Born Again

She is a woman

and who

by chance

was born a man

the mirror was simply inaccurate,

what she craved to see was a tall woman

a beautiful woman

slenderly wrapped in breasts and fragility,

the stubbled facial hair

the broad shoulders pulled together by biceps and chest muscles

was heart breaking,

and for a long time

too long of a time

all she felt was confusion she did not know why she hated herself

why she felt disgusted by her body

why she looked at herself and didn’t feel like she was actually looking at herself

it wasn’t until she was a teenager she broke free of her confusion

experimented with her happiness

broke social norms to find herself

she looks back now as a 24 year old,

as a tall beautiful woman

and feels remorse that she let herself suffer for so long because she did not search for what made her feel most herself

“Hormones to surgery to life style changes, the hardships and black holes of sadness and isolation made me who I am today. And baby, I am better than ever.”


Photo:Keith Rosen


One month in Africa

In October I will be going on a one-two month-long safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya. I have visited Africa several times now for my photography expedition, but they usually only lasted between 1-2 weeks. Now I am ready for something bigger. I am incredibly excited, but part of me is also very nervous. One month of getting up at 4.30 am every morning, being on safari for about 11-12 hours a day can be very tiring and intimidating. But it is what I love, and I am more than excited about this adventure. Every day being out with these amazing animals, taking pictures, and sharing them with the world, what an absolute dream!

I have met so many amazing people through my photography: guides, other photographers, and even scientists. We all have the same passion; protecting these beautiful animals and sharing their beauty with the world to conserve them for many more generations to see.

I believe animals can teach us so much and they can help people. For me, I am just happy when I am among wildlife, all my stress is gone and I just feel relaxed. Doing my photography has helped me a lot through hard times, and it never fails to make me happy. Getting feedback from people who admire your work is so motivating and it makes you proud to have come where you are now.

picture by author

Pushing through

About a year and a half ago I got a brand new mountain bike. I was like a little kid, getting all excited to ride around with it. The town my school is in is like a mountain bike paradise. There are many amazing trails for every level of skill. I started with some easy trails and each week I would go a little harder and harder. I could feel my muscles and stamina building up more and more. When the pandemic started, I was out on my bike every single day. It was my way of getting my energy out. I just hated sitting at my computer all day doing school work and I needed some way to release my built-up stress. Mountain-biking really helped me with that, and I had a blast every time I was on the trail.

During summer I left my bike in America while I went back to Germany. I came back to the U.S end of January and hadn’t biked at all since I left the U.S. I got my bike but being at boarding school made it hard for me to go biking. in mid-April, our outdoor-ed teacher announced several new overnight camping trips that were going out throughout April and May, one of those being a mountain bike trip. I was excited but on the other hand hesitant. I wasn’t on this list yet but I was able to sign up for it. I was hesitant because I was just so out of shape and hadn’t been biking in almost a whole year. I decided not to sign up because my anxiety just took a hold of me. I was really sad and still contemplating if I should just go. The day before the trip the outdoor-ed teacher came up to me and asked if I wanted to join on the trip as I had my bike in my room.

I decided to just get over my fear and said yes. I was nervous that I would be the one slowing them down the whole time and that I would always be the last. The next day we left campus and made our way to the campground. It was absolutely beautiful. In the afternoon we took our bikes and biked down to a waterhole. It was all downhill and it was absolutely amazing, I felt happy and just free. We swam for a while, ate dinner, and then it was time to return to the campground. I had biked that exact trail before and knew that the way back was an absolute pain because it was all uphill. There was one van driving back to the campground, but three of us had to bike back. I decided I would just push through it and bike the way back. 

The last time I had biked that road up I had to stop about 6 times to take a break because I was so exhausted. We started biking up the road and I felt good. We kept going and going uphill and I was very surprised that I wasn’t exhausted at all. I just kept pushing and pushing and then we made it to the top and I had a wave of happiness come over me. I was so happy because I improved so much from the last time I biked up that hill. It was an awesome trip and I am excited to keep mountain biking.

picture by author

Ending a chapter

Five more weeks. Only five more weeks and one of the biggest chapters of my life will come to an end. I came to America 3 years ago, planning on only staying for half a year. And now here I am, three years later. These have been the best three years of my life. I will miss this place more than I can explain. All the memories and people. It is hard leaving it behind. But I know that I will always be connected to this place and to the people. I know I will return, and I have made friendships for life here. 

Even though I am very sad to leave, I am also excited to see what the future will hold. I have so many plans and trips coming up that I can hardly wait for. I am taking a gap year in which I will be in a different country every month doing my wildlife photography. I am going on a 1-month backpacking trip in Montana and I have so many more plans, and then college. I couldn’t be happier with my college decision. I will be attending Montana State University. The location is absolutely beautiful, they have amazing programs, and their outdoor program is everything I was looking for in a college. The Yellowstone ecosystem is just 30 minutes away from campus and there are awesome ski resorts nearby.

I am incredibly sad to leave Highschool but I will never forget the people and memories I have made here. Thank you for the best three years of my life.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montana_State_University

Deciding

As colleges acceptances come to a close, I am left with a mere thirty days to decide where I want to spend the next four years.

Based on circumstances I can’t remember, I have narrowed it down to two colleges. One of prestige, and one of comfort.

Now I must decide, do I go to a school the size of a small town with a bumper sticker name, or a smaller school a step up from high school? As I gravitate towards the larger school, another big one comes in to play.

The final college decision letter. What was originally my top choice (though now I’m unsure) will now be competing with my new, other top choice.

There are two outcomes to this situation. Either they reject me and I’m disappointed, though my decision is made easier. Or I am accepted, and I now must choose.

I can’t decide which is harder. Though subconsciously, I know which choice is right.

Image Credit: UCLA Newsroom

Lonely in your own home

I moved to boarding school in America 3 years ago. Since then my life has changed completely. I feel like a different person. A better person. I grew up in the south of Germany. Beautiful mountains, living in the heart of the Black Forest. I always loved where I lived. But school in Germany can get tough, especially being in a Gymnasium. Ninth grade is said to be the hardest one of all. Everything comes together and just pushes you down. I felt stressed, anxious, and just not good enough. I had no motivation left because no matter how much work I put in I felt like it was never enough.

When I arrived in America it all changed. I finally felt truly happy again. The people were supportive and just so incredibly nice. It was so different, so… amazing. I finally was able to show what I was able to do, I didn’t feel hopeless or pressured anymore. The teachers were supportive and always helping. I immediately felt at home. The outdoor education trips were incredible, the people were incredible, everything was just perfect for me. This school has made me into a happier version of myself. It helped me discover what I am good at and what I want to do in the future.

And now this is my last year here. I can’t believe how fast time flies. This school will forever have a place in my heart, and I am truly thankful for it, for making me into the person I am today.

The classic dichotomy of senior year

The Birth of a Mug

I picked up the large and awkward 25-pound bag of Laguna Specked Buff clay and set it on the canvas table with a thud. Getting my wire, I slice a piece of clay that measures out to be exactly 1.5 lbs. The thin silver wire attached to green handles slides and slices the clay so beautifully. The clay, not wanting to be sliced, holds some resistance which makes the process all the more satisfying. Once set up, I wedge the clay using my leverage along with the firm table top to push and elevate any air bubbles out of my freshly cut piece of clay. Once done, I take to the wheel. The centering is first, the specked buff clay, rough and sprinkled with sand turns round and round the wheel. The sandy texture rubs and grinds the blade of my hand, but at the same time moves and bends at my will. Finding the middle of the clay, I press my finger in with a strong and precise motion, bowing out slightly. The clay spins quickly but stays perfectly in the center, completely content on the wheel. Taking my fingers, I press into the right wall of the clay and start to form my walls. Squeezing and holding the wet clay between my two pointer fingers, I begin to elongate my piece. The walls become delicate and thin. I grab the metal rib, flexible, I bend the awkward, thin, metal oval around the wall of the clay to smooth out and nicely finish the mug. After I trim the bottom and smooth out the lip with a rectangular piece of leather, I take it off the wheel and it begins its’ drying process.

Image found on Dallas Morning News

Catching frogs and climbing rocks

Finally. After two full weeks of quarantine, I was able to leave my room and go outside. After being isolated for so long, the simplest things make you the happiest. A hug from a friend, sitting with people, being able to go and eat at the cafeteria. I was so relieved to finally be with my friends again. The first thing I did was go on a long, big run across the campus of my school. It felt so freeing to be outside again and run through the campus and greet people.

On my third day of being out of quarantine, I was able to participate in the outdoor ed program again. We took a trip up to some local mountains. The drive there was just beautiful. Huge mountains and creeks all around. We left the van and I immediately ran to the creek. Feeling the cold water around my legs felt truly amazing. It was that feeling of freedom that I finally felt again after being isolated in my room for so long. We hiked along the creek until we came to a nice spot with shade and deep pools in the creek. We put down our bags and started to explore.

I started scrambling along the rocks going higher and higher, sitting on a high rock overlooking the little valley. I was so incredibly happy to be back in the outdoors again. I climbed back down and noticed lots of tiny frogs jumping around. I remembered how in Germany when I was younger, I would always go and catch the frogs in the lake behind our house. I started catching some frogs and it felt like I was in Germany again. I would catch one and hold it for a while before I released it back and caught the next one.

We stayed for about 2 1/2 hours before we made our way back up to the van. It was a small trip but it brought me so much happiness and I hope I get to participate in many more trips to come.

What makes you happy?

“My friends”

“The smell of my grandmas sweater”

“Yerba”

“Watching the Sun sink behind the horizon”

“Hot coco by a fire”

“Hearing the crowd cheer at a ball game”

“Listening to music by myself”

“Driving around with nowhere to go”

“Eating cake”

“Catching a perfect wave”

“Brushing my horse”

“Feeling accomplished”

“Seeing my brother get home from collage”

“Flying on planes”

“Crying for joy”

“Getting an A”

“Kissing my wife”

“Hugging my kids”

“Finishing a painting”

“Thinking about fishing with my dad”

“Making my friends laugh”

“When I got glasses for the first time”

“Watching my child be born”

“Stargazing”

“Running Cross-county”

“Gardening in my home planted garden”

“Watching others be happy”


Each individual finds happiness, or has experienced happiness in many different ways. From the smallest things to the most life changing moments people feel happy.

For me I find happiness in the Ocean and the Forest, my family’s love, and in my friends laughter.

I encourage you to think about what makes you happy, big or small.

Special Thanks to all of the anonymous contributors that made this list of happiness possible.

Image Found on WordPress and created by Dr.Autumn W. Farr

Rekindled

I ran 17 laps over the course of two hours, I was winded, but hardly exhausted. These were the days I lived for. I was in first grade when I first participated in the Terry Fox run, an annual international charity track event meant to raise funds for cancer research in honor of Canadian hero, Terry Fox. This event is where I believe my relationship with sports or athletics in general really began, racing my friends across the long stretches of the track until we collapsed on the grassy ditch to catch our breath, just to do it again countless times.
 
For the next three years, my passion for sports grew even further. At school I participated in badminton, dodgeball, fitness, swimming, everything they had to offer. I was by no means a stellar student-athlete; outside of school my childhood consisted of next to no physical activity, having busy parents, no siblings, and neighbors I was unfamiliar with, my outdoor activities consisted solely of digging holes in the backyard. All of that aside, I still loved physical activity, making sure to fill my recess with as much tag and soccer as I possibly could.
 
In fourth grade, however, I found that my affinity to athletics had shifted towards food instead, and as I slowly gained an appreciation for eating, I slowly lost interest and ability to participate in sports. I began an exponential weight gain that lasted, thankfully, only five years, but took a tremendous toll on my body. At my peak in seventh grade, I would strain myself climbing the stairs, I’d wear shirts two sizes too big to conceal everything I could, and I was eating a family-sized bag of chips every day. So to sum things up, things weren’t looking too hot for me. In those five years, my relationship with athletics had become estranged and I intentionally belittled sports as primitive to somehow justify to myself my current condition. However, being the aspiring hypocrite that I was, I still tried desperately to get onto every sports team offered at my school, soccer, basketball, lacrosse, whatever team sport that would have me, but unsurprisingly, every time, I was nowhere to be seen on the lists.
 
Even after I got my weight problem under control and ended up going too far in the other direction I found the same issues with sports. I had no strength, no energy, no agility to participate in any activity apart from golf, but I was awful at golf so that was out of the question for me anyway. In the last four years, I’m proud to say I’ve finally gotten my weight under control, I no longer count every calorie that enters my body out of fear of losing control again. I know what went wrong and how to avoid those same mistakes.
 
Basketball is where I’ve been able to express this change the most. My freshman year I had 12 minutes of playing time the entire season. I can’t blame my coach for any of that, I was 6’4 inches of skin and bone, I didn’t have the strength to shoot a basketball from the free-throw line, and I could jump maybe a foot off the ground. The past few years, I’ve grown taller and stronger and I’ve trained relentlessly. I’m by no means the MVP I had hoped I would be. But now being one of the main contributors to my basketball team after my tenuous past with sports, I can finally look back and feel proud about my athletic ability, something that once meant so much to me, for the first time in nearly 10 years.