Writing Advice: Answer Your Questions

Writing Advice: Answer Your Questions

What are the stories that you wish you could have read?
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I was a voracious reader as a child. I still do love to read, but books don’t take up nearly as large a percentage of my time and attention these days. Before high school, I believe I spent more time reading than I did interacting with other kids, as a geeky introvert without many friends. Consequently, I cannot downplay the impact books had on my social education. A lot of what I know about the world and how it works, I learned from reading books.

Books provide lessons through examples. They portray people in scenarios, and ways that people respond to those scenarios. There is value in this kind of education, removed from personal experience. For example, I am glad that I learned how to respond to romantic relationships turned sour by reading about how people in books responded to them and drawing conclusions from there, instead of by having to go through bad romantic relationships first. I did not need to ask, “Is it okay for someone to insult me, hit me, and take my lunch money?” I already had the answer, from several children’s books: “No, it is not okay. Tell an adult.” I did not need to ask, “What should I do when my significant other claims to love me but hurts me?” I already had the answer, from the protagonists of my books: “Leave them.”

These are good lessons. However, there are holes to a book-based social education. Books could only prepare me for the scenarios that they were about. They only answered certain questions, and left others unanswered.

I had books that told me that bullies were people who were rude and who physically abused their victims, but none that told me about bullies who seemed for all the world like nice people. So for a long time, I did not recognize my bullies. When I asked myself, “Is it okay for these polite, smiling people who everyone says are nice to exclude me so much?” I had no book-provided answer. Though it was clear in hindsight, in the moment I just plain did not know that bullies could seem nice.

I had books that told me how to handle a romantic relationship gone sour, but none that discussed abusive friendships. So for a long time, I did not realize how bad one of my few friendships in junior high was becoming. When I asked myself, “Is it okay for this person who tells me I’m their friend to make me feel so stressed all the time?” I had no book-provided answer. Though it was clear in hindsight, in the moment I just plain did not know that friendships could be abusive.

This isn’t to say that the books taught me incorrect things. They just didn’t teach me some things that I needed, because they did not portray things that I experienced. A big part of what motivates me to write is to portray the things that I have experienced, so that someone who needs to know about that scenario will have my books to draw conclusions from.

Every now and then, I hear aspiring writers complain about not knowing what to write about. Here is my advice: answer the questions that you wish you had had the answers to sooner. What was a situation that you did not know how to handle at the time? For what do you wish you had had a book to tell you the answers? Write about that. You will help someone by doing so.

Cover Image Credit: UnSplash

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.

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To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

Cover Image Credit: Lauren Margliotti

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Hardships Boosting Chances At College

The conditions of where you live, poverty rate, and rent versus home can determine if you get accepted into colleges and universities, alongside SAT scores and other factors.

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Starting next year, another factor will be in consideration for high school graduating students when it comes to that college acceptance letter.

The Environmental Context Dashboard is a new scoring system where colleges and universities will have the option to consider a students living situation when determining their acceptance. According to Q13 Fox News, their segment on the issue done at the University of Washington Tacoma campus reveled the scoring system will be on a scale of one to 100 where the higher the number, the more difficulties that environment is for that student to live in.

College Board, a non-profit organization that "connects students to college success and opportunity" that was founded in 1900 to "expand access to higher education" has created the Environmental Context Dashboard as "a new admissions tool that allows colleges to incorporate context into their admissions process in a data-driven, consistent way".

This will not only include SAT scores in the context of 25th, 50th and 75th percentile from the high school, but it will also look into the context of the student's neighborhood and high school. In this context it will look at "typical family income, family structure, educational attainment, housing stability, and crime."

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It will also look into the information of the high school, "Including AP opportunity at the high school" which will show the "number of AP Exams taken" and "average AP score" along with "percentage of students who meet federal eligibility criteria for free and reduced-price lunch; rurality/urbanicity; and senior class size."


However, even though all this information is going to be gathered, according to Q13 Fox News, College Wise Counselor Tom Barry said "The reality is no admissions decision is open to the public; I've sat in those committee rooms. There is a lot of debate, there is a lot of crying, there is a lot of yelling; it is a contentious time...Colleges will get to do what they want with this number, including ignore it."

Q13 Fox News also stated that "students and schools were not able to see the numbers they were assigned in the dashboard, only college admissions officers saw that data. But the College Board says they are looking into ways to possibly make it available for families."

Showing the data of a student's neighborhood, crime rates, poverty levels and family structures will being giving colleges and universities intimate knowledge of not just the students academic standing such as graduating GPA, honors received, etc., but will allow the school to make assumptions based on the data. For example, if it is a lower-income neighborhood, they can assume the student will have less money and therefore need more financial aid than other students.

While this is intended for colleges and universities to have more information to give kids who have "environmental struggles" a better chance at gaining admission, it could also allow colleges and universities to discriminate against those in certain types of environments by seeing which areas have higher income and less crime activity and allowing them to choose selectively. It can also take away opportunities from those who come from families who have a high enough income to where they don't receive financial aid but can't afford to pay for college out of pocket.

It shouldn't matter where a student comes from or what their neighborhoods are like. The determination of admission to a college or university should be based on academic merit, just like it has been. But with 50 colleges already using the data in a pilot program, including the University of Washington Seattle campus, it looks like where you come from will become just as important as you academic standing.

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