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Thursday, January 17, 2013

This I Believe essay #1

Please post your essay here before class on Friday. Please also remember to bring a printed copy of your essay to class and be prepared to read it aloud.

36 comments:

  1. Reuben Tinsley Knight is essentially the coolest kid on the planet. I’m sure lots of people feel that way about their younger siblings. But seriously. Reuben is the shit. Mostly because he is the spitting image of an extremely good looking guy that I know. That’s me, I’m the guy. He’s my doppelganger in miniature, but I refuse to call him a Mini-Me because I hate that movie and I’m sure Reuben will too once he’s had the misfortune of watching it. He wouldn’t find it funny. That’s another reason he is so cool. He doesn’t find humor in the things kids typically laugh about. Like poop jokes. He knows how quickly those jokes become an annoyance. That’s not to say he isn’t funny though. In fact he is hilarious. I took him to the library once, and after picking out his books he said “Let’s get out of here. I could really use a beer,” right in front of all the moms and other adults with there with kids so that they gave me awkward, accusatory stares. He didn’t say it to embarrass me. He was making fun of the people who actually believed this 5 year old was about to knock back a few brewskies.
    Reuben has faith me. I don’t always know why, but he does. Even at the times that I have no faith left in myself, Reuben knows exactly what to do to restore my color. During my first real experience with depression, which I kept very much to myself and silent about, Reuben was who set me on the road to recovery. He called me one day to tell me that he had got a new Pokemon game and proceeded to tell me all about his gameplay. Almost as an afterthought between two ideas, he mentioned that he had named his player Josiah. In an instant, he brought the walls of my sadness crashing down. He is that special. And he has the best magic tricks.

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    1. I love how it's impossible to tell what your age difference is, how old Reuben--"the coolest kid on the planet"--is now. Please bring Reuben to class some day.

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    2. Rueben's is the best kind of magic, the kind that is absolutely unaware of its power. You are both lucky to have each other. When Rueben is old enough to write such essays you will find this out.

      Until then, print this out and save it for him. Let him read it when he is old enough to know what it is about.

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  2. I suffered the joys of puberty at an obscenely early age. I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that acne in the third grade is not a fun as it sounds. I can tell you which feminine products fit most discretely in those hard plastic pencil boxes. I can also tell you that neither of those uniquely hellish obstacles even remotely compare to the bizarre bullshit that my body decided to pull in the fourth grade.
    I was always a meatball of a child. I blame my father’s family and their love of butter. And although I had grown used to the life of a chubby kid, (I can truffle shuffle with the best of them) it was still a bit of a shock when I woke up one morning with all of the mammary mass I would ever have, and a gargantuan butt that would become infinitely larger over the course of my lifetime. My unreasonably kickass mother wasn’t off work from the night shift, so I was left to get ready for school by myself. I confusedly slid on the only pair of mom’s old scrubs that were stretchy enough to accommodate whatever was going on back there. I had no idea that the hassle of my green-clad, and newly-brobdignagian, hips hitting each bus seat on my trip to the back would be the onset of a complex relationship between my behind and myself.
    11 years later, I can tell you that I believe in my butt. I believe in how utterly impossible it is to find jeans that can fit it without being massive everywhere else. I believe in being told I could be in a rap video. I believe that it’s always there to pad my falls. I believe in being the painfully awkward girl who got caught on bus seats, and I believe in being the painfully awkward young woman who couldn’t ever be mistaken for a man from behind. I believe in my butt.

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    1. Wow, this is powerful stuff, Sarah. You make a great case why you believe in your butt, why every other woman, too, should as well.

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    2. Have you ever considered performing Vagina Monologues? You'd be amazing, and your voice is one that should be heard in a feminist venue.

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  3. I looked at my younger teenage brother and tears were streaming down his face. I knew he felt the same pain I did. He said to me in explanation, “I feel like I just lost my father.” We shared a moment that forever strengthened our sibling love. We had just watched Steve Carell’s last episode on the television show, “The Office.” In Season 7, Carell’s beloved character Michael Scott leaves the show to seek a new life with his partner. I identified with Michael Scott in Season 1, and stayed true to him through seven seasons of great television. I cried with him, laughed with him, became angry with him, and believed in him.
    The time I watched this monumental episode with my brother was actually my second viewing. The first I shared with my closest friend, Kelsey. We wept during that viewing as well. It is easy to understand why. Michael Scott and I built a rapport over time because I found him to be reliable. I knew that he would be there to greet me every Thursday at 9 o’clock. I believed in Michael Scott.
    I no longer watch “The Office.” I cannot bring myself to do so since Michael Scott left. It is a phase I have grown out of. However, each time I watch an old episode, I am reminded that I connected with a fictional character because of our similar ridiculousness. Michael Scott taught me that the crazy emotional connections and empathy I feel toward others is a positive quality. He taught me that caring about every single person you meet, or even those worlds away, is incredibly important. I found my doppelganger in Michael Scott. Sometimes we need to feel validated, and he allowed me that. I believe in Michael Scott, and more generally, the ability and importance to connect to fictitious characters.

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    1. This is beautifully written. I wonder if this belief is one of the reasons you are majoring in English :)

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    2. This is really, great, Johnna. It is also--for anyone who has seen the office enough to have seen some of Michael Scott's many flaws--a narrative about a connection that somehow sees beyond someone's most immediately visible flaws.

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  4. I’m not much of a morning person. Even if I do get up, I usually will lay in my bed until I muscle up the motivation to face the world and deal with my troll hair that results from tossing and turning. My family realizes how precious sleep is for a college student and how I treasure these moments snuggled in my own bed. If I get a wakeup call, it is always perfectly timed. Right as the table is being set, but before the drop biscuits are taken out of the oven. My bare-feet hit the floor at the instant the last syllable of my name hits my ears. I was woken for an excellent reason. I wouldn’t have been bothered otherwise.
    I plod out of the pink room that is now blue and head down the stairs of the old cedar house. This house is what I really call home. I secretly wish I could just uproot this house and take it wherever I end up. Baby pictures of me are everywhere, even along stair way wall. My toothless grin still makes me laugh. Once down stairs, that warm smell floods my senses and I have to keep myself from running to the kitchen. The day’s spread is laid out across the counter waiting to be carried into the dining room. Bacon, Eggs (both scrambled and over easy), biscuits, gravy, sausage and preserves. The usual combination.
    We carry the platters into the formal room with the big old table covered with dings from past occasions. Sitting down dishes carefully is not very high on the priority list when you are surrounded with homemade food and you are starving. The spread isn’t laid out often, but when it is no matter what else happens that day my day is made. We all compliment the chef as we dig in while she critiques her work. “It’s still not quite like my mama’s” she will always say. That may be true, but it is my Grammy’s breakfast.

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    1. Your descriptions are rich with colors, smells, and shapes. What a wonderful essay. You should consider giving it to your Grammy.

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    2. Love this! You are making me hungry with your great description.

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  5. I believe in the sun, that huge gassy fireball central to our indecisive construct of our solar system. I mean, Pluto has been twice removed from planetary status since my childhood… what’s that all about? I also believe that the sun conveniently overlooks the creativity of the SyFy Network’s low-budget films during their quarterly airing of “Apocalypse” week. Out of all the ways the world might come to its end; I trust the sun will have no part in it. Yes, I believe the sun has far more important tasks to deal with than to waste resources to extend a solar flare arm out to earth just to end humanity as we know it. (Come on… humans aren't that important to deserve such a grand finale.) But in all honesty, what’s not to love about such a fine specimen of a star? It’s always punctual – arriving, departing, and completely reliable. Also, its warmth is quite amiable. Sometimes I wish those traits out rub off on Kentucky’s bipolar attempt at seasons.

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    1. There is potential at the very core of this, Emily, and I enjoy the ways in which you make ridiculous leaps seem obvious (ie. the sun overlooking anything about the SyFy network). That said, I want a personal narrative to tie all of this together, an experience that you can share that made you form these beliefs in the first place...

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  6. I believe in being woken up,
    a shot in the dark
    to burst a light bulb
    into illuminated smoke.

    I believe in slapsticking my thighs,
    grapevining my way into tipping my hat
    the entire way out the door.

    I believe in hightailing it all the way back to
    Vaudeville,
    snapping on those sequin shorts
    and just pretending to be surprised when I catch little fireworks bursting in my eyes,
    reflected.

    I believe in reclaiming the show,
    slinking into slips,
    flailing liquored limbs from the sideboards of
    Model T Fords
    and returning to Bonnie before Clyde.

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    1. I liked Clyde, but the show's still worth attending without him.

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    2. Great images here, Leslie! You could write an essay about each of them, I imagine. I would like to read those essays.

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  7. I can’t tell my Bulgarian mother about measuring life in city blocks.

    For instance: on weekdays I run to the end of the third block of Bassett Avenue. I turn left where Bassett dead-ends into a train track, loop around to the end of the first block of Lincoln, and turn left again at the start of Bassett’s second block. I arrive at 207 Bassett Avenue precisely 9 minutes and 1.2 miles after I depart.

    For instance: I lived in a rented dark-green bungalow at 32 Richmond Avenue during my first year in Lexington. Though I ran daily in a neighborhood I claimed as my home, I never noticed the second block of my street until someone’s sister moved there. The second blocks were unknown territories back then, uncharted by my morning runs.

    When 207 Bassett Avenue became my home, I was secretly proud: I had joined the less visible, more garish, less affluent, more unpredictable world of the second blocks. For instance: 207 Bassett Avenue faces the pool table in Tyler’s living room where drugs exchange hands. Or so we observe every time the police arrives to take Tyler away, his loose pants hanging below his waist, his right hand raised in good bye.

    Today I run through the third blocks: a world of plastic lawn ornaments, rusted trucks, and signs that announce “For Rent.” They don’t recycle in the third blocks, my husband observes. I observe a sign that says “Deaf Child.” I wonder how old that child is, if her life is still marked by things that cannot be recycled.

    I believe in third blocks, an oversized snowman waving at me from the fifth yard on the left.

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    1. Or maybe you believe in one block further from where you are?

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  8. I Believe In Dreams

    Sleep.
    Carrying me, reluctantly, away from my day-to-day,

    Sleep.
    Forcing me to see more than what I want to see;
    More than the pages upon pages of reading,
    More than the blank, invisible walls of my day-to-day,

    Sleep.
    Making me retreat, slowly, back into myself--into my self,

    Sleep.
    Asking me, politely, if I wouldn't mind remembering;
    Remembering that I exist.
    Remembering what it's taken to get here,

    Sleep.
    Reminding me, admonishingly, that remembering is overrated;
    Pulling, ever-so-slighty, on the dagger protruding from my chest,
    a dagger I stabbed in my own back years ago.
    I had it coming, right?

    Sleep.
    Luring me, sweetly, into a false sense of security;
    Tucking me in with a nice beer-blanket,
    Remembering to tuck in the corners,
    He can take his time.
    I can't say no, if I'm a--

    Sleep.

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    1. I so believe in sleep! Great work :)

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    2. Very dark... I hope you enjoy sleeping.

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    3. I love sleep, but I hope you aren't sad when you sleep :)

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    4. Sleep is kinda the necessary consequence of getting to your own dreams... if that makes sense...

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  9. I believe in hand-carved forts.

    Wind-blown powder glides over lost roads: now fields of virgin earth. Boiling storms hurl glittering snow: caught in knotted apple trees and dropped, into six-foot drifts below. A surface melted by noon-day sun hardens against howling night winds. Thick crust forms to support my morning feet. I reach barren branches with ease. These same branches, full with fruit, were found atop an eight-foot ladder as we gathered apples for sauce in the fall.

    Asparagus and rhubarb crack through the ground come spring. Today my brother and I break the crust with swift hammers, lost in a flurry of hand-swept snow. We chisel a five-room cave in the edge of an icy drift: spherical rooms softly filter sun through crystalline ceilings. Eyelashes freeze shut. Numb fingers stick in knitted mittens. We stumble home on slivers of visible light.

    Chiseled free from icy garments, we sip scorching-hot chocolate and tea. Exhaling sugared air into the sides of thick mugs, we sense scalps contracting—tightening against steam. Woolen socks sizzle like bacon drippings over the wood-stove. Ice boils off snowflake patterns and felted blue. Two pairs shed like four snake-skins: husks that hold the shapes of our bodies.

    I remember razor-edged cold air and wool socks that deflect it. We walk arm-in-arm, strengthened against blindness: bumbling bodies on ice. Drifted snow, though piled high in my memories, is too rare a treat.

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    1. Love the image (and sounds) of woolen socks sizzling like bacon. What a terrific string of memories. Perhaps you should send them to your brother as a winter gift?

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  10. This I believe…

    I believe that looking at something is different than seeing it. We look at a passer-by, glance at the clock to check the time, watch the movie on Netflix. But to me, “seeing” means to look passed the front, and see that it’s not what you think. Seeing means understanding the soul of the person you’re locking eyes with, and realizing that they have trials and tribulations much like your own. Every. Single. Day.
    Which brings me to explaining how I came to believe this, I was in Chicago, home of the Magnificent Mile and a great seven floor mall. I began the trip shopping while my dad was busy at a law seminar, when I ran across someone that changed the way I viewed people. He was homeless, and cold, and hungry. He wasn’t asking for my money or pocket change. He was just sitting, just waiting. Waiting for mercy, I suppose. Waiting for someone not to whisper about him, or laugh at him, not to glance over at him, or watch him as if they thought he would mug them… not even to look at him, but to see him.
    I couldn’t tell you how many thousands of people looked at him that day without seeing him, but I made one less.

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    1. Sara, I wanted to know more about this encounter. How did you respond to this person? Did he say anything in return? I feel cheated of a good story...

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  11. I believe in never taking someone else’s prescription anti-anxiety medicine. I especially believe this before getting on flights from Barcelona to Budapest. If you do this, you must be prepared to potentially pass out in the aisle of the plane an hour into your flight. I believe this, because it happened to me.
    If you also believe this, then never admit to anyone your deathly fear of flying. Just stand quietly at the gate and continue to envision terrifying scenes of engine failure, wings ripping off, and even the occasional snake on a plane. If you do decide to mention your deathly fear to a friend, do NOT accept the anti-anxiety pill she swears will calm you down. Do NOT believe her when she so convincingly explains how she gives them to her friends “alllll the time.” But, if she is a sweet southern belle from South Carolina, and she insists on providing you with her oh-so-tempting hospitality, you will probably take the pill. If you have gotten to this point, then do not be ashamed. Let’s be real, who wouldn’t take the pill? Don’t answer that.
    This is what will happen to you after taking the pill. You will feel like a baby cherub on angel’s wings. The sweet southern belle who so kindly shared her prescription anti-anxiety medicine with you is Jesus. In your mind, the plane will always have enough fuel, and there are no snakes in sight. You may even drowse off.
    This is the point where you will stop believing in taking someone else’s prescription anti-anxiety medicine and start believing in never taking someone else’s prescription anti-anxiety medicine, like I do. You will do this, because all of a sudden, you will wake up from your drowsy sleep-dream of baby cherubs and feel like you are dying. You will start sweating, shivering and tingling. You will realize this is not a good thing and that you are dying. Once you begin to believe you are dying you will think that the best place to die on an airplane is the bathroom. So, you will begin to stumble toward the front of the plane. No one will help you because everyone else is sleeping and the flight attendants are all preparing food at the back of the plane. You will also become aware that everything is getting blurry. This will be when you wake up on the floor of the aisle of the plane. Also, no one will notice that you have passed out, so you will start crawling to the bathroom, the best place to die. After this happens, one of your friends will notice you mouthing words on the ground next to her and she will freak out and drag you to the bathroom. There, you will vomit and continue to think you are dying. This is when you really believe in never taking someone else’s prescription anti-anxiety medicine. It’s ok, though, because in the end you will survive and have a fantastic time in Budapest. I believe this will happen to you, because it happened to me.

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    1. Great story (with a great moral), Katie! You write with a sense of humor and your performance in class, too, was wonderful.

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  12. I believe love comes in all shapes.

    Big circles, round even, eternal, no ends, no turns, no points, nor axises.
    Or small squares, planned careful, clear, boxed in borders flat and bounded.

    Shapes with deep-seated depth, three dimensional, touchable, tactile easy to grip.
    Shallow shapes with no route, stiff lipped, skewed or spiraled down.

    Love comes in all shapes but when shaped by three lines of love, love’s shape is triangular, the most shapely shape of love.
    Both broad and narrow, advancing toward the sky, anchored to the ground.

    Ah, the angle of love.
    Triangles are simple, the made shape of three lines and three bonds

    The triangle, it makes lines of all of us.
    Dangling,
    Mangling,
    Angling,
    Strangling
    One too many lines.

    I wanted her. She wanted him. He wanted me.
    He said. She said. We said,
    Unsaid

    So what’s the point?

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    1. I also believe love comes in all shapes.

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    2. Wow, very impressionistic. The bit towards the end--beginning with "I wanted her"--helps your writing be less abstract, more grounded, more engaging, more fun. I really like your essay.

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  13. Savanna Barnett
    This I Believe Entry #1
    Jan 21 2012


    I believe in saying “hello” to complete strangers. I find myself being even more prone to saying hello to the people I think others might ignore, or avoid direct eye contact with; maybe those with a weathered and rough outer appearance; People who I know for a fact have lived/are living through misfortunes and hard times. People who expect nothing more than being ignored. These individuals are frightening to some; the people who assume they are dangerous and capable of things unheard of. To others, these people are nuisances; merely “in the way” of their busy little lives. Saying hello to these strangers over time, I have gotten some odd responses, and sometimes, no response at all. I have received some angry and confused expressions in response to my friendly “hello.” I have also received friendly “hellos” in return. But, one experience I will never forget. I was walking down 4th street, and came across an elderly man who seemed to have most of his belongings piled into a rickety old Kroger shopping cart. He made eye contact with me, so I smiled and said “Hello.” He stopped and stared at me for a second, with a puzzled look on his face, and then began to grin, and said, “Thank you.” I said, “what for?” He replied, “Because your smile is contagious and you should wear it all the time, it looks beautiful on you.” This man left me speechless. That was more than worth the 2 seconds it took to just acknowledge his presence. You don’t have to offer anything more than a simple “hello” to someone to make a difference in their day. Sometimes, just letting someone know that you know they are there is all it takes. Humans, all of us, need to be acknowledged by others. So, smile. Say hello. This is why I believe in saying "hello" to complete strangers; you never know when you could brighten someone’s day.

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    1. I would suggest that this brightens someones day every single time and wish that I could commit to always saying "hello," like you do. Years ago I met some incredible people who became collaborators of mine on a project that addressed issues of homelessness in Over-The-Rhine, Cincinnati. Many of the people I worked with on this project made it abundantly clear just how hurtful it can be when someone pretends not to even notice them. They proved to me just how important it is to say "hello" to strangers. Good for you, Savanna

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