Stress to Service

Stress:

Google says it’s “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”

According to psychology, it’s “uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes”

And students agree stress is “AP exams, finals, CIF games and oh, those two projects I won’t be starting until the night before”

In the wee hours of the night, students strive to obtain the intense desire for success

And the wee hours of the night cook the perfect atmosphere for boiling stress.

A child, a baby: a mere fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old

Persisting, working, sweating like a mule until their transcript shows all gold.

Who can expect a student to sleep eight hours a night but juggle five hours of work?

The expectations, I’d say, are more than enough to irk.

Every year the college acceptance rates drastically drop

And little boys and girls suddenly forget what it means to take a break

and just stop.

Tell me why students who sacrifice their health and sleep

Are still expected to be a lively teen and not weep.

Convince me that students are making the right decisions

In cheating on tests, just to get the “A” and fulfill their college envisions.

Persuade me that the education system is treating their students right

and brainwashing us to believe that a score of 5 is what makes us bright.

Let’s start to encourage using our passion and our voices

To stand up and help society make the right choices.

To be politicized and involved while we’re youthful, proud, and loud.

Time is running out, we can’t wait around.

Third world countries await our kindness, shelters demand our service, feminists deserve our support.

In all due respect, that is more important and influential than a chemistry lab report.

-Jessica T.

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The sun shone through the window. It was a new day, a fresh start. The brightness made it easy to forget the dark events of the previous night. Horrified images began to take over her mind. The screaming echoed in her ears. It was a mistake, she cried to herself. She knew she wouldn’t be able to forget it, that all she could do was find a way to live with it. No one would ever know her secret. This new day was her chance to become someone else, someone incapable of the horrible truth that was her mind.

She stared at the rays of light, imagining this, when a spot of red on the wall caught her eye. It was small enough to go undetected, but she knew its source. Tracing her eyes along the wall, more spots appeared, forming larger and messier streaks of red. There she could see it clearly, as if the color was the very paint on the wall, the color she would now wake up to every morning. It dripped down, drying at the bottom, collecting together to create a puddle.

Even with all her strength, she couldn’t pull her eyes away from the scene. It was all her fault. No amount of paint would ever cover up her pain from last night, no amount would make the tragedy disappear. It was forever stained in front of her.

In her own blood. Who would do such a thing?

 

One Hundred Days

They told me high school would be a long four years, a time I would dedicate to navigating schoolwork, extracurricular activities, and a social life. A time when my stresses would only consist of getting the grades and the friends. That everything in my life had prepared me for this brand new stage.

When I was little, I used to dream of the days I would grow up into a teenager, go out with my friends, get a driver’s license, and even begin to drink coffee regularly. I couldn’t wait to join school clubs, meet more people, and bring a date to those formal dances everyone always talked about. Because this was the amazing life I had built up in my head all those years ago.

And I was told to hold on to it because it would all happen so quick. That I would soon miss the bottom lockers that no one wanted and the crowded hallways filled with people I’ve known since third grade. That I would learn to cherish it and make the most out of every second I had here.

But it wasn’t long before the time had escaped me.

Suddenly, they were telling me one hundred days. Only one hundred days until I was out of this building, out of this life, and moving on to a bigger, brighter future. Eight-year-old me, meeting my best friend for the first time on the top of the swirly slide at recess, could never have begun to imagine that my high school graduation and step into a completely life-altering environment was only one hundred days away.

Four years of trying to figure out who I was and what I liked, and I’m still not close to done. Now, I have to decide my future in one hundred days and counting. Impossible. But then again, I used to think being this age was impossible. I once believed I would always just be that girl waiting for that goal of becoming a semi-independent high school student, similar to how I can only envision myself being a slightly-more-independent college student.

Change happened fast and I didn’t realize how unprepared I was for that notice of one hundred days to completely turn my life around.

-Sabrina C.

Trapped

Trapped

The wood screams as I rip through it, scratching another jagged line in the floor with my rock. Another tally mark. The pattern is etched onto the majority of my floor, making it harder to hide under my rug each day. 267 days to be exact.

267 days I’ve been here. And with each day I’m closer to leaving, closer to my freedom. Hopefully. I can only dream that one day I’ll be given the chance to escape. It shouldn’t be much longer now. The money is with me, almost the whole five thousand, my bail money for this jail cell. When I’ve collected it all, this time I’ve spent in my dark cave will feel like a dream as I begin a new life on my own.

I reach down from my position on my bed and run a finger over the dust I’ve created on the ground to make my artwork smoother. Without this to keep me busy, I would’ve lost my mind. Alone in my room, unable to leave, I don’t see people much. The windows I have are boarded up with little rays of sunlight to expose me to the outside world. I should be insane by now. But I’m trying everything to prevent that while I still have my dream in mind.

I can almost picture the apartment I’ll get with windows stretching from the ceiling all the way to the floor, to bathe my pale skin in sun and give life to my sullen figure. All the food I’ll eat after getting used to scarce flavorless meals each day. And the city. The best part is the city. Streets busy with people, rushing to jobs or important meetings. Bright lights lining the roads and buildings and entertainers on every corner. I can see myself bustling along in the crowd, getting swept through the sea of people and not caring where they take me as long as I keep moving. Far away from here.

A tear drips from my eyes and wets the woodwork below me. My heart feels warm, taking me away from reality. This fairy tale is the only way to keep me safe from the horrors I face now.

-Sabrina C.

Nature!

Writing Prompt: Describe a character experiencing an unorthodox morning and their reflection following the morning’s events.

Unfortunately for me, and quite controversially to my motto “life is dumb and I want to sleep”, I found myself stumbling in the muted shimmering light of the rising sun out to sidewalk with a water bottle in hand and athletic shoes snug on my cold feet. Yawning, I let out a puff of air, my breath leaving it’s mark in the air. Not that I was against physical activity or anything but sleeping in until nine o’clock then rising to sip some tea while reading a novel was just, simply put, preferable.

My childhood friend, Jax (that garrulous, manipulative rascal), somehow made me comply to going on a hike at five thirty on a Saturday morning. Last night’s phone call was still vague and fuzzy in my groggy mind. I picked up my pace, feeling the cool air seep into the seams of my leggings and weave through the strands of my ponytail.

An hour or so later, the sun had fully peeped its head out from behind the mountaintops and illuminated the windy path up to 48 Wiles Way, a crooked condo that perched itself on top of a hill overlooking the beach, surfboards and sandy towels scattered around the front door and on the balcony. Ten minutes of hacking through tough vines and unforgiving cacti led me to a meditating Jax, who was gazing at the surf, probably rating the day’s waves. My audible gasps for breath made him spin around and chuckle as if my failure was the best thing he’s seen all morning. “Hey, partner, let’s start this hike, yeah?” and without waiting for my response, he jumped up and his tan hand latched onto my fleshy, pale one and dragged me to the trail that led down to the rocky shore.

The narrow trail, I discovered five minutes in, was home to various creatures, including cockroaches, rats and squirrels, who I was tempted to feed crumbs from my jacket pockets but thought better of it. I didn’t need a line of squirrels tracking me down looking for more old peanut butter toast bits. I was preoccupied with not tripping on  my shoelaces and faceplanting.

An overwhelming wave of sea air blew our direction, rustling the luscious foliage and invading my nose. It proved to be a new scent as my senses were accustomed to the wonderful aroma of brewing coffee and new books. Still, there was an appealing, delicious feature of the ocean air that made me want to grow wings and fly right over the cliff and into the sparkling blue waves. There was a beautiful array of flowers in the bushes we passed, a spectrum of magenta and fiery orange hues. Birds sang songs to each other but quickly flew away, startled when our dusty tennis shoes would slap the ground, sending up delicate clouds of brown dirt in our wake.

By ten, the warm sunshine began to slowly engulf me, creating dark pools of sweat on my back but leaving me feeling exhilarated, empowered and free. I tore my jacket off and released a satisfied, exhausted whoop of excitement. Jax barked a laugh and followed suite. If a stranger were to look up from the sandy nadir, they would see two obnoxious teenagers, pounding the ground, making a rowdy mess of things. But if you saw it through my eyes, you’d see two individuals, sparked into happiness by the energy of the sun, starting the weekend off right in joyful relaxation. As we came to the final stretch, our shouts subsided and we let our huffing breaths fill whatever air the chirping birds and crashing waves didn’t. All too soon, the challenge came to an end and my beating heart leapt in time with the pounding water. When Jax and I found ourselves sprawled on the warm sand, still saying nothing but letting the summer atmosphere speak for us, singing about nature’s unique beauty and awesome power over humans, I scolded myself. Why had I never took up Jax’s offer on a morning run before? This is so beautiful and worth the early morning alarm! Jax turned and gave me a knowing grin as he watched my illuminated face, eyes studying the ever changing waves, lips curving into a permanent smile.

Nature, I concluded, entices us, provides for us, awes us, and inspires us more and more, each time we step foot outside.

-Jessica T.

Holiday Season

As the winter season falls upon us, we are reminded to carry with us the spirit of giving, to cherish close relationships and spend time with those who make us happy. However, we aren’t reminded of the most dreaded aspect that arrives with the close of a year. Finals.

They spring into our busy high school lives, blocking us from feeling any sweet relief of the holiday season. Drowning in papers and homework and tests, we are forced to put all of our energy and attention on our grades and lose focus of what this time of year should really be. A time of happiness, a time of relaxation, a time to appreciate the beauty of life. But with everything at school happening at once, it’s extremely difficult to maintain that positive perspective. Maybe people choose to use the holidays as a goal to finish the year strong, or a distraction when those goals aren’t met. Either way you choose to look at it, December will always be one for mixed feelings.

Not only does school hold onto us a burden of unbelievable stress, but when it comes time to finally put down our pencils and textbooks and plan for the holidays, the challenge of shopping brings up even more anxiety. What should I give this person? If it’s too expensive, do I have to get them a gift? What if mine isn’t personal and thoughtful enough? Or what if it is? Many questions arise over many weeks of planning until it’s too late to think anymore and the motivation for perfection is gone.

If you can, make this holiday season one of peace and happiness to enjoy the festivities and let go of the year’s hardships.

-Sabrina C.

Christmas Only Comes Before Thanksgiving in the Dictionary

Blinking lights, ringing bells, the “Ho, Ho, Ho” of a jolly old man in a red suit. These are little reminders that the holidays are finally here. Christmas is a magical time that gives you a warm feeling every time you think about it. I understand the excitement and joy of Christmas, but should we ignore Thanksgiving all together?

Thanksgiving is a joyous holiday when you get together with your family and say what you are thankful for. Nowadays, many are already in the frenzy of Christmas even before the turkey has been served. Years ago, stores and shops were closed on Thanksgiving, allowing families to enjoy their time together. However, in 2017 so many stores are now open, even on this special holiday.

While families do still sit down at the dinner table to eat turkey and mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, most do not fully enjoy and understand the meaning of it. It is a time when relatives make it a point to fly home from out yonder just to sit down for one meal. It’s a time when families can be grateful for the plentiful food on their table. It’s a time when you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the time you spend with your family. There is a whole month after Thanksgiving to put up decorations and get ready for Christmas, so put your ornaments away and give thanks to those around you.

-Brooke H.