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Sunday, January 15, 2017

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. This summer we were in a wedding. I barely fit into my dress, but you still delicately tied the customizable straps around my shoulders, telling me I looked like a statue.

    I told the makeup artist I never wore anything, so as light as possible would probably be best. She still put highlighter on my cheeks, on my collarbones. I heard you tell yours something similar, and I noticed your collarbones were just as shiny as mine. We shared the same lip gloss, and the same tiny stick of deodorant.

    I put my shoes on too early and my feet were killing me by the time the reception started. I changed dresses, I took my shoes off completely. You held my hand when I walked out of the house, no longer matching you. I couldn’t eat much because of how tight my dress had been all day, but you told me the cake was delicious.

    I had maybe too much to drink, but your brother laid on the grass with me while we waited for the next cab. That night at my apartment I came and found you and made you read the last poem Maura had mailed to me. I don’t remember what you said about it.

    The next morning on tumblr I made a post titled SOUVENIRS FROM THE WEDDING I ATTENDED. I made a small list. You reblogged it and added your own. We went back and forth several times. You submitted the final edition to a poetry website, where it received several positive comments.

    me:
    -a cut on my leg, from the door of the portable bathroom with faux granite walls
    -a bug bite on my hairline
    -a tiny scab on my chin
    you:
    -a smaller cut on my leg in the same spot from who knows what
    -a scab on the back of my neck
    -purple glitter toenails
    me:
    -photobooth pictures that I’m not in
    -a flower crown in my fridge
    you:
    -twenty-five small bobby pins
    - a sticky spot from leftover hairspray that won’t quit
    - three commemorative glasses
    me:
    -the ghost of a sparkler burn, in my palm, under my heel

    I believe in dresses that are too tight, in unconventional souvenirs, in evidence that I have been here.

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    Replies
    1. Your "list" is a beautiful poem Katie!! I loved reading it.

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    2. I love how you address your friend, Katie--there is so much intimacy and tenderness in your voice. And I love the list too :)

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  2. This I believe in my mother. My mother, who I would find on Sunday mornings, glazing her hands in coffee bean crumbles, the juice of fresh strawberries, and powder of the pancake mix. The smell goods would reach our bedrooms, and my brother and I knew within minutes we would hear mom yelling for breakfast, then singing for breakfast, and singing for breakfast until we collapsed ourselves on top of the barstools. She’d ask us, “orange juice?” even though the carton was already at an angle against our glasses. Breakfast was followed with cartoons and the clinks and clanks of coffee cups in the sink; she did everything so we could feel full- our bellies the anchor of gravity as we sunk into the couch's cushions.

    My mother’s mother died when she was only ten years old. The moments like Sunday mornings our mother gives to us, often makes me wonder how she was able to be such a wonderful mom despite losing her own at an early age. Where did all of this love come from, was it possible that it was the result of her own pain? What example was she following, when the only other woman in her house was herself? After a party at my apartment, those who had to make the couch and carpet their make-shift beds were woken up by my music playlist, the clinks and clanks in the kitchen, because eggs, coffee and toast will help any hangover. Would I love like my mother, if I didn’t have my mother to love me?

    This Friday, my mother and I are flying to Washington D.C to be part of the historic “Women’s March”. We will be among hundreds of thousands of strong empowered women of all race and gender; we will feel so very small in the crowd in order to make our voices so very large. Participating in the march was my mother’s idea, not mine. I was embarrassed of my surprised reaction to her desire to physically represent these ideals, which in her age group and within our own family, are still questioned and the issues are brushed aside. The strong-willed mother bear, that I knew was always there, did not show itself definitively until her expressed desire to attend. All of my life I knew this love because of breakfasts, her attendance to every dull band concert, supporting my art endeavors, accepting and embracing my brother’s sexuality, and teaching me that singing through life, will always make sure you enjoy it. So of course, she is here to give her love to others, to women who have also had their own pain.

    In all my life I’ve always been afraid of pain of the heart. Sometimes I’d think I wouldn’t be able to deal with tragedy, because all I’ve known is love, but my mother has taught me the opposite. My mother knew that out of pain, even with a cut as deep as losing a parent, that love was still possible. That love can come out of anything, whether it a juice container or through a desire to support your brothers and sisters.
    You have a coin in your hand and you can decide that the first outcome is the only one, or you can remember you have the power to flip it over and over again until the good outweighs the bad. Until love outweighs the hate. I love like my mother, and it’s okay not knowing if I could without her because this I believe in my mother, because this I believe in love.

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    1. What a beautiful reflection about your mother, Jessica. I hope you consider giving it to her.

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  3. It’s funny how much we begin to miss the thing that seems just barely out of reach. For me right now that’s this little thing called being able to breathe through both nostrils. I mean it seems really simple right? You breathe in, lungs expand and then you breathe out, releasing air. However, whenever I am unlucky enough to catch a cold I quickly end up dreaming of those thoughtless days of easy breathing. I start to think about all the nights I didn’t wake myself up with coughing wishing for a few hours of relief. I always try to take cold medicine but I still nevertheless end up feeling like a monkey is just clinging to my back squeezing until it hurts and my voice cracks. It always seems to hit me just when things get busy, especially right after a break when I let my guard down. Of course then I end up pushing myself too hard in order to get everything done which only makes me feel worse in the end. Occasionally during this torture, an all too brief moment of respite allows me to relish the simple activity of inhaling and then exhaling without that horrible grating noise of phlegm. When this miracle occurs it always amazes me just how fantastic it is to just breathe. Without fail when the cold begins to wrap up I promise to not take for granted the simple joys of a healthy body. Despite the fact I am never able to keep this promise it doesn’t change the fact I believe in breathing.

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  4. Like a deer in the forest hunted by man, or an antelope in the savannah hunted by lions, we are all trying to survive in a world that is constantly trying to kill us. If we didn’t know from a young age we know now that the world isn’t a great as we had believed it to be. In every class you ever take they want you to be yourself or standout from the crowd; draw attention to yourself, but what if you don’t want that? If you stand out you draw attention to yourself. If you like things that stray from the norm you become a target.
    I knew from a young age that I didn’t feel the same way about boys that my friends did but didn’t think too hard about it till 8th grade when returning to a public school meant any friend that was biologically a male was instantly categorized as a boyfriend. My freshman year I let out a small sliver of truth about myself to a person I thought was a friend and thus the entire school ended up knowing. In a school full of white, Christian, conservative high schoolers I was one of the first targets of everything.
    People would yell and shout and at certain times throw things at me. I was always the butt of harassment. One point the football team had cornered me and was ready to fight but thankfully a teacher had walked outside to smoke and I managed to escape the grasps of them. I was the antelope in the savannah and the other students were the lions desperate to kill and destroy me.
    I managed to survive and go to a college that saw the struggle I had faced and helped me become a better person who isn’t as afraid to be myself. Though my experiences aren’t as bad as others, I still believe in survival. The world is a cruel place we only get once chance to live an experience like this.

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    1. Jesse, I hope that you will also have reasons to see the world as less cruel, more loving and accepting. And thank you for the reminder that not everyone wants to be seen, to draw attention to themselves.

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  5. In the middle of my fourth grade year, I returned to school from Christmas break absolutely beaming with excitement. I knew that the first topic of discussion for my young friends and I would be our gifts that we found under our trees just over a week prior to our reunion. Anticipated were the brags about receiving nice clothes, the newest Jesse McCartney CD, or four-legged additions to their families, but I wasn’t one bit nervous about sharing my favorite present from the holiday. In fact, I was positive that it was the best gift of all time: a brand new alarm clock.

    Newly ten years old, I was convinced that I was at last a woman, and I believed that this clock was my ticket to true adulthood. Long behind me were the days of relying on my mother to get me up for school, an act that usually resulted in confiscated blankets and the emergence of a preteen attitude. No, now I had been handed the greatest power of all: the ability to control time, or at least tell it. Determined, I spent hours deciding on the perfect sound to wake up to, setting the clock precisely, and hunting down spare backup batteries in case of the loss of power. What power it was to decide in advance the exact minute I would be regaining consciousness. As days passed and the clock’s buzz became a mainstay in my routine, this tiny fraction of a sense of independence became a treasure.

    This winter break, I returned to my family’s home for three weeks. I went back to my childhood bedroom that now feels slightly foreign due to my long absences from it since starting college. Each night felt like a regression to the past, as I threw on a high school t-shirt and childlike fleece pajama bottoms, climbed into bed, and examined the walls that surrounded me nearly every night for my first eighteen years. Dreaming pulled me further into a youthful past, but every morning, when woken by my beloved alarm clock, I remembered that I am indeed an adult with two decades of lived experiences. It is certain that I have no control over it, but keeping track helps to decide when to dwell, when to reminisce, and when to move forward. I believe in time.

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  6. I grew up in a country where a bottle of regular, lavender-scented shampoo made a great birthday gift. A tube of men’s shaving cream—the no-frills, “Karo” kind (which translates in English to “Diamonds”—the card-game kind of diamonds, not the precious kind one places on the ring finger of a new bride—was the perfect thing to get my grandfather on a field trip to Veliko Tarnovo, a historical town 100 kilometers from the city where we lived. I remember when a pair of rubber flip-flops made my Christmas, a holiday we celebrated in secret.

    But even more than the flip-flops, deodorant, and air freshener I received on big holidays, I loved the gifts my mother gave me without formal occasion to do so: her well-worn sweaters. There is no Bulgarian word for “hand-me-downs.” There is no tradition of passing your tired garments to others. We experimented with new combination of the same clothes to bring excitement to our wardrobes. This made my mother’s sweaters feel like magical offerings. They were heavy and soft to the touch. I never wondered how my mother replenished her wardrobe, if she ever did.

    Years later, my sweater options in America feel limitless. Once, I decided to arrange my sweaters by color and I still have the same 4 piles: pink and red, green, blue and black (including both sky- and navy-blue), and everything else. For some reason, my one yellow sweater nestles between two dark-blue ones.

    Still, my favorite sweaters are the ones my mother brings me. She buys them at her local second-hand shop, a new phenomenon under capitalism. She tells me these are second-hand sweaters imported from Western Europe. She says they are too good to pass up. The last one she gave me was an H&M pink-and-red cardigan. I can’t imagine my mother wearing a pink cardigan, not even for a day. She’s always been more of a black-on-black woman.

    I believe in wearing my mother’s sweaters, even those she only pretends are hers.

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  7. Because sticks and stones break bones, I never once threw such things at my brother. He never threw them at me either.

    I did, one time at my grandmother’s house, hit him as hard as I could with an aluminum baseball bat but I am not going to count that as a stick because it was, as I said, aluminum. Plus, I didn’t throw it at him so it doesn’t count that way either. I also threw a rocking chair at him once but it had soft cushions on the seat and back, which seems to make it, too, fall outside of the category of “stick.” Additionally, it missed him and broke when it hit a door frame instead. Good sticks shouldn’t break that easily. If ever there was a moment when one of us broke the rule of not throwing sticks and stones at each other, it was when he summoned all his flat-stone-skipping-across-the-water skills and skipped a small wooden puzzle piece off my head from across the room. His laughter stopped quickly when the blood that blurred my eyes dripped off my face and filled each of my hands 36 years ago.

    I was chasing him, but not my brother because he is now 45 and limps on a leg once crushed by a fall from the rooftop and his feet point in different directions. I was chasing a 7-year-old instead. I was running after him to knock the plastic cup from his face, which was stuck there because he sucked all the air from the space between the cup and his mouth. I didn’t have to try hard though because he was laughing too hard to run, too hard to keep the suction, and too hard to coordinate all the muscles required to turn his head away before I tapped the cup. He hid and waited for me to pass by so he could lurch out and surprise me. So I hid and waited long enough for him to stick his wee head out from hiding. When he did, I lurched instead of him. His laughter rang out faster than his feet, which could not move quickly enough to stay beneath him. His running turned to falling and his head turned to catch the edge of a wooden platform before his body hit the floor. His laughter stopped quickly when the blood filled the bottom of his cup, no longer suctioned to his face.

    I believe in the split-second game-changing nature of head wounds.

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  8. I believe in mountains. In being tucked safely in their embrace. In living out my every childhood fantasy on their wooded slopes. In fighting for their right to exist. In dreaming of escaping into their midst when I feared my own household.

    When I was 10 years old, I called the small, rocky cliff that rose behind my bedroom window Gryffindor Mountain, and I sat atop my retreat every day after school. It was the foundation for my rampant, young imagination. I took my wand, sword, and books with me, fighting dragons and orcs that appeared from behind trees. After slaying my enemies, I settled onto the ground, feet dangling over the ridge, and I opened up a book and escaped. And I was there, on the mountainside, all the same.

    When I was 14 years old, I took up a sharp defense of my mountains. I learned of mountaintop removal. I learned about the histories of oppression that had plagued my fellow Appalachians and had painted us mountain folk as backward or unworthy. I saw the emotionally-charged propaganda campaigns that were encouraging Appalachians to support industries that were ultimately detrimental to our welfare. I saw my mountains being decimated and my people exiled. I haven’t stopped fighting.

    When I was 16 years old, I planned to run away. I would climb all the way to the top of my mountain, a two-hour hike, and hide. And breathe. My family, and the walls of the house I once found comfortable, were suffocating me. Simply because I was gay, and that was unacceptable. I never made that journey, but amidst the stressors in my life, I still go there in my mind. To the peak of my mountain.

    Now at 21, I belong, still, to the mountains. But I’m losing my mountain. In May, my parents will be selling our house of over a decade. I will lose Gryffindor Mountain; I will lose my ability to physically scale the mountain that became a metaphor for my will to survive. But I have my memories, and I am shaped because of them. Like the mountains that cradled the first 18 years of my life, my foundation is unwavering.

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    1. Jared, you are a good writer. Your words convey resistance and eloquence. They are powerful.

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  9. When I was younger, around the time I was nine years old, my father gave me a piece of advice that would shape the direction of my life. “Life is too short to care about what others think of you,” he told me one night, after I had told him how someone had upset me in school earlier that day. “As long as you like who you are and you are doing the right thing, don’t waste your time worrying about others.”

    I was (and still am, to an extent) a stubborn child then, so I only “harumphed” and sulked in my room for the rest of the night. But clearly those words struck a chord somewhere deep inside me, because I still remember what he told me over a decade later. I returned to those words often as a young teenager, struggling to find friends who liked me for who I was, all while I was still trying to figure that out. I was lonely a lot of times (thanks, teenage angst), but I tried not to let it bother me. I was my own person, after all, and didn’t need others to like me on my behalf.

    I’ve always been an introvert by nature. Often, I would retreat inside my head when I felt lonely, exercising my imagination as a means to fend off the loneliness. Through introspection, I was able to piece together who I was and who I wanted to be. I held to my father’s words the entire time - as long as I was working towards being a better person, a person I liked being, who cared what the rest thought?

    In high school, I discovered that it is hard to fight the desire to belong, the desire to change who I was so I could fit in. Fortunately, I've found friends who appreciate me just the way I was and who help to make me a better person. I hope that they can say the same about me, because I believe that the journey to becoming comfortable in who you are as a person is essential to being fully alive.

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  10. It’s highschool, my alarm yells at me to get up, because it knows that if I don’t I will fall behind, disappoint my parents, my coach, and myself at the next swim meet, and more importantly I will regret the 4 toaster strudels I will eat regardless, it’s five a.m. This is why I believe in sleeping in. I count back from 10 and I fling myself out of bed throwing all of the books and papers for assignments I planned on completing the night before, but didn’t because my eyes closed before I could tell them not to. I flick the light of my room on and squint a little, cause my eyes are still catching up, and head down the stairs still in my pajamas, which I will stay in, and which I may or may not wear to school that day. As I descend the stairs to the first floor I look out the window. There is snow coating the ground….yaaaay...After this thought registers, my foot registers that I’ve stepped into something wet...yaaaay…..Before I begin to curse loudly, I remember, the rest of my family, like most people at this hour are asleep, not only should I not wake them up, but I also don’t think I have the energy to put into whatever emotions would naturally follow an incident such as that. This is why I believe in sleeping in. So I clean my foot off, grab a banana, my coat, and slip on my Toms, which let me tell you are not the ideal cold weather shoe. Knowing that I will never be as warm as I’d want to be I slip outside through the front door, and there is my car, which is, like the ground, covered in snow. Because I don’t know where the the snow thingie is, you know the scraper thing or whatever, I wrap a towel around my hand, a method I credit myself for inventing as a solution to the “just my hand method” I used for  a while, and get enough of the snow off to where I can see a good cubic foot through my windshield. Knowing, but not caring that this is unsafe, because I think I’m a pro at this point, I climb into the car and begin my drive to the pool. The whole ride there I sit hiked up in the seat, and my whole body is clutched tightly together, and even though the car warms up, I remain in this position because I know this warmth is short lived, so why even bother with what it takes to mentally become comfortable, only to have that ripped away from me so soon. I count back from ten and get out of the car, briskly walk through the painful cold, and reach the safe zone. So let me digress at tell you how the pool is arranged, so it’s essentially a big tent around a neighborhood pool with another smaller tent attached off of it to make a walkway, which is connected to the pool clubhouse. Both tent and walkway can be heated, but this isn’t always the case. Back to the story. I change into my swimsuit, wrap my small towel around my 6ft frame in attempt to maintain some warmth, and run through the walkway dodging puddles of water that have frozen over through the night. I go into the pool and begrudgingly stand by the water. I put my towel by the heater and attempt to run and jump into the pool…..3 times. Before I know it I’ve been pushed off the edge and I fall into the pool, much like how Mufasa fell into the stampede of wildebeests in the Lion King.  There is no escaping it now, I only have the water's embrace and the sense of betrayal. I’ll just have to look forward to nap time, I mean 1st block Geometry. This is why I believe in sleeping in.

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  11. On the night of the Unlearn Fear + Hate cross stitching, I got a text from one of my best friends, who goes to EKU, asking what I was doing at the moment. I answered that I was cross stitching and asked what was up. She responded, "I think I need to talk to someone" and asked if we could call instead of text. I agreed, put my needle, thread, and unfinished cross stitch back into the Zip Loc bag, and went to my room. However, when I got there, my roommate said she had two tests to study for, so I decided it would be a bad idea to try and have a phone call in my room. I went back downstairs and considered my options, finally deciding to sit at a table in back circle, despite it being particularly cold outside. I clicked the call button. After talking with her for a moment, I learned that on the other end of the line, she was walking outside as well, through EKU's campus. We began talking, updating each other on our lives on two different college campuses. We talked for an hour, only stopping then because her phone died. At the end, we resolved to make the phone call life updates a weekly habit, and from this point in early November until now, we've made a point to try and talk every Thursday night.
    Over time, our conversations have become partial therapy sessions because, admittedly, first semester was difficult for us both. Honestly, I believe it's difficult for everyone, but catching up with old friends is the best way to forget about all the stress. Because of this, I believe in long conversations with old friends.

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    1. Hopefully, you can keep up this tradition for a long time...

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  12. My Family
    I got a call this past Tuesday, my mother was crying. Jasmine, my family dog of 18 years, had passed away. At first, I was shocked and then I was devastated. I never thought this would happen, at least so soon. I know most people are thinking, well she was 18 years old and that is a long life for a dog, but if you had the chance to meet Jasmine you would understand what I meant. I cannot remember a time without Jasmine. She was always feisty and kind of a mean dog, at least to me. I don’t mean she was aggressive, but she wasn’t one to come and lay down beside you or even give you kisses, like my other dogs. I believe that I caused her to be this way, because when I was young, I dressed her in clothes and put accessories on her, even though she was not happy about it. Even though she didn’t care to lay next to me, I still loved her and she loved me. When she got older I always used to joke about how she would never die and that she would outlast my mom and I.
    The last week of Christmas Break I didn’t really acknowledge her and I feel terrible about not saying good bye before I left. I would give anything to see her again. Jasmine passing away has really been hard on me. It has been harder to leave my dogs and go to school. I do not want to miss out with my time with my dogs. It might seem crazy to love an animal so much, but they are my family. My dogs are the things that I strive to be better for, they are my best friends. I believe that dogs are more than animals, they are your best friends, your happiness, and your family. Cherish the time you have with them.

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  13. When I was young my mother stayed home with my brother and I, but we rarely stayed home. We were always out running some errand or sitting in the corner of one meeting or another. One of my favorite errands to run as a child only happened a few times a year. At the end of each season my mother would sit down with massive piles of laundry and make my brothers and I try on each piece of clothing we owned to see what needed to be replaced. I loved this because to me it was just like a fashion show, my brothers did not share that sentiment. Once my mother had seen what items no longer fit she would gather them all up into giant black garbage bags and the next day we would go down to the Salvation Army to drop off our donations. For some people this may have been a quick errand but for my mother there is no such thing. Everywhere she goes she runs into someone she knows and spends twenty minutes chatting with them. This habit of hers usually drove me insane but in this case it was to my advantage. I loved the Salvation Army store. Every time we went, I would wander the store while my mother talked and I never failed to find a treasure. My most beloved find was a blue velvet dress that I begged my mother to buy for me. I wore it to the ballet with a strand of pearls my grandmother gave me and I imagined that that dress had been out on many an evening like that one. I felt connected to the girl who had worn it before me. With that one purchase from a secondhand store, I was hooked. I love buying clothes that have belonged to someone else because they have a story woven into the fibers. You are not just buying a dress or a jacket or a purse, you are buying a piece of someone else’s story and making it a part of your own. I believe in secondhand stores.

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  14. I saw her. There she was in the classroom just sitting there. She probably wasn’t even thinking of anything in particular, but I was. “I can’t go in there and perform in front of her,” I told myself, “She’s so much better than I am, I’d just be making a fool of myself. The piece isn’t good. I’m not good at this event. I don’t even know it well enough to perform it decently.” I walked right past the room without making it obvious that it was the room I WAS heading for and instead detoured to the bathroom. I sat down on the toilet seat in the bathroom and tried to breathe. I couldn’t. I wasn’t able to breathe. At this point, it was if the space between the stall walls was getting smaller, like the decreasing size of my lungs. I longed to walk out of these stalls. I longed to walks out with courage and give the speech I had rehearsed too many times to have anxiety like this, but that wasn’t possible to do with the anxiety that lived inside of me eating away everything I once had. I had managed to walk out; I just hadn’t found the courage to stay out. My discomfort was growing and I began to question everything I had done. I told myself everyone in that room was better than I was and it wasn’t hard to see. I stood from the seat once again as my legs violently shook and told myself “Just get it over with, and this feeling will pass.” I believe in feelings. I believe in emotion. I believe in pain and sadness because without them happiness would not be worth as much as it is. The full spectrum of emotions must be experienced. I believe without it we cannot live, we just exist.

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