I'm back. And on a new website! Subscribe to the newsletter (hint: on your right) to get occasional writing updates! (And cat photos!) Now, in honor of failing to post over the past few months, I thought I'd try to give a rundown of not just this past week, but the past few months (because, you know, that sounds easy to do after the first few months of college):
Finally got that obligatory activist-holding-a-megaphone photo of myself that I've been lacking for years, courtesy of speaking at a rally about sexual violence and discrimination.
On a separate but still activism-related note, mad props to all the activists at Mizzou, Yale, Howard, and other schools nationwide that have stood up against discrimination even in the face of threats.
I discovered that all the seasons of House are now available to stream on Netflix, as are some campy crime shows and The Office. In other terms, I've got limitless things to watch when procrastinating.
Friday the 13ths are cursed, as, apparently, are the days before and after them. My heart goes out to everyone in Beirut, Paris, Japan, Syria, and anywhere else I'm sadly failing to mention who has been lost in the deluge of media coverage about those first four things. Try to remember to treat everyone with respect, dignity, and compassion.
I found an Onion article that sums up exactly what I wonder if my creative writing professor is thinking every time she gives me feedback. (I'm kidding — her name is Ellis Avery; she's wonderful and writes kick-butt LGBTQ-related books that you should read!)
And for a new thing I'm adding to these weekly roundups, a weekly YA book recommendation: Traffick by Ellen Hopkins!
My Wednesday afternoon took an unexpected turn. The majority of the comments under that article say something along the lines of, "Well, I guess somebody didn't want to take that Physics test!" That's probably (hopefully?) something along the lines of what happened, but seriously, people, think of better/safer/more creative ways to get out of test taking next time besides calling in a bomb threat, okay?!
My organization made it past 500 likes on Facebook! Actually, it somehow got from 475 to 550 in less than 48 hours. I don't exactly know how. But yay! Now send me more LGBTQ-related YA book suggestions! Or, if you're a writer, write more books with LGBTQ characters. :)
I can sum up senior year in one anecdote from Friday. I sometimes send my teachers random NY Times articles relevant to something they taught during the day if the article happens to appear. But this semester, instead of sending my teacher a NY Times article, I sent my teacher an Onion article that felt relevant.
And per my usual, this is my favorite Onion article of the week ("Nation’s Historians Warn The Past Is Expanding At Alarming Rate")
I miss reading.
In high school, we "read" for specific repeated words and themes pre-fed to us on sheets covered in course through-lines. Every book margin must be scribbled on with symbols and questions so we can fit an author's words into neatly, perfectly-punctuated quote sandwiches in an essay at the end. We do not read for the words — we read so we can analyze letters that some tired writer decided to throw on a page at 4am.
On standardized tests, we "read" to answer questions about how the test takers see the world. We box proper nouns so we can skip back to them once we see those nouns in the questions following a passage. We underline important verbs to make sure we don't (God forbid) interpret the text differently than the narrow-minded few who wrote the test, because demonstrating our ability to mimic their interpretation is part of how colleges measure intelligence.
This is not what I used to do when I "read." I used to love reading. Books helped me unravel the mysterious web of the world. I'd let words wash over me and transport me to different lives. I could be anything, from a wizard to a young black girl growing up in the United States in the 1940s.
Books were about living, and learning, and loving.
But apparently this is no longer "reading." Reading is no longer about exploration, or joy, or discovery — it's about mindless conformity to systems. And I don't like this new type of reading. I want to go back to a time when I could read books to explore the world, where a passage wasn't intended to trick me into thinking something "wrong" but was instead intended to take my mind on a journey to a place unexplored.
We are forgetting what it means to read. We are forgetting why we have books.
Now I see what I never thought I would as a child: why so many people say they don't like books. Because I fear I'm becoming one of those people, falling into a mind-numbing system that seeks to remove every ounce of joy and moment of wonder that made books the magical thing they were to me when I was younger.
And I don't know how to change that other than to try to cling to memories of the type of reading I miss: reading that takes me through new lands and into new lives.
This week has made me thankful that I am a high school junior, which is impressive considering how painful junior year generally is. Anyone who is a high school senior or a parent of one knows that this week, many college decisions came out. The air in my school was heavy with dread and disappointment as e-mails shattered dreams. A few happy students floated around amidst the bubble of sadness, but for the most part, students focused on their rejections, not their acceptances.
Why? Why can’t we celebrate our acceptance letters, not our rejection letters? Why can’t we be thankful that we get the opportunity to receive an education at all?
The college admissions process is subjective. Getting rejected from your dream school doesn’t mean you’re an idiot just like getting accepted to your dream school doesn’t mean you’re a genius. A rejection means the person reading your application felt you weren't the best fit for that school. That's all.
An example from my recent life that highlights how subjective awards or acceptances are is that I recently found out I won a national Silver Medal in the 2014 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for Journalism. I also won 3 regional Silver Keys and 2 regional Honorable Mentions. However, those results don't tell the whole story. Two years ago, I submitted three of those pieces to the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. They didn’t even receive Honorable Mentions. At the time, I felt horrible and like my dream of becoming a writer was slipping away.
But two years later, those same pieces with no new edits won two Silver Keys and an Honorable Mention. Nothing changed except for the people who happened to be judging my work. My “bad” writing suddenly became “good.” I should feel like a better writer now, right? But I don't. Instead, I now realize that judging myself based on the subjective opinion of others is stupid. Those pieces are no better now than they were two years ago. That also means they were no worse back then than they are now.
Don’t attach yourselves to rejection letters. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re worthless. In five years, maybe you’ll get into the graduate school of your dreams. Maybe in forty, you’ll win a Nobel Prize. Maybe you won't but you'll make incredible friends and be with a family you love.
Be proud of trying and remember that you’re smart.