Tuesday, March 26, 2013

B.S.ing my Papers: Like a Pro

Confession: Sometimes, when you are in college, you have to fudge your assignments a little bit.

Because, let's be honest. College professors don't always care if you actually do the all the work, so much as  if what you turn in is good. They just want to see a good essay. They don't have to know if you actually intend on doing everything you say you'll do in your papers (especially those introspective ones), just as long as it sounds good.

Personally, I don't like lying in a paper, and I generally strive for excellence. But occasionally, when I'm really struggling with a paper, I'll, for lack of better phrasing, "B.S. my way through it." Last week was just one of those weeks. It was an 800-1000 word paper and I wasn't really feeling inspired by the topic, "how you will create a learning atmosphere in an organization in which you are involved."

But, I bush-whacked my way though it late Thursday night (it was due Saturday), and while I didn't blatantly make up stuff for it, as I was writing it I did keep saying to myself, "This is crap." I was certain that what I was writing would not be what my teacher was looking for, but at a loss for what else to do, I plugged away at it.

A day later, when I was proofreading it, I realized that the basis of the paper was actually not half bad. (Even I surprise myself sometimes!) But I still didn't feel very confident about it when I turned it in and I was hyper-aware of the fact that I used the word "encourage" no less than five times. (It was more before that, but I referred to a thesaurus for a few of those instances.)

I finally got my paper back with a score of 20/20 and this is what my teacher had to say:
Good job, Misha.  Not only did you have a clear and concise paper but your also had a generous smattering of course concepts throughout that demonstrated your good grasp of the material and how it could be applied to your organization.  It's very gratifying to have students, such as you, who can not only learn and understand concepts but also, and most importantly, have the wisdom for application.  Thanks for helping to make my day!  MB

So apparently, it wasn't as bad as I thought. Gotta love that!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Finding Closure in the Spring

I wrote this poem the other day:

I am a tree in winter,
Stripped bare of vivid leaves,
Red for passion,
Yellow for happiness,
Orange for anger,
And brown for those in-between days,
Where I just feel... nothing.

The memories of bygone loves
Engraved in my sides,
Never to be erased,
One crossed out heart after another,
Me. plus the wind.
Me. plus the sunshine.
Me. plus art.
Me.... plus, him.
Each representing a season,
Now passed me by.

You twisted the knife in my ribcage,
Slid an axe through the bars,
Do you think that I cannot feel the blade.
Hidden among the knots?
I thought I stopped caring for you...
Why does this still hurt?
No matter what lies I tell myself,
I cannot deny this pain.
You forget that scars run deep,
I took all the responsibility,
Sheltered you from the rain.
I. bore the burden.
The weight of snow in my branches,
Until I feared they would crack--
No, begged them to, if only to stop this heart ache.
They say strength is how far you can go
Before you break,
But strength.
Is when you reach your breaking point,
And keep going.

Did I have too much strength to make it work?
Did I hold on to you for too long?
Or did you mistake my leaves for play-things,

As you picked them up and scattered them in the breeze?

I whisper a prayer on the wind,
Hoping for spring.
Because hope is sunshine peeking through the clouds,
Hope is flower blooms in February,
And hope is the moss that will someday,
Cover over, these scars.

He showed up at church with a girl. At least they didn't come together, but I have heard rumors, and I know. They have gone other places. Together. I watch from afar, and try not to care. I quiet Mom's hennish noises with a gentle reminder, "Grace, mom. It means nothing." As much as I pretend it doesn't bother me, all I want to do is go home. But I stay.

Edging into the sanctuary, I clung to my best friend, and I prayed. I prayed so hard. "God, I have no idea what to do. What to think. How to react. What to say..." The music didn't stir me this particular morning. So instead, I wrote the chicken scratchings that would become this poem. I felt a little guilty, at first. Excuses and reasons trilled through my head:

The poem was "distracting" me from church.
I should be singing right now.
The poem wasn't about God.
The poem was about feelings I shouldn't feel. Bitter things.
Can God appreciate a bitter poem?

I didn't know. But I convinced myself, it was okay because I feel God has gifted me with poetry and writing and if I feel inspired during church, it is not wrong to write it down. Later, Mom told me, "Is writing poetry not its own form of worship?" And I realized I was a bit stuck in my idea of what "worship" really means. Poetry can be an act of worship; look at the Psalms! (I think I need to read more psalms.) The fragments and phrases filled an entire page of my notebook. That afternoon, I turned them into a fully-fledged poem. A beautiful poem that perfectly conveyed through imagery how I really felt.

I have a right to be angry, to think to myself, "Was I so easily replaced?" I have a right to be bitter. But I'm not. I have done everything in my strength to protect him. I have tried so hard to guard my words when I talk about our relationship so others wouldn't see him negatively. I have struggled against my own gossipy tendencies and refrained from speaking what would not be beneficial for others to hear. Instead of venting to anyone who would listen to me, I chose a select few to share my heart.

But that didn't take away the hurt.

I believe that in writing this poem, I have found many things-- Closure. Hope. Healing. Strength. An end. And a beginning. And every time I read this poem, I cannot help sighing as I finish the final stanza. A good kind of sigh, though. A healthy sigh. It is a sigh of letting go. I am closing the door on this chapter, and turning the page of the next because I am tired of looking back. I sigh, because I finally feel like I can start over. I am not angry. Maybe it stings a little bit, but that will go away with time. I have done quite a few things in this process that I believe was leading to closure, but nothing with the finality of this poem. I feel like a burden, the snow in my branches, has been lifted.

My mom asked me about the moss, she said, "covering over implies pain might still be there just 'covered.'" Which is true. And I will probably still struggle with this for a little while longer. "But," I told her, "The moss implies growth." The memories will always be there; they will never be truly erased. But over time, the moss, a sort of life, will grow to cover over and soften the past. That is wherein the hope of this poem lies.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Poet Pride

Please allow me a little bit of gratuitous celebrating and keyboard smashing.

AUGGGHHHH!!!! asdfdghjkl; wifjafoehja;hnfcasdcfhafh;adshfi;zdsho AHHHHHHHH!!!!!

*five minutes later*

Okay, now that that's out of my system, I shall begin.

Ever since I competed in my first poetry slam, I have desired to make it to Round 3. For those of you who don't know the structure of poetry competitions, there is a pyramidal structure that is built by elimination. In Round 1, anyone and everyone can compete, but for Round 2, they have to cut it back a bit. Only six poets can advance to the second round and the rest are cut (Which can be anywhere from 6 to 10 poets being cut). Then, those six poets are cut down to 3 and this is what Round 3 is. Round 3 is The. Final. Round. There are only three poets and they take first, second, and third place.

I think almost every time I have competed, I have made it into round 2. Several times, I was close to making it to round three, but I was never quite good enough. I struggled and struggled. I molded and shaped my poetry, trying to make it better, and figure out the secret to getting into round 3. That's all I wanted. Just to be good enough to make it into the third round. I didn't even care about getting first. I could have gotten third place and been over the moon about having had a shot at it.

Guess. What. After all my trying. Writing and Re-writing, revising and tweaking. I FINALLY, made it into Round 3!! I was SO happy, I couldn't even express my joy.

For the first round, I performed a poem that I'd made up on the fly a few days previously.
The second round, I performed a poem called, "Astronaut's Eye View." Which, the title makes it sound a lot more wonderful and interesting than I felt it really was. I wrote it for a school assignment for my literature class and the subject topic was "books" and how they benefit teens. The poem turned out pretty good; My teacher loved it. And it got me into ROUND 3!!!!
For the third round, I revisited a poem I wrote a while ago. I actually performed it last month and I tried to do it from memory, but I completely bombed it, forgot all the words, and was eliminated from round two. (Definitely wasn't my day.) I decided to bring it back, so I could do the beautiful poem some justice.

And justice, I did it, because GUESS WHAT!!!


Cue more keyboard-smashing and headdesk-banging. I was so thrilled, I was literally stunned speechless. There are no words to describe the euphoria (which has been kind of a theme for me lately.). I was so surprised, honored, and pleased all at the same time.

I wasn't even sure if I would get into the third round because the judging tends to be screwy and skewed and unpredictable, and there were a TON of noobs that night. (Which, the noobs tend to garner sympathy scores because they're first timers.) So the judging is hardly objective, and two of the other veteran poets basically dropped out the final round because they'd both gotten straight tens the whole night and were planning to do a sort of "face off." In the end, it worked out that I had the perfect combination of judges, noobs, and poetry, and I took first place. That's just how slammin' goes. But I am SO. PROUD!!! Words fail me.

It was the last TYPS night of the regular season. Next month, I'll be competing in the championship. I'll be eligible to compete in a few slams during the summer, but after that, my slamming career at TYPS will come to a close, and I will have to find a new forum for my poetry. I don't think I could have ended the regular season a better way.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Senior Pictures

The excitement is mounting. I feel my face glow with pride every time someone asks me what grade I'm in and I happily tell them, "I'm a senior!" I feel a slightly flagging motivation in my studies, known to many as "senior-itis." A hint of spring wafts through the air.

Graduation. Is. Coming.

I don't know how it is possible for those for syllables to be so packed with meaning.

The past.
The future.

See what I mean? The word has so many things associated with it; it makes my stomach turn flip flops and somersaults, like it has a mind of its own.

One of the primary reasons it's been on my mind lately, is because I finally was able to snap my senior portraits! (I know, we're a bit behind compared to most, but we've been putting it off for a while.)

We went through an independant photographer that the Coffins referred to us. I told him I wanted them to be, "Natural, but somewhat urban." So we went up to a few locations near a mall on the north side of town.

The first location was at a bus stop and I wasn't sure with the background, but it was definitely interesting. With vibrant blue benches and purple tile.

This selection of pictures definitely leans toward the more candid ones. I like a lot of these photos and I think some of them portray my personality particularly well, but for one reason or another, I may not use them for the invitation. We shall see.

The photographer took over 300 pictures, so there are a lot to choose from! A lot of them can be eliminated for one reason or another (lots of ones with my eyes closed!) But, I still haven't chosen which one will be on the graduation announcements.

Although, I appreciated the whimsy of the purple background (Love that word--whimsy!) it just wasn't working with the dress. I was much happier with the second location.

Outfit #2:

I could not resist wearing my new favorite color: purple! I originally had a lovely, lavender sweater that I wanted to wear, but it was SO warm out, I decided to skip it.

Outfit #3

The third location required another drive to a place under a bridge. It was a much more industrial location than I would have chosen, but I actually think these pictures are among my favorites.

 All in all, I am so pleased with how the pictures turned out. It was a beautiful day, well spent. And I am SO excited to be finally graduating!