Actions in Activities, Musings

Don’t Give Up

Few things make me quite as nostalgic as a debate tournament. Now, I was never a fantastic debater. While winning two out of three rounds wasn’t a huge shock, it was still often a surprise. But I loved it.

I didn’t fall in love with debate right away though. My first tournament was epic. A thing of legend. It was terrible. My partner and I were both first year debaters and we really had no idea what we were doing. She didn’t seem to care that we were doing so poorly, and it drove me insane. But since she was more comfortable speaking and I just wanted to sit in the corner and pretend I was somewhere else, she gave two of our three speeches. I spent most of the time staring at my paper trying to figure out what to write down. When it was my turn to speak, I stood up, thanked the judge, timekeeper and peanut gallery, read the few words I may or may not have written down, stared at my mostly blank piece of paper for a minute or so, said “um” a lot, and sat down. That first tournament I got 1 out of 5 points in nearly every speaker category, in nearly every round. I swore “never again.” I was done with debate, speaking, everything. That was my first tournament, and I was determined that it would be my last. My parents had other ideas. I had to finish the semester and compete in the rest of the tournaments, but after that semester was over I could be done.

It still irks me to say this, (what can say? I inherited my parents combined stubbornness) but I’m so glad that I finished that term.

I learned so much in my time as a debater. It’s not just the obvious things you would think of either. Everyone expects that, of course, public speaking is a nearly universally useful skill. You use it in almost every profession, as well as jobs that lead up to whatever career you pursue (“Would you like fries with that?”). The critical thinking habits are obviously invaluable. But those aren’t the ones that meant the most to me. The lessons that meant to most to me were ones of confidence.

The thing about debate is, sometimes your team can win a round without actually being the better speakers. A first year debater can destroy a seasoned team by pointing out one logical fallacy. A timid speaker can turn a theatrical orator’s case into a colander with the right points. The confidence boost of a win, or even the possibility of a win, is indescribable and addictive. I’ve seen this happen as both a debater and as a judge, and it’s awesome.

When I first started debate, all I wanted to do was melt into the wall. By the end of my senior year, I was often in tears because I didn’t want it to end. Debate can be an amazing activity, but remember five things for me.

  • Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t feel bad when you make one, but when your opponent does, nail ’em. Politely. With a smile.
  • Conversely, when your opponent nails you for a mistake, don’t take it personally. Still be polite and try to remember to smile.
  • You will lose rounds. It’s not a reflection of your worth as a human being.
  • You will think of what would have been the winning argument for those rounds on your way home from the tournament. File it away and be ready for next time.
  • It’s just a game. You are not a lawyer. No one will die or go to prison if you mess up. Have fun.

And parents, please remember that these are kids. Don’t berate them for making mistakes. That’s part of learning.

Actions in Activities, Musings

Stage Addict

You know how sometimes people joke about various methods of getting high? Sometimes I’ll respond with a joke about my physical intolerance for drugs. I had my wisdom teeth out several years ago, and the doctor removed not only my extra molars, but any curiosity about drugs I ever had. Like after most surgeries, they prescribed hydrocodone for the pain. I took what they gave me at the office, of course, and then the prescribed amount for maybe a day, before the sedation fully wore off. But once I woke up, I was done. No-thank-you-sir. The pain of a bruised jawbone, four open wounds and precarious stitches was nothing compared to the mental impairment from the drugs. I have a high pain tolerance and a low drug tolerance. If ibuprofen couldn’t kick it, I’d just deal with the pain. I don’t want anything clouding my mind. And taking drugs when you aren’t in pain? My imagination is vivid enough, I don’t need any help getting distracted or compromised.4198e81a1d650f717a831dd4e53ee8ba

Sometimes you can’t avoid a high. A surge of endorphins. Adrenaline is my drug of choice. Roller coasters. Ice skating. Oh, ice skating. Not just your quaint little families-on-a-pond ice skating. I mean flying. I mean taking your life into your own hands– er, feet, because if you crash you could slice your leg open and die from arterial bleeding. Or at least, that’s the objective (though, not the dying part). I’m not actually that fast of a skater, and if I crash, the worst that would happen is that I’d blow my knee out (which I’ve done several times, and survived). But adrenaline isn’t only found in high octane, low drag activities.

Hi, my name is Annie. [an overly enthusiastic, but curbed “Hi Annie!”] It’s been one week since I set foot on a stage…

The morning after we closed I thought to myself,”I imagine this is what it feels like to be hungover.” My body hurt. My brain hurt. I was emotional. I just wanted to forget about last night. Forget that I wasn’t going back to the theater that day. That I was no longer Mrs. Elizabeth Martin. And yet, I didn’t want to forget a second of it. After the last show I had to go back on stage and collect a prop that was mine. Most of the furniture was gone. All that was left was a couple of tables, baskets, and our lovely yellow walls. I picked up my plates, looked around the empty room and ran out. Try as I might, smearing my makeup was unavoidable. Thank God for waterproof eyeliner, or it would have been worse. Someone jokingly asked the director why she was making her actors cry and we all laughed because Kittie is just about the sweetest person ever. But it bugged me. Why was I crying? It wasn’t because I was put on stage and made to feel special. It wasn’t because the show was so fantastic. It wasn’t because I was exhausted and relieved to be out of that itchy sweater. Those are all true, and valid reasons to assume, but they weren’t the real reason for my tears. Then on the way to the cast party I figured it out between sobs.

I have never felt that chosen and accepted before. I was cast, without knowing a solitary person in the theater department, without a single show on my resume, and having been in the same room as the director and stage manager only once. I wasn’t cast because someone put in a good word for me or because I had any kind of reputation. All they had was me. It didn’t take long for the other cast members to realize that I’m pretty naive about a lot of subjects. I was, in all honesty, a sheltered homeschooler. I would say things that, evidently, don’t mean what they did when the books I read were written. They would laugh because they knew I didn’t mean it that way and inform me of the current word usage. But they didn’t dismiss me as too weird. A subject would come up and they wouldn’t treat me as dumb for knowing nothing about it. It was mentioned that we should play “Never Have I Ever.” When I stated that I’d win in 5 turns, another game was chosen. I don’t have any scandalous stories (unless pulling your brother and sister from a frozen pond or riding in the back of a passenger van with a three week old calf is scandalous). Most of the time, I’d just sit there and listen. But for the first time, being myself, holding nothing back, not only wasn’t an automatic rejection slip, it was why I was there.

People are insane, ya know? Either we act; We develop multiple-personality-disorder and put ourselves out on a stage for the world to see, raw, exposed, intimate. Or we don’t act; We live our lives as only one person and keep our clothes and bandages on, never fully immersing ourselves in our imaginings. I don’t know which lunacy is worse, but I know that after tasting both, there is only one for me.

The Bald Soprano. It doesn’t make any sense. Think about it too hard and you’ll only give yourself an aneurysm. People asked me “Who played the Bald Soprano?” There is no Bald Soprano. The phrase is mentioned once in the entire show. Don’t try to understand the jokes. Just laugh and move on. It’s insanity on a stage. But it was mine, and it’s gone.

This has to be what it feels like to be in withdrawal. I find myself reading scripts for upcoming shows that have only just been announced. Looking for my next high, but knowing I won’t be able to find it for months.

Actions in Activities, Musings

How To Be a Girl

“If I were a boy, life would be so much better. No one would care what I wore or what I did.” She looked up at the enormity of the sky outside her window, laid her small head of matted, mouse brown hair on a pink Barbie pillow, and fell asleep.

“I have hips. When did that happen?” She sits on an examination table in a cold doctor’s office, looks down and notices her own, fully formed body for the first time.

I went directly from being a little girl to being a woman. At least, that’s how it feels. Those years that most girls get to grow accustomed to their bodies were stripped from me. No, I get it. Everyone is awkward during puberty. But I wasn’t just awkward, I was resentful. From the time I was 9 until this past year, I resented and hated the fact that I am female. During those years, the only emotions I truly felt at all were anger and hatred, so of course that was the only way I could view myself or my body. My parents never taught me to think this way, it was the 905dfa71e173a5a222272b7585f56c14pervasiveness of the ideologies of the purity movement in our church and homeschool community that hammered it into my brain, but the purity mindset was still encouraged. I am the one who took the encouragement a step further. The feminine form was something to be hidden, if not ashamed of. I still hated skirts, because all things that are feminine were weak and therefore must be eschewed. So, I wore boys jeans even though I was beginning to get tiny teen hips and they didn’t really fit right. I wore unisex t-shirts and sports bras almost exclusively. It wasn’t hard at all. It’s easier to find clothes when you just need to cover your shameful nakedness and hide your seductive form.

I recently got cast in a play at school, and it’s been so, so good for me. I realised that I still often carry myself like I’m ashamed to be alive, even though I’m happier now than I ever have been. I slouch. I mumble. I look at the ground when I walk. I avoid eye contact. As far as I’ve come, I’m still not used to being a girl. But I noticed something else. One day at rehearsal our director was talking about not being ourselves on stage, but being our characters. Mrs. Martin is a very posh, English gentlewoman. She crosses her ankles when she sits, with her shoulders back and head held high. Whereas I sit hunched over with elbows rested on the desk in front of me, my legs either out in front or tucked up under my seat. The first time I felt this dissonance between myself and a character I was portraying was at comic-con last spring. I was cosplaying for the first time, and I had chosen Snow White from Once Upon a Time in her huntress get-up. As I walked through the crowded hallways I noticed my attitude. I was standing straighter, but walking more urgently. Like the hunted princess. I was running from the Evil Queen (who, incidentally, is by far my favorite character), and it was all I could do to keep from breaking out into a sprint.

So, what now? Well, I have lines and blocking to memorize. Lines for Mrs. Elizabeth Martin, and blocking for Ms. Annie Hall. There is still so much character development in the works. Who is this girl with such a complicated past and such an ambitious future? How does she carry herself across this stage? She is a princess and a storykeeper. She carries herself with grace and love and confidence. What is her motivation? Life. Vivacious, glorious, abundant, splendid, Life.

Actions in Activities, Camp, Musings

Staying Home After Highschool

Yes, I’m back from camp, and yes, a post about that is forthcoming. But for now, something is on my mind.

I graduated highschool last spring. Instead of going straight to college as per the popular course, I stayed home. While this isn’t unheard of, it still isn’t common. Most people I knew started at least taking courses at a community college, and a lot of them were moving away. I’ve had a  lot of people tell me it’s a good idea to stay home, or that they wish they had taken a break.

When I was technically “in school” I never really did a ton of book work. I learned from reading and by osmosis for the most part (we call it hippieschool). You would think, being that laid back to begin witfireworksh, it wouldn’t be a big deal to not do school at all. But, I had activities. I did Debate and Bible Quiz. Most of my time was spent in fly-on-the-wall mode, but I saw people and did things. Even though I was never much of a part of the action, this past year has been the loneliest one of my life.

But my loneliness hasn’t been solely because of lack of activities. We also changed churches last summer. I left friends behind there. A few times I tried getting together with them outside of church, but I ran into a problem. I’ve changed. I’m not the same person that they hung out with last year. I’ve tried getting involved with our new church, but I just don’t exactly fit in.

It probably sounds like I’ve had a fairly miserable year. Right and wrong. I probably have cried more in this past year than the rest of my previous years combined. But I learned so much about myself, and about my writing, and about the world, and about God that I wouldn’t trade that year for anything. It was the year I learned to Let It Go. I have figured out what I want to do, at least for the next few years, and it is totally different from what I had planned before (even though, in retrospect, it is something I’ve wanted to do since I was about 9 years old).

I don’t regret staying home, but it wasn’t like I thought it would be. So, if you are considering taking the year off, go for it. But, don’t just not do school. Write. Create. Think. Do things. Learn what you want to learn. It isn’t easy. You won’t  be the same person you were when you graduated. You will be much more of a person though. I’m a lot happier one.

Actions in Activities

How A 3 Year Old Can Control a 19 Year Old

When I was 3 years old I went to the doctor’s for a checkup. Just a routine visit. I remember walking into the brick building with my mom. She was a lot taller than me 16 years ago. Then I remember sitting on the exam table crying. There was blood everywhere and my arm hurt. I felt violated. They did that to me, without warning.

Since, well, Christmas really, I have been just a bit off. It got worse at the beginning of this month. I had the flu, and then it never really went away, and I’m still very fatigued. We took me to the doctor last week. The night before I got about 3-4 hours of sleep because I was so nervous. When they drew blood everyone seemed to think I was about to be sick. 

Last Thursday I went to the ER.  The pain was so bad at first that I started to black out. I couldn’t talk, but I could think. Lungs, not heart. Loud ringing in my ears. Cold lips. Sweating, gray skin. Shards of glass, being ground into my lungs with each movement. It was the scariest thing that has ever happened to me. I had no control over what was going on. They got me hooked up to the monitors, drew blood and took some x-rays. Everything was normal. They decided it was pleurisy, gave me some more meds for the pain (that was all but gone at this point), and sent me home. The only time tears threatened to roll down my face was when they put in my IV, later injected the meds, and when they took it out before I left.

That one afternoon when I was 3 years old has changed my life. Not only do I have a hard time trusting doctors and nurses now, this memory from my early childhood  has changed my future. A while back I realized that I would make a great EMT. But then I realized that I would have to let other students learn on my arm. Maybe someday I will be able to do that.

I’ve often heard parents talk about kids being so young they won’t remember things. I’d like to tell you, this is bull crap. I know most people don’t remember things that happen when they were 3, but I do. I also remember singing How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria with my grandmother when I was about 6. I remember the last time I went to the doctors office without anxiety. The funny thing about memory is, you don’t know what is going to stick and what isn’t.

 

Actions in Activities

It Always Happens on Wednesday

Tuesday night, I finished my post and went to bed. Wednesday night, I was so excited I couldn’t sleep.

I woke up last week to find that my post had been scheduled for the wrong day. I also found a message from my former debate teacher asking to call me. This wasn’t a very odd  request, we’ve been getting together fairly often. As you might remember, Kristina works for KC Parent, and I used to write for the Teen Blog. I don’t know if I’ve ever told her this, but I have always thought she has possibly the coolest job ever.

LADYBUGANNE

When she called I was still kind of groggy and it took me a minute to figure out who it was on the line (I don’t talk on the phone very often, and never right after waking up). She told me her plight, which I already knew in part, and then explained her proposition. Long story short, Kristina needed help, a friend suggested me, and I’m now helping to manage a Facebook page for a magazine, I get to make graphics all day, and my boss is someone I have looked up to for years.

If I had tried to find a job that got my creative juices flowing, I would have been laughed at. I’m not very qualified and I’m not even in college. But by being myself and letting people into my life, I was asked to do something that I love. It’s funny. I have never gotten a job that I applied for. And I’ve still never had an interview.

Actions in Activities, Musings

The Most Successful Dud I’ve Ever Written

Last week I wrote a letter to my mom.

It was one of my “last minute not really proofread but whatever” posts. It was done, I only had a few hours until it would go live and I needed to go to sleep. Still, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. I noticed that I kept mentioning moms. Then it hit me. It went something like this: “Man, Mom is really brave. More moms should be like her. I really need to go to bed. What time do I need to get up? I talk about parenting a lot. Hey, Mom!”

It didn’t take me long to make the changes needed. I didn’t think it was my greatest post ever, but there was only one person I really wanted to read it anyway.

The next morning I had to be up early, so I shared the link to my usual places, then left the house and didn’t get back until 8pm. I was exhausted, so I decided to check Facebook and my email and go to sleep. I got as far as checking my email and finding that my blog had gotten over 150 views that day. Well, yeah, not going to bed right away. It turns out that someone shared my link on a fairly high-traffic page.

I learned two things about blogging that day.

1) Just write. Really. I know everyone says it, but it’s true. Write the words your heart is saying. It doesn’t matter if you get views, just do your best. I sincerely thought that post was a flop, but it was for my mom, so I didn’t care. Write for yourself, not for some enigmatic group of people who may or may not ever find you. Blogging will never be very rewarding if you are only trying to get people to your website.

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2) Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to share what you love. If people don’t like it, they won’t join you in it.  If people like it, they will. Don’t be afraid to get to know influential people. If you become friends, cool. If they ignore you, cool. Don’t be afraid of success or failure. If you succeed, learn from it. If you fail, learn from it.

Writing is something I love, so I’m going to share it.

Do you love writing? Do you have ideas about things? Check this out! The world needs new ideas. Share yours.