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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

This I Believe #1, 2011

Please post your "This I Believe" essay by noon on Friday, January 21. Bring a printed copy of your essay to class as well. Please practice reading it so that you are prepared to share.

16 comments:

  1. i believe in monsters. in a big house on brook park drive, monsters live in the basement. they are always blue and for some strange reason they often resemble the characters woody and buzz lightyear. they are typically very friendly, but if they do get cranky it is merely because they miss their mommies. all you have to do to cheer them up is carry them gently to the armchair where their mothers will undoubtedly comfort them.

    i believe in dragons. sometimes we call them to that small house on bassett avenue, jump on their backs, and fly through starlit skies to florida. we wear capes on nights like these. mine is purple. i am always grateful for this cape; the wind can be quite chilly when one rides upon a dragon.

    i believe in having incredible adventures. be it hunting bears and foxes in the depths of the forest or swimming from giant sharks through the waves in the ocean. i believe that having a magical sword during these adventures is always your best defense - against even the most formidable of foes. (never leave it behind, for you may find yourself cornered by the pokey-pines who aren't very nice.)

    i believe in the imaginations of children, in the power they possess to encourage me to step outside of my own world, if only for an afternoon. i believe in letting go of the concrete confines of reality long enough for a child to have the opportunity to lead me into their made-up, mixed-up dreams and fantasies. it is within their stories that i find myself transformed, back into the child who once had a vivid imagination of her own.

    i believe that i can never allow myself to grow up completely. i believe that, in order to thrive, my spirit must always be willing to see what children see.

    i believe in the imaginations of children, in the ability to live unrestricted by reality.

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  2. I believe in the girl with red hair. Part of the 2% of the population blessed as "carrot tops". She is lucky enough to run her fingers through hair as shiny as a new penny, everyday. The girl whose hair sparkles like love and is different from most of those around her. Standing out but hidden at the same time. If that makes sense.

    I believe in the girl who loves the car windows down, the music high, and singing even when she doesn't know the words. The time she kept singing even when the song was over and the time her dancing caught the guys' eyes in the next car at a red light. And when they laughed at her. The same girl who tries to find the stars on a clear night sky from her bedroom window. Her personality as bright as the stars glittering. A person who tries to live in confidence just as the cardinal does when it tweets every morning in hope for a wonderful day.

    I believe in the girl who paints a big black line through the portrait she worked on all night because she decided it wasn't good enough. The time she talked to her dogs when no one else would listen. The Saturday night she sat alone because it seemed like everyone she knew was busy. The girl who stands tall even in sad times.

    I believe in the girl with red hair. The girl who finds the bright side and laughs at any joke. I believe in the girl who smiles and waves to the old man up the street and the girl who is passionate about helping others. I believe in the girl who looks up to her older brother and sister. I believe in the girl who trips on the sidewalk and slips on the ice. I believe in the girl who wishes at 11:11 and holds her breath every time she crosses a bridge. I believe in the girl who is never this conceited. I believe in myself.

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  3. I believe in the sea. I believe that a child of two to thirteen was constantly frustrated that the van in the summer; full of boys and blankets always took her to the sea. I believe in long strips of teal water and sparkling white sand that finds it's way between toes, and slices of bread with peanut butter, and even into cans of no-longer cool soda.

    I believe that that child was me. (And perhaps many other children like me.)

    I believe that the sea is cold and powerful, and probably old and tired too.

    I believe that the sea is full of souls who feel just as old and tired as their rolling, roaring, monstrous home. I believe in the sea, and I believe in second chances every time a boat makes it back with everyone alive. I believe that we all need the sea, that sometimes we all need to know that we've risked our lives, risked everything, and we were spared and get to keep going.

    I believe that the sea is a constant reminder that we can get away, that we can't always imagine everything, that we don't know what could happen and that we are not in control.

    I believe that the sea is in my veins, perhaps not the same way it is in the veins of sailors or fishermen, but wandering road trips and living out of suitcases in the summer will always bring the sea back to me. I believe that the suitcase in my closet and the empty drawers in my dresser are calling me back to the sea. The folded clothes in a bag and books in backpacks and things that never get unpacked, just moved from house to house and room to room by the currents of the sea.

    I believe that I will always be restless until I can always be by the sea. I believe that childhood vacations sent me into a transient spiral that will continue until I can return to the sea.

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  4. Candy lipstick, as you might recall from childhood, is packaged in hard-plastic forms that masquerade as something between a discreet personal massager and an unfired shell of birdshot. Because it trains children everywhere to eat lipstick, I am certain this confection is solely responsible for the success of door-to-door saleswomen hawking Avon and Mary Kay. Though anyone could use lipstick cut by the teeth of a child rummaging through drawers for a fix of sugar, it is difficult to tell this to the women who open pink, patent-leather briefcases on your kitchen table to reveal perfectly shaped tips of greasy color.

    Lollipop rings, somehow coating your hands with saliva and sugar before even finding their way out of the package, feature faceted and ostentatious jewels craved by children and ants everywhere. Exhausted from watching my cousins compete in the Nacogdoches Rodeo, I napped in a hot Texas sun and the jewel I wore, when Monique won her crown for barrel-racing, dissolved. Though my rapidly blistering skin did not wake me, the searing bites of fire-ants quickly covering my hand did. What was once was a purple jewel became a vast lake of grape glue holding fast to the feet that came marching as a ring melted down my sleeping arm.

    Threaded strings of sugared bling, candy necklaces rest against summer skin, skin coated thick with the precipitate of evaporated sweat. Sun-dried salt rings the circumference of pastel beads. I chew them off three, four, five at a time enjoying a mix of salty and sweet that I have come to know from margaritas, a drink not nearly as intoxicating as sharing beads on a string. I believe in candy necklaces.

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  5. Against better judgment for a woman working alone, I greet the man by telling him “You will have to put a shirt on.” At his doorstep he waits for me to explain why I’ve knocked on his Saturday afternoon, who sent me there.

    I tell him I have been photographing discarded couches, I explain it’s been 263 days since the first photo of Billy, I promise he’ll get a picture, I clarify that Don sent me there, and as I come up for air he asks, “So you want me to sit on a couch?” Ears and fingertips frozen, I nod in agreement and I know my sales pitch has betrayed me, or else it’s the wrong time of year to ask strangers to leave living rooms 80 degrees warmer than the sidewalks that house old couches. James smiles and asks for a minute to get dressed for the outside where I begin scheming which piece to ask him to sit on: once-elegant yellow striped chair, tipped over, cushion snow-free; bulky burgundy easy seat soggy under last-night’s ice cover; light-brown couch holding a pink bedroom’s furnishings.

    As we make our way to the pile of photoshoot options, he tells me about serving free meals on Sundays, a Church Under the Bridge, and Don sweeping snow from a path that ought to be welcoming. He walks with a limp and I slow down, watching for ice under this morning’s white snow.

    After I take the photograph, James and I walk back to his doorstep. He tells me about the man who threw out the furniture in the picture we now share: his landlord, a man unsentimental about the lives of insolvent tenants. He tells me he won’t live much longer in the apartment where I found him. He tells me the picture I’ve promised to mail him will find him.

    As I depart, I thank him for coming out in 17-degree weather. He smiles and tells me it was nice that someone visited on a Saturday afternoon.

    I believe in old couches: reliable seats of comfort.

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  6. For all my life, I’ve held a reverence for duty. It is an outdated concept that holds a special place within my being. Through this ideal I find myself. No matter what, if it needs to be done, it shall be done. Duty helps to give me purpose and dedicating to something is a great experience of wealth and freedom. There is so much out there I believe in and so much to do. Duty helps to sort these things so that I’m not overwhelmed by the responsibility. I love my home so much and I love my family even more; thus, those things that I love I dedicate myself to. If love requires me to work within a factory to help pay off loans then it will be done. If love requires me to give up my room so that my uncle and his family may use it while their youngest deals with a debilitating cancer then it will be done.
    I remember working at that factory; I hated every second of it. From the authority to the other workers, I found only people with too much anger within them and a will to share their anger with me, the unwilling. Duty caused me to stay; without the money, I would have had a significant chance of not being here (Transylvania). Don’t believe that if I loathed the workplace that I worked with only half my heart; duty would not allow it. If you’re going to do something, do it right. Despite the people at the factory, I stayed and worked up until the final day before college began its process once again.
    It’s not only the personal level that duty helps to strengthen; it’s the idea that so many could be dedicated to my well-being that truly inspires me. How can someone be dedicated to me…I’m not much of a person as is. Despite this, these people still feel the need to do everything they can to make my life fantastic. It gladdens me yet saddens me…for all my bluster, I am still only human. I love the concept of duty but I don’t feel that I’ve lived up to what I believe; maybe I never will. I hope I can return the dedication to them (who I love) but I feel I’m too weak. My greatest fear is wrought from what I revere; failure. If I fail them, their dedication is for naught and makes me a monster. Dedication begets dedication; my belief in duty means I will not fail them despite my doubts.

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  7. I believe there is a lot more about me than the number 33 or the 99th percentile. And I believe there is a lot more about you than a 22 or a 2.5 or your CATS reading score.

    I believe that realizing, genuinely, uniquely, all on your own that yellow and blue make green is more important than bubbling c. 5-sided when asked about a pentagon. And more important than knowing that c is the most common answer to a multiple choice.

    Creativity, innovativeness, Martha Nussbaum’s narrative imagination. Kindness, forgiveness, love and peace. Excited, inquisitive, eager to learn students. The ability to fail, understanding adults aren’t and you don’t have to be perfect.

    None of this can be measured by a test. That child’s story can’t be written on his Scantron with her No. 2 pencil. But it all is more important to life, to being human.

    How ‘bout 2+2=4? Pales in comparison to understanding my background + his culture doesn’t mean war, but rather equals an opportunity to learn from each other.

    I believe that standardized testing does provide accountability—accountability of how good you are at pouring information into a robot on the assembly line of industrialized education models.

    What a test cannot and does not measure is how much a child has grown as a person, come to realize his or her own story and place in the world. It doesn’t record the act of giving the kid in the seat next to you your lunch cookie when they’ve had a bad day.

    I believe that our standardized testing culture is educational malpractice. I believe it has the potential to label the best educators as “bad teachers”. I believe that it is one of the roots of our worst problem—that we teach children out of their most amazing human quality—out of being children.

    I worry, that this what our culture wants.

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  8. I believe in the itch.
    Competition, pride, craft, and all around lack of respect coalesce at the marker nib’s end. The thrill of the chase, of being better, of being too damn fast and clever for em’ courses through the veins like a white hot shot of adrenaline. My black sneakers on black rooftops sneak along, doing a different sort of business from the steel-toed boots of the daytime crowd. The overspray on my knuckles gives new meaning to the phrase “caught red-handed,” but my can’s powder pink.
    I believe that the sloppy calligraphy of a local vandal says more about the community than a Coca-Cola ad. That advertisers are the most prolific, destructive, intrusive vandals of all. That public property is not government property. That our cities, as representations of ourselves, deserve a more relaxed wardrobe; that there are tie dyes amongst all those grey suits. That the prefix “graffiti” should not discount the term “artist”. That giving corporations our undivided visual attention deadens the eye, cheapens the individual, and stultifies the soul. That writers puzzle just as much, if not more than, graphic designers do over letter combinations. That the media has only discovered the tip of the iceberg with Banksy. That there is something valuable in a wash of colors, all saying simply, “I was here”.
    I’m doing this for the writers, the bombers, the pasters, the stencillers, the guerrilla gardeners, the flash mobbers, the projectors, and the sticker kids. I do this for the subways of New York, the tall hands of Philly, and the Berlin wall. I do this for every kid growing up with his or her heart in the train yard. I do this for the streets and the bodies that fill them. I do this for the haters, the cops, the biters, the toys.
    No. I’m doing this for me.
    I believe in scratching the itch.

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  9. Blair, I love your meditation on what the sea means to you. I like both the details that make it personal (the peanut-butter sandwiches, the books that never get unpacked) and the more philosophical thoughts (the sea as a reminder that we are not in control, that we get second chances without even being aware of it). Thank you for giving us so many new ways to think of the sea and what it means.

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  10. Cody, this is a tremendous realization, one you should share with your family. You could mail each of them a copy of your reflection, so they could read it and think about it at their leisure. Or find a different way of letting them read it.
    You are right: dedication begets dedication. This is why you should not be afraid of failure. Even if you failed (when you fail, I should say, for don't we all fail on occasion?), your family would still support you because of their dedication to you, because of the respect you've no doubt earned from them by now.

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  11. April, you should find a way of sharing this reflection with a lot more people. It is thoughtful, smart, and written in a really fun way (your examples are great and work very well). I wonder if the Rambler would publish it? Or the Transylvanian? Or could you post it on your facebook (that could be a real test for facebook friendship)...

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  12. Of course, you are right, Clay. Of course, I would think you are right when you defend the rights of those who are rendered invisible and unimportant to make art, to be visible, to be heard. I wonder of the Transylvanian would be willing to publish this reflection along with a photograph of one of Droner's pieces?

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  13. Katie, I really like the points of this essay that include the exactness of the language you assume when you are living within these moments unrestricted by reality. You mention 'pokey-pines' that are not very nice without feeling a need to surround the spelling error with quotes as I have.

    I wonder how this essay would be different if you tried to write it also unrestricted by the linear and logically defined narrative structure of the adult world?

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  14. Cody, I find much of myself in your essay, much of my feelings toward my own family. Though I do not think I would use the word 'duty' to define what I believe is a very similar commitment to honoring those who gave of their lives to make my own, I appreciate your words and your feelings. I am glad you shared this with the class.

    And I really like this sentence, this thought
    "I found only people with too much anger within them and a will to share their anger with me, the unwilling."

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  15. April, I hope you have seen Ken Robinson's TED talk about how Schools Kill Creativity...

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html

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  16. Clay, you have written a manifesto for the mindset of CETA this year, at least in regard to the street art murals that we are doing (pasted below my own words and three dashes used to make a barrier). What do you believe, though, about the work of a vandal who sprayed the paint at 468 West Second? What about the work of the building owners on the corner of Fourth and Limestone who cannot match a paint color to save their lives and, in this, make both their building AND the graffiti they are trying to cover look worse?

    ---

    I believe that the sloppy calligraphy of a local vandal says more about the community than a Coca-Cola ad. That advertisers are the most prolific, destructive, intrusive vandals of all. That public property is not government property. That our cities, as representations of ourselves, deserve a more relaxed wardrobe; that there are tie dyes amongst all those grey suits. That the prefix “graffiti” should not discount the term “artist”.

    ReplyDelete