Looking Back at 2015

Last year, I wrote an end of the year blog post in which I talked enthusiastically about seven happy things about to happen in 2015. At the time, I assumed 2015 would be filled with reading, running, and writing. Well, then 2015 wound up being more like this:

  1. Watch everyone in my high school tear each other apart (and spend an afternoon wondering if we'd get torn apart).
  2. Write an awkwardly personal op/ed (multiple, actually), revealing to everyone I'm a survivor, and deal with the resulting chaos.
  3. Part with Jon Stewart, leaving us to deal with this dude alone.
  4. Watch the 49ers and the Oakland A's combust.
  5. Spend hours fighting against a seemingly bulletproof administration.
  6. Give awkwardly personal quotes for articles and deal with that resulting chaos.
  7. Watch everyone shoot each other, including shooting 12-year-olds, and get away with it.

Of course, there were many positives mixed in (see photo gallery at the end of this post for a more varied version), but overall, 2015 was less than ideal. To summarize how my year went with one story, it began positively with Jameis Winston (you know, this guy) getting deservedly humiliated by the Oregon Ducks, and concluded with him being the #1 overall pick in the NFL draft and almost leading his team to the playoffs as if nothing ever happened.

So what is there to say about 2016? Will things be any better? Maybe. I hope so.

In an effort to delude myself into thinking the U.S. will get its shit together despite our impending joke of a national election and that I'll cruise effortlessly through my year, I'm going to make another list of seven things I'm looking forward to:

  1. Finishing my novel. (If I say this twenty times, it'll happen.)
  2. Swimming.
  3. Watching the A's have a less-ugly season (please?).
  4. Reading Harry Potter in Spanish just because.
  5. Really, really learning how to use Twitter.
  6. Finishing House on Netflix.
  7. Actually running that 3.8 mile thing I mentioned last year but never got around to doing.

But listen, I can't make 2016 a better year alone. It's up to all of us to push ourselves to be better human beings, to go out of our way to be kinder, conscious, and compassionate. We can control the election (vote if you can, even if you don't love either of the candidates). We can control social media. We can control our behavior.

It's 2016. Screw Trump — it's up to us to make the world great again.


February 8, 2015: Sunday Night Catchall

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King Jr. 

The quote above has been on my mind this week. There are positives and negatives to all events. The negative of what has unfolded at my school this week is I had the unfortunate experience of seeing how many people at my school are content being bystanders in situations of online harassment. The positive is that I learned to value that much more the people who weren't bystanders. I find the quote above very true. I won't remember what hurtful comments were said by my classmates this week in a year or even in a few months. I will, however, remember the silence of all those who watched and did nothing.

On a similarly serious (but more positive) note, huge shout-outs to Obama, Katy Perry, and Brooke Axtell for raising awareness about domestic violence at the GRAMMY Awards! I was similarly impressed by last Sunday's powerful Superbowl ad from NOMORE.org. These two TV events sandwiched an incredibly powerful week on Twitter with the #TheresNoPerfectVictim hashtag, which I encourage you to check out if it won't be triggering for you.

On a lighter note, I want to repeat to anyone who thinks otherwise that badminton is a sport! Some people at my school think otherwise ... somehow ...

January 25, 2015: Sunday Night Catchall

Random SFPD car

Random SFPD car

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.

#DeflateGate has been dragged on and on and on, but one beautiful thing the endless discussions yielded was Bill Nye kicking some butt!

And per my usual, this is my favorite Onion article of the week ("Nation’s Historians Warn The Past Is Expanding At Alarming Rate")

Remembering Reading (October 12, 2014)

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.