Sunday, September 11, 2011

Day 728 - Ten Years Isn't Really That Long

Ten years is a long time.

A lot can happen in ten years. Friends can grow up, get married, and have children. Neighbors can move on. Great things can be accomplished by great people.

A country can be forever changed in the span of ten years.

Today, as the world is aware, is the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks that took the lives of nearly 3000 innocent people, going about their daily lives in a country that no one - not even those hundreds of thousands of miles away from those streets in Manhattan, in Washington, or in that field in Pennsylvania - would imagine ever happening.

I was a freshman in high school on September 11, 2001, more concerned with remembering water and my music for Tuesday's after school marching band practice than a terrorist attack. It was a beautiful day, albeit a little warm. We were all more concerned with our lives than the fact that we were teetering on the edge of a defining moment of our generation's lifetime. We were high school students, thinking about dates and homework and the upcoming football game Friday night.

I was in Mr. Bost's fourth period health class when I heard the news. We were taking notes on proper nutrition, about lipids and cholesterol I think, when our circa-1960s PA system crackled to life. "Teachers, please excuse the interruption," said Mr. Green, our principal. Mr. Green always whistled slightly when he pronounced "s" sounds, which came through sounding like a faint high-pitched breeze passing by the speaker.

He didn't try to sugar coat the situation. Mr. Green always believed that, as high school students, we were young adults and didn't need to have things dumbed down for us. At that time, both towers had been hit and the first tower had just collapsed.

At that single moment, sitting in a darkened classroom that served as both the health and mechanical drawing room, our lives changed forever.

Teachers tried to keep the school day on as much of a regular schedule as possible for the rest of the day. The marching band still went outside and practiced our new show for Friday night's game. When a helicopter flew over the school, however, all 110 of us stopped playing and marching on a dime. It was the only time I remember that happening.

By the time lunch ended, our school was in a low-level lock down. Students went straight to class without stopping at lockers or to socialize. Hardly anyone left class to use the restroom. Teachers kept their classroom doors shut, window blinds down, and lights dimmed. At the end of the day, everyone except the football team and the band went straight home. Games, practices, and meetings were cancelled.

In the days following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we would learn that the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania had flown over our school before crashing into an empty field 80 miles north of Pittsburgh. Even as teenagers, we soon comprehended that it could have been us. We could have been a part of the scene on September 11, 2001, on center stage as a tragedy in which none of us wanted to take the lead.  Most of us had never been to New York City, but the reality that it could have been our school hit it closer to home.

In the ten years since then, those of us in that high school have changed a lot, as coming of age in a time of war and fear does to anyone. Some of my classmates have been to Iraq and Afghanistan and seen combat firsthand. Others have lost loved ones during this ten-year war. Others yet have gone on to other noble and great causes, but we all remember that day - the announcement, the confusion, and the end of our childhood innocence in the blink of an eye. We remember classmates crying in hallways, and fellow freshman Jesse standing at attention, playing taps on the band practice field after school that day as we all stood in silence.

So what happens now? In ten years, our country has changed tremendously. We as individuals have changed tremendously.

All I can hope is that, in the next ten years, we as a nation and a world are able to find some semblance of peace, that this war comes to an end and that we all absorb and apply the lessons we learned ten years ago to our every day lives. I hope that the families of those who lost loved ones on that fateful Tuesday morning can lay down to sleep at night and, as memories of their loved ones dance on the edges of their memories, that their loss has taught the world something about itself, about humanity, and about our relationships with one another.

God bless.


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 646 - How Do You Explain What Cannot Be Explained?

Today was one of those days where being the older and wiser sibling wasn't easy.

Katie, my younger sister, came home today saying that the brother of one of her classmates had tried committing suicide last week. According to the letter that the superintendent sent home, the young man is physically no longer able to be brought back to who he used to be. He's in a vegetative state. Too much damage had been done to his body, to the point where the young man his friends and classmates knew and loved isn't coming back.

Unfortunately, there's not much I could say. What do you say? Not much, I found. None of us could say much of anything. This young man had been struggling with depression, but even with the support of his family, friends, faith, and everyone around him, how do you explain to a fourteen year old that, sometimes, people you know and care about don't always get to live an entire life.

This is one thing that makes being an adult rough.

I really don't know what to say at this point in this post. Beyond hugs and love, what do you say? I'm not a parent by a long shot, but I do know how it feels to lose a classmate and friend - I lost one in both my high school and college graduating classes. But how do you relay those feelings to someone who is a part of a generation that knows and understands so much more about the world than my peers and I knew when we were eighth graders, but is still far from adulthood? I don't understand completely understand what she's going through, but I can relate. At this stage in life, is relating all I can do? Where does the line between childhood and adulthood get drawn in this case?

All I can hope is that, in the coming days, Katie and her classmates, along with the friends of this young man, can begin to find some solace in each other to begin to heal. While I don't think that there is much that can be said from those of us who are adults in various stages of life, that there is something to be said in the silence that may fall over homes and conversations in the coming days; sometimes not knowing what to say is the most grown-up thing that you can say at a time like this.


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Day 628 - Eleven Days Post Plans Going to Pot

Well, I'm beginning to become very familiar with this back to square one state of mind.  I'm not sure if I like it.

It's been eleven days since I got that nerve-wracking email saying that my application had finally been denied.  At first, I was upset.  After all, I had been researching where I was going to live, things to do in and around Athens, and the professors that I might have been working with.  And, with one little email, all of the time spent getting excited about the next leap and life suddenly became a waste of time.

So, what have I been doing the past eleven days?  Well, I was disappointed, but I think that deep down I had come to the realization that I wasn't getting in a while ago.  As much as it seems counterproductive to being a confident young woman, I've grown tired of setting myself up for disappointment in this arena.  For once, I've lowered my expectations and, unfortunately, have gotten what I've expected.

Maybe that's part of the problem.

I've also been thinking about where to go from here.  I can't continue to go on like this, so something needs to start happening.
  • Get a new job  As in, saying peace out to the Job from Hell.  I can't stay there for another school year, dealing with all of the drama and generally useless feeling I get every time I clock in.  I want to throw things at people, and that isn't going to get me anywhere except fired, which won't pay the bills.
  • Get into graduate school - at any cost  I've exhausted my options in the state of Ohio; I've come to that realization.  At the same time, though, I can't continue to just apply to one or two schools at a time.  Granted, I'm getting closer and closer to a definitive acceptance letter, but this is game face time.  I'm to the point that if I don't get in now, then I have no clue what I'm going to do about recommendations and references, let alone trying to continue to finance this whole application process.
  • Get out there  I need to start submitting to literary journals and magazines again.  I need to learn to deal with rejection.  I know that not everyone is not going to like what I write, but I'll never know if I don't continue to put it in front of them.
Part of me is fed up with myself for being where I am.  This is not where I'm supposed to be, or rather not where I want to be.  I'm not the most daring person you've ever met, but I have got to start pushing the envelope a little bit, or someone may just die if I continue to do the same thing every day.

Unfortunately, that someone may just be my spirit.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 617 - The Results Are In

Final decision for application to Ohio University's MA in creative writing program:



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Day 607 - Is This Where I Wanted To Be?

A college classmate of mine celebrated her birthday earlier this week and blogged about her life plan.  She shared with those who were willing to read along about her plans for life when she was eighteen, where she saw herself by this point in her life, and what really happened in the grand scheme of things. 

It made me think.  What happened to my "life plan?"

If I remember right, it went something a little like this:

  • Be a teacher.  I was going to graduate from college and be the best creative writing and journalism teacher in the world.  You know, the kind that they make movies about after they've retired about how they inspired people to love a subject/live life/succeed in the worst of circumstances.  I was going to teach students how to embrace writing and all that it can do for the mind, the soul, and everything else.
  • Publish a book.  I was going to have books published and be a best-selling author of fiction novels.  After all, there was another guy in my high school graduating class that challenged me to a race to the top of the NYT's best sellers list, and I'm too competitive to lose.
  • Get married and live happily ever after.  I was going to be married soon - I didn't have a specific date, but quickly - and we were going to live happily ever after.  The End.

Wah, wah, waaaaah.

The teaching thing didn't work out, as we all know.  I lasted a month in Ashland University's teacher education program, before a combination of bad field experiences, overwhelming feelings, and a lack of genuine dedication to the profession caused me to drop out of the program.  My heart was with my writing, and I followed it knowing that job prospects wouldn't be falling into my lap any time soon.  In reality, though, I couldn't see me forcing myself to go to work everyday in a position that I truly wasn't passionate about.  I just couldn't do it.

Instead, I went through four years of college and earned a degree while learning from a wide variety of people.  Those who I learned the most from were those that I highly respected outside of the teaching realm; they were fantastic writers, mentors, and motivators.  It was something I hadn't thought about when I jotted "creative writing" down as a major on college applications.  But what I did learn has pushed me further than I can imagine, including abandoning those fiction novels for something that I was "born to write," as one of my professors told me. 

At twenty-four, I didn't imagine myself being a college graduate working two jobs just to pay the bills, madly in love with someone I've been dating for almost a decade (okay, maybe I did imagine that,) and teetering on the edge of a decision that could change my life both professionally and casually for the rest of my life.  I didn't imagine having an online presence as a writer, or even making a living by writing for something that has gone from almost nothing to almost everything in the span of my short lifetime. 

So, what about the plan?

Well, I've never been good at keeping long term plans.  I never did write outlines for stories or papers, keep work out plans, and I have an editorial plan for Suite101 that I am almost three weeks behind on.  One thing I do know, though, is that the plans I keep are the ones that unfold naturally, the ones that I usually don't discover until I'm in the midst of them, and the ones that teach me the most in the end.  And while I'm not married, a teacher, or living in my perfect little house living the life that I planned for when I was on the verge of graduating from high school, the eighteen year old Ashley and the twenty-four year old Ashley are two beings that are hard to imagine are the same person.  Ditching "the plan," or more realistically forgetting about it, probably worked out best in the end.

As these next couple of weeks unfold, I guess I'll see where "the plan," as it stands for the next five minutes, takes me next.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 602 - Waiting By the Mailbox in the Mud, Take Two

Yes, I know that it is impossible to get anything in the mail about graduate school today.  After all, decision day was just Friday, and I'm sure that they're allowing a couple of days to account for the post office.

It goes back to that antsy feeling I talked about in my last post.  I want something to genuinely look forward to, something exciting.  I need an adventure, and hopefully that adventure will get me out of the mud that I feel hopelessly stuck in.

In other news, I've been researching places to live in Athens, and it looks like I may be a graduate student living on campus, at least for my first year.  My first choice of living options gives first priority to students who are married with children, and while that is something I look forward to in the distant future, it is not a role within society that I will willingly fulfill right now.  Wolf Street Apartments are out, at least for now.  Right now, my only option looks like a dorm, or as the university calls it a house, that is meant for graduate students and undergrads over the age of 21.  While dorm life may not exactly be glamorous, at least I'll have a room to myself.  Not that I don't have that already, but it's better than living out of my car.

We'll have to see what the next two weeks brings.  Hopefully that adventure I've been working really hard to start.