Alright, listen up. I know that you know that I’m being forced to write this. But it isn’t too bad yet… Okay, maybe a little bit bad - or a lot-a-bit. Maybe it’s just that writing about your personal life to God knows who can seem daunting. I’m an open book (literally *knee slap*). Sooooo… I hope you like reading!
At this point, you don’t even really know me. I’ll start with the basics. My name is Riley Michelle. I’m currently fourteen years old and a freshman in high school. My English teacher may or may not be looking over my shoulder watching me type this, I’m too scared to look. Guess that’ll be a mystery forever now. Where was I? That’s right, me. Me me me me me. You know what? I’m not that fond of me. Why did I choose to write this Author study on me? Pull it together Riley. Geez.
Here’s the breakdown. Right now is mostly me rambling on to you so that you can get a sense of my voice. Don’t worry, you don’t have to listen to my ADD brain babble for tooooo much longer. You’re soon to reach the stories. What this paper is, at its core, is a quick account of all the major events in my life that lead to my conclusion. What is that conclusion you may ask? Well, I guess that’s what you’ll have to figure out. I won’t give you all the answers just yet.
You’ve gotta do a little work yourself sometimes. Everybody has copied a homework assignment here and there, but there are things in life that you can’t cheat around. Life lesson number one: Don’t cheat in order to figure out what life has to offer. Everybody has to make their own discoveries. Letting someone else live your life is no fun. Well since that’s out of the way now, I’ll finally tell you about my side of the story.
Let’s start with my first major turning point.
I was eight and a half years old, because every month counts if you had my mindset. I couldn’t wait to grow up throughout my entire childhood. It seemed so exciting to me. Independence, makeup, being able to be my own person, and not rely on anyone else. Not one day passed that I didn’t ask my Pre-K teacher if I was a big girl yet. But we’ll get into that later.
All of our furniture had been packed up into the U-Haul, and the house was bare. I took one last, longing look at my living room, kissed the floor, and said my last goodbye to 31 Oxford Drive.
Sauntering out of that house, I remember scheming about how I will sneak in once I’m old enough to travel back to Connecticut. I thought to myself, It’ll be a breeze! I’ve seen the spy movies. They don’t get caught sneaking into buildings, and neither will I! That, ladies and gentlemen, is the astonishing, fairy-tale thought process of eight-year-old Riley. Mini-me refused to let go. I pushed away big changes. I tried to push off moving for as long as I could. Now that I’m six years older, and not the total superwoman I was hoping to be (that dream kind of shattered), I’ve accepted that moving on - or just plain moving - means leaving things behind.
But, it also means finding new beginnings.
I’ll be honest - my first few years in New Hampshire weren’t the greatest. I didn’t connect with many people. The girls that I met at a summer camp before school started ditched me before the second day. It took a while for me to be happy with my life. It seemed like the sadness would never end. I questioned myself. What could I do differently? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find my place?
It takes a while to adjust to change. There were plenty of nights that I sat alone in my room, head buried in my knees. Nobody wants change. Nobody likes change at first. But everybody changes.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown so much, and I’m learning more and more every day. In my minuscule fourteen years of life, there’s so much I’ve gained from taking big risks and making big changes.
Here, my friends, are a few of those risks.
Costa Rica, Baby
Let’s explore my first time traveling the world. See what I did there? ;) February break of 2016, five other students and I packed our bags and flew down to COSTA FRIKIN RICA. The instant I stepped off that plane into the flaming hot sun, I knew I was home. It felt like I had arrived at my destination. Like I was meant to be there, or I had been before. You know that feeling? A home away from home.
My schedule had never been (and never will be) as jam-packed as it was that week. We had an energy-draining, hair-raising, life-changing adventure every single day.
The group brought the week to a close by zip lining through the jungle. We kicked it off with a training session because instead of hitting a break at the end of the line like normal people, we had to use our hands to stop ourselves. I figured it out first, no big deal *dusts off shoulder*.
The final zip line was the scariest. It had a required minimum weight that allowed you to fly down head first like Superman. Of course, Sophie and I were the only two willing to do it immediately, and the only two too light to do it. Instead of taking part in this crazy line, we leapt off the platform feet-first with Sophie wrapped between my legs. I stood up and my legs felt like Jell-O. Little did I know what was waiting for me next. Dun dun duuuuuun...
I was guided to a rope bridge that led to… Nowhere?
Yup - that’s right. The bridge reached over a cliff in the middle of the mountains and
A 120-foot free fall, relying only on a rope and a harness to save your life. Isn’t that what you use for rock climbing? Or other not-very-dangerous sports?
I stood at the edge of the platform, staring at my impending doom. The hole below me was reaching deep into the pits of the earth. I took a deep breath and comforted my lungs with the sweet hug of warm air. The employees were talking to me, but all I could hear was my own heart thumping in my head. Clenching my fists, I breathed in the smoke of bravery and counted.
3… 2… 1… And just like that, I was falling.
I’M GONNA DIE! I NEED A NET, NOW! HELP ME! Oh, maybe I’m okay.
My world was spinning. All I could hear was my friends clapping, but I didn’t care about those. I only cared about the feeling of my guts being shoved into my chest, and my hands slowly losing grip on the rope. I was thankfully caught and jerked another 80 feet back up into the air.
I distinctly remember there being a time of peace and silence, and even though it only lasted for a split second, I remember it as if it had lasted an hour. The warmth of Latin America wrapped around me. Glancing to the left, I saw a bird flying past, having a chill afternoon. The catch? I was above it. Me! Higher than a bird! It was easily the most superhuman feeling I’ve had in my life, all because I made the decision to step off that platform.
My fingers tingled from the adrenaline rush. Every inch of my body was freaking out yet calm at the same time. I was taking my time to admire the beautiful creature until I got yanked back down by gravity’s obnoxious pull. As said by the lovely Stephanie Tanner, “How rude.”
Stepping out of that harness, I felt like I could conquer the world. That is, until my legs wobbled so much that I had to sit down. But that’s beside the point. I had just survived a 120-foot free fall, flew with the birds, and overcame one of my biggest fears, all within two minutes. That says a lot to me.
Take risks, no matter how big. Even if the reward is not as great as what you were expecting, oh well. Let something else shatter your expectations. Either way, you tried something new, stepped out of your comfort zone. If you hated it, okay. If you loved it, great! Because if you want to enjoy what you do, you have to be the one doing it. No backing down. No assumptions. No, “I will if you will.”
After a week in paradise, I returned home to my parents’ arms. Eager to tell them all about how the trip was and what had happened and what I saw and what I got to hear and where I went and when I went there and what I wanted to do and who I met and who I got to know and what I experienced and what I learned, I started yapping my jaw and couldn’t stop word-vomiting at every possible second. I don’t even care if I looked like an effervescent freak. I was addicted to adrenaline from there on out, and nothing they could say would drag me out of my high.
That’s what I like to see in people. That commitment and passion for anything, especially travel, sparks my interest. I like people that know where they want to go with their lives, or at least have a strong attraction towards something. I can’t stand when people are bland. They have no interests aside from sitting at home borrowing money from Mommy. I want to see more people in this world that can’t wait to conquer it.
Let’s talk about my favorite team that I’ve ever played for. The 14U Longhorns. Our coach had promised us in the beginning of the year that if we won the championships, then we could get team windbreakers. We all disregarded it, having no faith or confidence in ourselves. It was a stretch for us though, considering that we had just lost our first game 25-2. Then, a miracle happened.
Somehow, our wreck of a team made it to the Atlantic League Championships. We faced the Tigers, another wreck that practiced day in and day out to get to that very moment. Our team of 12 against their team of 16. *Cue wild west staredown music*. It was one of the most stressful situations I’ve ever been in.
Surprisingly, it was very evenly matched. We were tied the whole game and had to go into extra innings. Up until that point, it had been nothing short of boring. With triples being hit every few innings, and clean plays being made in the field, all the audience members were on the edge of their seats.
It was the bottom of the eighth inning. Our pitcher had just walked in a few runs and we were only ahead by one. There was only one out, with the tying run on third. Emma had two strikes on the batter. She started her motion, and the world slowed. Isn’t it crazy how it does that? Her release was perfect. The ball soared right down the middle. CRACK. The ball came firing to me in center field. Instincts kicked in immediately. I drop stepped back and placed myself to catch the ball. I watched as the ball approached the top of its arch. The pressure was on. I could taste the victory sitting on the tip of my tongue. The ball started to drop, heading right towards me. SNAG. In my glove. The runner on third booked it towards home, the taste fading.
Nobody thought that I could throw it, but I like proving people wrong. That ball was in and out of my hand before you could say “HOME!” I remained as still as a statue and watched it closely out of fear, wondering what I could have done better.
But it was the greatest throw I could have made.
A one-hop straight to the plate. Brenda scooped it up with ease and swiped her glove through the batter’s box. Out at the plate. I stood in shock for a second, then went wild with the rest of the crowd
I. RILEY. JUST MADE A GAME SAVING PLAY FROM CENTER FIELD TO HOME PLATE. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT????
The taste of victory engulfed me. My team congratulated me with screams and pats on the head (you know, normal). Oh yeah, remember those jackets? You’re welcome, Longhorns.
Out of all the possible outcomes of that game, I dictated mine. Life is about taking charge, be it on the field or off of it, not waiting for life to come to you. Seek out and seize your own opportunities. Dictate your path, and don’t let anyone stand in your way. Knock ‘em out the park.
Wings Wide Open
December 23, 2016. The date that I met a very special person. His name was Arthur Remy, and he came barreling into my life out of nowhere.
My neighborhood has a Christmas Holiday House Hop every year. Mouthful, right? In the past, my friends Tess, Eva and I would ditch and go back to their place once the kids started watching cheesy movies. This year was no different. We were hanging out in their living room live streaming when Tess and Eva got a text from their dad saying that there was a “cute French boy” that showed up at the Anderson’s (the house we had just left) because he was told that we were there. Come on! Who wouldn’t have gone back? Anyways, he came to pick us up from Tess and Eva’s house just as we were ending the live stream.
Right when Eva picked up her phone to say to everybody watching, “See you later guys, we’re gonna go meet a cute French boy!” Arthur walked through the door and heard every word.
Immediately, Tess and I started laughing at her. Eva’s face turned bright red with embarrassment. I felt bad for her, but not bad enough to stop laughing. He smirked and looked down, flattered, and Eva tried (or should I say, failed miserably) to casually play it off. She wasn’t living this one down.
Us four spent the night playing games, listening to his young cousin talk about grannies, trying to change the TV from French back to English, and dodging parents. Arthur cured us of our boredom and gave us a new appreciation for life. He told us of his athletic career, his company, and basically anything else awesome that you can imagine. He had a dream life. We told him about New Hampshire and complained about teachers. Soon after, Tess accidentally changed the TV to French and needing his help to fix it because of course, he was bilingual. Arthur truly was the star of the night, but I didn’t expect him to be the star every night.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying, “Arthur had an amazing, open spirit and a zest for life. With a twinkle in his blue eyes and an easy grin, he brightened any room the moment he stepped in.” or “He was sincere, selfless and joyful, and left a lasting impression on whoever crossed his path.”
His obituary got it right.
February 10, 2017, 10:44 pm. The last conversation we would ever have. Arthur only ever texted me on Fridays, something I discovered after his passing, and will forever be in the dark about. It was a meaningless conversation, him responding to something I had said a week ago with the most random answer. That was the topic. Randomness.
Eight texts, fifteen words, nine laughing emojis, and two question marks. No, make that three. Why did it have to end on this note? Why did this short string of nothing have to be the last thing he heard from me, and the last memory I would have of him? Why couldn’t I have had a more meaningful conversation? Why didn’t I try harder to keep the texts going? Why didn’t I keep talking? Why? Why? WHY?
February 11, 2017. The date that I lost a very special person. His name was Arthur Remy, and he was taken from us out of nowhere. Arthur wasn’t having the best luck ice fishing at the annual Meredith Ice Fishing Derby this year. He couldn’t catch anything and got bored. He and his dad went snowmobiling to pass the time. That past week had been snowy almost every day. The ice looked so much thicker than it really was. Checking the ice was hard and faulty. Along their ride, Arthur and his father both hit thin ice.
Arthur fell through, claimed by the icy waters of Lake Winnipesaukee.
His dad was lucky enough to get out. He ran over to the hole that Arthur fell through. He jumped in and swam around, trying to find his son through the freezing water. Winter gear weighing down on him. He kept trying, not giving up on his son’s life. It was too late. Arthur couldn’t be saved. He swam up for air and found an ice cliff to hang on to, blinded by the cold. After the ambulance came, He was rushed to the hospital and kept for a few days to be treated for hypothermia.
I’m sure that hypothermia felt like nothing compared to the feeling of leaving his son lost, underwater, to drown within the next ten minutes.
February 12, 2017. The date that everybody remembers. It’s kind of like how they say that nobody has died at Disney World. Of course people have, but the bodies haven’t been pronounced as dead until taken off of the property. So technically, yes, nobody has died at Disney World. And technically, yes, Arthur died on February 12, just under 24 hours after he had been swept underwater and held captive there until the life was choked out of him, replaced by the sinister sting of the freezing cold water. Sure, technically Arthur survived alone 73 feet below the ice until his body was exhumed from a watery grave at 9:30 am on February 12. But life isn’t technical. Life is in the moment. And in that moment, Arthur was drained of any remaining life.
February 13, 2017, 10:00 am. The date that I found out. By some work of magic, Tess, Eva and I were all together when their mom got the call. We were enjoying pancakes and smoothies when the twins’ mom stuttered on the phone. She cut herself off, aware of our ears listening in on her every word and emotion. Her voice sounded worried, frightened. She was short of breath and we caught her stopping after spewing out, “Art--... Is he--...” and that was all we got. Without question, something was wrong.
The light, airy pancakes became dense. The smoothie slid down my throat roughly, scratching at my senses indicating that something was up, but I couldn’t put the pieces together. I lost any appetite I had and my stomach sank.
When she returned back into the dining room, Mrs. Hays seemed speechless. She had a look of terror and desperation on her face. My hands quivered with my heart, as well as Tess and Eva’s. She looked up and her eyes were met with ours. Intent, curious, and scared. She slowly opened her mouth and uttered the two words that would wreck any emotional defenses or blockades that I had in place.
Dead silence hung in the room.
I melted into the arms of the guardian angels around me. The inviting scent of breakfast quickly faded. The taste of my bright, happy smoothie became flat. Numbness took over my face. I heard Mrs. Hays talking, but no words were registering with my brain. My ears began to ring and all I could think was gone… gone…
Walking home that morning, I realized that being a “big girl” isn’t always the best. At times, the independence is good. But you always need to have someone you can rely on. Being able to fall back on someone when you need the support is a necessity in life. They help you bounce back, and not fall into a spiral of loneliness.
February 16, 2017. The date that I last saw him. Tess, Eva and me are in Milford, Connecticut at the Cody-White Funeral Home. Arthur’s wake was the most beautiful sight to have ever passed my eyes. The room was lined with thousands of pictures throughout his life. As we walked through, we could see him grow up more and more with every set of photos. A piece of his life that we haven't seen before. I choked back tears, seeing him as a child, so young and ready to take on the world.
We progressed in the line until we got to the hall connecting the pictures and him. Eva and I leaned to our left to see if it was an open casket or not. We had been in the dark up until then. Eva leaned a bit too far and caught a glimpse of his ear. Even that was too much for her. She broke down in tears and Tess and I held her tight to help her calm down. Sniffles echoed around the room. Most people tried to be silent, looking down into their purses or pockets, trying to block any weakening emotion that might exit them.
The smell was stale. Not quite dusty, but not quite clean. The room smelled sanitary, but reeked of sadness. The line moved even farther up, and we got to another array of flowers sent from around the world. That fresh smell accompanied a slideshow of Arthur’s life projecting off of a TV in the middle of the bouquets.
Finally, after waiting for close to an hour, we arrived at his casket. I was horrified and wanted so badly to rip my vision away from him, but something locked me on to him. I couldn’t look away. Flashbacks of the happy French boy that popped in during the Christmas party invaded my mind. It was obvious that they were the same person, but they also looked so different. In the moment, Arthur was missing a soul. He didn’t have what made him, him.
That day, he wore a columbia blue Vineyard Vines sweatshirt with a faded red zipper. His hair was placed the same was that he wore it that night, fluffy and swept to the side, but that was the most lively thing about him. He didn’t have the muscles left anymore to flash us his smile. He didn’t have the shimmer in his eyes once they were shut for good. He didn’t have the liveliness that flowed through his veins once he was pumped full of chemicals. He did have an almost gray body. He did have a plump face and hands. He did have a rosary in his hands, placed gently on his puffy chest. He did sink into the coffin pillow like dead weight, because that’s all he was at that point. His corpse was the only thing left behind.
Arthur taught me a lot about life. He had an outlook on it that lead him to accomplish so much in his amount of time. Arthur knew that life was short, just not how short his would be. He played almost every sport offered to him, building up his physical strength. He started his own company, Hook In a Box, to teach other young fishermen like himself about different types of bait and how to use them. He never stayed mad for long, because he could recognize that it does nothing to stay angry. He did his best to be happy in life, and he died doing what he loved.
For that Arthur, I say thank you. Thank you for letting me see these things too. You have changed me forever for the better and I will be eternally grateful for that. I hope that you’re still doing what you love in Heaven. The day will come when we meet again, but until my fateful day, stay happy. There’s so much more I wish I could say, but time is ticking, and I know you wouldn’t want me to be hung up on you.
Life Doesn’t Wait
Now that you’ve flipped through a few chapters of my life, I think it’s safe to say that you know me a little bit better. You’ve seen some of my highest highs and my lowest lows. You’ve seen how I was shaped as a person to get to where I am now. Now it’s your turn.
In my minuscule fourteen years of life, there’s so much I’ve learned from taking big risks and making big changes. I’ve been taught that life doesn’t wait. I’ve learned to take charge of my future and to be happy with my life. Your life is going on and on. So, why wouldn’t you want to live it?
Moving to New Hampshire taught me that change is important. Without that change, I wouldn’t be friends with or have met some of my best friends in this world. I learned that change is inevitable. You need to be able to accept what life throws at you. The faster you learn to adjust to change, the faster you’ll be happy. What changes in your life have you tried to push away? How did they end up turning out?
Jumping off of a bridge in Costa Rica taught me about risks and bravery. Three years ago, I was too scared to ride on the Pirate swing ride at Canobie Lake Park. After I took this leap of faith, I was able to accomplish so much more. Whenever I face something difficult, I take another swig of bravery like I did that day and face it head on. Risks don’t always have the best reward, but don’t forget the ones that do. What regrets haunt you even to today?
Winning the championship game taught me how to take charge of my life. As soon as that ball was hit, I knew exactly where I was going with it. Have this outlook on life. As soon as you see a problem approaching, think it through. Know what you want to do with it. Give your life some direction straight from the driver’s seat. Don’t let the passenger grab the wheel. Ultimately, it’s your decisions that make you, you.
Arthur taught me how to drive my life. He showed me that being happy was the only way to be successful in life. His achievements push me forward today and help encourage me to live my life to the fullest. We never know when our time is nearly over, so do your best to live like there’s no tomorrow. Life doesn’t wait for you or anyone else.
Do what you love and love what you do, because life is impatient.