4/4

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. When my friends first heard about having blog posts as homework for sophomore and junior year, they groaned and complained. I was low key excited because I’ve been keeping a personal journal (moleskines, they’re great) for a while now, and it’s basically the same thing right? Well, it’s currently spring break and honestly, I need something to do. Every single year, I always can’t wait to get out of school for break, but complain about how bored I am while on break.

Anyway, it’s reflection time. And also it’s my senior year. My fourth and final year of high school. I made it, right?  It’s crazy how fast time flies right? Just kidding. These have been the longest four years of my life. I wish I listened when alumni told me to make the most out of high school. As of right now, I’m so ready to graduate and get out of this hellhole. Don’t even get me started on talking about my future…

Actually, let’s talk about that. The month of March only meant one thing to me. College acceptances or rejections. Let me tell you, it’s a really depressing month, for me at least. I couldn’t even get into one college I dreamt of attending. Sometimes, I wonder why I even tried so hard in high school or why I decided to commit to an extracurricular… what went wrong? I can’t help but compare my stats to my friends who received acceptances from UCLA, UCSD, etc. And then it clicks. I think for these past four years, I’ve just been given the image that I was “smart”. Maybe I am, but I know for sure that I’m extremely lazy. And honestly, my high school performance wasn’t the very best I could’ve done. I congratulate my friends for exceeding their parents’ expectations, going above and beyond, being extremely well-rounded people… something I could never be. It kills me to hear “you’re so smart, why didn’t you get into so and so?” Honestly, maybe it was my choice to nap for an extra three hours that night you were cramming and burning yourself out. Does that mean they’re going to do better in the long run? Who knows. Not reading “Congratulations!” at the beginning of a letter doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world?… One thing I got out of this is that college admissions are completely unpredictable.

Maybe it’s senioritis and the fact that I’ve already been rejected, so what’s the point? Wasn’t that the purpose of high school? Preparing us for college? I’ve stopped completing assignments in AP Literature (literally the definition of hellhole) and AP Economics simply because I decided it wasn’t worth my time. The reading schedules are a pain. After rehearsal, I would go home, jump in bed, and listen to music, while reading leisurely or you know, the classic watch Netflix and eat cereal option.

I don’t know if this college outcome is going to force me to take a cheaper alternative or if I’d rather take loans out and move out. Staying in this house drains all the energy out of me though. I still have so many decisions to make. Do I want to be a math major, business major, bioengineering major? I want to leave high school, yet I don’t want to do adult things. Speaking of doing adult things, I also have been procrastinating on getting my driver’s license… and getting a job. Before my junior year, I wasn’t that big on spending, but I’ve started eating out more and senior expenses are ridiculous. $368 for AP Exams and $110 for Senior Grad Night?! I also decided to march my second year at Pacific Crest, another $3000… After keeping track of everything I pay for and what my parents provide, it’s ridiculous.

Also, to top that, I recently lost a friend. As in we decided not to be friends anymore, I guess. Being the person that I am, I didn’t think it was in my best interest anymore to keep someone in my life who didn’t like the person I was. For superficial reasons and trivial matters, too. I mean, it’s not like she was my only friend outside of band. I was scared she wouldn’t like how she was always more invested into conversations than I was. After she confronted me after ignoring me for a couple days, I cried that night for hours.

My mind was in a bunch of different places. I grew up as being this socially awkward introvert. I could never hold a conversation with someone unless it was something I was passionate about. I’m uncomfortable when I’m in big groups and when I’m with a small group of one or two people. I always feel obligated to talk when I’m scared about saying something wrong (especially in my literature class). In public settings, my ex would always ridicule my social skills, especially when I would say something silly and cause an inconvenience for the waiter. Little did he know, it only worsened my self-esteem. I know they say that we should never try to please anyone, but I just felt like I was never good enough for anyone. Hence, why I couldn’t make many friends. I’ve never felt like I belonged or found a place anywhere, even after joining band. I guess music is my best friend.

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High school has been full of regrets and terrible decisions. During my first year on tour with Pacific Crest, I ended a 2 year relationship and I hooked up with a friend while he was in a relationship or what others call “fling.” Talk about bad decisions right? I continued to do things I didn’t condone. I refused. I felt like I was being emotionally and sexually abused. I should’ve expected his behavior, as it was nothing new to me. Even after he separated from his girlfriend, he continued to pursue a “friends with benefits” relationship with me, while I wanted something else as my developing feelings increased. But who wouldn’t have guessed… he already moved on a couple weeks later. And to this day, I still feel guilt for his partner he broke it off with. I’m literally the most terrible-st person ever. He’s made me feel and be at my lowest point in life.

Surprisingly enough, as I reach the end of my high school career, I have worried and cared a lot less (leading to less stress and a clearer face!) but let’s just say my high school experience wasn’t too great. Daily motions felt incredibly mundane. The amount of people I’ve met that I can call a friend can be counted on one hand. When I’m not at school learning or rehearsing, I’m at home sleeping. Not that I’m complaining or anything, but lacking a social life kind of sucks. If I’m not messing something up in one area of my life, it’s in another.

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Words and Language

“When will you learn that there isn’t a word for everything?”
― Nicole Krauss

Sometimes, you can’t just put those thoughts, feelings, and emotions into words. How can you explain how you’re feeling to someone when it doesn’t even make sense in your own head?

What feelings can words not describe?

For me, at least, whenever someone mentions the death of a close family member or friend, I would get all choked up, not knowing what so say. Or I love someone so dearly that I just can’t put it into words. Most of us just experience feelings that there are no words for. We could only muster something like, “There are simply no words to describe?” Or: Have you ever tried to name or define an object or concept and discovered that nothing in that dictionary you carry around in your skull matches? Well, there’s a word for that: ineffability. Words of anger, affection, sadness, love, lost, and disappointment.

For example, in The Catcher in the Rye, whenever Holden talks about his loved ones, the readers could tell in his writing that his thoughts are jumbled and he is just saying what comes to mind. Even the readers can’t comprehend his thoughts. He thought EVERYTHING about Allie was unique. When he tried to explain how red Holden’s hair was, he ended up going off on a tangent talking about everything but hair. But Holden would always wear a red hunting hat to feel protected by Allie.

Words are extremely important and sometimes, we don’t realize what we’d do without it. We use them to communicate to our peers. Words are powerful. Words are merely the expressions of human brings.

So, I ask you, under what circumstances are words more effective in expressing yourself than actions?

Fear of rejection

My brother dreamt of attending UC Santa Barbara. There has been so much stress and pressure for him these past couple weeks waiting for these college acceptance letters. Unfortunately, he was devastated when UCSB rejected him, thinking all his hard work in high school did not pay off. I can tell how overwhelmed he gets when my mom mentions financial aid, dorms, scholarship money, or basically anything related to college. He had the mindset that, with over a 4.0 GPA and 2000 SAT score, why did someone with similar stats as him get accepted, but he didn’t? Colleges are completely unpredictable and I find that students should not be comparing GPAs and SAT scores with others who got accepted, only lowering your self esteem even more.

Getting accepted or rejected to a prestigious college should not change your view of someone. Everyone has their weaknesses and strengths in different areas of academics and more. A rejection from a school does not define who someone is or what they are capable of. I think what’s most important is how the students react when they receive a rejection letter from their dream school. Oh, you let down your family and friends? No. Going to college should be about your own future and what you want to achieve. I believe my brother will still accomplish something great whether he is studying computer science at Cal State Long Beach or UCSB.

It doesn’t help that college acceptance rates are dropping every year. At the thought that UCLA was possible for me freshmen year, now is a school that I wouldn’t dare apply to, looking at the 9% acceptance rate and the amount of people getting rejected from UCLA. As a junior, the stress has already been starting to pile on me. The other day, my mom would not stop asking me what I wanted to major in. And guess what, I HAVE NO IDEA. She tells me to choose something I’d enjoy doing, but deep inside, I know she wants me to become a pharmacist. Thinking about APs, SATs, SAT subject tests, ACT, scholarships, financial aid, and… the list would never end. It is completely ridiculous how much stress a 16 year old endures on a daily basis. And not only that, but I give tons of credit to how stressed out my mom is. With worrying about student loans for college, not qualifying for financial as middle class, purchasing a car with insurance… it’s just too much on a money standpoint. And a year after my brother, I will be going off to college as well. And all I can do now is work hard and hope for the best…

-Chelsea

Epitome of Stress

I tend to write a lot about how tired and how much time I don’t have and the time I wish I had. To be quite honest, people are probably sick and tired of me complaining about anything and everything. I am too. I’ve been cutting down on meals and sleep with the amount of time I’ve had and with everything that’s on my plate these past couple weeks. I really just need a place to vent, but don’t want to bother anyone anymore either. No one really asked if I’m okay, so I guess it’s the part of life where I’m supposed to pick myself up. Some days, I feel like all the energy is just sucked out of me. I just want to talk to someone without bothering them, but I could never find the courage or motivation to. I still feel like I’m shrinking, but I know things won’t suck this much forever. Well, I guess I’ll just leave things here.

This week and next week, yep. It is AP week. I know it’s not just me taking AP classes and I’m not even taking that many for that matter. There is so much pressure to get a 5 for every exam I paid for. What my AP teachers have been calling these past couple weeks are “the final push.” However, this final push is when I started to become lazier than I ever was. I’ve fallen behind on a few simple assignments, that could’ve kept my grade up, but ended up dropping it an entire letter grade. Even though some of my teachers offered late assignments for half credit, I still haven’t found the motivation to complete them. Because I have to play catch up, I haven’t really found the time to study for AP tests. But aside from all that, teaching piano has been kind of a nightmare. No matter how patient I am or strict I am with the kids, I still feel like pulling my hair out after that hour of lesson. I think I must find a new job soon, but this will have to do for now because I really don’t have time to do that.

Also, since senior year is starting soon, I’ve been filling the new role as a front ensemble section leader. And to be honest, I’m completely clueless. I don’t know what I’m doing and have no guidance whatsoever. When I try to give constructive criticism to other members, I’m afraid of them becoming disappointed or offended at the comments. I should know that that’s reality and I’m doing it for their own good. Well, anyway I still regret not applying for a coronet award for World Languages. I’m still worried about getting into college, and choosing which one I want to attend and what I want to study. I just really want to remove all the pressure of attending the college of my mother’s dreams. I still really want to volunteer somewhere before graduating, possibly Aquarium of the Pacific or the library or my local hospital. I still need to take the ACT and subject tests. And of course, get my permit, so I can start learning how to drive. My tour with Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps also starts in about less than a month too. And I’m really excited. The camps every weekend have been a blast (other than having to catch up on homework). That’s probably the only thing that has been kept me going so far.

All this stress piling up is probably just a testament to what I am capable of, what my limits are, and when my breaking point is. Maybe I’m just stressing out because I care too much about my grades and whatnot? I don’t know. There have been nights where I am so frustrated at myself, that there is this tightness in my chest, that I will just cry myself to sleep. I just really hope it doesn’t get worse than this, that I don’t disappoint anymore people, and that I just live in the present, rather than worrying about what the future holds. Thanks for reading and being the one that listens.

-Chelsea

Artists

Being an artist.. who are artists? Are they defined as Michelangelo and Picasso? I truly believe that artists of today take risks and are proud to stand up and say that they put the time and effort into creating what they did. In Krista Tipett’s radio show with Seth Godin, Godin touched on the point that the things that used to make us feel safe are now risky. It is easier for younger children to innovate and brainstorm, but rather difficult for college students? They are afraid of being wrong or being judged if they put something out there for the whole world to see. Free range kids, whose creativity is not hindered by parents who lock them up until they are “ready” for the real world, often are successful in being these people called artists. In school, many of the students are often trained to do good work and share it, but not trained to face failure, making them less likely to take those risks.

So back to the question… who are artists? Artists are everywhere. They are the entrepreneurs who hope to find success in starting a business, bloggers who take a stance and join in on the conversation of a topic, writers who have published book…they are everywhere. They took the opportunity to do something that no one else has ever done before. And most have made an impact, not because of what they learned in school, but because of their values, by understanding the mindset of one and putting a story into the world changing the mindset of many.

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As a percussionist and performer, I consider myself an artist. As I try to make a name for myself in the real world by auditioning for higher level marching bands such as Pacific Crest Drum and Bugle Corps, I am taking that risk. Of getting cut and possibly not being able to make the dream of marching at the professional level into a reality. I’ve been training for two years already, thanks to my wonderful instructors who have helped me in creating this name. Another point that Godin touched on was taking what you learned and teaching or showing others to create something that matters. This is the concept of sharing like an artist. As a performer, I take the 8 years of instruction from piano lessons as well as the 2 years of instruction from mallet percussion and show what I can create with what I’ve learned and whether it resonates with the audience I was trying to reach.

I have also been writing various essays every two weeks or so using different modes of writing such as narration, description, exemplification, etc. in order to be published into the book my group has been working to create. As writers, we are artists, taking advice we learned from group members when reading drafts of our essays and working to create something even better, something that WORKS. This art is made by a community in that we count on each other to create something beyond the individual. The creation is made in order to impact our audience. Ziebarth would always ask for us to consider, “Who is your audience? What are they values? Is it your one friend or all the students at your high school?” However, you should never be afraid or limited because of your audience. Don’t be afraid to join in on a conversation and take that risk to put your opinion out there.

“I am interested in art as a means of living a life, not as a means of making a living.”
-Robert Henri

Sometimes, we are so invested in what we do as artists in order to achieve money or fame. Artists must create with the intent of reaching someone else out there, making that impact on someone else that may care deeply about what your interests. I admit, for one, that I also have been trained and wrapped around the idea of trying to complete a number of different things because “it looks good on your resume” or “it’ll give you an advantage in getting into college.” It was never told that we should be doing it for ourselves and for the purpose of impacting others’ lives. So as Godin mentioned, “live like people are looking at you-because they are”, the thought is definitely, in fact, true. However, the art we create should first and foremost be making an impact on yourself, as well as others. But also what I think he means by that, is also a point I made earlier. Make a name for yourself. People are always going to be looking at you, whether it’d be applying for you dream job or school, but you must take the risks in order to accomplish things and create this name for yourself regardless of who is watching. Taking risks definitely shows confidence and helps you stand out. Even if taking that risk led to failure, the lessons learned from it will possibly lead you elsewhere, success. If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done.

“Without taking risks, you cannot truly live, you merely exist”

It’s weird not to be weird

“Who would you be but who you are?”

― Terry Brooks

We, as human beings, define individuals as being separate and distinct from a group because of their differences. Individuals can cause the rest of the community to feel uneasy by testing the norms of the society or from just a simple change.

They are not bound to the rules of society and dominate their personal goals and beliefs. In our society, it is natural to look down on these individuals based on decisions they made or any flaws they may have.

Yet we encourage self-expression and the idea of being unique. Why is that? And how is an individual actually related to a community?

For Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, she is shunned and humiliated by the townspeople as a result from committing adultery. Because of the Puritan community she is surrounded by, she is an individual.  Because of her decision, she is looked down upon and must constantly carry around a living reminder of her sin, Pearl. But Hester doesn’t change for them.

Hester is a perfect example of individuality to me and how ultimately, this community in the novel needs Hester. Without Hester, the community won’t be able to see the consequences of such a sin and know what NOT to do.

Despite the how the townspeople perceive Hester, the author seems to look at Hester in a new light. In Chapter 2, Hawthorne glorifies and emphasizes the appearance of the Scarlet Letter on Hester by describing it “in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold-thread.” Compared to the townspeople in the story, like Hawthorne, I also believed that Hester’s differences from the townspeople could be portrayed in a beautiful way, making her stand out from the rest. The sin doesn’t define who Hester is and is not a depiction of her identity.

In our society, just like how the sin defined Hester for the townspeople, our grades and the types of classes we take often define who we are by colleges, our parents, and even ourselves.

However, many other individuals strive to be a part of the community and want to be included. Some individuals don’t want that feeling of being different from the rest and would rather choose to conform to society.

For Dimmesdale, he continued to avoid punishment and hid his sin as a secret to avoid the consequences from the town that Hester had to face. But in the long run, he won’t be able to fake it for that long. As a minister, he preached about not doing a sin he committed. But the more he preached, the more he suffered. He lacked the strength and honesty Hester had in order to become that individual.

We join clubs and sports teams to connect with people that share a common interest, so that we don’t feel different and apart from the rest. For example, the club MSA is linked together by their culture and their religion. These individuals come together to form a team or community.

In “Walking the Path between Worlds” by Lori Arviso Alvord, she describes the individual souls of the outside, non-Indian world looking to connect with other people through societies, clubs, and other groups. To them, being a tribe means something much more than just to be a family and this adds to sense of the importance of the community.

In Robert D. Putnam’s “Health and Happiness”, he argues that the social interaction between people affects health. If we increase the communication among people, they will be less likely to suffer health issues. The ones who have close friends, neighbors and co-workers are less likely to be sad, lonely, have low self-esteem, or problems eating and sleeping. Basically, Putnam is saying how community and the sense of belonging is overall beneficial to the well-being of humans.

For me, when I think of an individual and a community, I picture several individuals coming together to form a community in a positive way. For example, words that make up a sentence, sentences that make up a paragraph, or the individual notes that make up the musical piece are communities.

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When I first joined the Fountain Valley Percussion Ensemble, I was an individual. I had no idea what I was doing or what a marimba even was. Everyone already had friends and more than 2 years of experience under their belt. As the indoor drumline season progressed with more rehearsals and competitions, all the individuals started to become one, a community. We always repeated the phrase, “Everybody, all the time,” emphasizing the importance of our community.

Every individual must contribute something to the community because the percussion activity is defined by every single member and his or her contribution to it. We all know that the progress is a product of the efforts pitched in by everyone and that it is rare that we may ever have the opportunity to be a part of something beyond the individual.

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”
Stephen R. Covey

Education

And… I’m back! I’m excited to start another year strong in English with Mr. Ziebarth! And since I just started my 12th year of school… Education. I wonder what first comes to mind when I say the word, ‘education’. It’s incredible to think about how much learning has influenced how and what I think today. Compared to my 4-year old self, well of course, I have developed many skills that I did not once have, but I believe the school system has slowly shifted my free-flowing creativity to conforming to society as robots. “This function of opening and feeding the human mind is not to be fulfilled by any mechanical or military method.” (-Ralph Waldo Emerson) Many of us think that why we’re in school to prepare us to succeed in the “real world” in the future. Why are we preparing for the future, something that may not even happen? Why isn’t now the “real world”? Why isn’t school the idea of becoming lifelong self-learners?

The education system has built us on a platform on the importance of grades rather than learning. Students are built on the idea if they don’t receive those straight A’s, they may not be able to get into the college of their dreams. Seeing that one letter grade could destroy their future, students would even cheat with the knowledge that it may result in a huge consequence. How often do you bring home an essay to your parents and they take the time to read what you wrote? Or do they just give an hour lecture on the fact that you received a B letter grade? Heck, I even devoted almost my entire summer (you know that thing, where you’re supposed to take a break from school?) to SAT classes in order to get as close as I possibly can to that perfect score of 2400. Yet another score that might possibly determine my future. Many fear that if they don’t succeed in school now, they will be working in a career that they will dread waking up to for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, many fear that the career field that they DO want to work in will not make them as financially stable. The careers that promoted more expression and creativity, such as Music and English, were looked down upon from my parents. Back to idea of the decrease in creativity, Ken Robinson also mentioned in his talked that students’ divergent thinking, a thought process used to generative creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions, begin to decrease more and more as they are exposed to the school system. We are so well-trained to memorize facts, copy notes from powerpoint, and that our knowledge is determined by how we perform on tests, such as STANDARDIZED tests. Standardize is to conform to a standard. Do you see it yet? Some of the most wealthy people today such as Bill Gates dropped out of high school and broke away from this standardization. They ended up believing that they were capable of creating their own sense of thinking and pursuing a career that did not limit their ways of thinking.

I think a big part of being in school involves finding out who you are. And a note to the freshmen: the next four years may be the most important years thus far, but you must find a purpose in spending 7 hours at school everyday. Sadly, yes, you’re in a school system where your grades are probably the most important thing from you. Maximize your potential. Don’t forget that knowledge is power. Good luck! I hope that in the future, society will change in a way in which schools DO serve the true goals of education by motivating well-rounded learners towards innovation and success.