Sunday, March 13, 2011

People, Trains and Automobiles

   People are a lot like freight trains.
   The other night I had to hurry while driving home from a friend's house in order to make curfew. I was making incredible time…until I reached train tracks. A freight train slowly entered the scene, and I was forced to stop my car in front of the blinking red lights and turn my engine off. I waited. And waited. And didn't stop waiting for what felt like hours. I looked at the train in disgust; to me it was no more than a nuisance.
  As I was staring at the train though, I started to think. In some ways freight trains are much like the people in all our lives. We tend to look at people in context, much like we view the train as an annoyance, but we never think about what people have had to overcome to get to the point that they're at. Similarly, a freight train could have traveled across the entire country to get to the station that they're currently occupying. The fact is that we are looking at the train in the moment, much like we judge our peers in the moment.
  When someone comes across as bothersome, sometimes it's necessary to consider where they've been and what they've gone through to understand why they're acting the way they are. It's a really good habit to get yourself into, because even if someone does aggravate you, you'll find that they're often on the right track.

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Perks" and Poetry

    Normally in my posts I try to connect different ideas that have in one way or another really impacted me. I believe though, that it's just as important to be able to appreciate other's ideas as it is to formulate your own. So I decided to share a poem that I recently read. It's written by Stephen Chbosky and is used in his book The Perks of Being a Wallflower. "Perks" traces the development of an innocent teenager through different stages of his life. The book itself is absolutely incredible and I would recommend it to anyone, but this post isn't a book review. It's purpose is to simply share a piece of literature that has resonated with me in a way I never thought it would. I am curious as to what other's reactions will be. So here it is:

Once on a yellow piece of paper with green lines
he wrote a poem
and he called it "chops"
because that was the name of his dog
and that's what it was all about
his teacher gave him an A
and a gold star
and his mother hung it on the kitchen door
and read it to his aunts.
That was the year Father Tracy
took all the kids to the zoo
and he let them sing on the bus
and his little sister was born
with tiny nails and no hair
and his mother and father kissed alot
and the girl around the corner sent him a
Valentine signed with a row of X's
and he had to ask his father what the X's meant
and his father always tucked him in bed at night
and was always there to do it

once on a piece of white paper with blue lines
he wrote a poem
he called it "Autumn"
because that was the name of the season
and that's what it was all about
and his teacher gave him an A
and asked him to write more clearly
and his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because of the new paint
and the kids told him
that Father Tracy smoked cigars
and left butts on the pews
and sometime they would burn holes
that was the year his sister got glasses
with thick lenses and black frames
and the girl around the corner laughed
when he asked her to go see santa claus
and the kids told him why
his mother and father kissed alot
and his father never tucked him in bed at night
and his father got mad
when he cried for him to do it

once on a paper torn from his notebook
he wrote a poem
and he called it "Innocence: A Question"
because that was the question about his girl
and that's what it was all about
and his professor gave him an A
and a strange steady look
and his mother never hung it on the kitchen door
because he never showed her
that was the year Father Tracy died
and he forgot how the end
of the Apostles's Creed went
and he caught his sister
making out on the back porch
and his mother and father never kissed
or even talked
and the girl around the corner
wore too much make up
that made him cough when he kissed her
but he kissed her anyway
because it was the thing to do
and at 3 am he tucked himself into bed
his father snoring soundly

that's why on the back of a brown paper bag
he tried another poem
and he called it "Absolutely Nothing"
because that's what it was really all about
and he gave himself an A
and a slash on each damned wrist
and he hung it on the bathroom door
because this time he didn't think
he could reach the kitchen 

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Joke of Academic Priority

   One of the first statements that I heard upon entering Glenbrook North High School was that "Academics come first." I think that if you were to ask any student at my school, they would tell you that this is totally false.
   I am in my school's winter production this year. For this show, I have been called out of school twice in the past two weeks to rehearse and prepare for it. I have missed very important class days to attend these mandatory rehearsals, and my grades have suffered dearly because of it.
   Similar events occur when it comes to athletics. Athletes are constantly excused from various school events for an array of excuses. Besides that, athletes are often held to more lenient standards than the student who is not involved in sports.
  I personally do not mind missing class for drama. In fact, I really enjoy it. The problem I have lies in the school's mentality. It is a blatant  lie to pretend that academics are seeded as the school's top priority. I would just appreciate it the faculty set reasonable expectations for what the high school really cares about.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Expectations


  Next Thursday is Thanksgiving. There are many aspects of the holiday that I am excited for (i.e. people coming in from out of town, taking a few mental-health days, pie) but for me there is one part of Thanksgiving that means more than the rest: family. It's corny, I know. There's just something about everyone being together that I absolutely love. There are no words that can do it justice. It's truly indescribable. Now I'm going to try and describe it:
  It's that warm moment. It's the smell of food and the sound of laughter and the feeling of security. It's when you can look around and everything's moving in slow motion. It's remembering where you come from. It's reminding you where you want to end up. It's stress-free.

  I hope that after building it up in my head, this Thanksgiving will still live up to my expectations.

  I'm confident that it will.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Separation of Camp and State

   I don't let any of my school friends meet my camp friends. I don't entirely understand why I've made it this way, but at this point it's too late to change my mind. To be totally honest, I'm going to try and figure out why I separated these groups of friends as I write this blog. So bear with me, but I should have a pretty solid idea by the time I'm finished with this.
   The camp I go to is Camp Timberlane for Boys in Woodruff, Wisconsin. It is the most beautiful place in the entire world (though that may be somewhat biased). This upcoming summer will be my seventh summer at Timberlane, but my first as a counselor. As I write this blog entry, I am trying my very hardest to restrain myself from simply telling you about camp. Almost every kid truly believes that his camp is the best, and I am no exception. So instead of listing uninteresting facts about Timberlane or nostalgically recalling events that are only special to me, I want to try and understand why I refuse to integrate the two most important groups of people in my life.
The sentence that you are reading right now has been written, modified, and deleted about six times. I am struggling to think of an appropriate way to phrase the point that I am trying to convey. Here is what I've come up with:

   My home friends like me because of what they've seen of me almost every day since first grade. They have had an enormous amount of time to judge me, and for me to try and encourage (or change) their judgements. If I wanted to alter my image, I would have to try and undo what I had previously established for myself.
  My camp friends like me because I can afford to take risks with my personality. At camp I don't need to filter what I say or do, and therefore am able to be the person that I enjoy being.

   I suppose that I'm afraid to mix these two groups because I can't risk letting one side of me be seen by the wrong set of people. I have worked very hard to become a person that people want to associate themselves with, but it just so happens that at Timberlane no one knows that person. Instead, they know a person who speaks what he thinks and thinks what he feels.

   So what's the main idea here? What's my point? What am I trying to say?

I don't know. I've lost track.

   But what I do know is this: Camp enables a kid to undo the damage that their home has inflicted upon them. Camp is not just a refuge, but a place where one learns how to define his or her self. Camp friends are pure in the sense that they do not have the preconceived notions that those at home do, so mixing the two would corrupt the entire innocence of camp. 

  I just can't have the people that know me meet those who don't.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Telephone Wires and Relationships

   There are some things in this world that are almost inevitable. Dealing with death and break ups are among those on the list. Whether you initiate the break up or not, it can be one of the most anxiety-filled events in your entire life. This stress is only magnified when you're forced to maintain contact with that person because of school, work, or an array of other reasons. Constantly seeing one's ex hinders the moving-on process that must occur after a break up. If moving forward means moving on, then one must find a way to feel differently then what they naturally do.

   Have you ever wondered why birds don't get shocked while sitting on telephone wires?

   It's an interesting question considering there's an enormous amount of electricity running through the cables. Logically it would make sense that the birds would get fried. The reason for this is that the birds aren't "grounded" while sitting on the wires. In other words, because the birds are in no way connected to the ground, the electrical current ignores them. Birds do not conduct electricity well, so the only way the current will pass through them is if they are in contact with something that electricity wants to move toward, like the ground. That being said, if a bird were to accidentally touch the pole to which the ground is connected then they would be electrocuted to an almost certain death.

   In many ways, the concept of a bird on a telephone wire is similar to that of coping with a break up. The ground is your past; the wire your future. Alone, neither are in any way dangerous. A bird can sit on a telephone wire and be perfectly safe, and the same goes for standing on the ground. It's only when the bird is in contact with both that disaster occurs. You can't sit on a telephone wire and touch the ground, and you can't move on while clinging to your past. There's no in between, no compromise; you have to fully commit to one or the other. Trying to find a median only results in pain. It might seem fine initially, but if you try it, prepare for a shock.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Odysseys and Journeys and Personal Understandings...Oh My!

   Journeys are everywhere. In my English class we are reading The Odyssey by Homer. Normally, I think authors who lack either a first or last name sound somewhat pretentious, but someone of Homer's status can probably pull it off. The book follows many characters on their individual journeys. Among those characters are Telemachus and Odysseus. The book in a way revolves around Odysseus, considering that most of the journeys are somehow related to him. Honestly, I don't enjoy reading the book. I think that it focuses on events that could be explained by a mere paragraph, and quickly breezes through topics that I would enjoy elaboration on. What I do enjoy about the book though, is the idea of  "the hero's cycle" or "the hero's journey." From The Odyssey to Star Wars, this concept of a hero's journey is everywhere. There are an unbelievable amount of movies and books that follow this format. The only place that we as a society often forget this format applies to is our own lives.
   There are many stages in the hero's journey, but there are a few that I consider to be the most important: the Call to Adventure, Obstacles, the Shadow Realm and the Return. Most of these stages are pretty self-explanatory. The Call to Adventure is the realization (whether it's accidental or intentional) that one has a mission they must accomplish, and therefore set out on their journey. In the case of Telemachus, his call to adventure is when the Greek god Athena comes to his house disguised as a mortal. The next stage is when one encounters obstacles. Obstacles are simply people or events that slow one down. The Shadow Realm (sometimes referred to as Hades) is one's weakest moment. It is seemingly the point of no return. It is an all time low. It is rock bottom. It is a feeling that every one of us has encountered. Finally, there is the Return. This is not just the voyage home, but the point where one gives back to the community after having learned what was learned on the entire journey.
   I personally can think of a journey that I went on. It was not like Odysseus's, but more of a mental journey. What I urge you to do though, is think of what journeys you have been on. Who was your Athena calling you to adventure? What were your obstacles? What was your Shadow Realm? Did you ever return?
  Asking yourself these questions is extremely important. The success of your life depends on if you recognize the journeys that you've already experienced. And that, in my opinion, is the really interesting aspect of The Odyssey. It opens a door to a world filled with journeys. Because the truth is, journeys are everywhere, and you can't have a future until you understand your past.