The Squeeze

Do I want to be a doctor? (no.)
Do I want to be a lawyer? (no.)
Do I want to do something important? (yes.)
Do I know how? (Absolutely not.)

One of my carpool buddies to a debate camp said to me today, “Is it supposed to be possible to be stressed in the summer?”

Summer is supposed to be for chilling out with friends, going on cool family vacations, fun camps, and the outdoors. The first portion of my summer was a vacation

I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure from all sides of my life these days. And it’s summer! Summer is much too short…

I’m actually quite young, just going into high school. Just so you know.

My parents take this milestone in life very seriously, and I’ve come to see it this way, too. High school is your last school before college, and college pretty much decides your future, is what I’m led to believe.

I’m the person who, as of now, goes into the indecisive category. I cannot figure out what to do with my life.

Do I want to be a doctor? (no.)

Do I want to be a lawyer? (not really.)

Do I want to do something important? (yes.)

Do I know how? (Absolutely not.)

I know I love art, music, literature, swimming, cats and horses, books, my family, my friends, being happy, biking by the river, the night sky, astronomy, eating good food, cooking, hiking, nature, botany, climbing trees, birds, science in general (except the squeamish anatomy), playing video games with my brother, and there’s so much more I can’t think of right now, there’s always so much more.

Currently, I play the cello- I have been for about five years.

I quit piano lessons last year, but I still love it, and play occasionally.

I’ve watched anime, but haven’t started any new ones since the beginning of the year. I was never really a fanatical type of person, either.

It took me almost three weeks to finish a book- the longest time on record.

I was waitlisted to the private school that I was dying to attend. (I really need to work on self advertising.) Now I’m going to the local, overpopulated high school.

I returned not too long ago from a three week vacation, which put me extremely out of shape and out of will to swim until I got into the pool again, just today.

For the two week camp I’m attending right now, I leave the house at 7:50 every weekday morning and get back at 5:30, which means I miss almost half of my swim practices. However, I can make up practices and do dry land at my own house, but if practice is canceled (or I choose not to go) I practice cello for the almost-two hours time slot the practice would take up.

Cello… I love you, I love music. But at my last lesson,  I hadn’t improved a bit since the week before (I had only managed three and a half practice sessions.) I’ve already committed on that front, though. I have my own cello (which was extremely expensive) and a good teacher, and a love for the music. Sometimes, however, it’s a love I just can’t muster. Cello hurts sometimes.

I also love art. I love crafting. I love to create beautiful and meaningful things, and feel proud. Art, however, takes time. Lots of time. Too much time for me to do it, along with swimming and cello. (Later this summer I’ll be attending an oil painting camp that I just can’t wait for. It takes up so much of the day, though, which means I’m probably going to have to really cut to the chase on my other activities.)

There’s more. There’s always more.

My parents, they want me to do well in life. They really mean well.

But I’ve always understood that they think whatever I do, whatever we spend times and money and sweat and tears to do, I should to it well- well enough to earn an award of some sort, something to add to my resume, always.

I tell them I love art. They tell me to aim for the Scholastic Award.

I show them my love for music. They bring me to orchestra auditions.

I want to go to swim practice. I can see that they disapprove, because it’s such a time consuming activity and they don’t think I can get any distinction out of it- because colleges want distinction. They want to see what you love, and they want to see that you’re able to commit to it and able to succeed.

I’m grateful for this side of my parents- without it, I wouldn’t have many of the amazing experiences I have under my belt. They’ve always been the biggest controllers of my life, and now they’re purposely loosening the reins, so that I can make “my own decisions” and “exercise independence”.

Ha. Right now, I’m trapped.

My parents also have their own standards. By now it’s given that I get good grades, but these grades are not effortless. School is harder than they give it credit for. Today, I told my parents I did not think that AP Chinese at the high school was a good idea, partly because I didn’t think I could really commit and get good grades. My dad looked at me and said, “How could you not get good grades in that class?” How could you not get good grades in that class? Are you being serious? For one, it would take up my study hall time, because I’ve already used up all the regular credits. This would mean way more homework in the evening, when I also want to practice cello and do extra homework.

Where does the extra homework come from? Math class. I take two math classes outside of school, which takes up three hours total of every Sunday. (One of them starts at nine am, and the other ends at 9:30 pm.) The first one I have no major problems with, because it’s reasonable. The second one is to prepare for the AMC 10 (a high school math competition), which I have no hope for. Much of the material is way over my head, and later at home I have to go through the homework with my dad which takes… a really really long time. It’s a fruitless commitment, besides the plus of making high school math easier to bear (possibly?).

The most frustrating thing is that I actually want to do well in all of these. Quitting piano was hard, because I love it, and every time I see a talented fellow pianist I wonder if I could have been them, if only my mom hadn’t found that flyer for the strings program that I’d been hiding all those years ago. (I played piano for almost eight years before quitting lessons.)

Wouldn’t this all be easier if I had a goal? If you have a goal, you can just screw college, like Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg, Lady Gaga. Pin college to a bulletin board of past memories and leave it there, because you have things to do and places to go. You can take a shortcut, because you know which things really matter in order to get what you want.

If you’re wondering how I’m able to control myself: I don’t. My mom has witnessed my single, agonized sob/grunt/groan multiple times in the car. Sometimes I feel inexplicably angry. Sometimes I wonder if I have depression, because none of the things I’m doing that I said I loved are really making me happy- and a lot of the time I crave solitude.

I also can’t bring myself to tell my parents about this all, because they’d become super concerned with my mental health and feel bad about themselves, and the mood of the house would definitely sour.

That rant up there makes me seem pretty antisocial- after all, what kind of person who has to do all that has time for social media and hanging out?

I guess I’m relatively antisocial, but I do not wish to live under the too-heavy weight of too many responsibilities for the most exciting years of my life.

Yes, I admit that was a rant- a messy one at that. There are probably lots of people who can relate to this as well, as its not exactly the most original situation. There’ve been books with main characters who just walk out of the life that they find themselves in (cough, Paper Towns) and books where all the pressure culminates in a metaphorical explosion, after which most of the conflict is resolved and the main character has found themselves again.

It was a messy rant, and I don’t have the heart to go through and edit.

Masks (aka the midnight notebook entry)

We craft our own image. Sometimes by accident, other times on purpose. Sometimes for other people, sometimes for ourselves.

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through.
Then passed right by–
And never knew.”

– “Masks”, by Shel Silverstein

We craft our own image. Sometimes by accident, other times on purpose. Sometimes for other people, sometimes for ourselves.

Sometimes we tweak our manner and our mannerisms to appease these people. We just layer on what we think we should be doing, how we should be acting, and pretend it really is us, until it becomes us, eventually. Maybe you can fool yourself with this crafted mask, fool others, become a better person, a more likable person.

What if you try on a mask, keep it on too long, until all people come to recognize is the layer on top? What if you let the layer grow so thick that even your friends never really knew you? Now you’re stuck.

Because you’re afraid to take off that mask- it’d be like peeling off a layer of skin- the polka-dotted skin of a falsehood. You’re afraid to take off that mask, because it reveals the face of a stranger.

In hindsight this all seems super exaggerated, but it’s how I really feel- which probably means I’m acting ridiculously. So now, I’m on a mission to take down these self-imposed barriers.

Last summer I took a class on creative nonfiction, and one of the things I learned was that the true self doesn’t really exist. Or, if it does, it’s the collection of all the masks you ever had. And these masks aren’t entirely separate- they can be transparent, and in this way you can have multiple masks showing at once.

Now, I think that the true self does exist, and consists of some kind of intangible, but characteristic vibe that’s just you. I also think that it shines through in every mask you put on.




The Who, What, When, Where, and Why

an introduction

You know how the internet is these days. You can’t let out too much information, and there’s no such thing as being too careful. But the majority of people on the internet are, frankly, wonderful. People across oceans are connecting with each other through writing and media to share worldview, sympathy, advice, problems, information, news, thoughts, and creativity. It’s beautiful.

Who: To you I’m Avery. I’m a typical human living on this Earth.

What: This is my blog. Which I have absolutely no idea how to run.

When: Here, now. This is my first impression. (It’s called a first impression for a reason, right? But seriously, you  have to cut me some slack  here. New waters and all that.) Today is July the 22nd, and from now and into the ever inscrutable future, I will be carving out my corner of the internet!

Where: A magical place called the world wide web, otherwise known as the internet.

Partly Why: Okay. Last night, I couldn’t sleep. My head was on the pillow before eleven, and I tossed and turned until two in the morning. At that point, I gave up. It wasn’t anything particularly pressing that was keeping me up, like a test or a social obligation. It didn’t have to do with any specific people in my life. It didn’t have to do with any specific events in my life. It wasn’t about specific people not in my life, either. I’ll tell you what I was thinking about in the next post, because the next thing I did was turn on the light so I could find a pencil. The thoughts were too important to me to forget.

After feverishly scribbling for several moments, I decided that sleep would not find me like this and took off my retainer, went downstairs, swiped a cookie and a bottle of water, and selected a book that I hadn’t already read a bajillion times over, at least not recently.

I need a place to put all these thoughts, and I need other people to see them.

Also Why: It’s fun! I’m so excited to become a member of the blogging community, no matter how small and insignificant I am!

So… that was my first post. What’d you think?