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Names

By Eileen H.

     There is a lot of importance within a name. It may not be unique, or even nice-sounding, but it is yours. It isn’t just about how others identify you, but also how you identify yourself. When people don’t know who you are, they ask for a name. When you don’t know who you are, you ask for a name.

     Names can have little significance, like Larry or Fred or Samantha, and that’s just fine. Maybe there really is a subtle meaning, such as being named after a relative or a coded term. Then, there are other, more relevant words. Names such as Klavier (piano in German), or “summer“ (the season). These names aren’t better, but they do tend to automatically give people particular associations. If you meet a man on the street named Klavier, you may say, “Do you play the piano?“ despite having no real knowledge of them as a person. However, a person named John is a blank slate. You have no association or meaning to tie to them. Well, at least until you bring race and nationality into the equation. Then things change.

      While names like Bob and Joe have no association with words or meanings, they do link to specific types of people. The name “Billy Bob Joe” is strongly associated with farm boys, or “country bumpkins”. It doesn’t matter if you come from a prestigious and wealthy family in Britain, people’s first thought will be of the aforementioned American cowherds once you give your name.

     Alternatively, names, especially surnames, can easily give a sense of nationality or ethnicity. As previously mentioned, “Bob“ sounds very American. For us Americans, we can identify a foreigner often by how their name is pronounced or spelled. If “Claire“ becomes “Clair“, or “Christian“ becomes “Cristian“, people will assume that you’re from a Spanish-speaking country. If your last name, or your first name, can be mimicked by dropping a penny down a well, then you’re probably Chinese. Associations like these are often why people change their names, go by nicknames, or take on pseudonyms. Like how female authors use male pseudonyms, just so they could get their work published. It might be a subconscious ageism, sexism, or just general bias, but there is no denying that your name can make a strong, and possibly unfair, impression on people.

     For example, let’s say a young boy had to be constantly reprimanded for saying his name that sounds like a cuss word. Would a boy like that ever really have a chance in society? He would be neglected and made fun of his entire life. No matter what his accomplishments were, he would get no respect. This boy would have no choice but to change his name as soon as possible if he desired even an ounce of social standing. "As soon as possible" would mean at 18 years old, if his legal guardians refuse to change it for him. For 18 years, this boy would be ridiculed. Soon enough, he would either lose all self-confidence, or turn bitter and angry at the world. 

     "Why?" You may ask. "Why would that boy's life be so affected by something so simple as a name?" The answer to that is simple. As I said at the very beginning, there is a lot of importance within a name. Now that we've established the importance of names, it is equally important to decide who gets the right to give them out, as well as what ought to be considered one's "true" name.

     The natural first thought would be that parents should name their own child, and the name they are given at birth should be their true name. But what if, for example, the child was transgender? They were born a girl, and their parents lovingly named her "Artemis". But, in a tragic twist of fate, both parents were killed and little Artemis was left at the orphanage. However, she grows up and decide that she is not a girl, but a boy, and wants to be called "Apollo". Should this be allowed? Decide that for yourself. 

 

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By Bryan C.

     I was seven at the time. Seven and three months. I was hiking in the hills with my parents, and my three-year, four-month-old brother, who "hiked". Most of the time he slept in the baby seat. There was what seemed to be movement in the bushes. I thought it would be a hobbit, but it turned out just to be a teeny finch. It hopped out of the bush. 

     Hop. Hop. Hop.

     They was something peculiar about the little bird. Its eyes seemed to penetrate mine as I crouched down to examine it. Suddenly, I realize that its eyes were red. I panicked, looking around for my parents. They were nowhere to be seen. I feel strange. They must have turned the corner of the trail while I was examining the bird. I call out, " Mama, Baba!" No response. I turn back to the finch. It hasn't moved. Actually, it wasn't moving at all. It looks exactly like as if it were in a picture frame, a daguerreotype maybe. 

     Wait. How old am I? How was I supposed to know that word? It feels as if I have lied to myself about my age. This must be a dream.

     Yet I cannot escape. I cannot wake up or pick something else to think about. Still disturbed by the unmoving finch but realizing that its eyes were just reflecting the sunset, I run back to my parents.

     Or where they should be. Instead of my parents, I saw a pair of ferocious brown bears carting a stroller with a large potato in it.

     My imagination is going too far.

     It-

     I am in a classroom. I am nine years old. My teacher is expecting me to say something. I don't know what I was going to say. After all, wasn't I sleeping?

     I sit on a bench in the park, listening to the eerie gusts of wind, the creak of the swings, and distant noises. I cannot return home because I'm afraid of the uncrossable road. Big, monstrous cars pass at fantastic speeds. I, not sure what to do, decided to think and relax on the park bench. That must be why I fell asleep. 

     Yet I'm not on the bench. Was I abducted by evil aliens? Serial killers would not be a pleasant end to my life. I feel the car, or truck, moving, yet I am afraid to move, or speak, or open my eyes. Could they have found out that I held the secret to reviving dead organisms and want me to revive people they murdered so they can have the pleasure of murdering them again? Or they could have been blackmailing kidnappers who were disappointed in me not having a cell phone to contact my parents. Either way, I was in grave danger.

     Until I remember falling asleep during a dream I had.

     How I wish I could manipulate reality any way I want. But I must face it, no matter what. Maybe I can crash the kidnapper's car. 

     I open my eyes.

     I am in a baby seat. I see my parents and my older brother who is seven years old, no, seven years three months old. He is three years and  10 months older than me. I remember wanting to get out of the bumpy baby cart and walk by myself. So I struggle a bit. My parents noticed my being awake and let me walk on my own. I see my brother ahead of me and my parents, looking at a bush or something in the distance. The buckle seems to be broken. It takes my parents a while to undo it, and my brother is far ahead by then. So I run to catch up.

     I laugh as I find my brother staring at what seems to be the empty air. Suddenly my life sounds hollow, as if I were a potato. Stuffed potato without any stuffing. Or a teacher bad at teaching with a blank slate being pasted on every child's head. Or an abductor's truck after business is over.

 

The Best Ice Cream Ever

By Sachait A.

     It was approximately eight at night. My dad and I were in New York to see the U.S. Open, where the best of the best played tennis against each other. It was also where the best ice cream, courtesy of Ben & Jerry’s, "chilled" out. I was really hungry. Talking excitedly about anything and everything can do that to you. I was in the mood for a really warm, solid meal. Or a cold, liquid ice cream, whichever came first. Luckily for me, it was the ice cream. And man, did I fall in love with Ben & Jerry’s. It was just two scoops that fueled my love and passion for the ice cream art. Two scoops. One part vanilla, the other part rocky road, and two parts awesome. My only regret from that day is that I let my dad have a bite, which took away a precious amount of vanilla from that sweet combination. Nom :-)

 

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By Roni M.

     I knew I was lucky to stand on the soil at all, to feel the slight burn of the hot, mountain air on my skin, to hear the orchestra playing in the distance. Idyllwild doesn’t let everyone in, and I’m lucky I’m considered to be good enough to be included. Going to art school had always been the #1 priority, the goal I was working for and the idea I dreamt of when I slept. Not just any art school, but a residential arts high school at the top of a mountain in SoCal named Idyllwild. Nine years, three books, two National Novel Writing Months, and a million breakdowns later, the application was submitted and all I had left to do was wait. So many weeks had flown by I began to forget my dream completely, until I got my letter on that miserably cold winter morning.

     "Dear Ms. Manor, we are delighted to inform you that you’ve been accepted to Idyllwild Arts Academy for the 2017-2018 school year.“ I was finally happy, and I started to breathe again. “I did it!“ I screamed, to the delight of my mother, but the breath I had gotten back was whisked away by a sentence only a paragraph down on the same page. “However, we regret to inform you we have denied your scholarship request.“ $60,000 that I didn’t have was the wall between me and my goal, and I had no way to break it. At the end of the day, I live in Palo Alto and everything here is expensive enough without added finances. While trying to stop myself from crying a hole into the floor, I read the last sentence of the same paragraph. “However, we would like to offer you a discounted admittance for our summer program,“ with more details on how to receive it.

     I had a choice; go for two weeks, or not at all. My first day moving into the dorm that summer began with dropping my bag, starting the air-conditioning, calling my mom, and crying. “I never want to come home!“ I cried out, as she begged me not to fall in love too much, since I would have to leave in only two weeks, to which I replied, “I already have“. The weeks flew by between my six hour writing class, hours in the dining hall, doing homework in the library and spending nights doing activities in my dorm hall, Pierson. I didn’t know what day it was, but I knew every day that it was one of my favorite days.

     The final reading came years too soon, but there I was, up on a pedestal, with all my new friends watching me as I try not to cry while reading my story out. We all read and said goodbye to one another, making promises to visit each other even though we live so far away. Stepping back into my house after camp was mixed with shock and excitement, for my family nearly didn’t recognize me from my tan and aggressive muscles after living on a mountain for weeks. I was in denial that I had ever left, and I wanted to keep living my life as if at Idyllwild. It only took a day to realize I couldn’t. I’d FaceTime my friends from camp for some relief from the pain I felt in my heart, but it was only a moment of bliss as I'd cry myself to sleep again that night, and barely get out of bed the next morning.

     Nothing I did could live up to the life I lived at Idyllwild, which only made breaking my relationships and ignoring my friends easier. I lost myself stepping away from camp, and my camp was only two weeks. The next months were mixed with therapy and phrases like “get back out there!“ And “there’s more to life than Idyllwild“, but my mind was set, and I didn’t care to help myself.

     The morning I started feeling better was the morning I felt excitement for the first time in months. Second quarter was halfway over, and all I had success in doing was putting on a brave face. I felt excitement again while watching a Disney Channel movie, and so I ran to therapy and talked about, raved even, about how I felt free to be happy. I joined an arts youth group, started to write again, and a month later was living a life in Palo Alto that I loved. I didn’t have to go very far to find a world of art, I just had to go and find it. I’m living an amazing, art filled life today, with a marker tattoo on my arm that reads “Idyllwild Arts“. I am lucky to have been able to go to Idyllwild arts last summer, and I’m lucky to be going again for two months this coming summer, but I’m much, much more lucky to have the life I have, right here at home.

 

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By Chiara J.

     It was hard for her to look a person in the eye, to shake their hand and say “Hi, how are you?" There are all kinds of long and intricate names for what she had. Social anxiety, fear of rejection, agoraphobia. Every doctor seemed to think he knew better than the others. They never gave up though, no matter how many times she was ready to call it quits, to resolve herself to the fear that she would just have to live with it. They never gave up, because they so desperately wanted to be the ones to cure her. Think about that headline… “Miracle worker saves depressed girl from herself.“

     But she’s not depressed. She knows that, at least. She knows she's not because they say that when you’re depressed you don’t want to live anymore. That you stop finding joy in the little things. That you want to die. But she didn’t want to die, because she never really wanted anything. But she was desperately looking, every single day she was looking for something more, for something to want. So if she wasn’t depressed, what was she?

     She certainly wasn’t happy. Or normal. No, she definitely was not normal. Unless it’s considered normal to cherish the company of spiders more than that of people. Unless it’s considered normal to stay in the bath until the water started dripping from the shower head completely, and I mean to the last drop. One time, she spent an extra 20 minutes sitting in the bath, waiting and waiting for those last drops to fall.

     It’s easy for her now to admit that she’s different. Not normal. But it took a long time for her to get to that point. It took years, in fact. Years of being the last pick for teams, because she always started screaming when they pass the ball to her. Years of spending recess playing with ants, and yet never stomping on them.“You’re supposed to kill them,“ they told her. “It’s part of the game.“ Years of standing out, of bullying, of coming home crying without knowing the reason why.

     Why her? She was just like them… I mean she looked like them, and she wrote letters like them, and she understood them when they spoke to her. Maybe it was because she didn’t answer them. Maybe it was because she didn’t want to play with them. But what was wrong with wanting some time to be alone? The more she thought about it, the more she realized that it wasn’t just some of the time that she was alone. It was all of the time. She was alone, but she was never lonely. And if she wasn’t lonely, why did she need them? Why should she talk to them?

     That’s what confused most of the doctors. It was that she didn’t feel a need to be cured. She saw nothing there to cure. The only reason she was still even looking for a cure was because she’s been told she needed one. Because her mother and father and sister all looked at her with a mix of fear and pity. So she did it for them. Because she’s also been told that she was supposed to love them, these people with whom she shared a living space. And if you loved someone, you did anything to make them happy. She was told that, too. So she do it. She'd keep looking for the cure, or the solution, or whatever would make them happy. Because if the person you love is happy, you’re happy, right? And she really, truly needed to be happy. They weren’t the ones to tell her that.

 
 

The Playground

By Raj R.

     I was so close to peeing my pants. Mr. Goddard's office call was inevitable. My adrenaline was so high it felt surreal.

     Earlier that morning, I was heading to school in my mother's Subaru in the backseat, holding my new puppy, a German Shepherd that we had just adopted. Quite the cute fifth grade scene. We pulled up to the lot, and it was turning into another monotonous day at Fairmeadow Elementary. I got out of the car, not without my mom’s hug, of course. It was probably the day I was glad I didn’t miss the hug goodbye.

     I started making my way to Room 15 and I was met by my friends Tolga and Daniel at the entrance. Daniel was a real blockhead. I’m not going to sugarcoat anything. He was an annoying little daredevil that would do anything for attention. However Tolga wasn’t exactly an angel either. Tonga would do anything to get the girls' attention. He would participate in the school plays, race boys, and tease them when he won. He would constantly flirt with all the girls of Room 12. Worst of all, he was a cheat. He would backstab me or Daniel if it meant he was getting out of trouble. I wasn’t on the best terms with Tolga, but I enjoyed the company.

     As we walked into class, we were met by Ms. Corti, all smiles until we walked in. Often, I would think to myself that among my friend group, I was just the follower. I didn't like sticking out. I had stage fright, only like a 24/7 kind of it, and everywhere was the stage.

     We sat down,, and the math worksheet for the day was passed around. Just some simple three-digit addition and multiplication. I finished my work relatively quickly, but the birdbrains Daniel and Tolga were taking a while. I asked to use the restroom to kill some time and found third grader Jack Halloway in the doorway. He was teasing a second grader for having 'pee-pee hands'. Not that I cared, so I finished up my business and moved on back to class. There were 30 minutes left until recess and everybody knew it was kickball Tuesday. Daniel and Tolga could barely keep their excitement to themselves. 

     30 minutes later, recess came, and kids were sprinting around everywhere to their places in line for kick-off. I ran to the pitching round with the ball in my hand and got there first. Sweet! However, Jack from the bathroom wasn't too thrilled. He yelled at me, telling me to let him do it because he was better, and snatched the ball out of my hands. I tried to grab it back, but the rat ran away. Daniel came over, as well as Tolga, and shoved him over, took the ball, and said something that can't be repeated here. Oh boy. 

     Jack started to cry, and I had just realized that 60 pairs of eyes were looking at us. "Dang it," I thought to myself. 

     20 minutes later, you can guess what was coming. I was sitting in Mr. Goddard's office with two snakes for friends sitting next to me. I was going to pee my pants so bad. Mr. Goddard's eyes rolled up from his desktop. They set right on me, the idiot in the middle. He opened his mouth to speak, but was cut off by a sobbing Tolga, pointing his chubby finger right at me, wailing, "He told me to do it!" 

     After that sentence, I could only remember two things. One, I was not a happy camper that day. Two, I needed to get some better friends. 

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By Sophia C.

     I was elated.

     I got an A in AP Chemistry. This accomplishment is miniscule in the scheme of things. Just one letter on a page, determined by numbers one to four (who doesn’t love standard based grading) and a dose of subjectivity. After forcing myself to scroll down to see my grade I was ecstatic. My split second glance at the screen was all I needed to celebrate. After a few minutes of victory dancing, I realized that maybe the A I saw was from a different class. I dutifully inched back to my laptop. I looked again. The letter hadn’t changed. My eyes weren’t playing tricks on me. Jubilant, I sprinted up the stairs to tell my brother.

     The best kind of happiness comes when you aren’t expecting anything. When you set your expectations low and are astonished when you exceed them. Although my elation was a consequence of something superficial and extraneous, it was elation nonetheless. There are varying levels of elation, just as there are happiness. Happiness that comes from using drugs is still happiness, just a different kind.

     About a week ago, my dad went to see a bike he found on Craigslist that he considered purchasing for my younger sister. He drove to San Carlos, where the seller lived, with my sister in tow. They arrived without incident and she tried out the bike, riding around on it with a gleeful expression. Sold. The transaction was completed and my dad and sister headed back to the car, my sister wheeling the bike proudly alongside her. Suddenly, the man came running up to them.

     “I have another bike if you’re interested,” he said.

     My dad followed him back to his garage. The man brought out a silver road bike in pristine condition. My dad rode it around the block to verify its condition, then sent me a picture accompanied by the caption “$400.” I received the message at a DECA conference, while I was engaged in something else. Not wanting to drop $400 on a bike that didn’t look so great in the picture, I responded by asking whether it was my size. No reply. I didn’t think anything of it (assuming that he wouldn’t purchase it without my permission, after all it is my money), and resumed my DECA preparations.

     I arrived home that night around 5pm. Chris, my DECA partner, and I had had a fairly successful presentation and I felt good about the written test. I was in good spirits. I got home and walked around to the back door. As I approached the door, I saw my brother outside working/tinkering with his bike. There was grease on his hands and beads of sweat dotted his forehead.

     “Sophia,” he exclaimed, before I made it all the way inside, “I have something to show you.” Ok. I waited. He got up and galloped back to the shed. Still right outside the door, I took in the mess of tools and bike parts scattered around our back patio. My mother would not be pleased. I waited. He returned wheeling a beautiful, silver road bike. The seat had an intricate wavy design and the components were from a high quality manufacturer. The bike was equipped with two sets of brakes, and there was not a scratch on its whole frame. I stared, a little confused.

     “It’s yours,” he declared, then returned to his tinkering. I didn’t believe it.

     “No...” My incredulous denial caused/made him turn around.

     “Yes,” he insisted, clearly beginning to be irritated. I remembered now the text my father had sent me earlier that day. I immediately hopped on the bike.

     I was elated.

     A road bike had been on my Christmas list for years, ever since I learned to ride a bike in first grade. My heavy, unwieldy cruiser turned commuter took any beauty or joy in a bike ride and replaced it with frustration, sweat, and anxiety. As I pedalled, I went faster and faster, until I was going as fast as I’d ever gone on any bike. I loved it. I loved the speed, the freedom, the power, the exhilaration. I thanked my dad profusely afterwards for not letting a catch/find like this slip through his/our fingers. I told him it hadn’t looked as good in the picture.

     The next day held yet another joyful surprise. In my first DECA conference ever that had taken place that weekend, I placed top 8 for the DECA written exam, top 8 for marketing roleplay, and 3rd (out of 44 groups) for advertising campaign. I receive the news via phone call from Chris. I had not wanted to wake up early for the awards ceremony because I didn’t think we would win anything. But we did. 8 pins and a trophy.

     I was elated.

     Three days, three events, three elation inducing events.