On my Questionable Decision-Making (April 25, 2015)

Some fun facts about me:

  1. I often write more when I'm sleep deprived. 
  2. I'm impulsive when I'm tired.
  3. These two often mix in awkward ways (for example, resulting in a Huffington Post article).

I've been asked why on earth I consented to put my name on that piece. I've been reminded multiple times that it could hurt my career options (so I guess I'll be a slightly-more-starving writer/teacher? Fine ...), destroy my friendships (it didn't to my knowledge), make the universe collapse, etc.

Okay, I'm going overboard with the last one, but the point is: the consensus was that I should've stayed anonymous, or not written the piece at all.

I struggled with the decision to put my name on it. I was given the option to publish the piece anonymously, and thought I'd do that. I know from the unfortunate times I've scrolled through comment sections underneath articles about assault that public reactions are often negative. Negativity is not even confined to comments sections — I've had someone joke about it to my face, leave an intimidating note in my locker, and gossip about it when I was standing right behind them (yes, my painful personal experience is apparently on the same level as the other gossiped-about topics like prom asks and seniors ditching). And some people now look at me strangely. Overnight, I crossed the threshold in people's minds from strong to fragile, like something changed in the one second between the article not being online and being online.

But despite knowing these things would happen, I put my name on the piece because I felt like it needed a name. It is completely valid (and arguably far more intelligent) to remain anonymous when talking about personal histories with violence. However, I always feel an obligation to do my characters justice when I'm writing their stories, and I didn't feel like I was doing myself justice by leaving my name out.

Could this article make more people avoid me, not want to work with me, and treat me differently? Yes. But as someone pointed out to me, the kind of people who'd treat me with any less dignity and respect because I'm a survivor are not the kind of people I want to be around. I'm no less an activist, writer, bad joke teller, or friend than I was a week ago.

March Madness (April 8, 2015)

I've been horrifically MIA for the past month (or more ...). Oops! March was crazy. I figure I should post an update so it doesn't appear like I'm dead.

  • Badminton season started — we're 8-0 thanks to my wonderful doubles partner :)
  • Won a Writing Portfolio Gold Medal in the 2015 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards
  • Wrote 60,000 words of a new novel, threw out 50,000 of them, and am now writing a second draft (yes, this is how I write)
  • Spent far too many hours watching A's and Giants spring training games
  • Remained fairly zen about Indiana (mainly because it's pretty clear the Supreme Court will overturn the law)
  • Technically happened in April, but got the awesome opportunity to meet the cast from Elementary! And gave my friends the satisfaction of seeing me in a holding cell on the set ...

Coming Out to Siri (January 13, 2015)

I'm using an iPhone (not the one pictured) and I'm a few operating systems behind, so I'd like to think my phone will evolve from here. This is surprisingly on point with what many LGBTQ teens face in reality, which is humorous.

Me: “Hey Siri, what if I told you I’m gay?”

Siri: “Hmm. Let me think. OK, I found this on the web for ‘if I told you I’m gay.’”

Me: “Siri, I’m gay.”

Siri: “I don’t know what that means. If you like, I can search the web for ‘Siri I’m gay.’”

Me: “I’m gay.”

Siri: “I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Me: “What do you think?”

Siri: “It’s nice of you to ask, but it doesn’t really matter what I think.”

Me: “This wasn’t easy to tell you.”

Siri: “Who, me?”

Me: “Yes, I just came out to you.”

Siri: “I thought so.”

Write It on Your Heart (January 6, 2015)

"Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last year, I wrote a blog post called "Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial, Denial: The Five Stages of College Decision Grief." I wrote it as a high school junior watching the seniors around me crumble as they were hit with decision after decision. I expressed my hatred for what this application process does to us. We are conditioned to hate ourselves based on our rejections. We feel worthless when we don't get into X school, but that one really, really annoying kid does instead.

And as someone who just finished "going through the process" (which I know sounds like I'm talking about genetically modified food, not myself), I understand even more how powerful that pressure is. I consumed more mint chip milkshakes in the week before the early deadline than there were days.

But here's the thing: what if we all take a time out? I know January 1 is now out of the way and many of you high school students are done yelling at the error messages on the Common App, but the air is still filled with so much stress about decisions to come, about that one typo you know was still there when you hit "submit" ... but what if we put all of that aside? What if all of you adults out there put the stress in your life aside?

During the craziness of October before the early deadline (when, no surprise, my blogging stopped for a while), I made a list of things I wanted to do this year when college apps and finals were over. I don't want to call them New Year's Resolutions, though. (Freudian slip -- I typed "Near Year's Resolutions" at first -- which highlights why I hate the term, because I only get near my goals instead of reaching them.) I will instead call this a list of random fun things I want to do this year:

  1. Learn how to read sheet music
  2. Double the amount of time I spend writing (thank you for allowing me to do that, senioritis!)
  3. Read more books for pleasure again (goodbye, standardized testing passages!)
  4. Go to a random A's game (because why not?)
  5. Sleep 8 hours a night
  6. Paint
  7. Run Campus Drive (3.8 miles)

So what will you do for fun this year? Think of things! Make it about you. No matter how crazy your life is, you deserve to do something that serves no purpose other than making you happy. Here's to a great 2015!

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.