I am walking backwards

On Wednesday, January 10th, I set out to find my last new class of the semester. I had never been in the building where my class was before, so I made sure to get there an hour before my class started so I could wander around without being late. I knew my classroom, 109, was somewhere on the first floor, so I plopped down at a random table and started doing my Arabic homework. “Half an hour is enough time to find a class,” I thought. “I’ll still have plenty of time to knock out some homework and wander around.” After finishing my homework, I picked up my phone and felt the sticky note I had pasted onto the back with all of my classroom numbers on it, just in case. I checked the note. Turns out, my classroom was room 104, not 109. I looked up. I had plopped down right outside room 104. I was in exactly the right place I needed to be and had no idea.

 

I feel like that’s an accurate description of my life for the past year and a half. With the college application process, I had a goal in mind as to where I wanted to go, and so I went after that goal, went through a group of seemingly random doors along the way, and found out that those doors were exactly the ones I was meant to go through, the ones that God was guiding me through. Around this time last year, I never would have chosen to go to school in Indiana or to a state school. But here I am, and it’s the place where I’m growing and thriving and making wonderful friends and learning so many things about myself and the people around me.

 

Looking back, that pattern stretches even farther. I think about the three years I was in the CSA Theatre Company something I’m not sure I would have done that if I had been actively searching for it. I just knew I loved theatre, joined my high school’s group, made some friends, went to a summer workshop at CSA, and everything came from there. I knew I wanted to play flute, so I kept working hard and God brought wonderful opportunities, including studying with an amazing teacher (at Ball State, ironically enough). Even coming to play flute in the first place still followed that pattern. It gives me comfort that all the things I have done or achieved in my life haven’t come from me actively seeking them out, at least all the good and wonderful things that have happened. They’ve been complete surprises as I am guided to doors I didn’t even know existed.

 

It gives me comfort as I walk into the future as well. I am not the one who has to have a goal and know every single thing as to how to make it work. I am not the one who has to plan out my life from day one. But there is a One who is guiding me and loving me through the choices I make and the things that I know I am passionate about. As someone who likes to be in control and know what is going on all the time, this lesson has been a hard one to learn. But as I have learned it, I’ve felt lighter as I walk forward knowing I am not the one who has to make this all work.

 

I am walking backwards on a journey to find Life. I’m not sure what’s ahead of me or what exactly I’ll walk through, but I know by the past that I can trust the one who is guiding me. And that gives me more peace and hope than much else could. All I need to do is continue to trust, work hard, and keep making those steps day by day, and God will handle the rest. I can’t wait to see what’s ahead of me on this journey.

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Boxes

I’m in the process of moving right now, and it’s really weird.

It’s weird to see everything packed up into little boxes, shampoo sorted with shaving supplies and pencils and paper together. It’s weird to have that in the corner of my room, a menacing pile reminding me of things to come.

I started packing my clothes today, picking out which ones I know I won’t wear until later and folding them, rolling them, placing them neatly into the bottom of the black plastic container. Shirts on top of sweaters on top of raincoats on top of scarves; each one holds a memory of its own.

It’s weird to me that I’m packing up my life, and not because I haven’t moved before, but because I haven’t moved alone before.

Before, it has always been my boxes of stuff were along side my parent’s boxes of stuff and my siblings’ boxes of stuff, all cluttered together and ready to go. Before it’s always been the excitement and nervousness of selling a house, cleaning a room, saying goodbye; and it has always been together.

But now,

 

It’s not.

 

Now, I have to make the next part of my journey, with lonesome boxes to keep me company.

It’s weird too because I feel like I’m putting my memories into boxes as well. The time I tripped on my costume during a matinee goes into the Acting box. The times I ate supper with my family goes into the Family box. The high school friendships I had go into the Graduation box. And they might never come back out again, save to be admired as the distant past through the rose gold lense of retrospect.

I’m excited, I can’t deny that.

But I never realised how much grieving there is to be done when I move alone.

Darkness is Drowned in Beautiful Things

vangoghsunflowers18881I’ve been thinking about Van Gogh a lot lately.

My sophomore year of high school, a friend and I took an Art Appreciation class at Nashville State. Unfortunately I retained very little of what I learned in the class (this really applies to high school in general), but Van Gogh stuck with me.

Here is a brief biography of Van Gogh: Van Gogh’s mother didn’t love him, none of the girls he proposed to would marry him, he was kicked out of missionary school but pressed on and became an effective missionary. Then the church decided they didn’t like his methods and stopped funding him. Van Gogh’s brother supported him financially, his art never sold until he was dead, he wrestled with his mental health, he cut off his own ear after a dispute with a friend who betrayed him. Van Gogh’s life ended when he allegedly committed suicide.

Van Gogh was all this, and we remember him for yellow flowers.

Sometimes when I’m suffering, people remind me there is light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how their words are intended, I often take them to be flippant. “There’s a reason for this” feels like a weak consolation, a band-aid on a knife wound. Maybe there is a reason, but I can’t see it right now, and your words are so small and so feeble compared with the darkness looming around me.

And sometimes people are being flippant and that is inexcusable. But what if, sometimes, they are right? What if we have been thinking upside-down? What if that tiny little light at the end of the tunnel is not a mask to cover the truth, but the deepest and realest and heaviest truth, so deep and real and heavy that it is rooted in the midst of the darkness and shines through even when we can’t see anything else?

As a Christian, I believe in an empty tomb (John 20). I believe the serpent’s head has been crushed (Genesis 3:15). I believe in a God who Redeems Hard Things; not that He is damage control, bringing some small good from a bad situation, but that He is within and without the situation with good at the very root of it and good pouring out (Romans 8:28). And sometimes I have to remind myself that this is what I believe because I don’t understand how it can be so. But it is so; He has overcome the world (John 16:33).

When I look at Van Gogh’s art, I believe light won. Not in a surface, consolation-prize way; if light hadn’t won he wouldn’t have made beautiful things and we never would have seen them. But Van Gogh DID make beautiful things and they are hanging in art galleries all over the world like a Victory Cry over death and depression and darkness and all of it. Not that there are beautiful things in spite of darkness, but that darkness is drowned in beautiful things.

The Miserables and the Opera

One of my most favourite musicals by far is Les Miserables. I’ve grown up listening to the Broadway soundtrack, and over the years I have fallen in love with the deep themes, soaring melodies, childlike faith, and glorification of God at the heart of the musical. Les Mis always reminds me that God really does work out all things for good, and “even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise”.

    One the other hand, one of my least favourite musicals is Phantom of the Opera. Although there is truth and beauty, it seems at the core of the musical there is a lot of perversion of love and seeking salvation from a source other than God. Part of the reason why I dislike Phantom as well is because people tend to want Christine, the female lead, to end up with the Phantom instead of with Raoul.

    In both musicals, the main characters, Valjean and the Phantom, are victims of society. Ostracized and rejected for circumstances outside of their control and rejected from the world and forced to live in solitude, both of these characters are desperate and searching for a place where they might belong, or a person they might belong to. They both want to be redeemed, but they have completely different ways of going about it.

    The Phantom believes that if Christine loves him, that will be his redemption, even to the point where he forces her to choose between killing her fiance, Raoul, or marrying the Phantom. He is trying to be redeemed through the physical world.

    Valjean, on the other hand, realizes that his redemption cannot come from man or from his righteous acts, but only through the grace and power of God. He knows he cannot seek after the things of this world in order to save himself.

    The Phantom gets a lot of pity because he was cast out by society because of a birth defect, which is wrong that he was treated this way because of a physical characteristic. However, his response is to become bitter and angry, manipulative and murderous, which is also wrong. Yet people see past that because they want to see the man behind the mask, the man seeking for redemption from earthly things, much like many of us. Valjean gets pity as well, but that’s not what people tend to focus on when they talk about his character. The focus is always on the redemption and the grace that he has, through the grace of God.

    In both of these musicals, there is a lot of despair and a lot of people feeling like they’re trapped in hopeless situations with no way to escape. Valjean. The Phantom. Fantine. Christine. Javert. There is death. There is loss. But these musicals, taken together, show us what life is like when we try to find our redemption from earthly things or from God. Phantom shows us a mirror to the worst parts of us, Les Mis shows us a mirror reflecting God’s light, and what we can be when we’re filled with his grace. Even when dealing with seemingly hopeless situations, the light of God always triumphs over the song of self.

 

Life Is Hard

There’s this bible verse that I really struggle with. It’s on bumper stickers and decorative signs and greeting cards and throw pillows; we squeeze each others’ hands and quote it when we don’t know what else to say. It’s Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

When I hear this verse, I think about my life; how my father was diagnosed with a brain disorder when I was four, how I watched my grandmother slowly die of breast cancer at thirteen, how friends and family have walked out on me, how I wrestle with an anxiety disorder. I think about how this year, financial difficulties are making it close to impossible for me to afford college at all, much less the music school I’ve been dreaming about attending for the past six years.

I think about Jeremiah himself, the weeping prophet. I think about how he was rejected and ridiculed and lonely. I think about how his own countrymen threw him into a pit and left him for dead. And I ask myself, “What if that’s what God wants from me?” What if God doesn’t want me to be happy? What if He wants me to suffer for my entire life? What if he wants me to fight the same stupid demons day after day? What if I don’t ever find out why? What then?

And the answer is that

If that’s the life that will glorify God

That is the very best life I could live.

There comes a time when it’s necessary for your faith to transcend throw pillows. When giving God lordship over your life actually means something. When you sit alone with tears in your eyes and ask yourself why He has taken everything away, and whether it means anything at all. It was at this time when my neighbor (who was dying of ALS) used to say, “God must love me so much if He wants me to rely on Him this closely.” Yes. There is a beauty in surrender, a peace in giving over all of your hopes and dreams and anticipations and knowing He will glorify Himself through you. And there is a strange and wonderful joy that rises up out of this surrender. I mean, look at the Beatitudes. Look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Look at John 3:30.

Look at Jeremiah. He was rejected and ridiculed and lonely. His countrymen threw him in a pit. And thousands of years later, people remember Him for the verse that says God gives us hope and a future. Jeremiah is the very image of redemption. And that’s how the Lord works, friends. Life is hard and it’s beautiful. Don’t give up hope.

The Danger of Statistics

Recently, my theatre company has been working on a show called And A Child Shall Lead. The show follows the life of eight Jewish children living in a ghetto called Terezín (or Theresienstadt) in the middle of the Holocaust. Throughout the course of the play, each of the children create poetry and art and beauty in the middle of one of the most hellish situations humans have ever subjugated onto other humans.

My character, Gabriela Winterova, is a musician and brings her music into the camp. She still chooses to love: love the world, love other characters, love poetry and music, and try to bring light into the midst of this deep darkness. She continues to hope even when faced with the darkest of tragedies.

Getting to know and to play Gabriela has been such a blessing for me. She’s kind and creative, and so much more loving than any other person I have ever met, and possibly more than any other person I ever will meet. There is one point in the play where she is faced with one of the most heartbreaking decisions ever forced upon a person, and she still chooses to love and protect even when she could have been selfish and put other people in danger.

Getting to know Gabriela has also been a blessing because I feel, in some ways, as though I’ve made a friend. I’ve reached across time and space and make a connection that is extremely personal and valuable to me, and I know I’ll never forget that.

Having reached across time and made this one friend and getting to know this one life and fall in love with this one person has really also brought home the danger of treating people like statistics. In school, we always learn about the Holocaust as statistics; 68% of jews murdered, almost 10 million people sent to concentration camps. But then to realise that every single one of those people was a living, loving, thriving human being like Gabriela… that’s where the words stop and I start to get overwhelmed.

It is dangerous to see people as statistics because it’s an oversimplification of their personal histories and stories. We want to keep seeing them as that because it’s easier to deal with pure numbers and facts than to recognise, even in modern situations, that behind each of those numbers is a person living a life just as real and complex, as full of hope, joy, love, and loss, as our own.

 

 

By The Grace of God

This morning, I woke up, stretched, and quietly put on my clothes, my biggest fear being that I would wake up my younger siblings. I creeped down the stairs, only mildly afraid that I might slip and fall, but because of my own clumsiness, not because of outside causes. This morning, I had an amazing potato casserole that my mother made. I didn’t have to be afraid that it was poisoned or someone was going to shoot me if I ate too much. This morning, my family and I heard the door of the mudroom open, but none of us were afraid as to who opened it. This morning, as I was holding my year-old cousin Eliza, I heard and saw the horrifying images of what happened last night in Dallas, Texas.

Those people had been dealing with bigger worries and fears, fears that made me grateful that the scariest thing I faced this morning was my pinky finger going numb or that there wouldn’t be any orange juice left. Those brave men and women had been running into gunfire when I would have been running away. Those police officers gave their lives to protect a demonstration and a cause that was against the use of excessive violence in the police force. Thanks to them, and to the people around the world keeping us safe, I was able to enjoy my orange juice and cassarole. I was able to wake up with my biggest worry being that I wouldn’t regain feeling in my pinky finger after sleeping on my arm for too long.

As I stood there holding my baby cousin, her laughter clashing with the terse silence in the living room, a question came to mind. What kind of world are we going to inherit? Are Eliza and I going to be successors to this violence, to have and to hold ‘til death do us part? Are we going to be in a place in 30 years where we worry about having no water for a week instead of having no orange juice for breakfast? Are we going to inherit a world in which when someone walks through the door, the first reaction is the draw out a gun instead of a handshake? Are we going to be living in a country where people are murdered on the streets because of their beliefs, or the colour of their skin, or their sexual orientation, or their gender?

I don’t know. I have no idea what kind of world we’re going to inherit. But every generation up to this point has had their troubles. From the very founding of our country and even farther back, the things that seem certain now were only hopeful wishes and dreams in the hearts and minds of noble and broken men. The Revolutionary War. The War of 1812. The Civil War and the Abolition of Slavery. Segregation. World Wars I and II. The Great Depression and Dust Bowl. The Holocaust. Japanese Internment Camps. The Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. 9/11. Every generation has had a trouble to deal with. Even though ours seems terrifying and unbeatable, extremism in every sense of the word, we have, by the grace of God and only by the grace of God, made it this far.

There’s a great line from Lord of the Rings; The Two Towers, in which King Theoden, Aragorn, and the brave men and women who are defending Helm’s Deep, the last defense of the country of Rohan, are completely surrounded and trapped by the forces of evil and darkness. There seems to be no way out and absolutely no hope of salvation or being able to win against these monsters. In the movie, King Theoden delivers the great line, “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?” Aragorn’s response? “Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them. For your people.”

As we are facing these monsters of darkness and despair, let us not give up hope. Let us remember who fights for us and with us as we ride out and meet the challenges of our generation. We may not be able to fix all of them, but we may be able to provide a more certain world for our children, by the grace of God. Amen.

COLLEGE!!!

This year, about 3.3 million other American high-schoolers and I will be graduating high school in a few months. For some, that means joining the workforce. Others, the military is the path that seems to best fit their needs. For me, however, with having no work experience and not being mentally or physically tough to join the army, that leaves practically one option. College. (Or take a gap year, but you know, that’s more of a European thing anyways).

Because that seems to be the next step in my life right now, my parents have been very kind and have traveled with me to many different colleges around the U.S. Visiting these colleges has made me feel powerful; they’ve made me feel like I now finally have control over what direction my life will go. However, there’s a gigantic monstrous problem hanging over my head when I think about all of this, and this huge problem has a really terrifying and soul sucking name; student debt.

Trying to avoid future student debt is why I’ve been frantically looking for and applying for scholarships. It’s why whenever anyone asks me what my top college is, I always laugh and say “Whichever one offers me the biggest scholarship.” This is also why it’s not usually a normal week for me unless it includes at least a mild panic attack about financial aid.

I’m so excited by the idea of college because I feel like, for once, I’m in control of my future. If I take all the right steps and do all the right things and finish all my essays well and on time, I can control the outcome. I can get accepted into Harvard, Yale, and Stanford if I try hard enough and dream big enough. I can get all the financial aid I would need, even a full ride scholarship, if I just dream and try. My life will be perfect if I just dream and try hard enough. That’s the basis for the American dream, right?

That, though, as nice as it sounds, is not how life works. Life isn’t a slot machine where if I line up all the dollar signs I’ll get a full ride, if I match up all the 2400 SAT scores then I’ll get into whichever college I want. I can take all the right steps now and down the road and still not get into the school of my dreams, or not be able to make a future boyfriend stay, or not be able to keep my baby or my mother or my sibling safe.

More importantly, that’s not how God works. I can’t say the right prayers every night and BOOM! You’ve gotten accepted into Notre Dame with a full ride, Sophie! Well done, good and faithful servant! You’ve figured it out this far and now your life will be perfect from here! Ultimately, he is the one in control of my life. For someone who has always loved to be in control (biblical Moses was my idol when I was four) that’s kind of a hard pill to swallow. But, as hard as that medicine may be, it’s also a healing blessing. I’m not the one who has to hustle up all the scholarship money from the one perfect school. I’m not the one responsible for running into my future boss over a chance conversation. I’m not the one responsible for pulling all the connecting strings because frankly, I don’t understand how all those strings connect. It’s easier to accept the things in life that don’t work out because I know there was a reason for it.

I think that’s why I’ve been stressing out and over reaching so much these past few months. I believed that my future was entirely up to me and how hard I worked. But I do thank God that I am not the one in control, and ask that he would help me see more and more that he has my entire life wrapped and showered in his love, even though I might still be too blind to see it.

The Importance of Art

We’re overwhelmed.

No other generation of humanity has ever had to deal with such a huge influx of information as we see today. Even the races to and from the city of Marathon, the roads of the Roman Empire, the letter carriers and systems through the ages, the Pony Express and the Panama Canal combined pale in comparison to this phenomenon that we are living in today.

 

We’re overwhelmed.

So, instead of trying to swim through the mass of information as a society, it’s easier to turn away, to look aside and focus on the small bits of brightness through the storm. A woman laughing in a Chewbacca mask takes precedence over the newest discoveries in cancer research or the most recent attacks on humanity all over the globe. Reading about people we’ve never even met becomes more important than reading about our family members or, God forbid, talking to them in person.

We’re overwhelmed.

So rather than being blown away by all the noise, we try to make our own noise to fight back. How many Instagram likes did you get today? How long can you keep your snap streak going? What new and exciting talent can you share with the world? How can you be unique even while fitting in?

 

We’re overwhelmed.

And we’re not sure what to do about it.

 

How can we fight the overwhelming tidal wave of information that the world flings at us every day? How can we remain human in a world that asks us to forget our humanity? How can we be true to ourselves and to our race while using our phones, computers, and televisions that pervade and sometimes consume our lives?

 

That’s where we turn to the arts.

In a time like this, arts education becomes more and more important in an increasingly technological world. In the world of computers and screens, the arts remind us what humanity is, and more importantly, what it means to be human. Arts education becomes crucial as we try to cling to the sometimes sinking ship of our frail humanity.

 

With so much free time on our hands, there are two options we have; we can either be blown away by the informational hurricane currently sweeping across our planet, or we can teach ourselves and our children to turn to the arts and create safe havens against the overwhelming wave. We can teach them to grab pens and create dykes, just like the story of the little dutch boy who protected his city from the coming storm. We can give them instruments and let them charm the waves into a melodious calm. We can give them scripts and let them become characters in the Tempest.
Yes, in our day and age, we can be blown away. We can be blown away or we can create a lifeboat of beauty, humanity, and life that no hurricane, real or metaphorical, can ever destroy.

The Histories of Stories

I have always loved history. Ever since I was a little girl, I can remember my excitement from getting a history book as my Christmas present, or my grandparents sending me an Encyclopedia of the Presidents one year when I turned 10. Even in Canada, with its lack of any real wars or revolutions, I still enjoyed learning about the history and the people who lived there.

Last year, I had the opportunity to take an advanced placement class of World History. The pace was rigorous, but I learned so much about how our world fits together and the invisible threads that make it the way that it is today. I loved being able to understand our current world better from a perspective of the past. I also really deeply enjoyed the class because the teacher, Mr. McDaniel, a balding man in his early forties, was even more passionate about history than I was. He would get sidetracked sometimes, telling us stories about medieval torture or the fall of Rome or whether or not it was okay for him to throw his wedding ring across the classroom. His class was one of my favourites I have taken in high school so far.

Another reason I enjoyed the class so much was because I was being challenged. I have always enjoyed pushing myself, be it in academics, physically, or in acting; I always like having the bar set just a little high to see if I can reach it. Because this class was the level of an average History 101 course in college, it was fair to say that I was getting my fair dose of challenge. However, this was last year.

This year, all of the juniors are required by Indiana state standards to take U. S. History. We talked many times in AP World History about how our class was the ‘chosen few’ of Maple Ridge High School, even from third grade, and how we wouldn’t really like being in U. S. History because it was a general education course and we would be mixed in with all of the other people in our class, regardless of academic rigour or dedication to school work. U. S. History has certainly been that.

Another thing that’s different about U. S. History is that, even though it is dual credit, the class is not an AP course. This means that the textbook went from being something a college Freshman would be expected to read and understand, with a lot of text and a few informational pictures here and there, to having highlighted words and silly questions like “How can you relate the Civil Right’s Movement to your life today?” Needless to say, I am not really being challenged in this class, and when I’m not being challenged, I tend to get lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I still work. I still have an A in the class. It’s just not nearly as challenging, or therefore as interesting, as other classes like AP Chemistry or AP World History.

Lastly, the thing that makes the greatest difference in my mind is the teacher. Where Mr. McDaniel is fun and gets sidetracked on relevant stories about history, Mr. Dericks, my current U. S. History teacher, tends to get sidetracked on stories of drunk men he saw on spring break in Florida or former students. Where Mr. McDaniel is cultured and travelled, Mr. Dericks has more of an intimate knowledge of how things work in the Maple Ridge area. A combination of all of these things makes U. S. History one of my least favourite classes I’m taking right now.

Because of this, and because of little prideful excuses I make in my mind, I tell myself that I don’t really have to pay attention in U. S. History, that the stories about a student Mr. Dericks had five years ago who never went on to be a successful businessman or the stories of his first encounter with a black person in college aren’t important. Sometimes, I feel myself above what he’s saying, that it could never be relevant to me.

Such an event happened today. We started our next chapter, which happened to be about the Vietnam War. Mr. Dericks showed us a few videos about the Vietnam War, and then, of course, proceeded to tell stories that I wrote off a useless before I even heard what they were. So of course, I tuned out, and decided it would be a better use of my time if I read my book about a fantasy world I had never heard of and never will see instead of paying attention to the history of our country and the small, microhistories of the Maple Ridge community. So I read and didn’t pay attention to what Mr. Dericks was saying for a solid half hour until the bell rang.

After class, I got up to walk out of the door, but Mr. Dericks stopped me.

“Sophia,” he said in his demanding teacher voice. “I need to talk to you.”

“Okay,” I said, waving my friends Margaret and Marissa on ahead of me. Mr. Dericks started to say something, but then another student came up to talk to him. “What, Keegan?” Mr. Dericks said, answering Keegan’s question quickly and with a slightly annoyed colour to his words. Then he turned back to me.

“Are you a good student?”

“I guess so…” I responded, my hands absentmindedly fiddling, wanting to make a gesture of apology that I had been reading about in my fantasy book.

“Is everything alright? Is there something going on that’s wrong that I need to know about?” Mr. Dericks asked, his voice gentle and his eyes sincere. “You just seem to not be paying as much attention as you normally do.” I flushed a little bit and looked down, embarrassed.

“Is that a good book?” he asked, changing tack, gesturing to the fantasy book I had been reading.

“Yeah. I like it a lot.”

“What kind of book is it?”

“Fantasy,” I replied. “It’s the second book in the series. And it’s really good.” His eyes seemed to brighten a little with an idea.

“Is that what you do to escape? Is this kind of your escape time?”

“I guess so.”

“So you are stressed out about something?”

“Well, I have a lot of AP tests and things like that coming up soon.” How could I tell him I didn’t like the class? Was I supposed to say I didn’t like him as a teacher? Was I supposed to tell him about my life in theatre as well, about the show that we’re doing about the Holocaust right now? I thought about saying something, but all of those words felt like excuses in my mouth.

“All right. Well, we don’t have that much left. We just have the Vietnam War, and then a few more units and we’re done,” he said, his brown eyes smiling. “Just make sure you’re paying attention and reading,” he said, specifically tapping my U. S. History book.

“I will,” I said. He smiled at me, then walked away to go help Keegan who had another question. I joined my friends in the hallway, and Margaret greeted me with a smile, and then, seeing that I wasn’t smiling, she asked “Are you all right?”

“Yeah, I think so,” I said.

“Your face looks like a mixture of sad and annoyed.” then she grinned. “Sannoyed!” she said triumphantly. I laughed and said “Sinusoid!” the new hybrid word making me think of the Pre-Calc term. Margaret made a face, then continued on her way down the hallway.

Margaret was only partially right. I suppose my face did look like I was sad and annoyed, and I suppose I was. I was sad and disappointed with myself that I had been rather disrespectful to Mr. Dericks. I was annoyed that Mr. Dericks hadn’t been more mad, that he hadn’t yelled at me. He had been nothing but kind, only offering a private, gentle reproach instead of chewing me out for reading in front of the whole class.

As right as Margaret was, I would describe the emotion as being humbled. I hadn’t noticed it until Mr. Dericks pointed it out so gently, but I’ve had a lot of pride in my heart recently. My pride has been not letting me talk to other people in Spanish, something I love to do, because I’m afraid that I’ll look stupid and that my pride will be hurt. My pride hasn’t allowed me to ask for help on AP Chemistry because I believe I have to figure it out. My pride hasn’t allowed me to be real with other people or say what I’m really thinking because they might think badly or differently of me. The list goes on and on and on.

But most shockingly, and most importantly, my pride has had me believe that my stories, the ones I want to read and write and tell, are more important than Mr. Dericks’ stories about real people and places or are more important than my friends’ stories. How can I call myself a global citizen and a writer if I don’t even consider certain kinds of stories to be worth the telling? If my stories are the only in the world being told, then it would be a very sad world, and as flat and two dimensional as my pride. All of our stories and our histories are important, and every story that we have and that we tell is just one of the colourful patches in the veritable ocean of human existence. All stories are important, and all stories need to be told, even the ones that make you roll your eyes in U. S. History and want to escape to another world. Sometimes, the stories you would want to run away from the most are the stories that are most worth the telling.