A Man and his Mule

This one will be a lot shorter than the last one I promise.
Nearly two years ago, I was camping with OVS, 15 of us out in the sandstone canyons of Utah, unspeakably peaceful. In fact, I enjoyed the tranquility of that small, isolated river valley so much, I decided to spend the night in my hammock so that I could swing as the whirling breeze carried me to sleep. However, that night was a wild one for me and you’ll soon understand why.
Around 10 o’clock I get into my hammock, laying down as I watch the moon rise over the other side of the valley, a few stranglers dragging themselves into their tents, and I decided to retire as well. Maybe three hours later if I remember it correctly, I awaken to the sound of voices coming from the kitchen area, they all seem to be laughing, having a great time, then I look at my watch and it reads one o’clock. INSTANTLY I freeze- this isn’t right, I say to myself as I peak towards the opening in my sleeping bag, the absence of light confirming my suspicions.
I try to play it off as a dream, my dream continued even after I awoke, I tell myself unconvincingly, the voices are incredibly vivid, I can hear their laughter bouncing against my eardrums, it has to be real. A few minutes pass and they begin to call my name, like the sirens that taunted Odysseus on his travels, I too was being deceived, their welcoming calls making me all the wearier. I am fully awake now.
The minutes crawl by as these voices continue, situations changing constantly, from their beckons for me to get breakfast, to claims of me missing out on a glance at a nearby fox, they become eerier. These voices, maintaining their soothing tones, vary in their distances from me, somethings being five feet away, sometimes their voices traveling for seeming leagues before reaching me. But don’t doubt my account yet, because it only gets worse. After maybe 20 minutes of the voices, I begin to feel something brushing up against my swaying hammock intermittently. This feeling of helplessness consumes me as I can only fumble for the pocket knife buried somewhere in my sleeping bag (I sleep with one while camping now after that first encounter).
My senses take over and my imagination runs wild, the voices grow stronger, and with only the light of my watch reading 2:15 to convince me of my awakened state, I can’t help but feel as if a man is standing over me, watching my hammock sway, letting it brush against him in the periodic gusts. I can’t believe what is happening to me, the winds continue, but they don’t blend with the voices, they still call me to reveal myself, to emerge from my safe place, my empty tent four feet away, but impossibly out of reach. I feel a large round object protruding from the darkness against the left side of my back, maybe a foot away from where the man must be standing, the object stabilizes me, I cannot move now.
Maybe the winds pushed me into a branch, jutting from the sickly tree holding up the feet side of my hammock, further inspection the next morning revealed that there were none near me. I am trapped in my own sleeping bag, unable to find my knife, unable to escape the voices, the man, the fear that’s overtaken me. I lay still in this sweaty hell until 3 am as I remember it, then I must drift off at some point, exhausted by the sheer terror I felt that night.
The next morning I approach my classmates, bemused as to what transcribed the previous night, upon recounting my tale, I am met with blank stares, concerned faculty, and one bright face. One teacher, my advisor, recounts a story of a man and his donkey, this man traveled into this river valley in Utah some 80 years before and was never seen from again. He suggests that this man tried to beckon me out of my hammock for a companion to wander the endless nights of these canyonlands, the voices were his attempts, the brushing was the man standing beside me, and the object jutting into my back was the donkey, standing loyal at the man’s side.
I don’t know what I believe, I don’t believe that I could ever believe that story my advisor told me, but if you ever find yourself in the desert, and you hear the voices of your compatriots, calling you into the night, take heed of my warning, but make your own choice, for if I were to return and hear them again, I may just see what the endless nights have to offer.
Also, I slept in a tent the next night, wasn’t about to lose another nights sleep to a ghost donkey.
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The Outside Ghost

In the past few years, I’ve developed a love for the outdoors that is indescribable, I live for the moments I spend in the backcountry. I yearn to lounge on my hammock, strung between two awkward trees, uneasy about my weight. I dream of not getting back into the vans, of staying near the spot where I dug my favorite latrine. But I have to say one of my favorite things about the outdoors is the chilling experiences.
The first one very vivid to me occurred nearly three years ago in the Eastern Sierras. I had gone backpacking with my school about 10 miles up into Little Lakes Valley, a quaint spot along the John Muir Trail, and we had set our packs down by a lake snuggled into a cliffside. A few of us, being the adventurous souls that we were, decided it would be fun to summit this peak, towering around 1,000 feet above us.  Half an hour into the climb, I had to stop, at our elevation, nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, wearing a heavy ski coat, I was winded. I was given a walkie talkie, water bottles to hold onto, and told to standby as they submitted.
Being on a neighboring peak, just slightly lower than the peak I originally set out for, I had a nice view of the three that continued on. As I sat alone, talking and singing to myself, using up 30 minutes of footage on my phone, I felt a sense of tranquility I hadn’t experienced since starting high school. Around 15 minutes into my time alone, as I carefully examined the pockets of snow that lay in the distance between the jagged rocks that covered the mountain where I would occasionally see the hikers jumping through as the continued to summit, something interrupted by solo jam sesh. In the footage, you can hear me rambling about a second rate animated movie from my childhood, and all of a sudden a voice maybe 40 feet behind me interrupts my train of thought. I hear the click of a walkie talkie as the gruff voice says, “OK hold up.” However, the walkie talkie sitting beside me remains silent.
Now at this point, two things are running through my mind, either there is a stranger hiking by his lonesome and he’s for some reason communicating with another hiker far another away where he needs a walkie talkie, or that there’s a ghost. Seeing as I have turned to face the source of the noise and there was no face to put to the voice, I quickly jumped to conclusions that it was the latter. Regardless, as my experience from horror movies dictates, if I acknowledge the ghost as a ghost, it will mess me up. So I narrate to the video what just happened, and QUICKLY change the subject so that the ghost believes I am just a naive little freshman, not worth the trouble. I increase the amount of panning shots in my video so I have opportunities to look around for the voice that is intermittently speaking, traveling, but maintaining a consistent distance from me so that I can keep an eye out for the ghost without it catching on.
A few minutes later the voice disappears completely, but as it does the weather takes a turn, I see the hikers running back as they indubitably saw the storm cloud moving in our direction, completely invisible to myself until the hikers were almost back. Now I’m not saying that the ghost made it dump snow on us for the next 12 hours, but if he did that was a pretty crappy move. Regardless, when we get back to camp I refrain from telling anyone because I am convinced I’m still within earshot of that petty man, so I go about the rest of the evening and kind of forget about it. When I wake up in the morning, sore from the number of times the gusting winds slapped the roof of the tent into my unsuspecting face, I hear stories that convince me that the ghost man didn’t like our group.
One tells of how he heard trailing footsteps when he went off to pee shortly after dinner but saw nothing, no indication that he was being followed. And the three girls all corroborated that in the night, in the worst part of the storm, when the howling winds would’ve prevented any sane man from leaving his tent, no matter what capacity his bladder was at, they heard footsteps circling their tent, unaffected by the storm, oblivious to the bitter cold, definitely a ghost. When we hiked out of that canyon the next day I vowed never to return, but I actually did a year later when I school offered the trip, and I had a really splendid time. However, everyone who went on the night hikes heard footsteps in the woods around them and experienced wacky flashlights malfunctions, which is to be expected when the ghost man is out there. That is precisely the reason I didn’t go on the night hikes, I knew about the aggravating spirit that lay waiting in the darkness, so instead, I elected to stay in my tent, on my phone, where I had downloaded a Patton Oswalt comedy special and had a very enjoyable evening.
Next week I got another doozy so keep an eye out for that one.
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Another List

Usually when I don’t know what to write about, I make some sort of list of things that make me happy, things that calm me down, things that remind me of home. But it seems like I’ve run out of ideas for positive lists like that, so here’s a list of things I hate:

  1. trash in nature
  2. when people are rude to the cashier
  3. math
  4. losing
  5. watching cocky people win
  6. watching pretty much anyone other than my team win
  7. public speaking
  8. not having any socks left
  9. being left on read
  10. artichokes
  11. being disliked
  12. feeling like you have to sneeze but not being able to sneeze
  13. racists
  14. ignorant people
  15. my bad communication skills
  16. Photo Credit: i.pinimg.com

    change

  17. blisters
  18. nightmares
  19. bad actors
  20. feeling left out
  21. walking on the street alone at night
  22. clowns
  23. loneliness
  24. self doubt
  25. jet lag
  26. assigned seating
  27. OVS wifi
  28. jacob sartorius
  29. fun killers
  30. heights
  31. not being respected
  32. swarms of insects
  33. overcooked pasta
  34. people in mascot costumes
  35. dress code
  36. overpriced clothes
  37. snoring
  38. loud chewing
  39. plastic straws
  40. running out of time

The f-word

This one word scares me more than any other word in the English language, but also makes me more excited than any other word.  It makes me excited about what can happen, but also leaves me scared and like I am in a dark abyss.

The future is such a simple word, but it means so much more than anyone could ever explain.

Everything in my life right now is setting up my future.  I have applied to college and committed to the best school for me, yet I still feel like I have no clue what my future actually holds.  I know where I am going to be living and what I am going to be studying, but that’s all.

I do not know what friends I am going to have out there, where I am going to work, and the hardest one for me is that I do not know what I am going to do with my boyfriend.  I don’t want to hold him back,  but I also don’t want to let him go.  We both want to live in the same state once we graduate college so I don’t know if I say bye if it will actually be bye and not see you later.

I am so excited to meet everyone and make new friends.  I can’t wait to see how everyone will help me grow into the woman I am going to become.  I can’t wait to find myself and learn how to be an adult.  I am so excited to settle down, have my own family, live in my own house, and be in the only one in charge of my family.

Photo Credit: Pinterest.com

I have the big things planned for my future, but the little things are still unknown and those are the things I really want to know.  My future is such a blur and I am so scared to see what happens, but I am also so excited to watch it all unfold in front of my eyes.

#BringDCGirlsBack

While scrolling through Instagram, I came across a startling post. In the past 24 hours, 14 young black girls have been kidnapped in Washington DC. Even more astonishingly, it has taken an outcry on social media, not pure human concern, for media outlets to even report on this horrific incident.

When new Metropolitan Police Chief, Chanel Dickerson, was appointed two months ago, he pledged to find all the missing girls in DC. This statement comes at a dire time in our nation’s capital. Since Wednesday, 22 kids have gone missing, adding on to the hefty 501 case so far this year. Needless to say, these missing reports are nothing new.

What is almost more concerning than the sheer number of cases is the public’s lack of knowledge. When I asked my friends if they had heard about these cases, none of them knew. Whether it be lack of speaking out by major news outlets or seeing a headline and forgetting it, they had no idea that 14 girls our age have been taken from their families, friends, and homes. Even though media involvement can be dangerous in some cases, news about these girls needs to come out so that the public can keep a watchful eye and even protect these girls.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are appealing to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to open a federal investigation. They call for help because of the fear of a deeper, scarier underlying agenda and the obvious racial stigmas present.

missing DC girls
Photo Credit: bbc.com

“(W)hen children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction,” the lawmakers said. This statement has been backed up with looming facts and other reliable sources coming out to make statements as well.

DC City Councilmen Trayon White believes that there is an underlying theme of racial prejudice involved. “We had a 10-year-old girl missing the other day, but there was no amber alert,” White said. “We just feel like, you know, if this was a white person or from another neighborhood, there would be more alarm about it.”

Especially in cases involving minors, it’s critical to reach out to the public for help, as most child abduction victims are killed in the first 24 hours.  White’s concern holds a lot of standing, because although some of the 14 new cases are adults, these people have been put in a terribly unsafe position.

In fact, many DC residents believe these kidnappings to be part of a human trafficking scheme. One would believe that this fact alone is enough to spark national outcry, but we still find ourselves missing 14 girls, with limited headlines and a lack of information on how to help them, before we hear their names in eulogies.

It’s All Coming Together

It’s that time of year again, college acceptance, and denial, letters are coming our way. After months of working on applications, seniors are finally beginning to hear back from schools.

It feels as though I have been waiting a lifetime to get these letters. My dream school is the University of Southern California, and I want that school more than any other.

I have been accepted into all of my backup schools, two of my three targets, and neither of my two reaches, yet.

Chapman University recently sent me an acceptance letter, and when I got the e-mail I felt this enormous sense of relief, knowing I had been accepted into my third choice school.

The only reason it is my third choice is because I have applied to two more academically rigorous schools; Occidental College, and USC. But those schools are both reaches for me, meaning I have a smaller chance of being accepted.

I am completely happy attending Chapman, but I would be ecstatic to go to Occidental or USC.

Because I will be a pre-law student, meaning I will be going to law school after graduating from whichever undergraduate school I attend.

Because of this, I want to go to the most prestigious school I can in order to give me an edge in the Law School application process.

I am thankful I have options on where I go to college, but I am conflicted as to which school is the perfect fit for me.

Although transferring is always an option, I don’t want to build a life somewhere, make connections with other students, and learn the lay of the land at a school where I am not completely happy.

My best friend just got into Chapman as well, giving the school an enormous edge in my book. However, I have to make sure I make the right decision for me, not anyone else.

At this point, Chapman is it. But if I get an acceptance from Occidental or USC, that may change.

How do I choose the right school?

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Photo credit to: keck-cms.usc.edu

Crow Craziness

Currently, the human species is the smartest on the planet.

I repeat, currently.

I walked into the living room and my mom was watching a TED Talk on her iPad. About what you may ask?

How freakishly intelligent crows are.

Crows have the intelligence and communication skills of a six-year-old child.

Scared? I’m just getting started.

Crows have the ability to plan, recognize faces, hold grudges, conspire with one another, and have incredible problem solving abilities. 

A university in Seattle conducted an experiment where students wore face masks and tagged each of the crows with different colored anklets to identify them, which they didn’t enjoy.

Each time the students would put on the face masks, the crows who were tagged would find the student wearing the face mask that tagged them and proceed to swoop down and harass them

Talk about holding a grudge.

Remember that next time you shoo away a crow.

You’ll know who pooped on your car.

Photo Credit: thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com