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.

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.

Photo Credit: pbs.org

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.

This Blog was an English Assignment.

“At a certain season of our life we are accustomed to consider every spot as the possible site of a house.”  (Thoreau) Write a description of your “home” or your many “homes.”  You may write about the home you have or the home you dream of having in your future.

Photo Credit: afterorangecounty.com

I’ve lived in one house for my entire life, nestled in between two mountain peaks that form the Ojai valley. There are only seven houses on my street, but it was an entire world to explore for my neighbors and me when we were five. We used to walk down to the end of the street and admire the sunset illuminating the overgrown grass and painted white fences. Home, to me, is the smell of the pepper trees that lined the end of the road, forming a green and red arch, as if to welcome me to the end of the cul-de-sac. Sometimes I wish I could go back to those days, when time passed so much slower, when it felt like summer all year long.

For as long as I can remember, the ocean is where I find peace. I can’t exactly describe why, but Solimar Beach is a magical place. Home, to me, is poking my toe in the center of a sea anemone, giggling as it squirts water back at me, as its turquoise and bright green tentacles stick to my skin. Home is my dad lifting me up onto his shoulders, then scouring the tidepools, searching for different creatures. As we wade further out into the shallow water, he teaches me about the tides, then we stop for a while to watch the sun sink below the horizon. Solimar is the place I will always want to return to for the rest of my life.

I like to think that, someday, I will make a home everywhere. I’ll sit on the balcony of my tiny apartment in Madrid or Barcelona, peering through my neighbors’ laundry, hung up to dry on clothes lines, down at the bustling city below. I’ll enjoy the morning sun as I sip coffee with condensed milk – a flavor that I despise now, but I think, someday, I’ll come to enjoy. I will smile, knowing that I’m there alone. I’m not sure how long I will be there for, probably not more than a year. After that, I’ll move on to somewhere new. I’ll live in a rainy forest along the Oregon coast, then I’ll go work at a school in Argentina or Chile. I’ll work on a ranch in Mexico, outside of a small fishing town. I don’t really care where I go; I just want to see the world.

It is true that home is where the heart is, but my heart is everywhere, I think. Growing up in a tiny town has made me appreciate the things that are routine. I love the fact that I could probably draw a map of my hometown purely from memory. It’s incredibly comforting to know a place so well that it becomes a part of you. But it has also instilled in me a desire to leave what is comfortable, to explore and to experience every place, culture, and way of life that is different from mine. A home is a place where you can come back to time and time again, and know that you belong, where you would go to without any hesitation. I’m lucky to have places like these.

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.

Photo Credit: upload.wikimedia.org

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.

 

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.

Photo Credit: Pinterest

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.

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)