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Work Hard, Play Hard

YEAAAAA

I was never really a sporty guy. I went to school, did my work, played video games, and went to bed. I never really liked basketball in the first place. But, people were always asking if I played basketball because I was so tall. So, basketball didn’t seem that bad to try. A lot of my friends would go after school to play but I never did. So, I decided to go one day.

I got the hang of the game pretty quickly. I was getting pretty good too. Sometimes, I would go out late at night and try to work on my jump shot. All I could think about was basketball. I started to fall in love with the game.

I thought that I was ready to play in my first basketball league. There was a simple sign up and I was on a team. But it wasn't that easy. The league had a tryout to see how they would spread the teams out. I didn't really know how good I did because i didn't know what “good” was. But apparently, I was the best player on my team. That put me in total shock. I am the best player? How the heck were we going to win a game?

I had my very own jersey. It was just a t-shirt with a number on it but I didn't care. I was ready to play and I was motivated. I thought I was going to be the Lebron James of this league. Carry my team to some wins, win the playoffs etc. My family didn't play much basketball back in their day, so there wasn't much advice that could be given to me. I learned how to play basketball from NBA2K and most of the basketball games up on tv. So, my knowledge was not that high. But, I must have known something if I was the best player on my team.

My first basketball game was approaching me in 1 hour on a Wednesday. I got there half an hour early so I could get some shots up before the game. My shots were not going in. I started to get more and more nervous as each shot bounced off the rim and out. My mom was looking over at me with a weird and almost too excited face. It started to creep me out. She obviously was trying to keep a positive attitude about me missing all of these shots.

I saw some of the players on my team come in. We said our “hi’s” and “what’s up’s” to each other and they joined me in my shoot-around. Then players from the other team started to come in. My stomach started to growl a little bit but I knew that I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t really know what to do in this situation because I didn’t have much experience with these kind of situations.

But as I entered the game, I started to let all of the nerves go. I felt really confident in myself that I could score and that I could also get the win for my team. Boy, was I wrong. I ended up only scoring 1 point and losing by 20. I looked like a fool out there. I tried using some of the street basketball moves I learned with my friends but those didn't work. It seemed like that I had to know my limitations and to do what I can do. I was always a good rebounder. I had around 14 rebounds that game which was good for me. But when I got the rebound, I couldn't do anything with it on offense.

I was at the court everyday before my next game on wednesday trying to improve something about my game. If it was my shooting, and playback capability, I was trying to improve it. I didn't want to come into this next game missing a ton of shots and not knowing what I was doing. I figured out my role. I should have been using these rebounds to create baskets for me. A lot of these rebounds were on the offensive end so I felt that I could build off that and make me and my team in a better position. Because let's face it, if I can’t score, who will? We did lose by 20 so that isn't going to prove anything.

Wednesday was here. I was an hour away from my game. I knew that I had to really take action and show people that I can ball. I probably had lost the confidence from my teammates in me so I really had to earn that back. This was a statement game for me and my teammates. I had to go about like Curt Lemon and stop being afraid. I have to just go all in and do what I have to do. It is that simple.

My stomach wasn't growling. I wasn't sweating of fear. My jumpshot felt really good and I was going in consistently during warmups. I was ready. I knew it, my mom knew it, and my teammates knew. Unfortunately, coach didn't know it and put me on the bench to start the game out. I was pissed. I worked so hard over the week to improve myself and this coach decides to bench me. He had only seen 1 game from me. How could he have made that decisions quickly?

But it was okay. I ended up getting in the game without 5 minutes left in the first quarter. I was thinking to myself the whole entire time, “No mercy, no mercy, no mercy,” I hit the first shot that I took. It was a 3 pointer. Usually, those don't go in for me so I knew that this game was going to be special. And it was. Fourteen points, Twelve rebounds. Now that is a basketball game! But did we get the win? No. But for some reason, I didn't care. I was worried about my own stats and not the team. This had to change if we were going to get a win next week. Either someone has to turn into Kobe Bryant, or we need a real game plan.

This was my first basketball league and I felt like I learned a lot. We only won 1 game out of the 8 we played that year and that was only because our team overall wasn't good. But at the same time, I felt very dominant because of the way I played. Just like Curt lemon, I felt very embarrassed the first time around. But I didn't give up. I made up for my mistakes and fixed them as soon as I could. . Because I knew the next time I played, I was going to dominate. And that is exactly what happened.
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Media-Carolina Ortiz

Screenshot 2016-01-11 at 10.22.54 AM
In Technology class we had to watch a TV show, Frontline, about media and how it affects people.  In it we saw many cases of people that didn't really know how to deal with media in their lives. One of the important things that I learned from the show is that there is always a limit to things and communication with people is key to having a good lifestyle. It is important to watch shows like this because people can learn things from them that they me bored to hear in class from a teacher but if they see it on a show with real evidence they may take the information more seriously. I will keep my future family safe online by keeping communication with all of the members of my family. Furthermore, I will not pressure them into telling me things because I want them to be comfortable and just tell me things on their own without pressure. With that said it is important to talk to family about internet safety because you don't want any issues to occur where your child or any other child is being harassed or abused by other people. For parents that don't know how to keep their kids safe online I think that they should just explain a but of what media is like, how the kids can be safe online, and they can tell their kids that they are willing to talk with them if they ever have any problems. 
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Digital Nation Reflection

The show we watched was called Frontline - Digital Nation. It was about the various uses and effects that the internet and new technology has on mainly teenagers. This included social media, video games, and virtual reality. The most memorable thing to me was the Army Experience segment. In this, it described how kids 13 and over were being led into possible recruitment by the experience center, where they played war video games and simulations. There was a lot of conspiracy on this blurring of the lines between being at war and playing war video games. I think that it is important to watch shows like this in order to be aware of what’s out there, and how to stay safe online. However I would say that in doing so, you have to keep an open mind about the issues they present. To stay safe online, I will be sure to think twice about the information I am willing to put out there. I have to keep in mind that anyone could see the information.  It’s important to talk with your family about this because they need to know if you run into any trouble online. For example, if you were being bullied online to a really bad extent, you should ask your parents for help. For parents who don’t know how to keep their children safe, they could watch a video that presents all sides of the story such as the Digital Nation one.
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U2 #8: Avi Cantor

  • What TV show did you watch in class?

Answer: Frontline

  1. What was this show about?

Answer: The show was about how the internet and technology influences how we live.

  1. What is the most memorable thing to you about this show?

Answer: The most memorable thing about the show was how much the internet and technology negatively influences us.

  1. Why/Why not -  is it important to watch shows like these?

Answer: It’s extremely important that we watch shows like this because it helps us see what the internet does to us. For instance, after seeing both of the shows, I have cut down on my phone usage.

  1. How will you keep your future family safe online?

Answer: My mom and dad both follow me on instagram and I have never sent and will continue never to send anything inappropriate via snapchat.

  1. Why is it important to talk with your family about internet safety

Answer: It is important to talk with your family about internet safety because your family needs to know that you are safe online. Especially when you share so much online.

  1. What advice would you give to parents that don't know how to keep their children safe online?

Answer: Follow your kids on all of their social media and ask them about what they send to other people.

  • Find a copyright-less photo/image to enhance your postImage result for non copyrighted technology image


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Promise

Dear person,


I’m sorry for breaking our promise.


“You won’t leave me right?”

“Never. But I know you will, right?”

“No. I don’t think I’d be able to.”

“Pinky promise?”

“Pinky promise.”


At that moment you asked me to stay by your side through anything and everything. I asked for the same back. Our pinkies were out and then in a blink of an eye, they were wrapped around one another.


I thought leaving you was the best decision I have made in a long time. Being by your side for more than three years was probably too much for me. There were times where you made me feel as though I wasn’t good enough for you. I always believed that I had to constantly change myself just to fit your standards. You put me in situations where I always had thoughts of leaving you, but I knew my heart didn’t want that. When we first met, you made me feel special. I was comfortable with you. I shared with you everything about me. I thought that there was nothing that could have gotten in the way. Even though people believed we weren’t going to continue a long friendship and relationship because of our ages, we proved them all wrong, didn’t we?


I remember the first time we met. We were introduced to each other by mutual friends. It’s funny because when I first saw you, never would I had imagined us to be as close as we were. Somehow, we gave each other the nickname, “buddy”. Do you remember when I had field hockey practices during the fall and lacrosse practices during the spring? You always showed up, but I never knew that because you would always climb up your favorite tree in the park. I noticed you from afar when I saw your red and black Nike shoes.


“Wow. I have the same shoes as you. Hey buddy! What are you doing up there?”

“I didn’t want you to see me. It was supposed to be a surprise. Plus, I’m shy.”

“Why are you shy? We’re buddies remember? Now get down from there. Practice is over.”

You walked me home that day and we became closer. Since that day, everything else became clearer and I thought things would get better. However, you lied to me.


Your lies caused us to not talk for a couple months. They were the longest months of my life. We finally started talking again because you texted first.


“Hey buddy. I know it’s wrong of me to text you after lying to you, but I was scared that if you knew the truth, you’d see me differently. I’m so sorry.”


I didn’t exactly know who you were, but I decided to give it a shot of getting to know the real you. I texted back and from that day on we've become inseparable.


Our relationship became more serious further along the way and everything felt magical. Despite the age difference, you seemed to be the one teaching me things I've never seen before. We’ve shared many things with each other. Secrets, laughs, smiles, tears, arguments, we shared basically everything.


After nine months, things changed.


As we sat on my bed, you looked at me right in the eyes and lied. You lied to me again. Then again. I didn't know what to do. Your lies kept feeding off of me so I didn't know who I could trust anymore or what to believe from anyone especially you. At that point, I didn't know who I was anymore either. I was not the girl you used to know. I became more independent, more closed off, quieter. Because of those lies, my trust for you became more vague everyday. But instead of me leaving, I gave you another chance to redeem yourself. They were constantly telling me that you were just a child. I still didn't want to let you go though.


Everyone around us constantly told me that you wouldn’t have been able to handle a relationship because you were younger than I. It’s funny because sometimes I would forget that you were younger. You always acted more mature than I did.


Two years in, we thought things were great. At least I believed that they were. However, July 6th came and I started working. You were working as well. I didn’t expect that this situation would be the reason that we would became more distant. Days went by and there were barely 30 words made to each other each day. It was hard. I tried putting the most effort into this relationship, but there were too many things going on in my life where I didn't realize you were trying just as hard. I never came to you about most of it because we were both always busy. I'm not too sure how or when or why, but I thought the best thing for the both of us was to separate from each other.


I promised you that no matter what, we would continue to try and make things work for the both of us. But instead, I broke that promise. When we separated, I constantly believed that it was all because of me. I was torturing myself constantly. I felt as if you were pushing me away, and I thought you were slowly losing feelings. Instead of trying to help you gain those feelings back, I let them slip completely and tried making things easier by leaving. I wanted to remain as close friends but it was hard for the both of us. Things obviously weren’t the same. A couple days after the separation, we were still talking as close friends when you brought up the promise. That promise that was made two years ago. The same promise that I broke. It hurt me to know that you still remembered it. At that moment I wished that we had never made that promise. However, it was a lesson that needed to be learned.


So, thank you for teaching me that promises are sometimes meant to be broken. I hope one day, you’d understand why I did it. I’m sorry for breaking our promise.


Love,

Your Buddy Eb.



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The Loving Liar


In June, you get a weird  message from someone on facebook, saying “Hello how are you, can I be your friend? You’re really pretty.” He doesn’t stop sending these messages. It’s not hurting you, but it is getting very annoying, so you decide to text him back with a response that is very blunt. After you specifically show him that you aren’t interested in talking, he keeps on sending messages forcing you to respond  back. You want him to stop, but he won’t. Even after numerous attempts to ignore him, he will not leave you alone. After a while you realize that the messages you are sending him are no longer blunt, but instead, they expose parts of your personality.

After messaging him for a while you realize that you know quite a bit about him. For instance, he lives in America but not on the east coast. He is a californian male. He is a different race from you. He has started sending his personal information to you, such as his phone number and address. Imagine that he asked you for this type of personal information, but you are smart enough to not give it to him. You decide to finally grow up and tell him to stop texting you once and for all, but he is just to persistent and has a way of manipulating your mind and next thing you know you are having facebook video conversations with him. He then takes it a step further and says to me that he is dying because of a brain tumor, you of course having a heart continue your nonsense banter of a conversation.

You have a gut feeling that he is lying, but your hearts good nature can’t bring you to stop this conversation. After you have had enough of this banter and wish for it to stop, you ask for proof of his illness. He keeps on delaying the report so you call him a liar, he doesn’t take that to well and keeps on using his charming ways of conversations to draw you out of your denial. Your denial stops for a while, but is reincarnated when you have once again grown tired of this man. You decide to finish the “friendship” but once again he uses his charming wit to make you feel bad for him he says things like “Before I die I want to hear your voice and absorb your words, please don’t say no.” You answer back saying that “You’ll keep on texting him before his death.”   

This happend to me. There I was sitting in my room on my bed, and I hear my phone vibrate. I then looked at my screen, and I saw his name. I then facepalmed my pillow. His message read, “I like your profile picture. You have beautiful hands, your eyes are romantic and You have long nice hair”. I responded saying, “thanks but in real life my hand are not that beautiful.” He responded back,”I always stare at your profile picture and I feel like you're staring me too. Every time I look at your eyes it kills me and my heart beats get faster.” Then I reply with “hahahaha my pleasure”. Then I started thinking how he found me on facebook and I message him “how did you ]find”. He then replys me “I was just searching my friends account and you're appeared so I clicked on it. Then I reply saying, “oh okay”. This is how he talk me and every time he message he’d called me “baby”.  After that I asked him “why do you call me baby?”. His reply was “because your my dream girl and I want to call you baby.” When I finished reading what he said I was thinking he was a crazy boy and also thinking not to get too close with him.

Sometimes I felt very special to him because everytime he messaged he would say something sweet to me that made me believe him more. While I still didn’t believe him that much with everything, but I did believe that he was sick because he didn’t message me for two days and I was little worried that something had happened. After two days later he messaged me back and I asked him “Are you okay?” he then replies saying “you seem to have a place in your heart for me” then I said “what do you mean? he responded “I mean that you were worried about me because I didn’t message you the last two days I was sick because I was in the hospital. Then I said “are you okay now” he says “ yeah I am okay and how are you doing beautiful” and then I said “I’m okay but I not beautiful because you never saw me in real life and what you saw on my pictures made things better than real”. Then he said “don’t ever say this again.. do you know that I downloaded your profile picture to my phone and set it as my wallpaper on my phone, so don’t ever tell me back that you are ugly and don’t ask me why do I have on my phone and it's for me not for you.” The time then was passing and we had conversation like this every day, for at least for 20 minutes. My profile picture was the only picture I had on my facebook after I heard this from him and I then deleted my profile picture from facebook.

Talking to him like this every day two months pass like the wind. After talking to him two for months, then was the time to not believe him anymore. On one Tuesday he told me he had doctor appointment for cat scan. After he finished with the cat scan I asked him when he getting his report. He told in two days. Two days later I asked how was the report his answer was my sister suppose to pick up the report but she couldn’t she was busy and she will pick it up tomorrow. Next day I asked him again and he then told me “in my report it wrote grade IV tumor and that it grew to my heart because I am in love with you, which is the highest stage for cancer in my body”. Then I said really? Then he says no Sorry I am really really sorry for lying to you this whole time but I actually don’t have any cancer and I just wanted some away talk to you. Instead of replying to him I just blocked him and we never talk again.  After all of this I just realize how much a person can lie about their self just to make someone fall in love with them. This then made me not to fully trust someone quickly for anything anymore.


The Loving Liar (1)
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Having My Back

English Benchmark

Throughout the years, many people are looking for people to trust with or people they can depend on. The word has meaning, it “friends”. Friend is a simple word to describe somebody that has been there in your good and hardest moments without asking or taking the time, out of his/her time to help you when you need it or ask for it. That word, FRIEND can’t be used and shouldn’t be used to describe a person like that. Because after certain point, after helping, messing, being your second thought or giving you the handle when you feel like giving up on everything, they’re like a brother or sister, that is there every step of the way, and you for them. What is a friend to you? How did it beginning? Did he/her become like a brother/sister? How?

Me, throughout the years, i’ve been looking hard, trying to find that friend, but the funny thing is that-that person was also there, right there, in front of me. I was blind. And sometimes you notice it way too late, when their about to leave and be gone for good. Lucky me, I noticed it way before my brother left for good. It was like about a good 6 months before my brother left.

“Oh man, this 6 months were a blast bro” I said,

“Yea, I know!” said Fernando.

Then it was time, the time that I was hoping to never come. The time to move. Move to a different place of the world. My heart disappeared.

“Ya’ll are little kids, ya’ll find a new friend, then ya’ll forget about  each other.” my mother telling me in a humorous voice.

“That’s not true mom!” replying very aggressive and pissed, then stomping my way to my room. Right there and then I had a flashback, about me waiting outside fernando’s house, which was not that far away from mine. I just looked at him on how he folded his clothes and packed in the suitcase. Out of nowhere my heart was punched with sadness and loneliness. I felt empty, something that was hard to explain through words, it was like running in frozen forest, just watching your body freeze till your heart can’t take it anymore and suddenly stop. Then they got in the car, all ready and packed,

“Just have hope!” he told me as they were leaving.

“Hope of what” I yelled.

Then came the silence. This reminds me of a book I read in class, “The things they carried”. In the book, there was a part  where  lieutenant Cross was distracted from his thoughts and one of the comrades got shot and fell to the ground. When Lieutenant Cross saw his comrade fall, he saw him drop, the comrade did not shake or twitch or do a movie-like death. A shot and drop, like when you drop a rock in the lake, the rock sinks to the bottom. The Lieutenant felt the blame was to be on him and felt sad, depressed, lonely, glum. In a way I felt the same things, but in different way, even though we both lost a person.

Trust is a strong and special thing that a person carries with him and can share.Not a lot of people have that. A month later after my brother left, it was hard to find someone else to open to. It was not easy to share my feelings to people because most people would've thought that I was a wussy, a little girl or cry baby. But everybody was like that when they were little, they were sensitive. Well, at least I was. So most of the time, I would keep my emotions inside, show a straight serious face without emotion, without light, without a sign of hope, or the power of believing again. I'd always use that mask to hide and imprison my feelings in a box which never shows or expresses any feelings and that's when my quietness hit and I hardly ever speak. Weeks after my brother left,  I came across my cousin.

“Ohhhh, Hola, Primo!!!” greeting my cousins, which was so unexpected to see in philly.

“Hola, Primo!” he replied.

This was his first time being in Philadelphia. At first when I met him he was awkward and I was awkward, so we were both awkward, but that didn't change the fact that we had to communicate with each other. After a while we started to communicate more, started to hang out more, started sharing more, and doing everything together. After a good while, me and him started getting closer as brothers in a way, and I thought that was going to be difficult. But there were somethings that I had in common with my cousin but our thoughts or opinions were so different. Sometimes being different is the one thing that connected us the most.

I have a question? You know what’s funny? I like when you’re best friend or close friend says

“I got your back, whenever and wherever, I got you!!” but in reality, that’s all a lie They don’t mean. Those words are just fake hope, because when that time comes they don’t do nothing. They be leave you there to get jump.

“Brothers FOR LIFE!!!!” he yelled you to air.

“YEAAAA!!” yelling at the air, as well.

We were on top of a hill. What were we doing there? Nothing. My brother and I would always go there on saturdays, because him and I had enjoyed watch the sun set. Then it got dark. The time flew. We had to leave, cause than our parents would have got paranoded.

“Are we close?” He asked tiredly.

“Yeah, just a 2-3 more block” I replied sleepy voice.

Out of nowhere these other kids came and it third of them. There was one fat kid, and man he was fat, compared to me, he was fat like a hippopotamus. Non-the-less, with two other kids. One was tall and the other was not. He was my height. One of them bumped me on purpose.

“Do we have problem?” said very aggressive and pissed.

“No….” I replied scared

For no reason what-so-ever, he punch the shit out of me. Dropped! It was fight. I was on the ground one of them was kicking me and the other two were going after my brother. I didn’t know what was going on. Beside the kicks I was feeling on my back, my arms and my shoulders. Out of nowhere, it stopped. I shocked. Bleeding, in pain. And a little confused. How did he do to get the other two? Did he beat them up? I didn’t know? I helped me up. I dizzy, weak. I couldn’t feel my legs or arms. I looked at him, he was bleeding too. My ears were pounding.

“RUN?!!” he yelled “They’re coming!!!”

We ran like hell. We took the longest way home. But lucky, we made it home. Messed up but we made. I know that after that day, my brother was loyal, he was the realites.
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“Bonding, which is stronger than any ionic bonds.”

Bonding, which is stronger than any ionic bonds.

Fondness, I was floating in it. Rancorous, I was pushed to be one. Separation, it was thrown onto me. And bondness? It was caused by all of the previous. Would I regret anything that had occurred, that wasn’t so facile as I thought it would be? Nope. That’s why, I send my kudos to the Almighty for his judicious decisions on my changing world.

It was 2011. As a 7th grader, I hadn’t had much interaction with the outside world, so I surely was lacking some knowledge on how this world actually worked. I would consider myself being dumb as a rock, but that’s not the main thing about the story I am about to tell. It’s just ...there.

I ran after one girl for two years. Not literally running, but as in when water, minerals, lactate and urea mixed together that would be dripping from my head as a formation, which we call “sweat”. Dripping to the concrete below my feet, while running. 2012 was the year when I stopped running and finally got her as a trophy. I will say she’s worth more than any trophy. Everything was pretty ecstatic for days. This nascent love actually felt like a typical indian romance movie. Even though I am not Indian, my family have watched many movies from that culture due to it’s popularity. Those movies generally have scenes where the actor and actress falls in love and soon before you can blink your eyes, a choreographed dance song comes on from the background. As the actor and actress see each other from distance, the wind starts to blow, the birds start to chirp, because of lust, and the rain starts to fall when they look at each other. Ehh, I guess it felt similar, a languid feeling whenever I saw her. Than some undesirable things happened that I didn’t hope for. It was as if I am running from a tiger and now I’m at the end of the cliff, no choice but to jump off.

Summer of 2013. My dearest parents came to my room one day with an intriguing question.

“Want to visit Bangladesh over the summer?” My dad asked. I was jubilant with that question and replied with a big YES!

“Why should we visit Bangladesh out of nowhere?” I asked.

“Well, we need go make make sure that our land that we purchased years ago are fine and that anyone didn't take them over.” They’ve replied with a worried tone. That’s reasonable, I thought. In Bangladesh, stealing lands from people is as easy as 1-2-3. Just buy a standing billboard, print a name of any popular corporation, go to the land you wish to steal, and place it there. All done. No paperwork needed and nobody is going to speak against you in the court. The land is now yours.

“Hmm, we still complain about our country being so corrupted.” I murmured to myself.

I made sure all my necessary things are packed neat and clean inside my luggage, especially my summer work for the high school that I’ll be attending in September. Oh boy, packing the luggage was as easy as fitting a new harness to an old horse.

I told the girl that I chased after that I’ll be gone for three months, that I was going back to visit my homeland. Seconds later, waves of tears started to come upon my way with terrifying loads of questions. I guess I was kind of good stopping her before she influenced me to cry as well.

Started the journey in a metal beast that acts as a deadly knife ripping through the night sky. The lady dressed in a white top and a black skirt came up to me and lended me a hand as I was putting up my bag.

“Sir, do you need anything at this moment?” She asked with a ebullient tone.

“No, thank you,” I replied with an vacuous smile, even though I needed some help on how to work this 10 inch monitor that’s in front of me.

The ride was pretty cramped. Weirdly, they ran out of seats in the economic class so we got transferred to the business class. Thought to myself,

“Wow, that was some easy vip transition.” I told my mom.

“Yeah…” She replied without caring much.

I could smell the mashed potato and turkey from the kitchen as they were preparing to serve us the dinner.

“Ah, my mom is going to have a fun time eating dinner tonight.” I thought in a sarcastic manner.

The landing of the plane was pretty hilarious. As the wheels touched the runway, I could just imagine about the family members that are waiting for us at the airport. Everyone was garrulus as the plane landed safely and was clapping as well. We escorted to a private microbus and was taken to our house with the rest of our family. We chose to go to my mom’s side first and I didn’t have any objection to that.

Couple days passed and things did not feel right. I missed the girl. Even though there were friends and family all around me, I felt like the last leaf on a tree before the winter begins. It felt like my world have suddenly changed. Did it really change though? I did live at this same place for 12 years before I came to U.S. But my own home didn’t feel like home anymore. I started to question myself about my relationship with others. Why am I not feeling close? I started to get distracted more often. I could feel the warm wind passing by me and reminding me about the girl every morning I woke up. I started to distance myself from others in an ignorant way, which I didn’t appreciate and I believed they didn’t either.  

Before beginning my journey, I planned to spend my time with my family and friends in a passionate manner but I couldn’t. Her thought was always on my mind and I was afraid it might look suspicious to others. I couldn’t afford to let them know about this relationship! That’ll ruin everything. It’ll be worse than taking a candy from a crying baby. Disregarding all the facts. I started to make secret phone calls from Bangladesh to her. That’s the only way I felt a little close to her. She didn’t have the intention of distracting me from meeting my family members and exchanging conversations with them, it just happened naturally. From U.S. to Bangladesh was a huge change for me. It felt like I’ve changed my whole world and the changes in those world felt my skin was being lacerated. Transition from one country to another wasn’t so easy for me and felt like separations took place.

It was as if I was Lieutenant Jimmy Cross from, “Things they Carried,” and the girl was Martha. Just like how Jimmy have deep love for Martha, which caused him to be distracted on the war ground. That then resulted in consequences, the one that caused Lavender to die. Even though I am not on the war ground, it felt like I was in one because of what happened next.

I hear loud voices through the walls, coming from the other room. My heart sank as I heard my name being called.

“Tahmid, come here right now!” My mom commanded in a bitter tone.

As I stepped inside the room, I notice my dad, my mom and my uncle all sitting on the bed looking at me as if I drank the last water bottle in the Sahara desert.

“Will you leave that girl or not? If you don’t, we can stay in Bangladesh and not go back to U.S.” My dad said in a rigorous voice.

I was more rooted to the ground than a tree after hearing what my dad said. I finally understood the whole reason behind coming to Bangladesh.

I got rejected every time as I tried to explain what I felt for her. There is no room for understandment but commands from elders. I do respect their consciousness regarding my future and how the girl might play a role in it but that’s not the whole story. They are categorizing her only by the culture she’s from and not as a person.

I couldn’t react to the changes that would be forced upon me, the my world was changing around me. The world, as in my family not being able to understand, and react in a positive way about my changes. They felt great shame for me as their child and were careless about my affection toward the girl. I didn’t disrespect that because I recognize their situation and why would they do such thing. I was vacillated with what to answer to my dad’s question regarding leaving the girl.

“Yes, I will leave her.” I answered a weary voice.     

I became more taciturn. I didn’t feel that close to the ones that I thought was close to me when I returned to my second world, United States. I’ve came to learn that your perspective of things might not always match up with the world around you. But at last, the changes in my world couldn’t really destroy the bonding between myself and the girl, but made it even more stronger.


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English Q2 Benchmark

The first few pages of Tim O’Brien’s classic war novel The Things They Carried are focused on the titular idea, as it randomly peruses through the objects the soldiers are carrying with them throughout the war. About 15 whole pages pass by as we learn about what was carried, when, at what time; how Jimmy Cross carried letters from Martha, a girl which he had developed a rather tragic one-sided infatuation for years. How Mitchell Sanders carried a 26 pound PRC-25 radio. How Henry Dobbins carried and ate chocolate bars as he marched through the rough terrain of Vietnam. How Ted Lavender(before he was shot) carried “6 to 7 ounces of dope”.

Some of these random objects come into play later in the novel. O’Brien decides to elaborate on Jimmy Cross’ relationship with Martha, as well as the bible always carried by the soldier Kiowa, as his character’s unyielding faith plays a somewhat key narrative role later on, via truly elaborating the desperation felt by O’Brien(represented by the author, as the narrator) as Kiowa dies one rainy night in a veritable “shit-field”. However, more often than not, no real reason is provided to the trinkets carried by the members of Alpha Company, the squad O’Brien is part of during the novel. We never learn the reason why some of the soldiers carry pencils and pens. Why Lee Strunk carried tanning lotion, or why Henry Dobbins carried 15 to 20 pounds of spare ammunition around with him wherever he went.

I find that many similar odds and ends appear throughout my life, reactions or objects that I cannot find any justification for. I have learned that, for whatever reason, I have to keep my phone in my right jean pocket, and my other trinkets(my ID, my pocket change, my transpass for the train) in my left pocket. If I try to change this order up, for instance, dare I say, put my phone in my right jean pocket, I start fidgeting like someone put an ice-cube down my shirt until I put all of my carry-ons in their correct place. Things like this might indicate to the casual observer that I’m some sort of OCD psycho-path, but then there are things that no matter how much I try, I can’t seem to find a reason for my behavior. I brush my hair out of my eyes about 50 times a day, despite my hair currently being so short that even if I brush my hair downward it probably wouldn’t block my view anyway. When I go to sleep every night, if all of my trinkets aren’t in my line-of-sight on my dresser, I might just freak out because apparently if they aren’t on that dresser, they’ve probably disappeared from planet earth all together. Also, if I’m on an airplane, I always want the aisle-set for no adequately explored reason.

I don’t expect to know my I do these things, neither do I ever expect to learn why Henry Dobbins carried chocolate or why Ted Lavender carried 6 to 7 pounds of dope. Hey, I’m 16, I don’t expect myself to explain myself, and for that matter, I don’t expect myself to be able to when I’m 60. Sometimes, the reasons people do things, or change the way they do are unexplainable. That’s not very satisfying from a storytelling perspective, but that, much to my personal dismay, is the reality of the life we live in. Things happen. People change. I change. I’m a different person than I was yesterday. Sometimes there’s a reasons for that, and sometimes there isn’t. My likes and dislikes change. Sometimes there’s a reason for that, and sometimes there isn’t. And sometimes it’s for a whole other reason I’m not even considering. And though I’ve never personally been another person in my life, but I feel like that is true for everyone, at least on some level. Like how Rat Kiley’s mental state complete deteriorated once he transferred to Japan. For no real reason. Even though he had been more stressing things during the war. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a transfer to Japan. Why? Hell if I know.

I’m 16. Right now I’m a moody, somewhat sarcastic, somewhat condescending person, who is always trying to figure out the reasons for the things I do and the things I think. Which is frustrating, frankly, since I’m always thinking things, so I’m always trying to process those things, which means I miss sometimes the words when others talk to me, which means I start to think about why I missed their query, and you get the point. Why? Hell if I know. Right now, as I write this very essay, I’m copying Tim O’Brien’s writing quirk of constantly remind the reader how old he is, since I’m constantly repeating that I’m currently 16. Why? Hell if I know.

I’m 16, and I spent a long time trying to figure out the question how are we, as individuals, are affected by the world around them. The answer I eventually came to, is that it’s the opposite. Perhaps it’s that the world changes us as we see more of it, but those changes are arbitrary, complete. I’m 16 now, and I hate tomatoes, but perhaps I’ll love those red slices in time. Because… we all change, if you think about. We’re different people, throughout our entire lives. And that’s okay. Because everyone changes, in ways often unexplainable, in ways often explainable. I don’t ever expect to know, for certain, how we change, why we change. But I know that we all change. Because we need to. The person we are now isn’t always up to the challenge of the person you are tomorrow. Just one thing… I think you should remember all the people that you used to be. Perhaps what I’m writing right now will not settle well with the person I am tomorrow. But as long as I remember that person I was, I can perhaps change in ways that aren’t arbitrary, in ways that I actually want to change. So… I’ll try to remember this. This person, I am, right now, the moody sarcastic condescending teenager who doesn’t know what the hell he is typing right now or why. I’ll always try to remember when Quinn Grzywinski was me. Because maybe as I change, inevitably, I’ll learn why I was the way I was. Then perhaps I’ll figure out who I am right now. Who I’ll be tomorrow. Who I’ll be for the rest of my life.


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Can You Handle Change?

Can Your Life Change?

Going to the beach is supposed to be fun. You are supposed to have the time of your life. Swimming, hanging out with your friends or family, playing beach volleyball, going out afterwards, and so many other things that you can do at  beach, that makes that a day you can never forget. Wearing all shorts or swimwear, with flip-flops, is a look for the beach. Everyone at the beach will be wearing those. Me? I try to avoid the beach as much as possible. Up to a certain point, I am okay with the beach. When we get to the flip-flops part, I start to hate it. It’s an embarrassment to me when people see what I have on my foot. Trying to hide something, that can’t be hidden is almost impossible. Digging and dragging your feet in the sand isn’t as fun as it may sound. Coming up with different ways to hide, becomes a challenge for me and surely not a fun one. People start to look at you like you’re crazy, and you can’t stop trying to hide, but if you did they will see what you don’t want them to see.

Some may see what you’re hiding, and they may come up to you and ask, but that makes it even more difficult. It will reveal your history.

I always enjoyed history, and the things it tells you about your past. I know many people who couldn’t care less about your history, but then again who am I to judge. I love how one little detail can tell you hundreds of little things. In everyday life you can’t do that. As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. In history, “judging a book by it’s cover” can happen, and does happen a lot, but at the end, the real story is found. In real life people, “judge books by their covers” a lot. They see a person, and automatically make an assumption about them, even though they don’t know the real story behind that person.

I’m seventeen years old and have experienced much things that played a role in shaping my life, even though there’s more ahead of me.  At the age of seven, I made a big mistake that today I can’t change. Though I can change it’s appearance, I can’t change the experience that it carried.  

I can’t remember much things before the age of four, but I can remember most things after that age. I do remember that I was outgoing and was someone who always got in trouble. That would change very soon. I would become someone who is a completely different person from  that  “outgoing kid”.

Waking up early in a spring morning is beautiful. Just like every saturday, I woke up, did my usual morning routine, and headed outside to play with my friends. That morning, most of my friends had not come out, and the only people that were outside was one of my friend, and his little sister. I joined them and we started talking about what had happened the day before. The day before we had gotten in trouble at school and we talked about how everything that had happened was very unfair. One thing after another, and we moved the conversation into toys. I had recently gotten a new toy and my friend had not seen it. His sister went inside their house, and he came into my house. We started looking at my new toy, then we started playing around the house. I had not eaten breakfast before I got out so my mom asked us what we wanted for breakfast. My friend didn’t want anything because he had already ate, but I asked for scrambled eggs. My mom went into the kitchen and started cooking. We started to play again. As we started to play I heard my mom say,

“Don’t go in the kitchen.”

Even though she did say that, I didn’t listen. Right after she said that my little sister came up to us and said,  

“Can I play with you guys?”

We didn’t want to, so we started to run around the house and my little sister chasing after us. It became a game. Our first thought was go in the kitchen, because for some unknown reason my little sister was scared to go in the kitchen. I hid next to an open space near the oven, while my friend hid in the pantry closet. My sister couldn’t come in the kitchen because she was scared, so she ran back to her room. We both heard her leave, so we both got out of our hiding spaces, and tried to get back to our game. My friend got out and was head towards my room, I was dusting myself off from being next to the oven. As I walked towards exiting the kitchen, something poked my arm. As I turned around to see what it was, my eyes caught a pan dropping to the floor. My arm had hit the pan. As the pan dropped I felt something wet on my foot and on my sock, it was the oil that was inside the pan. I instantly thought I was in trouble. Than I felt the sizzling oil, sneak up on me. It was excruciatingly hot, and very painful. I ran around the house screaming and crying. My friend was frozen in place, wondering what he could do. My mom heard me and she ran after me, telling me  

“Everything is fine!”

She thought I was scared of getting in trouble. She didn’t know what had happened. I couldn’t speak. My ability to speak was muted by the pain of what had happened. My friend had broken out of the frozen state, and explained to my mom what had happened, while I was still screaming and running around.

My mom had called my dad, so we could go to the hospital. He was the only one who could get me there. He had the car. My dad was the calm one, he was able to calm both me and my mom down. On the way to the hospital, I was in the back seat of the car, and still crying from the pain. While he was driving, my dad was also trying to calm me down, and check up on me. When I got to the hospital, I began to feel as the whole world was going to end. I don’t like hospitals, if there was a way for hospitals not to exist I would be the first person to agree with it. The doctors rushed me into the emergency room, and that was the last thing I saw . I didn’t see what the doctors did to me, I don’t remember the room, I don’t remember the doctor's faces, I don’t remember the way the hospital looked. Everything I had was focused on one thing and one thing only, the never ending pain.

I remember suddenly opening my eyes, and the first thing I wanted to see was my leg. I wanted to see if it was real. My foot was wrapped around with bandages and I realized that everything I remembered had really happened.

For the next few weeks I couldn’t put my heel down, I was too afraid to. The right foot always took steps on it’s toes. I still had to go to the doctors and they checked my foot once every week. Before the bandages got put on, the doctor rubbed a medicine on the burn and that made the bandages stick to the foot. Every week I was scared to go to the doctor because of the pain the medicine caused.

For two months I couldn’t do anything. The doctors told me I couldn’t go to school, which meant I would stay home even after school was over.

As days passed, my foot started to get better, and I began to walk normally again. I began doing things like I used to, I even got cleared from the doctor that I could play soccer, and I could do all the things I used to before. Things got better.

One of the most beautiful days I have ever seen, turned to one of the most horrible and horrific days for me. Everything that happened also reminds me of a book I have read. A book about war and soldiers journey called “The Things They Carried” strangely reminds me of my story. In the book some of the soldiers have a hard time adapting to their normal lives after the war, and the main character doesn’t have any trouble adapting at all. After everything that happened I had trouble going back to one hundred percent of me. Which is why today I try to hide my scar from people, and stay away from active kitchens. What happened that day, I will always remember as life changing.


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Child At Heart

Kid At Heart (Eng3Q2bm)

Another regular day at school, I was copying down notes as usual. It was my 8th grade year, so a lot was going on. I was involved in the student council, so that meant I had to help arrange trips, fundraisers, etc. All I can remember thinking was,

“Wow, we’re going to be high schoolers soon, we’re growing up, and soon enough college is right around the corner!”  I was content, 8th grade was going to be the best year ever for me! Yet, I felt like everything was happening so quickly, growing up too fast, things  became too serious.

I just wished I could enjoy my days as carefree as I used to,  I would go to school and come home, finish up the little work I had, and just play. I was not allowed out, but I got to play at home, lay around, stress free, and that meant a lot to me. Everyone, including me was stressed out trying to prepare for the halloween party, out of nowhere my best friend surprised me with a gift, a wind-up toy. I was so happy and honestly I was surprised by how happy I was, I never thought I would be so touched by such a small childlike toy. Believe it or not, I kept it on my desk in every class I went to for the whole week, sounds a bit silly, someone might think, how can a wind-up toy be special? Well, it meant so much to me, because for the first time, in a long time I had felt like a kid, and I was so happy that I was still able to feel that way. I felt the same rush of happiness like when I was a child and was given a new toy.

As people grow up, they tend to let go of their childish characteristics or grow out of their interests and love for being a child completely. There is nothing wrong with that, but for me, I just can’t. I had always loved toys, even til today, as a 17 years old. I had always looked forward to getting stuffed animals for birthdays EVERY SINGLE YEAR, or any special occasion.

That time of my life, the things I really wanted were always considered childish. Is having stuffed animals take up about one fourth of your room so wrong?  My mom would say,

“Let’s donate some of the stuffed animals you have, you are too old for them now, you don’t need them.”

I would ask, “Why mom, what’s wrong with me liking what I like? I’m still a kid remember? Every time I asked you something you would say, “because you’re still young.” but now I’m too old? Like I’m too old now, so I need to do chores and help, but when I want to go out I’m too young?”

It’s not just from my mom, but my family, people who are older than I am, who see my love for things they think are for children. They are always asking one similar question,

“Why do you still have them? Why do you like them so much?”

I never fully understood why they would ask such similar question. Is there really an age limit on when to like what and when to stop?

The wind-up toy is such a simple thing, yet it brings so much joy to me. There’s not really a specific reasoning on how or why, it was just the moment and time I received it that shaped how I felt about it.

In the book, “The Things They Carried”, the soldiers carried many things with them, some arguably very strange.  One character has an ex-girlfriend’s underwear wrapped around his neck, another carried moccasins. They were off at war, and all carried something that kept them feeling safe or secure, even when things weren’t looking like they’d work out. To others it might seem strange, but everyone has their own little thing that means a lot to them regardless what the actual object might mean to others..

I carry my wind-up toy everyday in my bag with me, everywhere I go. Ask me why, I would say, I honestly don’t know. with a smile of course, because I really do not know. I love the ticking noise it makes when you wind it, tic-tic-tic-tic, and then it starts to move. It’s so amusing to me.

It’s very dear to me because it makes me feel like a kid, a piece of childhood I can carry around with me everywhere. Knowing I have it makes me feel a sort of comfort that I won’t lose it, or the feeling of what it was like to be a worry free child, that I can play with it anytime I want to. Growing up, I usually feel stressed about many things that you have to worry about during this period in your life, school, worrying about college, taking the SAT or ACT.

My mother once said, “Such an old head already, and still playing with toys!” Trust me, it sounds a lot funnier when she says it in Khmer.

I remember those times when my family asked things related to my wind-up toy or love for toys, because I realize that every time, I would reply differently, because it makes me feel differently every time. That is why it’s so special to me.

Now, all I see today is little kids watching egg surprise on youtube, how they would open it, and a toy would be inside of the chocolate egg. Well, I had never opened one, and I was so excited to! So I bought one, and I opened it up with my best friend. I ate the chocolate, and this was not too long ago, it was actually this year, I’m a junior in highschool. I remembered saying,

“Guess what, guess what! Close your eyes! NOW!”

“Okay, Okay, what is it?”

I happily placed the egg surprise in the palm of their hand. I remember the face of confusion.

“Ohh, haha, It’s an egg surprise!”

“I know, isn’t it so cool? Okay let’s open it!

We then opened it and ate the chocolate like kids. And then there was a yellow like case that was needed to open. We then squished it together, then POP! The surprise was so cute! they can be stacked on one another. It was the first egg surprised I open, I was so excited. Of course, I kept the toy to myself. I was opening the surprise with my best friend, but I was the one that got to keep it. Wow, that sounds selfish, but it’s the truth. I now take it with me everywhere, along with my wind-up toy.

Everything around me is changing, everyone is growing up, I find it important to really make yourself happy, because it’s your life. People deal with it, in many different ways. And me carrying the two toys means a lot. It’s not always on my mind, I usually don’t always think about it, or even remember it’s in my bag everywhere I go. It’s only when I actually look for something then I see it again unexpectedly, and feeling happy just like I did the first time.

People are changing and growing, so am I. Sometimes I get caught up with growing up, and not actually enjoying my teenage years. Everyone is so into growing up and being able to do what they want, going where they want, that they forget about the good aspect of not being able to. I catch myself wishing I was older, so I can do this and that, have my own place, and what not. I didn’t realize that getting older, means more responsibility.

But now, I find myself still feeling attached to the toys, yet sometimes prefer other things than just the play toys, that other thing is my phone. I have to admit, I carry my phone with me everywhere. I carry it to school, to the store, even to the bathroom, I literally meant everywhere! In the end, I love that I can still act like a child, still playful around the ones close to me, love the things I loved my whole life. Just have a good fun time, stress free, not worrying about a thing. That’s the most important thing to me.


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The Best Personal Essay I've Ever Written

The inspiration for my personal essay is from the book The Things They Carried. In the beginning of the book, one of the characters, Lieutenant Jimmy Cross carried letters, which reminded me of a personal experience. It also reminds me of how the world sees love as a thing that two people should share. Now, I have a better understanding of what love really is and what it entails.



I will never forget the time I thought I was in love. It was two summers ago.


I thought that I was in love with a girl named Eleonora Guzman. Her real name was Eleonora but everyone she knew called her Ellie. We graduated from our middle school, A B Day, together. We knew each other since the fifth grade,  what would be eight years now . Ellie and I were in an on and off relationship since the 7th grade, going up to the 9th. It wasn’t like we were in a relationship, then broke up and got back in a relationship a week later. What happened was we were together in the 7th grade and broke up a few months later. We got back together in the 9th grade and broke up a couple months later.


In my 9th grade summer she was in a relationship with one of my best friends, Dontae. At first, I was cool with it, but out of nowhere I caught feelings for her again.


Well, not exactly, “out of nowhere”.


Eleonora and I had a conversation one night, and  she said something that really made me feel some type of way. We said some things that weren’t appropriate. We said things that I knew Dontae would not like. A few nights after Ellie and I had the conversation, Dontae saw the messages and he found out that we were talking and he saw what we were talking about. Dontae and I stopped talking to each other after he found out.


Everyday Ellie and I would write each other letters. We wrote letters because her mom was very strict and she didn’t let her outside, and she wouldn’t let Ellie use her phone because she knew that Ellie would use it to talk to me or Dontae. I would get her the letters by dropping them off to her apartment window every morning after dropping off my younger brothers at summer camp.


In the letters Ellie wrote to me, she would say how she thinks I’m a great guy, but she loves Dontae, and she doens’t want to leave him. In my opinion, when we were together, I treated her better than Dontae did, so I didn’t understand why she would want to stay with him if I treated her better. But I cherished those letters and read them as if she would leave him and stay with me forever.


One day, I wrote her  a letter asking her to come to bible study at church. It would have been one of our only chances to see each other, and she took that chance.


Somehow, Dontae found out that Ellie went to church and he showed up with one of me and Dontae’s friends, Jahsil. Jahsil came inside and told Eleonora “Dontae is outside and  he’s really mad. He said coem outside.”  I stood up to see Dontae, and Ellie stood up and pushed me

down telling me to stay.


Ellie stepped outside and I didn’t hear anything but the sound of her and Dontae’s voices yelling at each other. She came back in and said nothing, and we didn’t say a word to each other for the rest of the night.


A few days later, I was playing kickball with some friends and Dontae walked up to me. As he was walking up, his demeanor looked as if he was going to hit me. There were two kids with him. One of them was Jahsil,  and the other one was a kid I didn’t know.


“Why didn’t you tell me that Ellie texted you the things she did?” He asked me

“I didn’t know how to tell you, I wasn’t thinking.” I told him.

“You are supposed to be my brother. You are supposed to be like family. I trusted you and you did me dirty. You’re a crazy bull .” He said as he walked away shaking his head.


“You should have hit em’. Knock him right out.” One kid whispered to Dontae.

Yea, you should have hit em” “another kid agreed.


I didn’t even finish playing dodgeball. I went right home after that.


That night I sat in my room and I listened to music. I listened to music for hours. From Tupac to Kendrick Lamar,  Nas to J. Cole, and Childish Gambino to Chance the Rapper.


After 5 hours, I stopped listening to music, and I started to think.


I thought for hours.


I realized a few things. One thing I realized was that I couldn’t let this whole situation ruin me and Dontae’s friendship. We’ve been best friends since kindergarten, and we never did each other wrong.


Another thing I realized was that I didn’t really love Ellie. I thought I did. I didn’t really love her, I just loved the good times we had. She would have good moments, but she wasn’t a good person.


A few days later, I decided to go to Dontae’s house to talk to him about everything. So after I dropped off my younger brothers at summer camp, I walked to Dontae’s house.


I walked up to his door and rung the doorbell. I could hear his mom’s footsteps come down the stairs as she came down to get the door


“Who is it?” She asked. as she walked up to the door

“Vaughn” I answered.


She opened the door and welcomed me in.


“Dontae! Vaughn is down here to see you!” She yelled.


“He is in the shower. He will be out in a minute.” His mom said.


“Vaughn, I haven’t seen you in a minute. How have things been?” She asked.


“Things have been a bit rocky between Dontae and I.” I replied.


“What happened?” She asked.


I explained to her everything that happened with me, Ellie, and Dontae. Dontae came downstairs by the time I finished explaining everything to her.


“What’s up.” He said as he gave me a handshake.


“I came to talk to you about everything. First off, I  sincerely apologize on my part of everything that happened. I should have told you that she sent me those messages. I admit that I was wrong.” I told Dontae.


After that we talked for almost an hour about where it started, and the things we should’ve did, and Dontae apologized for how he acted.  


At the end of the whole discussion Dontae and I agreed to never let a girl make us mad like we did. We agreed to never let a girl get in between our friendship again.


It took us about a week or two to get back on good terms. Dontae and I did a couple things before we became really cool.  We played videogames and we played  basketball  for long periods of time and we had more one-on-one conversations before we really got things like they used to be.


Morally, I learned that I didn’t love Ellie. More than that, I learned she didn’t love me. This taught me that you can love someone, or think you love them, and they don’t love you back. A poet from Mumbai named Sanober Khan said herself, “the saddest thing is to be a minute to someone, when you’ve made them your eternity”, and to Ellie, I was a minute instead of an eternity.


Broes Before Hoes- The Vaughn Matthews Chronicles
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Stuffed Animals Make Everything Better

Stuffed Animals Make Everything Better - Q2 BM-HD

“Okay, who wants to go with dad this time? He’s going to Maryland for a solar panel conference.” I ask my bed full of stuffed animals. Everyone raises a paw.

“You can’t all go!” Some of them looked discouraged, but they don’t give up. Everybody wants to go on the trip with dad, including me. But I am not allowed to go with him.

“Rabbit, you went last time. So did you Sparkles! Let your friends have a chance.” I look around at all of their eager faces.

Finally I decide. “Okay… This time Maggie and Meridian get to go with dad.”

__________

When I was younger, my dad used to go on business trips two or three times a month. His job would send him to places like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, and even Ohio once or twice for conferences or meetings. I would have given anything to go on a trip with my dad. Since I wasn’t allowed to go on his business trips with him, I would always sneak one or two of my stuffed animals into my his suitcase when he wasn’t looking. I switched it up each time, being careful to not show favoritism towards any one stuffed animal.  

I first sent stuffed animals with him to keep my dad company on the trip. When he was by himself in the hotel room he would be reminded of me by seeing the stuffed rabbit, cat, panda, or giraffe I slept with every night. Since I couldn’t be there with him, I decided that my stuffed animals were the next best contenders for the job.

My stuffed animals were my best friends. They kept the monsters away while I was sleeping, kept me company while I played in my room, and were the only ones to whom I told all my secrets. Who better to keep my dad company and watch out for him in my place? By sending one or two with my dad it felt like I was there, similar to the mementos carried by the soldiers at war in the book The Things They Carried. Each soldier carried a different object to remind them of what is waiting for them at home. For me, my dad was a soldier. He was fighting a war of work, long days, and hotels in which there was no family to greet him. Sending stuffed animals with him was my way of reminding him that we were waiting for him when he came home, with lots of hugs and love to give him.

Every time he left for a business trip my world changed because he wasn’t there. So much of my life included him, that I had to get used to him not being there for days at a time. I learned to cherish the time I had with him when he was home. Knowing that my world changed so much when he was gone, I wanted to make sure his world didn’t have to change as much as mine. Stuffed animals made everything better.

Over the years, my dad switched jobs and no longer had to go on as many business trips. He was home more and I still cherished his presence. Our relationship became stronger and deeper. He was finally home.

__________

“Hey dad! What’s up?” I was visiting Washington D.C. with my friend and her family for the weekend. It was an early Sunday morning in April 2015, and we had just sat down to eat bagels. A call from my dad came through my phone and I answered.

“Ari? Are you with your mom right now?” I could immediately tell it wasn’t my dad’s voice. I recognized my neighbor’s raspy voice. Only this time his usual calm, slow voice was panicked and quick.

“No, I am in Washington D.C. Why do you have my dad’s phone? Is everything okay?” This time he paused.

“Yes, do you know where your mom is?”

“She is at Sunday School with my brother. Where is my dad? Is he oka--”

“Yes.”

The phone hung up.

I could not understand why my neighbor had my dad’s phone and why he was so alarmed. Thousands of things raced through my brain, but my mind automatically went to the worst case scenario. The only reason my neighbor would be calling me on my dad’s phone is if my dad was unable to call me himself, I thought to myself. It was early Sunday morning, my mom and brother were at out and my dad was home alone.

I started to panic, I called my mom to see what was happening. After she didn’t pick up, I started to worry more. Next I called my other neighbor, my dad’s best friend, to see if he knew what was happening. His wife, a nurse, picked up the phone. She explained to me that my dad was throwing-up uncontrollably and had an intense headache -- the ambulance was on the way. They thought it was some kind of stomach bug. I didn’t get a lot of details from her, but it was enough to validate my frenzy of fear. I tried calling my mom again. She didn’t answer. All I could do at this point was wait; so I finished my bagel.

What felt like hours later, but was only 30 minutes, my mom called me back. My dad had collapsed at home and could not stop vomiting. First, he called 911. But, as he described it later, he couldn’t answer the 911 responder’s questions because he was in so much pain that he couldn’t stop screaming. So he called our neighbor, at that point he couldn’t move and could barely talk. “Thank god for speed dial,” my dad says, looking back on that morning. My dad was rushed to the hospital and after many hours of tests, they discovered that my dad had bleeding in the brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage. Normally, your brain is surrounded by Cerebrospinal fluid. Instead, my dad’s brain was surrounded pretty heavily by blood, which caused the pressure in his brain to be too high, and become damaging.

He spent five weeks in the ICU, a step-down unit in the Hospital, and rehab. Five weeks filled with doctors, procedures, therapies, and pain. Five weeks from which he remembers almost nothing. Five weeks where I couldn’t just send a stuffed animal in his bag to make him feel better.

My mom, brother, and I visited him everyday. Every time I left the hospital, I felt guilty about leaving him alone. I didn’t want him to feel abandoned.

One day he cried when we visited because he didn’t remember that we had visited everyday. He cried because he thought he was alone, because he didn’t know that we were there for him. After all those years of sneaking stuffed animals into his bag, it broke my heart that he couldn’t remember we were there for him, and always had been.

They don’t know what caused the bleed or if it is a one-time thing. They called it idiopathic, medical speak for “random.” It started off a normal day of bagels and shopping in Georgetown, and ended with random event that changed my world as I know it. Tim and Kiowa’s idiopathic event was being drafted into the war. My dad’s idiopathic event was this brain hemorrhage. One random medical mystery caused my dad’s life to go from a run to a crawl, without asking for permission to ruin his life. When your world changes, you are forced to change with it in fear of getting left behind. After my dad’s brain hemorrhage, I learned to adapt. I helped him heal and get through the hospital and rehab. Things are starting to get back to normal, but I think we need to create a new definition of normal.

I can never un-live the near-death experience of one of my favorite people. He laid in the hospital bed and said goodbye to me. He prepared himself to die. He, again, was fighting a war. Like a soldier in a battle, allowing death to be expected. Except this battle wasn’t in Vietnam or on a business trip, it was inside his body.

I grew up believing that stuffed animals made everything better. As much as I wish I was still so naive, I have learned that I can’t always just send a stuffed animal in a bag to make my dad feel better. When times like those arise, when I feel helpless and confused, I turn to my stuffed animals for comfort.  


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Understanding

Understanding (2)

“Dear Diary, I started skipping meals again. I feel fat and ugly and I just want to die. I am worthless. I don’t deserve to live, I take up space that could be used for someone who is pretty and a better person. I think if I died today the world be better off without me…”

This is a diary entry I wrote. I never told anyone about this and I had never planned to. I guess it’s because I thought no one would understand. Now it’s time to try and make them understand.

Let me start by saying that the worst feeling in life is that death is the only way to rid yourself of pain. Once death resonates in your mind it never leaves. It followed me wherever I went and living with that burden is extremely hard to deal with. Constant questions swarmed my head. “When does the feeling go away? What did I do to deserve this punishment?”

I know these feelings all too well. I live through this nauseating pain of feeling like death is my only way out of the constant darkness I’m feeling. For a very long time, I wanted to hide from what I was feeling. I thought all the scary thoughts would go away and I would get better over time. Ignoring how I felt is something I did regularly. I didn’t want to acknowledge that something could be wrong with me. Thinking that there was something wrong with my mind made me on the edge and I thought I wasn’t normal. I am now a 16 year old junior in high school struggling to find reasons to live. My existence is something I constantly question. I always ask myself whether my life was worth living.

I recently tried to commit suicide and that lead to me being in a mental hospital. I have attempted suicide twice in my life and I never told anybody about the first one, until the second attempt happen. It was a normal day for some but for me, life was becoming a burden that I couldn’t carry around any longer. I took my brother to school and the whole time I had this empty feeling. I felt that I didn’t belong and overall, I was so exhausted with all the mixed emotions I had going on in my mind. I tried to jump in the train tracks but there was too many people around so I stopped myself. I was completely zoned out for the remainder of the day. I couldn’t focus in school and I didn’t know how to just come out and say I tried to kill myself. How do you do just tell someone, hey I feel like dying or I tried to kill myself today. I was a danger to myself and needed medical attention. I wanted to hide from these feelings and ignore them.  Last thing I thought about doing was explaining it.

I remember saying to my mentor Mr.Kay “I’m really scared of myself and I don't trust myself anymore. I’m afraid that I’ll do something to harm myself again…”  

I  mustered up enough courage and told Mr.Kay, who then told Ms. Siswick, which lead to me being placed in a mental hospital. Going into the hospital I had no idea how to explain to my mom what was going on in my head, who was just hearing about my suicidal thoughts. I couldn't find the right words to describe my constant loneliness. Our conversation did no justice for me or her. It was something like

“ Why do you feel like this?”

“ I just don’t feel important in life, like the world doesn’t need me.”

“I don’t understand why… like what made you feel this way?”

Frankly, I couldn’t explain what I was going through enough to where she would understand.  I came to the conclusion that no one will understand how feel. I started feeling angry with myself, because I couldn’t explain the thoughts that lead to my suicide attempts. Even now I don’t ever think I can come up with the right words to describe what my thought process was during my suicide attempt. In the hospital I thought maybe I could learn to better explain my feelings.

There's this stigma related to mental hospitals and it’s nothing like the movies say. There are no straight jackets or padded rooms. It’s like being in a college dorm that you can’t leave from. My first day there was a wave of questions.
“Why are you here?”

“ How are you feeling today?”

“ How come you feel suicidal?”

“ Why don’t you like the way you look?”

“ You don’t feel important, why?”

Questions after question,  no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to answer any. There were kids there my ages, some younger and some older. The children in there were either there for anger or because they were suscial themselves. The suicidal ones understood my reasoning and I didn’t need to explain myself for them. They just knew the battle I was fighting. We were all fighting a battle with our minds. Nothing about it was like jail like people make it seem. You go to school you can have play time. There are groups that help with coping techniques. Being there was nothing like I expected it to be and I wasn’t going to hide being there from anyone.

Coming out of the hospital I tried so hard to explain what it’s like in a mental hospital and my reasoning for being there. Once again I realized that I could explain that process enough for them to understand. I felt like I just got done war and now I had to answer all these questions about it. How do people from war explain their experiences to others who have not gone through it. Reminds me of a book called “The Things They Carried.” The main character Tim and another character names Bartle go through something similar as me. Bartle has been through a lot and seen some pretty horrendous things and one doesn't want to talk about it and doesn’t know how to talk about. Tim has a hard time trying to explain what happen in the war and why it’s happening to people who don’t understand it. I feel like a war soilder who has fought a bloody and gruesome war, a war with oneself, and now has to talk about the details.

Just like these men I can’t seem to find the words to explain it to people who don’t understand death. I came to the conclusion that death becomes apart of everyone's life and in some extent we will all be connected by that. For people like myself,  death becomes your best friend and your worst enemy. It follows you and haunts you every single day. No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to find the words to explain to people how my depression and suicidal thoughts take over me. I’m not sure, I have to though. I realized I was doing it all wrong. I don’t need for people to understand my situation. It was more so accepting it as being apart of me and knowing that yes,I am going through this and damn right it’s extremely difficult. No one knows what it’s like until they go through it. They can only sympathize with you and give you support. I realized I was looking for support from others and not for them to understand my situation.


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The Game I Lost

I’ve been stuck. I’ve been writing about the same thing for the past five years, but it works for me. Whenever a teacher assigns a personal project or paper to write, I go on and on about my 7th grade mid life crisis, because you don’t fix what’s not broken right? But I never really went in depth with it. I didn’t explain the nitty gritty details of what I was going through because I was insecure and scared by them. There were thoughts going through my head that I didn’t even understand myself so I couldn’t give a reasonable explanation for why they were there. But now, after 5 years of reflection, I’m starting to figure it out.

My 7th grade year wasn’t your average hanging out at the playground with your friends kind of thing. It wasn’t going to the movies and trying to impress the boy you liked by wearing bright blue eyeshadow because you didn’t know how to do make-up yet. I was concussed and it felt like all of my emotions were gone. Things I used to enjoy were reminders of what I couldn’t have. Obstacles I needed to overcome were like jumping over mountains no matter how big or small they were. Everything was chaos in my mind. But everything was fine around me. I kept looking for something to fix my problems overnight, because that’s how fast they appeared. But it wasn’t that simple. Up until June of 6th grade everything in my life had been easy. I played soccer every day and didn't have any real responsibilities. It seems juvenile talking about going through a midlife crisis at such a young age, but it tore me apart. I dedicated 9 years of my life to playing the sport that I loved just to have it taken away from me. 9 years of playing soccer were quickly demolished in 3 days. I was hit in the eye with a football, lost my memory from hitting a soccer ball with my forehead, and then knocked to the ground only to have my head kicked around like a pinball in an arcade game. And after going through all this, I had a doctor tell me I couldn’t play soccer anymore. Can you believe that shit?


I always thought concussions weren’t that serious and that the people who got them were fine within days of hurting themselves. That was, until I got 3. But before I figured out how much damage I had done to my brain, I was truly oblivious. In fact my whole family was. I remember going to my first appointment with my neurologist and my mother basically apologizing for me being there. She thought we were taking time away from patients who actually needed the doctor’s help, as if I wasn’t one of them. We both thought I would be in and out of the office making it a one time thing. We were so wrong. It was a shock to me that I completely failed every test the doctor gave me. He told me to follow his finger with my eyes without moving my head, and I couldn’t do it. He told me to stand on one leg for 10 seconds, and I couldn’t even stand for 2. He told me to stand up and close my eyes, and I fell backwards and almost hit my head again because my balance was so off. He even had me sit down and take a test that showed my average speed and reaction time in completing certain tasks. As a straight A student, I was naturally expecting high remarks because that’s just what had always happened. I failed miserably. I was in the 30th percentile of everyone who took it, while I was supposed to be in the 60th to pass. This was when I realized everything was out of my control. I had no idea what was going on in my brain. Flash forward and I found myself alone trying to figure out when I was going to wake up from this nightmare. My head hurt constantly, I was missing school to go to doctor’s appointments every week, and I was in both physical and emotional therapy.


After finding out I couldn’t play soccer anymore, I felt numb. I was 12 years old and on antidepressants because I lost the only thing in the world that I truly loved. I couldn’t feel anymore. My emotions were all over the place in a way I can’t explain. I would suppress everything. I literally wouldn’t talk or convey a single feeling because I was so depressed. I remember one day I was sitting at breakfast and I dropped my toast on the floor. I don’t know if it was because I was holding everything in, or that it seemed like nothing was going my way, but I broke down. I started bawling my eyes out and having a panic attack at the fact that I lost a piece of toast. This stupid thing dropped and I dropped with it. It might feel idiotic now, but that’s how raw I was. I had no control, I just went through the motions and tried to suppress my feelings the best I could, but right then it wasn’t good enough. Everything was on my mind all the time. I was helpless with no idea where to go and after the toast hit the ground I couldn’t do it. I was dead. I felt like I was already six feet under, and the way my mind was working the reality of that happening was closer than ever. I wasn’t sad, I wasn’t angry, and I certainly wasn’t happy. I just wasn’t. I can’t even add a word to finish that sentence because really there’s no word to describe it. It was a lot like a war. Except there was no army, no soldiers, just me. A fragile 12 year old girl fighting to stay alive. Now it really doesn’t sound like war but you don’t really know what it feels like until you face it yourself. Just like Tim O’Brien said in The Things They Carried, you can never truly understand a war story unless you experience it. Reading or hearing about it never has the same effect because there is nothing like it. My parents tried to reason with me by saying losing soccer wasn’t that bad. I remember a time when my dad compared what I was going through to him wanting to be a pilot, but never being able to. He told me that having soccer torn out of my life was the same as not being able to do something he’d never done before. At that point I was out of control. He hadn’t been a pilot for 9 years and then been forced to stop flying. He hadn’t felt how exhilarating it was. He never fell in love with it, and then to try and say that it wasn’t that bad. But how? He didn’t know what it was like. He had no idea what I was going through. Hell, I had no idea what I was going through. He didn’t know what it felt like to cry himself to sleep every night, to look in the mirror and wonder why he was still alive, to cut and burn his arms in hope to feel some sort of control of what was happening. I wasn’t sleeping, eating, exercising, or talking, my head hurt, I was frustrated, and aggravated, and obliterated, I couldn’t concentrate, or express myself, or play soccer, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I really couldn’t. I had been contemplating suicide for a while. Every time I cut myself I wanted to cut deeper. Every time I burned my arms I wanted to burn myself down. Every time I took a pill I wanted to take more, so I did. I cut until I bled and I burned until I couldn’t feel my skin. I took 10 antidepressants when I was only supposed to take 1. I starved myself hoping to disintegrate into nothing. This change in my life made me shut down and try to kill myself because I couldn’t handle it. But I could never do it. I could never voluntarily end my own life because of my family. I could hurt, damage, bruise, burn, and injure my body in any way, but I couldn’t end it. No matter how much I wanted to I could never do it because I knew the pain my family would suffer would be much worse than my own. But I was stuck. I always wanted to end it but never had the courage. And now I’ve been sitting here, writing about the same thing for the past five years, trying to figure myself out. And I still can’t do it.


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Human Behavior

“She what?” I said. I needed to hear it again. It just couldn’t be true.

“Uuuuh… I think Quiyamah is the one who stole your mom’s ring…” Anna repeated.

“Where would you get that idea?” I said in disbelief.

“Well she’s told me about … how she’s stolen things from your house before.”

“What?!” I was shocked. There was no way she could’ve done this. She’s pulled a lot of shit on me but never this foolish.

“Yeah like some of your jewelry and makeup.” She said.

I had lost some jewelry before and just thought I had misplaced it. I can be pretty forgetful sometimes so it was pretty easy to convince myself that. I also never thought my best friend, since kindergarden would do something like this to me.

“Well- why didn’t you tell me in the first place!?” I asked. I was furious with her for not telling me, but part of me still questioned her story altogether, so I kept interrogating her for the rest of lunch.

“I’m sorry! I really am. I should’ve told you… “ Anna looked upset and disappointed in herself, but I didn’t know if this was genuine or not. At this point I didn’t know what to believe.

“ Makeup is one thing, but your mom’s ring? I can’t keep lying about this.” She said. I couldn’t believe she lied to me. I thought I would have at least one friend that stood by my side but I guess I was wrong.

“Why would she do this, or even think she could get away with this?” I asked in a fiery voice.

“ Well... she said it was easy because you were too naive and trusting to notice anything.” Anna said.

Well that stung. It was like someone punching me in the heart. I could feel the tears in my eyes and I tried to hold them back. I took a deep breath.

“I’m really sorry. I should’ve told you.” Anna kept repeating. We sat in silence for a few minutes. We were sitting alone at one of the lunch tables at the time, but I checked to see if any of the other 8th graders heard us. I looked over at Quiyamah’s table to see if she noticed us. Fortunately, she seemed distracted enough by her friend Marie to notice us talking.

“Well what should I do now?” I said feeling bitterly defeated.

“I think…” She paused. “Maybe you should tell your mom.”

I thought about it for a few minutes. Part of me agreed with going and telling my mom, but I was also scared to. What was I even going to say? That one of my best friends since kindergarten had been stealing from my house, and another friend knew and didn’t tell me  about it? I didn’t know if I could bring myself to do it, but at this point I had no other choice.

“After school.” I stated. “We will go to my mom’s office after school and tell her.”

Getting through the rest of that school day was awful. I thought I was going to cry, but honestly I was still in shock. I counted down every minute until 3:00 o’clock knowing I would finally be out of school only be trapped in my mom’s office where I would have tell the truth.

Once our teacher dismissed us from school, I went over to Anna making sure not to bump into Quiyamah or any of my other so called “friends”. We quickly left the school, but instead of going to my house we walked to my mom’s office which was in Penn campus.

While we were heading over I was texting my mom informing her that Anna and I  would be over to tell her about the stolen ring. I told her that we thought it was Quiyamah and that we would tell her more when we got over. While that was going on Anna was giving me more details on what she knew about Quiyamah’s past thefts. My mood became more upbeat when Anna and I planned out what we were going to say to my mom. I felt like we had a whole secret plan, and that maybe everything was going to turn out okay. At this point I was in too much disbelief to be upset so I started to just laugh the situation we were in.

The closer we got to my mom’s office the more anxious I felt, so by the time we got to her door I wanted to run back home. Once I finally forced myself to knock on the door we heard a voice “come in” in a somewhat serious, but affectionate tone. Anna and I let ourselves in to find my mother on her computer focused on her writing, papers covering her desk.

We stood their for a few second as she kept typing on her computer. She looked up.

“So...What happened?”

We told her everything . I did most of the talking, but Anna would speak up every once in while. I could tell she was frightened by my mother at this point who sat their with a very grim look on her face.

Once we stopped my mom took a deep breath and said “I have a class I have to teach in a few minutes. You join me downstairs, and then we will figure this out afterwards. Is that okay?” We nodded.

For the next few hours we sat in the middle of my mom’s classroom as they discussed if rich people should be obligated to give to others in need. It kept me distracted, but not enough to get rid of the anxiety I was feeling at the moment. After the class she took us back upstairs to get her things.

“Were going to your mom’s house now, “ she said to Anna sternly. “I think she needs to know what’s going on too.”

Anna’s mom was known for being an incredibly strict and tough mother so when wasn’t surprised that she was yelling loud enough at Anna for the whole street to hear. Although I have to admit I was still quite scared myself. My mom noticed how scared and upset I looked so she put her arm around me.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” I lied. She knew it too.

We went back to our house leaving a sad looking Anna with her mom. My mom called my dad and told him about it, then Quiyamah’s mom.

“I just called your father, and we decided we are going to invite Anna, Quiyamah, and her mother over to figure out what’s going on. We’re going to try to get Quiyamah to confess too, okay?” She said. She looked me dead in the eyes. “You realize how angry I am about this right?”

“Yes.” I said.

“Okay, I love you very much .” She said.

“I love you too, mom.” I said.

That night proceeded to be one of the worst nights of my life. My mom, dad, Anna, Quiyamah, and Quiyamah’s mom decided to come over our house and figure out what was going on. The whole time I just sat their silently with my head down, half listening to the conversation, half of my brain in a completely different world. It wasn’t until my mom asked me what if any of my stuff had gone missing that I started talking, and even then I was a sputtering mess, and on the verge of tears.

Quiyamah never actually confessed to stealing my mother’s ring. My mom knew it because we noticed it was gone right after Quiyamah left my house, and my mom NEVER misplaces anything. She never confessed to taking any of my stuff either. In the end I didn’t really know what happened, but I knew Quiyamah wasn’t a good friend. She has lied, used, and talked behind my back before so I felt as though it was a sign once I found out about this situation. The only thing I regretted about the end of our friendship was not telling her off when I had the chance.

Now I’m going to reveal something about the story I just told. No, it’s not a lie but I do stretch the truth. Their are detailed in her I made up from not remembering the exactly what happened and how it happened. From telling this story I realized one reason why Tim O'brien might’ve lied so much throughout his book. Besides wanting to show people a different truth he made for himself, maybe he also just didn’t remember exactly what happened in Vietnam. It was all a haze to him that he just wanted to block out of his head, and I can relate to this. Part of me doesn’t remember because it’s been so long since the incident, but part of me just didn’t remember. Although I can’t compare my experience to being in the vietnam war, I do know the pain of having to block out a memory, and replacing with a story.


Play movie here:
file:///Users/chloeepstein/Desktop/Human%20Behavior.mov
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A sense of protection

In life, protection is the thing everyone searches for, they feel keen when they have it, and show a sense of fear when they are missing it. Humans usually tend to protect things in which they care for deeply, so to say love, whether those things are materialistic or not is a different story.

In my life, I feel as though I become close to many people and many things, so my sense of protection over those things in tremendous. In my eyes though, I tend to protect a certain  group of people the most over everyone, which would be my families. Now I say families, because I feel as though I have two families, both my blood family, aunts uncles mom dad etc., whom I love deeply, and my hockey family, or in layman’s terms my team.

I believe that anyone who has played some sort of team sport, or even a club consisting of a team knows the bond that is built between that group, and I feel as though in a competitive contact sport the idea of protect pops up frequently. The opportunity where there is a need for protection, at least for me, comes up a lot more when with my hockey family, instead of my actual family. There are many of times in which situations come up on the ice where I feel the need to protect my line mates, everything from cheap shots, to poor choices in words, it just comes up more frequently.

It was a brisk November morning, around seven thirty. I was sitting in the passenger seat of a big red 2001 Dodge Ram pick up truck. We were flying down the expressway, it was a Saturday morning, so the roads were basically empty. I was on my normal pregame routine, headphones in blasting songs by Notorious B.I.G and Joey Badass and looking out the window. It felt like it was going to be a normal game, but you can never actually know. I got to the rink a little before everyone, which wasn’t anything new. I continued on with my routine, I got my golf ball out of my bag and headed down the hallway to the spot in which the stored the nets. I always work on my hands before games, it's just something to pass the time.

Eventually the rest of the team arrived to the rink, we did our pre game as a team, which was just a little soccer warm up consisting of us getting in a big circle in attempts to keep the ball in the air and then we got dressed and hit the ice. We skated our warm up, and everyone seemed to be feeling good.

The puck dropped and we were off, I remember fondly how quickly that game moved, not many stoppages, it was a solid flowing game. My line hit the ice and scored the one and only goal of the game late in the second period. We were flying up the ice on a break out, I took noticed of the pinching defenseman, and bolted to the open ice, calling out for the puck. I received a perfect pass and thought I was gone, until I realized that the other defenseman kept up with me. I turned my head and noticed my line mate Jimmy who put it in the net. We celebrated and went back to the bench. After that the game continued to flow. About three or four shifts later, something happened in which I do not think I will ever forget.

We were coming down the ice, it was a quick shift so I was not playing with my line at the time. I rushed into the zone, screaming for a pass. Louie, the one with the puck, tried to dish me the pass, but instead lost it in his skates. He looked down for a split second, but that split second was all it took. Someone on the other team came charging in, with an elbow out, drove louie to the boards, head first, concussing him and eventually keeping him out of the game for weeks. Anyway, this is where I came in, I flew into the pack, in which grouped up because of the hit. I went in for one reason and one reason only, to take care of the kid who laid the hit, but so did everyone else on the team. It relates back to the idea of family and protection. Everyone felt the need to protect him, because we all care deeply about him, he is a teammate, a good friend, and a family member, and nobody likes to see a family member get taken out. When telling this story, it always reminds me of a main key in the story, The yellow birds written by Kevin Powers. The key point I am speaking of is the promise that the main character Bartle made to Murphy's mom, that promise being that he will protect Murph at all costs, because he feels a great connection with both murph and murphy's mother.

Anyway back to the story, I came in a grabbed someone, at this point I was just trying to hold others back, because one of my teammates had already taken care of the kid who I wanted. I had grip on a kid who did not seem to want any parts of anyone except me. He turned around and starting pushing me and trying to throw punches. I did not really want to fight him, or anyone for that matter, so I just did what I usually do, and try to pull a penalty out of the mix by saying things to get him even more mad. I started to talk and next thing I knew I was on the ice face down. I opened my eyes and nobody was around anymore, They were all skating back to there respected benches. I got up, with a little help from the boards and skated back to my bench, I remember suddenly having a brutal pounding headache, but I was still curious as to what happened.

When I got back to my bench, all of my teammates were talking about how they got him, and saying his number over and over, “it was 30, I got 30.” I was still confused so I asked my linemate what was going on. He looked at me with an extremely puzzled look on his face and said “dude he punched you in the back of your head.” And from there everything started to make more sense.

This is another example of the idea of protection, as I spoke about earlier. They all gained a sense of protection over me when I was hit and therefore defenseless.

Now even though there are not exactly spoken promises in my life, especially my hockey life, I feel as though it is one of those things in which is unspoken, but known. It is almost as if it is an unwritten rule. As I said before, it all comes with the bond in which the team builds from playing together and spending so much time with each other.

The amount of protect within the world is crazy, the amount of people who protect others, guardian angels so to say are a great thing. In life people always will be there to protect you, and that is something in which I believe should never be forgotten, but you should also remember that you need to have a sense of protection for those whom you care about, like your family.


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Under the Water

English Benchmark Q2

Under the Water


Happily nervous. If I could explain my feelings that day I would say I was happily nervous.

I woke up early with a smile on my face ready to go to the Assembly.

As Jehovah’s Witness every so often we have Assembly, where different congregation groups gather together. At these Assemblies brothers or elders give talks about a specific bible based topic.

I got dressed quickly in a new outfit for the occasion. I wore a dark purple pencil skirt with a lace stripe down the middle, a black flowy shirt with lace on the shoulders, and purple heels with a flower in the middle. We then get to the Assembly hall and since I am getting baptized, I had to sit in the front. I was extremely nervous to sit in the front because it would be the first time I sat without my family.

Everyone soon takes their seat as the Assembly starts. As the talks began I tried not to move too much, but not being able to help myself, I keep fidgeting and fixing my skirt. I couldn’t contain my thought or my excitement. My mind was constantly wandering, blocking out the Brother giving the talk, but I heard when he asked the others and I to stand. I heard him ask those two question I was so prepared to answer “ On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?”

“Yes” I screamed with the others.

“Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah’s Witness in association with God’s spirit-directed organization?” The Brother continued.

“Yes” we all said.

After saying a prayer and singing the baptism song all the baptized candidates were asked to change for water baptism.

Gathering all my things I walk to the bathroom. Changing quickly into my bathing suit, I was soon ushered to where the pool was. Carefully I walked down the pool steps until half of my body was emerised, two Brothers were waiting in the water for me. As soon as I was in the water one of the brothers walked over to me placing his arms around me.

“Place your left hand on your nose, now place your right hand on your left arm. Bend your knees.” Before I knew it I was dipped under the water, I was brought back up hearing the sound of my family and friends clapping.

On December 13, 2014 I was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witness. This is a day I will always cherish.

Changing back into my regular clothes I walked back to my family. I was greeted with hugs, congratulations, and cameras. Later that evening we were having a small celebration. I was given some small gifts, but the greatest gift was given by my parents. It’s a silver heart shaped engraved with my baptism date, 12/13/14. The necklace is like a family tradition, my sister was given a necklace when she was baptized as well.

This date symbolizes that I have decided to fully dedicated my life to being a Jehovah’s Witness. Unlike many other religions, where you're baptized at birth, my baptism was completely my choice.

Ever since I was young I have been one of Jehovah Witness. Being a witness entails many responsibilities even for a young child. I have been taught to follow in Jesus footsteps, this means basing my life off the bible. While unlike Jesus I make many mistakes, I still try my best to follow his example. One example would be in celebrating holidays, Jesus didn’t celebrate any holidays so we don’t celebrate holidays. Another example would be that Jesus preached to his neighbors, so we interturn follow his example and preach to many of our neighbor. To be baptized means a lot in my religion, it means that you are willing to dedicate your life to fully serving Jehovah and doing his will. A choice of this size is very difficult to make.

There were many factors in my decision. The main factor is my love for Jehovah God. Even though I have loved Jehovah my whole life baptism wasn’t really on my mind but what really made me think of this decision was that my friends were getting baptized. So I started thinking if I was ready to take such a huge step. By chance, the same year my friends were getting baptized, my Uncle asked me “What is holding you back?” I honestly didn’t have a answers. I love preaching, I loved studying the bible and I love God, so what was really holding me back? That question made me consider what could possible be holding me back, I was already following in Jesus footsteps so why shouldn’t I make it official. After thinking it over I found that nothing but my own insecurities were preventing me from getting baptized. I went and talked to my parents to see what they thought, they thought it was a good idea. From there I had to talk to the brothers of the congregation, to ensure that I was spiritually secure and ready to get baptized. They felt that I was prepared but to make sure they asked me a series of spiritual questions. We agreed that we would set a date when we could start the first session of questioning. To be baptized there are three sessions of questioning that have to be answered. I got through all the questions and was cleared to be baptized at the next Assembly.

Making this choice, was the first real decision that I made that will affect me for the rest of

my life. From there on I have to constantly decide what I allow myself to view, be apart of, 

etc. My faith is in my hands and that is a lot of responsibility that I had to be sure that I 

could handle. The reason why this date mean so much to me is because it symbolizes my 

faith and trust in God. Like in the book “Things They Carry” how Kiowa would always carry 

his bible symbolizing how strong religion had influenced his life. I wear my necklace as a 

reminder of who I am and who I represent. I will never forget this date which is why I wear 

the necklace.
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Being Betrayed

I guess you can say it all started back in 8th grade. I had the best group of friends a girl could ask for. But there was that one friend, LuLu.

She seemed to involve herself with every boy in her path and not just any boy. It had to be one of our ex boyfriends or someone we used to have a crush on. Anyone we had feelings for, she would involve herself with. At one point I knew it was going to happen because it was not the first time she betrayed the trust of one of us the way she did. One of our friends, Ezzy, had a major crush on a guy and they were so close to one another that when she claimed that she no longer liked him. We could see it in her eyes that yeah she did not like him, she loved him. Of course LuLu did not get the message and went after him anyways.

It was none of our business on why she would do it, but we wanted to know why. We could not stand the dreadful thought of her hurting one of us again or hurting the next person in her path. Who knew that the next victim involved in all of this would be me. Maria, one of our other friends, did not know what was going on, and she was the closest one to LuLu out of all of us. She did not find out this until a week before we graduated middle school. I was not told anything about it and neither was Ezzy or Jen aware of the situation. Maria promised LuLu that she would not tell me or anyone else about what had happened between her and my “ex” crush. At that point in time I thought I no longer had feelings for him, but I was wrong because a boy named Juan.

“You know you look like you have a crush on me” he brought up.

“What of it” I asked him

“Well, I know you truly don’t. I know that deep down inside of your heart, you still have feelings for Ethan” he said bluntly. In that moment I thought “what would he know.”, but my heart was beating so loud in my ears.

“Maybe he is right” I thought. I still had feelings for this one guy and did not seem let him go. I was just looking for someone to make me let go of these feelings.

“Thanks” I told him

“For” he questioned. I smiled at him.

“For making me realize what my true feelings were” I said.

The next day I decided to talk it out with my friends.

“Hey you know Juan made me realize something yesterday”. I began to tell them during lunch, but it seemed like Maria had something more urgent to say. She did not tell me until the next day. The way Ezzy had to do a whole lap around the school building and came back on the verge of tears proved it. The way Jen seemed to have the air knocked out of her proved that. The way Maria seemed so genuine, ready to comfort the waterworks to come proved that.

The next day was the worst. English class had a whole other meaning to it. Once I was told the way LuLu betrayed me, I was done for. Those clear words are ones I can not write down for the simple reason that they bring up emotions that I do not want to feel again. Ezzy almost cried because she thought of him as a brother and thought of him doing that was downright awful and unbelievable. I cried because I thought he was better than that. He allowed himself to be easily manipulated by her, which was the worst part. Of course we were all curious to know if the whole thing was true so we asked Chris, who was his and one of our friends. The seven of us were close, so in a small group of friends like that, things were bound to be said. When we asked him, he was clueless.  

“Hey did Ethan tell you anything about him and a girl” Maria asked

“No, from what I know he is with nobody, why do you ask” Chris said

“Just asking” I told him

“Don’t lie, what happened, what did he do” Chris asked

“Lunch, we will tell you at lunch” I said

“No, tell me” he demanded

“Lunch” Ezzy said ending the conversation there.When we told him at lunch, he flipped out.

“That has got be a lie, that’s bull” he said, but Maria shook her head as if saying “it is not a lie”

“I thought he was better than that and he did not tell any of us” he said disappointment dripping off of every word. When Ethan and Tommy walked back over to our table we hushed up. Ethan was the most suspicious. We told Tommy later, but we ignored Ethan. Just to my luck he asked me to be his date to the dinner dance for the next day’s graduation. I of course said yes, but never let go of what he possibly did. After the graduation and after the dinner, the next day he texted me and we began to talk. Out of nowhere he brought up the crush I had on him and then brought up what he and my friends had discussed.

“That is a lie, are you seriously going to believe rumors” he texted me, but when high school came the last thing I expected to be brought up once again. A friend who was not even involved and left halfway through the school year managed to find out about it. That was when I knew it was true. What had been a “lie” actually did happen. So I confronted Ethan once again and demanded the truth without a single little lie. He spilled it then and there. I needed some time away from him so I didn’t talk to him for a while, but I slowly started to forgive him because at some point in some of our lives we will be easily manipulated into doing something. We of course are really close friends now, but I find it hard to trust others now. Trust can be easily lost and hard to gain when it comes to me after what had happened. I gained and lost respect for people, but it is something that burns in my memory. I think the reason I never forgot was to remember that even those close to us manage to break us apart and hurt you where it hurts the most. To remember those things still hurt and will continue to hurt and things will happen, but we will eventually forgive and maybe we will slowly forget. I am glad and happy that I was told the truth, that I got the answer that was needed. I did not get the answer I wanted, but as long as it was the truth, I was fine. I do not enjoy sugar coating things when I talk to people, and I do not like it when people sugar coat things when they talk to me. The truth can hurt a lot of the time, but it is something that people just need to know. This was inspired by many moments in “The Yellow Birds”. Every part of the book was true to the events they described. Every detail was included into the book and although the wording made it seem as if everything was a dream, a false hope. It was true all of it was true.


https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Vwg5R-DAFsts16k3BQqIMn6s3zaEEiUjcj3m935HNaE/edit?usp=sharing


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My Dog Attack


I found inspiration to do write this personal essay when I read a scene in The Things They Carried: "The truth," Norman Bowker would've said, "is I let the guy go."  When I read this, I thought of when I was attack by a dog because after the attack I lied, saying the dog just randomly attacked me. What really happened was very different.

It was May 26, 2007. I was 8. My mother and just born sister was in North New Jersey helping prepare for a family friend's baby shower. Meanwhile, my brother Ato, my father Paul & I went to my dad’s friends house near Saint Joseph's University on cityline avenue. His friend Mr. Chicago was hosting capoeira event where many of his students and friend came. He lived in a huge three story house with about one fourth of an acre of land with a huge Willow oak tree with branches expanding everywhere. There were a jungle gym with a slide, rock climb and three swings with a little one story house with a full living room and couch. When we got there, there were kids running around everywhere, parents talking and eating. In the mini house the adults played on Berimbau, Pandeiro, Atabaque, Agogô, Reco-reco and more. They were so loud you could hear it down the street. Me, Ato and my dad greeted everyone and then went our separate ways. My dad went inside the mini house and played for hours while me and Ato went to the food section. There was vegetables, fruits, meats, desserts and many more. For many hours me and Ato ate food, played with friends and chilled in the main house for a while. I had a very bad stomach ache after eating so much food, so I went to the bathroom for a while. When I came out Mr. Chicago’s dog, a large black and gray color akita. He was as tall as my chest. I have never ever been afraid of a dog before in my life and I was not gonna let this my first. Me and Ato joined back together and played with the dog for awhile. We even ate more food together. We followed the dog around and the dog followed us around as well. I felt like we were really friends. Boy I was wrong.

Me and Ato were swinging on the swing set and I turned to my right to see the dog eating rice and beans off a plate some kid left next to the swing. In my mind I was trying to save a dog’s life from either death or diarrhea. I started staring at the dog until I gained the courage to reach down with my left hand to try and take the plate from the dog. That was the worse decision made in 2007. The dog jumped up and bit into my wrist. As soon as that happened my entire world stopped. I started to ask myself questions like, why am I here right now? Is i'm dreaming right now? Im very tired. This is gonna hurt. Time speeds up again and I see the dog shaking around my arm. I let out a bloodcurdling scream, it didn't hurt at all but I felt like I was supposed to scream. It let go and then jumped my forearm and shook me more furiously. The dog threw me to the ground on my butt. The sudden adrenaline rush made me back away from the dog. The world stopped again for another three seconds and I was able to look into the dog's eyes and it scared the crap out of me. It eyes were icy blue and were focused on me. The world sped up again and the dog started running towards me. I had no time to think. My body, without thinking, flipped around and I laid on my stomach protecting my chest and stomach. Sadly my back was exposed and the dog jumped onto my back and began tearing up my back. I looked over to my right and to see my Dad running at full speed towards my attacker like he was the iron titan from attack on titan. He ran into that dog like Clay Matthews when he’s sacking a quarterback. The dog flew ten feet away from me and dad and two other guys grabbed the dog. While that was happening I managed to get up and climb as high as I could onto the jungle gym crying and in shock from what happened. My dad came over and tried to grab me but I was to scared and pushed his hands away. I wasn’t moving until that dog left. While thinking this in my head, I realized that i’m bleeding a lot so I decided it would be smart for to go with my dad. Him and a bunch of other guys took me to bathroom and probably did the dumbest thing ever in this type of situation. They took a fresh unused bottle of CVS hydrogen peroxide a basically poured it onto my cuts. I screamed until one of my dad's friend made the suggestion of me going to the hospital. My dad came to the realization that, that was actually better than what they were doing act that moment. My father picked me up and carried outside to the car. I was still in pain but the combination of shock and adrenaline leveled me out. I was meet with outside with a yard full of confused, concerning stares. My day was pretty going really badly at that point bad luckily my dad let me sit in the front and rolled down the window for me. Got from the outskirts of philly to center city in probably like 3 minutes. It was probably more like 10 minutes but the mixture of shock and adrenaline sped time up for me. When we got there the security guards took me out the car and put me in the wheelchair and rushed me into a operational room. I sat there and waited for the doctor to come in and tell me that all I needed was bandages and no school but, instead I had to be given stitches which sucked. When the doctor asked what happened I lied and said I was reaching for my gatorade bottle nowhere near the dog and it  just randomly attacked me. I felt bad for saying it but also I thought I would get in trouble if I told the truth so I just lied. As the doctor was sticking needles into my back and arm I screamed the whole time even though they gave me numbing medicine and I only felt a little I just felt like it was an appropriate time to scream. When the doctor was down he informed my dad that I was given 18 separate stitches. After about 20 minutes my mother came rushing in freaking out about how i'll be scarred for life and I must be feeling sad and scared about though I was alright because I got mcdonalds and was watching spongebob and laughing my butt off. Eventually the doctors had to kick us out because their were others kids who needed help. When I got home I started to feel really bad about what I said because they were going to unitize the dog but, I still didn't want to tell, so I waited a couple of months later and then I told my mom. It turned out that she wasn't mad at me and it was all right. The dog was gonna die anyway. Still to this day I have scars from the attack but, I still also have no prejudice against any dog.


My Dog Attack
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The Boundaries of What You Know

Dear students, put yourself in my shoes:


In February, you get rear-ended on your bicycle and end up in the hospital. You’re not seriously injured, but the doctors come to you before they release you to let you know: They found something strange in your CT scan, you’ve got a lesion in your left hip. What’s a lesion, exactly? You know that a lesion on skin is a kind of wound. What does it mean when you have a lesion in your bone?


Two days later, an oncologist at Penn explains: it’s a tumor. No, it’s probably not cancer. But whatever it is, it’s slowly eating your bone from the inside out. You’re going to need a biopsy to figure out what it is, and whatever it is will have to come out sooner or later, or else your left femur is going to turn to mush.


If this all sounds a little foreign, imagine how I felt sitting on the examination table, trying to take notes on a whole lot of concepts I had never heard before.  I mean that literally -- I had a notebook with questions I had dutifully writing down before the appointment. And sure, I wrote down the answers to what I thought to ask.


But that encounter was the very beginning of what I would come to understand over the next year: I knew almost nothing about what was going on with my body, and even less about what treatment and recovery would be like in the next months.


Here’s a brief summary of what the medical interventions were like.


The Biopsy. You take a day off work to go to the hospital, and get put in something called “twilight anaesthesia,” where you’re awake but not really in touch with reality. They then put you in a CT scanner so they can spot exactly where the tumor is, and extract a sample with a long needle. At the end, you have to hang out for a few more hours to make sure the narcotics have worn off. Your husband volunteers to get you food from the cafeteria, which is great because you haven’t eaten anything in twelve hours.


The Pre-Surgery Meetings. Turns out you have Giant Cell Tumor, which is exactly what it sounds like: the cells are getting really big, which means they are getting soft, which means you will have a collapsed femur one of these days if the malignant cells aren’t removed. You set a date for surgery and meet the anaesthesiologist. “Do you have any problem with transfusions?” He asks. No… but which religion does, again? And then all of a sudden you are talking about the amazing blood recycling machines that they use Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The Surgery. You go to the hopsital at 5AM. Your husband kisses you goodbye at 6. Another couple is parting ways at the elevator. The woman in the other bed is crying, a little. You’re not crying. A part of you judges her for crying. The other part of you thinks, what does she know that I don’t? The medical residents spend a lot of time looking for a vein they can see. The surgeon initials your hip with a sharpie. This is one of many times they ask you to confirm exactly where they are going to cut. The OR room itself looks kind of like an alien examination room, except it’s very well lit and they’re playing Justin Timberlake. Everybody seems like they’re in a good mood. “It’s Monday morning,” they tell you, “and we like our jobs.” They give you some warm blankets, and that’s the last thing you remember.


The Post-Surgery Follow-Up. Two weeks after the surgery, you go back to the surgeon’s office. You’ve followed all the instructions: take pain meds when needed, change the dressing on your incision every three days, shower but don’t scrub at the staples. You lay down on your side and the physician’s assistant uses pliers to pull them out and drop them in a small metal tin. Click, click, click. This, strangely, is the first thing that has hurt more than you will expect it to. At first you try and count the number but after a while you just focus on breathing. Once it’s done, she shows you the x-ray of your new titanium-enhanced femur. “It looks great, healing well,” she says, only you don’t really hear her because you and your husband are just staring at the X-Ray. What is that, you think. I had no idea it would look like that.


This sounds like the end of the story, but really it was the beginning. A new beginning where I was everything that I used to be, except now I was also a member of a rare disease club, a survivor of major surgery, and the owner of an implant. I posted the X-ray image on Facebook. “You’re bionic!” My friends cheered. I started going to physical therapy, slept a lot, and was cautiously optimistic I would be able to ditch my cane by the time school started in September.


This was foolhardy. But it reflected my mindset at the time: this was a thing that would pass, it would be difficult and then I would go back to being “my old self.”


I’d like to say that I disposed of this mindset quickly, but I actually clung to it even as my condition worsened. Going back to work was a relief, because I had something to do, but the muscles in my left leg did not agree. I wanted to act like everything was fine, but walking became a real ordeal, and I spent many hours between classes face down on Siswick’s couch with an ice pack wedged into my hip joint.  Despite this, I thought it would be a good idea to go to a black tie event in New York and wear high heels. I paid for that for weeks.


According to my surgeon, everything looked fine -- no tumor recurrence, no messed up implant--which in a way was even more frustrating, because there was no definitive explanation why my body wasn’t playing nice. It just wasn’t. The worst was the occasional muscle spasm -- kind of like a charlie horse, but faster and more intense. My whole leg would seize up and I would just have to wait it out. Speaking was not really an option when these happened. The first time one hit me, I had just stood up on the bus to get off at 22nd and Chestnut, to go to school.


As the bus slowed for the stop, I started to panic: I can’t move right now, and I can’t really ask for help. What if the bus passes my stop? The thought of having to shuffle down an extra block to work was almost worse than the muscle spasm.


It was around this time last year that my juniors were reading “The Things They Carried” and we were talking about how you convey a unique experience to others. They all knew I was still recovering from surgery. One class in particular was good about telling me to sit down already when I kept walking around to work with them.


I tried my hand at explaining the phenomenon of the muscle spasms. “Have you ever seen those videos of hot lava, once it’s flowed away from the volcano? How the lava cools on the surface, but you can see it slowly shifting around underneath that surface?”


They nodded their heads.


“Well, it feels like that.”


I got a lot of shocked stares. “You mean, it feels like your muscles are on fire?”


Well… not exactly. I tried a different approach.

“Who in this room has some kind of metal implant in their body?”


To my mild surprise, several kids raised their hands. One had a few screws in his hand. Another had scoliosis as a child, and now had a rod in her back.”


“And, can you feel it?”


“Yeah, of course. If I twist really quickly I can feel it bump up against my spine.”


This got even more weird looks from classmates, and a couple of gasps. The student and I shrugged at each other.


So, what’s the point of this story?


I still haven’t really figured out how to explain to people what it’s like to have your body get used to a foreign object. I am still saying, on occasion, “I wish I could have you feel what this feels like.” Not to take the pain off of my hands, but just so someone could get it.


And yet: I’ve come to realize that one of the strange gifts of this whole experience is that I get it, with “it” being many kinds of physical trauma. I know how to coach someone through physical therapy that takes months. I can commiserate with new moms who have had an epidural, because I got one after my surgery. And when a close friend of mine had to get bone surgery herself, on her hand, I was there when she woke up in the hospital, there to tell her that the pain would pass eventually.


So it’s not so much that I am seeking to explain to people what this experience is like. It’s more that if and when they come into it themselves, I am here to greet them and help them make sense of what on earth is going on. I have a small lead on them, but I am still figuring it out myself. Which is kind of the point: I am still me, because I am still building who that person is.


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The Boundaries of What You Know

Dear students, put yourself in my shoes:


In February, you get rear-ended on your bicycle and end up in the hospital. You’re not seriously injured, but the doctors come to you before they release you to let you know: They found something strange in your CT scan, you’ve got a lesion in your left hip. What’s a lesion, exactly? You know that a lesion on skin is a kind of wound. What does it mean when you have a lesion in your bone?


Two days later, an oncologist at Penn explains: it’s a tumor. No, it’s probably not cancer. But whatever it is, it’s slowly eating your bone from the inside out. You’re going to need a biopsy to figure out what it is, and whatever it is will have to come out sooner or later, or else your left femur is going to turn to mush.


If this all sounds a little foreign, imagine how I felt sitting on the examination table, trying to take notes on a whole lot of concepts I had never heard before.  I mean that literally -- I had a notebook with questions I had dutifully writing down before the appointment. And sure, I wrote down the answers to what I thought to ask.


But that encounter was the very beginning of what I would come to understand over the next year: I knew almost nothing about what was going on with my body, and even less about what treatment and recovery would be like in the next months.


Here’s a brief summary of what the medical interventions were like.


The Biopsy. You take a day off work to go to the hospital, and get put in something called “twilight anaesthesia,” where you’re awake but not really in touch with reality. They then put you in a CT scanner so they can spot exactly where the tumor is, and extract a sample with a long needle. At the end, you have to hang out for a few more hours to make sure the narcotics have worn off. Your husband volunteers to get you food from the cafeteria, which is great because you haven’t eaten anything in twelve hours.


The Pre-Surgery Meetings. Turns out you have Giant Cell Tumor, which is exactly what it sounds like: the cells are getting really big, which means they are getting soft, which means you will have a collapsed femur one of these days if the malignant cells aren’t removed. You set a date for surgery and meet the anaesthesiologist. “Do you have any problem with transfusions?” He asks. No… but which religion does, again? And then all of a sudden you are talking about the amazing blood recycling machines that they use Jehovah’s Witnesses.


The Surgery. You go to the hopsital at 5AM. Your husband kisses you goodbye at 6. Another couple is parting ways at the elevator. The woman in the other bed is crying, a little. You’re not crying. A part of you judges her for crying. The other part of you thinks, what does she know that I don’t? The medical residents spend a lot of time looking for a vein they can see. The surgeon initials your hip with a sharpie. This is one of many times they ask you to confirm exactly where they are going to cut. The OR room itself looks kind of like an alien examination room, except it’s very well lit and they’re playing Justin Timberlake. Everybody seems like they’re in a good mood. “It’s Monday morning,” they tell you, “and we like our jobs.” They give you some warm blankets, and that’s the last thing you remember.


The Post-Surgery Follow-Up. Two weeks after the surgery, you go back to the surgeon’s office. You’ve followed all the instructions: take pain meds when needed, change the dressing on your incision every three days, shower but don’t scrub at the staples. You lay down on your side and the physician’s assistant uses pliers to pull them out and drop them in a small metal tin. Click, click, click. This, strangely, is the first thing that has hurt more than you will expect it to. At first you try and count the number but after a while you just focus on breathing. Once it’s done, she shows you the x-ray of your new titanium-enhanced femur. “It looks great, healing well,” she says, only you don’t really hear her because you and your husband are just staring at the X-Ray. What is that, you think. I had no idea it would look like that.


This sounds like the end of the story, but really it was the beginning. A new beginning where I was everything that I used to be, except now I was also a member of a rare disease club, a survivor of major surgery, and the owner of an implant. I posted the X-ray image on Facebook. “You’re bionic!” My friends cheered. I started going to physical therapy, slept a lot, and was cautiously optimistic I would be able to ditch my cane by the time school started in September.


This was foolhardy. But it reflected my mindset at the time: this was a thing that would pass, it would be difficult and then I would go back to being “my old self.”


I’d like to say that I disposed of this mindset quickly, but I actually clung to it even as my condition worsened. Going back to work was a relief, because I had something to do, but the muscles in my left leg did not agree. I wanted to act like everything was fine, but walking became a real ordeal, and I spent many hours between classes face down on Siswick’s couch with an ice pack wedged into my hip joint.  Despite this, I thought it would be a good idea to go to a black tie event in New York and wear high heels. I paid for that for weeks.


According to my surgeon, everything looked fine -- no tumor recurrence, no messed up implant--which in a way was even more frustrating, because there was no definitive explanation why my body wasn’t playing nice. It just wasn’t. The worst was the occasional muscle spasm -- kind of like a charlie horse, but faster and more intense. My whole leg would seize up and I would just have to wait it out. Speaking was not really an option when these happened. The first time one hit me, I had just stood up on the bus to get off at 22nd and Chestnut, to go to school.


As the bus slowed for the stop, I started to panic: I can’t move right now, and I can’t really ask for help. What if the bus passes my stop? The thought of having to shuffle down an extra block to work was almost worse than the muscle spasm.


It was around this time last year that my juniors were reading “The Things They Carried” and we were talking about how you convey a unique experience to others. They all knew I was still recovering from surgery. One class in particular was good about telling me to sit down already when I kept walking around to work with them.


I tried my hand at explaining the phenomenon of the muscle spasms. “Have you ever seen those videos of hot lava, once it’s flowed away from the volcano? How the lava cools on the surface, but you can see it slowly shifting around underneath that surface?”


They nodded their heads.


“Well, it feels like that.”


I got a lot of shocked stares. “You mean, it feels like your muscles are on fire?”


Well… not exactly. I tried a different approach.

“Who in this room has some kind of metal implant in their body?”


To my mild surprise, several kids raised their hands. One had a few screws in his hand. Another had scoliosis as a child, and now had a rod in her back.”


“And, can you feel it?”


“Yeah, of course. If I twist really quickly I can feel it bump up against my spine.”


This got even more weird looks from classmates, and a couple of gasps. The student and I shrugged at each other.


So, what’s the point of this story?


I still haven’t really figured out how to explain to people what it’s like to have your body get used to a foreign object. I am still saying, on occasion, “I wish I could have you feel what this feels like.” Not to take the pain off of my hands, but just so someone could get it.


And yet: I’ve come to realize that one of the strange gifts of this whole experience is that I get it, with “it” being many kinds of physical trauma. I know how to coach someone through physical therapy that takes months. I can commiserate with new moms who have had an epidural, because I got one after my surgery. And when a close friend of mine had to get bone surgery herself, on her hand, I was there when she woke up in the hospital, there to tell her that the pain would pass eventually.


So it’s not so much that I am seeking to explain to people what this experience is like. It’s more that if and when they come into it themselves, I am here to greet them and help them make sense of what on earth is going on. I have a small lead on them, but I am still figuring it out myself. Which is kind of the point: I am still me, because I am still building who that person is.


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Fear of the Dentist

It was May 14th, 2006, and I was walking to the dentist with my mom. I had been to the dentist a few times before, and I was starting to get used to it. It was getting to the point where I was looking forward to each visit because of how clean my teeth would feel afterwards, but it all changed on that day. When we got to the office, I jumped up on the chair and held my mouth open for the dentist.


After a few minutes of poking and prodding my teeth and gums, he said “Hmm, this doesn’t look right...” which is something you never want to hear from someone who is looking at your mouth. He asked me to stay in the chair, and he went to go talk to my mom for a bit. However, because of six year olds’ natural tendencies to run around and not do what adults tell them to, I got up and wandered over to the waiting room door. That was when I heard the exact six words I didn’t want to hear, “We could just pull the tooth,” come out of the dentist’s mouth. My eyes instantly widened, and I had to hold back a yelp so that they wouldn’t find out that I was listening. I went back to the chair, my eyes as wide as frisbees. When the dentist finally came back in I put on the best poker face that I had ever done. I felt a sense of dread as he walked up to the chair. I knew what was about to happen.


He said “Sorry about that, I hope you didn’t get too bored.” I could only squeak out a tiny “Please don’t pull out my tooth.” “Don’t worry,” he said, nothing more. He didn’t say if he would or wouldn’t, which only made me even more scared. He laid me back in the chair and went to work. It was the same old stuff at first. Scraping, rinsing, and flossing. I thought that maybe he wouldn’t pull my tooth after all. Maybe I would just be able to go home and still be able to chew on that side of my mouth, but I was wrong.


Before I knew it, I looked over to see him pull out literally a pair of pliers. No special tool or anything, just some plain old pliers. I thought I saw some rust on the tip, but it could have been my imagination. I instantly started screaming and thrashing, trying to escape the unbearable pain that I knew was coming. I knew that I was just delaying the inevitable, but I kept struggling on the off chance that he would give up, leaving me free to live my life with my molars intact, but I wasn’t that lucky. A dentist from the next room over came in to see what all the racket was, then she left and came back with a gurney, complete with medieval style straps. If you have ever seen the movie Saw, then you know what it looked like from my eyes. After much more struggling, kicking, and screaming, it was finally over. I felt around my mouth with my tongue, and noticed a huge, gaping hole in the side of my gums. I felt betrayed. The “nice dentist man” wasn’t as nice as I had thought.


From then on, I never wanted to go to the dentist. Every six months I would pretend to get a very violent case of the flu, which would last from when I found out about the appointment to the second it was too late for me to go. It only worked for the first few times before my mom started to catch on to the act. One day she woke me up by saying “Hey, Colin, we’re going to the store to get ice cream!” I jumped up, got dressed, and sprinted outside to the car. On the way there, I noticed that we passed the store that we usually went to. I thought there was a chance that I’d been deceived, but it was two months earlier than usual, and we weren’t going to where the dentist was before. My mind started racing. My mom looked over and saw my worried look, and she said “Oh, yeah, we’re going to a different store. This one has better ice cream.” “Ok,” I said, but in the back of my mind I didn’t completely trust her. If the dentist tried to dupe me into giving up a tooth, then could my mom do the same thing? That was when we pulled into a parking lot, and I saw the word “Dentist” written in huge, chrome letters on the building across the street. Immediately I tried to run, but she anticipated this, and she picked me up, threw me over her shoulder, and started walking towards the office. “Please don’t make me go to the dentist!” I yelled. She said “It’s for your own good, Colin, you’ll understand when you’re older.” The next half hour was filled with apprehension and fear that something unexpected would happen. I never truly got used to going to the dentist until a few years ago, which is when I eventually decided that it wasn’t worth worrying about, and figured that it would go faster if I didn’t struggle.


For a long time after that I thought that being scared of the dentist was an uncommon fear. Even after overcoming it, I still felt that it was unusual. I wondered if it was completely unreasonable, and that I was just being a wimp. Then, this year in class, we read The Things They Carried, which contained a chapter called “The Dentist,” where a character, Lieutenant Curt Lemon, has to overcome his fear of the dentist, even requesting that one of his teeth be pulled out in order to prove to his squad-mates that he wasn’t a coward. It first surprised me that this fear was being brought up in literature, and second it surprised me that a grown man, a soldier, would share this fear that I had only had in childhood. This inspired me to research a fear of going to the dentist, and I found that it was, in fact, a very common fear. I also found that, instead of being referred to as a phobia, which is what I assumed it was, it was actually more similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This made sense, as having a tooth pulled out by the dentist at six years old unexpectedly was a pretty traumatic event. After finding this out, I felt relieved. At that point I knew that I was normal, and I could feel secure with the fact that I was scared of the dentist. Even further than that, I could feel proud of myself, knowing that I had overcome a fear that is crippling to some people.


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Our New House

I used to live in Chestnut Hill in a pretty big apartment with my parents and sister. I loved where I lived but when I got older, I started complaining about not having stairs like my other friends did and I did not want people to come over because I didn’t like how my house looked. I probably complained too soon because one day, when we came home, my dad went through the mail like usual. As he looked through, he stopped and stared at a envelope for a long time. My mom noticed and walked over to see what it was about. They read the paper inside the envelope very quietly. Arielle, my sister, and I kept asking them, “What’s wrong? What does the letter say?” I hadn’t really gone through anything bad in my life up to that point so I didn’t really know what to expect them to say. Then, my dad turned around and told us as simply as he could what the problem was. Unfortunately, we were being kicked out. It had nothing to do with money, but it had everything to do with the fact that our building was sold to a realtor company and our apartment building was turning into office spaces. The letter said we had 60 days to find a new place to live.

Now, to be honest, I was kind of happy to be kicked out because I didn’t know the whole process of buying a house. For one, I used to think that buying a house meant switching homes with someone else and buying their home, and I also thought that this was a way to force my parents to move because in my eyes they were taking too long. I was excited to move into a home with stairs and my own room. I imagined my house looking like Kimora Lee Simmons’ house (I used to love her show). But, I started to realize how stressed and scared my parents were and my fantasy went away. There was fear that if we didn’t find a house in time, we would have to live with someone else or buy another apartment until we found a home. I became worried that we wouldn’t find a home in time. In the book “The Yellow Birds”, Bartle was going through a hard transition into the war. When he was in the war he said, “I understood. Being from a place where a few facts are enough to define you, where a few habits can fill a life, causes a unique kind of shame. We'd had small lives, populated by a longing from something more substantial than dirt roads and small dreams. So we'd come here, where life needed no elaboration and others would tell us who to be.” He expresses his desire to travel and experience new places just like I was excited to be in a new home. Bartle also expresses his nervousness and uncertainty about the war. He says, “We were not destined to survive. The fact is, we were not destined at all. The war would take what it could get.” Bartle’s fear of what will happen in the future is similar to how I felt. He was unsure of what his fate would be during the war and I was unsure of what my fate would be after the 60 days.

The sky became incredibly dark but still kept enough light to let you know it was only the afternoon. The howling winds bent the trees as it whipped around my neighborhood. The rain sounded like a drum as it pounded on my house loudly, scaring my dog. In an instant, I thought the lights would stay on but in another instant, they were gone. I felt myself getting scared but as I looked around and saw my family was safe, the worry went away. My dad kept looking out the screen door to see the storm and my sister, mom, and I turned on our phone flashlights. Our living room was immediately lit up with tiny lights sitting on the table and everyone’s faces were revealed. We felt a bit safer. Before the power went out, we heard on the news that the storm wouldn’t last long. As we all tried to wait out the storm, my sister and I came up with an idea to play some games. We sang, made shadow puppets, and all other crazy things. We had a lot of fun and grew closer as we played during the storm. The storm ended quickly and we all looked out the door to see the sunny sky. We still did not have power so we went to our family’s house and hung out with them until it was night time. Overall, we surprisingly had a really fun time. Even though we did not have any power and it was a super hot day, we found some fun in all of it. This situation reminds me of Bartle when he went to jail. Many people would think that jail isn’t a place where you could be happy but in the story, Bartle showed that you could be. In the book he says, “My life had become as ordinary as I could have hoped for. I was happy”. I can compare Bartle’s experiences to mine because we both created fun or pleasant situations out of situations that aren’t usually considered fun.

A reason I believe that the situation was fun for me and Bartle is because it was a time to get away from what goes on on a daily basis and reflect. When the power went out, my family and I had time to put down our phones and were kind of forced to bond on a closer level than we usually do. In the end, this made us happy. For Bartle, being in jail gave him time to clear his head and get away from the problems he was having at home and reflect on what happened during the war. This helped him be happy while he was in jail and also become a happier person in the end. Even though Bartle’s war situation and my situation aren’t similar when you first look at it, there are still connections that can be found throughout the book.,.


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The Internship

The Train Ride

I gripped the handle bar that lay adjacent to the train’s entrance. It was filled, beyond capacity, to my genuine surprise. However, as I look back on that moment, I had forgotten that I was taking the morning train with hundreds of working class citizens, who probably thought of me as one of their own. My body turned as I glanced around for any vacant seats. Seconds passed before I surrendered to standing. The hand, which I placed on the bar upon my entrance, was my saving grace because the train quickly jolted into motion.

I peered out of a window to my right. The platform, where I had sat, and the parking lot, where I had been dropped off at, quickly went out of my line of sight. This was not my first time riding a train, but it was my first time riding a train to work.

As the train continued forward, a conductor appeared from the front cart. Immediately, she began checking and validating passengers tickets. She was was a couple of rows away from where I was standing, but I started the process of searching for my trans pass. A minute or two passed before I was up for inspection.

“Ticket or Pass?”

“Yeah” was my response as I brought my pass into view. She nodded in confirmation as she moved onto the next person. Instinctively, I looked at my phone to see if the train would arrive on time. This was a routine that I would soon get into the habit of doing.  

After my time check, I concluded that the train was on schedule. My thoughts escaped me, I found myself thinking about what my friends were doing at that very moment, as my train inched closer and closer Suburban station. I attempted to conceal my anxiety but my thoughts continually drifted to the “what if” questions and possible outcomes at my internship.

“We have arrived at Suburban Station. Please watch your step as you exit the cart” echoed out of the loudspeaker. In one fluid motion I secured my belongings and departed.


First Day

It took me all of ten minutes to find my way to 19th & market, not including a minor turn around as I was walking. Four days prior to the 6th of July, my sister and I were down center city and she showed me how to get to and back from my current destination, which ironically, was right down the street from my school. I chuckled to myself as I approached the my destination, while very thankful for my good memory.

In the ten steps that I had before I reached the revolving doors, I felt as Tim O'Brien must have felt as he gazed blankly out onto the river that separated two distinct paths, one of which, he would have to choose. Should I step into this building, to the unknown experiences that await me? Should I face challenges that might be too much for me to handle, or should I return home? My hand pressed against metal framing of the door as an opening to the main lobby grew wider.

I took a brief moment to take in my surroundings. The room was made almost entirely of a tan granite, which encompassed the back walls, ceiling and floor. There were large windows that neighbored each entrance, as well as a waiting area filled with couches and tables. As my eyes floated from object to object I soon located people that seemed to be around my age group. As I began my journey towards them, I made a detour to one of the internship leaders.

“Are you here for the internship?” he asked immediately.

“Yes. I’m Kevin Bowser” I said as we shook.

“I’m Stephen. The elevators are not working today as a result of a water pipe break in the building. So we are sending all of the intern's home today for the day and are going to send an email out about when to return for orientation.

“Okay, so I should look out for an email tomorrow?

“Yes tomorrow.”

“Alright, thank you” I stated as I traveled to a couch which was adjacent to the door I came though. I couldn’t help the slight feeling of relief that came with the postponed orientation. I would have another day or so before I would have to tackle this new challenge. Some force of nature had been on my side that July morning. And with my subsided anxiety, I ventured over to the revolving doors once again.

My Second First Day

The IBC building has two elevator passages. One passage ascends from the lobby and goes through all floors up to the 23rd. In order to reach floors above the 23rd, you must switch elevators. Unfortunately, I did not receive this information until my third day at work, so it took me a bit longer to find my way up to the orientation room.

Once I made it to the 44th floor, the facilitators introduced themselves as well as IBC to all of the interns. This formal introduction transitioned to various ice breaker activities, which assisted everyone in getting to know each other. Some of the games were based on solving problems or creating structures using basic household materials, and prizes were awarded to the teams that finished first.

The third and final portion of the afternoon consisted of each intern meeting with their supervisors. I did not get a chance to meet with my supervisor, who was in a meeting at the time. So I met with a woman named Grace Brennan, who I would come to work closely with over the next six weeks.

“Hi, I’m Kevin Bowser” I said as I shook her hand.

“Hello Kevin, my name is Grace. I don’t know if anyone told you but Dee has a meeting right now.”

Grace said this as she moved towards the hallway where the elevators were located. On our way down to the Shared Services Department, on the 15th floor, we talked about my academics as well as some the information she had read on my resume.

“So me and you are going to working on updating an Excel spreadsheet called the SARA log. The log is basically a record book that keeps track of everyone that has access the company’s enrollment system. We get requests every day, so right now they are just piling up.”

I listened intently, not letting a single piece of information slip past my ears. I wanted to make a good first impression on my new co-workers. I wanted to be take charge and not make any errors. Yet, once we reached the 15th floor, Grace introduced me to the rest of Dee’s team. They welcomed me to the department with open arms and made me feel like I was apart of the family. I was taught step by step about how to work on excel and how it’s overall significance to the company. Instantly, I felt a weight fall off of my shoulders. This daunting reality that I wanted to avoid at all costs, was not the frightening nightmare that I had imagined.

This experience gave me my first taste of the professional world. It served as a lens to some of the challenges and new territories that I would be introduced to as an adult. Apart, from outlook on the internship prior to actually starting, this was a spontaneous opportunity for me, and I look forward to another great internship at Independence Blue Cross this upcoming summer.


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