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.

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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.

It’s a Whole New Year

Most people measure their years beginning and ending at New Year’s Eve. But when you’re in school, Summer marks the beginning of a new year. You have three months off, to relax, sleep, recuperate from the endless studies and homework. Then in the fall, you go back to school and you start a new year.

Some people never want the year to end. They want to stay near their friends, and they don’t want things to change.

For me, it’s different.

At the beginning of every year I’m excited for what it will bring. For the new friends I will make, and the new things that I’ll learn. But a couple months in, I start getting tired. Tired of school, and of a lot of the people at school.

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Here it is. June 3rd.
Just five more days until I walk across that stage and receive my diploma.

Who knew high school went by as fast as they said it did?

My five year journey here at Ojai Valley School has been unforgettable.

I started out in 8th grade at the Lower Campus. Although it was a great change from a large school of over 2,000 students, the warm and inviting faculty and friends I met made the adjustment easy.

I had a great year learning how to camp, do my own laundry, and take on the responsibilities of living in a dorm. Not the mention, the close bonds I made with the girls I lived with. It was a different kind of bond than the most of the ones I made in public school. Having lived with these girls, I felt almost as if I was amongst sisters.

So, after graduating, the decision was easy. I knew I wanted to go to Upper for high school.

My freshman year, I roomed with my best friend from Lower, Wendy Lin.

Now let me say something about her. I have been my most vulnerable with Wendy. I opened up to her about things I never really shared with anybody else, and she did the same. So when we roomed together, it was like I was with family. We both knew each other enough not to argue. So when I say, although we had our ups and downs, I am generally talking about the ups when it comes to Wendy. When I think of my freshman year, she is among one of the first people that pop into my mind.

Then there is Lucy Kim. Ah, she is so dear to me. Not only did we click because of our similar humor, she lifted me up when I was down and always was there for me when I needed prayer requests. She also listened to me when I needed her and let me realize that  She even got us transportation to go to church on Sundays so that we could keep our faith, after I told her how hard it was not to go to church.

Cooper, Jeremy, Oussou and Parker. Boy, were they funny people. Of course, when you are that young, seniors seem so much older than they actually are, and these were the people I looked up to. They had close, lasting bonds that were connected by years of laughter. Although they probably had no idea, my senior year was affected so much by the optimism and attitude they brought to the school.

The first half of my sophomore year was spent at Beverly Hills High School. That semester was definitely a learning experience for me. The big public school experience was new to me, having been in a private boarding school of just over 100 students. Regardless, I returned to OVS with a newfound appreciation.

Junior year..was tough. It was full of all nighters and instant food. I was swamped with the workload of 4 AP’s and struggled with balancing time between my studies and my boyfriend of two years. But this is the year that I grew close to Jo Chen and Maddie, two of my best friends today! However, it was also the year that Jo, Maddie, Lucy, and my boyfriend had graduated so the graduation was marked with strong emotions.

This year, graduation means something completely different.

It means five years of going to school in Ojai is coming to a close. It means growth. It means Reika, Sungjin, and Anni. It means Mr. Alvarez’s words of encouragement and Mr. Cooper’s long speeches on integrity. It means Mr. Weidlich running with the lacrosse team and Mrs. Colborn’s team comp announcements. It means Chico’s waffles every Wednesday morning. It means Mrs. Allen’s bake sales and the IOU’s that follow. It means Haldy’s jokes and Eddy’s motorcycle videos and Mr. and Mrs. Boyd’s wonderful singing and camping trips with Mrs. Davis. It is so much.

It kind of makes me want to stay a little longer.

That’s how much I love this place.

Thank you everybody for making this experience what it was. It has been a fabulous 5 years. I loved every minute of it.

Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder…

Everybody told me that long distance would be trouble. That it would hurt. That it wouldn’t be worth all the stress–especially during my senior year.

But I, being the stubborn love-struck puppy I was, didn’t listen. Nope. I didn’t want to believe what people said, so I didn’t. I told myself that it would be easy.

Now, here I am sitting in my room in Ojai, California. 2643.071 miles away from my boyfriend of two and a half years.

It’s funny. In the beginning, I had kind of wished Kai was a recluse that veered away from any female contact.

But again, the beginning was the hardest part. The time difference made it even worse. He was already at school when I would wake up most days and by the time study hall ended, it was around 12:30 in the morning where he was.

And boy, would we argue. Over the most minuscule things. I argued because we were so far. He argued because of the time difference. We argued because we missed each other. We argued. And. We argued.

I began to wonder if they were right. If long distance was too much for me to handle. It seemed, with all my college applications and school work, that they might be right.

But, as much as we fought and as much as I hated the distance, I did not want to give up.

And I didn’t. Things got better, and I honestly don’t think that long distance is all that horrible. Sure, it takes a while to get used to but if you love him (or her), all of those frustrations–those initial arguments, getting used to the time difference–was worth the greater moments when I would get to hear his voice on the phone or see his face on Skype.

I still miss him dearly and love him so much. And I don’t regret choosing to be in this long distance relationship with him. He makes me happy although I don’t get to be with him nearly as much as I did last year which turned out to be a good thing. I have more time for friends and more importantly, when I do get to see him, it makes it all the more special. It’s almost like we just started dating. There isn’t anybody I’d rather have than him.

So let me tell you from my experience that eventually, distance truly does make the heart grow fonder.

Relay For Life 2011

“Just one more year.”

May 14, 2011, Ventura, California, Relay for Life.

It is approximately 9:00 am in the cold parking lot of Buena High School in Ventura. The yellow bus unloads its passengers, yielding the start of the day. Slowly, students crawl out, it was too early for them. But the grey, salty breeze shifts cool between their sleeves and awaken the tired students. The day had begun.

A loud voice could be heard on the loud speakers, announcing highlights of the event. Schools were commended for their outstanding fundraising. First, the honorable mentions, soon followed by the bronze teams. Then came the silver teams. My school, our school, Ojai Valley School, had been recognized as a silver team for raising so much money. In our school of just under 100 students, we managed to raise  $3,060. It was a great start to our day.

The empty track was broken by a mass of survivors, clad in the same purple shirts. Among the many survivors was OVS AP psychology teacher, John Valenzuela. He made his way around the track while our school gathered at one corner and shouted words of encouragement to him, our screams choked with tears, because we had all seen him battle through this scary disease and we had won this battle together. He put his hand over his heart and we all knew what he felt.

Throughout the day, students walked around the track, bought food, and even partook in a wedding between a survivor and the love of his life.

That night, some of our students stayed overnight and endured heavy rains, cold, and hunger but came back with smiles. And at the end of the day, all I could think to myself was “just one more year.”

shh…promise not to tell!

Woah. Two years.

Sounds like a long time.It is a long time. But I don’t know why, it doesn’t feel like a long time. Time doesn’t exist or really matter when I am with him.

Two years ago, on the 29th of this month, a much younger, braces-clad me was asked out by my current boyfriend. We both have grown so much since that day and learned so much about each other. Tomorrow, 24 hours from today, we will be hitting our 2 year milestone.

This is a big deal; neither one of us have been in a relationship this long and with the impending graduation coming closer each day, I want to make sure that tomorrow will be a special day, a memorable day that he can look back on after he walks the cobblestone stage.

I plan on making him a scavenger hunt. A series of six clues that lead him to me. I will tell him that I can’t see him because I am busy studying for the upcoming AP’s and that I am so sorry that I can’t see him on our anniversary. Then, his friends will make sure he doesn’t eat dinner or leave the vicinity of his room. He will find his first clue which will come with a rice krispies treat that I made in the shape of a letter. After finding all the clues, the rice krispies will reveal my location and he will meet me there to find a dinner made from scratch!

It’s not much, just a few pieces of paper and time spent putting a few ingredients together. But they say that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. If he likes it, then that’ll be the best thing!

Valentine’s Day Dessert

Last Valentine’s Day, I attempted to be a really cute girlfriend and make him desserts from scratch (after all, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach). My plan was to make him two desserts. Dessert #1: chocolate dipped strawberries. Dessert #2: heart-shaped sugar cookies with royal frosting.

I had made the desserts the morning of Valentine’s Day and I had all my ingredients laid out. I melted the chocolate, dipped the strawberries, and laid them out to harden. Yum, maybe I’ll taste one (or two…or three) to make sure they are alright. Next were the sugar cookies. I made the dough, flattened it out with a wooden roller into even sheets, and cut out heart shaped cookies. Aww, these are so cute! He’s gonna love these! I placed them on a buttered metal pan and waited. BUT WAIT! TODAY’S OUR SOCCER GAME! I ran up the stairs into my room to dig my uniform out of the abyss of my laundry basket…

The smell of burnt cookies filled the kitchen. I arrived to the scene of the crime and removed the hard, browned cookies from the oven. I sighed. These are ruined! I pulled out the other two pans of cookies. They were just perfect! Yes!! I quickly iced them and set them in the fridge to harden. I’ll get back to those later.

After the game, I wrapped the strawberries in little bags and placed them in a glass jar that I bought from Rain’s specifically for that purpose. Ohmigosh I’m the cutest! Then the cookies. OH NO…oh no…oh. no. The cookies had come out and baked into triangles. I had forgotten that cookies expanded in the oven. The hearts expanded into triangles. I gave them to him anyway, telling him that they were love triangles.

This year, I will send him cupcakes from Cupcake and Cookie. They are based in Thousand Oaks and they won the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars so I know they are tasty. Plus! They deliver! But, I will attempt to make him a treat that is made from scratch this year. I they will come out great. I hope.