From wildfires, wildflowers.

Credit: strandedonland.com

Everything’s been a little different since the fire.

The drive back home is darker now. The trees seem angrier, defeated.

Even now, when the breeze picks up it stirs around the ashes that had settled into the dirt, the ashes that first arrived over six months ago.

I can still remember it so vividly. I can still smell the smoke, I can feel the ashes burning my eyes. I remember how hard it was to breathe. The air was thick and the world was sluggish and grey. For awhile I forgot that the sky wasn’t normally orange. The wind was hot. Everything felt dirty.

I can still picture seeing what was left of my uncle’s house for the first time. The home and business that he had spent so long building was reduced to a pile of black dust and scrap metal and crumbling rocks. I wonder how long it took.

My brother found a metal garden sign buried in the rubble. It read one word. Simplify.

How ironic can the world be? The fire had already taken everything from my uncle, so why, at the last second, did it feel the need to cough up a message telling him to simplify?

I was angry for a long time. I was sad. Our little town doesn’t deserve this, I thought.

But slowly, I’m starting to think maybe there are some good things that have come out of this, scattered all around.

The hills were black for a long time. And then it finally rained. So the grass started to grow, and trees that I’d assumed to be dead starting sprouting leaves again.

And now, there are hundreds of wildflowers blooming all over the ground. I’ve never seen some of these flowers before in my fifteen years of living here.

Credit: wildnatureimages.com

Before the fire the hills were dark green and brown, earthy. During the fire they were red. After, they were black, scorched. But now, they’re speckled with blues, yellows, purples, light greens, and covered with orange California poppies.

The only way that they are able to bloom is because the brush above them was burned away.

Maybe there’s some irony in that too. But I think it’s also very beautiful in a way.

And it’s the little things like these that we have to be thankful for.

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Me, for example.

It’s strange how people can change without even being aware of it.

Take me, for example.

image via Pinterest.com

I used to have so much more to say but now I just have so much more to think.

There was never a conscious decision.

I never told myself, “Today’s the day I’m gonna grow up!”

I think it just happens gradually, it takes lots of time.

I think part of getting older is becoming more self-aware and learning new things about yourself.

I started to notice that things were changing when I discovered that my parents opinions aren’t always the same as mine; when I realized that even though it’s difficult sometimes, I am allowed to think for myself.

I started to see that someone’s bad decision shouldn’t define who they are as a person.

My friends tell me that I’m different than I used to be.

“It’s not a bad thing, or a good thing. It’s just a thing, you know?”

But I believe there is a lot of good that can come from change. I think that being different than I was before means that I’ve learned a lot and that I’ve started to become who I’m supposed to be – who I want to be.

Maybe I have changed, but I’m okay with that.

 

 

college day dreams

I’m a sophomore, far enough away from college, but ever since I was in the seventh grade, all anyone’s been asking me during family reunions or Christmas is college questions.

When you’re younger you feel like you have no weight on your shoulders and have your whole life to figure these things out, but now as I’m sitting in the Journalism room, staring at the college counseling books stacked on the brown shelf in front of me, varying in different sizes, holding the futures of so many students, I realize that I have no idea what I want to do. I then turn to my left and see the wheel of felt college banners shaped in a circle which are where many students go and will continue to go.

My family has all these big life plans for me, which sound great and all, but I’m not sure that’s what I want.

And everything matters now, these are the final years before adulthood, where every mistake you make, every bad test grade you receive, every thing you say and write matters; your whole life is being documented.

Photo Credit: arabamericannews.com

This begins to make me think.

As I’m sitting in my living room staring at the French doors which open to my courtyard, filling out applications for college summer programs all over the country, I’m trying to write about myself as a student and about my life, but it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.

This makes me realize how much I haven’t done in life; I’m finally transferring out of my childhood, out of my adolescence, leaving my past behind as I take on the next chapter in my life.

I watch all the movies where life seems to fall into place for so many people, and their whole life is figured out. They go on a date with their dream boy, and lie beneath the stars staring up into the heavens picturing what their life could be together, but I haven’t had that, and who knows if I ever will.

You never realize how much is passing you by, and how many opportunities you’re missing.

Changing

It’s crazy how fast people change.

It feels like just yesterday when my childhood friends and I were placing graham crackers in our kindergarten cubbies for our Thumbelina dolls to eat, or sitting under the big, protective oak tree, hiding acorns from the boys in our class.

Flash-forward ten years and here we are today, possibly closer than ever, but yet there is a division between us, and secrets hiding underneath the smiles flashed to each other.

We sit down at the plastic lunch tables, and pretend to laugh at jokes we don’t get. We then walk away, our group separates, and we don’t see each other until the next class.

It’s weird to think we would hide anything from each other but maybe I did something that changed that. It’s hard to not always blame yourself, for things you know aren’t your fault, but maybe someone else thinks they are.

You try to confide in people who you once would, but things are uncomfortable, so you tuck your feelings away. And at last, your childhood friends are falling into different groups, and, finally, your group is divided.

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

 

Exhausted

Image Credit: Celestialhairgallery.com

For the girls: a few questions.

Isn’t it exhausting? Exhausting to have a standard already set for what makes a woman beautiful? Everywhere you look, you see a beautiful girl with beautiful hair, skin, and eyes, a beautiful smile and a beautiful body, a girl who looks nothing like you. She doesn’t seem to look like anyone you’ve ever met before, either, except for the hundreds of other girls you see on billboards or magazines. Those girls all look alike.

Isn’t it exhausting that from the time you are born, you are programmed to think that the basis of your worth comes from the extent of your beauty? Why is so much of your importance based on your physical appearance, when really it shouldn’t matter at all?

How long have you felt the pressures of upholding the image of a “woman”? Since as long as you’ve been able to communicate, you are told what you should and should not do or say, how to act, and even how to sit properly.

Isn’t it exhausting to feel like you’re never good enough? Isn’t it exhausting to be chastised for speaking your mind or disagreeing with someone, to feel guilty for eating a big meal? Doesn’t it frustrate you to think that you might not be paid the same amount as the man sitting in the desk next to you and who signed the same contract as you?

Do you get angry? When you have too much contact with the opposite sex- you’re flirtatious and need attention, but when you don’t engage with men- you’re a prude.

Isn’t it exhausting to always be comparing yourself to, competing with, and feeling threatened by other strong and capable women? Girls shouldn’t have to feel this way about each other; girls should want to support each other. Do you ever try so hard to make everyone else appreciate you that you forget to appreciate yourself?

Why is it okay for your brother to tell a sexual joke, but God forbid a sister should make one, for then it becomes “disappointing” and “irresponsible.” Why in third grade PE do the boys have to do twenty push-ups, but the girls can only do ten “girl” push-ups? Why do boys use the phrase “like a girl” as a way to insult one another, why should boys be warned not to “throw like a girl”?

Isn’t it exhausting to always be made so aware of how you look? To feel self conscious about even your chipped nail polish because a boy commented on it, to feel uncomfortable walking past groups of men on the street for fear of hearing how pretty you look in that little dress.

Why are skinny girls the only ones allowed to wear certain clothes, the only ones you see in advertisements? Does it make you sad to think about how strongly society correlates being thin to being beautiful?

And why is it- no matter what- everything always comes back to your physical appearance?

Being a girl myself, I think I can sum up the answer to these questions, on behalf of all girls: Yes. It does make us sad, and angry, and frustrated. It is exhausting – and we’re tired of it.

roadblock

falling in love is like learning to drive.

at first, you stop too often,

jumpy,

and look

left and right 

left and right 

left and right

before easing your way into

the intersection.

you make your first turn;

you drive past another car

unscathed.

you learn how to

drive on your side of the road,

learn the

boundaries

of your lane.

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

before you know it,

before it hits you,

you’re picking up speed,

forgetting to turn on your signals.

you start to yield less at night,

but hey,

you haven’t hit anyone yet.

now, you have your permit,

liscence,

your first car.

freeways are nice to speed on

because you like the feeling

of the wind

whipping

across your face.

you feel your heart

race

when you run through your first red.

you drive on,

for years and years

without a crash.

you never stop to

think

anymore.

why should you?

it’s only to the store.

i’ve been there so often.

nothing will happen to me.

but,

you forget about the

sneaky,

little stop sign

after that one turn.

and

BOOM,

CRASH

you’re done.

no more DMV waits

for those

gosh darn renewals.

you wake up

in a hospital

with bleary eyes and

a broken body.

next time,

if there is one,

make sure to

stop

before you

crash and burn.

remember to love fast,

but stay safe, kid.

On our hill

Like so many students at this school, I don’t live at home. I don’t even live in my home country, not even on the same continent. So many people at this school took the risk of moving across the globe, to learn english and live a life on this beautiful hill with rosy sunsets and a breathtaking night sky. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

 

Photo Credit: kazheadrest.com

When I first came here I was 13, and to be honest, my English was pretty miserable. I still recall the moment I got on the plane to LAX, and a flight attendant tried talking to me in English. I remember how I barely understood her and froze, and thought to myself, “Holy hell, I can’t do this!”.

As the days passed, I became more and more anxious about going to school where everything is in a language I hardly know. But the second the first OVS student talked to me, it was all gone. Well, most of it. I realized that I, by far, was not the only international student, and that everyone here was willing to help me feel as much at home as possible.

I remember  always looking over to my brother, seeing him talk to other students already. And then there was me, sitting in the corner with my beloved social anxiety. I imagined the next year to be like one of these movies, where the awkward new kid doesn’t find any friends. Oh, how wrong I was!

I can’t express how thankful I am for everyone here. For my roommate, who helped me with literally anything, no matter if it was about a word I didn’t understand, or where to find my classrooms, and who supplied me with snacks and BuzzFeed quizzes and “Mean Girls.” For all my friends and classmates who would never let me feel left out. And for all the teachers and faculty who do their best every single day to make this community work.

OVS, as cliché as this might sound, has helped me grow so much over the past years. I learned that change can be good, I learned how to socialize in an environment where I barely know anyone, I learned how to express myself without feeling judged by every human being around me. One of the things I learned, however, that I consider one of the most important ones, is that I learned how to write. I’m not a very good writer, don’t get me wrong. But before I came here the thought of me writing in a somewhat nice manner has never even occurred to me, let alone in a different language.

OVS has taught me so much. I know it is just a school, and it surely isn’t perfect. But it was this intimidating change that was needed for me, and so many other people here, to make high school a better memory than what it would have been without this place.