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Astonishing, At Last
I carry, on my hands, three rings: one on the middle finger of each of my hands, and one on my right hand ring finger. On my left middle finger, I wear a silver ring, with a white cameo face on a black oval, which belonged to my mom’s cousin, who was taken away from us before I had time to fully grow out of taking her for granted and learned to fully appreciate her being in my life. On my right middle finger, I wear a silver Claddagh ring - not because I’m Irish, just because I liked it, and because it’s a reminder of my vacation to the UK and my amazing Walesland sister. Next to that, I wear a ring with the word “dream,” inscribed on it that my mom bought me, to replace a similar one I accidentally threw away.
I carry my favorite lyrics: “In the palm of your hand I will not fall,” “Don’t stop believin’,” “I believe in you,” “You belong with me.”
I carry the knowledge that I am adopted. Every day, when I’m walking out of my room, I see the picture of Angela and Lucy that’s taped on a cabinet. I recognize its existence, but avoid dwelling on it for too long, knowing what it will lead to. This past summer, my birthmom sent me a letter and pictures of her and my older birthsister and my younger birthsister. Angela, Lucy, and Annie. I haven’t shared that letter with anyone, other than my parents. I can’t. I wrote a one-woman show about it for theater class, but nothing will ever come of that, although I might like it to. The letter...Angela referred to Lucy and Annie as my “sisters.” That moved me. I don’t live with them. I even have different biological fathers than they do. Different families. But she still called them my sisters. I carry with me the curiosity: Does she think of me as her daughter?
I carry “My gift is my song and this one’s for you,” “I’ll stand by you,” “You’ll be with me like a handprint on my heart.”
I carry my curiosity about my birthfather; I know almost nothing about him other than that his name is Tom and that he was the ‘artistic one.’ I carry a love of the arts, knowing both that that’s my gift from him, and that it’s what I want to devote the rest of my life to. I could not imagine my life without theater and music; I don’t think I could exist without it. Or maybe I wouldn’t know what I was missing. Either way, I wouldn’t be the same.
I carry “I was constructed for you and you were molded for me,” “You don’t need a music box melody to know what I mean.”
I carry with me these foreboding, nagging voices that call out to me, questioning: “Can you get into a college with the theater program you’re looking for?” “Your mom doesn’t want you to do it,” “What if you can’t make it?” “Will you always put off learning monologues until the last minute?” “What is that you really love about the theater; can you find something else to do that ties you to it, but gives you more stability?” “Why is a 17-year-old worrying about all this?” and then the worst: “What if you’re just not good enough?”
I carry the constant worry that I am not good enough. I carry the constant fear that I will never be good enough.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the “forgotten one,” like people only remember me when I happen to come up in conversation, to which they respond, “Oh, I love her!” but then carry on with the conversation, forgetting I was there for that moment. I don’t think about that as often as I once would; I like who I am and that when people hear my name, that’s their reaction. I just wish that...I don’t know...that I could be one of those people who others have conversations about.
My friends are the best, though. I carry them with me wherever I go. Sometimes I get too clingy, which I guess I can blame on my dreadful second grade experiences, most of which I no longer carry, thanks to the magic of the human brain. I carry the struggle of keeping friendships. This year, though, I have become a much more confident person than I once was: branching out, opening up, taking risks. I have taken giant steps in learning more about who I am, and I carry how much I really like the direction the journey taking me in.
I carry “Just like Nick’s last name, well I could take ever Care-a-way,” “Then I’ll be the one who is ‘totally awesome!’”
I carry the expectations that people have of me, whether it’s to get all A’s, to get enough sleep, to solve a friend’s problem or just listen, to get better SAT scores than I did the first time, to fix a group project that not everyone is pulling their weight in, to relax, to be a kid, to be a teenager, to be an adult. I carry “why didn’t you...” and “you should of...” (regardless of its grammatical correctness) and “how are you doing?” and “are you on facebook” and “oh-KAAAAAAy........but...” and “how do you think you spell it?” and “you didn’t try hard enough.” I carry with me the knowledge that my parents really care about me and want what’s best for me, but sometimes that gets stuck under the piles of books and essays and notes.
I carry “If there’s so much I must be, can I still just be me, the way I am?”
I carry the good times, too. I don’t want to come off as one of those people who only has problems because that’s not true. I carry having to say goodbye every time that one of my parents leaves the house. I carry the special pet names I’ve given them. I carry my parents’ kindnesses. I remember when my dad stayed up with me until two in the morning even though he’s the farthest thing from a night owl that you will find. I remember how I really didn’t want to go to a party, and my mom let me use her as my excuse for my not being able to go. I remember how for every one of my birthdays, without fail, my dad always writes me the most heartwarming poem on the back of wrapping paper, and my mom puts birthday cards in my room and in my bathroom so I will discover each of them individually. I carry my parents’ silent kindnesses. I love how my dad brings me cups of tea when he can see I’m stressed beyond expressible. I love how my mom is always ready for me to sit on her lap in our rocking chair. I love how my dad will give me space when he can see that I’m just not capable of human interaction. I love how my mom will leave me little notes when she can see that I’m really down. These are some of my favorite things to carry. They aren’t the types of things that weigh me down, but instead lift me up. I have to admit, though, that another thing I carry is my inability to always see all the good.
I carry “Nothing is an accident; we are free to have it all. We are what we want to be; it’s in ourselves to rise or fall,”
I carry my love of uniformity and routine, but also space and spontaneity. This will be my tenth summer at my camp, and I would not want it any other way; the people there are my family, and I have learned so much by being a camper, and now working there. The wall that was once my barrier and protection from the outside world shattered this past summer, allowing me to discover who I truly am. At the same time, I despise having to wake up every morning to get to school at the same time, sit and learn for six straight hours, then go home and be expected to do homework for hours as well. I can’t do it; that is why Facebook and texting are the two main distractions in my life: I need the break. By the end of the school year, I feel like I’m slipping, and it’s hard to keep the energy that I had at the beginning of the year keep me afloat. The only things that keep me going are the fact that I have friends to complain with about it, and incredibly supportive parents behind me, although they can sometimes be pushing me a little too much. I carry the frustration of it all. But I also carry an appreciation for its making me work try harder, really showing what I am capable of. In schoolwork, that means working late hours but getting very good grades. In social situations, it means taking risks. Taking risks has never been something I’ve been comfortable with, but more and more, I’m really liking being spontaneous. Sparking up conversations with people I’m not really good friends with, or I haven’t seen since preschool. Deciding and then actually asking a good friend of mine to semi. Getting on the “T” with friends not really knowing what we’re going to do or how long we’ll be out, but just that we’ll have a good time. Making plans with people who I don’t see every day to keep connections fresh. I carry with me a pride in the person I’m becoming.
I carry “And if I start to look around while you speak, it’s not because I don’t care. It’s just sometimes I find another angle of your beauty, I have to try not to stare.”
I carry all this, and so much more. I hear all the time that someone carries something in their heart or in their soul. Really? You can’t do that. You carry it in your shoulders. You carry it on your back. You carry it on the top of your head. I feel all of it every day, pushing down on me. But, it’s not bad. I mean, there are some things I wish that I didn’t carry, but then again if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be, well, me. “In the palm of your hand I will not fall,” “Don’t stop believin’,” “I believe in you,” “You belong with me.”
I carry the hope that I can be “Astonishing, at last!”