When I Grow Up, I Want To Be...

When I Grow Up, I Want To Be...

Happy.

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"When I was younger I want to be…"

"A lawyer"

"A doctor"

"A teacher"

"A mom"

"Happy"

Notice how the titles all include an "A" before the career. Yes, it is for grammatical reasons, but it is also because by becoming one of these, we are becoming another one. There are hundreds of lawyers, doctors, parents, teachers, but how often do you see a child vocalize their need to be happy?

Now skip a few years into high school. This is where teachers overflow homework so students can adapt to heavy workloads and constantly mutter the words, "You will thank me when you get to college." You always see them specifying the need for success in the classroom, on the field, on the court, through social media, but when do they open the opportunities for internal happiness? When do they challenge you to bring your emotions to light and understand why you are the way you are?

Psychology classes are not required, but a fine art is. It is more important to a school district that I understand how to draw a circle and correctly define a shade of color than it is a necessity to understand the inner-workings of my mind. Sure, there is a 1-week course in biology discussing neuroscience. The kids who actually paid attention to the brief review may remember the hypothalamus and frontal lobe. But what after that?

Why do our bodies hurt, why do we laugh, what nerve is lighting up when we have a thought and why? How do self-fulfilling prophecies affect our everyday life? How is it when we angry, there is negativity surrounding us, but when we are happy, the world is rainbows and unicorns? These are very real questions that we have the answers to, so why are they less important than the Pythagorean theory?

It is because humans have a talent and knack to neglect that build up in our minds which defines our emotions. We will bury down the hurt and pain because something is more important. People will self-medicate, self-diagnose, and evaluate others without actually stopping to understand how it works. It is like having a broken car and pouring gasoline stating, "I know it needs this, so I will just use more of it and it will fix itself". It might sound idiotic on a screen but put in into perspective and think about its effects for a minute. Why would you take depression medication when you don't know the internal works which are leading to your depression? Nothing will get fixed then, it will get bandaged, and in case you haven't noticed, a bandage is a temporary fix.

Music artists will appeal to the needs of their audience. So, is that why so many songs signify heartache? Is that how people cloud themselves away from the shallow volcano of love? You begin by dipping in a signal toe and next thing you know you are hurdling through thousands of miles of warmth and comfort and enjoying every minute of it until you realize how hard the drop hurts. Do we call it "falling in love" because we always get hurt? No, we don't. We use the term falling to symbolize getting up. If you fall and hurt your knee, it is unlikely that you will never walk again, same goes for finding love. When you get your heart broken, you get back up, look at your battle scars, and grow stronger and happier than ever before. You realize your own worth which you would not have seen if it weren't for that individual in your life.

We fall in love so that one day instead of dropping to the ground and scraping our knees, someone will catch us, and that is when you know it is pure and real and something worth fighting to keep.

Just because the world is a scary place doesn't mean we have to let it intimidate us. Smile more, laugh often, and pray to God, to Buddha, to the Sun and Stars, to a chair for all it matters. Pray for eternal happiness and gratitude, because human life has meaning. Whether it be using your hypothalamus to understand everyday tasks, or exploring the endless possibilities, life has meaning. And I can assure you, every tear you shed will bring you another moment of endless smiles, laughing, and joy in the future, so just keep pushing forward and understand why you are the way you are.

When I grow up I will be… Me.

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To High School Seniors In Their Last Semester

Senior year moves pretty fast; if you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.
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Dammit, you made it. The final semester of your senior year. You’re at the top of the food chain of high school, and it feels so good. You’re probably praying this last semester flies by, that you get out of town as soon as possible.

At this point, you’re calling teachers by their first names, the entire staff knows you by name, and you’re walking around school standing tall, owning those hallways. You’re convinced you’re ready to leave and move on to the next chapter in your life.

You’ve already experienced your last football game, standing in the cold in the front row of the student section all season long, decked out in your school colors and cheering loud and proud. That is, until they lost, and you realized you will never have that experience again. Never again.

SEE ALSO: What I Wish I Knew As A Second-Semester High School Senior

You already had your last winter break. Preparing and celebrating the holidays with your family, ice skating and sledding with your best friends. Those quiet nights alone in your room watching Netflix, taking for granted your loved ones just a few rooms away. Never again.

If you’re an athlete, you may have already played in your last game or ran your last race. The crowd cheering, proudly wearing your school’s name across your chest, giving it your all. For some, it may be the end of your athletic career. Before you knew it, you were standing in an empty gym, staring up at the banners and thinking about the mark you left on your school, wondering where on earth the time went. Never again.

I’m telling you right now, you’re going to miss it all. Everything you’ve ever known. Those early mornings when you debate going to first hour because you really need those McDonald’s hash browns. The late nights driving home from practice, stopping for ice cream of course, ready for a late night of homework. Getting food on a whim with your friends. Endless fights with your siblings. Your favorite chips in the pantry. A fridge full of food. Coming home to and getting tackled by your dog. Driving around your hometown, passing the same sights you’ve seen every day for as long as you can remember. Hugs from your mom after a long day. Laughs with your dad. And that best friend of yours? You’re going to miss them more than anything. I’m telling you right now, nothing will ever be the same. Never again.

SEE ALSO: I'm The Girl That Enjoyed High School

Before you start packing your bags, slow down, take a deep breath, and look around. You’ve got it pretty good here. The end of your senior year can be the time of your life; it’s truly amazing. So go to the winter dance, go to Prom, spend Senior Skip Day with your classmates, go to every sporting event you can, while you still can. College is pretty great, but it’s the little things you’re gonna miss the most. Don’t take it for granted because soon, you’ll be standing in a packed gym in your cap and gown, wondering where the heck the time went. You’ve got a long, beautiful life ahead of you, full of joy but also full of challenges. You’re going to meet so many wonderful people, people who will treat you right and people who won’t.


So, take it all in. Be excited for the future and look forward to it, but be mindful of the present. You’ve got this.
Cover Image Credit: Hartford Courant

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19 Things I Learned From Hearing Angie Thomas Speak

The author of the critically-acclaimed "The Hate U Give" gave a resounding speech at College of Charleston's Sotille Theater.

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When I first read the novel "The Hate U Give," I was immediately struck by how moving and timely the text was, and how authentic the characters were made out to be.

Originally written in 2017, "The Hate U Give" by debut author Angie Thomas tells the story of a young black girl who witnesses her best friend get shot unjustly by a white police officer. The main character Starr lives in a poor, mostly black neighborhood but attends a rich, mostly white school, and even in just her normal daily life must navigate the differences between the two. This especially becomes difficult when a story of the police shooting breaks and Starr must learn to find her real voice to tell the world her truth.

After winning numerous awards and even a movie adaptation, Angie Thomas still travels the world to tell the story of what brought her to write such an awe-inspiring book and how we as college students can become activists in our own right, just like Starr.

Almost every statement and life lesson of hers was worth resounding applause, so here are a couple of things I personally took away from hearing her speak in person, and some I know others out there who didn't attend her talk would greatly benefit from.

1. Be sure to learn more before you judge a place and it's people

One of the first things Angie Thomas spoke about (after the deafening applause that lasted about 5 minutes) was her childhood in Mississippi. And she was quick to mention that no, it's not what it sounds like.

She points out that there are often misconceptions about growing up black in the South, and that there is more than just what the stereotypes suggest.

She had a good childhood, better than some other parts of the state, but there were definitely still issues of racism that she faced. The important thing to remember is that often stereotypes or widely thought ideas are not often the exact truth of the matter.

2. "Know your worth, but not everyone will value you the same way I do, simply because of the color of your skin"

I think that says enough. This is what Thomas was told numerous times growing up, and is a problem so many people face today. You are worth it, never doubt that.

3. Don't get too focused on the past and forget to deal with the present

Thomas explained how this became a real problem in Mississippi, and it was often her response when asked ignorant questions about growing up in the South.

Everyone was so focused on the slavery, lynchings, and segregation of Mississippi's past that very little outsiders or policymakers were focused on the needs of the present, such as cultivating a response to violence, drugs, and extreme racism that still exists in neighborhoods today.

This same idea can be applied to many areas in today's America, and even within our own lives. Too often we can be focused on the embarrassment and failures of the past that we forget what we can do right now in the present.

4. Activism is messy and hard, but it's worth it

Activism is meant to drive change, and to do that, you must offend some people who like the old and well, change what others may be used to.

It's a hard process, even in today's emotionally charged society, and while it may be easy to shy away from the messiness of activism, it will all be worth it to be the change you want to see in the world. And committing to activism and overcoming these obstacles will undoubtedly make you a stronger person.

5. Find what speaks to you, whatever it may be

Thomas, though a critically-acclaimed writer, confessed during her talk that as a kid, she really didn't like to read. Eventually, it was explained that this was not because of the mere act of reading, but something more personal than that. She said, and I quote, "books didn't speak to me, hip-hop did," and through hip-hop, she began to see herself in someone else's art. And that was powerful. Hip-hop and artists like 2Pac helped her realize her worth and place in the world, and it can be the same way for us. So if you find something that speaks to you, whether it be books or music or art or activity, love it unapologetically with all you've got.

6. Read "The Rose That Grew From Concrete"

Thomas said it really had an impact on her as she grew up, and was what began to inspire her to write on her own. When you read the poem, it's easy to see why.

7. You may be real-life Hailey without knowing you're real-life Hailey.

A reference that many fans of the book will understand, but basically this means that you should watch what you say and think about how it could impact the others around, especially if what you say is based on false and hurtful stereotypes. Hailey was a character from the book who, though claimed to be Starr's friend, often said racially insensitive things that caused Starr to be hurt and/or angry. Thomas claims that Hailey was based on a real person, and when that real person read the book, she didn't see herself as Hailey. Thomas eventually told her who she was, and they haven't spoken since.

8. You never need to make justifications for someone else's unjust behavior towards you.

Following instances like the ones described above regarding Hailey, Thomas often found that she was not speaking up for herself, but instead making excuses for why others would say such hurtful things. These excuses could range from "well maybe they're just having a bad day," or "maybe this is all they know," or "I'm sure they didn't mean it in a hurtful way," but nonetheless, they were all just served to bring her down. Once she stopped doing this and spoke up, Thomas was able to find her courage and voice, and so can we.

9. Turn your anger or hurt into something productive.

Thomas found that writing "The Hate U Give" was her way of responding to the injustice and misunderstanding she was seeing in the world, and it was fueled by her intense anger over real-world events and her classmates' reactions to them. For example, after Oscar Grant was unjustly shot by a police officer in 2009, her neighborhood responded with sadness akin to if Oscar had been immediate family, whereas the others in her school responded with things like "wasn't he a drug dealer," or "maybe he deserved it," or "he was probably going to die anyway." Thomas found that instead of lashing out, she could create empathy and understanding through writing so that others would hopefully never have to go through what she experienced.

10.There's power in making the political, personal.\

"As a young black woman in the South," Thomas stated, "my very existence is political."

To Thomas, there is no greater way to achieve true political change than to make the idea or concept you are trying to pursue, personal. Empathy is key in getting things to change. People need to see what it's like to live as someone else, to struggle with their struggles, to face what they have to face. That's part of what makes Thomas' book, and others like it, so powerful; Starr's voice is so moving that the reader feels as though they are right there with her, and they see the struggles they may merely hear about through someone's eyes and heart.

11. You must define your activism, but most importantly, you must be active

There are many different ways to engage in activism, whether it's actively protesting on the streets, making art to move people, or simply living your life proudly, and you must define the way in which you want to change the world. It doesn't matter what form it takes, just that it is.

12. Does someone care? Yes.

Never feel as though your voice won't be heard or that people won't care about what you say, or even that what you say will make any sort of difference.

13. If you change the community around you than you are changing the world

Many people think that their small, individual actions will not create real change in the grand scheme of things, but Thomas is here to tell us that that is absolutely not true. Once we change the community around us, we are changing the world for those individual people and creating more of a movement for further political change at the state or federal level.

14. "An avalanche is eventually caused by a bunch of snowflakes sticking together"

*After expressing her frustration at the word "snowflake," which she feels is now being used to describe anyone who's open about their feelings*

15. "Books are either mirrors, windows, or sliding glass doors."

Never underestimate the power of books. And never underestimate the power books have as a form of activism and empathy.

16. Every woman who has ever changed something has made someone uncomfortable.

Other people's comfort is not your priority, especially a man's.

17. Activism is a marathon, not a sprint

It may be frustrating to feel as though your efforts are amounting to very little when protesting and calling your senators and signing petitions and voting just don't feel like enough. Thomas encourages us to look past this, and instead of giving up, look ahead to the future and see just how these small steps can lead to something great. Too many things have been given up because they don't yield immediate results, but we must be hard-pressed to remember that true change never does.

18. Never make yourself smaller to fit into their space

Never make excuses for who you are or how other's treat you. Never feel ashamed of the things or people you love. Never focus on the judgment of others because, in the end, it's you who has to live with yourself and you who is responsible for your happiness. Be proud of who you are, and never diminish an authentic part of you to please or conform to other people.

19. Good writers are also good listeners

Finally, at the end of her speech, Thomas gave her advice on writing. The most notable statements include the necessity of reading every line of dialogue out loud (because if the voice isn't even authentic to you, how will it be authentic to your reader?) and that writer's block is a b***ch. She tells you to either take a much-deserved break from staring at the pages or skip to a completely different part of the story where you have more inspiration.

I learned so much for listening to her speech and reading her book, and it is now evident to me that author Angie Thomas can serve as a good role model for young girls everywhere. Her new book, "On the Come-Up" comes out February 5th, 2019, and I will be one of the first to grab it off the chairs.

So if you ever get the chance to hear Angie Thomas speak in person, you better go.

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