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Archive for November 2013

Sankofa-ing It Up: Part Deux

Since revisiting Revolt, a paper I wrote as a high school senior, I was struck by how much of my life has been ruled by anxiety. I remember my English teacher printing copies of this piece and passing it out to my classmates. At the time, because she commented on how I developed my own style, I believed she did this to demonstrate how I took the assignment and ran with it. As an adult, I wonder if there was more to it than that. I wonder if it had to do with my teacher recognizing a student on the brink of discovering introspection.

I say on the brink because although I was in touch with my feelings, I wasn't able to move beyond that point. As I mentioned in my previous post, the assignment was to seamlessly link past and present while drawing meaning from the past to apply to present. Although I came up with a well-structured piece, as a more experienced writer I can honestly say I missed the point of the assignment. The story ends in resolution, but doesn't find meaning because I didn't learn anything from any of the mentioned experiences. In all four experiences mentioned in Revolt, I coped with stress, but I didn't learn how to manage it.

Almost 14 years later, in essence, I'm still trying to complete an assignment for 12th grade English because I'm still trying to learn that lesson. And so I write.

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The Greed Epidemic

The other day I finally got around to doing something I've wanted to do for years; I donated to my high school's annual giving fund. Sounds trivial - $25 for every year I wanted to contribute and couldn't, just a drop in the metaphorical bucket - but it was huge for me.

My high school gave me much more than education, it gave me opportunity and an abundance experiences. And since these all contributed to me being in a place to receive countless blessings, I've wanted to reach back and help give another student a chance.

But greed has been in the way. Let me explain. Although I've been blessed, I still live on a tight budget. And with the government freezing pay for almost four years, the cost of living skyrocketing and a bank that refused to budge on my mortgage despite all of this, I haven't been in the position to contribute to anything except corporations. So you see, it's not my greed that got in the way, but the greed of those who already have it all.

Recently, I was able to free up some funds by finally getting the bank to modify my home loan. I don't want to go too much into the process I had to go through to do this, but just know the way big banks treat customers who are trying to do the right thing is shameful. But anyway, words can't explain how great it felt to accomplish the modification - to take money out of corporate America's pocket and invest into something worthwhile, a young life.

When will corporate America stop with the lies and admit people will help themselves (and others) when put in a fair position to do so? My best answer is, when it's no longer profitable. Sad, but true.

Sankofa-ing It up: Part I

I've been in somewhat of a stalemate concerning my career lately.  It's caused me to think about what initially inspired me to want to write for a profession. And as usual, my inner voice would not let me rest.  This time it wanted me to dig up a paper I wrote during senior year of high school.  The paper where I proved to myself that four years of tears and two years of almost daily, after-school tutoring had paid off. 

I always loved English, but never learned to analyze a text or write a paper until high school.  For this reason, I struggled and consistently received Bs on my best efforts, until the day I received any assignment to write a stream of consciousness, William Faulkner inspired paper. 

The assignment was to seamlessly weave present with past to demonstrate how past informs present while giving shape to a seemingly spontaneous story.  Below is the result.  A piece my English teacher described as tighter and more electric than Faulkner - my own style.  A style worthy of publishing and possibly opening the door to pursuing study of Creative Writing in college (probably should've listened to her before I changed my major three times only to study journalism in graduate school). 

After finding and reading it, I feel reinspired by my younger self's potential.  I'm posting the piece below in hopes that my readers will enjoy it, but more so to remind myself if I was able to write this at the age of 17, I'm capable of so much more now.

I see the edge of the yellow curb approaching my feet, "Here it comes," I think to myself, and it does come.  The familiar dropping sensation in my stomach caused by the approach of the hill.  I see the three loops ahead of us.  I glance over and see my mother sitting next to me with her eyes closed.  I hear my brother telling her that it is important to get a high score on this test, for the sake of college...I have to get into my top choice.  I have to find it.  I ask my big brother to tell the teacher I lost it.  Our teacher looks up at the approaching middle school student walking with a crying first grader and appear to be wondering why am I so scared to perform this time?  I've never had to write with this penmanship before.  My handwriting was perfectly fine before, well at least it was legible although I guess I wouldn't consider it to be fancy. 

Soon we're all looking for my earring with the diamond center.  All I wanted was to look pretty on the first day of first grade at a new school.  I stand in the middle of the room crying.  After I tire myself out I sit at the desk and think about how my brother loves to scare me like this.  I feel myself being dragged into the line and I feel the people closing in around escape.  This has to be a conspiracy from the government in order to stress teenagers out.  The must like to hear me squeal.  Well maybe not, maybe he thinks it's a happy squeal.  I never bother to ask him but the girl standing in front of us told us it's not really that scary.  She said she had ridden it a couple of times and this time the score counts.  I have taken three practice SATs but this one was the important one, this was real.  Even so I am still nervous because this is the first time I have ever performed a jazz song and it is the first time I have ever done a solo in front of so many people.  I begin to think about the teacher that taught me how to write in cursive and feel as though something is being snatched away from me.  She taught me, it's really all I have left to remember her by now that she's passed and now he wants me to change it, it feels like a type of betrayal. 

Similarly burdened strangers crowd into the room and I begin to feel my arms and legs flail out in an attempt to stabilize myself.  I pray that he won't drop me on the back of my head.  The sound of "Super Duper Looper" fills my heart with terror.  I honestly feel my life is in mortal danger. I hate roller coasters all I want is to get into college.  Why does this process have to be so difficult?  It's like learning how to write again.  Besides, I'm too old to be relearning this, I've been writing the same way for six years.  Regardless, there's nothing I can do about it, if I refuse to do penmanship I get a bad grade.  I know I'm prepare but still Ifeel a sense of doom as I grab onto the bar, holding on for dear life.  My palms begin to sweat and I pray that the sweat won't make my fingers slip off the keys.  I walk onto the stage and feel my anxiety increase, I know if I don't do well I'll be extremely upset with myself later on.  I feel the eyes of all of GDS on me but if I look now this feeling of helplessness will certainly overcome me, so I reach up and grab onto my brother's leg.  I cling to him but the feeling of loneliness won't leave me.  I cry and watch as the world tips away from me, all I can see is the sky.  Tears begin to fill my eyes, I feel my body pushing against the back of the stroller and I wonder if I can survive all these loops, three to be exact.  My ribs hurt from my mother lifting me up and placing me in line,  I am too big for her to carry on her hip but still small enough for her to lift.  I gaze through my misty eyes and wonder if they will ever be able to find it.  I'm old enough to understand that it was an expensive earring.  I'm sure mommy will be upset by she knows this isn't normal for me I don't usually feel this nervous before exams.

This is different if I don't do well
he's goig to drop me on my head.  My hands squeeze the bar until the circulation is cut off.  I have to find it mommy will be so mad I have to do well.  Stop being nervous, you have to concentrate, it's essential.  Think college, think about how happy I will be to get off this ride.  I can't believe I got dragged into taking this test.  A conspiracy I tell you.  If you want to succeed you have to go through this type of stress.  It's inhuman, herded into this line.  Forced to ride a ride I'm scared to death of.  Forced to perform a solo you're not entirely comfortable with.  Why does stuff like this always happen to me?

I watch my teacher search for the earring, I cling to my brother's leg and think
breathe, we've been in situations like this before.  Breathing, that's what's essential.  We have to be calm, we're going to make it
through this ride.  I promise, we will live to say we made it through this day.  The world will level off again, it has to help me find my earring.  The ride will end soon, it wasn't really that bad and maybe the test wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.  After I leave this tension ridden room I can write the way he wants in order to fulfill my penmanship requirement.  Naturally I will continue to write the way I'm accustomed to writing at all other times.  I can't dwell on the fact that my fingers slipped, it's ok I recovered and all four wheels are on the ground again.  A sense of relief overshadows me as I finally regain control of my body.

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