Costco, Tide Pools, and Kitchen Fires (Otherwise Known as My Sixteenth Birthday)

I turn 19 in eleven days, which means it’s been almost three years since my sixteenth birthday and I can probably talk about it without cringing too much. I’m not sure that’s possible, but let’s find out, shall we? My sixteenth birthday was spent on a biology trip near Mendocino, CA.  Before I go into the full story, let's quickly review the events that transpired:

- I got lost in Costco. Twice
- I had to kill harmless sea bug things that live in shells. 
- I caught a kitchen towel on fire.
- And then, as if that wasn't enough, two days later on Halloween, I threw up all over the cabin floor while watching Mulan.

I think it's important to mention that when I found out the biology trip started on my birthday, I almost didn't go. It took me a few days to decide what to do, and even then, after deciding to go, I wasn't sure it was the right decision. But I went anyway, my mom's advice to stick with my choices still ringing in my ear. I got in the car with four of my best friends (who sang happy birthday to me once every hour, on the hour) and was surprised to hear that before we could go to Mendocino, our driver had to stop at Costco so we could actually have food during the trip. Here's the thing- I've always sort of, kind of, really hated Costco. I've never had a good experience, and this birthday trip was certainly no exception. While there, I got lost twice and both times it took me a few minutes to find my friends. It is worth noting that while it's never fun being lost somewhere, being lost on your birthday is worse. Needless to say, I was very happy when our little group finally left Costco. 

Like I mentioned, we were going to Mendocino for a biology trip. The main activity of our first day (my birthday) was going to the nearby tide pools to collect the harmless sea bug things and store them to talk about later. To do this, you had to take a knife and scoop them out of their shell and then put them in a plastic bag (this would kill them, by the way). Now, take a minute and think about all you know about me. It's been two years, you've learned a lot about me in that time. Do you think this is something I would enjoy? You're right, I absolutely hated it. I hated it so much, in fact, that I actually started to cry. I didn't bring a knife with me (obviously), so someone else lent me theirs, and I never used it. Instead, I wandered off to the side a little, next to some rocks and called my mom. I missed her. In that moment, I whole heartedly regretted my decision to spend my birthday away from my home and my family. I was sad, and I really didn't want to stay at the tide pools where the little organisms were practically being massacred. But I stayed, talked to my mom, and tried not to cry. 

Before leaving for the trip, everyone who was going had to sign up for a day and a meal to help make. Me and a few of my friends decided to sign up for the first meal because we figured then it was over with and we wouldn't have to worry about it later. I was put in charge of beans, and had been told to wrap a towel around the handle of the pot so I wouldn't burn my hand. While stirring the beans, the towel somehow caught on fire. I took the towel off the handle and held it out in front of me, paralyzed in fear. A friend of mine grabbed the towel and shook it to put out the fire. So, yeah, I set a towel on fire and just stood there because I didn't know what to do. After eating, my group went back into the kitchen to clean up, and at some point I was left alone, drying a dish. I was told I wasn't allowed to leave the kitchen, and I quickly realized why when I heard whispers from my friends behind the door. I was finally allowed back into the dining area, and set in front of a makeshift cake made of tiny brownies. People sang happy birthday, and there's a video somewhere in which I look extremely uncomfortable. I was happy though, because even though there had been a few sucky moments on my birthday, my friends had still done something to celebrate it.

A couple days later, on our last day of the trip, everyone in my cabin decided to watch Mulan after learning that I'd never seen it before (spoiler alert- I still haven't). A couple people on the trip hadn't been feeling great, but everyone had been fine after a few hours. I, on the hand, started feeling incredibly nauseous about a quarter of our way through the movie. Halfway through, I had to go back to my own bed because I was feeling so awful. While my friends continued to watch the movie, I lay in my bed, trying to figure out why I wasn't feeling great. At one point, after all the lights were turned out, I got up and tried to get into the bathroom. It was a really dark cabin, and I couldn't find the right door knob. My searching took too long, and I wound up throwing up all over the floor. My dear friend (like the angel she is) took it upon herself to clean everything up so I could go back to sleep.

So, yeah. Not my best birthday (or birthday weekend), and not exactly a sweet sixteen. My 16th birthday was the first year I was away from any family for the majority of the day. My 19th birthday, which is in a couple weeks, will be the first birthday I spend without any family at all. This has got me to thinking about how we build families for ourselves. I'm pretty lucky that my birthday is right after Parent's Weekend, so I'll have my mom there for the days before my birthday, but for my birthday itself, I won't have any family around. I will, however, have my roommate. I'll have those in my acting class. I'll have the people I work with, the classes that make me happy, and an environment that never seizes to make me smile. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by all these people, and I figure as long as I don't have to kill little sea bugs, it'll be a pretty great birthday. 

 It may not have been my best birthday, but this is one of my favorite pictures from the day :-)

It may not have been my best birthday, but this is one of my favorite pictures from the day :-)

Why I Chose the Major (and minor!) That I Did

As of right now, I am majoring in English and minoring in Drama. You know, just so I can be completely unemployable... just kidding. Something I learned pretty quickly after deciding where I was going to college is that after asking where you're going, people will ask you what your major is, and then if you're majoring in one of the Humanities, they will ask you why. I'm not sure why this is, but a lot of the time people don't know what kind of job you can get with a degree in one of the Humanities. I have some friends who are pre-law, and others who want to be teachers. Some of us just want to study something that interests them while they figure out what they want to do when they graduate.

At first, I chose to major in English because it's all I've ever wanted to major in. Now, I'm majoring in English because I believe that it will make me both a better writer and a better actor. When you read books and learn the history of the authors, you get inside the heads of characters and the head of the person who created them. This teaches you empathy, which is so important in being a good actor. When you're empathetic, you're able to understand why you're character does the things they do, and you can then decide how you want to play it out. Of course, the writing is also a huge part for me. I love reading, and I love writing. Someday (hopefully soon), I want to publish a book. Whether it's self-published or not, I want to see a book I've written on the shelf of a bookstore someday.

At my school, there aren’t many other English majors. In fact, there are only four of us in my Freshman class. This means we are all pretty close-knit, especially with the professors. At my school, if you are an English major, you take all the typical English writing and literature classes, but then later on decide if you want your concentration to be on creative writing or on literature. I still haven’t decided which one I want to choose, but luckily I don’t have to make that decision for another couple of years. My general classes still revolve around my major, especially the ones in the history and social science departments.

I am minoring in Drama for what should be obvious reasons if you've read even a couple posts on this blog. I'm minoring in Drama because I want to work in a theatre someday, and then later run my own theatre company. If I'm being totally honest, I'm only minoring in Drama because at my school you can't major in it. Right now I am taking an acting class and I absolutely love it. Right now I am writing this in the fifteen minutes I have before meeting with another girl in the class to go over a scene we’re performing together in a couple weeks. At my school, the drama department is pretty well established. Auditions are mandatory, which is great practice, and I’m also part of the drama club which has events (like musical nights or improve games) every couple weeks.

I love the major and minor that I've chosen, and I'm excited to keep working towards my degree for the next four years. Even so, I'm open to things changing. I highly doubt I'll wind up with a degree in something to do with math or science (especially since I couldn't think of a degree in that department to mention here), but I may decide at some point that I'd prefer to major in Strategic Communication for the same reasons I chose to major in English. I may also decide to add a minor in business so I have more information for when I decide to start the theatre company. Who knows, I may really decide to go in a completely new direction. My point is, I love my major and minor, but I'm also open to other options. All I know for sure is I'm excited about what I might get to do while I'm here. 

 Me during a monologue performance earlier this week :-)

Me during a monologue performance earlier this week :-)

Why I Write - 2 Year Anniversary Post

Today marks exactly two years since I made this website go live two days early. Today it has been two years since I decided to start a blog without really knowing how. I hadn't really written anything like this before. The first pieces I wrote were 2-3 paragraphs, whereas now my average piece has 6 paragraphs. I started by wanting to tell stories of my life and share my poems, but at that point I wasn't doing much with my life and I'd only written one poem. 

In the past year, I went through my senior year of high school, graduated, and started college. I moved to a new state. I finally got my driver's permit. A lot has changed with this website itself, too. I've written more open letters, and I've started releasing a monthly poem. I've added a few new series pieces, too (100 Words and  Detox Tea Talks come to mind first). I updated the format a while back and at the same time changed the About page (which received another update after I graduated). I also completely took off the photography page, because I realized that while I like saving pictures I've taken, it's not something I feel the need to showcase, and it isn't one of my priorities. Instead, I've made a new section entirely devoted to theatre and my journey of getting to where I want to be. But what's happened in the past two years?

In the past two years, I've gone from a scared new kid in California to a college Freshman in Washington who is finding her way. In the past two years, I have gone from someone with ideas for books but no copies to someone with a book written, edited, and ready. I started this blog so I'd have something to do to distract myself from starting at a new school. I started it so I'd feel like I was doing something that could benefit me in the future. I started it so I'd get the chance to practice my writing and have a space to talk about things I loved. 

Now, I write because I want to share my stories. I write because I believe I have something to say, and I write because I think I have good ideas. Now, I don't always need this website to distract myself, but sometimes it still serves that purpose. Usually, this website is simply my place to keep my stories safe. It is a place that still lets me share things I love and I still think this may benefit me in the future, but now this whole thing is more than that. 

This website has made me a better writer, a better reader, and I think it's actually made me a better person. I do more now. I try things, and I take risks. I think that's because I figure that even if something doesn't work out the way I want it to, at least I'll get a story out of it and can have a new piece to post here. This website has made me a little less afraid of messing up. While I didn't need one, this website has given me an excuse to simply live a little bit more. When you put your soul out there, you have to be brave. You have to be okay with being vulnerable and you have to be okay with people reading your vulnerability, no matter what they'll do with it. I'm still working on not letting irrelevant criticism bother me, but it's hard. 

In the past year, this little website's audience has grown, so hello to those of you who are still pretty new. Thanks for hanging out here and listening to what I have to say. Thank you to those of you who have been here the entire time (all four of you ;-)), and thank you to those of you who stop in every once in a while and leave nice comments for me to see later. It's been a good two years, and I'm excited for the next two (and beyond). Here's to making mistakes, succeeding at new things, and writing about all of it. 

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Why I Love "Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" So Much (and yeah, I am aware that this is three months late)

Before you ask, yes I did see this movie back in July. However, it has taken me up until now to really sit down and write about just how much I loved it.* While watching the movie (as well as the first Mamma Mia movie), I couldn't remember why I knew all the words to a lot of the songs used. It wasn't until later that I remembered that I used to listen to ABBA all the time between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. I didn't tell anyone, though, because I assumed people would think it was weird that I loved listening to music by a Swedish band. So I listened to the songs in my headphones at night, silently memorizing the lyrics. For whatever reason, I'd blocked out those memories to the point where I couldn't remember why I knew all the lyrics while watching the movies. 

I think that, most of the time, people listen to these songs thinking of a romantic kind of love. I know that's what I thought of when I was 13 and 14. But when I watched the movies, all that comes to mind is the love that family and community can provide. The music of ABBA and the stories the songs given to both Mamma Mia movies make me feel so much so deeply. The relationship between Donna and her mother is sometimes reflected in my own experiences (though not with me and my mom), and I see a spark of familiarity with Sophie and Sam.

Donna's belief that she is going to live a great life, even if she doesn't know what it is going to look like, reminds me a bit of myself. Her ability to pick up her life and run off to a place she knows very little about is, in a way, inspiring to me. Like Donna, I’ve always assumed I would lead an extraordinary life, I’m just not always sure how I’ll do it. Donna’s ability to pick up her life, travel to somewhere she’s only heard of maybe once or twice, and start anew all without seeming anxious about it is inspiring. Unrealistic, maybe, but still inspiring (and it’s a musical, so are we really concerned about reality?).

As Sophie, I have my own Bill and Harry as well. I am surrounded by love, family, and community. I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible people and role models who have taught me so much about life and what makes it beautiful. I can relate to the ABBA songs I loved so much in middle school, just differently than I originally thought. Now, when I listen to their music I think  of the love I am surrounded by on a daily basis. Their music is there to remind me of all I have to be thankful for and to be happy about. Of course, their songs are also great to listen to when you’re in a bad mood so you can turn that around.

Anyway, if you still haven't seen Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, drop everything and go find a way to see it. It’s a beautiful movie that celebrates the joy of family, the beauty that can be found in grief, and the wonder in a new adventure. I really loved it, and I would see it again in a heartbeat.


*Parts of this was taken from the Twitter thread I made after watching the movie, it just took me until now to be able to elaborate on my thoughts. 

 

 

Big Fish, Little Fish

I have officially been a college student for eleven days. I'm still dealing with some degree of culture shock, but I'm definitely enjoying my time in Washington. So far, I've moved in, gone through a week of orientation, and had three full days of classes. A lot has happened and while not all of it has made me feel like this will be a good school year, most of it has. For today, here is a summary of what my life has been like lately, as well as a realization I had before moving up.

I got to campus on the 15th, where I was able to move my stuff in a little early. This was good because it meant I was able to get to campus on the official move-in day without actually having to move all my stuff in. After moving in, having lunch with my mom, roommate, and her family, my mom and I walked back to the car where we said a tear-filled goodbye. Then we drove back to the building where I’d have a meeting and I had to get out of the car and go be a college student and stuff. If you’ve read a piece I wrote back in June called Not So Scary Anymore then you’ll know how much I hate leaving the car (and my mom!) to venture off on my own. But somehow, after many “last” hugs goodbye, I found a way to leave the car. I then got lost and dear Annaliese had to come find me, but I still left the car. Later that day I would also find a bug in my room and get myself locked out of my room, but considering it was my first day I think it could have been worse.

The rest of my week consisted of taking placement tests (I tested higher in French than expected, which was cool. Math went exactly as expected), learning my way around the campus, and getting used to living away from home (at least a little bit). I called my mom and then my dad, and texted my Grandmother and aunt. I FaceTimed my brother and one of my best friends all in an attempt to make the unfamiliar a little bit easier. I cried many tears, tried to look on the bright side, and have made many, many cups of coffee.

I think one of the biggest things I've learned so far is that even though I'm now a little fish in a big pond, I haven't actually shrunk any. I may be smaller than the other fish, but that's just because the other fish have had more time to grow bigger. At the end of my senior year of high school, I told one of my friends that I wasn't looking forward to being a Freshman again because I didn't want to feel young and small. But what I neglected to realize is I am still the same person I was after graduating, I just get another four years to grow into an even more mature, capable, and strong person.

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The First Time I Didn't Want to Grow Up

I grew up by the beach. Although I didn't go as much as you'd expect, I loved being on the sand dunes. Jumping off them, rolling down them, sitting on them. I loved the sand, and I loved watching the water. There was a particular cluster of sand dunes that I loved very much, as they offered the perfect  height for jumping off, were steep enough to roll down, and had a lovely ditch in the middle for sitting in. One night, I was at the beach with my family to watch the sunset when I discovered that my favorite cluster of sand dunes had disappeared. As a third grader, I knew that of course nature changes things and wind will blow dunes in different directions, but as a nine year old whose parents were separating, this was the final straw on my little camel's back. 

I remember feeling like crying, screaming, and throwing sand around all at the same time. I don't remember what I ended up doing, but I do remember my mom taking me in her arms and talking to me about change. The first picture below was taken at that moment, and even though there are many pictures of us, this will always be one of my favorites. I remember not wanting things to change, and as silly as it may seem, this loss of those particular sand dunes symbolized to me that I was growing up. I realized (although I already knew it) that nothing was going to be the same forever, and certainly nothing was going to be the same as it had been when I five, six, seven years old. As I've gotten older, I've realized that it's a good thing life isn't the same as it was from 2014 downward, but as a nine year old I didn't yet have the gift of hindsight. 

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That day on the beach is the first time I remember not wanting to grow up. Today, September 16th, is my first day of college. My first day of classes is next Monday, but today is the first day of orientation. When I wake up, I'll drive with my mom to the university and unpack all my stuff in a room that I'll be sharing with Annaliese for the next school year. I'll experience all the news things one experiences during orientation week and then I'll have four years of new stuff. This is not the second time I've not wanted to grow up, it's probably the fourth (16th birthday and 18th birthday were the second and third), but this feeling now is just as strong as it was when I was nine. 

It's been almost a decade since my mom and I sat on the dunes and she told me that change is good and growing up isn't a bad thing, and I would be very surprised if she didn't tell me the same thing on the drive to Washington. That day on the beach, I couldn't think of anything worse than having to grow up. But so many wonderful things happened in the past nine years that it almost seems silly how scared I was. That's what I'm reminding myself as I prepare to leave Sacramento. Right now I may be thinking that growing up seems awful, but there must be plenty of good things waiting on the horizon. There always have been. 

 My mom will probably insist that this picture also be shown, so here you go. Clearly, I went through a wide range of emotions that night. 

My mom will probably insist that this picture also be shown, so here you go. Clearly, I went through a wide range of emotions that night.