That’s what she said

My grandmother’s motto is “be sure to be careful to be safe.” That’s what I would hear before climbing along the rock structure in the park in Wellesley, or before skipping off to ballet when I was eleven. It’s what she tells me, even now, every time that I leave with my family on vacation.

I would roll my eyes, and smile, and tell her, “of course, Mommom!” and not think twice about the cheesy thing she was telling me that I knew just meant, “I love you and I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.” It was always just something she said.

My mom does this very parent-y thing where she tells me she’ll be proud of me no matter how I do – as long as I try. I wish that promise had more weight in my life. Everyone around me is trying so hard and I try to try just as hard as they all seem to be trying, and then we get in a competition about who is trying hardest and who is suffering hardest and, of course, whoever tries the hardest to win the competition about who is trying hardest gets validation for their trying. Then all of our trying isn’t really worth much, is it?

Oh Mom, I love you.

Society today is one scream strained in from a billion voices. Who’s hurting the most, bearing a burden, trying their hardest – none of it matters if we can’t complain about it. Why are we like this?

A couple of days ago, I was passing by one of the most common “battle conversations” that pervades high school hallways: the Great Sleep War. No one can deny that only getting five hours of shut-eye is rough, especially when you take into account the fact the teenagers’ bodies run on a different clock than adults’. But…that kid who pulls the all-nighter is the champion and her classmates who each got five hours get, well, nothing. But who did get anything? And why does it matter so much?

Sometimes I really wish I could go back to being five and only worrying about who was playing on the monkey bars during recess.

It was enough to be safe. Not enough– exactly the right amount.

That’s what she said.

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The Monumental Human vs. Feline Debate

Disclaimer: In no way do I encourage replacing school for the frankly impossible  goal of becoming a different species.

In an effort to remove myself from “human responsibilities” (ha – what teenager has those?),  I’ve decided to become a cat.

See, that puts me in a predicament. For one thing, cats can’t speak, which means they can’t voice their preference of one meat-flavored kibble over the next. They also accumulate rather disgusting hairballs. (Obviously I do know that long-haired cats are more prone to these afflictions than their short-haired counterparts, but considering the length of my hair now, I worry that my feline alter ego would fall into the former group.)

Oh, and that last problem; I’m a human, or, in other words, not a cat.

Why I am I so quick to throw away the advantages that come with belonging to the human race? I’m not. Conversations are fun, school is important, and I admit I’d be lost without my opposable thumbs. Think about it like this: being a celebrity. Maybe I’ve always wanted to spend twenty-four hours as Britney Spears, so I try it out and have a blast wearing clothes that cost more than my house and being photographed while ordering coffee. People want to know my opinion about the latest trends and who my boyfriend is and if I’m still crazy and blah, blah, blah…

Sound about right?

Well that day I spend as Britney Spears probably goes fine, maybe even exhilarating, but ends overwhelming. I mean, curl-up-in-a-blanket-at-home-and-shut-the-blinds-so-no-one-knows-you’re-home overwhelming.

Spending the day as a cat would be far less stressful. What more is there to life as a cat besides eating, sleeping, and being fawned over?

Let’s compare schedules:

5:30 a.m. for teenage human: wake up

5:30 a.m. for feline: whatever it wants

6:40 a.m. for teenage human: ascend steps of The Yellow Automobile

6:40 a.m. for feline: whatever it wants

7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for teenage human: daily stuffing of knowledge into the brain

7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for feline: whatever it wants

See what I mean?

So yeah, let’s drop everything and grow tails. We used to have them anyway…

Hey there, John Locke

Dear Mr. Locke,

I read your Essay a few years ago and, if I’m being entirely honest, it didn’t do much for me. Let’s just say your prose is a tad heavy in the hands of an adolescent millennial.

To be clear, this letter isn’t to shame or criticize your work. Actually, since that point in my adolescence, a few key things passed into my life that augmented the relevance of your Essay in my mind.

The first was Latin.

Latin has shaped my view of life and has become a constant source of discovery. (Try writing an essay analyzing prose – first you have to quite literally analyze the prose. Case, number, gender, anyone?)

So the meaning of tabula rasa, which of course I learned when your Essay was deconstructed on the white board of my history classroom, wasn’t all that new to me. But, now that Latin has become a passion, just hearing a casual “et cetera” in someone’s dialogue, or finding a cf. in the footnote of a textbook, makes me that much more intrigued in the subject matter.

The second wasn’t something that passed into my life. “Through” would be a more appropriate choice of words.

I met my best friend in kindergarten. We’ve since bonded over Harry Potter, fatigue in the fourth mile of our run, and Daenerys’ epic woman power. I’ve known her about as long as I’ve known myself, which makes it hard to define myself and keep my identity secure now that she isn’t around.

(Forgive the rambling, Mr. Locke, I’ll get to the point!)

I wish I was back in elementary school when we had recess and stayed in the same classroom all day and there wasn’t homework and college was a figment of our imaginations and sex was nonexistent and there were playdates and we went sledding and didn’t wake up at 5:30 and we were friends.

The best part of being a child is, like you note, Mr. Locke, the blank slate state of being that comes with it. How irrational, that the slate you speak of can’t be erased? I can’t unsee, unexperience, undo, or unlearn.

Everyone’s lost their blissful ignorance, and the tabulae rasae aren’t just marked, they’re scarred.

Postcard from Cusco

Women sit outside homes like potted plants here

with worn knees (so cross!) and fluffed wool for dyeing.

We visited them as we ate guinea pig and threw

the taste out of the taxi window. You’d be surprised

how the skewers turned to charcoal in our mouths.

I’d left my camera behind at the rocky overlook;

We didn’t give a tip for the extra picture.

No matter how you shake my core

“I’m beyond the arc of time”

“Don’t doubt it, don’t doubt it”

“Victory is in my veins”

“I will not negotiate”

“I will transform”

2010 was the year that Katy Perry exploded across my horizon. I was on a bus at summer camp, wearing a yellow shirt with the program’s new emblazoned on the back, miserable in the depressive heat, and California Gurls came on the radio.

I remember my dad accidentally buying her album Teenage Dream at Starbucks (it was also the year of cake pops for me). Both my sister and I could tell he was getting into it – after all, he now breaks out in passionate dance whenever Taylor Swift comes on – but back then my sister was seven and I wasn’t much older and, well, the lyrics seemed a little wrong for a pair of kids to be enjoying.

That didn’t really matter for me. What my dad didn’t realize was that unlike the ’60s, this was a time when children, as my sister and I were, could get anything we wanted. There was the internet. There was school. There was the public library, the place I resorted to when I was banned from reading the fifth Harry Potter book.

(I have always wondered about the first day that I would prevent someone from reading a book…)

There was so much that was open to us, and so little time to gobble it up. I spent my breakfasts with my nose in a book.

Since then, not much has changed. The internet has only grown. I’ve discovered new bookstores lurking around my neighborhood. My middle school and high school have opened up entire worlds of knowledge for me to explore.

I still read at the breakfast table, but the fantasy novels and poetry have become fewer, while school’s far-reaching grasp has taken over this most personal time of mine. Macbeth whimpers next to my orange juice. The Scarlet Letter might just be burned into the bottom of my backpack.

Wait wait wait wait. I’m not trying to say that I don’t enjoy what my English class offers to me. I value the chance I have, one that many people don’t get, to widen my horizons and delve into a book I might not have chosen for myself. I only wish that short stories, flash fiction, and poetry were not so few and far between as the traditional prose I analyze with my classmates.

(Can’t we all agree that Carl Hiaasen is far more friendly at 6 a.m.?)

So I now cling to music.

As a junior, I still take the bus (and probably still will as a senior). I can’t participate in the struggle of searching for a parking spot, or in the conversations about the most hectic streets of Boston. I don’t even have my license.

The bus is a quiet place. There are so many kids finishing homework, studying, reciting speeches and presentations in their heads…I can see it happening. That’s been me, too.

It isn’t anymore.

Someone in my English class described her philosophy of life a few months ago. She named music as a central aspect of this long (short?) journey we’re all going through, that can bring the most happiness. I barely heard a word of what anyone else said after she spoke.

Music helps me. It’s why I have given myself the time on the bus to listen and let myself feel better.

I feel Katy Perry in my ears and think back to that summer seven years ago as a sweaty camper, when college was far away, friends were honest, and play was play.

I am empowered.