Tuesday, March 04, 2014

On High School, Hard Work, and Earning What We're Given

Let me tell you the outline of an average day for me during my senior year of high school:
6:00 a.m. -- the alarm went off as it tends to do and I rolled out of bed and immediately into the shower before I could fall back asleep.
7:17 a.m. -- the seventh grader I drove to school would show up at my door. If I was ready this was no problem, more often than not, however, I grabbed my backpack, keys, coat and a Pop-tart from my mom as I was on my way out of the door.
7:30 a.m. -- class started and I would be on time. Yes, every single day, I would be on time for my first period whether it was Physics or AP English Language I would be in my seat when the bell rang. I would put my phone away, I would take notes, and I would pay attention in class so that I could get good grades.
8:57 a.m. (to be honest, I don't totally remember all of the times because they were really random, but these are my best estimates) -- I went to my next class which I wouldn't be on time for because whether it was IB 20th Century Topics or Student Government I would have to stop by the Student Government room and make the school announcements, daily. If it was IB 20th Century Topics then I would take notes, I would have done my reading so I could participate in class discussions, and I would pay attention to make an effort. If it was Student Government I would take notes if needed, but usually I would spend the period making posters, planning canned food drives, or organizing school dances.
10:34 a.m. -- I would go to either AP Statistics or ProStart Catering. AP Statistics was more of me trying to take notes and follow along with the homework, which was, admittedly, very difficult for me because math is my worst subject -- but I never liked to let on that I was struggling in school, so I spent the better part of the period pretending I was doing well. In ProStart Catering, I was the incumbent captain of the Utah state Culinary Arts competitive team that had placed in the top ten at the national invitational the previous year. ProStart was the closest I had to a traditional elective class and it was my most stressful by far.
12:07 p.m. -- was lunch time. Most days, this was my favorite part of the day because I could go to lunch with my friends and actually spend time with them, which was rare. But, I didn't get to go to lunch everyday because most days I would have to skip lunch for a National Honor Society meeting, of which I was president, a Family Career and Community Leaders of America meeting of which I was co-president, a Mock Trial meeting of which I was president, a Model UN meeting of which I was secretary, a ProStart class meeting gone long, or a Club Presidents meeting.
12:50 ish p.m. -- I had one more class of the day which was either Seminary or AP Psychology, either way I would go and I would try to be on time and listen through the entire class.
2:15 p.m. -- school let out and I would usually go to the school's "courtyard" area for half an hour to see the boy I wanted to be my boyfriend but didn't have the time to actually date.
3:00 p.m. -- my day would start. In the fall I had Cross Country practice and could usually be home from school by around 4:30. In the winter I had ProStart practice and would usually be hard at work practicing until about 8 or 9.
8:00 p.m. -- on a good day, I would roll out of the foods' room about this time and would either go to dinner with the team (probably at Wendy's), eat leftovers from our practice, or hope my parents had left me some leftovers at home.
9:00 p.m. -- I would answer any texts that I'd gotten from my friends or from people wondering about one of the clubs I was involved in and I would then start my homework. Most nights, I would hope to be done by 11:00 but would be done more like 12:30. On some nights I would hope to be done by 12:30 and would be done closer to 2:00.
12:30 a.m. -- I wouldn't let myself even sit on my bed until all of my homework was done or else I would just go to sleep, which was kind of the best part of my day.

REPEAT.

Now, obviously I had weekends and I'd gotten pretty good and organizing my schedule so that I could have Friday nights free. Since I was involved with student government I would usually go to the football or basketball game and then to one of my friend's houses for a few hours before my 11:00 p.m. curfew which I was usually about a half hour late for. On Saturdays, I would typically have a ProStart practice or some other commitment in the morning and then my family would do a big lunch at around 3:00 or 4:00 before I would babysit for a family down the street from about 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. every week. I usually did some of my homework and texted my friends while I was babysitting, and tried my hardest not to fall asleep. On Sundays I had church from 9:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m. followed by family dinner, homework, and, honestly, T.V.

I'm not sharing this schedule to garner pity or sympathy. I'm certainly not writing this to give off the idea that I'm somehow better than other people because I'm hyper-involved. In fact, this schedule comes highly ill-advised from me.

It was stressful. I got headaches. Most nights I would come home and cry. I went through a period of two months where I vomited back everything I ate by the end of the day, purely out of stress. I didn't date. I didn't really "hang out". I didn't even do my homework as well as I would have liked most of the time. But I will never regret a moment of my high school experience.

I remember at the beginning of my junior year, when I really started to get involved in a lot of things. I remember wanting, more than anything, to make a difference. I wanted to be a legend because of the things that I did. Because of the hours upon hours of time I spent trying to better myself and others. I didn't really create the legacy I wanted.

I spent most of my senior year being mocked by people who thought I was intense or a taskmaster because I didn't have time for friends. I finished top-ten at two national championships after putting in enough time for first place, and came home utterly disappointed, just in time for AP tests. I was the state runner-up for Sterling Scholar, which means I came away with no scholarship money. I had to quit the Mock Trial team because I was too busy and exhausted to even read through the case before competition. I got stressed and snappy at my parents, my teammates, my classmates and my friends. I had to miss a lot of school because of all my commitments from all of my different clubs. I nearly didn't graduate from high school.

But, I finished third in my class and was admitted, on scholarship, to my first choice University. I qualified for two national invitationals. I passed six AP exams with a 4 or a 5. I made connections that secured me a job after graduation. I learned all about hard work, time management, and dedication. And, most importantly I learned that nothing in this world is free.

I entered University in a fantasy. I assumed that there would be others like me who are dedicated to doing the things that matter in order to succeed. I figured I would finally be done with people doing the bare minimum and then spending their time at parties or at dumb, meaningless social gatherings. I hoped that I would find myself at a school full of people who valued their education and actively looked for even more opportunities to join clubs or service organizations or volunteer to give back and do something truly meaningful. I have yet to find those people and I've started to lose hope that they exist.

The thing is, I've discovered, that the time for hard work is passing. No one wants to work hard. No one wants to go to bed exhausted every night from school and mental strain and not from having fun. Fun has never held any draw for me. Fun bores me. Fun is meaningless. Increasingly, I am in the minority of students who seem to feel this way.

This is my plea. My rather impassioned plea. "Do not go gently". Do not fear hard work. Do not allow yourselves to become complacent in a search for 'fun'. Because the things that matter are hard. The things that matter cause stress. The things that will give off a long lasting reward are hard.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

In the Flash of an Eye


I've written a short story. My creative writing class is making me do all sorts of things I don't want to do, and I love/hate it. Anyway, I decided I might as well post it for the perusal of the two people who read my blog. (It's probably actually more like one person, so to that person I say "thank you").
The title is.... still working. Let's go with "In the Flash of An Eye" for now.

Hilary had never seen such green eyes. Looking into them, it was impossible to stay angry, they were like a calming ocean and the way that they flashed blue when he got angry was really pretty hypnotizing. They also turned pale when he was hiding something – Ryan didn’t know that, but Hilary did. She had seen it lots of times.
            Hilary looked down from his gaze to his clunky brogues, shoes she hated more than anything else he owned. They were pretentious, coffee-shop shoes, the kinds of shoes that matched the hipster clothes he had started wearing when he took that job at the recording studio. She sort of missed the dirty Vans he had worn when they first met, the shoes he wore when she figured out how his eyes paled in a lie.
           
On her birthday, the year they first met, his shoes had got especially dirty. The off-white fabric was always a little more on the grey side but now they were smudged with dark brown and stained with grass-green to match the marks on his casual, well-worn Levi’s. Hilary had tried not to worry about the mud that was getting on the bleached floor of her corner kitchen as they stumbled inside her studio apartment together. They had tried to go watch a meteor shower in celebration of her birthday; instead they got really cold and really filthy from lying in the grass up the canyon.
            “I still can’t really believe that you didn’t get me a present. Like, it’s my birthday.”
            Ryan had leaned in closer to her, until her eyes couldn’t look anywhere other than into his. Those dark green eyes. God, were they something to write sonnets about, something to sing about from the rooftops of skyscrapers, something to worship. Of course she would forgive him, he didn’t even have to ask, not with those eyes. Not with the way she loved him, already much more than he understood.
            “I swear I did get you a present! I just left it at my apartment. Can I bring it by tomorrow?” Ryan had drawn her in even closer with his eyes. He was used to being forgiven. That stare could make a girl do things, and as she had looked into his eyes, Hilary felt that it had probably served him well.
But she had also felt a change, as his eyes turned ever so subtly lighter. If she hadn’t studied those eyes for hours she probably wouldn’t have noticed. But she had been trying for weeks to figure out a tell, anything to help her feel on an equal playing field with her perfect boyfriend and his dark green eyes.
           
            Back in the living room they now shared, in a better, more expensive town, Hilary looked around at things she liked in their apartment; the couch was brown distressed leather, the stereo was playing Howie Day, the room was sort of warm as the early morning sun started to creep through their lacquered shutters, and Ryan’s eyes were very green and very close to hers.
She forgot herself and looked from his shoes back into his eyes and started to melt in their sea-green pool. He moved an inch closer to her and lowered his head so their eyes met in a perfect diagonal line. He probably took another step closer but Hilary’s skin was already electric from his hand on her waist. She closed off her mind to the surrounding sounds and colors.
            “Of course I didn’t kiss her,” Ryan said quietly, barely audibly.
That’s when his eyes paled.
Hilary suddenly drew away from him and started to count in her head how many times she had seen those eyes change. Every year when he forgot her birthday, five times including that first. When he had said that her favorite green dress made her look thin. The first time she asked if he loved her. When he had said that he wanted to marry her. When he had told her parents that he wanted to set a date for a wedding soon, and was just waiting for Hilary to feel ready. Each time he had said he hadn’t been out with Rachel after he came home in the morning with puffy red eyes. They had been paling more frequently and more regularly, recently.
She must have pushed his hand from her waist more forcefully than she’d meant to because when she let herself forget those pale eyes and look back at him, Ryan stared down at her with a face full of concern, eyes back to dark green. She couldn’t let him touch her, couldn’t let him kiss her, but also, couldn’t seem to get mad at him.
“Sorry, morning breath!” she said with a thousand watt smile and a quick peck on his cheek. “I better go before I miss my flight, I’ll be back Thursday by 10:30.”
“You’re so funny when you get self-conscious.”
“I love you, Ryan.” Hilary said with one last forced hug as she turned for the door.
“I love you too. Have a safe flight.”
Hilary was in the shuttle to the airport when she started to cry, realizing his eyes had changed again

The flight was longer than Hilary remembered. She hadn’t taken it for a few years –three years. It had been three years since she’d been to see Brynn. So when she climbed out of another airport shuttle on another side of the country she walked quickly, but anxiously to the orange painted door of Brynn’s little house. She hadn’t seen Brynn in three years, had never met Harrison, and had been totally mute on how bad things had gotten with Ryan.
The polished brass doorknob was looming ominously, a symbol reminding her she’d have to tell Brynn that Ryan had postponed the wedding again. And she’d have to tell her about Rachel. She thought about leaving, about finding another shuttle and telling Brynn she’d have to come visit another time. Just then, the portentous knob turned and her best friend was enveloping Hilary and dragging her inside the house.
“You look so GOOD!” Brynn squealed, relaxing her hold on Hilary’s shoulders slightly, just enough to appreciate her designer jeans clinging to her svelte frame. “I wish I had enough time to go to the gym these days, but you know how they say that being a mother is a full-time job? Turns out that’s actually true. I’m lucky if I can get mascara on in the morning.”
Hilary smiled widely with the sincere smile she hadn’t felt on her face in years. The nervousness started to roll off as she walked more deeply into Brynn’s strange and yet welcoming home. If she had chosen ‘Brynn’ out of a catalog, her house would have looked like this. Art deco lamps and couches decorated a craftsman living room that was clean but not tidy, as though an actual family lived here. Brynn’s heaving white couch had stains from chocolate and markers and little two-year-old fingers that had explored the coarse fabric.
“Wow. I wish my house could look more like this.” Hilary expressed sadly, remembering Ryan with his pale eyes sitting on their pristine leather couch.
“Oh whatever, Miss New York, I’m sure your house is beautiful. I’m always so jealous of your style. We do what we can, but Harrison’s walking now so we can’t have nice things anymore.”
“Harrison’s walking? I can’t believe I missed all of baby Harrison. It’s good to see you Bee, it’s been too long.”
“I missed you too, you butt, how have you not been here in so long? Now, get in my kitchen and we’ll get you something to eat. Skinny-mini, you look starved.”
That was the best part of Brynn. You could go years without seeing her, then as soon as you did it was like you’d only been apart since breakfast. She was the same Brynn that Hilary had known in college and high school and growing-up, short and happy and eager to do everything for others.
“So,” Brynn said, “I’ve got some brownies that you have to eat, I don’t want to hear about your diet anymore. It’s bad enough that Ben’s mother won’t let me feed my own child sugar, I never get to make anything fun to eat. So please, eat a brownie it will change your life.”
“Where is Ben? I haven’t seen him in ages!” Hilary changed the subject and picked at the brownie without taking a bite. Ryan’s business partner had just proposed to a girl the size of a coatrack and Hilary did not want to show up at that wedding looking like her pre-pubescent self.
“He took the little prince to the grocery store so I could get a break.” Brynn pushed the brownie back towards Hilary and balanced one for herself on the bulge of baby number two.
“You got so lucky with Ben, he’s such a great guy. I wish that Ryan would go grocery shopping sometime.”
“Do you actually want Ryan in charge of food, though? Love him to death but he’s an overgrown teenager – he’d probably bring back spray cheese and Doritos,” Brynn said with total seriousness, distractedly wiping little finger smears from a refrigerator covered with Harrison’s doodles and pictures of a happy family. Hilary’s fridge was filled with lettuce and kale, but was missing doodles, decoration, family pictures, permanence.
“Yeah, but you and Ben just have such a good deal. He loves you so much.”
“Hey this will be you and Ryan soon! Do you have a date set yet? I’m not showing up to your wedding like a little round whale, so you better give me at least three months.”
“He’s just been so busy with work we figured we’d give it at least six months or so, so you have plenty of time to prepare to be my cute little matron of honor.”
“Is that why you aren’t wearing your ring anymore?” Hilary stopped playing with her brownie. Brynn stopped tidying the kitchen to look at Hilary directly in the eyes. Brynn never pried, she would never force you to tell her anything. That’s what made her a great match for Hilary, the anti-sharer. She would let you tell her when you were ready. Hilary was almost there but not quite, and then three digital notes started trilling from her bag.
Ryan” the phone read.
“Sorry Bee, but I’ve got to get this, it’s Ryan!” Hilary put on her most bubbly voice as she carried her phone from the room and evaded Brynn’s curiosity.
“Hey Hils, I have to talk to you. Remember when I said I didn’t kiss Rachel?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“That’s not true. We were late at work so I made sure she got home. Then, I don’t know,  I could just tell that she was expecting me to kiss her. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I did. Baby I’m so sorry.”
“Is that all?”
“Yes, I promise that’s all that happened.”
“Don’t even worry, that’s not a big deal.”
“Are you sure that’s okay?”
“Yes of course, I know she doesn’t matter to you. I’ve got to go, I’m grocery shopping with Brynn right now. I love you though.”
“I love you too.” He waited too long again, Hilary thought. It was like saying he loved her was an after thought.
Hilary dropped the gold glittery phone on the floor and walked back into Brynn’s kitchen where she finally broke completely down, for the first time. An hour later, Brynn was stroking her back while Hilary sobbed into her hands with $30 mascara running down her cheeks.
“Why do I forgive him every time?” Hilary asked, not wanting an answer.
“Because you love him Hilly, and that’s what love is.”
“And I don’t question that he loves me, but I just don’t think he cares about me or my feelings.”
“I never said that he loves you, Hil.”
“You know what the problem is?” Hilary ignored Brynn, “Ryan didn’t meet me until after I started wanting to be pretty. If he had known me when I was chubby and awkward and dressed badly he never would have asked me out. That’s the problem. I’ve been so busy with work and trying to plan a wedding and keep up with everything else I haven’t been putting any thought into how I look. I would go after Rachel too, she takes really good care of her body.”
Brynn shot Hilary a look that was sadder than any she’d ever received from her.

The next few days were tense at Brynn’s house. They played with Harrison and re-painted the baby’s room and stayed up late talking every night, just like Hilary had imagined this trip would be. But Brynn kept asking Hilary what she was going to do, kept pleading that she would stay here longer, kept begging that she would leave Ryan. And Hilary avoided all of Brynn’s questions by changing the subject or flashing a superficial smile as though the suggestion she leave her boyfriend was ludicrous. But, she also left her phone in the same spot on Brynn’s floor until it was time for her to go home.
“Don’t let it be so long next time. I love you.” Brynn whispered just before Hilary pulled the shuttle door shut behind her with one final flourish of her hand.

Two hours later, Hilary flipped her shiny, pin-straight blonde hair, the result of expensive, fragrant shampoos, over her left shoulder in a cascade as she lifted the Michael Kors bag from the ground of the airport and onto her toned, tanned shoulder. She was incredibly bored, waiting at the gate that would take her back to Ryan.
            “Delta Airlines would like to welcome all passengers…” called a woman with fuchsia lipstick and too-much 1973 blue eye-shadow from over the PA sound-system.
            “Thank you,” Hilary told the hippie in dirty espadrilles and rank dreadlocks as she passed back his newspaper she’d used to kill time while she tried to block out her thoughts, “I can’t believe I didn’t bring my phone charger, like, how dumb of me?”
            “Whatever man,” the dirty hippie said without looking up from his unread copy of Siddhartha. He’d turned one page the entire time Hilary had his newspaper.
The dirty hippie’s backpack ostentatiously advertised the places he’d been and the causes he likely pretended to support with a series of sloppily ironed-on patches equaled in filth only by the socially conscious shoes on his feet
            “…in all zones…”
            Hilary balanced her own weight on this season’s tortoiseshell Tory Burch Reva flats as she strutted away from the gate where the agent with cheap make-up and poorly highlighted hair had just invited her to board the plane.
She used to wear socially conscious shoes with leather soles that were perfectly shaped to her feet like his. Back before she met Ryan, Hilary carried metallic pleather purses and had bad highlights and wore cheap make-up.
…on flight B-132…”
Hilary walked past the food court with McDonald’s and their salty, deep-fried potatoes and rows of boxed chicken nuggets. Hilary hadn’t let herself eat food like that in years, since before Ryan had asked her out. She couldn’t help but think about the brownies she hadn’t eaten at Brynn’s because of a wedding for a friend of Ryan’s. A guy she didn’t even like. A girl she liked less, the stupid kind of dolled up girl that Hilary had allowed herself to transform into with Ryan. The smell of salt and fat propelled Hilary forward and away from the gate.
Her glitter-clad, fully charged iPhone vibrated in her designer leather bag where she’d neglected it since Monday. She had answered it once, that call from Ryan, but had carefully ignored it since. There was something unsettling about the phone and the symbols it carried like omens of betrayal. The phone vibrated again.
She reached for the phone and pulled it out of the store-smelling leather bag then dropped it in the closest silver can. The phone in its expensive case lit up one more time among Big Mac wrappers with a message from home that Hilary would never read.
…to board at this time.”
            The glass doors out of the airport opened to let Hilary pass through just as the doors on her flight back closed.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

On the Subject of Falafel

and my first attempts to become a poet. Yes I'm taking a creative writing class this semester. Yes it's kicking my incredibly lazy trash. Please be kind.

The Perfect Bite of Falafel
Caroline Macfarlane

should be your best first kiss. Your dish arrives -- Christmas before you. Your tongue will feel colors trace and tantalize, spicy reds, cool whites, refreshing greens, sharp purples; displayed like a Kandinsky for you to possess. You should eat, with your eyes, the full gambit of tastes before a fleck of flavor enters your mouth. Appreciate the ways saffron and cinnamon kiss the tops of chickpeas and pita, watch cilantro mediate between yogurt and garlic as it cascades down over thick chunks of deep fried falafel, observe the tender tomatoes protected from a wall of hummus by shreds of slightly peppery dark plum cabbage. You’re in the place between your heart and stomach where you yearn to stop looking and start chewing, but the longer you observe, the more temptation you resist, the more surreal that perfect bite becomes. Allow your nose no more than three whiffs to catch sweet, meaty, and savory and then at long last draw the first bite. Your mind goes dark and your vision seems to stop and you’ve forgotten everything but your name.

Friday, February 15, 2013

why does everyone want me to be single and fat....?

and other completely valid Valentine's questions. Let me begin by explaining something that I feel really needs to be said: I'm not one of those sad, wallowing, 'why will nobody love me' kinds of girls. Full disclosure, I'm a little anti-relationship. But really how does candy fix anything? "Oh, I'm so sorry that you have no boy to dote upon you, have some sugar." Seriously? This is the real problem with Valentine's Day -- we have perpetuated this myth that anyone has anything to wallow over if they're alone on one single day. It's a lie. Life is hard, move on. Listen to this cutie, he knows his stuff:
Next question: isn't the whole point of this thing that you loved your significant other just as much yesterday and you will love them just as much tomorrow? So why does everyone need to do something out of the ordinary? If you love somebody, fine, more power to you, but please, for the love of the Dalai Lama, be consistent. If you love someone so much you want to buy them flowers do it everyday or every week or whenever you feel like it. I guess I feel bad for everyone who receives such canned love on the one day of the year, who really wants that?

Friday, January 04, 2013

one giant step too far

Guys, I'm all about New Year's resolutions. And nothing makes me happier than to see people doing the thing that is apparently impossible for me -- following through. But for realsies, I was driving home tonight and I saw a jogger. This is not a strange apparition, especially not on Provo's Upper East Side, but then I realized something. It was 11:37 and according to my parent's Chevrolet, the outdoor air temperature was a nice balmy 4 degrees. Sweetheart, you need to go home, find some fluffy socks, and get in bed.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

am i a crazy cat lady?

You might be surprised how often I ask myself that. Scratch that. That shouldn't be surprising. Still, the signs are all there. I mean, I am wearing the same outfit I had on yesterday. I've left my house exactly once this year. I've already finished four books and watched three movies--this year. As I write this, I'm sitting on my couch wrapped in like seven blankets. Plus, I have my cat on my lap. What's scariest about my fear that I am indeed a crazy cat lady is not really how anti-social I've become. It's how little I care. Happy winter everyone!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

just see how far we've come

Almost two and a half years ago, I wrote one of my first posts about the magic of Les Mis in London. I'm happy to say that now, the dream lives on. I saw the movie with my family while we were all together for Christmas, and I loved it every bit as much as I loved the musical. In fact, I was reminded why I fell in love with the story, with the music, with the characters, with the Revolution, and of course, with Enjolras. Just go watch it. If you don't like it, I won't consider us friends anymore. It's really that simple. Go see the movie. Granted, I spent a solid ten minutes debating whether I could trust Tripp van der Bilt. Good news, I got over it. You should have no more reservations. Go see the movie. I always get sentimental. I thought about adding "at the end of the year" to that sentence, but if we're being frank, I always get sentimental. It was a year full of firsts and lasts for me. Full of some tremendous wins and some disappointments. It was a year of celebration as my big sister got married, I finally got out of high school, and got to travel to Baltimore, Washington and Vegas with ProStart; and to Greece, Germany, France, and England with my dad. I listened to some good music, and some crappy. I watched plenty of TV and movies, and read many a book worth reading. I got new glasses, finished American Heritage *finally*, and found a new home in the dorms. I was a little disappointed that the world didn't end this December, because I now need to figure out what to do with my life. But mostly I just loved every moment with friends, families, and strangers. I really do love this world. Here's hoping 2013 brings love, happiness, adventure and great food to all.