Dressed Like A Knight

As a timid thirteen-year-old, shuffling down the hallways of my middle school trying to melt into the crowd, I thought I would never be confident. If my socks were a different brand from my shoes, I would spend the entire day trying to keep my feet out of sight. In the gym locker room, I was terrified of someone seeing me and making fun of my bra or something, so I pulled my shirt on so quickly that I twisted my neck and had to see a chiropractor about it. Day-to-day conversations were torture. At summer camps, I would avoid eye contact and sit on the corner of my bed, journaling about feeling left-out and abandoned.

The other day, after French class, I realized once again how much confidence I’ve gained. See, I had to recite a poem, so I dressed up as a knight for extra credit. After I finished, I thought, hey, why don’t I just wear this the rest of the day? So I did. I walked the hallways of my high school dressed up as a knight (or rather, a cross between a knight and a Roman soldier, because my costume did not match). I got strange looks. People asked me about it. But I felt amazing. Why? Because it was the culmination of my confidence. It made me smile that the girl who couldn’t even wear Nike socks with Adidas shoes was now dressed up in a child-sized knight helmet.

To all you timid thirteen-year-olds out there: don’t lose hope. You won’t be afraid forever.

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I’m Not Stupid

Dear all the math and science teachers I’ve ever had,

I know I don’t understand imaginary numbers. I’m sorry I just can’t get the hang of Lewis dot structures. From what you see of me in class, you must think I’m not the brightest student. After all, everybody else seems to be understanding your material. They’re all light years ahead of me.

But I want you to think about the girl behind the grade book. I like to write poetry and short stories. When I’m sad, I make up my own piano songs to make me feel better. I’ve been keeping a diary every day for over three years. The meaning of existence is a daunting topic, but I like to think about it anyway. I love reading. I’m a good prank-caller. I do everything I can to be an inspiring person. My favorite bands are Coldplay and Nirvana. I’m fascinated by the 2016 election. I want you to know that there’s so much more to me than the incorrect scrawl on the tests I turn in.

I’m not stupid.

-Me

Just Go Home

If you vomit at school, you’re sent home. The same goes for fevers, significant injuries, and other illnesses. You’re no longer fit to be in a structured learning environment. Rightfully, you return home to rest. There is little leniency for emotional or mental crises, however. If you happen to have a major panic attack, you’re expected to just “pull yourself together” and get on back to class. If you feel like you genuinely don’t have the energy to get through the day without crying, you have to simply toughen up and roll with it.

I will never understand this. Since when are physical ailments less important than mental? Both can be debilitating. Humans are complex. Pain cannot be compartmentalized. You can hurt in places other than your body. So, you know what? If you feel like your life is crumbling apart and you really feel horrible – and I don’t mean a little blue, I mean genuinely horrible – then go home. Just go home. Watch some Netflix, cry, eat some good food, and take it easy. You need it.

My Dreams for the Future

Next year, as a senior, I have the opportunity to take a teaching class. Basically, I’ll get to learn all about teaching, psychology, and kids. I’ll also be able to observe classrooms of different grade levels and even intern in the spring! I’m immensely excited. As for my other classes, I’m going to take AP Psych, which goes right along with the child psychology I’ll learning in the teaching class. I’ll enter my fifth year of French study, which could really come in handy if I decide to do overseas humanitarian work in French-speaking countries.

I want to go to a four-year college, preferably within my home state, to study education and psychology. I’ll go on for my master’s because that’s basically required. Maybe I’ll pursue a doctorate. As for actual teaching, I’d really like to teach fifth grade. It’s such an interesting and important time in a person’s life.

I would really like to teach in the school system where I live. It’s close to my heart and I really like it. I’ve also considered spending some teaching in poor, low-income areas. Maybe at some point in my life I’ll do some teaching work in a third-world, French-speaking country. These dreams could give me an opportunity to combine my hopes for teaching with my love of the world.

Aside from my career, I want to get married and have three children. Three is a good number. Two feels like too few, but four is too many. And one day, I’ll definitely publish a novel. I’ve always known that.

That’s just a general overview of my future dreams. I’m really optimistic for my future, and I can’t wait to spread my wings and fly.

What I Wish Colleges Saw

To colleges, I probably don’t look very promising. I’m not the greatest test taker. I get anxious under pressure and I prefer to take lots of time to do things. I enjoy relaxed and slow work environments, and tests just don’t work like that. I’m also not the most fantastic student. Math and science are difficult for me to grasp. Thus, my grades aren’t straight A’s. They’re not horrible, but they certainly aren’t stellar.

What colleges can’t see is how I live. They can’t see me striving to live a life free of judgement. They can’t see me encouraging people when they make negative statements about themselves, or letting others borrow things from me, or making myself available to people if they need to talk. They can’t see me handing out lollipops with inspiring messages on them or holding up motivational signs on street corners. They don’t understand the immense adversity I’ve endured. They can’t hear the witty statements I make. They won’t read about the imaginary society I’ve created, or the alphabet I’ve invented. They’ll never see that acceptance and goodness, for me, are not traits – they are part of the way I live and think. Try telling me that these things are less important than grades and scores. I won’t believe you.

Colleges will look first at these grades and scores, though, and not who I am as a human being or what I value. How can I express that even though I’m not the finest student, I try to be a wonderful global citizen? For me, that’s far more important than a few numbers on a page, and I only wish colleges could see that first.

A Slower Pace

When I was a little girl, I had this Pooh Bear washcloth that had “A slower pace” printed on it, surrounded by little butterflies and of course, Pooh himself. I always loved that washcloth. It held a tremendous amount of truth for me.

I never did very well with a ton going on around me. I cried when I had to do things too quickly. Too many hours of preschool was overwhelming. Even physically, I wasn’t the fastest or most active kid. I loved indoor recess, turned everything in late, and preferred sitting down to standing up, pretty much always.

Not much has really changed. I have trouble keeping up with others in my classes or taking tests. It’s not that I’m stupid, no. I consider myself pretty intelligent; it’s just that I don’t well under pressure. My ideal school setting would be a comfortable room with a plush, reclining couch and a stack of work to complete by the end of the day. If I had everything I needed to do in front of me, I could work at my own pace and take breaks when necessary. But that’s not how things work, so I have to learn to quicken my pace without sacrificing accuracy and quality – which seems pretty impossible for me.

This slow-paced lifestyle also causes me problems with follow-through. After a full day of school, I feel completely exhausted. I can’t just start on my work; I need free time. Because it takes me so long to recover from a day of working, I don’t start on my homework for hours into the evening. Thus, I don’t always get everything done. And you can forget about extended involvement in after-school clubs. I was a part of a writing club for a while, but I eventually trickled out because I couldn’t be at school that long.

How am I going to get along in life with this slow-paced living? When the world is a raging river, how can I survive as a raindrop?

Believe In Me

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things in my sixteen (and a half) years of life – an author, a teacher, a research psychologist, and a bartender, just to name a few. As I’m quickly approaching college, I’ve been investigating more jobs I might want to have. I’d love to share those dreams with the world, but something stops me every time. Something keeps me quiet.

It’s the fear of not being believed in. If I reveal what I want to be, I’m afraid I’ll be bombarded by doubters and skeptics. I don’t have the skills. I don’t have the personality. The confidence. The traits. The background. The practice. The motivation. It would be about everything I don’t have. With a barrage of negativity coming my way, I could possibly start to feel negatively myself. If nobody believes I have what it takes, I might doubt my own confidence. Maybe that’s still a flaw I have – the need for validation.

Really, it depends on who’s saying it. If a stranger tells me I can’t be who I want to be, I’ll just laugh at them. I know myself better than they do. But if someone I know well tells me that I’m not right for the job, or if they don’t show any enthusiasm for me, I can’t help but feel dejected.

But I’m highly aware of my own skills and abilities. I wouldn’t consider a job in the military or police force, because I know I would do very poorly there. If I didn’t believe I could do it, and if I hadn’t researched it, I wouldn’t bring it up in the first place. When I bring up my career dreams, I’m being serious. I’ve already brainstormed, researched, and thought it out on my own.

And to all my doubters – how could you expect someone who’s sixteen to have all the skills they need for their future job right now? This is why people grow up and go to school. Of course I wouldn’t have what it takes at this moment, but maybe with more growth, I’d be able to do it.

I believe in myself. Could you believe in me, too?

We Are More Than Statistics

My school district offered us a survey on technology. The last question was a free response, asking us how we thought technology could help education. Feeling bitter about the educational system in general, I angrily wrote the following:

I think that creating a better school atmosphere is far more crucial to the radicalization of American schooling than emerging technologies are. It’s all fine and dandy to have shiny new gadgets, but if students are exhausted, stressed, and feeling hopeless about their futures, none of that will matter. Let’s face it: schools care about grades than us as individuals. They care about scores, GPAs, and percentage points more than they care about us as people. I cannot help but wonder if this technology survey is no more than a ploy to boost our performance rather than our actual love of learning or, more importantly, our self-esteem and satisfaction in life. Talk on and on about tablets and digital readers, but never ignore the fact that we’re all exhausted–fighting sleep in the middle of class, having emotional breakdowns over meaningless test scores, and feeling completely directionless in life. Never ignore the fact that this nation has millions of students who have their own unique stories, personalities, and demons. We are more than statistics. We are human beings with dreams.

But I wonder if you will even bother to read this.

Sincerely,
-A

The Library (We’re All Kids)

At school, lunch is my time to steal off to the library. I really enjoy the freedom. There aren’t any teachers telling me where to go or what to do. It’s my time to be me, my time to be free. The library is peaceful, calm, and stocked full of almost any kind of book I can imagine. That alone is enough to keep me there for hours on end. In the past few weeks, though, I’ve discovered so much more.

First, I saw there was a new couch. There were already half a dozen individual sofas, but they have annoyingly noisy plastic coverings, and they aren’t easy to fall asleep in–unless you’re really wiped. This new couch has three cushions and five pillows or so. It’s soft, plushy, and smells faintly of dust, like a grandma’s house. Off to the left, there are two tables very low to the ground, surrounded by a few bean bag chairs. There’s a chess board, the game of Life, Clue, and a few more games–checkers, probably. Another table has a whiteboard surface. There’s a box of dry erase markers on it, and a sign that says “Think Out Loud.” It’s covered in drawings, writing, names–things inside teenagers’ minds.

I looked around the library and saw a guy with his hoodie over his face, curled up on that grandmotherly couch, so motionless that he looked like he could be in REM sleep. Sitting on those plastic couches was another group of students, chatting about God knows what. It annoyed me, as I come to the library for a break, but they were relaxing like I was all the same. Two girls were playing Life together. Another girl was across the whiteboard table from me, scribbling away with her headphones in.

There are some who would say that all these new library additions are stupid wastes of time. We should be studying and preparing for “the real world.” The thing is, though, that high school students are bombarded with this already. Many of us are at school for more hours than we’ve slept. At our core, we’re still kids. High schoolers need time to play, too. We all do. We’re all kids inside, and there are few things more beautiful than taking a break and letting ourselves be children again.

Work Ethic

I really don’t have any dreams. Well, nothing that practically applies to my future. I’m not sure how I feel about it. All my younger life, I was sure of exactly what I wanted to do. Now that I’m actually approaching college, I have absolutely no idea.

I’m just not motivated. I enjoy my leisure time more than anything else, and it has a fiercely protected sanctum in my heart. It’s always been this way, except for my compulsively perfectionistic freshman year. They always told me that middle school would be harder, high school would be harder, but I’ve put in less and less effort with every passing year. Somehow, I’ve gotten through school just fine. I’m even in two honor societies. How? Most days, I do no homework at all. Everybody’s stressed about junior year, but I’m doing better than I’ve done in years. It’s like I’m walking in an oblivious bubble.

It’s good to be happy, but if I don’t put in any effort, I’ll have no options. What am I supposed to do? I don’t want to be nagged. I’m sixteen; I can manage my own life. But maybe I don’t even want a work ethic. I want to want it. I want to want to want to want to want it.

I can’t really ask for advice, because this is something I’ll have to find within myself. Keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I try to discover what I want for my life.