The Death Grip

The apparently strange and deadly way that I hold a pencil.

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Everyone always comments on how I hold a pencil.

Every year, I get at least one comment. Usually, I get a comment from every teacher. Sometimes, I even get comments from students.

Either way, I always get comments.

Now, I know nearly everyone holds a pencil differently. Everyone has some sort of weird grip. But I’ve been told time and time again that mine is by far the craziest.

Don’t believe me?

Refer to the picture below.

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That, my friends, is how I hold a pencil. I am, indeed, right-handed. You may notice that it’s the same grip as how one holds a violin/viola bow. That was not intentional. I didn’t learn to play the violin and viola until sixth grade. I’ve been writing like that my whole life.

Needless to say, my orchestra teacher was more than a little surprised when he realized the bow grip was the most natural thing in the world for me.

As was I.

While I was writing this post, my friend told me to name it “The Death Grip” because the way I hold a pencil is so painful. I disagree. I think it’s the only comfortable grip possible. It gives complete control, yet enough freedom to write fluently.

My handwriting may suffer because of my grip, but I can write incredibly small, so I think that makes up for all the chicken scratches.

… Okay, you know what? At least my handwriting is legible.

My elementary school teachers put up a fair fight. They told me every day how to correctly hold a pen or pencil, even moved my fingers until my grip was perfect. They told me to always write that way. I’d nod and smile.

Then they’d walk away, thinking they had won, and I’d roll my eyes and go right back to my usual pencil grip.

They eventually gave up, which I was so thankful for. Seriously, they should have realized way sooner that it was pointless. I was a bit of a rebel, and I wasn’t going to let them change how I write!

People always try to copy my pencil hold, just for fun, but they rarely succeed. I don’t understand what’s so complicated about it. It feels simple to me.

But none of that matters. I don’t mind if people think it’s strange or painful or cool. I don’t care if they want to tease me about it, nod in acceptance, or ignore it entirely.

All I care about is that it’s comfortable to me. It’s how I write, and I’m not changing that any time soon.

I’m proud to be unique.

I’m proud to be me.

 

My Mom’s Prom Dress

Passed down to me, to be passed down for generations.

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The photo you see above is me wearing my mom’s prom dress for Halloween a few years ago.

I saw the dress hanging up at my grandma’s house and immediately fell in love with it. Seriously, isn’t it just gorgeous? It reminds me of the dresses princesses wear in fairytales.

Which is where I got the idea to wear it for Halloween. I didn’t want to be a princess, so I opted for the masquerade look instead. I had a mask to go with it and everything.

You can’t see the dress fully because of the cape and the angle, but it’s strapless, very form-fitted at the top, and poofs out immediately at the waist before flowing beautifully down to mid-calf.

My mom had to pull it in quite a bit around the torso. Turns out, when my mom was my age, she had a slightly larger waist than me and a much larger bosom.

We actually failed in bringing the bosom in quite enough because there are wires holding it in place, but we pulled in the waist enough that it still stayed up without any problem.

Thank Heaven my mom and grandma are highly talented seamstresses (at least, in their free time)!

It’s funny. When my grandma told me it was her prom dress, I got really excited and thought my mom had the best taste in the world. But when I showed my mom the dress, she looked at my grandma in shock and asked why in the world she kept the thing.

Turns out, she never liked the dress. I guess that’s not all that surprising since she hates lace. It’s one of the few things we really disagree on when it comes to fashion. She hates lace. I love lace.

But when I decided to wear it for Halloween, she didn’t argue. I loved wearing it, and I think she was just glad to have it out of her hands.

When I have kids, I hope I have a little girl so I can pass the dress down to her when she’s old enough to care for it. And if I don’t have a girl, then maybe I can pass it down to a granddaughter. Who knows? But I can just imagine them loving the dress just as much as I do and wearing it just to feel like a princess, if only for a moment.

But that’s a long way away. For now, the dress is mine to adore.

 

The Darkest Night: The Essay

Read my post, The Darkest Night, first. This is the essay that goes along with it.

It’s Because of You

Time stops moving as his words work their way into my conscience. My heart stops beating, my lungs won’t function. My mind jerks to a standstill, replaying the sentence again and again like a bad song stuck in my head. It’s probably because of disobedient children who don’t do what their parents tell them. In seconds, the sentence has morphed into one more basic, more clear, more horrifying. It’s because of you. It’s because of you. It’s because of YOU. I feel like I’ve been slapped. And the worst part is, I can’t deny it. As I stare down at my dad’s body, collapsed in a heap on the ground, frozen in time and pain and grief, I know he’s right. I know with absolute certainty that all of this is my fault. Another bit of darkness to hide behind my smile.

I started it when I got home from school and fought with my dad. All he’d wanted was for me to empty the dishwasher. If I had just obeyed him and done as he asked, none of what followed would have happened. But no, I had to let my stress get the best of me. I had to yell at my dad about having too much homework. I had to start the fight that ended with me slamming my door and him being stressed and tired as well.

I wasn’t in my room more than an hour before I heard my brother calling for me. I rolled my eyes and thought, what does he want? I was so incredibly ignorant. Luckily, I went downstairs to see what he wanted. What I found was definitely worth interrupting my homework. My father was standing next to the kitchen island, leaning heavily against my brother, moving slowly and robotically, looking like a gust of wind could push him over.

He was talking in this slurred, incoherent speech. I couldn’t understand anything he said. We tried moving him to the couch, thinking it might help, but we didn’t make it that far. My dad is surprisingly heavy when he isn’t able to support any of his weight, and I’m unsurprisingly weak. My brother did his best to support the majority of his weight, but it was no use. Without any real help from me, he collapsed on the floor next to the dining table.

I called my mom and did my best to explain the situation. She was at work, but she immediately started packing her stuff to leave. My mom called our neighbor so that we’d have some adult with us, and she was there in seconds. At that point, my dad had lost consciousness, but she woke him up and started talking to him, telling him what had happened.

My neighbor told him it was probably because of stress. He responded by looking straight at me and saying one coherent statement, the only coherent statement he spoke all night.

Time starts moving again. I swallow and push my emotions to the back of my mind. No one needs to see the brokenness and guilt I’m feeling. No one needs to know the truth. Life goes on, as if he’d said nothing, as if I’m the only one to have heard. My dad’s eyes slip shut as he again loses consciousness. That’s okay. It’s better this way.

An ambulance comes shortly after my mom arrives. My dad is taken. My neighbor goes home, my brother and mom leave to go with my dad. I’m left alone with my dog in my room, sobbing silently. I’m glad they asked me to stay and take care of the family pet. I need a moment to let out my emotions. Later, I’ll conceal them. No one will see my tears. I’ll harbor these feelings, keep them to myself. This is my burden, my darkness, and I need to carry it alone. I deserve this.

It won’t be long until this is just a hazy dream to the others. My father will remember nothing of that night, and very little of the past week. My mother and brother will be thankful that the doctors found nothing wrong and move on as if nothing happened. I won’t do anything to remind them. Why would I? They may not feel the guilt and pain that darken my heart and mind, but they’ll worry about me. My dad may forgive me, but I won’t be able to accept it. They’ll try to convince me that it was just a moment of darkness and it’s all over now, but that’s wrong. It wasn’t a moment of darkness, not for me. My family and I are separated by a wall. On the east side, their side, the sun will rise and the dawn will come. But my side is to the west, and I will never see the dawn. I will only ever see the dusk.

Life is cruel. No, scratch that. It’s vicious, callous, brutal, heartless, sadistic. Heaven knows the pain it’s caused me. Every turn reveals a new problem, a new disaster, a new choice. Sometimes, things turn out for the better. Problems are resolved. Disasters turn to hope. Choices are made correctly. But sometimes, something turns out so horribly that you can’t move on. Sure, other people might be fine, but that doesn’t mean you’re okay. The darkness isn’t always followed by the dawn, and sometimes the dark cloud that surrounds you has no silver lining to escape through. But that’s life. Everyone faces problems, and everyone has their own problems to face. There’s no use in giving someone another thing to worry about. It’s better to just face the darkness on your own. Put on a mask and hide it all behind a smile.

The Darkest Night

My story of shame, vulnerability, and forgiveness.

Shame.

Vulnerability.

Guilt.

I’ve never liked those words. They hurt. They’re frightening. They hate.

But without them, you can never heal.

Everyone has a period of time in their life that’s darker than all the rest. In my life so far, my darkest moment occured a few years ago.

And it was all my fault.

For what felt like a lifetime, I carried a burden of self-doubt and even a bit of self-loathing bordering on self-hatred. I quickly became accustomed to it, lived a relatively normal life with it imprinted in my mind, but that didn’t mean it stopped hurting.

After a few years of shame and guilt building up inside of me, I just wanted to feel okay again. So last year, when my English teacher assigned us an essay where we had to write about an event in our life that disproved a cliché, I decided to write about my darkest moment.

I didn’t want to at first. I came up with multiple other ideas, tried writing them, but something inside of me just wouldn’t let me. So, knowing that only my teacher would read the essay, I gathered up all of my courage and poured out the pain that seared my mind.

The first draft was a disaster.

It was the first time I’d ever written something that terrible for a first draft. I was terrified of how bad it was and nearly gave up on the idea. But I knew I couldn’t. The idea was already rooted in my head, and I just couldn’t give it up.

I reread that draft dozens of times, reworded sentences, reordered events, but it never sounded right. It took me forever to realize the problem.

In that first draft, I tried to make it sound like I had already forgiven myself, like I was okay. I hid important details because they hurt to think about. I lied because I was scared to face my true emotions.

So, the next draft, I tried a different route. As I wrote, I felt the fear set it, and I took advantage of it. I let it reflect the fear I’d felt that night. I let it draw out the anger and shame and guilt I’d carefully hidden behind a mask for years.

I gave into my brokeness and just wrote. I poured out my true emotions.

I let myself be vulnerable.

At first, it hurt. I read back through that draft and wanted to hate myself, wanted to hope that I’d never be okay and would forever live in misery. But I just couldn’t. It was like I was listening to someone else yelling insults at me, and all I could do was accept it. All I could do was feel empty.

But then I started working more on the draft, and the more I worked on it, the more I wanted to delete all the hatred from the essay. Not from reality, just from the essay.

It wasn’t until the third rewrite that I realized it was because I was forgiving myself.

In writing it down on paper, I’d managed to pull the event and all the shame it carried with it straight out of my heart and mind. The burden was no longer on my shoulders, resting in my mind for only me to see, but written on stark white pages in a permanent black ink.

By the time I had finished my final draft, I felt happier than I had in years. I felt almost free.

I still won’t let myself forget, but not out of shame. Rather, I don’t want to forget everything I learned from my mistake that dark night.

I’ve grown a lot since then. I know myself better and am more careful when making choices. I’m clearer and calmer in mind. I’m no longer the naïve, ignorant child I once was.

The written word is powerful. It can change lives.


You can read the finished essay here.

The Act of Being Kind

When did doing a good deed become something out of the ordinary?

I have a very good reason for thinking about this right now.

You see, this morning, I was about to start walking down the stairs to get to my first period class when I saw some random guy drop a cord of some sort on the ground.

I’m wearing heels and a dress today (we dress up on Thursdays before competition, and we have one Saturday), had my heavy backpack on my back, and he was going up the stairs, but I didn’t even hesitate as I stooped down to pick up the cord, then rushed up the stairs so I could give it to him.

I thought that was completely normal. Anyone would have done it, right?

Apparently, that’s wrong. As I walked back down the stairs, I got more than a few curious and strange looks. At first I thought it was because of my dressiness (yes, I just created a word. Deal with it), but people dress up all the time and never get curious looks.

Heck, I’ve dressed up more times than I can count and have never gotten a single weird look!

No, they were looking at me weird because of what I’d done, because my first instict was to make sure that random guy didn’t lose whatever it was he dropped.

What the heck?!?

Since when is it weird and out of the ordinary to help someone?!?!?

Am I missing something? Did the world just decide to play a trick on me today? Because there’s no way we’ve gotten to the point where an ordinary act of kindness is seen as a foreign concept.

There’s just no way! Like… No! I refuse to believe it!

I have literally built my life around kindness. Everything I am, everything I strive to be, is based on living for others and making sure they’re happy and they feel worthwhile. My life is nothing without kindness.

I refuse to belive that good deeds and simple acts of kindess aren’t commonplace. That’s just… No!

There aren’t even words to describe my level of disappointment!

… You know what?

I have a mission for you all, if you choose to accept it.

I need you all to start up a movement of kindness.

Any chance you get, act for someone else. Make random acts of kindness commonplace. Make helping someone out a thoughtless reaction. Make good deeds normal once again.

I refuse to live in a world where people only act for themselves. It’s unthinkable and unacceptable. It needs to change.

I don’t really know what I’m asking of all of you, but I think you all understand what I’m getting at. I just… I really don’t know what to say about it. It’s just ridiculous.

Anyway, there’s my little rant for the day. I just had to get that out there.

 

In the Matter of a Second: My Brother

A story of trust.

It only takes a moment, a split second decision, to build something… or destroy everything.

When I was young, I had faith in everything and everyone. I trusted unquestioningly, devoted myself to people without a thought.

When I was young, my friends would always be there, my brother would always protect me, my parents would never let me down.

When I was young, I was innocent and naïve, and my smile was never fake.

But now, I have trouble trusting. I never let people see me, not without a fight. They see me through windows, imagining they have a view of everything, but only seeing fragments. They see a completed painting, not realizing it was cut down to fit the frame.

My brother lost my trust first. We moved for the umpteenth time, and I found myself in a new house and a new neighborhood in the middle of the school year. I was shy, so I stuck to my brother as we stood at the bus stop that first morning, believing naïvely that he would never let me down.

It only took a minute for someone to ask if I was his sister. I can understand where the question came from. We were polar opposites. He was tall, had bleach blonde hair, and spoke like he owned the world. I still hadn’t hit my growth spurt, had dark hair, and did my best to hide in my brother’s shadow. Even our eyes were completely different shades of brown.

I started to answer, started to speak a soft but proud “Of course!” when he said, “Her? No, she’s not my sister.”

And my heart shattered. I stared at him with wide eyes, but he didn’t spare me even the smallest glance. He just went on chatting and laughing.

I tried to find a way to trust him again, but he never gave me a chance. Every day that followed, he acted as if I didn’t exist, and they followed along. I gave him plenty of chances at redemption in the following years, but he never took them. He didn’t want them.

And so I stopped trying. Every day that followed, I stood there silently, staring at the street, waiting for the bus that could never come fast enough. He never noticed, never cared.

That day, the first piece of my unwavoring smile became fake.

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Color Guard

A bit about the activity I love and why I love it.

There have been a few times in my posts where I’ve mentioned Color Guard and “my girls”. I am 99% confident that the majority of people who have and will read my blog have no clue what I’m talking about.

I am also 99% confident that almost no one just got my statistics pun.

These are the times when I realize I’m a complete nerd… (Insert deep sigh)

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First off, ignore the scary/crazy/demented look on my face. I was really excited.

Second, I know there’s been a few times when I linked the words “Color Guard” to the wikipedia page for it (which, by the way, makes me laugh. It’s like reading a wikipedia page about high school. It feels like you’re reading about yourself).

My guess is that you didn’t click on it, and if you did, it didn’t help at all.

So, basically, Color Guard is a performing arts activity that some people consider a sport and some don’t, but technically it isn’t because it’s not part of the Olympics or something, but it should be because we run around just as much as, if not more than, any actual sports.

At its most basic level, Guard is that activity where people dance, spin (not twirl) flags, and play with weapons known as rifles and sabres.

At its most complex level, Guard is a hardcore activity where summer vacation becomes 5-12 hours every day spent in the blazing heat trying to put together a show, where winter vacation becomes a couple of weeks spent in a gym sweating and bleeding, where you worry more about getting blood on your uniform than the fact that you’re bleeding, where your greatest wish becomes making it to WGI finals.

Some people barely spare Guard girls (and guys) a passing glance. Some people think we’re crazy. Some people don’t even know who we are.

Truth is, we just love it.

I don’t know what makes other Guard girls stick around, but I stay because I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.

Before Guard, I was the shyest girl you’d ever met. I rarely talked to anyone, and when I did, it was either because they initiated the conversation or I was too tired to realize what I was doing. I stayed quiet in my corner of every class, never did anything to draw attention to myself…

Basically, I was a turtle in a shell, hiding in plain sight.

Then I joined the Guard, and I had no choice but to forget all about my shy nature. The first day I walked into the Band room, this girl I didn’t even know came up to me and started going on and on about how she was one of my brother’s friends and how much she loved him and how much I’d love Guard.

At the time, I was overwhelmed, but I soon got used to it. I became accustomed to instructors coming over to adjust my arms and legs, to random Guard girls coming over to talk to me, to being watched by anyone and everyone.

I remember, at one competition, an upperclassman whom I’d become close to commented on how I’d come out of my shell. I was stunned, but I realized she was right.

From that moment on, I decided I liked not being shy. I didn’t feel the need to draw attention to myself, but I also didn’t feel the need to redirect any attention I recieved. I grew more confident in myself and my abilities, more attentive to detail, more comfortable in my own skin.

I found myself happy, and I knew that I finally belonged.

There are many more lessons I’ve learned, far too many to express in words. Guard is something you can’t truly understand unless you’re a part of it. Performing a show you’ve worked so many grueling hours on… It’s a wonderful feeling.

It hurts to know this is my last season. Once it ends, I’ll be leaving a piece of me behind.

But that time hasn’t come yet, so I’ll enjoy my last season of Guard while it lasts.

I hope this helps you understand, somehow. With the part about “my girls”, I don’t mean that only girls do Guard. It’s just that, in my Guard, we only have girls. I mean, technically we have one girl who’s gender-fluid, but I’ve gotten into the habit of calling them my girls and it’s a bit hard to break.

I don’t know if she/he minds. I think she/he just appreciates that we accept her and make the effort.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say for now. This post was a bit longer than I meant it to be, so.

Until next time!