At four in the morning…

Today and tomorrow, and then the quarter is over. That’s all I have to get through. Then I’m rewarded with a four-day weekend. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it?

No. It’s not simple. If it were simple, I wouldn’t have stayed up this entire night staring at the wall and eating bananas. I wouldn’t be trying to bag up all my stray thoughts to throw out for the night. I wouldn’t be working on a freaking French project at four in the morning. 

How will I possibly have all the energy necessary to make it through the day? School starts in just over three hours. I can’t go to sleep. I tried that, and I couldn’t fall asleep. My mind is too shot to do anymore homework. Maybe I’ll stare at that picture-perfect smile of mine from over a year ago, the one that needs to be taken out of its frame already. I could always eat another banana. My stomach is rumbling again. 

I obviously can’t write. Even my basic grasp of grammar has leaked out the holes stress and exhaustion have blown in my mind. I am so burnt out. First quarter of freshman year, and I’m already about as worn as a dirty dish rag. 

Just two days, I tell myself. Only fourteen hours of school until the four-day weekend. It seems like so much, though. How could I possibly be this exhausted after just a few months into the school year? This has never happened before. If high school is this hard, I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it. 

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Winter Breathes…

I miss summertime.

I miss sipping powdered orange juice with my feet in glowing, tepid lake water. I miss the buzz of fireflies in my cupped hands. I miss when the days were long and the shorts were short. I miss looking up at a velvety night sky sprayed with starry sequins. I even miss the itch of grass and the burn of black pavement under my bare feet.

Why?

There was nothing to worry about. I had metaphorical wind at my back, days and days to waste like water, and sunshine melting on my skin. I had a sad, wistful air about me, but in a carefree way. I could wipe my tears away with flower petals, then toss them away into the forgiving July breezes. Birds would always serenade me in the morning, never waking me before I’d completely rested.

It is nearly November. I can feel the winter breathing in the morning, rustling the leaves off their branches. Winter is coming. It stomps and screams and threatens, a bed of razor-sharp knives below me as time lets go and watches me fall. I am bracing myself for gray skies, trees stripped of their colors, runny noses and too-thick parkas, flakes of snow drifting to the ground only to melt into wet drizzle on the sidewalks. 

I can feel winter breathe in the autumn air.

Boys, boys, boys.

People wonder why I have so few guy-friends. Most high-school age girls (or at least at my school) have plenty of female friends and plenty of male friends. I don’t. I think I have a grand total of three or four guy-friends that I’m actually comfortable around, and only one of them goes to my school.

So, why? Why do boys freak me out?

Let’s take today, for example. I sit next to a guy in one of my classes. I said something funny (or at least I thought it was funny) and the guy laughed. Simple enough, right? Wrong. I immediately felt that he was laughing at how awkward and stupid I was.

I was totally okay with talking to guys pre-fifth grade. That was before any of the boys really discovered that they can be jerks. That was before people were really thinking too much about the whole “boy-likes-girl, girl-likes-boy” thing. So, I wasn’t always this way. I could talk to them (although at that age they really didn’t want to talk to me; girls had cooties). After fifth and sixth grade, I realized that some boys really are jerks and should never be trusted.

Seventh grade, however, was really the nail in the coffin. I was so desperate for a boyfriend–I’d have taken anybody. I chased just about everybody and got turned down 98 percent of the time. And of course, there was the whole James experience (The Infamous James). That really did most of the damage, I think. Blame it on James. That’s the way to go.

My social anxiety really appears strongly when I talk to guys. I hate it. I literally can’t do it without averting my eyes, fidgeting, and looking extremely uncomfortable. No wonder I don’t have guy-friends when I can barely talk to most of them. I’ve made myself a promise to never date again–like, ever. No more. My plan is that hopefully I’ll find a best guy friend, and we’ll both realize that no one else will ever suffice and we’ll just get married. No dating. Absolutely not.

This is one of the reasons I warn against dating, especially in middle school. Middle schoolers, in general, are not ready for that sort of relationship–girl or guy. And because dating ends in either breakup or marriage, I think it’s narrowed down to one option (considering everyone is twelve or thirteen). Someone will always get hurt. Mistakes will be made on both sides. It’s just a bad idea.

I hope one day I’ll at least be able to talk to guys. It’s crippling, really–not being able to carry on a substantial conversation. Can somebody please find me a boy who loves writing, and is kind, and generous, and loving, and who will be there for me through thick and thin? A boy who won’t try to date me or make any sort of advance toward me? Thank you.

 

Halloween/Holiday Rant

Halloween is supposed to be a fun day where you dress up as, I don’t know, a plastic bag or a princess, and get fun size Skittles from generous neighbors. (Don’t be the person who gives out toothbrushes. Never be that person.) Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems to have changed since when I was a little kid. Suddenly, many Halloween costumes are things I’d feel weird wearing alone in front of my own mirror. People are going out to parties,  some may be toilet-papering someone’s house. When did this happen? Did I totally miss some transformation from cute little kid to mature adult? I remember, as a little girl, promising I’d never be the teenager who eggs someone’s house. If society is expecting me to be that person, I’m going to prove it wrong. I’ll go trick-or-treating with my three friends and go to bed before midnight.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that holidays and fun events are being twisted. Thanksgiving, a time to remember our blessings, has become a time to eat until we feel sick. Notice that the very next day, Black Friday, is when people are trampled to death trying to get early-bird discounts. Christmas, for Christians, is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior. What has it become? One of the greediest, most materialistic holidays ever. (And yes, greed and materialism are rampant in many Christian homes just as they are in many others. I speak from experience.) Oh, how could I forget Easter? Stuffed bunnies, getting sick on marshmallow Peeps…it’s insane. It’s insane, also, how much these holidays are used for marketing. I could write fifty blogs on how advertising and marketing are affecting us in profound ways.

Anyway. As all the fun holidays are coming up, I felt that I needed to rant that. Wake up, America. Jeez.

Story Time with Abigail: “The Black Things”

One night, when I was three or four years old, I slipped into my “big girl” bed as usual. Nothing out of the ordinary. I fell asleep perfectly content, peaceful, and happy…

Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up. Everything was in its place, normal as it should be. My little sister was sleeping soundly across the room. My stuffed eagle was still on the floor where it belonged. Something was wrong, though. My vision. Black dots, blacker than the dark of that night, were lined in seemingly infinite diagonal rows. I blinked some, trying to clear my vision, but the dots would not disappear. They were everywhere, everywhere I looked. Terrified, I did what any three-year-old would do–race to my parents’ bedroom.

I assured myself that once my mom turned the lights on, the dots (I called them “black things”) would disappear. Shaking, I awoke my mother and tried to explain what was going on using my more limited vocabulary. An even greater terror swept over me when the dots, in contrast to the bright blue of my parents’ curtains, were still blacker than ever, still lined in their eerily straight rows–ready, I felt, to march right into my world and crush it. I was powerless and afraid, curled up on my parents’ bed trying to make everything stop. My mom–perfect, all-powerful mom, who cooked me macaroni and drove me to preschool in her super minivan–could do nothing to help me. I had to rely on whatever was causing the black things to calm my fear.

I finally must have fallen asleep, because I woke up with clear vision once again. My parents were still concerned and wanted me to be seen by the optometrist (I called her “the eye doctor”). The eye doctor performed all these strange and scary tests using strange and scary equipment. I don’t believe I’d ever been to an optometrist before. After my eyes had been dilated, all I could do was sit miserably while the doctor readied more tests (I assume that’s what she was doing; I really had no idea what was going on) while watching blurry Bob the Builder sing his stupid song.

After all the horrible tests were completed, the possibility of any serious problems had been ruled out. The doctor proceeded to tell me that all the previous night’s events might have been “just a dream.” Even eleven years later, those night’s events are crystal clear in my mind–and I know they were certainly not a dream. It would be ridiculous to assume so. I felt that everything I’d been through that scary night didn’t matter, like it was being minimized. Even at three, I felt like my problem had been swept under the rug.

The black things never came back after that. To this day, I still have no idea what went on. All I can say is that I was one brave little three-year-old. Even now, as a teenager, I’d probably freak out if my vision was full of perfectly aligned black dots. I’d freak out even more if a knowledgeable adult tried to tell me it was all just a dream, a random firing of neurons in my sleeping brain.

At least I got a fuzzy stuffed frog out of it all.

Don’t Laugh At Me…

Don’t Laugh At Me…

I remember, in fifth grade, a group of guys had ganged up on me yet again. All I remember from that day is sitting at my table, crying, and doing the only thing I knew how to do–pick up my pencil and tear out a sheet of paper. A few months ago, while cleaning my room, I found that piece of paper. This is what I wrote that day.

“Everyone thinks I’m so weird but they don’t even stop to think that Albert Einstein was weird and look what he has become. All those genius people were weird. No one thinks that maybe I have human feelings too and that somehow, somewhere I could change the world. If I was treated with respect I could soar instead of being chained up in lies. No one ever thinks that beauty is skin deep and even though I’m fat it doesn’t matter. I hate all the stupid people who have made fun of me. Because you will regret it when I change the world. And I’ll give my special thanks speech and you WILL NOT BE THANKED!!!!!!!!!!!” 

At that young age, I would plead with with my tormentors to stop hurting me. “No, really,” I’d say. “I’ll change the world one day. You’ll see. Please don’t hurt me. Just give me a chance. Please? Please? I know you think I’m stupid and ugly. But please, just give me a chance. Please.” I thought that if I just begged hard enough, they’d stop and start accepting me–because who could hate a vulnerable little ten-year-old? Well, they did. They did so very much, and I didn’t understand why.

Sometime in seventh grade, I strayed from my own beliefs of kindness and acceptance and became mean (I was also being bullied myself during this time). I wanted the control for once. I wanted to feel powerful by inflicting the same harm on others that was being inflicted on me. Doing this, however, never gave me the satisfaction. It really just made me feel worse about myself–that I could betray myself in such a way. The breaking point was when I heard a girl plead with me in the way I would plead with my own tormentors. “I know you think I’m weird and disturbing…and weird,” she said, eyes full of fear and hurt. I couldn’t bear to be so hurtful after that day.

I’ve grown to a point where I don’t feel the need to spew venom at other people to try reasoning with my own pain. If you want to wear polka-dot rain boots and bright orange jumpsuits, I won’t mind. Maybe I’ll think it’s cute and try to dress like that, too. If you talk strangely, I won’t mind. I’ll talk to you like I would anybody. If you love math and reading Geometry books in your spare time, we’ll respectfully agree to disagree.

I’m not perfect. Sometimes I find myself judging someone in my mind–but don’t we all? Everyone is learning. The best thing we can do is keep trying to be kind–not just to tolerate, but to accept.

Cursing in Fiction

I’ve seen this topic on many blogs (including the WordPress News one) recently, and I’ve also been thinking a lot about it myself: swearing in writing.

The common argument against it is that if one has to use swear words to express a certain thought or emotion in writing, that person isn’t a very good writer and needs to expand his or her vocabulary. While an overuse of swear words may indicate a weaker writer, I actually think that it’s sometimes helpful to the writing to have swear words sprinkled throughout a work of fiction for voice–in certain circumstances, that is.

Audience. Audience is the key. To whom are you writing? Children? Teenagers? Some audiences are more okay with swearing than others (in general, of course. There are always exceptions). If you’re writing a children’s book, you’re obviously not going to use the inappropriate language. “Billy the dog ate a f—ing hog!” I don’t think so. That wouldn’t go over well.

Next, think about your character. A frustrated teenage girl (hint: me) is probably more likely to swear than a nun. What is your character’s personality? Her occupation? Take all this into account. Also consider the scene. What’s going on? When I use language in my writing, it’s usually only in scenes of frustration, great danger, or annoyance. 

I know not everyone is going to agree with me here. Some are probably going to say “Oh, Abigail! You’re a great writer; you should rise above!” I am rising above. I’m rising above the stigma attached to swear words in fiction. Being an author includes finding ways to make my writing better. And, let’s face it–if you’re a young runaway about to be caught (a story I’m writing currently), are you going to say “Oh, goodness me! I am close to being caught! Dear heavens!” No. That’s not realistic. It’s all about creating a unique character who’s easy to relate to. If using a swear word here and there helps create that person, I say go ahead.

Again, though, I use them very sparingly. When I read books with excessive language, I become very annoyed, especially if it doesn’t make sense to swear in the situation. “Hi, would you like me to go buy you some f—ing milk before checking out?” Taking out the swear word in that sentence would be a good idea.

Also, I don’t swear here. Too many of my readers would get upset, which would basically be like shooting myself in the foot. I will, as you can see, replace letters with dashes. Even then, I use them only when I’m talking about swearing, as I have been in this post, or quoting somebody.

Just food for thought–aren’t we the ones attaching stigmas to these words? The f-word–and any of the words deemed inappropriate, for that matter–has plenty of weaker synonyms that are considered acceptable (I say weaker because they don’t have the same jarring effect on the reader that is often beneficial to writing). They’re only bad because we say they’re bad. (And I’m not talking about words that are discriminatory–those words are hurtful to other people.)

In short, cursing in writing is like salt. Just a very small amount can really improve, while too much will destroy and weaken.

 

 

Stereotyped Identities

My major identity crisis–or, I should say, crises–really started in third grade. They started off small and simple, beginning with questions concerning whether I was the type of girl who liked to sing High Musical karaoke and play dress-up or the type of girl who liked to roll in the mud and play Nerf tag. I tried to box myself into one or the other when the reality was that I was both. Society loves stereotyping and compartmentalizing people. According to our world, you are a “tomboy” or a “girly-girl.” A or B. Red or blue. The in-between section (which is, in truth, where almost all of us are) is rarely emphasized.

I went through my “rough and tough” phase in fourth grade. Fifth grade was my “class clown funny girl” phase (hint: I wasn’t funny. I was obnoxious). Then came the glittery neon phase, the sporty phase, the wanting to wear all black phase…I shifted identities so easily and fluidly as the wind. I believed that I had to fit into a certain mold, a pattern of dressing and behaving to line up with what society says about those who behave and dress in certain ways.

Sometime this past spring or summer, I decided to be simply me. I don’t try to box myself in anywhere; I don’t place myself and identify with any stereotype or compartment. I now realize that nobody completely fits any of these stereotypes. They’re just that–stereotypes. Oversimplified images or ideas of a particular type of person or thing.

Try not to stereotype anything or anyone today. Don’t put things in boxes; rather, let them be as they are.

Pond of Dreams

This world is a selfish, selfish place. We’re all fish in a pond fighting for resources, success, and power. Everyone has an agenda, a main goal in life that they will do anything to achieve. Some people go about achieving this goal in a kind, passive sort of manner, while others are not afraid to trample and kick to get what they want. Still others use kind hearts and generous gifts to manipulate circumstance to their advantage.

My dreams get washed away in this cut-throat pond. I have to constantly be on the move, searching amidst the darkened waters and debris of the past to find pieces of glittering diamond. Maybe one day I’ll be able to piece them all together and achieve. I don’t want to be the only fish without a treasure.

It’s a race, really. I’d prefer to just live in a cave and pick berries for food, but I can’t. So, with my present circumstances, I set my personal bar very high. Unattainably high, to be honest. Setting the bar too low will result in laziness or complacency. Of course, setting it too high results in constant feelings of inadequacy, but you know. It’s a small fee to pay for the price of success in the pond of dreams.

Not an option

I wasn’t always a perfectionist. In fact, I was anything but one. Starting in fourth grade, I realized that I was lazy by nature. My laziness carried me all the way through eighth grade. It was how I described myself.

I’ve blogged about my switch from lazy underachiever to perfectionist before. It was the end of the year award ceremony this past June. Almost everybody got an award but me, and I realized that it was nobody’s fault but my own. I had dug myself in a hole and had failed to get myself out, so I didn’t receive any recognition. I decided that high school was going to be the complete opposite.

From that day on, I began to hold myself to an excessively high standard, not only in academics, but in my relationships as well. Failure simply isn’t an option for me. It’s not an option with my history of lazy nature. And yes, I have a lazy nature. I have to fight against it.

Holding myself to a higher standard has been good for my grades. I’m nearly achieving straight A’s (I’m not counting my unacceptable A minus in Algebra), which hasn’t happened since the beginning of seventh grade. I need to prove to myself and to the world that I can do well. Pretty soon, I’ll drop the minus from my math grade and get it back up to par.

Goals. I’ve never been a real goal-setter before, but now goals are everything to me. Straight A’s. Straight A’s all the way through high school. No exceptions. B’s will not get me into the colleges I want to go to. B’s will not satisfy perfection. In fact, not even A’s will satisfy perfection. I need to strive for 100 percent, 24/7.

Let’s cross our fingers and hope I can keep achieving. Actually, let’s not fall into superstition. No need for crossing fingers–I’ll just do it. I will succeed in prevailing against my nature of low tenacity.