A $3,000 decision

I don’t often watch music videos or even videos of musicians performing. It has to do with something my oldest brother said to me years and years ago. Music videos ruin my chance to use my imagination. I can listen to a song and picture whatever and whomever I like. Watching the artist’s interpretation of the song ruins that chance forever afterward. If I hear a song after watching its music video, I can’t help but picture the video that goes along with it.

But I couldn’t stop watching this performance when it popped up on my iTunes:

I won’t watch the song’s official music video –– this rendition has drilled itself too far into my brain. I took note of Kodaline during our 10-hour drive home from Thanksgiving in Peoria, Ill. I used the Shazam app on my Droid to discover this song’s artist and have pretty much been obsessed with them ever since. Watching this performance of theirs further instilled my obsession.

Watching something like this –– where those involved are clearly infatuated with what they do –– makes me miss the musical side of me.

Yes, I used to sing. A lot. Now I reserve my vocal chords for days when I’m home alone in my parents’ house, though I have become more comfortable singing around my housemates at school.

I didn’t sing in choir my senior year of high school; I opted for a college credit-bearing psychology course instead. It worked out; I didn’t have to take the mandated psychology course at school, but I missed out on another year of singing and performing with my friends. I saved $3000 by taking the psych course, but I’ll never again get that chance to make those memories.

I don’t regret it. It was a smart decision. But I do miss singing. A lot.

Watching this live performance of “All I Want” makes me want to jump into that dimly lit room and belt out a few notes right along with them.

Watch below to get a taste of the singing I so miss from my high school’s talent show nearly four years ago. Four freakin’ years ago. Shiza. (Ignore the first 30 seconds…those girls are annoying.)



A chip, a bitch and a trip down memory lane

He told me I had a chip on my shoulder.

“We don’t want to get rid of it, we just want to shrink it,” he said, motioning with his hands.

I had not realized that that’s how my behavior illustrated me. I saw myself as a strong, independent, opinionated woman, much like –– hell, identical to –– the woman who raised me. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to break a confident person down to nothing.

I vowed I would never let that happen.

…but I think I broke my promise to myself.

I’m not the 14-year-old Emily who began this blog five years ago today. She used to write about anything and everything –– always ranting and speaking her mind. The world consisted of just over 300 other teenagers whom she went to high school with. Life was nothing but her family, her friends, her poetry, her running and the boy she pined for.

Five years and a trove of experiences later, I can say 14-year-old Emily was sheltered. The world ended when her “first love” dumped her and then again when she knew she had to show her mom the fresh, albeit minuscule, welt on her wrist. Fourteen-year-old Emily just wanted attention. She carried her parents’ and brothers’ opinions into conversations with her because she had not yet developed the ability to create her own.

And boy, was my younger self judgmental. She had opinions and she spoke/wrote them, even if it meant losing a friend in the process.

But now? There’s just so much more.

There are so many new people, places and experiences.

It hurts a little bit knowing the original blackbyrd would judge the shit out of me.

I want my confidence back, but I’m not sure I want that chip to grow again. It can keep shrinking down to nothing for all I care.

Fourteen-year-old Emily was such a bitch.

Gertrude, Part II (never let it topple)

I wrote this post as part of my personal anthology project in 2009 during my sophomore year of high school. I was 15.

The writing could be better. But, at the time, my teacher found it good enough to mark a grade of over 100 percent on the grading page.

So the spacing’s a little wonky and the writing isn’t quite up to par, but it’s the post that gets me the most traffic on this site and has for years.

“I bet you forgot about Gertrude McFuzz.
Well, that’s nothing new –– I mean, everyone does!” (Seussical The Musical)

No, Gertrude. I definitely haven’t forgotten about you.

You’re part of the namesake of this blog and get to serve as its banner. You’re the reason why I’m as strong as I am and why I keep pursuing the difficult things in life. You taught me how to build high self esteem and to never let it topple. You gave me confidence.

I brought your book (present in Seuss’s Yertle The Turtle and Other Stories) back to school with me and have it on my desk’s shelf. Its cartoon-y colors stand out among the works of Chaucer, Margaret Atwood and F. Scott Fitzgerald, but it still belongs.

I’ve even thumbed through your story several times, searching for strength in times of need (and soon a quote from the book will be up on my wall).

Your story is still relevant. You taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. That confidence currently thrives within me.

I’ve had lapses. I go through stages where I don’t think I’m very pretty. I change and grow, but smoothly transition to the many shifts. I’ve been practicing since playing the role of Gertrude McFuzz in Dr. Seuss’s Seussical Jr. nearly eight years ago.

I know myself well enough to know the hard times don’t last. One day I don’t want to get out of bed and the next I practically jump out in excitement for the day.

So, no, I didn’t forget you, Gertrude. I doubt anyone could after reading your touching story and taking the time to really relate to it like I did.

As a sophomore in college I am gearing myself up for the professional world. And you, Gertrude, are still as relevant as you were when I was 12.

Proud to be a reject

I paid for the chocolate lollipop with my own money, undid the wrapper and wrapped it up instead in fancy tissue paper, complete with a ribbon. Since we were in separate classes in the fifth grade, I asked a friend in his class to put it on his desk for me.

The next day – Valentine’s Day in 2004 – I waited, eager to hear if he knew who his “Secret Admirer” was. It turns out he did. My friend told me he promptly threw the $2 lollipop in the trash can. (The funny thing is, we’re currently attending the same university.)

Every girl, it seemed, had boyfriends in fifth grade. Being very impressionable, I, of course, wanted one too. My second bout of rejection hit later that year, when I asked my now-best friend “out.” He said no.

I never attempted anything with my sixth grade crush. I knew I didn’t have a chance. (He also attends this same university.)

It was seventh grade that the real crush of my younger years developed. I fell “in love” with him. I asked him to be my boyfriend more times than I could ever possibly remember.

He rejected me every time.

He, much like every other male in my grade, had his eyes set on one particular girl. This began my self-esteem issues. I became as depressed as a 13-year-old can be whose long-time crush just won’t give her the time of day.

Thus began the gothic phase and the obsession for a brand called Emily The Strange. My wardrobe consisted of black and camouflage with a bright-red hair color to provide a drastic contrast.

But then, funnily enough, in ninth grade, my long-time crush decided he liked me back. He “asked me out” after homecoming while our friend jammed out to the earbuds in his ears on the couch next to us (gosh, I miss you…).

We dated on and off throughout most of high school. He rejected me, then I rejected him. Yada yada yada. It didn’t last.

But, here’s the funny thing about rejection in any aspect of life: it may not seem like it at the time of rejection, but a lot more good will follow than bad. When you’re at the bottom, all you can do is go up.

I went up higher than I ever thought possible. And I found the best guy a girl could ever ask for.

No place like home

So many people I went to high school with are quick to say they can’t wait to leave our little hometown.

So many people I went to high school with are quick to diss the schooling system we went through.

What pisses me off even more is when someone who didn’t attend my school disses it. It’s okay when insult my brother, but don’t you dare even think about it. It’s that kind of a thing to me.

When I’m away from my hometown I don’t necessarily miss it, but you’d better believe I feel an extreme sense of comfort as soon as I hit the first intersection in my town on my way home from school. Just knowing the people in the restaurant to my left probably recognize my car and the person in it gives me a warm feeling. In this college town, everyone’s a stranger. Very seldom do I run into someone I know around here.

Living in a small town gives you more opportunities to stand out. You can be a big fish in a small pond like I was for so many years. When that’s suddenly taken away from you and nobody knows your name, left behind is a sense of emptiness. You can start fresh at college, but every face and personality is new. Gone are the people you spent over a decade in classes with. Gone are the people whose families you know well.

I can understand why you’d be excited to leave our little hometown, but don’t put it down. Your hometown and who you grow up around are what makes you you. You become yourself around your family, teachers, neighbors and friends. Don’t snub your own hometown; you end up dissing yourself.

Love, to a middle school student (and some high schoolers)

He asks her out via phone call (but it’s more likely that it was just a text). She says yes. She takes a quick break to open up Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, types in “www.facebook.com” and types in her email address (which she only has so that she can take part in social networking sites). She types in her password (the name of her teddy bear) and then clicks on her profile. She takes a minute to look at her Music interests (Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, and OMG JUSTIN BIEBER) and then clicks “Edit”. Suddenly, she’s in a beautiful relationship with that boy that just asked “will you go out with me”? Sometimes they’re even “married” or “engaged” depending on who it is.

She waits a couple of minutes to see if any of her online friends will noticed her changed relationship status. Soon, her fellow 10-year-olds are busy saying “congradulashiens!” and “im sooooo happy 4 u 2!” and “awwwww u 2 r so cuteeeee!” Everyone is just so happy that they’re finally together.

In the hallways, they walk hand-in-hand, staring straight ahead. They don’t even look at each other and their arms are stiffly at their sides with just their hands clasped. Soon she breathes a sigh of relief as her friend comes up behind her and walks in step with them. She giggles and talks to her and ignores the boy to her left.

They get to her classroom, and he drops her hand. smiles at her and walks away.

The next day is a big one for our little lovebirds. It’s the first time ever in the history of their 2-day relationship that he’s dropped the bomb containing three little words: “I,” “Love,” and “You”. She shifts awkwardly from one foot to the other and looks him in his eyes (or tries to, anyway, his extremely long and greasy hair covers up his eyes pretty well) and says it back to him. “I love you, too,” she says. He kisses her on the cheek quickly and then walks away to make it to his English class before the bell rings.

That night, she changes her relationship status to “married” and receives more “congradulashiens!” comments upon changing it.

The next day at school, she snaps a picture of them with her camera phone (her parents finally let her get rid of her Tracfone!) and then can’t wait to get home so she can upload it on her computer and then edit it to make it say something cool in pink writing on the picture. Something like “I love you” or “E + R 4Ever”; she can’t quite decide. When she gets home, she changes her profile picture (her other one had been of she and her best friend sticking their cute little tongues out at the camera) and the “congradulashiens!” comments start up all over again.

The next day, he sends her a text that says: “u no i luv u babe, but this relashunship is ovr 4 me.”

She breaks down and cries in the bathroom and her fellow makeup-plastered friends comfort her. One of them explains to a teacher what happened. The nice lady teacher understands and lets them stay in the bathroom while she cries and smears her mascara.

Yep, sounds like love to me.

Cos^2x + Sin^2x = 1

I got a perfect 100% on the last trig test I took. Yeah. Let’s just say that’s the first time I’ve seen over a 90% on a quiz in quite some time, and it’s definitely only the second 100% I’ve received in that class all year. But, it’s not just me that did pretty well. A few of my friends did, too. And this, I think, is why.

Last Wednesday night before the test, I didn’t study. I was probably doing something with Robby (swinging and playing cards, perhaps?), but there were a lot of things I had to memorize and just figured I couldn’t, and so, I didn’t bother. But, the next morning, I felt ambitious. I took the little study guide I had made for myself, cut out the formulas, got some tape and then taped one piece of paper to my back, and then the two others to my friends’ backs. We played hockey, shouting out math formulas all the way. (Ha ha ha!) The next period, we took the test. And I knew every single thing I needed to know.

I can still tell you what cotx is equal to (which is 1/tanx) or that cos^2x+sin^2x = 1. Secx = 1/cosx. Csc = 1/sinx. Cotx can also equal cosx/sinx and tanx can also mean sinx/cosx. Not to mention the different configurations of these little buggers. When I did my trig homework earlier today, I didn’t even need to look at the packet. I knew everything right off the top of my head. Something is wrong here. Very wrong, indeed. (But I kind of like it!)

For everything there is a season

It was like greeting an old friend as soon as my feet found the pavement. The snow had melted just enough and the air seemed balmy in all its glory of forty degrees Fahrenheit. I’ve always found it amazing just how different forty degrees can be, depending on the perspective you’re taking. When the seasons change from summer to fall, 40 degrees seems like the coldest temperature on earth. But, when the winter chill backs off a bit and lets in some of that 40-degree air, it’s as if spring has come early. It’s the same temperature and yet, it’s different.

I had considered making up a quick playlist of songs I could listen to while I ran, but I opted to leave my iPods at home, instead. The birds sang as I left the cul-de-sac I have lived on my whole life and let my legs carry me out to the main road and down the hill. I was surprised at how good I felt and let that carry me through the pain as muscles were put back into use after remaining dormant for nearly two months. The pain gave me something to think about and something to distract me from the mountain of homework I had to do and the hardships I had been dealing with on a regular basis.

When I was running, I didn’t have to feel anything but the pain from the exertion I was putting my body through. When I thought about it hard enough, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, but if I just let my mind wander and let my legs do my thinking for me, nothing really mattered. I ran by a business that owes my dad money and considered trashing it. But, I didn’t. I kept running and made my way toward the hill that stood menacingly in the not-so-distant distance.

My energy deteriorated once I reached the top, but I kept on running. I reached my halfway mark and kept going. I thought about how natural it is for me to run and how effortless it can be once I am in good shape to do it. I thought about the summer and how the three of us took part of this same route in an effort to be in shape for cross-country season. I thought about how fast the time goes and how it doesn’t make sense to try and cherish every moment. If you’re too busy cherishing, you’re not living. You’re just trying to keep it in your memory forever. A memory should be something you remember effortlessly, not something you save onto the desktop in your brain so you can click on it and wait for it to load.

I decided against taking a shortcut and instead went the whole way around and back to my street. I took a left, ran down to the green Pennysaver box and then took a right, thinking in my head about that last 200m that I face with every race I run on the track. I ran halfway up my slushy driveway and then bent over to catch my breath. I always do this, and then I bend my knees carefully before reaching my full height (5’2″ if you were wondering) and then walking around a little bit, my hands over my head.

I entered through the side garage door, made my way through the traffic blocking my way to the house door (sleds, snowshoes, etc) and shed my running sneakers (New Balance this year – a brand I never really gave a chance until over the summer), grabbed my already-full glass of water off of our butcher block-esque island and downed it in a second.

My ears stung from the cold and my breathing was wheezy with each inhale and exhale I made.

“How’d you feel?” my dad asked.

“All right,” I replied. “I started out too fast and was dead by the end, but it felt good to run. I’m gonna go lay down now.”

I entered the family room and plopped onto our brand-new couch to catch my wheezy breaths. After thirty minutes passed without my daddy turning on the TV, I went upstairs and grabbed The Lovely Bones and continued reading from where I had left off right before daddy had picked me up at the school just barely an hour previously. We sat there, father and daughter, reading our books of choice: his a Yankee book that someone had gotten him and mine a novel that had been made into yet another movie based off of a book. He wore one of his many pairs of $0.99 reading glasses and I wore the sweat and dirt of a girl who had almost made it through one of the toughest weeks of her sixteen years of living, and was coming out on the other side unscathed and perfectly fine.

At 4 o’clock, I tossed my book down and ran the shower upstairs in the bathroom that all of my brothers had vacated and bestowed unto me (we painted it a light brown and pretty light blue and got rid of the old Mickey Mouse theme that had previously reigned).

Before shedding my clothing, I focused on the length of my hair in the mirror. Back in ninth grade, it was a shock of bright-red curls. Now, it’s back to its normal color (brown/blond/red depending on the season and amount of sun received), though the curls have been kept (I have not dyed my hair since November 2008). I’ve decided that I want it to be long for when I take my senior pictures. I thought to myself Oh yeah, it will be long enough by the summer after this one!

And then it hit me.

I will be taking my senior pictures this summer. It’s crazy just how much time flies and how one change in your thoughts can create a chain-reaction of changes throughout your entire mind. At the moment, I am halfway through my junior year of high school. In June, I will sing in the Chamber Choir and watch some of my best friends ever don those white and blue robes and graduate from our little sliver of the universe and move on to bigger (and better) things. This hit me hard because I realized that I haven’t exactly enjoyed my high school experience that much. In recent months, Misery had taken over my entire being and forced me to look at everything pessimistically. But now, happy little Emily is back, and she plans on staying happy and little until she is forced to grow up in a year and a half.

Sleepy Hollow(een)

Things are only a big deal if you make them into one. This applies to certain days, too. They’re only a big deal if you make them one. Kind of like today. Happy Halloween. Big whoop.

It was fun when we were little. My mom made our costumes (I don’t think she EVER bought one) and we went out to gather up pillowcase-loads of candy. We came back, turned our bags upside down to empty them of their contents and then sorted into piles based on the kind of candy. Trading ensued, but we never ever traded a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. That was part of our Unwritten Constitution (<-APUSH reference).

Seventh grade was the last time I went trick-or-treating. That was five years ago. Last year we ran around as our XC team, but that was in celebration of the team’s victory that day and we  only stopped at a few places along the way because we were on our way to our coach’s house to get candy out of him.

My brother, Trevor, went trick-or-treating up until his senior year in high school. At the time, it seemed like he was too old for it and I figured he must have been the only kid his age who went around with his friends. Now I’ve realized that a lot more do it than I thought. Everyone’s facebook statuses said something about going trick-or-treating, and that definitely surprised me. Trick-or-treating strikes me as something for kids in elementary or middle school; not high school. I’m not trying to be a stick in the mud or anything, I just feel that I’m too old to go parading around in a stupid costume just to get some candy off of people.

It sure is sad, though. That I feel too old to go trick-or-treating, I mean. I probably would have gone in ninth grade if I had not have had musical rehearsal that night (damn you, stupid musical). I opted not to go in eighth grade because I wasn’t allowed to go with friends and it seemed lame for me to go around with my dad.

I never wanted to grow up. I did, though.

Tonight I stayed in. My boyfriend came over and we carved pumpkins, passed out candy when my parents weren’t home (to our grand total of 9 trick-or-treaters) and then watched Sleepy Hollow with the ‘rents. We ate candy, listened to music, baked cookies and admired our pumpkins after the movie. It was fun. The only thing that made me feel festive was the Emily shirt I chose to wear that has a mummy cat on it. Other than that, it was just another day in the life. It was just another movie night with my boyfriend. It was just another fun time.

Holidays are only a big deal if you make them into one. Happy Halloween. Big whoop.

From death and funerals to stem cell research and abortion

Cross country season picked back up again. On Monday morning I was awakened by a song coming out of my iHome speaker at 7:30 (which is much too early to meet my approval, I’ll let you know). I got up, showered, grabbed some Cinnamon Toast Crunch and put it in my bag, and then was out the door and on my bike, heading for the high school.

We started running. That’s what you do in cross country, if you didn’t know. We ran up prison hill. Some were encouraged to go on and run around the entire prison (the prison that Lindsay Lohan’s dad was kept, oddly enough), and I was one of those encouraged. I felt great. I had started out in the way back with a couple of my fellow teammates on the girls’ team, but little by little I had inched all the way up to the people that had fallen behind from the leading pack. I passed two newly instated runners and then fell into pace with the smartest kid in our entire school. My plan was to catch up to the leading pack which consisted of my best friend, my boyfriend, and another friend, but instead, he (being the smartest kid) and I started talking. We started talking about stuff that really mattered. Important issues, problems, and beliefs. It was nice to have an intelligent conversation, and it distracted me so much that I didn’t even notice when we passed another kid that had fallen behind from that same leading pack.

Our discussions ranged from death and funerals to stem cell research and abortion. It was like we went through the entire endless cycle of life during that one discussion we had during our run. I told him about the funeral I had had to go to recently and the unfortunate situation it had to be under, and then he shared how once when he was younger he had two funerals in one day to go to. We discussed how we both are not sure if there is a God up there and the hypocritical actions that are associated with members of the Church.

Then came the abortion topic, which then lead to a conversation chock-full of stem cell research. I had heard about it, but wasn’t exactly sure what it was all about. He informed me of everything about it (seeing as how it had been the topic he’d chosen for the recent research paper he’d had to do). What I don’t understand is why people are against it. And, it ties in with the abortion thing. I think that women should be allowed to make the decision of whether or not they want to abort their pregnancy. Let people frown upon a mother’s decision to abort her pregnancy, but if that mother is not ready to be a mother, then why not? If that girl is carrying the baby as the result of a rape she doesn’t want to be reminded of, why not let her make the decision to rid her body of that growing embryo? And, if every woman or girl that decides to have an abortion also donates the stem cells within them, that could initially save lives. You go from “killing” something that doesn’t quite exist yet to saving someone whose liver is failing or is in vital need of a heart transplant and just needs a donor.

Let stem cell research carry on! Let it save lives despite the many frowns of disgust it is receiving! We were put on this earth somehow and are now being plagued by disease left and right. If we’ve discovered a way we can cure, why not carry on and finish it? It means having one less child to feed, sure, but it also means one less person hanging out in an isolation room in the hospital just waiting for that heart or liver or lung or whatever to come. I say that science makes more sense than God. Science can save lives when God obviously can’t.