A Letter To My Senior Buddy

A Letter To My Senior Buddy

Your lil freshie loves you always.
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Dear Karley:

I know you have seen this a lot lately, but congratulations! Your recent announcement of getting to work at Yellostone led me to screaming and crying in the middle of Walmart. In other words, I am super duper proud of you.

You getting to accomplish your dream of working for a National Park not only shows your passion, but also the incredible power of The Odyssey. It is crazy and at the same time amazing to witness the things you have done over the six (!!!) years I have known you.

Recently, but especially since I saw your Facebook status a few hours ago, I have been thinking about the first weekend I met you. Remember that? I was the awkward freshman who was quiet at first but was forced to get out of her shell. You? Well, you were the senior who drove an SUV that you referred to as "the Tank" who loved Bullet For My Valentine. While I am no longer a freshman but still awkward, and while you do not drive the tank, our friendship has stayed the same. I am so glad that you took me under your wing. While I did not know it at the time, I was so glad that we met and shared a room in that somewhat shady hotel room. You were my "senior buddy", and I was your "lil freshie." Even though we have obviously grown away from those titles, they still stand today and I love you for it.

You have seen and been there for me in times when I needed a friend. It was not just in desperate times that I was deep in my battle with depression, but also when I had a dumb question, like "what lens should I get for my camera?" I never felt like I had to ask so much as I just had to just tell. You grew from the cool senior at Amplify retreat to the older sister I never knew I wanted. It was a chance meeting, yet one I am so grateful for.

Now, you get to leave Louisiana and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and head up to Wyoming. There, you will get to nurture your love of photography and nature. Basically, you're going to be living your dream. In stories, it's called the "happily ever after." But for you, it;s not the happily ever after because you get to keep on going. You get to keep on living that dream that you so longed to achieve. I am so proud of what you have accomplished, and I know that you will keep doing. I know that so many people are going to miss you as you do this, including me. But know that all of us at home love you always and will always be here for absolutely anything. You're the best and will change the world one day. Like the geysers and waterfalls at Yellowstone, your future is endless.

"Tank" you for your awesome years of friendship,

Your lil freshie

Cover Image Credit: Grand Targhee Resort

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I Visited The "Shameless" Houses And Here's Why You Shouldn't

Glamorizing a less-than-ideal way to live.
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After five hours of driving, hearing the GPS say "Turn right onto South Homan Avenue" was a blessing. My eyes peeled to the side of the road, viciously looking for what I have been driving so long for, when finally, I see it: the house from Shameless.

Shameless is a hit TV show produced by Showtime. It takes place in modern-day Southside, Chicago. The plot, while straying at times, largely revolves around the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. While a majority of the show is filmed offsite in a studio in Los Angeles, many outside scenes are filmed in Southside and the houses of the Gallagher's and side-characters are very much based on real houses.

We walked down the street, stopped in front of the two houses, took pictures and admired seeing the house in real life. It was a surreal experience and I felt out-of-place like I didn't belong there. As we prepared to leave (and see other spots from the show), a man came strolling down on his bicycle and asked how we were doing.

"Great! How are you?"

It fell silent as the man stopped in front of the Gallagher house, opened the gate, parked his bike and entered his home. We left a donation on his front porch, got back to the car and took off.

As we took the drive to downtown Chicago, something didn't sit right with me. While it was exciting to have this experience, I began to feel a sense of guilt or wrongdoing. After discussing it with my friends, I came to a sudden realization: No one should visit the "Gallagher" house.

The plot largely revolves the Gallagher family and their continual struggle with (extreme) poverty. It represents what Southside is like for so many residents. While TV shows always dramatize reality, I realized coming to this house was an exploitation of their conditions. It's entertaining to see Frank's shenanigans on TV, the emotional roller coasters characters endure and the outlandish things they have to do to survive. I didn't come here to help better their conditions, immerse myself in what their reality is or even for the donation I left: I came here for my entertainment.

Southside, Chicago is notoriously dangerous. The thefts, murders and other crimes committed on the show are not a far-fetched fantasy for many of the residents, it's a brutal reality. It's a scary way to live. Besides the Milkovich home, all the houses typically seen by tourists are occupied by homeowners. It's not a corporation or a small museum -- it's their actual property. I don't know how many visitors these homes get per day, week, month or year. Still, these homeowners have to see frequent visitors at any hour of the day, interfering with their lives. In my view, coming to their homes and taking pictures of them is a silent way of glamorizing the cycle of poverty. It's a silent way of saying we find joy in their almost unlivable conditions.

The conceit of the show is not the issue. TV shows have a way of romanticizing very negative things all the time. The issue at hand is that several visitors are privileged enough to live in a higher quality of life.

I myself experienced the desire and excitement to see the houses. I came for the experience but left with a lesson. I understand that tourism will continue to the homes of these individuals and I am aware that my grievances may not be shared with everyone -- however, I think it's important to take a step back and think about if this were your life. Would you want hundreds, potentially thousands, of people coming to your house? Would you want people to find entertainment in your lifestyle, good and bad?

I understand the experience, excitement, and fun the trip can be. While I recommend skipping the houses altogether and just head downtown, it's most important to remember to be respectful to those very individuals whose lives have been affected so deeply by Shameless.

Cover Image Credit: itsfilmedthere.com

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Tempe Artists Are In The Vicious Cycle Of 'Create Art, Go Unnoticed, Become Discouraged'

An enterprise solutions piece on the inner workings of the Tempe art scene.

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Tempe artists often find themselves in the vicious cycle of "create art, go unnoticed, become discouraged."

The struggle to gain little, if any, recognition for their contributions to the creative community is causing artists to stray from their passions.

Tempe is one of the only Arizona cities that does not offer an award to recognize local artists. The Tempe Arts Committee is in the process of changing that by introducing an award that will celebrate a variety of artistic contributions in a community where art appreciation is scarce.

The new award will honor Tempe artists, educators, performers, art businesses, public arts, art events, and cultural arts. It is an award to celebrate those who have continued to create and inspire many in a city that does not flourish on their art scene.

Tara Shultz and Lauren Hernandez

Anthony Johnson, a subcommittee commissioner, is disappointed with the lack of representation of the arts in his community.

"I like to paint walls, right? Nowhere in my community does anyone support it. My daughter shares the same interest. Let's face it, we are a generation that does not encourage arts for our children. How do our children get that interaction of painting big and large if it's frowned upon in your community?" Johnson said.

Cities around the Valley honor and encourage their neighborhood artists. Phoenix has presented an arts award since 2012; and Yuma since 2001.

Flagstaff is exposing its community to the arts by annually honoring an artist with the Viola Award, which pays tribute to artists, performers, and educators. The Tempe Arts Commissioner Board is pushing to mirror the Viola Awards by shining light on the local art and culture scene.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

Local students and citizens view art as self-expression and exposure to new cultures. Brenda Abney, a Tempe Arts and Culture manager, said art gives students and the community a sense of belonging.

"I always try to provide opportunities for young people to be involved because not everyone has the same thought patterns and talents. By exploring arts and culture, they open themselves up to another world. And if they have a creative mind they can use it in a different way," Abney said.

Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is home to more than 4,700 students. The Institute offers majors, minors, certificates, and electives in the arts including film, music, art, art museum, film, dance, and theatre, design, arts, media, and engineering.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

The lack of exposure to the arts in Tempe is frightening to students pursuing careers in many different forms of art and culture at ASU. Jordan Litzinger, a senior arts major, is surprised by the lack of exposure she has gotten outside of school.

"Students at Arizona State University are given multiple opportunities to succeed unless they are a part of the arts," Litzinger said. "Those emails they send with jobs and internships never include the arts. I am a senior drawing major at the Herberger school and have only been able to have one of my pieces featured in a local museum. This is always expected with the arts, but it's even harder to succeed in Tempe."

In comparison to schools such as the University of Colorado at Boulder, ASU is ranked higher and offers more programs. ASU is ranked No. 20; CU is ranked No. 59. The difference in the programs is that the city of Boulder is providing more opportunities for their students outside of school.

In 2019, Boulder will generate $675,000 in grant funds, that will be offered to community projects, general operating support, arts education projects, professional development, venue rental assistance, and much more.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

"Boulder respects arts in the sense that diverse communities create a positive environment and support and encourage CU to provide arts and sciences degrees," said Olivia Kleespies, a sophomore at CU studying architecture.

The Tempe Center for the Arts, a crucial element to the arts scene in Tempe, will need long-term assistance regardless of the passing of Proposition 417. Prop. 417 is a tax set to build, operate, and maintain arts and culture programs. The tax was first approved by voters in 2000 and will now be renewed in 2021, which will permanently extend it.

After the bonds are paid off, the tax generates $8 million annually, $600,000 of which will be moved into a Captial Improvement Plan each year.

Robin Arredondo-Savage, a Tempe city council member, pointed out the importance of the arts tax and how the city already celebrates local artists.

"One of the coolest things we are able to do is events like Arts in the Park. Giving more exposure to the murals around the city and providing more education in the schools is what the art tax will allow us to expand on. Ultimately, it will give us more exposure to the arts in our community," Arredondo-Savage said.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

The Tempe Arts Committee members agree that artists do not feel encouraged to express themselves within the community. This is why Tempe is taking things into their own hands. The committee strives to become advocates and allies of the Tempe art scene.

Local singer-songwriter Jill Naffziger said she thinks the arts are well represented within ASU, but not as much outside of the school.

"Singers are well represented as there are so many choirs and clubs to join, whether it be at ASU or around town," Naffziger said. "I can see where it would be hard for a student or resident pursuing drawing or painting as there is no coverage of this in Tempe."

The purpose of the award is to celebrate the excellence of creators and organizations in the arts and culture of Tempe that have made significant contributions to the area. It will cover a broad range of art demonstrations, such as paintings, drawings, musical talents, literary works, and dance expressions. The creation of this award will bring more exposure to the ASU and Tempe artists, as well as residents.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

The committee said it hopes to have the award presented in April 2019. Along with committee members being able to nominate artists, they will also open the nomination process to the public, to ensure everyone has a voice.

Because of the immense field it covers, the commissioners will choose categories to award based on the types of nominations they receive. The commissioners will also have the responsibility of choosing the awardees.

If all goes to plan, the subcommittee will be able to provide examples of potential nominations and award winners to the public and to assist them in the process.

The subcommittee is uncertain about a dollar amount for the award, or if there will be. They want to give recognition to local artists, whether it takes the form of a certificate or prize.

Lauren Hernandez and Tara Shultz

The Tempe Arts Committee stands behind the theory that students perform better on standardized tests when they are given the opportunity to be involved with art programs and this is why it is crucial for a city like Tempe to have more arts exposure.

According to the Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America's Future Through Creative Schools report, "school-wide achievement gains have been observed when arts integration has been applied as a school reform and improvement strategy."

The board said it hopes its award will enlighten Tempe schools and encourage aspiring young artists to embrace their talents.

"By exploring arts and culture, young people open themselves up to a different world beyond academics or sports. They can put their mind to use in a different way and it can create a sense of belonging in the community," Abney said. "Art allows people to have a creative outlet, especially when you are putting so much time and energy in finding out where you belong in life. It's a place where you are free to be creative and relax."

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