Friday, January 23, 2015

"This I Believe: Above the World" by Cadence Sinclair




This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.

I believe in the power of flying. All of my life, everything important to me had been concentrated in one town. Sure, I'd been on plenty of road trips up and down the east coast, but my experience mostly consisted of piercing headaches and claustrophobia. The places I had traveled to just didn't feel extraordinary. Perhaps they lacked glitter to me because the journey itself was so close to the ground, so gritty and stressful. Once we'd reached the destination, according to our MapQuest directions, everyone was exhausted and irritable. Most people don't feel as cynical as I do about road trips, but I guess it all comes down to my childhood aspirations.

When I can't fall asleep, I always imagine floating over sleepy cities in a hot air balloon at night: a soothing sort of travel, yet vibrant in its scenery. Peter Pan was also my favorite childhood Disney movie, and my favorite part was when the pirate ship soared into the Neverland skies at the end, blazing with pixie dust. I remember watching that scene over and over and wondering how could defy gravity. I connect flying with the idea of running alongside infinity, beating time at its own game. It's this concept of going so fast that everything around you slows and freezes and you're enwrapped with the sensation of being magical and free.

Last summer, I buzzed over LA in a plane. Take-off was at midnight, and I remember yawning every few seconds and complaining to my parents about the fact that I was going to have to sleep sitting upright. As I waited in line at the terminal with my family, the world was blurry. As I made my way to my spot of the plane, I was stumbling and aching to finally collapse with my head rested against the window. Luckily, that seat was mine. I heard the great rumbling of our ascent at last, and once we were at level with the clouds, I deliriously rolled my hand a little to the left. Then I saw it: the gleaming city beneath the stars. I was awed by the surreal blend of a clear night sky and twinkling LA lights. It transcended any other sight I'd ever deemed 'pretty.' What I saw was worth more than a simple adjective. I couldn't wrap it up in a neat little box and throw away the key. I suddenly knew what it was like to sync watches with the gentle waltz of the cosmos, while still hovering just a breath above human busyness. From so far up, the busyness dissolved into a silent, radiant pulse, and the inky black sky teased me with its mysterious beauty. I realized how tiny people truly are, but how hard they try to be big and bright.

I gained perspective on that night, and suddenly I knew that through flying, I could embark on the greatest of adventures, travel beyond the ordinary scope. I couldn't figure out why every other airplane window had the curtain drawn, but I still believe wholeheartedly in the power of flying.

"This I Believe: The Best Place to Live" by Olivia


This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.

I remember being taught in elementary school that America is one big “Melting Pot”. I understood my country was diverse and that’s what made it unique. As a student I’ve had classes with kids of various races and ethnicities, and have been raised in an environment that doesn’t see color. However it was native for me to think this was the case for everyone else around the world.

I remember being told before my family trip to China in the summer of 2012 that there would be a major cultural difference. My parents warned me I would get stares, and while walking around Beijing, China I experienced it first-hand. Not only did people stare at me, but some people even followed my family and I. Throughout my whole trip in China, Chinese people as young as 10 and as old as 40 would come up to me and my sister and ask to take their picture with us, making me feel like a celebrity. This was outrageous to me and I began to realize how isolated China was from the rest of the world. Yes, I dressed and talked differently but I never thought that people would look at me with surprised eyes and confusion. Especially being half Asian, I can’t image what they would do if I had blond her and blue eyes. A difference I noticed was that, In general everyone had the same hair color and dressed in the same darker shades of color. The lack of uniqueness in fashion and style was unusual for a big city in China and is significantly different compared to an American city like New York City. The most shocking incent however occurred later in my trip when my family and me went to the Great Wall. It was a very hot day and my dad took off his shirt. Being half Arabic, he had quiet the amount of body hair and judging by the horrified looks my father was getting, this was not something common for Chinese people. One woman, when seeing my father, screamed and grabbed her child to shield them away from my father.


My trip to China made me appreciate America and its diversity.  Something like this would never occur in the United States. Americans welcome diversity and respect uniqueness and in China diversity seemed to be rare or limited.  It was surprising to learn that a culture could be so isolated and unaware of other cultures around the world. This made me love my country even more. I realized there was no other country in the world with as many interracial marriages or integrated schools.  I feel fortune to have grown up with diversity and to eventually have kids that will grow up in the same environment as well. I finally understood what it meant for America to be one big “melting pot”. My country is built on diversity and for that reason I believe the United States is the best place to live.

"This I Believe: Feminism" by Sam


This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.

Middle School sucks. It’s a time of awkward social interactions, figuring out where you fit in, puberty, and mean kids so you shouldn’t be surprised that I don’t often find myself thinking about my middle school years. Yet here I was, sitting at my desk remembering my frustration in my sixth grade science class with the history of the DNA model. “Watson and Crick created the first DNA model with the help of research from scientist Rosalind Franklin” read the textbook in front of every one of the sixteen students in the class, but my teacher soon enlightened us that Franklin did more than just “help”. Watson and Crick used the information without her consent and took all the credit while she literally died for her work by contracting cancer through radiation poisoning. 

I remember bubbling with anger at how unfair it was that they went on to win a Nobel Prize for the discovery of DNA and other awards for research that they didn’t even do. Yet somehow, even with the public knowledge of their, essential thievery, these two men are still revered in the science community while Franklin is a name almost forgotten, an add-on to the story of Watson and Crick. She had done all the work and they took the credit by simply putting it into 3D form. I was so angry I couldn’t help but asking my teacher why she wasn’t the one getting the recognition, or why Watson and Crick didn’t get into trouble. He just shrugged it off like the rest of the world seemed to have as well, and we continued trudging through the rest of the content. Although I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, I believe this to be one of the first instances of me becoming a feminist.

This is world is unfair. It is unequal and unjust, especially when it comes to gender roles. I believe in “the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” as Beyonce puts it in the interlude of her song “Flawless”. How is it fair that men get paid more than women? Why is that men can’t cry in public and women can’t be tough? People should be allowed to be who they want to be and do what they want to do… this is America for godsake! People don't fit into cookie cutter stereotypes. They are unique individuals who shouldn’t be bound by what society says. Unfortunately we’ve all contracted a disease, one that is embedded deep, even in the small things in our culture.  

In commercials or ads women are portrayed as frail, helpless beings with unattainable perfection. Damsels in Distress. The women in my life aren’t like that. My grandmother lived behind the Iron Curtain, endured years of oppression, managed to escape with her family of five, and not only survive but thrive in America. My mother is one of the strongest people I know. She came to this country not knowing a single word of English and in less than four years was studying in one a prestigious college, even earning one of the very few spots available to study abroad in her junior year.

It saddens me when my nine-year-old sister doesn’t think she can do something because it is too boyish, or that girls shouldn’t try that, and as much as we may try this problem goes too deep to be a simple fix. People need to open their eyes and culture needs to change its outlook because as I see it, things right now aren’t right. This movement is happening, and although we have a long way to go and it may take years upon years I believe, as a nation, we can achieve equality for all.


"This I Believe: Daydreaming" by Marcus


This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.

I believe in daydreaming.

I believe in letting your thoughts overtake you and creating your own fantastic reality. I believe it is my right as a pioneer of imagination to be whoever, wherever, or whatever I want to be.

I’ve been daydreaming since day one. As long as I can remember, the world just … wasn’t exciting enough for me. I wanted to do more, and become one of the greats. I didn’t know how, but I wanted badly to become somebody, instead of this boring, responsible student. I dreamt about becoming a hero to save the day. I’d fly and fight and rescue damsels in distress; a way to de-stress myself.

I believe that your dreams mean something spectacular. They have been philosophized and pondered about for generations, but no one actually knows why we dream. There have been several theories, but I’ve found that I can only settle on one reason: our minds are trying to tell us something important.
I believe that our soul is never truly asleep, and it is constantly trying to grow and evolve and lead us to who we are meant to become. When we sleep, all of our inhibitions and fears and common sense is thrown out of the window, and our deepest desires and ideals come out to play; an all-out brawl with no boundaries.

And now you see, in that drunken, dazed, half-asleep mind of yours, your dreams. Most likely, your mind is showing you something you need to see. Now what would happen if you take the next step to making your dreams become your reality? You would have to translate your dreams into your everyday thoughts: daydreaming. Daydreaming is the next step toward what you need to become. After that, it’s just making sure that you work hard at your goal to make it come true.

Daydreaming can exist at any time or place, as long as you can picture it clearly. Personally, I enjoy listening to music when I daydream; a sort of soundtrack to use as a framework. Quite often, to go along with my action dreams I would listen to heroic soundtracks or lyric-less songs. This would enhance and better organize the picture in my mind.

For the longest time I struggled with trying to find out who I am and what my plan of action is for the next few years. I didn’t realize that the answer was right in front of me, all of my life. I wanted to save the day, and I didn’t need superpowers to do it. I realized that all I really want in life is a good cause to fight for and devote myself to. I decided to actually leave the comforting nest that is my room and search for a new cause. I found so many new things: robotics, volunteering, and most importantly: people.

Daydreaming has become a large part of my life, and I’ve come to really respect it. It’s helped me through a lot of tough times. And of all the things I’m thankful for, I’ve really got to hand it to God for the imagination that He’s put into my mind. I am who I am today because of my dreams and imagination that I’ve turned into reality.

So whenever you find yourself questioning yourself or have doubts about who you are and what you’re supposed to do, just sleep on it.


Friday, January 16, 2015

"This I Believe: Reliance" by Bryce


This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience.


Independence has become widely valued in our society. It's something that is achieved, not given. People become respected in their self-sufficiency, but too often we get caught in this mindset resulting in an over confidence in our own abilities.

I used to be like this, and to be honest, parts of me still are. Suspended in my own happenings, blurring the boundaries of how far I can go by myself. This wasn't my being selfish, was just merely my faithfulness in my own autonomy. I've struggled with epilepsy for a lot of my life, brought on by frantic environmental stimulation or sever exhaustion. I found my limits with this, pushing myself to see how far I could go without losing consciousness and clattering mentally. I did this without emotional reliance, hung up on the thought it was mine to handle, blocking out anyone who was, "Sorry for me".  Something that I did not count on though, was how this trialed mentality carried with me. I never felt like I needed to stoop to a point where I would have to rely on others for support. This became a fault going forward, because as my negativity proliferated, I was never able to feel a sense of release; I kept it all inside. 

As my head hung lower, so did my spirits. It wasn't so much of a matter of me refusing to reach out, as it was me letting people in. I saw others around me establishing a bond, but I was too naïve to be aware that they were based upon a mutual sentiment. My Lone Wolf approach to life morphed into a hindrance as I found that I was stranded in my emotional solitude. This millstone around my neck crushed the very part of me that was supposed to keep me together; and when I reached for help in the worst of my times, there was no one to be found.

I believe that people need somebody.

There is an undeniable part of our make-up that requires close people around us, people that we can express without fear to. Too often we see each other as judges of our character, and we are ignorant in this respect. The same person that sees me for my negative, has their own conflicts that they are dealing with internally. We should not criticize each other for these faulty factors, but instead realize that they are just another somebody in need of our acceptance.

This can be hard to do as our current world is convoluted with a social regard that classifies any heartfelt appeal as a sign of weakness. I know that this was true for me, and because of it, I thought I had some proud traction by my ability to care for myself. I thought that all I could possibly need for my own well being can be tended to by myself, but this is not the case. There are portions of us that irrevocably call for an outside voice. Not even to provide advice, just another body that could somehow sympathize with whatever we are feeling in the moment. To let us know that we do not have to bare all of these adversities by ourselves. Whoever this listener may be, let us dare not think selfish of ourselves. To be caught up in the idea that our problems would be openly jeered at is silly. We should instead see and have confidence in that they have their own taints about them as well, making them people that would not judge us for our own. 

"This I Believe: Mac and Cheese" by Jaiden

This December, Advanced Composition students studied, wrote, and recorded audio essays. Students wrote and recorded their own "This I Believe" essays inspired by the weekly This I Believe Podcast. While we're publishing the text of each essay below, we strongly encourage you to listen to each student's audio essay for a more intimate experience

As I grew up, I bounced from my mother's house to my father's house. Every other weekend I was shipped off to my father's house. Being an introvert, it was a very hectic and annoying schedule for me. I didn't like to leave the comfort of my home. My parents have been separated since I was three, so I was used to the constant moving. On the weekends that I was with my father, he sensed my hostility. He did everything he could to make me feel comfortable. Most of these things were extravagant. He wanted to go places every weekend. That didn't impress my young mind. I just wanted to stay indoors and play with toys.

Finally, my father gave up and he retreated to more modest ways. Every Saturday we would stay in his small, cramped apartment and watch a movie. Our favorites were Dumb and Dumber and anything that had Adam Sandler in it. To go along with our A1 movies, we had a 5-star meal. Usually, we ate mac and cheese or pizza. My dad was a very health-conscious man. Every time we were together we always knew that we were going to watch these movies with our special dinner. So, after a few weekends, we trademarked these acts as our own little routine.

When I was only 11, my father passed away. It changed my life completely. I went from a young happy child to someone that was fatherless. The mourning period was long and vicious, but while I was mourning, I went back to the routines that comforted me when he was alive. They made me feel secure. 

I believe in the power that routines have. By adding small routines to our daily lives we can become more comfortable with everything we do. When we come home we fall into our simple but important routines like taking off your shoes at the door, hanging up your keys, and changing from your work clothes. You can just feel the stress lift off of your shoulders, and that's how I felt every times I was with my father. These routines can make us feel safe and stress free. When I begin our routine, it feels like I get a giant hug from my father. I just feel safe.


While I was grieving after my father's death, I always went back to these routines. In a way, it felt like it sped up the entire grieving process. It made me feel like he was with me in spirit and this made me feel happy as I could be in that point and time in my life. Somehow, I could feel him laughing at the part in Dumb and Dumber when Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels arrive to the hotel in ridiculous outfits. It just feels like his soul is trapped inside our routine, and that's good. It's amazing how something so small as a movie and a pot of mac and cheese made me feel so happy, and still continues to make me feel that way. After that, I knew why people called it comfort food. It just goes to show how much routines impact us. The smaller the routine, the larger the impact.