I suppose this is the end. My last blog. The last post I write, and the last one I publish. The last piece of writing I do for Ojai Valley School – the place that has taught me how to write.
I came to school my freshman year having written essays before, but only formal, structured pieces for English class. I’ve always been one to write down my thoughts – I carry around a journal and have always documented my raw emotions. But before coming to OVS, I had never shared my writing with others.
Freshman year, I sat down in my first Humanities class, unaware of the flood of writing to come. Reading journals galore, I had little blurbs of writing due once or twice a week. Those reading journals were analytical, but they allowed me to delve into my thoughts and share my own interpretation of the material – something I had never done for school before.
And I think those reading journals, back in freshman year Humanities, bridged the gap between writing for myself and writing for school. And that allowed me to delve into Journalism, which introduced me to writing for others.
Fast forward four years. Here I am, at the end of senior year. Freshman year, I learned the value of my own thoughts in writing. And sophomore year, when I started taking Journalism, I truly learned the wonder of writing. I found my voice, and learned how to tell stories. I learned how to paint pictures of other people’s accomplishments and what goes on around campus. I learned to blog – to write metaphorically, and to eloquently share my deepest, most honest emotions. I truly learned to put my thoughts into words, and to fearlessly share them with the world.
So, again, here I am, writing my last blog post. I have written all sorts of blog posts over the past three years – ones that are funny, sad, sarcastic and honest. And now I have to wrap it up. This is the last thing I will write this year, for any class. The last bit of work I do before I graduate, the last bit of work I do in high school.
That’s pretty crazy.
Today is Wednesday, May 31st. On Friday, June 2nd, I graduate. I’m beyond excited, but also terrified. It doesn’t feel real. I always knew I’d get to this point, but now that I’m here it’s hard to grasp. It’s hard to believe that it’s me. I’m about to graduate high school. I’m about to be in college.
I can’t believe I made it. I know that’s a cliché thing to say, but I really mean it. These past four years have been pretty hectic. But here I am. T minus two days and I’ll be walking across the stage.
And I can’t wait.
I’m sad to be leaving – OVS has done so much for me and I’m going to miss it. All my friends, all my teachers, they’re going to be hard to leave. But OVS has prepared me well for college, and now I’m ready to move forward.
So goodbye and thank you to OVS, to Journalism, and all the writing I’ve done here. It’s the end of an era, and a great one too.
I walk across the beach, the warm sand sifting beneath my feet. The soles of my feet burn as each sun-tinted grain touches my skin. I curl up my feet, feeling the sand between each of my toes. I take a deep breath of the salty air and look up toward the sun, closing my eyes, letting the sun’s rays wash over my skin.
(Photo Credit: atlantisbahamas.com)
I walk toward the water, the sand growing cooler and spongier under my feet. I stop, letting my feet sink into the wet sand. I relax and let my weight fall, seeing how far down I can go.
I take another step forward and dip my big toe in the water. The salt is tingly on my skin, and I ease my foot in. The water is cold, but refreshing. I take another step. I ease in to my ankles, then my knees, then my waist. I stand in the water, feeling the current course throughout my body.
I take another step. The water is up to my neck. The waves crash over me, pushing me down. I am completely submerged. I try to swim to the surface, but I can’t tell which way is up. The water is colder now, too cold, and the salt is stinging my skin. I am tossed around as the violent, churning water surrounds me. My eyes burn as I search for light.
I am caught in a vortex of water, spinning around and around, unable to break free. The waves are choppy and the water is cold – the warm, soft sand only a memory from the past. Seconds feel like minutes as I continue to struggle against the water that holds me prisoner. The once clear, gentle, welcoming water has turned dark and cold. It pulls me toward its depths, holding me tight in its grasp.
(Photo Credit: brigadewakesurfing.com)
I am starting to run out of air. Lights flicker behind my eyelids as my lungs flutter from deprivation. I can’t breathe – I am being suffocated. I toss and turn as the water pulls me down, down, deeper, deeper.
I can just make out the bottom in the distance – a faint line of dark, jagged rocks. I am afraid of striking them, and I struggle even harder. I can see a light now, but I don’t know where it’s from. It could be the surface, or the light dancing behind my eyes. The light flickers, taunting me. Still bound by the waves, I struggle to move toward it. I’m afraid to get too close. I don’t know what the light means. I don’t know if it’s coming from the surface, or if it’s something far worse – I don’t want to go the wrong way.
I am beginning to lose consciousness. My vision is going blurry, the edges are starting to go dark. The waves are enveloping me, suffocating me, before I have time to choose. I have no strength left, and no more power to fight.
I force my eyes open and struggle to remove myself from the water’s grasp. I can’t move. The waves control me, pulling me down, down, down. I hit the rocks and the light is gone. I couldn’t decide.
How do babies choose their families? Is it a game of chance – the roll of a dice, or a pick from a hat? Or is it the stork, who flies down and delivers each baby bundle to warm, expecting hands?
Sure, babies are genetic. We’ve all heard about the birds and the bees. Each family will have a child made up of an assortment of their genes (with the exception of adoption, donor insemination, etc.) But I’m talking about what’s inside. Look past eye color, or skin tone. Everybody has a soul, or a spirit – whatever you want to call it. Everybody has something inside, something intangible, that makes them truly them.
And how does each soul end up where it does? In some families, all members fit together like puzzle pieces. All their spirits fit in and work together, and it is clear that each soul is meant to be there. But in other families, souls just clash. One might belong to a puzzle depicting a mountain, but the other to a valley. They clearly don’t fit together – so why did these contrasting souls end up together?
Is the work of some greater force, with a reason for bringing certain souls together? Is it an occurrence under the pretense that everything happens for a reason? Or is it just that game of chance? Maybe souls land where they do for a reason – through a complex, calculated plan that is fueled by purpose. Or maybe souls just float around, and wherever they happen to land is correct. For some, it is where they are meant to be. And for others, it’s not.
Two weeks ago, I arrived in Berlin, Germany, the city of hole-in-the-wall cafes and miscellaneous shops,historical monuments and tourist attractions. The city where graffiti paints the streets, which are lined with well-dressed twenty-somethings smoking cigarette after cigarette.
The city where people young and old gossip over coffee, talking late into the night, until their coffee fades into wine. The city bursting with history – where every grand, old building comes with stories about the war and battles that ensued years ago.
And it was this city, that, for those two weeks, I was lucky enough to call home.
I was going to stay with a woman named Alda, my mom’s best friend and an old family friend. She took care of me when I was a baby, but I hadn’t seen her for eight years. I had no idea what to expect.
The second I boarded my plane in Portland, it hit me. I had an 11 hour flight ahead of me, I was going to a foreign country – a different continent – and just then I realized what I was truly getting myself into. I didn’t speak a word of German, and already on the plane, everything was in a foreign language.
When I stepped onto that plane, still in the U.S., I stepped out of my comfort zone.. And looking back, it was the best decision I could have made.
Eleven hours and two flights later, I landed in Berlin. It was late afternoon local time, but for me it felt like the middle of the night. I was in the middle of a busy, bustling airport, and I knew no one. I felt like I was in a movie, in one of those scenes where the camera just pans around and around, turning all the commotion into one big blur.
I finally spotted a familiar face – Alda’s housemate, Bogdan, a 26 year old from Romania – who was there to pick me up. We took the metro back to the apartment – public transit is the most common form of transportation in Berlin. Over the few weeks, I learned to navigate the various subways, busses and trains.
It was about 45 minutes from the airport to the apartment. On the ride, Bogdan told me the ways of the city – where it was cool to hang out and where to avoid – and he pointed out the various attractions that make Berlin the city it is.
I got my first glimpse of the Berlin Wall, as well as the Berlin TV Tower, which, aside from being a TV Tower, is also the tallest building in all of Germany. It looms over the city, and, I learned, can be seen from almost anywhere. It resembles the Space Needle, with a huge sphere about halfway up, in which there is a restaurant. Anyone who is lucky enough to get aboard the elevator gets to go to the restaurant, which supposedly spins slowly, providing diners with a 360˚ view of the city. Sadly, I was not among those who were lucky enough to get that experience.
However, there is no doubt in my mind that I lived Berlin to its full extent.
Back at the apartment building, I discovered that Alda lived on the fourth floor. That meant eight flights of stairs, and 88 stairs exactly – I counted. I soon grew to despise those stairs. Somehow, we managed to lug my suitcase up all eight flights, and after countless hours of traveling I had finally made it.
I was so happy to see Alda after all this time. She herself never had kids but took care of me, so I’m like the daughter she never had. She obviously remembered me better than I did her, though we grew much closer over the following weeks.
During my first week in Berlin, Alda had exams, so I was mostly on my own. We ate breakfast and dinner together, but for the majority of the day I was left to explore the city.
I didn’t know a thing about the area, but with a map in one hand and a transportation ticket in the other, I set out.
Alda lives in East Berlin – the more laid-back, hippie side of the city. My first day there I fell in love with the vibe – the people, the culture, etc. – everything and everyone was so relaxed, and anything seemed to go. I fit right in.
Over the next few days I explored various neighborhoods, and got a feel for where I was and what was near me. No matter where I went, there was at least one coffee shop on each block, and an abundance of cute shops. I did some shopping, and I think, at this point, I was made of coffee.
I fell in love, however, with one particular part of town. It was about a 15 minute metro ride to get there, to this one funky street, where the buildings were plastered with years of peeling posters, and graffiti coated any open surface. This street had shops and restaurants from all cultures, and littering the streets were every type of person imaginable.
Next to this street was the Spree River, a river that flows through Berlin. This one section though, was my favorite. Berlin is filled with bridges, but the one that crossed here, the Oberbaum Bridge, was by far the most beautiful. On one side of the Spree River was this street, and on the other side was a portion of the Berlin Wall, and the East Side Gallery, an open air art gallery created by the wall itself.
Between this street and the wall, this river was my favorite place to spend time. I liked to sit at the waterfront, at a little park filled with people laughing and talking, drinking and just relaxing.
I brought a journal with me on my travels – a leather-bound book filled with all of my thoughts and observations – where I’ve documented every single thing I’ve done. I take it with me everywhere, and it was in this neighborhood, at the waterfront, that I most enjoyed writing.
While I spent a lot of time walking through streets and exploring shops, I also spent a lot of time in parks. I visited multiple throughout the city, and all were beautiful. I loved to just sit and write, as well as people-watch and take in everything around me. It made me feel connected the city and everything around me.
A few days later, Bogdan’s brother and his friend came to visit. They were two 20 year olds, and so the house was full. (Alda has yet another housemate – Daniel – but I rarely ever saw him, so he doesn’t really count.) I didn’t spend too much time with them, given that they mostly spoke in Romanian, but one night we went to this city-wide pride party, and it was an experience, to say the least.
That day, Berlin had held its annual pride parade, known as Christopher Street Day, so naturally there was a party afterwards. It was to this party that everyone filtered after the parade, and it was filled with characters. There were countless people dancing and singing, people in crazy costumes and lack thereof. It seemed as if the entire city was there. The party was celebrating pride, but people of all shapes and sizes, and from all backgrounds were there – people just came to party. It was crazy, and an experience I’ll never forget.
My second week here I was able to spend more time with Alda. She insisted I see all that Berlin is made of, so together, we explored all that it encompassed.
We did some “touristy” things – we went to museums, and saw famous buildings and monuments; we even took a bus around to see some of these features. I had to have one day of being a true tourist.
There was more to my stay, but if I wrote each and every thing I would end up with 100 pages. But to sum it up, I got to see and learn about history, meet friends, new and old, eat incredible food, and just overall, experience Berlin.
And I don’t think there’s much more I could have asked for.
I hate to be one of those people complaining about the hardship that is junior year, or all the work piling up as finals approach and the year comes to an end.
Yet here I am.
I am beyond stressed out, to put it frankly. As finals are getting closer, teachers are assigning huge projects and cramming in tests, which are piling up and overlapping. There are two weeks until finals start, and I think it’s safe to say that for me, they will be the busiest weeks of the school year.
I know that everyone is complaining about the amount of work that has been assigned, as well as the chaos surrounding the end of the year, but I have legitimate reason to complain – I have so much going on.
Everyone says that junior year is the hardest year. I’ve always been told that this year brings about the most work, and is the most stressful. Well the proof is in the pudding – I have so much to do, and am a little ball of stress. I can’t wait for the year to be over!
When I was in kindergarten, we had nap time every day. We would come back inside after recess each day, and without fail there would be mats laid out all over the classroom floor. We would each have to pick a mat, and once we laid down, that was where we had to stay for an hour without getting up.
I hated nap time. All the kids did. But now, I would give anything for it.
During that hour, we had to lay on our mats quietly – we could read if we didn’t want to sleep, but we couldn’t visit with friends. We were always so restless, watching the clock and counting down the minutes until the hour was over.
Now in high school, having an hour of nap time during the school day would be luxurious. I am constantly sleep deprived after staying up into the small hours of the morning working on homework, and I can say definitively that I would take FULL advantage of an allotted nap time.
All I can say is that as high schoolers, I think we deserve nap time.