Me? A Writer? Don’t Make Me Blush.

Do-Do-Do. The tone seems to drop like my stomach as I enter the classroom. I peak through the ajar door not once, but twice before committing to my entrance. I’ve always been one of the first kids in the classroom. It’s a side effect of being in the honors track. Only second period and I’m already in shock. My head is spinning from my previous AP Spanish class. Grinding out my transmission as I switch gears to full on AP English. My writing has bounced around between “Eureka” and complete BS the past three years, doing what I had to to get by. One more AP class to add to my list, let’s see where this takes me as a writer.

I am strong, I am sassy, and you know it when you read my essays. A good writer always hooks in a reader, enveloping their every sense. Throughout this year, I experimented using anecdotes to introduce and conclude my essays. By the end of the year, this style has become my calling card, my signature.

“Bang! The cell door opens moving the shadow of the bars rapidly across the cold cement floor. Two guards enter to chain you and lead you the last two hundred yards to the end. With each step your heart beats a little faster, trying to squeeze in as many beats as it can before it comes to a stop. At last you reach the door, the door to death’s home.” (Summer Reading Essay)

Being the first of my experiments with anecdotes, this intro set the tone for the rest of the year winning me over and winning over the class for our first in class competition.

A perk of indulging my love for anecdotes is there are a few more writing liberties, such as rambling on and on and on and on and on and on and on for a sentence the size of a paragraph. However, never changing sentence structure can turn a liberty into a liability for my audience.

“No average student of a normal high school will be at a level involving college diction and 7th math and english; that matchup would be extraordinarily rare, so why tests that “standardize” a nation of students at incredibly different levels to a standard that is borderline miraculous?” (Education Essay)

While engaging the lovely rhetorical strategy of the rhetorical question, the sentence is long. Long sentences, when misused, lose the reader and the point of the essay. Other times the point of the essay gets lost in my own mind. “If that isn’t enough, seniors have come to develop a “type” for the colleges they do choose: jesuit, private, and west coast mirroring their high school of the last four years” (Pop Culture). This is where I ended the paragraph. I write knowing what I’m trying to say and forget that my readers may not be riding my same train of thought. Honestly, they probably jumped off earlier.

My weaknesses and my strengths have to be a part of my writing in the future. They make up my stylistic fingerprint. Unfortunately, that fingerprint must be hidden beneath a thick pair of polyester gloves for the abundant research, analysis, and so many other papers that college requires you to write. Besides the seemingly endless amounts of papers I’ll be writing for college and grad school, I really hope to keep up this blog. Everyone needs an outlet. I think a creative outlet is the most healthy and the least likely to come back and haunt you, but then again maybe not. Taking my own words, typing them out, and sending them off into the world wide web. My thoughts will never go unknown, my tongue would never be bitten back. Just me, my keyboard, and the world.

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A Stroll Through Life: A fictional recollection of events in my life

My life is normal. I wake up, I go to school, I run, I sleep; repeat. There aren’t many opportunities to stop and reflect on what has brought me to where I am today, that is until the other day. It was an average Tacoma day, cloudy skies with a hint of sunshine and a wind that chills you down to your bones. I headed out in a sweatshirt, UGG boots, and running shorts (my usual outfit). I wasn’t expecting to see anyone I knew. I walked down 26th Street toward Union, my usual route. As I passed the Rosewood Cafe, I saw a familiar face.

The girl looked about my age and height with long sandy brown hair. We locked eyes and immediately a name came to my mind. It was my best friend from Wisconsin, Angela James, who I hadn’t seen in over eight years. We both jumped up and hugged like it hadn’t been anytime at all since we had last seen each other. She was in Tacoma to look at the University of Puget Sound and had gone to the cafe to get some lunch. Naturally, I offered to show her the town that had been my home of the last eight years. We made plans to meet later by the campus.

Around two, I met her on the corner of the campus, where we began our walk through the streets I had come to know so well. Angela asked me about my life here, my family, and my new friends. I didn’t know where to begin. I began with three years ago, a little over half way into my life in Tacoma. I tried to keep it to major life-changing events, but life is life and even the littlest moments can count for a lot.

I began with my trip to France for my cousin’s wedding. The trip began as amazing, we saw the Louvre, the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, all the usual tourist sights. Near the end of the trip, the whole family went to Cape Ferret to stay with my mom’s cousins. We lounged on the beach, went swimming, biked through town; everything was great. The day before we were due to leave, we thought it would be fun to see the Atlantic, since my brother, Ian, and I hadn’t seen it since we were little. That’s when things took a turn for the worst. We were all enjoying the water. The waves were ten feet high shore crashers; pounding the sand every other minute.

Ian and my dad were coming out of the water when they were hit from behind by one of the waves. They were both thrown by the wave, but my dad was slammed head first into the sand. At first he couldn’t move his arms, and feared drowning. Luckily, my brother was next to him to pull him out. Immediately, he knew something was wrong. Since we had biked there, and there were about two football fields and a sand dune between the bikes, and us he needed a new form of transportation. My mom’s cousin, Albert, called the French equivalent of 911 who sent beach patrol down and later a helicopter to take him to the hospital in Bordeaux, two and a half hours away.

My brother and I went to my mom’s cousin’s house and waited to hear any news. It wasn’t until well after midnight that my mom’s cousin told us that my dad had broken his neck at his C3 C4 vertebra. Most people with that kind of break are paralyzed or even killed. We were able to see him the next day when he was in a medicated coma. I had never seen so many tubes coming out of one person.

I tried to convey my emotions to Angela at the time. You would think I would have been reassured by seeing by dad alive and breathing, but some unknown fear just welled up inside me. Seeing my dad so weak and vulnerable was too much for me to handle. He had always been a figure of strength and fire. I couldn’t stop crying for the next two days. The next time we saw him, he was awake and talking, progress he fought to make for my benefit. His roommate, a seventeen-year-old boy with the same fracture, was now a quadriplegic, while my dad could soon walk down the hallway and ultimately out of the hospital.

Like most people, Angela was in a state of disbelief. You don’t hear of many people walking away from an accident like that with nothing but a scar to show for it.  Having almost lost my dad I had found my faith a little shaken. I would be lost without my dad. From my dad’s accident I came to learn that God is constantly trying to direct us back toward him. As my mom so brilliantly said, “God has been gently knocking Dad on the head trying to get him to listen, this time he just hit a little harder.” God’s plan became fairly apparent within the next few days. It turned out that Bordeaux is the spine capital of France and one of my mom’s friends in Tacoma is married to a spine surgeon that my dad could check in with upon his return. Everything fell into place like God didn’t want us to suffer, he just wanted to turn our heads his direction. Upon returning, everyone already knew and brought us food for everyday of the week. Our friends came through for us and the community embraced us. Like the compassionate person she is, Angela told me she wished she had been able to be there for us. I smiled and thanked her for her kind thoughts.

Compared to that the story of my eighth graduation was no big deal. I graduated as one of three valedictorians for my class at Saint Patrick’s. I told Angela about all the kids in my class that I had grown to love over the past few years. I loved my school, but I was more than ready for the next step in my life, to go to Bellarmine with my brother. I described Bellarmine to Angela. Bellarmine is the local Jesuit high school where my dad and thirty-six other relatives had passed through over the past eighty years. Bellarmine was a new place with two hundred other freshmen to explore. I became more excited in my faith as I watched my brother and his friends participate in the mass at Bellarmine, and heard the Jesuits’ sermons that actually applied to my life. The hardest thing to convey was the immense sense of community that surrounded Bellarmine, but she understood from my consistent smile throughout my explanation.

After playing a season of soccer at Bellarmine like Angela had at Xavier in Wisconsin, I ran track in the spring. That’s where I thrived. I became a varsity runner in the mile and two mile. I told her how that transferred to my cross-country season and track season this year. I’ve won a few races since then and began to learn my value as a member of the team and as a person. The joy you feel after crossing the finish line first can not be compared with, except in sharing that joy with others. At the end of the race, I love to turn around and shake the hands of my opponents. The smallest acknowledgement can make a person’s day, so now everyday I strive to recognize at least one person.

In between, freshman and sophomore year, I had lost my Grandma Staeheli. I told Angela about how my grandma had lived with us since I was in sixth grade. Having never met my grandma, I had to describe her to Angela. She was one of the sassiest and strongest women the world will ever know. As a single mother of eight, a grandmother of twenty-one, and a faithful servant of God, she is an amazing role model. After her passing, I began to realize how much she had influenced my life. The smallest of things she told me to do, like wearing socks to keep my feet warm, have stuck with me. I regret to admit that I was never very nice to my grandma. I lacked and still lack patience. For her, I try to be a kinder person everyday. Each day I find myself being reminded of her presence in the smallest of ways. As we passed the plum trees in bloom, I told Angela about how my Grandma loved these trees and the color pink. Tacoma was a living memory of my Grandma.

By this point in my life story, we were down to the Tacoma waterfront. We sat and watched a few seals bob their heads a little off shore. On the streets of Tacoma, I was home, I could never be lost and on these streets I found myself. Our walk gave me a chance to realize the grace of God that surged through my life and a chance to get to know my friend again. Angela had to get back to her hotel so we parted ways again, not really knowing when we would meet again, but that didn’t matter. The next we saw each other we would pick up just as we had today; like no more than a day had passed. It’s amazing how time has passed and how much life I still have to explore.

College Essay: Chasing Flight

Everything was gray, but we wore pink. Our jackets, pants, and the face paint we braved like war paint; all pink. My two running cohorts and myself piled into the white Subaru Impresa and made the thirty minute drive across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, looking out over the edge toward the gray water as it met the gray sky. There were glimpses of white foam as the waves rose and fell with increasing tempo. We weaved through Gig Harbor’s evergreens toward McCormick Park known to runners as the infamous “Jail Trails.” The winding trails created a soggy, mud filled and leafy oasis in which we were free to explore. Unfazed by the gray and energized by our own color, we took off down the nearest trail, snapping pictures with the hope of being featured on the famous runnerspace.com. We came to a log blocking the trail, I shortened my stride to a quick step and then leaped over. This was what I love: the flight. It was natural, freeing, and strengthening all at once. My teammate caught the image with her iPhone, freezing the perfect flight forever. After our mud frolicking was over, I raced home and posted the photo on my Instagram with this caption, “When you run most of the time you are suspended in mid air. The faster you run the longer you fly. I chase the chance to fly a little longer.” Who would have thought eight months ago, that my college essay would be inspired by my Instagram post.

Running is a sport of grace, strength and determination. Perfect moments of flight are only achieved after months of hard training including ten mile runs, endless hill repeats, and sprints until I can no longer feel my feet. The one point of consistent flight and happiness is in the last two hundred meters of a race where the runway begins. My legs are flying by their own power with new energy found in the secret unknown stores of my body. The motion is natural, effortless, and free. My shoes become my wings and my legs become my engines. Each step gets further and further apart; the push off is stronger, allowing more time to be in flight. My heart is pumping harder and harder, prompting the pace to increase until I can no longer touch the ground. The moment I believe I have reached the point of take off I cross the finish line and the race is over, but the chase has only just begun.

The numb feeling of power and strength in these last forty five seconds of my race make everything else worth it; all the pain, all the ice baths, all the aches. Nothing else matters. It is just me and the air. The moments in the air are where I’m content. I am content in my chase of flight, the chance to fly a little longer.

Searching for Innocence

We live in a world of material things. The break our backs chasing  the new, the more advanced. What was once the five day work week for most keeps crawling longer into the rest of the day and into the sanctity of the weekend. However, we are apparently a thriving country; the greatest in the world. Is work really life? Or is there something much greater that carries the true meaning of life?

In my daily life, I too feel the rot of material possessions eating away at the joy in my life. There is this sense lurking in the back of my gut  that occasionally yearns for the innocence I had as a child. As a child, everything is good. Everything is possible. Lately I have lost all love of running because I am not the best and now I am beginning to loathe the sport, a sport that is a huge part of who I am and that I have loved my entire life. I have begun to care more for the prize and the recognition than the pure joy I feel when I gain speed. I constantly wish to return to the pure love I once had. I think this is the same for my relationship with God. I recognize times in my life where I simply enjoyed a relationship with God and had no doubts, but now I struggle with politics and temptations that seem to tear at that relationship. Now I realize my story mirrors the original story of Adam. Adam began life in God’s favor in Eden. After being tempted by both the serpent and by Eve, Adam fell out of favor with God, being drawn away by sin, and constantly wished to return to the joy that was originally his in the Garden of Eden.

The longing I feel lies in all people. It is the internal central question that seems to tug at our very souls. We all feel that sense of wanting to find who we are, just all too often enough, we try to find it without God by our side. All the unanswered questions and decisions we have to make haunt us to the point of invading our sleep, but there is still a lurking doubt of making the wrong decision. Questions of right and wrong are the worst because they come with guilt or regret along with a feeling of longing for something more. I feel this now especially as I look for the right college. I want a place that fits me and accepts all that I am, but the only place that can really happen is with God.

Considering the central question of our lives often leaves me discouraged and with a pretty nasty headache. Its hard to move past the world I have known in my eighteen years. How can I even speak for things beyond my own existence? I guess all I can say is love. Love is the phenomenon we can never explain. Love is the anomaly the baffles scientists. Love is what drives a mother to life a car off her infant. People were put on Earth to love. The key is to realize it and act through it.

In my life, I try to fill the ache with my values. My two values most prevalent in my life are the importance of family and the importance of service. I come from a huge family. At Bellarmine, I am the thirty-seventh relative to attend, not counting my whole extended family. I was raised going to holiday parties with around fifty people, all of whom were related to me. This large family of loud, opinionated, blond blue eyed maniacs teaches me more everyday, especially when it comes to looking out for each other. They all make sacrifices for each other and provide no further explanation than “they’re family.” It’s important to remain close to your roots since that is where your beliefs began. My other value is the importance of service. Service is simply good for the soul. My favorite part of service is the smile on the other persons face and that is what I strive for. Service does not have to be building a school in Africa, it can be as simple as holding a door or sitting at a lunch table.

These values make life a little better and I guess that’s what I like about them. They have no rules or fine print, they are simply instinctual if you let them be. I know in both my heart and mind that these are worthy values because they have their root in our instinct. Why would we have family if not to be there for one another? Why would our first instinct be to help if we were not designed to serve? Instincts from our most basic human nature come to be values when we forget. We are rewiring ourselves to be selfish and detached so that our instincts are overrided. I wish everything could start over, so maybe the second time we would not turn to materials, but recognize the importance of relationships, but we can’t. We were given a choice and we chose and now we forever have that longing to turn back time to the days of innocence. This is why human life is broken. We have forgotten what we truly are, which is servants to both the Earth and to each other.

Its hard for me to relate to the others’ experiences of God because I would never be able to word mine so eloquently or even find words to really describe it. My experience happened at Malibu camp two years ago. In the little harbor next to the camp, there were about seven seals that made appearances throughout the day. Seals are my favorite animal. Everyday I would go down to the water and sit on this little peninsula of rock so either side of me had water on it and wait for the seals to come. Sitting on that rock, I felt so content with my life. Slowly but surely everyday the seals would get closer and closer until one day one popped up at my feet. Being in a place filled with God’s presence made it easier to feel Him at this moment but I know I did. The easiest way for me to describe it is like my own personal sanctuary where everything is good, nothing can hurt me, and everything is beautiful. Part of the reason I went back everyday was to find that feeling again, but I do not think you can get it twice in the same way.

The key to this essay is to understand human spirituality, and I think I finally do. Human spirituality is all about how you encounter God, whatever religion, belief, or lack there of you have. The point is the encounter, not by what means you get to it.