Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Youth is Watching: Go Vote!

There are a million and one reasons not to go out and vote on Tuesday. A time that is usually exciting and hopeful has become terrifying and the right to vote no longer feels like a privilege, but a burden. But all of this, no matter how daunting, shouldn't keep you home November 8th. In fact, nothing should. You have to get to the polls and vote.

I'm sure you've heard it over and over that only you can make a difference and change in our nation; and it's true. But I'm here to introduce another reason to convince you that no matter how scared you are, there is still hope, and you can stimulate it by voting.

And it is all because of me.

Well, me and every other sixteen/seventeen-year-old. We all happen to be stuck in this age where we see and understand everything going on around us, but we have no say in it--at least, not one that will matter during this election. We've all made our decisions, unfortunately, we can't cast our vote until next time. But we're all sort of scared, after seeing this.

I am constantly hearing eligible voters all around me say they're not even going to bother voting this year. They say it around me, and my friends, and while some of us take that and understand it's not right, many take it as advice. As the generation before us, part of your responsibility as a role model to us includes setting the right example when it comes to wearing our grown-up pants. And voting is part of that. By throwing away your vote or not even attempting to, you are telling a generation of up-and-coming voters that it's okay to just give up on your country and rights when things aren't going as planned. The past two generations are criticized enough for being lazy--do you really want to drop the ball at the polls, too?

The youth has played an integral role in the election this year, with their power and presence on the internet. It may be that we have been more connected and informed than any other generation before us--but we don't get to take our knowledge and run with it. We only got to share it with you, and we trust you to take it for us and make a decision. There is no right or wrong choice anymore; but you won't prove anything by sitting on your ass. Don't let us down.

Not to mention, we will be going into the world soon. And maybe that doesn't mean anything to you as you consider this election, but it should. The teenagers of today are going to be the new adults, the new workers, the new innovators of tomorrow. Over the four-year course of the next presidency, we are going to be learning and growing and then finally, released into the world beneath that president. Depending on who you decide to vote for, the world we enter as young, ambitious adults could be either stimulating or completely disabling to us.

Yes, we are the future, but so are you. I don't know how I could manage to sound any more desperate than I do at this very moment, but I am. Like America and likely the rest of the world, I am frightened. I am frightened of what the world may be like by the time I get to own it--which will be in about four years. I am frightened that voters will look at their ballots with tunnel vision, and will not think of the girls and boys below them, the ones who will either suffer or thrive from their choice.

We are young and we are still learning, so teach us.

But one thing we know for sure is that nothing happens if you don't fight, and democracy has armed us with the most powerful weapon of all; our vote. Use it.

For me.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A Love Letter for Holden Caulfield (The Catcher in the Rye Analysis)

This book killed me. It really did. No kidding. I felt like a goddam phony when I was crying about it. It killed me. 

I am fresh off my second reading The Catcher in the Rye and I am astounded. I will admit, at first I wasn't. Holden Caulfield came off to me incredibly privileged, bratty and unbelievably whiny. I began to question why it was considered a classic novel, with such a tasteless protagonist and a seemingly unsatisfying plotline. 

And then I kept reading. 

I can't exactly pinpoint the moment I began to fall head over heels in love with Salinger's work (and the surprisingly complex Mr. Caulfield), but I did. I started eating up every single word and with my second reading, digested it. Catcher is good. It's really good.

Let's start with the plot. The story is being retold by our main protagonist, aforementioned sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield. He recounts his one of many expulsions, this one from esteemed high school Pencey Prep. He's failed most of his classes and has finally gotten the ax. Holden leaves behind the jerks and pimple-faced phonies and heads to his home in New York City, but not before wandering aimlessly in search of well, anything

And that's just it. Not much happens at all in Catcher, unless you consider drinking and smoking and thinking much of anything. It's Holden's inner monologue that turns this slice-of-life story into something heartbreaking and eye-opening. It almost lends itself to a second read, just so you can really understand him. Which is understandable, because he's not the most likable or easily understood character to begin with. 

He is cynical, stubborn, judgemental towards almost everyone he meets. His favorite word is "phony", which is what just about everyone is in his eyes. Everyone who says things they don't mean, do things they don't wanna do, hang with people they don't want to--they're all phonies. Ironically, Holden is the biggest phony of them all. 

He lies. He lies about his age to get drunk, he lies about his expulsion, his health, his name. Almost his entire experience in New York City revolves around his phoniness. And his inability to recognize and accept them stems from his denial of adulthood and his want to preserve innocence.

Holden cusses enough to trick the reader into believing his is more mature than he truly is, when really, everyone he calls out and almost all the things he dislikes comes from change, time and growing up. The only characters he truly loves and cares for are his family--specifically his younger siblings--and all the children he meets while he explores the city. When visiting museums, he thinks about how much he loves them because they just stay the same all the time. When his younger sister, Phoebe, asks him what he'd like to be when he was older, he replies in such a way that it redeems almost all his negative traits: he says he'd be a catcher in the rye, protecting the children that run around and grabbing them before they get hurt. 

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We see Holden stumble upon graffiti in his younger sister's school, reading "fuck you" and he gets so anxious about young children seeing it that he removes it, and goes as far to say that he'd "smash his [the vandalist] his head on the stone steps till he was good and goddam dead and bloody" and yet he soon follows with "I wouldn't have the guts to do it", and that's where Holden's innocence and phoniness is recognizable. He would do so much to preserve innocence for others, to a point where he would abandon it himself. 

Holden's disdain for the adult world is understandable, too. He goes completely unheard by them for the entire novel. He goes to countless adults he presumes to trust and like, asking them for help after expulsion. He asks every cab driver he meets where the ducks go in the winter. He even pays a prostitute not to have sex with him, and for Chrissake, maybe answer some of his worries. And yet, he never gets answers from people he was taught to get answers from. He also calls up his friends, who have seemed to mature more than him, and every experience ends with him being ignored or left behind, all by people who he sees as changed, grown up. 

(There is a glossed over scene in the novel which is very quick but critical, however it is more than often overlooked and ignored, because of its brevity. However, it provides perhaps some of the most insight into Holden's discomfort and fear of adults. The scene is this: at the very end of the novel, very soon before it's conclusion, one of the final adults Holden confides in is a former, respected and liked teacher of his, Mr. Antolini. He offers Holden a place to stay for the night only to make sexual advances while Holden sleeps. The whole scene ends with a very scared, disturbed and anxious Holden, quickly leaving as Mr. Antolini tries to convince him to stay. As Holden leaves, sweating and shaking, in his last sentence of that chapter he quickly admits "That kind of stuff's happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can't stand it." A history of sexual abuse is hinted at, and never mentioned again.)

And yet, at the end of the novel, it is his younger sister Phoebe who begins to listen, answer and comfort him. It is in untouched and precious youth where he finds his strongest relationships. It is Phoebe who places the red hunting hat on his head at the end, which he admits makes him feel more confident. 

The red hunting hat is important. Holden buys it on a whim after he accidentally leaves the school's fencing team's equipment on the subway, rendering him a failure in many people's eyes. So at that moment, one of Holden's most vulnerable, he buys and wears the hat. He wears it later when he begins to write an essay about Allie's baseball glove--Allie being his younger brother who passed away. Again, in a vulnerable moment in which he discusses loss of what he loves the most, it is his hat that brings him comfort and confidence. It is only when he is around people he knows when he doesn't wear the hat, as if he's embarrassed to admit that he needs protection and help. But at the end, when Phoebe puts it on his head as it begins to rain, it gives him the confidence he needs to admit to the world--including people he knows--that this is who he is and what he needed.

The red hat's significance to confidence, protection and youth could also come from the fact that Holden's hair is graying uncommonly quickly. Throughout the book, he mentions half of his hair has begun to rapidly turn gray, which is an undeniable sign of age and growing up and ascending into adulthood. However, with a hat--a red hunting one, even--the gray hairs are covered, out of sight, and so is the prospect of growing up. 

Holden is pretentious, yes. He is annoying and he is judgemental and impulsive. But he is not all of this just for the sake of being so. It is, in simplest terms, a defense mechanism. He is growing up and doesn't know how, and his narration is hopelessly trying to convince us and himself that he knows what he is doing, when in reality, none of us do.

And that is where a reader can begin to empathize with Holden. Not everyone is a rich, white boy who has been given countless chances by schools. But everyone is confused and scared, just as Holden is. He often steps out of cabs and hotels and stands at phones with no idea where to go and no idea who to call. We all can relate to a feeling of helplessness, whether in our teenage angst years, midlife crises, or other times. 

Catcher is a story of someone trying to become less lonely and scared, and sometimes, no one can truly get lonelier than Holden. 

Holden has been through and seen a lot. From the death of his younger brother, the death of fellow students, seeing his own roommate sleep with girls against their will--he's become so terrified that he's isolated himself, and this is not without reason, as mentioned already. And isolation and loneliness makes him depressed, suicidal, even. One of the most touching yet heartbreaking points of the story is when, without knowing quite why, he begins to sob at the edge of his younger sister's bed, not being able to stop no matter how badly he wants to. 

Holden begins the novel as someone you don't wanna be or know. He is rude, repetitive, snarky as hell and cynical. Sometimes, you have to force yourself to wade through his narrative knee deep before you get to the parts where it is all worth. And then, by the end, you understand that Holden is who you'd never admit that you truly are and who you truly know. 

And this is a frightening realization for many when you realize in the last chapter that Holden is recounting his thoughts and feelings to a psychoanalyst, finally getting the held he so desperately needed. It is a subtly terrifying way of reminding readers to get the help they may need.

Holden is not a Catcher in the Rye, or a savior. He is a strict anti-hero. But his deep desire to want to be a catcher, or a hero is what makes him one. Holden is defined not by his current status and impulsive actions, but by his hopes and goals and wishes for the future, much like we all are. 

So aspire to be a catcher or a hero or anything. But be kind to all and maybe a little less phony, because we're all a little bit scared. 

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- Mia

P.S - Where do all the ducks go in the winter?

Friday, August 5, 2016

solivagant - a short story

a short story about two boys who want out

By the time of the first snowfall of my sixteenth year, I had not seen very much. I had never left my little town and had never walked on different pavement. I had never had my life rattled by natural disaster or tragedy. And when I was fourteen, I considered this life to be oh-so-mundane; but as I grew older and watched the news more often, I simply regarded it as relaxing. I realized that perhaps asking so much from life would give you more than you bargained for, and I got used to the bed I fell asleep in, the alarm I woke up to, and the same window I looked out every morning to see the same sunrise. It took a long time for the pinks and oranges and reds to become normal, but soon enough they did. But never boring, no, never sad.

The saddest red came into my life in the form a converse sneaker, smacking me in the back of my neck at two o'clock in the morning on a strangely, but comfortably, warm winter day, knocking me face-first into a pile of slush.

My two in the morning walks had never been so interesting, even if that was their point. They were born out of normalcy, well, in an effort to avoid it. I had started sneaking out my backdoor the same day I stopped needing to look around me. I was even able to avoid the dogs tied to poles and ignore their barks without looking up from a book. But something felt so wrong about living life without discovery, without looking up. When the lights went out, however, adventuring through the town felt like seeing new places. All I ever wanted to do was trick myself into traveling. It's why I read books, and it's why I wandered the town at the tiny hours of the morning.

And so there I was, spitting dirty, bloody snow out of my mouth, which had kissed the pavement hard enough to feel numb. I lifted myself up off the sidewalk and glanced at the red shoe only a few feet away, innocently sitting there, untied and covered in sharpie. I shook snow out of my hair and touched the back of my neck gently with my gloved hand, wincing at the contact. It would be strange explaining that the bruise there had been falling-red-sneaker induced. I grabbed the shoe, and that's when the most interesting week of my life began.

Roaring laughter sounded above me, above the flickering streetlights and it almost seemed to resonate above the sky itself, from the Heavens. I dropped the shoe immediately and stumbled to my feet, doing my best to ignore how quickly the Earth was spinning both around my head and beneath my soles. "Hello?!" I yelled out, voice cracking with fear. I didn't believe in ghosts. I barely believed in my own existence. But mostly, I didn't want to die. I backed slowly against a building, beneath its overhang, breathing heavily. My heart had never pounded so hard on Colonial Street. My heart had never pounded so much anywhere.

It nearly stopped when I finally got a reply.

"Hey! Come back! It was just mine!"

It was another sound from the clouds. I peeked out from the overhang and was shocked to see legs hanging over the side. I rolled my eyes. I should've known. The town's clock tower was a prime hangout spot for stoners and cats. And since I had only seen two legs, I guessed it was the former. I snuck out from beneath the overhang and grabbed the shoe, looking back up at the nameless pair of legs. I held it up. "This?" I called out. My head was still throbbing, and my ears became megaphones. I cringed.

The person shook a bare foot in response.

I sighed. I was afraid of girls and heights, and knowing at least one of those, if not both, would be up there kept me far below the top. They would just have to come get their shoe themselves. I placed it beneath the streetlight and waved dismissively. "Have a good night," I said, probably not loud enough for them to hear. But at that moment, it seemed as if the night had become colder, and I could still taste the blood that was pooling beneath my tongue. For once, I was ready to cut an adventure short for the comfort of my home, my bed, my normal. I began to walk away.

I should've known I wouldn't have gotten far.

Another red shoe came zooming down the side of the clocktower, zipping past my pink nose and slamming right before my freezing feet. I leapt back, and let out of huff that painted the air gray. I looked up again. Two bare feet hung off the edge.

"Don't go! Come up here!"

I shook my head and stepped over the second shoe, increasing my speed. I was after adventure, not inconveniences. But still to this day, a part of me believes that they may be the same thing.

"Come oooooon," the voice groaned, less angelic than it had seemed moments ago. Desperation was barely a good look for anyone.

And yet it was good enough for me. I stopped walking.

I still don't know why.

I turned and picked up both shoes, and they felt less like shoes and more like tickets to a ride I was still unsure about boarding. "Okay." I said quietly. I don't think they heard me, but they cheered anyway. It was too joyous. It was the sound of salvation and connection, the sound loneliness made when it found a friend and hurt made when it was held.

I knew how to get up to the top of the tower, of course. Everyone did. My dad told me stories about his teenage years being spent sneaking to it, mostly out of spite because plenty of people had warned him and others ever since someone had fallen off and died. He told me that's why the bottom of the staircase to the top had been fenced off.

I climbed over it.

The trek up the stairs was slower than I had expected. They were made of the kind of clanky metal I was scared of and covered in graffiti that was probably more suited for private journals. There were penises and peace signs, of course, political statements and defaced bumper stickers. But there were cries for help, poems and hearts drawn with initials inside them. I began to think of how many GC's and BH's that I knew, and it made me sad to know a lot. I stepped on their sharpie hearts. They were already chipping.

When I got to the top, I realized that only one of my fears existed to there. And as long as I didn't look down, I assumed I would be fine. A barefoot boy faced me.

He was not dressed for the winter. He was pale with dark hair; half under control by gel and half pouring out over his eyes in waves. He wore a video game t-shirt that was too big for him and a pair of dark, ripped capris, one pant leg rolled unreasonably high. His hands were gloveless and shaking. In fact, his whole body was shaking as he forced out a smile to me. He only had top braces and dimples. I smiled back.

"Hi," I said. I walked forward slowly and held out my hand, holding it out for him. He never took it, only stared at it like it was a weapon. I sighed and dropped it along with his shoes. They landed between the two of us and I had never felt further from anyone. "I'm Quinn?" I offered my name, something I hadn't done in what seemed like years. When you lived in such a small place for so long, you didn't need to introduce yourself anymore. They all knew.

He moved so quickly then it startled me. He swiped his shoes so rapidly it felt he was reaching for me, and I so jumped back. He laughed and plopped on the ground, shoving his shoes back on roughly. "I'm Not Quinn," he joked. His voice sounded different up close. It was raspy but not tired. But it wasn't the angelic call it seemed to be from the ground. But things were never as good as they appear from afar.

I laughed lightly to his joke and then stepped forward cautiously. His shoes were finally squeezed on but he didn't bother tying them. I held out another hand to help him off the ground and again, he ignored it, almost as if it didn't exist. "Tell me your name?" I asked, desperate to put a new name to a new face.

"No!" He was laughing, which was strange, but I had already decided that this entire experience was setting up to be even stranger. I didn't mind his laughter, not at all, I just wanted his name. The strangeness would soon get to be too much, and knowing who he was would settle the universe again for me. I told myself again that I was looking for adventure and nothing else. But for me to believe that adventure came easy was silly.

"And why not?" I asked, grinning a bit more. He was being coy and playful and I for some reason wanted to pry some more, to play along too. He stood up and stared right into my eyes. He was far away, but the way he stared made me taste his breath and feel his shakes.

"I'm going to kill myself, and I don't need you or anyone else caring about me."

My mind began to race. I forgot that people killed themselves. Of course, I knew people did, but part of me believed that people did that outside of my town, my bubble. There was such a sense of pristine goodness in my town that it seemed that right outside its edges, people were killing each other and themselves and their dogs. But never in my own town, with all its farmer's markets and friendly crossing guards. There was a Catholic not too far and a daycare across the street. It was not a place where people killed themselves. The people who lived here were not people who killed themselves. And whilst I couldn't take my eyes off of him, I could barely stand to keep looking. No wonder he hadn't been familiar. He didn't fit in. And everything, even towns, cover up their imperfections.

I would learn later that he was not the imperfection.

"Kill yourself?" I stuttered. Nobody ever taught me how to deal with these things. I never got a pamphlet on it, I never had a class. He nodded, still smiling at me. Suddenly, I saw his eyes closed and his smile and dimples gone, his body paler than now but without the shaking. I saw him dead, and though I had just barely now learned he was alive, I wanted him to stay that way. We stood there in silence for a long time, until finally he broke away and walked toward the edge of the clock tower. My feet were frozen to the roof with fear and shock. I thought he was going to jump. He sat down.

"But not tonight," he said, his back facing me. "I'm not really dressed for the occasion."

"There's a... a certain way to dress?" I asked. I finally was able to move, knowing that he was safe, if only for tonight. I took a few steps towards him, too scared to get close to him or the edge. I couldn't tell if he was fearless or not. I wondered if it even mattered at all to someone who was going to kill themselves. I wondered in anything mattered at all. He nodded again, and this time his smile was gone. He was dangling his skinny legs off the edge again, and this time I got a closer look at them. They were covered in scars. I knew better than to ask. "Have you ever... uh, tried to kill yourself before?"

"Can't say that I have," he replied, after a moment of thinking. "Have you?"

My entire body recoiled. I almost gagged. The idea of it disgusted me, it scared me. "What? No, of course not!" He started laughing at me again. He was laughing so much that I began to think that this was a joke, or maybe I was the joke. I wondered if this was something the cool kids did, or if I had missed a memo. I wanted him to stop laughing at me, but I didn't want him to die.

"Didn't think so," he said, behind his laughter. He stood up and looked at the ground far below him for a long time, before looking at me. I suddenly felt out of place, something I hadn't felt in years in my own hometown. "It's going to be fun, I think." My jaw dropped and at that moment I remembered the blood dripping from my lips and down my chin. We both watched it drip to my feet. "I hope I make a noise when sound when I hit the ground."

"Why!?" I exclaimed, wiping my chin on my jacket sleeve. It was going to stain. He shrugged in response, and there was still a ghost of chuckle sitting in the back of his throat. I wanted him to stop laughing. "Well," I started, feeling lost, "okay, I-"

"Do you want to try too!?" He suddenly asked, grabbing me by both my hands and dragging me to the edge of the building. My mind told me to scream but the rest of my body was frozen from both fear and the night, which had gotten colder and colder. And then we were standing with our toes hanging over the edge and I couldn't breathe, and all I could see was the pavement below and all I could feel was his hand in mine. And suddenly all I could think of was the kid in school who disappeared after he was caught holding another boy's hand. I wanted to let go, but at the same time, I did not trust myself being alone on the edge. "It could be more fun to jump together," he said quietly, as if his voice would push us down. I realized that he too, did not trust himself to be alone on the edge.

Finally, I pulled him and myself backwards, looking for air again. When I found it, I let him go and plopped down on to the roof, my stomach and head churning. "No, I-I don't wanna jump! It's not my thing." I tried not to look at him. I figured he would just go away, or maybe he'd get so mad he'd hit me and I would wake up in my familiar, warm bed next to a closed window with a sunrise outside of it.

"Why not?" He whispered. He was sitting down in front of me now, very close. Our gray air mixed together and then faded into the night sky. Together. I glanced up at him for a moment and saw someone much different. He was no longer a quick adventure at the top of the building. He was the end to one, at the bottom of it. The bags under his eyes told more stories than his mouth.

"Because I like living," I replied. "I like life."

More laughter. "Why?"

I did not have an answer.

We went our separate ways after that. I went home and he went wherever. I washed the blood out of my mouth and crawled into my bed. It wasn't as comfortable as I remembered. It was so uncomfortable that I stared at my ceiling fan, watched it spin until morning, and then watched the sunrise. For the first time in my life, I was sick of the color red.

I don't know why I went back the next day. I remember having one foot in my house and one foot out the black door, staring down at my watch. It was going to be two soon, and I had make my decision. My aching body screamed bed, but my my new, curious mind pushed me out the door. I walked back to the clock tower.

A part of me wished that he wouldn't be there, and that I had only been seeing things the day before. I remember trying to justify insanity with monotone, telling myself I was dreaming up people because they were all starting to become the same. It could have been true, and I wished it was.

I found myself at the top of the clock tower once again, watching the stranger walk across the ledge, his thin arms spread out like skimpy wings and toes pointed gracefully. I had distanced myself, knees pulled to my chest and chin resting on my knees. He stopped walking and looked at me, motioning with his head to come join him. I shook my head and he lifted a leg, beginning to balance one only one. My breath quickened.

"I don't wanna die!" I shouted out, in response to his invitation. Ever since he saw that I had come back, his stupid grin seemed to be fueled and he laughed and smiled more. He seemed too happy for someone who was going to kill themselves.

"Not yet," he replied, simply. I pursed my lips and watched him curiously, then let out a squeal as he jumped. But he jumped back up on to the building. I blushed and stood up, grasping for my lost masculinity. He mocked my squeal and then walked towards me. He was dressed a bit nicer this time. He swapped out his rags for some dress pants, and a soft t-shirt that was tucked in. He was still wearing his red sneakers.

"Not ever," I spat. The fact that he considered me to be like him was insulting, almost. I liked to believed I had better control over my life. I think we all like to believe that.

He looked up at the sky, which was cloudy. More show had been threatened by the news channels but it had yet to come. I wondered if he was waiting for it. "At some point," he began, smile fading and voice dropping. "Whether it be tomorrow or years from now, when you're shitting your pants in a nursing home and you can't remember your name..." He whipped around and faced me, grin back and eyes devilishly bright. "And when your frail bones are aching for health." He grabbed both my arms and squeezed them. It didn't hurt but I winced anyway. He kept squeezing however, to the point where it began to hurt and I could see the bruises that would form by morning. I pushed him away and he snickered, wiping his hands and patting his back for a job well done. "Someday," he finished, "you're going to want to die."

I rubbed my arms and glared at him from underneath my messy fringe. "I'll worry about that when I get there." I gave him the satisfaction of being right, while knowing he was wrong. Or maybe I was just in denial.

"How are you going to do it? You know," he was on the ground now, leaning on his hand like a toddler excited for story time.

I thought of how many ways I could kill myself and then got cold. I shook it off and remembered who I was, or at least, who I thought I was. "How are you gonna do it?!" I retorted.

He rolled his eyes. "Jump off this clock tower, like I said... splat." He clapped his hands together and the moment his palms touched, his eyes lit up with what to this day I could only describe as pure, undiluted joy. I remember becoming confused as to what happiness was. I still am.

"I think I would shoot myself," I suddenly admitted. "My dad likes guns." I felt my body dropping, like falling, and realized before I could stop that I was laying beside him, shaking and vulnerable. I tried to imagine what the end of a pistol felt like against my temple. Cold, like snow. I stared up at the clouds.

He was silently for a bit, out of surprise. He wasn't surprised that I answered, no, he knew k would all along. But he was more so surprised with what my answer had been. I was too. "Messy," he finally whispered.

"So is jumping off a building."

"Yes," he admitted. "But you don't get a thrilling free fall with daddy's pistol." He glanced at me and for some reason, I began to laugh. I laughed like he did, sickeningly hard to the point of nausea and he did, too, pushing his hands together in the shape of a gun and shooting into my wide open mouth.

The next day was too slow. I was excited to see him again. I had never had a friend quite like him, and I didn't even know his name. I began ignoring my friends at school. Suddenly, their stories paled in comparison to his. Their thoughts and ideas were nothing. I remember sitting alone at lunch, and not feeling guilty. I told them all that I had a new friend. I didn't know if I could call him a friend, but I wanted to.

I decided to dress a bit nicer to meet up with him the next day. I figured if he was going to look nice to die, I should too, just to watch him at least. I wore khakis and a dress shirt, but kept my winter boots on. I shed my jacket. I was becoming fearless, and even learned to climb the clock tower stairs without stopping to breathe and relax. Heights were no longer frightening, not with my new friend at the top.

We were sitting on the edge when he stopped swinging his feet suddenly, and let them lay still against the building. "Aren't you going to stop me?" he asked. At that moment I had cracked a smile, like he was joking. But thinking back, he may have been asking because he wanted me to.

"Stop you?" I repeated. "You're going to do it no matter what."


I faced him excitedly, grabbing his shoulder. We both wobbled to capture the balance I had ruined, but my heart did not drop. If we fell, we fell. We didn't. "I'll go to your funeral," I swore. "Put flowers on your grave if you'd like."

This seemed to bring him back. He turned to me with my favorite sadistic grin. "My favorite color is blue."

"Me too."


"Well, goodnight," he finally said, and I was confused. The night still seemed so young. He began to get up, taking a moment to look over the edge sharply and then making his towards to stairs.


"I'm exhausted!" He said, rather dramatically, slinging his back over the stair's railing. He grabbed it and threw himself over, backflipping around and landing back on the first step. He smiled, braces glimmering in he moonlight. I sighed.

"Well, will you be back tomorrow?" I asked him that every night.

And he always said the same thing: "If I'm alive, yeah. No promises." Then he disappeared down the stairs and his steps echoed loudly in the night. For the first time, I was alone at the top of the building. I laughed.

The next day, a counselor came to get me in the middle of English. She made me lay down on a couch while she sat at a computer and asked me questions. She said my friends were becoming worried about me. She asked me how my home life was, how my classes were, how my life was. I shrugged and said, "normal." She said shutting myself away and ignoring people was not normal and I told her that she didn't know what normal was because normal was different to everyone and she told me to be quiet, and that back talk wasn't very nice and then we started fighting and she pickedupthephoneandbegantocallmyparentsandIhitthephonefromherhandandILAUGHED.

I showed up first to the clock tower and even brushed my bed head. I couldn't wait to tell my friend about what I had done, what I had said. I knew he would smile. When I heard his steps coming I turned my cheek a little to show the bruise I got from my dad when I got home. We were going to compare battle scars. Pink and purple and red and faded and ugly and wonderful. He was wearing an oversized tuxedo, with his red shoes and a green tie.

"The tux is a bit too big, don't you think?" I said, immediately forgetting my own problems. I walked over to him and grabbed a loose bunch of fabric. He tugged himself way and straightened it out, dusting it off lightly.

"My mom wouldn't let me buy a new one, so this is my dad's. What a bitch." His ferocity was something new to me. Up until now, all he'd ever been was enthusiastic, whether it was about death or something else. The tuxedo and the aggravation and his tight lips and tired eyes told me that tonight was the night. But I didn't want him to go. I needed him, more than I realized. I pushed people away because none of them seemed to be as interesting and eccentric and so out of the normal. I replaced my thoughts of everyday things with scars and how to make them and ways to die, just in case someone else needed to. Wanted to. But I still didn't want him to go.

"I thought you liked blue," I said, matter-of-factly. I reached forward and tugged his tie, pulling it out of his tux jacket.

He glared. "I do."

"Then what's with the green tie?"

"I don't have a blue one," he replied, straightening his tie and walking toward the edge. I ran to catch up with him, grabbing him by his extra bit of sleeve. I pulled the jacket off and he whipped around.

"I have one!" I exclaimed. This got his attention. He came towards me slowly, leaving the edge behind. He grabbed his jacket and folded it close to his chest. He mumbled something quietly into the fabric, and I leaned forward, smiling expectantly.

"Could I maybe borrow it?" He finally said, out loud. I nodded and he let out a sigh of relief, settling on to the ground.

"Of course you can," I added. "In fact, you can have it." I sat right beside him. Partly because I knew I would not be able to do it for long, and partly because I did not want to look into his eyes. They had already died.

"You don't need to do that," he mumbled.

"Actually, I do."

He looked at me and he smiled, and I wished so much that he would do it again, at least once more. I wanted him to smile long enough for me to take a picture and remind people of who he was meant to be, and who he was so close to being. If I couldn't be the one to save him, I wanted to at least be the one to remember him.

So when his smile faded, I nudged him to spur it again. I wanted to see him smile one more time.

He never did.

The next day in school the counsellors took me in again to ask about the bruise on my cheek. They cared more than my friend from the roof did, but I didn't mind. He wasn't there to care anyway. I told them what my dad told me: "Sometimes things get a little too rowdy in my house. Nothing to worry about."

And when they called home he said, "nothing to worry about."

So they sent me back class and I pulled my sleeves down while they polished their plaques on the walls, declaring them heroes. My scars had declared them useless.

I remember noticing the scars on my friend's legs and wrists for the first time. I finally went home and looked on the Internet and found loads of kids a lot like my friend on the roof. They dragged little silver blades across their bodies until they bled and I marveled at the fact that both sunrises and blood were the same color. And then I stole my dad's razor and did the same, to look like my friend and the others. They all must've learned that bleeding alone was not fun.

When I got home, I rummaged through my brother's drawers in search of a blue tie. I had seen him wear it one time, I knew it. It was in the bottom drawer. I stole it and crumpled it up to hide in my pocket, just to make sure I wouldn't forget. I remember sitting at the dinner table that night and feeling it weigh me down, as my parents asked whatever happened to the kids I used to hang out with. They didn't bother asking what had happened to me. I did not eat dinner.

I left the house earlier than usual again in order to beat him to the rooftop. I knew tonight was going to be the night. I imagined over and over again what it might look like, to see him fall, and what it might sound like, when he hit the pavement, getting everything he wanted. I walked very slowly around the bottom of the clock tower, over the pavement that was slowly turning white. It had finally begun to snow.

I made my way to the top and was relieved to see nobody. I had gotten there first, buying myself the most time with him. I felt underdressed. The tight fabrics I had worn in the day rubbed against my scars, and I didn't like the pain nearly as much during the day than I did at night. I changed into sweatpants and a sweatshirt, and one of those hats with strings and puffballs at the end. I looked up and caught a few snowflakes on my tongue, no longer fascinated with the way they melted, like I used to be. I was simultaneously disinterested in what the world had given me and interested in what it had yet to give. My friend on the roof explained that he had seen all there was, and he didn't like it. I wondered if he'd ever seen fireflies in a trail while holding his mother's hand, or if he'd seen puppies wag their tails and people fight for love. I wondered if he'd seen those things and didn't like them.

And then I heard his steps.

He seemed to have taken the tip, and self-tailored his big tuxedo. It fit almost perfectly now, but not perfectly, of course. It perfection existed he would not need to jump off a building. His hair had been fixed, too, washed and brushed to one side. It looked like the night sky in the summer, with all the snowflakes in the dark curls. His red shoes were swapped for shiny loafers. All he was missing was a tie.

I pulled it out of my pocket and held it up. It dangled in the wind. "It's nice," he said, defeated. I began to shake. I had imagined his death over and over again the past few days and only now was its reality beginning to scare me.

"My b-brother," I stuttered. "He wore it at his graduation, I remember."

His eyebrows shot up beneath his bangs. "From high school? Last year? Here?"


"Funny," he said, without laughing. I remember thinking back about how badly I wanted him to stop laughing, but at that moment I nearly prayed for him to do it again.


"I could of seen you there," he said, walking towards me, eyes only on the tie.

"You were there?"

"Crossed the stage like big bro," he replied. I tilted my head. I didn't recognize him one bit. All I would remember him as was the boy on the roof, and not the boy in the cap and gown, with the diploma, with the drive. I wished I had knew him then. "But now, all that education down the drain." His voice became much darker and I felt a new sort of chill down my spine.

"Shame." I whispered.

We sat in silence as the snow collected at our feet.

"Give me the tie," he suddenly growled, tearing it from my grip and holding it tightly in his own. He rushed towards me, then swung the tie around the two of us, tugging me in close and slamming his forehead against mine. I let out a cry of pain and shock and fear and for the first time in his presence I began to feel alone. "You dressed so terribly for this," he groaned, and even his breath was cold and dead.

"What?" I asked, looking away and down.

"I got my tux and you're wearing goddamn sweatpants!" He was so angry it seemed, that he couldn't bring himself to yell. He only clenched his teeth and spoke in a cold, billowing whisper. I wiggled to get away but he just grabbed my hair and twisted his fingers in. I yelped again.

"Excuse me!?" My voice was breathless and scared.

"You're so selfish." His words tore and ripped more than any blade had, stung more than any bruise or fall. There was something so damn hateful about pretending to like someone.

My mind was racing and soon I was sputtering anything I could. "We-we are selfish creatures!"

"Right we are," he agreed, and I thought he smiled but I couldn't tell, because he slammed our foreheads together once again. I was so dizzy that he looked like an angel and I felt like I was already falling. "We're leaving everyone behind for a thrill! A splat!'

"I'm not doing that! You're crazy," I spat. I still felt bad though. The connection we had created was something I could not ignore, and while I knew he was crazy, and perhaps I was too, I didn't want to hurt him. But I was too scared to be concerned about feelings.

"Maybe," he mumbled in reply. I tried to pull myself away again, feeling my chest tighten with anxiety.

"Please stop," I begged. And finally our eyes met and his were so glazed that I saw myself in them. I couldn't look away. It had been my biggest fear, for I knew from day one that his eyes had seen enough to die first, and to look into them would be to die as well.

"We can jump together!" He whispered, suddenly pulling me in for a hug, or perhaps just a squeeze and a grasp for reality and human touch. "Quinn and Not Quinn!"

"I-I don't wanna jump," I whispered, right into his ear. Then I yelled, screamed, cried. "I don't wanna jump!"

"Yes you do!"

"No I don't!" I growled, louder than I had ever been before. "And neither do you!" I broke away but he held on to me, catching my gaze again for a moment before throwing me backwards in rage, and I felt my shoulder crack against the rooftop and I swore and let the tears rolls down my bruised cheek. I tried to get up for a moment before realizing my feet were hanging off the edge. I let out another yell and scurried away, scrambling up to my feet. I didn't want to look at him but I knew I couldn't help myself. It was like trying to take my eyes off a car crash. I knew it was deadly and dangerous and a mess but I needed to see. He was breathing heavily, wrapping the tie around his knuckles until they were white and biting hard, letting out a frustrated scream into his first. He had ruined his hair. His suit was disheveled. I began to walk a cautious circle around him. "I thought... I thought this was all for show," I whimpered. I felt tired and defeated, and the wind was beginning to pick up and sting our faces.

"Shows end," he replied, ripping his fist away from his mouth. His eyes followed me but I never let them catch me.

"Yes," I agreed. "Shows end with bows and curtains and roses..." I stopped walking and his eyes continued past me, looking away. "Not with a... with a splat." I remembered his hands coming together to clap and the joy and excitement in his eyes at the prospect of colliding with the ground. I shivered.

"But we're not normal, Quinn, we're gonna end with a splat." I suddenly despised him saying my name. I couldn't my name spilling out of a dead boy's lips.

"We? You!" I corrected him.

His eyes shot up from the ground and directly at me again. I backed up a bit. "Listen to me, you piece of shit," he grumbled. My jaw dropped, and I was about to argue but he screamed right over me. "We are all sick! We are all sick in the fucking head!" His neck was pulsing and his eye was twitching, his mouth was turned upwards in a snarl. "And, and, and the sickness, all it does... it festers until you believe it is you."

"What?" I whispered. I couldn't even dare myself to speak up, I was so scared.

"But it's not you," he replied, his voice similar to mine now, quiet and careful. He was walking forward and I forced myself to keep my ground because I knew that the edge was not too far back. He laid a bare hand on my shoulder and a part of me felt compelled to hand him my gloves. "Quinn, I like you too much for you to become what you fear and what we hate. We can't keep getting sicker. We have to escape." He let me go and walked past me towards the edge. He began to put the tie on.

I don't know why I followed him, but I did, and we stood next to each other while it snowed around us and I saw the bottom of the clock tower and felt myself suddenly wanting to go to the bottom.  "Escape?"


"But I don't want to."

"Not yet you fucking idiot," he snapped. "But why wait? What a waste, when we know we're going off a building at some point."

"But in between we have time to stop people," I said, grabbing him and pulling him from the edge. I was clinging very tight. I dug my nails into his skin. "We need to stop people so they can create and do something worth dying for." He pushed me away and I furrowed my brows and clenched my teeth. I slammed my foot down and made a fist. "What the fuck are you dying for?!"

"Myself!" He screamed back. "What the fuck are you living for?!"

"I don't know!"

"Then stop!" He finally said, and he grabbed my hand and before I knew it we were running towards the edge. The snow was whizzing past us and all I could hear was the word "stop" over and over in my head, and all I could see was the black sky and all I could feel was his freezing cold hand and we were running, no, springing. Step by step by step by step by step by step bystepbystepbystepby STOP.

I skidded to a halt at the edge and let go of his hand. He glanced at me with betrayed eyes for a moment and tried to reach for me again. It happened too quickly. I reached to bring him back but his dress shoe slipped off and then so did he, and he didn't scream he just fell and fell and then he got what he wanted, a splat.

I screamed. I screamed and huffed and puffed and I threw myself down the stairs, tumbling all the way to the bottom but not letting my cuts and bruises and soreness stop me from trudging through the storm. I limped through the snow, forgetting how to breathe and believe, and as I turned the corner to get to his body I saw it twitching and bleeding and writhing in the snow. I screeched again.

I dived into the snow beside him, felt his own blood soak through my sweater. I pulled it off and tucked it underneath his gushing head, gasping for air and answers. I put my gloves on his shaky, broken fingers and he started screaming at me, blood in his mouth. "I don't wanna die, I don't wanna die, Quinn, please!"

I stared at him, dry heaving over his bloodied and broken body. I cried too, and shouted words that I can't recall. I don't even know if they were real.

"Call my mom, call my family!" He was becoming more desperate sounding, feeling himself begin to fail. He was sobbing. "Help, help, help, Quinn, Quinn, Quinn!"

"I can't!" I screamed back, and fumbled in my pants pocket for my phone. I sloppily dialed 911, his blood was all over the screen.

"My name," he gasped. "My name is Gabe, tell them their boy is dying and it hurt so much, I hurt so much, I, I.. I..." He stopped trying, and he gave into screaming and sobbing until he fell almost silent, and then all you could hear were gargles of blood and my own empty cries.

"Gabe," I whispered. "Gabe, Gabe, Gabe, Gabe!" I slammed my own body over his and smelt death and salt and blood and tasted it and it made me warm and shook me to my core.

"911, what is your emergency?"

My eyes widened and I reached for my phone, feeling it tremble in my hands. "Gabe, Gabe... splat... bl-blood!" I yelped, noticing that my hands were dark red.

"Can you please tell me where you are?"

"I don't know!" I was frustrated. They we're supposed to have come already and saved him. They were failures. Everyone was. "Just fucking help me!"

"Okay, we're sending someone your way. Are you in danger?"

"We all are!" I cried, pushing my lips against the phone. I tasted my tears. "We're all so sick, so sick in the head..." I whispered, his words echoing throughout me. I looked down at him, and saw the blue tie all covered in blood. I knew this is not how he wanted to die. And this is not how I wanted him to stop laughing. I fell silent.

"Hello? Hello, are you in danger?"

A cop car and an ambulance showed up not too much later. Their sirens were so loud, their lights so red. I remember the grown ups kneeling beside me and ignoring Gabe, and I was pushing and shoving and screaming for him and mankind and how life isn't fair and neither is death and nobody is safe and everybody is sick and that we are all headed off a building.

They started asking me questions and pulling me away from his body and I kept pointing and yelling and they said, "you're okay, sweetie," and I told them nothing was okay. I kept yelling that he jumped, he jumped, but I know

I was in a psychiatric hospital the next day.

I sat across someone a lot like the counselor from school, but older, and wearing more white. I had my head down on a cold table because I couldn't take sitting up and existing in a world without Gabe. He made me realize existing in a world with him was toxic, too. I couldn't win.

"Quinn," the doctor said. "Do you wanna talk about Gabe again?" I watched him click a pen. I watched my drool drip on the table.

"Is he okay?" I whispered. I shuffled in my gown. It was itchy.

"Quinn," he said slowly. I raised my head and wiped the drool from my chin. He handed me a tissue. I glared at him and he sighed, dropping it in front of me. "We've talked to the police many, many times. There was no one named Gabe there that night. It was just you."

"No dress shoe on the top?"

"No dress shoe on the top."

"I miss him." I whispered, setting my head back down. "He was there, I know it. And he was so sad and sick."

"You haven't seen him since that night?" He asked, writing something down on his clipboard.

"What are you writing?"

"You haven't seen him since that night? Is that right Quinn?" He was ignoring me. I reached out to grab his board and he pulled it away quickly, shaking his head.

"No," I whispered, defeated. "I haven't."

They kept me there for another night.

I had nightmares and saw Gabe and his blood and I woke up to a dark room and cried and then fell back asleep, and thus into the vicious cycle again.

I woke up the next morning to a person at the end up of my bed. I fluttered my eyelashes and squinted to get used to the light. I suddenly shot up and cried tears of joy, crawling forward desperately to the end of the bed.

Gabe stood there in a hospital gown, smiling just like he used to. His hair was clean of snowflakes and blood and his face was soft and angelic. He held a handful of pills and blue flowers. I reached out and grabbed them, falling into his body for a hug. I sobbed and sobbed and felt him rub my back. He pulled back and closed the pills into my own palm.

"Doc dropped them off this morning. Second times a charm, Quinn," he whispered. "You know what to do."

I held him close as I shoved them into my mouth. I was not going to be sick any longer.

solivagant (adj.) - wandering alone

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Ten Ways Video Games Helped Me Level Up

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or lovingly known as E3, has already descended upon us and the Gods of Gaming have kindly boarded us on to the hype train. And, if you didn't get any of that, what I'm trying to say is that it's basically open season for gamers, and so many stops have been pulled out by tons of game publishers to pump everyone up for their upcoming titles. And, your next question might be, why do I care? Well, because I love video games.

As a young kid, I watched my older siblings, and myself, ocassionally, play classics like Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, the Kingdom Hearts series, Sly Cooper, Zelda and Pokemon of course. We spent family nights trying to fit as many of us as possible on a couch and screaming at whoever threw the blue shell in Mario Kart. I'd stamped my tiny feet on enough Dance, Dance, Revolution mats and stretched my tiny fingers on enough plastic guitars to be sucked in and never be pushed out of the world of gaming. Fast forward to me now, listening to the bits of the upcoming Final Fantasy XV soundtrack as I write, and last night, when I was the first one to play the new Doom game. Oh, and tonight, my brother and I are going out to buy me a new DS. (There's new Pokemon on the way!)

I've managed to keep my love for games on the downlow, as I dabble a bit more in theatre and writing and such, but be assured that I just finished a couple rounds of Rocket League about five minutes ago. My lonely nights are spent in front of a screen, when it's not a good time for friends or real life. So, in honor of me coming out as a Game Nerd, I thought I'd talk about all the awesomeness that video games have given me. With so much negativity floating around games, every now and then it's important to bring them into the light. So, without further ado...

1. Video Games Connected Me to My Family

As mentioned before, my love for games was passed down from my siblings, who were cool and kind enough to always engage me in a night of gaming. My sister Juliana and I often embark on adventures in Arkham City, and have never been closer than when we ridiculde the Riddler together. My little brother John, already better than I'll ever be at games, always cower in the dark at horror games together and our screams turn into laughs and those laughs into bonds. Lauren taught me all I know about the Pokemon universe, and we've giggled enough in the aisles of Game Stop to appreciate what these games do. And Marc has taught me the basics to every first person shooter out there, and I'm all the better for it. So is he. Even my mom or dad we'll dance a bit with the Wii, or make fun of us as we scream during a murderous light hearted game of Mario Kart.

2. They Gave Me a Sense of Adventure

A lot of people don't like video games because they keep people restrained to a couch and a screen and indoors, but it did the opposite for me. My favorite video games are RPGs, and I just love roaming an open world and fighting off monsters and exploring and discovering new places and secrets. But a part of me remains jealous and craves adventure for myself. By exposing me to countless possibilites, I always call on my friends to go out to just wander and explore, even in such mundane places like the little town I live in. Video games pretty much taught me that you will never see anything, but you might as well try. I intend to try for my whole life.

3. Games Inspired Me Creatively 

The greatest and most iconic video games out there don't come out of nowhere. They come from intelliegent, creative and passionate people. There are grappling storylines and characters to feel for and fight for and they look so interesting and move so differently. There are weapons created that you never could've imagined, monsters you only vaugely remember from your nightmares were finally conjured on screen! There are stories worth playing and worlds so beautiful you don't wanna look away. All of this has made me more aware of my own creations; there are even games that are planly for creating! I see what people have done and want to do more. I know so much is possible, and want to expand on everything I create and make sure people want to keep watching, learning or playing.

4. They Taught Me Right From Wrong (Good from Evil)

Almost every game I've played has had a clear good versus evil storyline, and my moral compass is all the better for it. As as young kid, I played games that put me into the shoes (or paws or whatever) of a hero. The good guy. I learned what was unfair and worth fighting against and for. Watching evil charaters hurt others and take what doesn't belong to them taught me to recongnize the same characteristics in kids at school or people in the world, and understand that it wasn't good. Spending my years now and then as a fictional hero has built and will continue to build me into a hero in real life, and I can hopefully fight off the bad the same way I have virtually. 

5. Video Games Made Me Smarter (Not Dumber)

Okay, I'll admit before I explain this point that there are plenty of games that are just mindless fun. And that's just fine. But on the other hand, games require thought and strategy. They need you to make decisions, sometimes life or death ones quickly and correctly. Your brain becomes sharper with every thing you memorize, every command you learn, you have become smarter. Every move you make to avoid bad luck is the smarter move. Oh, and I've answered a few questions in school based off some interesting trivia I get from games. Level up, indeed.

Image result for video games make you smarter

6. I Learned to Empathize 

So many characters, so many stories, so many feelings. And I've learned to understand them all. When you're lucky enough to play as a developed character in an excruitaing storyline, you learn to see the world from many view points. You understand why they feel the way they do when you live their life. So, when I finally take a step back from the screen and face people in my life who i may never understand, I try to remember that they're playing their own game and that I have no idea what's going on, and maybe it's time to learn.

7. Games Taught Me About Teamwork 

This one is good and bad. I've learned how awful it sometimes may be to work with others. I learned that sometimes, nobody will listen to you and sometimes things don't go as planned. But I've also learned that almost nothing can be accomplished alone, whether you physically need the extra manpower or just encouragment from behind. Games like Brothers, Ratchet and Clank, and Kingdom Hearts that give you companions and partners through the game emphasize that you always need someone to lift you over a wall or heal you just before you die. Other games where you can venture online and create teams with strangers near and far emphasize communication and cooperation, skills that have helped me developed as a person and helped me create successful teams when particpating in real life.

8. I've Learned to Never Give Up and Persevere

There are times when I have wanted to, and have, thrown a controller or a console in rage. I have died so many times and tried everything I could to win but I just can't do it. Unfortunately, and fortunately in the long wrong, with games there's only one way to continue and that is to win. You can't make it to the next level without winning the first, and you don't get to see what's through the door until you unlock it. Despite my losses and rage quits, I've always come back to games and completed what I believed to be impossible. My constant curiosity of what is beyond has always made me force myself forward. And it's always worth it, too. To recieve a new keyblade or discover a secret passage way is always rewarding. My ability to keep going has only strengthened through gaming, and now in life, I learn to keep going and move forward, because in the end it is the only way.

9. Not All Games End Happily, and Neither Does Everything Else

Sometimes you just don't win. You put all you can into a journey and adventure only for things to turn out terribly. You will not always get what you want, or what you expect. You will lose things things and people along the way, and sometimes even then things at the end are bad. But it doesn't mean you lost. You still got to grow and learn and prepare for the next journey, which hopefully will end better. Some games you die in the end. Sometimes you never get to save the princess. And I've learned to deal with things the way the come and take them as they are, because unless you unlocked the secret ending, that's as good as it's going to get.

10. There Will Always Be Enemies in Your Way

Whether you're on your way to save the world or walking down the hallway in school, someone is going to want to stop you. But they only do because they know you're on your way to someone or someplace better, and going to become stronger. If the game stops and throws you into battle, it's only because you're going the right way. And if someone tries to quiet you in real life, it's only because you're saying and doing the right things. So, just whack 'em with a keyblade and get going.

That's ends this list and my long hiatus from blogging. I hope E3 was everything my fellow gamers hoped for and that life brings you lots of stars and coins and gems and rewards! Happy Gaming and adventuring. And remember to spread love.

- Mia B.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

If You Were Wondering If I'm Okay...

Different kind of post tonight.

Recently, I've found myself in a bit of a rut. I'm in this deep, dark ditch that I've dug with terrible grades in school, iffy to awful relationships with friends (and family), zero initiative to enjoy life, a huge lack of musical theatre and an even bigger fear of my future. I like to think I have a relationship with the universe, or something, and at the moment, it is destroying me. I spend my days alone, tired, sad and have no energy to change that. I look around my life and see people prettier, smarter, kinder and happier than me. The people around me telling me I am all of those great things just sound like broken records, repeating what they were designed to.

Now, this may come as a surprise to a lot of people. I'm usually quite chipper and happy when I'm out and about, and if you do know me, then this is likely the only side you've seen of me. Which is by no means bad, because I do like being chipper and happy. Unfortunately, more often than not, I'm, well, not.

You see, there's a lot going on in my brain. I am a state of the art overthinker, ruminating my way into disaster. Even if my situations aren't that bad, I make them worse, with my imagination, with my anxiety. Or maybe, I am truly just a drama queen, like my parents call me. But this time has seemed so different, a lot darker.

I used to be a wonderful student. I was in classes that were levels ahead of my peers and actually enjoying them, even gracefully flying through them. I loved to participate and to be educated, but something changed. I lost control somewhere. I started my sophomore year with dropping out of classes that were giving so much stress, I was more often than not, breaking down into tears at my kitchen table, homework sprawled out in front of me. After dropping the classes that were killing me, I was breezing through once again and thoroughly enjoying my experience in the musical American Idiot (this show will receive its own memoir in the future, which I am currently working on). Life was, in short, okay. I had friends, I had grades, I had happiness.

American Idiot ended and I seemed to have lose control again. The wheels were off the track or I had pulled the steering wheel too far or something—but I was failing all of a sudden. I remember putting in the work, I remember trying hard and then I remember pounding headaches while looking at failing grades. I remember trying not to cry in school because I was letting a lot of people down, myself included. The thought of getting a tutor terrified me, because I didn't want anyone to think I was stupid or incapable of something that everyone else my age seemed to be doing just fine. By being afraid to be an acknowledged failure, I became an even bigger one to myself. This was only the beginning.

While struggling to bring my grades up (which is very hard once they've hit rock bottom), I had a mishap with my cellphone that resulted in a new one. And while this sounds wonderful, I had lost all my contacts, and therefore a lot of communication with my friends. I was losing friends that were bored with me, mad with me not reaching out and just people who forgot about me. I made desperate pleas on nearly every social media for everyone to come back to me, and to this day I still am missing some important people. But for a while, I was blindly struggling through school with no rope to grab on to, no hand to hold, because the world is digital now, and I had none.

It's not like I'm fantastic at making friends either. School is a nightmare for kids like me. Someone looking to be left alone unless you have some substance to give. I'm not looking for wild parties and sports games. I'm looking for kids to stay in with, make pizza and cookies and sing and dance in my pajamas with. I'm not looking for fleeting friendships and rivalries I just want friends that will last me more than a year. And I'm not necessarily an outcast. I'm treated okay at school, a few douchebags here and there get on my nerves and a few girls will always call you out for your chewed nails but mostly I stay low, under the radar. But that's no place to make friends. So I don't, really.

So no good grades, no good friends (sh, yes I know a few of you reading this love me and were there... but I'm not talking about you). To top that stuff off, I don't talk to my parents. We just don't interact very well. I have a sort of dark humor that, I admit, doesn't fare well with adults. I'm us usually sniffing for trouble without actually taking a whiff, so I don't have the best relationship. I'm looking for support in the place it's supposed to be and really not getting enough. So I got sad, but I also got angry.

At this point, I was a mix of sadness, anger and fear. The fear was stemming from everything else. Without good grades I feared for my future. I saw it going down a drain I didn't even know existed in my almost perfect life. Without good relationships in my life, I then let myself be tugged down the same dirty drain. It was clogged with my own suckiness and everywhere I looked, that's what I saw. I saw my failure as a student, a friend, and a daughter. So my anger prevailed.

A lot of people view angry teenagers as angry with the world, with those around them, and while it's easy to see that, they're most often angry with themselves and the situation they've gotten into. That's been my case now for a while. I can without a doubt, at least at the moment, say that I don't like myself. I find myself stale, with a personality much like others. I find my talent boring and believe I have nothing truly unique to offer to the world or any sort of industry. I am now an average if not below average student, and I look back at past Mia, so vibrant and intelligent, and feel as I've let her down, too. And while I dislike myself, I have also lost all the energy to change myself. Because for some reason, something inside me tells me it will all be for naught. Everything goes down at some point. Why even try to rise again?

Now while that mindset has been extremely toxic, a few buddies of mine have been desperately tugging my out of my rut, by willingly throwing themselves into it. And now this is where this post will start to look up. Here is the message, the meaning, the lesson.

I've learned to recognize who my true friends are, where my true happiness lies and what my true goals are. When you are down so low, you are looking for an answer and most likely it is too dark or too cloudy to see one, and that's what I was feeling for a very long time. But you have to wait it out, like a real storm, because we all know by now that storms don't last forever. In fact, they can be very short. Admittedly, they can be destructive too, but you know there's a calm coming. Sometime. There are so many reasons not to give up that there's not enough time in the world to list them. But anyway...

The storm will clear and so will your head. Let yourself rest and digest and you will find that you're going to be okay, if not today, then tomorrow. I tell myself, when I get really scared and desperate and so sad I don't think I can take another second... I say, wait ten seconds. Then, I congratulate myself. Because I lasted ten more seconds. And I challenge myself to do it again and then I celebrate with a smile, or my favorite song or a call with my favorite person. Then I tell myself to keep waiting for ten seconds at a time until things get better, because it would suck not to be there for when they do.

So that's what I'm doing now. Things still aren't great, I don't know when they will be. But for everyone who has been worried about lately, take this post to heart, know that I'm okay, or I will be. There's a lot more to do than care for me so go change the world so people struggling even more can enjoy it. That's what I plan to do.

- Mia

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Spring Awakening" Is Really Important, Here's Why

I have a special kind of affinity for rock musicals. I found true love in life doing American Idiot, appreciated movie musicals with Rent, and my favorite musical of all time comes in the angst ridden form of Spring Awakening. And in only a few days, my next adventure will begin as I play the German teenager Ilse in it (a dream I've had for about, say, three to four years).

Spring Awakening, in its simplest terms, is about puberty and mostly, sex. The beauty of it, the fear of it and the downright technicality of it. And it's about teenagers. Teenagers having sex, really. It doesn't sound like much, in fact, it sounds crude and not at all fit to be presented in such a "classy" art form as theatre (in fact, its original material, a play written in the 1800's, was banned from Germany). But it's so much more than that. Let's break it down.

Germany. 1800's Germany, to be more exact, is where we find a bunch of teenagers on the brink of or in the midst of puberty. However, talk of sex is taboo and the kids around town are nearly all clueless. Among them is Wendla, naive and sweet, but curious for answers and getting nothing but false ones from her scared parents. Moritz, exhausted and haunted by nocturnal emission and his looming puberty, turns to his friend Melchior. Melchior is the only one in town with any idea of what is going on to them. A radical atheist and critic of society and authority, Melchior has made it his own business to discover about himself and the world around him. He seems to be the only one. On the other hand, a few girls have had too early and terrifying an experience with sexual abuse from their fathers, and in such a push and pull society, these poor teens are caught in the middle of it. And how does it end for them? Spoiler alert.

God awfully.

There's more to it, but you get the idea: there is so much fear of the unknown and yet, not a single person in power, someone who could help these poor children, decided to do anything about it.

Spring Awakening is important because it is timeless in a terrifying way. What related to a group of German teenagers in the 1800's is just as relevant today, to teens all over the world. Parents continue to be blind to their suffering children, and while sex education is much better than it used to be, the topic remains taboo and results in embarrassed teenagers entering hormone driven worlds blind or being forced to find it online, in less than pleasant ways. A lack of education and a fear of growing up results in teen pregnancy, STDs, and even sexual assault (which seems to happen more and more and get reported less and less). In this case, it truly is better to be safe than sorry. There is nothing wrong with educating your child early on so they can understand the importance and the dangers of love in life. Kids, teens, they are smarter than you may believe. They have seen and wondered more than you could possibly believe, and chances are, they are too scared to ask questions. As educators and parents or just people in authority, it's your job to provide them with answers before mistakes are made.

And while on the subject of authority, it is almost a rite of passage to question it, or even challenge it as a teenager. It can be quite the nuisance for a teacher or a parent but letting it happen seems to be the best way to deal with it. Why? Because like what was aforementioned, teens are smarter than what people think. Yes, even today with their video games and their selfies and social media, in fact, even more so. The more they are exposed to, the more they are inclined to question it and wonder. Usually questions arise in them that can't be answered directly, and lashing out at the people who are meant to provide answers happens, and that's normal and incredibly stimulating. A recurring problem in Spring Awakening is kids having questions and challenging the norm, yet being denied their own growth, which was devastating then and is devastating today.

Spring Awakening is important in another way because it provides representation to teenagers. To see stories unfold much like your own is quite comforting. To know you are not alone, and were never alone to begin with, is the best news. To see that your struggles may be universal is to see that there are other people to turn to for answers and help. It gives a stage to their angst, which can feel so damn singular as a teenager. And, especially in a time where teens are relentlessly mocked, Spring Awakening is a show that takes them and their confusion seriously, rather than making their naivety and rebellion the butt of a joke. Also, there are plenty of adults who will see faults in their own parenting/teaching or the people around them. While there is no way to correctly raise children, I believe it starts with being honest and serious with your children when they begin to struggle with life's new situations.

There are so many things that can be said about the rock musical. In the past it has been critically acclaimed for being so true and unafraid of controversy, while the controversy alone has sparked debate against it. It's language and themes has kept it far out of drama clubs in high schools all over. But for what reason? It is strange that Spring Awakening is acclaimed for being so out there and dangerous, but in reality, it is just portraying real life. It is not being edgy, and it's not being controversial. It really is just right. (However, recently, there seems to be a rise of "controversial" musicals that do nothing but really just portray real life. Perhaps because theatre for years has been seen as a place to go to escape real life, there is fear in experiencing it all over again as you sit in the audience.) But in the end, whether you enjoy the show or not, it can strike up riveting conversation between a parent and their teen. If it takes a musical to spur some change, then so be it. And no better a musical than Spring Awakening.

So please, if you have the chance to see it (*cough* there is a national tour launching in the next year or so with the Deaf West company *cough*), take yourself and maybe even a young loved one out for a treat. There will be discomfort in the air as words are said and things are seen, words and things you may have never wanted to share with each other, but it needed to be done. You may experience an awkward car ride on the way home, but you may lay awake and night thinking to yourself, "I need to learn" or "I need to teach". Either way, Spring Awakening has the ability to launch a revolution for the young, hormonal confused teen and may put an end to dangerous ignorance. Ignorance is only bliss until it is not. Educate, by whatever means. And love.

- Mia

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Body Modification Stigma (or, the "I Have Purple Hair and Am Still Me" Post)

A couple hundred dollars were not spent on my hair just so people would think differently of me. I never meant to turn people off, not ever get a job or be judged. In fact, all I really wanted was purple hair. I wanted to have fun and I wanted to express myself in a safe, maybe even cool way. Unfortunately, that's not what came across to everyone. It's not like I expected it to, but where did the stigma come from? The idea that, if your hair is purple and you've got piercings and (God forbid) a tattoo, that you are rough around the edges and not to be trusted. I'll ask again: Where did the stigma come from? And what can we do to make it go away?

I have never had plans to be a doctor nor a lawyer, and maybe it is a stereotype that people with body modifications never really do, but why should that stop me, should I decide to pursue those careers? What makes me, as someone about to operate or defend, any less qualified than the brunette who is also up for the job? Did the hole I poked in my nose make me any dumber, or any meaner?

(The obvious answer here is no, but you would be surprised at how many may be convinced otherwise.)

So I did some research. I read up on the history of body piercings, from ear piercings to genital piercings, and a lot of them stem from non-white cultures, and as of late, instances of racism have been so common I personally wouldn't surprised if it had any effect here, too. The same goes for tattoos. Also, for the record, both piercings and tattoos have been around for thousands of years, and plenty of people in power have had them.

More research showed that people have tried to get body modifications protected by the human rights code, saying that as long as there is no health or safety risk, the only thing that should go into choosing a new worker is their qualifications. And while I agree with this, many people do not. Let me share a few comments I found on the internet about people who were pierced, had colored hair, or had some sweet ink:

On her daughter: "She HAS had to live with hurtful customer comments; the worst, a suggestion by an elderly grandmother, that because of the way she looks, she has shamed her family and is unworthy of our love."

"I have seen first hand customers not only walk out of an establishment, but worse, not even go into the establishment because the employee was covered in tattoos and piercings and it made them very uncomfortable, so it most certainly can affect the business."

Many more went on to argue their discomfort with body modification and were using their discomfort as a reason to deny people jobs and general kindness. There was an argument as well too about how if your company values "conservative" traditions and ideas, then not hiring tattooed and pierced workers would just be a part of their image. And I agree, I guess. If you don't want a bad image, then don't hire people that society deems as bad. Understandable. But for God's sake: where did the idea that tattoos, hair colors and piercings are bad at all?

The world will never know. But let me say this. I walked into a hair salon and sat in a chair for five hours for some pretty purple hair, and as someone who was ecstatic to see it in the mirror when I was done, to hear snickers about it is truly devastating. Especially from people who once respected you! I walked into the hair salon with a kind attitude, a drive to work hard and a love for people and theatre and other things. I can personally affirm you that leaving that salon, I still had those traits and loved those things. I also recently got my nose pierced, and let me tell you, that as soon as that metal was part of me... I was a different girl. All of a sudden I wanted to punch people in the face and throw things. Oh, wait, no I didn't. Because that's not what happens. 

My sister got a tattoo and hid it for a while and how did she do that? Because it doesn't change a person. It's not a life or death situation. It's not a thing you keep away from your passionate and creative kids and it's not a thing you ditch your friends over. It's not a thing that should be the deciding factor during an interview and it's not a thing that will ruin your company. In fact, give those people a chance. You may hear some cool stories and meet some cool people. But again, everyone truly is different and no one deserves to put underneath an umbrella term.

Just ask my friends! I showed up to school after my hair was done and most people just said it was cool and got on with it. Some people said they didn't realize I was "that type of girl". What type of girl? The one with the capacity to make her own personal and expressive decisions? And my friends think my nose piercing is cute, just a little accessory. Just a new part of me, not a new me.

I know the stigma won't go away overnight, and perhaps it never will. But I think a bit of an effort can be made, truly. It's just like you getting a haircut or your nails painted, or even the way you dress. When you do these things, it never crosses your mind that you have become a new person, does it? It's just something fun, something meaningful to you no matter how much or how little. And that's exactly what it is to everyone else, too. So take a chance and compliment that waitress or cashier or teacher or doctor or lawyer or astronaut or musician or literally anyone on their awesome hair, piercing or tattoo. Get over the fear of motorcycle gangs that stop at your local diner, just because they "look scary". (Honestly, motorcycles are scarier than those guys). Life is too short to be afraid of something different.

Plus, the numbers of people with piercings and tattoos are rising every day and this generation has had the highest yet. It's not going away, and neither are they. I think the world it ready for that pink haired lawyer. Now can we please argue over something important?

- Mia