The High Highs and the Low Lows

Grab a snack or a drink and sit somewhere cozy; this’ll likely be lengthy.

How do I begin to tackle junior year? Well firstly, to any and every soul that has crossed paths with me this year, thank you. I really, really mean it. You rock. Every single one of you.

Freshman year was incredibly messy. I was lost in just about every aspect of my life, or at least, I didn’t feel confident in anything. I can genuinely say I have never been more insecure than when I was nineteen (hence my novel… but we’ll get there soon). Sophomore year ended up being a reboot and a security blanket; I established Hope as my new home, I became more involved in campus life, and I expanded my social horizons beyond the two friends from freshman year.

Junior year… Honestly, I think it has been the year of confidence and fearlessness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a terribly anxious person that needs to be calmed down every other day. But I have made decisions my eighteen-year-old self would have keeled over thinking about: going to Ireland in two days without any super close friends, working in Grand Rapids this summer and potentially living alone, and small things like volunteering to present first in my novels class.

Both semesters were crucial to my personal growth in very different ways. In the fall, I lost a family friend, Luke, to cancer. It was a real tragedy; I still believe he was the embodiment of the color yellow. Pure joy and faith. Frankly, that loss shaped my entire semester, even though we were never super close. Luke’s loss represented the first conscious grief in my adult life, coupled with the real spiritual frustrations that come along with such an unfair loss.

Luckily, God also placed some huge rays of light within the semester, including a memoir class that allowed me to process my emotions and a concert to see my all-time favorite musician, with my sister.

By the time finals rolled around, I was utterly exhausted, friends. The world had got me down in some really tough ways. But grief is a natural part of life and it has to be seen through, and that is what my fall semester taught me. It taught me how to deal with and walk through grief in a way that I had to learn on my own. Thankfully, I was blessed with a restful Christmas break at home with my loved ones.

Yes, it was a sad and challenging semester, but in a beneficial way. We cannot evade grief forever and grief allows us to fall back on community we so desperately need as humans, and realize the beautiful little blessings we have every single day in the grand scheme of life.

Grief humbled me, increased my introspection, and broadened my attention toward everyone around me, and I would not trade that for anything.

Now, in this brief reflective period before I skedaddle off to Ireland in two days, I have spent most of my time reflecting on my spring semester. I grew within the past four months in more ways than I ever thought possible, and I can confidently say that my spring 2018 semester was the largest leap in personal growth I have ever had in my lifetime.

Despite the emotional trials and tribulations my Communication internship in Hope’s recording studio brought about initially, it gave me immense confidence in who I am as a professional, which is a facet of my character that I have never stopped to think about or set goals for before. Clearly, though, I have lived with the pain of rejection in professional endeavors from the past; a fact which was exacerbated by the sluggish start to my internship. But I’ve learned I can handle way more than I thought possible—I can be a self-starter and teach myself photography if I want to, I can be a manager and juggle schedules and deadlines, and I can analyze social situations and problem-solve through strategies.

Through both my religion and literature classes, I allowed myself to ask hard questions and take a deeper look into the outcasts of the world that can sadly be too easily ignored sometimes. I wrote a paper about how the Christian community should interact with the LGBTQ+ community. Too often different opinions in hot button topics are labeled ‘evil’ or ‘good,’ and it was refreshing to slow down the discussion enough to acknowledge the humanity within both sides, take what is given to Christians through Scripture, and then apply that to rationally form an opinion on how the communities should interact. (P.S. I would love to share my paper with you and even discuss it together if you are interested in the topic!) My literature class really drove home how much of a bubble I live in. It helped me acknowledge my own ignorance and stereotypes in relation to ethnic minorities, which I am determined to rectify over the course of my life.

And, of course, I cannot forget to mention the immensely emotional journey that was my novels class. As I told everyone on the last day, becoming an author was always a huge dream growing up, but one that remained incredibly abstract and unattainable. The class gave me the concrete steps I needed to turn that dream into a realistic possibility.

Not to mention, my professor shot down my initial work in progress that I desperately wanted to work on. Looking back, I realized my frustration at not getting to work on my work in progress was a result of fear.

I truly believed I had no other stories to tell.

But I wrote a story that is very close to my heart. Remember freshman Annah I mentioned? When I was really insecure? That is essentially what my story is about—a girl overcoming herself and her own doubts in her abilities and value as an individual. I believe in Ryden, my protagonist’s, story, and I will work my butt off to get it published. I believe in her story because I believe in my story, and I believe the world needs to hear my story because it is unlike anyone else’s. I am confident in that.

I’m aware I’m going to be opening my heart to anyone who chooses to pick my book off the shelf, but that is a risk I am officially willing to take.

Outside of my professional and academic growth, I’ve realized there are two big changes in my social life, too.

  1. I am willing to have hard and necessary conversations with my loved ones.
  2. I have become unapologetic in building relationships. If I think you’re cool, I let you know. There’s no beating around the bush or being afraid of other people’s opinions anymore.

Okay, okay, enough about me. Can I just talk about the people I have been blessed with this year? This is the moment you all have been waiting for, right?

Firstly, my apartment-mates from both semesters. They helped me through my grief with prayers and laughter. They listened to my frustrations and confusion over a billion different things. (Ah, the female mind.) They showed me tons of hilarious videos. Not to mention, they put up with my loud music and the times I jumped out and scared some of them.

Secondly, shout out to the “sharpening friends.” A couple of them were my apartment-mates, but we did an incredibly valuable book study together first semester about rejection, which also was an immense necessity in a time of grief. We had some much-needed discussions and heart-to-hearts.

I already wrote a long post about James Fixx, but he and the rest of the students in the recording arts program really made me feel welcome at my internship, which I am incredibly grateful for. They were the “coworkers” I didn’t have, and they made my work fifty times more enjoyable through pictures, interviews, social media posts, and music projects.

I am thankful for Kelly and our great coffee dates, when we talked more about life than homework. I am grateful for Michelle who I ate with three days a week. She reminded me of God’s goodness every meal. Keri and Ceilidh are the biggest reasons I survived the non-stop work in our novel class, and motivated me when I had no motivation. Deb keeps me creative and awkward in the best ways possible, even when she’s hours away. Becky is the biggest hero I know and inspires me regularly.

But wait—there’s more. Shout out to Peter from Oregon for making me laugh on a daily basis and taking time to listen to my random thoughts even though he’s super famous. Thank you to Kevin @ Seven for letting me be on my very first radio show (which was a hecka ton of fun!!! I have the audio recording to prove it.) Also, I have to thank Michael for letting me take pictures of him before I really knew him, believing in my amateur photography skills, and putting up with my incessant sass. What wonderful goons.

Last but in no way least is an appreciation statement for Miranda, who has become such a devoted friend in the blink of an eye. I am so grateful I can remember faces well when others can’t, because that is how we ended up hanging out for the first time this semester—she wanted to know how I knew her (from like a two second interaction over a year ago).

Thank heavens it is never too late to make friends, because there are so many quality people around campus. I’m sure I’ll have some new friends after my coming trip to Ireland as well. But again, I truly mean it when I say I could not have done this year without all of these people and so many more. Every smile and interaction from every single person pushed me through both semesters. Community is so needed and I cannot emphasize that enough. We need each other, sometimes in more ways than we can even know until we are at rock bottom.

Happy summer, friends. Enjoy your time. Rest well.

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My television debut
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Miranda!!!
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Emma, Kaitlyn, and I before the last Gathering.
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My recording studio mentor and apartment neighbor, James.
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David let me shadow his recording project over the semester. This was the last recording session when he tracked the drums (and a taste of my photography).
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Finally, let us not forget the best “dingo” in the world: Gracey Rose.

~Annah

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Freckles, Trains and Other Identifiers

I literally just wrote this in 10 minutes for my final project in YA Ethnic American Literature and felt that the world wide web needed to hear it.

 

A typo turns into

The “Untied” States:

The land of the panicked.

The home of the fearful.

 

We are an unraveled thread

Of ethnicities

That refuse to braid into one another.

We cannot possibly envision

The final sewn project;

We just think the colors would clash.

 

But aren’t all colors related?

The best hues on the palette are

Those that are mixed.

The best salads are

Those that are tossed.

I think we need to toss our prejudice

Out of the window and

 

Color by feeling, not sight.

 

You are not beautiful because you are

White

Black

Brown

Yellow

Or red…

You are beautiful because

You are you,

And because we all have a little of

Momma’s courage

And Dad’s stubborn love…

The freckles on Nana’s back

Or the thinning hair on Abuelo’s head.

 

We are not compartments,

You see,

We are a full train.

So why do we segregate ourselves so

And mask it under the name

Of unity?

 

Get up.

Stretch your legs.

You have miles to go.

 

…But won’t you let me walk beside you?

 

~Annah

Grade 15

A heavy workload. Aching eyes that cried too many times to count. Tough, beneficial conversations. Deep loss. Deep grief. Some 3 AM nights. Other 11 PM nights. Big career conundrums and frustrations. Little blips of clarity concerning one’s true passions. The realization of one’s youth. The realization of one’s maturity. Old friends. New friends. Internships. Housing crises. A lot of sass. The assurance of things hoped for. My very first novel draft. Large steps of independence and individuality. A fearful introvert becoming fearless in times of uncertainty. Constant pushes outside of cozy comfort zones. A broadening of my awareness for diverse opinions and lifestyles. An ear for the minority races and sexualities. An ear for the broken and confused. An ear whilst everyone else has lost theirs. Flinging into spring. Lots and lots of hopeful yellows that echo truth into my weary soul. Heavy weariness with a belly laugh of a silver lining. Crying girls in bedrooms. Crying boys in bedrooms. Smiles in between tears. Romance and the tenderness of feelings, so breakable indeed. People from the bad parts of town are people too. More attention to the minorities and outcasts. Protests for change. Sorrow that things will never be the same. Spontaneous outings for yummy treats. Professional resilience. Unapologetic appreciation for whoever puts a smile on my face. An introvert yelling friends’ names across rooms. Remembrance of commonalities. The necessity of music with its soothing narratives of pain and joy. Bittersweet, this life we have crafted for ourselves. Oh wait… It is not for yourself. Moldy hearts, forever being tilled. 💛

Junior year: defined as “how to power through anything and everything, one breath at a time.”

~Annah

Twelve-Piece Kite

Maybe I’ll be a kite today.

Throw me up in the air, so I don’t have to touch the moist muck of rejection and putrid stench of desperate feeling for a while. But if I’m transparent, I only need a tiny gust of wind to blow me into a snag, a pointy branch off a tree, a limb adding to my lack thereof. See, I pocket away what I don’t want to experience, even significant chunks of flesh and bone, deeming it inconvenience to chase after things that leave me a little worse for wear. But really? A heart broken? It could never be so; you can always mend up the patches on the snagged kite. Throw it back up, she’ll be fine. But she’s seen a little more and heard a little too much, maybe that her qualifications are not good enough, maybe that she’s a bit plain… but mostly that she’s perfect just the way she is and that still can’t black out the pain of conflict and delicate feelings that always lurk in dark corners. Flutter, fly, abide, glide, my little, sturdy, patched, kite. Don’t be tied down by the takers of the world who want to wrap you up and tell you what box you fit into. Out here the sun is closer, the wind has a wheezy laugh, and the jagged trees present daring challenges. After all, a kite is still a kite, even if it is torn into two, four, six, twelve.

I think I’ll be a kite today.

 

~Annah

Disconnected Communication

Honestly, I think we as humans are very imbalanced socially right now.

Yesterday I sat in my religion class and our professor gave us a short break halfway through. I kid you not, a handful of people immediately left the room to grab a drink or use the restroom, but everyone else instantaneously grabbed their phone. I would be lying if I said I didn’t reach for the front pocket of my backpack where my phone rests when he told us we could have a short break. However, my hand paused when I looked to those above my reaching hand, who were buried in their devices. I turned around to those behind me and to the other side, and sure enough, every single person had their nose buried. Two girls talked a little, but still held the devices firmly in their palms.

That’s when I decided to spend the mini class break without my phone. And I honestly felt a twinge of sadness, realizing that this is our default as people now, at least, in a first world country.

More than ever people crave to have deep relationships with others, where they can feel heard, valued, and loved. Yet, more than ever, people spend their time more engaged in online activity or texting friends, rather than hanging out with the people around them.

I think it’s vital to remember that if you choose to hang out with other people, you choose to hang out with those people. Not the ones on your phone.

I know that sounds a little harsh, so allow me to convey my sentiments another way. In my experience, the more I’ve placed emphasis on long distance/electronic friendships, the more I’ve pushed away the people who’ve blessed my life in the present.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s so crucial to stay in contact with the people you love and can’t see often.

But I think we also need to trust that the people who are currently with us outside of our devices are there for a reason and we should attempt to invest into those relationships more frequently, because those others will always be a tap away, but whoever’s with you in person can only be face-to-face with you temporarily.

I know that’s so easy to say though, trust me, I know the phone addiction too well. But if you’re anything like me, sometimes I get a little bummed when I hang out with friends and they keep reaching for their phones, not because I think they’re trying to bother me intentionally, but because it’s just a bad habit we resort to. Personally, I’d love the reminder to put it away when I’m hanging out with friends and would love to keep others accountable who wish to break the habit.

I strongly believe that we should be present in our physical world around us and then catch up with the phone later when we’re not with others.

When’s the last time you hung out with someone and forgot about your phone? Wouldn’t you agree those times are some of the best memories? Feel free to share your thoughts!

~Annah

Aaron Burr & The World’s “Villains”

Yesterday I saw Hamilton in Chicago and after a year and a half, it surpassed any kind of expectations I had. It really did blow me away. And it made me cry 3 times… but that’s no surprise, considering I teared up after the first song had finished.

Finally getting to see the musical live confirmed that my favorite character is definitely Aaron Burr, which might sound odd considering he’s the “villain.” Basically, the reason has everything to do with Lin Manuel-Miranda’s writing (as does the reasoning behind all of my emotions while watching the show).

Manuel-Miranda wrote Burr dynamically and I really appreciate his decision to make Burr the narrator of the entire show. You cannot completely hate Burr and I think especially in today’s finger-pointing society, that’s really refreshing.

Burr’s main songs are “Wait for It,” “Dear Theodosia,” “The Room Where it Happens,” and “The World was Wide Enough.” While it’s no secret that I love Leslie Odom Jr., the original actor that played him, Burr’s songs are some of my favorites from the entire musical. “Dear Theodosia” and “The World was Wide Enough” especially. I love that in both songs you see Burr’s story compared and contrasted to Hamilton’s, and how they really do have a lot of similarities. One decision changed everything, making Burr the villain, but that’s just it–it was one decision.

The truth is, Burr is just like anyone else. He loves his daughter and values being a father, he gets jealous when it seems jobs he thought he deserved are ripped out from his grasp, and he has regrets.

Right before he shoots Hamilton, Manuel-Miranda wrote, “I had only one thought before the slaughter | This man will not make an orphan of my daughter.”

Moments like that are why I believe that Hamilton is ironically less about politics and history, than it is about the human experience. Because the truth is we try so hard to label people evil or good when human beings are much too complex for that. Believe it or not, we all have the same capability for evil as a serial killer or terrorist, as the people we abhor most, as the people we subconsciously treat as less than human. We don’t want to think about how classifying them as our own race affects us… it shows that we’re all alike, even the ones committing horrific acts. But I truly believe that “bad” people have just as much ability to do good as I do, because I know I have the ability to be just as bad as them.

Manuel-Miranda has crafted humanity in an authentic way. We are all good and bad. Every villain can be a hero and every hero can be a villain.

“Now I’m the villain in your history

I was too young and blind to see…

I should’ve known

I should’ve known

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

-Aaron Burr

 

~Annah

Pre-Hamilton Thoughts

I’m not going to say I like Hamilton any more than the next person, because I know there are thousands of more devoted fans than me, but there’s something about listening and experiencing it as a writer that really gets to me. Or maybe I’m just too empathetic? I don’t know, but the lyrics, especially the questions, really stick to me. How does one write like they’re running out of time? Have I done enough [with my words]? Who will tell our stories—will anyone?

How does my writing play into this narrative that is the vast planet we live on? You know it’s kind of terrifying, writing. You put your heart and soul into characters, you believe in your stories in the midst of millions of others, enough to spend months and years on them. Then you publish them for anyone and everyone to read, you put your story on the line because you believe so immensely in it, resulting in inevitable rejection by some readers. Stories can easily be looked over, even if they are published, because of the sheer volume of them. But they’ve all been worked on and loved so well by the ones who penned them.

The vast majority of stories will not be heard by the general public, but does that mean we stop writing them? No. Because as scary as it is, we shouldn’t write with the numbers or lack thereof in mind. We write because we have faith, we write because we’re gamblers, we write because we’re not scared of the odds. We shoot our stories blindly into the dark because we know they’ll help someone somehow. And that’s pretty dang cool. So keep writing and “keep fighting in the meantime.”

(10 days until Hamilton.)⭐️

~Annah