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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

This I Believe essay #1

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

22 comments:

  1. It’s 6:30 in the morning. I was nearing the end of my second summer on J.M. Feltner camp staff. My summer as the nature instructor. I’m waiting near the flagpole after just recently waking up from my four hour “sleep” after being on call twenty-four hours a day for the past four days. As I tried to shake off my sleep deprivation, they arrived. A group of six or seven boys no older than twelve were walking up the hill from the boy’s side of camp. They were moving just as slow as I had been on my way over from the staff cabin. Why was I awake? Why had I agreed to lead a sunrise hike? Why had these kids actually shown up? Did the county agent have a vendetta against me? I was less than thrilled to be completely honest, but I was “there for the kids” as I was often reminded by my own inner monologue. So, we took off through the dewy fog for the trail. We were all silent for the first ten minutes, myself being the most silent. But by the time we had made it to the clearing the boys had livened up. Now they were in the lead as we made our way through the trail that I had walked so many times. They were identifying trees that I’d taught them in class and laughing every time the person in the front of the line would walk through a face-high spider web. By the time we reached the top of the hill the sun was coming up over the hills. We sat down on the graveyard fence and watched it. They were silent again, taking it all in. And in that moment it wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about how fast we could walk the trail so I could go back to bed. It wasn’t about learning every plant and tree we passed. It really was about the kids. It was about getting to know them and having fun. It was about making it up that hill, together.

    I believe in sunrise hikes. I believe in walking through spider webs. I believe in summer camp. But most of all, I believe in my kids.

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    1. This reminds me about how I feel about our FUP kids and my August Term Students.

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  2. This I believe.
    I believe that students can be extremely ungrateful towards their Resident Advisors. They seriously overestimate the ability I have both to care and to actually do what they want done. Even if it is a transition period in their lives, I can find no reason to knock on someone’s door three times at two in the morning because someone took a basket from outside your door. Nor can I find a reason to leave hair outside my door and blame me for the lack of clean showers. Emailing me and texting me constantly does not make me or anyone else on the hall want to cater to your needs anymore. You live on a hall with 30+ other women sharing four showers—I’m sorry.
    Being an RA has made me realize that a large amount of people really do come from extremely privileged households. It has also pointed out that those few privileged people who treat others like their personal maids, give a bad name for everyone else who also comes from a privileged setting. And yes, I did sign up for this job knowing that I would have some residents who were a little wild and ungrateful, but never did I think I would take it so personally and be offended by their behaviors. While I can’t share many of the stories it is hard to believe that so many people have a hard time understanding why you are reporting them when they are falling over drunk or clearly have illegal items in their room.
    I believe that these residents need to think about the fact that the RAs (like all the other student workers on campus) are also full-time students who are also involved in other activities. While I’ll definitely be there for your emergencies, I may take some time to respond if you just want to talk about what Betty said to Bob last night. I know it can be horrifying for someone to take ten minutes to respond to a text, but really, you don’t need to send five more.
    And while this leads me to believe that it is an issue that certain people in our society feel this sense of entitlement, it goes a lot deeper than some of my residents treating other students ignorantly. We’re all guilty of it. We are all constantly looking for our status in our society and often look around, trying to figure out who is above and below us on the totem pole. But I’m not sure you can eliminate these standards in society; we’re a culture that, in many senses, is built around climbing up to the top of the totem pole.

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    1. Your reflection ends on a chilling note. I want to believe that not everyone participates in this culture of sizing up oneself and others. I try to believe this.

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  3. There is little I enjoy more than waking up so early that I catch the sky in that odd dark blue phase of turning to day. I love looking out the window right at that moment because I feel the sunrise and I share a few seconds of sleepy-eyed compromise. “Just, hang on a second,” I imagine we say to one anther.

    I love putting on the tea kettle when I wake up too, so that by the time I sit down on my couch to read I have a small cup-full of rich tasty waiting for me - the outside light then beginning to wake up its mind too. I know this sounds like a Folgers commercial, but I will not deny myself that strangely American wonder that is a hot beverage in the morning.

    Those precious few wee-hours I keep as a secret treasure to myself. I use them for my chores. That’s what other people would call them, anyway. To me, they are the few activities during a school day that do not utterly exhaust me. I wash my dishes, fold clothes, ALWAYS make my bed, all the while drinking yet more coffee and tea.

    For breakfast I almost always make oatmeal – like, plain ass oatmeal from the giant box. Sometime (if I have the time) I knit, or meditate or craft, or stretch or do other old people stuff.

    I believe I am an 80-year-old nun trapped in a hipster’s body. I don’t much care for the frenzy of late nights, drinking in loud places, or dancing to music that ain’t got that swing. It may sound backwards, but most of the time THOSE things feel like the real chores in a day.

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  4. She woke up, rolled out of bed and plucked up her mirror off the counter. She gazes into it and then instantly grabs her foundation. I ask “ Why are you putting on makeup if all you are going to do today is laundry?”. She explains “ I could never go without it”.

    Alternatively, I did not wear makeup that Sunday afternoon. I did not smear foundation across the reddened imperfections on my skin. I did not brush on the translucent powder to seal the new flawless tone. I did not put on garbs of eyeliner and mascara to make my almond shaped eyes look larger. In fact, I don’t wear make up much at all. Only on the days that I really need to or simply feel like it.

    It makes me sad that our society has placed it’s false and unrealistic standards of beauty on women. Many feel like they can’t leave the house without make up on. Some even have to wear it at home, a place in my opinion where everyone should be comfortable in their own skin.

    These expectations have surpassed far beyond facial beauty and have extended to harsh critiques of a woman’s full figure. Big boobs. Small waist. A little bit of a butt. That is what seems to be considered beautiful. Why can’t we appreciate the spice of life? Why can’t society judge inner beauty and inner qualities more critically than it does an individual’s exterior?

    I wish women would define beauty in their own terms. While I know this is harder said than done, this is the only way to protect future generations of women from some our current problems. In the future if I have a daughter I don’t want her to know a girl who has an eating disorder, nor do I want her to experience that herself. I don’t want my daughter to be peer pressured into wearing make-up even if she still finds it a waste of time. I don’t want my daughter to get highlights in her hair because “blonde is beautiful” and “ brown is too plain”. I want her to embrace her own vision.

    I believe that a person’s internal qualities shine through their exterior. I believe that a woman’s supposed faults are what people fall in love with, because those are uniquely hers. I believe in no make-up days. I believe in embracing real natural beauty, not the manipulation.

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  5. We argued often when I was ten and he was twelve. At the time, we settled our arguments with a tape measure, a role of masking tape, and the better part of a day. The masking tape was dusty-dry and brittle from living too long in our family van, a sun-fired oven in which my brother and I rode 1600 summer miles to our cousins’ house in Crockett, Texas. We bounced around in the back on a plaid sofa years before seatbelts outlawed so stylish a ride.

    We argued less when I was twelve and he was fourteen. We settled these arguments with leather mitts, a baseball, and an aluminum bat. The ball was damp and dark from so frequently landing in the muddy bank of the stream across the road—an automatic, ground rule double. I swung the bat as hard as I could to catch him in the side, at the level of his lowest ribs. Then I ran.

    We do not argue anymore. Instead, I make artwork to mourn the loss of our collaborations and I believe that all things require cooperation, even violent disagreement.

    Now I know that splitting a shared bedroom into precise halves is a healing kind of work. So I rebuild our bedroom inside an art gallery. I use hatchets, instead of masking tape, to separate his half from mine. Even the dresser is divided this way.

    All these years later, our room is empty and quiet. My portrait looks from its place over my bed at his portrait, which hangs over his. He is pictured with a hatchet in his hands. I have already lost the sharp edge of mine into his skull.

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  6. In the middle of a family that is focused on mashing potatoes, carving a Christmas turkey, and decanting the vintner’s choice wine, my father-in-law exhales, “Oh, no.” We all turn to watch my four-year-old descend the carpeted stairs in a bouncing pink tutu.

    “We have an agreement,” I announce. “He can wear skirts at home.”

    My cheerful explanation disguises days of sorting convictions: those acquired in graduate-school classes on identity politics, those picked up on the edge of a stage where women flaunt over-the-top make-up and silhouettes shaped with tape. Finally, I reveal the truth to my son: “Some people believe only girls wear skirts. They are wrong. Scottish men love colorful skirts.

    But there are people who might be mean to you if they saw you in skirts. Better wear pants outside.”

    Just as the doorbell announces the arrival of visitors, my father-in-law mutters: “This really bothers me.” I, too, am bothered. I am bothered that my aunt Margaret is battling Stage 4 breast cancer. I am bothered by explicit acceptance of statistical correlations between elementary-school drop-out rates and the occupancy of U.S. prisons. I am bothered that high-profile sexual violence in India is on the rise. I am bothered by all the cases of unreported, swept-under-the-rug violence, of all varieties. I am bothered by people who insist that only girls wear skirts.

    Later that night, my son asks if I think Santa, too, believes that boys don’t wear skirts. “What if Santa brought me a pink dress,” he inquires. “Would I be allowed to wear it outside?” I assure him that he would. Because, I, too, believe that pink is, without a doubt, superior to blue, dark green, and grey.

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    1. i love this so much, kremena. your son is a beautiful child and i am so glad that he has parents who allow him to express himself as he sees fit.

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  7. I believe in Mumble. Whether it’s the act of mumbling, or my stuffed animal Build-a-Bear penguin named Mumble that has so graciously and lovingly slept with me every night since the Happy Feet movie came out when I was in sixth grade.
    There are a few reasons why I believe in both of these forms of mumbling. I like to craftfully dodge those questions that I believe it’s best not to answer by mumbling. Like when I went home over the break and my dad asked me what grades I made last semester, I skillfully mumbled something incoherent and made it sound a lot better than it was, because REALLY who wants to tell their dad that they made a C in Macroeconomics? Definitely not me. I did it again back in high school when I accidentally got a few white scratches on the bumper of my black car. When my dad inquired as to where those scratches came from, I gave him my best puppy dog face and mumbled a few things… He came to believe, with no guidance of my own, that someone had hit my car while I was at the movies the night before. I didn’t find the need in correcting him.
    I also believe in Mumble, though. Maybe even more than I believe in mumbling! Because when you’re a child, and you whisper your secrets to your stuffed animals every night, you find an unspoken form of comfort in telling them how you feel. The best part is, they can’t tell others your secrets, they’re safe forever. They won’t even mumble a word.

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  8. I believe in theatre.
    I believe in a theatre that tells a story. One an audience can take home with them. One that makes them ask questions and think more on the world around them.

    I believe in a theatre with memorable characters. Characters you love and ones you love to hate. Characters you can relate and empathies with.

    I believe in a theatre that interacts with its audience. One that makes them feel apart of world. One that makes them feel like more than just a spectator.

    I believe in a theatre that inspires people. Whether it’s an inspiration to be creative or to be more active in their community.

    I believe in a theatre that emotional affects you. Ones that make you cry and ones that make you laugh. Ones that make you uncomfortable and ones that make you relaxed.

    I believe in a theatre of many sizes. Whether the stage fits only little or more than needed.

    I believe in a theatre with and without costume and props. Whether their actors be dressed flashy or bare. Whether their actors sit or stand.

    I believe in a theatre outside and in.

    I believe in a theatre that last an hour or more. I believe in a theatre that last ten minutes or less.

    I believe in a theatre for the people. Whether they are rich or poor, young or old.

    I believe in a theatre that gives you a show. Whether it’s with singing or dancing. Whether it uses illusions and circus tricks.

    I believe in theatre.

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  9. When I was younger, I had an empowering force behind me. I had the land the roam on my grandfather’s farm, to take my imagination to it’s highest. It was a full 80 acres worth of dangerous rain forests with venomous creatures waiting to spring at me and archeological sights with the burial remains of people who lived centuries past. I would investigate the niches and survival skills of some of the world’s most unique animals, walk out to old abandoned churches and investigate the lives that are buried in the cemeteries there, and all before I would complete my chores that morning. I had an amazing childhood completely ruled by my imagination and thirst for knowledge. I wanted to know about anything and everything that involved science, history, and adventure. One time, after visiting a butterfly conservatory, I filled my entire room with hand drawn and designed replicas of some of the butterflies this world has– I still find some to this day lurking about. This kind of curiosity was able to continue until the rude awakening of pre-adolescence.
    In middle school, they taught us that the most important lesson you would learn here was how to grow up, because you had to and fast. The world was a cruel place with rough competition that the United States can’t even begin to imagine succeeding in. We were stacked in five plus hours of homework, with honors classes and examinations to prepare us for the treachery ahead. The usefulness of a child-like imagination dropped out of worth, and was never utilized from then on.
    Looking back on myself, I find that there are many things that I have gained and lost in the growth of my academic career. I have read more books than my mind can begin to look back on and have learned about subjects that a majority of this world will never be blessed enough to know. I love it. I love the freedom, and the outreach that happens with going to school and actually taking an interest in knowing that there is always something else out there. However, while going to classes, writing papers, reading chapters and scientific articles, putting together quick presentations and research topics, I have lost one of the greatest, most intelligent powers that I could have ever been exposed to: my imagination, my faith that anything in this world can be at my reach, that I can do anything if I just believe. It is this that I lack as I try and figure out a path for myself, trying to question what I can do, how far I can go, if I can live that kind of lifestyle, and the more important question of whether it even matters. And all of this for a career plan that will get me into a decent paying job with benefits where I’ll at least have my own desk.
    I believe that in someways, I have hit a fence in my path of self discovery. A fence that allows me to see the options that are before me for how I can choose to live the rest of my life. Some of these seem unattainable, some of these are too dull to even bear trapping myself in regardless of the stability. I wish that I could dream like how I did as a kid, without knowing what a 401k or life insurance policy were. I used to believe that my job would involve research where I would travel out to the ends of the Earth and meet cultures that most only ever see in the pages of a National Geographic. I used to believe that I could make a difference for the world out there with some crazy discovery that slowly unravels the mysteries of this world. Right now, I just hope that I can believe in the same way again.

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    1. Lauren, I am afraid that college education does this to many (most) students. What a shame. I hope you find ways to free and trust your imagination again...

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  10. Each day I realize even more just how truly blessed I am to have such a caring, thoughtful, loving little sister. I always assumed she was the one who would need me more than I would ever need her. I mean, I am the older sister by five years. However, I’ve found out just over the past few years I was very mistaken. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve certainly played the typical big sister position as a role model and positive example in her life such as in her everyday routine at home, school, and the dance studio. At least once a day I’ll receive a text, or more recently a snapchat of whatever it is she is up to that day whether it be dance practice, out with her friends, or at home with our pets just to let me know how much they all miss me. Then, whenever we are reunited when I come home or my family comes to visit, you would think we had been separated without contact for 10 years. Even though she’s only fourteen years old, I believe she would completely agree with me that our relationship would certainly be described more as best friends that just another sibling relationship.

    Despite all the ways I’m able to lead her through life as her older sister, she has been there for me more times than I could remember. If I’m ever having a rough day I know I can always call her up and she will answer in a heartbeat just to simply listen to my problems. Although she’s not the most knowledgeable fourteen year old with countless life experiences, I can always count on her to just listen and tell me that everything is going to be alright. Even more, that she will always be there for me no matter what because she’s my “siSTAR” (insider). Everyone needs people like this in their life, not because they have all of the answers, but because you know they are truly a best friend for life and you will always have each other’s back no matter when, where, or why.

    I believe in little sisters. I believe in best friends no matter the age difference or distance. Moreover, that these relationships are a blessing to truly be thankful for each day.

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  11. My family is full of story tellers.

    My grandmother never told her own stories. They were ones that were created centuries ago in Europe. They were guaranteed at bedtime but sometimes would sneak out when the opportunity was right. While taking the measurements for my new Sunday dress, she would tell me about twelve dancing princesses who had a secret passageway leading to a ball. When cooking dinner, she once told me about how a clever man made enough soup to feed a village using only a stone. I had to listen carefully to what she said, because she never repeated a story.

    My grandfather Lopez preferred to concoct his own tales that may have had a bit of truth at the very core, but the truth was hidden by his wild gestures and cartoonish sound effects. He only had a handful of stories and was sure to repeat them whenever possible. He would tell us of when a giant mosquito laid an egg in his arm that grew to the size of that of a chicken. “Look, it’s still here,” he would say will pointing at an oddly shaped muscle. “Your aunts used to tell me to go to a doctor, but I like it and want to see what happens when the egg hatches.”

    My father’s stories were much more realistic than any told by my grandparents. His were experiences he had before he met my mother and settled down in Tennessee. Any suggestion of Germany would send him into a twenty minute speech about his time in Germany. He occasionally described the food and the people, both very warm and welcoming. His favorite subject, though, was the Berlin Wall. “Did you know that I was there when they took it down?” Before I could ever remind him that I had, he would run off to the bedroom to grab a chunk concrete and about three inches of rusted barbed wire. “Me and the guys helped take it down. Technically, our orders prevented us from doing that. We just put on our civilian clothes and did it anyway. My sergeant pretended not to know.” He told me this more often than it was ever mentioned in my history classes but he was so happy when he told them that I held on to his words.

    My family is full of storytellers. For this, I am grateful. I know that the makers and tellers of stories are around for only a short time. But years of listening to my storytellers has taught me that the life of a story is much greater than that of its teller. This I believe.

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    1. What a beautiful story. Surely, you tell good stories, coming from a family of storytellers as you do.

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  12. I remember my mother telling me the story of the time when I first learned how to ride a bike. I was about 6 years old around that time and we had a couple bikes lying around the house. I was always was a bit of a daredevil and would jump around the house and do crazy things. Before my mom actually saw me riding, I was in the backyard for about an hour just falling on my own trying to ride the bike, it was a very small bike so I did not have trouble getting on, and the bike did not have training wheels which made the task for me more challenging. The pedaling part was easy but I would lose control at first and fall off right away until I finally succeeded. After that, I was riding my bike every day around the house and just having a blast! That is the memory that I have of when I first began riding a bike, and I have been riding my bike every since. I got older and I would ride it everywhere! Around the block, to school, to practice, to my friend’s house, to the store, to the beach, just anywhere I could go I would go on my bike.
    Biking has always been my transportation and to this day I ride my bike often. I never realized how much biking has kept me in shape until I got older because it was always so much fun. Once I came here to Transy, I went on the longest journey that I have ever done on a bike. I rode 200 miles along with other people from Transy and we went all the way from Louisville Kentucky to Nashville Tennessee. After I accomplished that trip, I realized that biking is much more cooler than driving a car and so now I always try to ride my bike rather than taking a car. Driving makes people lazy and destroys our environment, which is why I believe in bikes and I also believe that everyone should ride a bike rather than drive if possible

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  13. I believe in immortality.
    Immortality achieved not by your own works,
    but by the love someone has for you.
    I believe in the words the author writes with you in mind
    I believe in the paint strokes the artist brushes to make you smile
    I believe in the notes the musician composes to help you dance.
    These are the things that will make you immortal.
    When the books are read you come alive
    When the paintings admired you come to life
    When the music is played you steal the stage.
    I believe in immortality because
    I believe in love.

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  14. I believe taking risks is part of life. Without risks, life would be
    so boring. Yes, sometimes the risks end up having negative
    consequences or having a different outcome than one may have thought.
    Living life always wondering "what if" is not a way to live. There
    have been many times when I have asked myself that question and I hate
    the way it makes me feel because you can't change the past; but had
    you taken the risk, you may have not had to ask yourself "what would
    have happened differently..."

    Had I not taken the risk of studying abroad, leaving everything
    familiar back at home, I would not have discovered how much I truly
    love Spanish. This time abroad proved to me to be a time of growth,
    knowledge, and life changing. If I hadn't taken this huge risk I would
    still be in the same level of Spanish and would not be able to pursue
    the career as a translator one day. I am very thankful that I chose to
    go to Costa Rica. I will never have to think about wonder about not
    taking the risk of living abroad because I chose to take the risk and
    it was worth every nerve wracking second.

    So yes, I believe in risks. I believe in the risks that come with
    taking a risk. There have been plenty of times when I have taken a
    risk and it has backfired but there have also many times that the risk
    has worked in favor, just like my time in Costa Rica. I like being
    free of constantly wondering "what if."

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  15. Jacqueline's essay......

    I believe taking risks is part of life. Without risks, life would be so boring. Yes, sometimes the risks end up having negative consequences or having a different outcome than one may have thought.
    Living life always wondering "what if" is not a way to live. There have been many times when I have asked myself that question and I hate the way it makes me feel because you can't change the past; but had you taken the risk, you may have not had to ask yourself "what would have happened differently..."

    Had I not taken the risk of studying abroad, leaving everything familiar back at home, I would not have discovered how much I truly love Spanish. This time abroad proved to me to be a time of growth, knowledge, and life changing. If I hadn't taken this huge risk I would still be in the same level of Spanish and would not be able to pursue the career as a translator one day. I am very thankful that I chose to go to Costa Rica. I will never have to think about wonder about not taking the risk of living abroad because I chose to take the risk and it was worth every nerve wracking second.

    So yes, I believe in risks. I believe in the risks that come with taking a risk. There have been plenty of times when I have taken a risk and it has backfired but there have also many times that the risk has worked in favor, just like my time in Costa Rica. I like being free of constantly wondering "what if."

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