping me on her shoulders for that long. Sorry I killed your neck, oops).

I know it’s biased because they’re my favorite band, but All Time Low performs the best concerts ever. During one of their songs, they released giant glow-in-the-dark beach balls into the crowd. There were always crowd surfers and people kept head-banging, singing, and jumping up and down during the choruses. Then, during Dear Maria, Count Me In, Luke from 5SOS came on stage and, while I’m not the biggest fan now, they were my favorite band alongside All Time Low in middle school. My former emo self was having the time of her life. They have the most unproblematic fan base, zero drama involving the band, and their concerts possess an energy that is always positive and happy.

I’m thankful for that night. For being able to head into LA for the night and let go of all the stress and drama of senior year and hold on to only good vibes from the evening. I know Emo Nite Day is only once a year, but I can’t wait to go again in the future.

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