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.

Untitled

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?

 

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.

Creative Writing: Happy Birthday

“…to you.”

Another year, another candle, another wish. Annually it was the same, repeating over and over until it was all I knew. Celebrate this day, sing that song, take that picture, and hope for it all to change by the next time. But it never did, did it? The same room, the same cake, the same face, just different people coming and going to see the event. Sooner or later you start to realize all the faces blur together until it turns into nothing. Just a pair of hands with a stretched smile that deliver your age on a silver platter. They cheer for your vitality, but they don’t know how meaningless it is when you’re already dead. They don’t know how numb you’ve become to the wavering flame and blinding snapshots desperately trying to capture the moment that will continue to repeat. They don’t know because they won’t be there for all of them, only you will. Because only you know what it’s like to live the same year. With the same voice and the same face.
Immortality is a gift, they said. But they were wrong.

(I wrote this on my birthday and thought it would be interesting to start an idea for a story about immortality. I don’t know where or how the story would continue but it’s just a small free write to close out this summer.)

-Sabrina C., 12th Grade

 

Writing Prompts

The girl next door…as most people referred to her. Walking down her picturesque street bordered by cookie cutter houses, she smiled and waved at her passing neighbors, very careful to show her perfectly aligned white teeth with every encounter. Adding skips to her timed steps, she radiated with cheerfulness and optimism, portraying the flawless image of innocence. The image she had maintained for all of her fifteen years of polished life. Her skirts never ruffled. There was never a hair astray her shiny, little head. Her personality was unwavering of sunshine, lots and lots of sunshine. And she was not only perfect looking but perfect acting. Straight A’s, big circle of close friends, loving two parent household. You name it she had it. The life everyone dreamed of.

But what everyone didn’t know was…after the long walks through the street, after wearing a smile that stretched her face, after forcing her sweet honey voice out of her croaked throat…she would run up to her bedroom, lock the door behind her, and begin her masterpiece with red paint. Because no one ever knew–or should know–about her secret blood stained toy under her bed, which shredded any image of innocence she tried so hard to build.

(Prompt: Innocent people…pfft everyone’s guilty of something)

——————————————————

I’m alone. In my room. As usual. Nothing’s really changed here. Sure, there were some ups and downs in school but nothing major. I’m not failing or anything. Although, sometimes I wonder if that would help. Failing, I mean. Maybe they’d pay more attention or say something to me at least. Al I get now are good mornings and good nights, if that. Everyone’s gone radio silence since you left. Is left the right word? Can I replace the word died with left? Anyway, I’m trying really hard not to let it consume me. The pain, the grief. And the voices. Oh, the voices. They won’t ever go away. Every time I try to turn off my brain and go to sleep, a new problem arises,  a new question that I try to ignore. When was the last time I ate? When was the last time someone asked if I was okay? When was the last time I saw you? Ah, that last question. It just brings my back to the beach day. Remember when you got rolled by the waves and sand was everywhere? Oh, you were miserable but laughing at the same time. So happy and light in those moments. I wish I could go back to that. Even if we did end up getting in trouble for trespassing that day. It was worth it. Just for that day with you. So, I guess that’s why I’m writing. To talk to someone. To talk to you. All so that I don’t feel alone.

(Prompt: Write for 5 minutes, starting with “I’m alone”)

Creative Writing: Labels

Prompt: If we were all forced to wear a warning label, what would yours say?

I took this prompt literally and made it into an excerpt of a story. So enjoy!


It felt a lot like that game where you have a headband with a word to describe you, but you can’t see it. You know, the one where everyone can see it but you, and if you try to look it’s cheating. Because of this unknown definition of yourself, other people get to judge you and think up their own thoughts before you even get the chance to say hello. Walking around, you can’t help but feel the eyes as they stare at the big block letters slapped across your forehead. Of course, reflections will only make the words disappear, disabling you from seeing them. And I know what you’re thinking…

Why can’t you just tell each other what they are? No, it doesn’t work like that either. For some reason, your body will not let you see or hear it until you’re ready to. It involves some self discovery of finding who you truly are, or some spiritual thing like that. I don’t know. Some achieve this very early in life, which is amazing considering how life messes with us, making us believe we’re one thing when we’re completely the opposite. Others, however, don’t realize until they’re well into their years, past any time that could help them decipher what it means.

Personally, I’ve never really had a problem not knowing what my Label was, except for today. I was simply minding my own business, doing some shopping that I have long since procrastinated, when it happened. Usually, I noticed a few glances, but none of them really lingered long. So I had come to this conclusion that my word was uninteresting and essentially boring. That I was uninteresting and essentially boring. But then, it was another girl, about my age with the word Lost scribbled across her face, who seemed to think I was something more.

First of all, with a word like Lost, I couldn’t help but feel sad. Most Labels I’d seen had said more positive and straightforward things than just Lost. This implied she may never find herself, and that to me is heartbreaking, since that’s everyone’s goal, of course. Other than that, it would’ve been pretty easy to forget about her if she hadn’t followed me around the whole store. Talk about lost. No matter how many times I had thought she left, she was always lurking around some corner, waiting for me to see her. And I always did, but I didn’t want to. The way she looked at me, studying my word; her eyes pierced through as if wanting to burn the letters off my skin or sear them further in. While the rest of her demeanor suggested she was harmless, I didn’t want to stay around her any longer. Ducking out of the building, I thought I had finally cleared her when I turned around to see those unforgiving eyes.

And all she said was “You too.”

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade