writing

Remember This

by Erica.

My family is a picture-taking family, with no party complete without at least two aunts wandering around with a DSLR camera, making tables of relatives bunch together with pained smiles and half-eaten plates in front of them. When my cousins and I would whine and complain when my mother ambushed us with a camera, she’d chide us, asking “don’t you want to remember this?”

Perhaps she was right. Flipping through old photos became a favorite family past time, and the importance of taking pictures became something of familiarity as I grew up. Currently, there are thirty thousand pictures on my phone’s camera roll, as well as four hundred video clips from this summer alone.

The imperfection of photography in capturing the entirety of the moment has led to the manifestation other methods of documentation as well, from vigorously keeping journals to writing down things people have said and things I’ve thought in the Notes app on my phone. Perhaps, I thought, one way to counteract the shortcomings of a single media is by combining a myriad. So I began writing different things in different ways, taking pictures but also videos, keeping letters but also restaurant receipts.

And with that, my overarching goal has become to remember. I want to remember this past summer, in the weekend that I saw one of my best friends for the first time in half a decade, and in the ten weeks that I lived in the same building with Allison, on the same college campus, when we had lived 2779 miles and 101 miles away in the past. I want to remember it in the night I stayed up till 7am, wandering around campus alone, struggling to mitigate the flare up of the stresses that had been racking my brain for the past several months. I want to remember how happy I was, and to be continually striving for that. I want to remember how overwhelmed I felt, and to be reassured that moments like those do pass.

This all has resulted in a haphazard collection of words and images and ticket stubs with no immediate value to anyone who may stumble upon it. But put together, the jagged edges of each memento create a mosaic of my thought, goals, and emotions that in its entirety form a narrative of this summer, of freshman year, of growing up, and of everything that these nearly two decades has brought about.

With another year of college beginning, with another goodbye to home and flight back to the place where I am building a new stage of my life, I am continually searching to perfect the duality of fully taking in the current moment while taking enough out to remember the moment forever.

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Iced Hazelnut Lattes

Erica.

When I was thirteen, the local Starbucks sat on the perimeter of my accessible world. With no driver’s license and no reason to leave the house every day (homeschooling felt restrictive sometimes), it was the most exhilarating escape from school and home. Walking a mile just to sit at a table and drink a strawberries and cream Frappuccino was an adventure, and at age thirteen, my life needed adventure.

As time went on, Starbucks served not only to put distance in my life but to bridge it. Becoming friends with Allison in high school meant a 3000-mile friendship filled with copious texting and seeing each other only a few times a year; this scarcity brought along the sense of responsibility to fill every minute with excitement, but the frantic darting from museum to museum in New York and Los Angeles drained even our eager souls. And so we often dipped into the local Starbucks, sitting down with green tea lattes, charging our phones, and talking about the more serious things that never came up while paddle boarding or mini golfing.

But as college rolled around so did friends in closer proximity, and instead of going to coffee shops to chat, I spent Saturday mornings studying with them, together, but separately. Three cups of coffee and a few bagels on the table, we pored over textbooks, each listening to his own Spotify playlist, on the coffee shop patio as Lake Austin lapped on the boards beneath our feet.

I, on occasion, expanded my limits to outside Austin: one Tuesday morning last semester, my cousin and I ended up in a coffee shop in Waco, Texas, a hundred miles from the physics class I was supposed to be in at the time. Fatigued by school, we had impulsively bought bus tickets the night before, hit the road at six am, and there we were, drinking iced chai and planning out our adventures for the day.

As I write this, I am in my seventh coffee shop in the past couple of weeks, and as you read this, I may very well be on my fifteenth. This summer, in all its quiet, uneventful glory, has brought about mornings of opportunities to find the best coffee in Austin. My Moleskine journal is slowly filling up, Jack Johnson’s music has made more frequent appearances on my Spotify, and here I am, scouting out more new coffee shops to house the adventures and memories that this next semester holds.

 

I am continually in awe of the ability of coffee shops to provide an escape from reality amidst reality—the bustle of conversation between cashier and customer not breaking the peace but rather facilitating it. There’s something to be appreciated about these forty different personal bubbles existing at the same time; those typing away on their Macs and those eating their bagels and those sitting with friends and those scribbling away in their journals not infringing upon each other’s space but somehow calmly coexisting.

If these coffee cups could talk, they’d tell of my lightest chats and heartiest laughs, the my rawest conversations and most-appreciated company. They’d tell of the best first dates, the most productive studying, the calmest journaling, and the most tranquil breaks from this harried life. They’d tell of the times I sat with an iced latte, baring my soul to another human, and the times I sat with the same type of latte, baring my soul to a piece of paper.

It’s amazing how much can come along with a cup of coffee.

For my Teachers.

Allison here. This post is going to be ironic because it’s partially about grammar and it’s undoubtedly filled with terrible grammar mistakes. Let me live.

In fifth grade, my teacher handed out glossy orange books, the words “Sadlier Grammar” written across them in a distasteful comic sans font, announcing that we were beginning a unit on writing. Filled with the rules and idiosyncrasies of the English language, the book was a wonder to me as a young writer trying to flourish into a novelist; in my mind, this book ranked somewhere between the beauty of the flowers that bloomed along the sidewalk on my walk to school and the vastness of the Grand Canyon I had peered down into a few years prior. I had struck gold. If I knew everything in this book, I thought, surely I could learn how to write a short story, an art that had recently been introduced to me. Equipped with my orange book and my teacher’s lessons, I spent the year shaping a story about a hamster chasing the elusive treat of a carrot. When the year was over, our short stories submitted for grading, the class returned their books back to our teacher. But when my turn came to hand over the sacred text, my teacher pushed the small volume back into my hands. “Keep it,” she told me. “You can write novels one day.”

Writing a novel was a distant goal at the age of twelve, but my teacher’s words made my silent dream to become an author feel valid. The hundreds of books I had poured over well past my bed time, those very stories that I adored, became attainable pursuits, they became the model for something I could someday produce if I so wanted. Suddenly I, equipped with my Sadlier Grammar Workshop practice book and my teacher’s support, could become the next Roald Dahl or Lois Lowry.

By eighth grade, studying biology had pushed my desire to become an author into my peripheral as I became entranced with genetics, dissections, and lab reports. My biology teacher told me to take the SAT subject test even though I was 13. She pushed me to read Richard Preston’s novels and she handed me extra labs when I couldn’t stop talking about how much I loved the previous one. I adored sitting with my textbook and learning about something I had never heard of before, science. I stayed up reading about the Human Genome Project and my teacher told me I could work on countless projects in the science fields. She stayed with me after school nearly every day, discussing the lesson she had taught earlier in the day. My biology teacher made my future feel unfettered; she seemingly handed me the entirety of the field of science and promised me I could explore any of it.

My algebra teacher kept in touch with me even after I had left middle school and he gave me textbooks when I wanted to learn precalculus on my own. When I started my advanced physics course, my previous physics teacher demanded to look over my course textbook so he could be certain I was learning everything I needed to know. He gave me topics I should learn to supplement the course and wrote down a list of books I should read to help me learn the math I would need to know for higher level physics.

Today, my junior year writing teacher travelled over an hour to visit with me after flying in from Asia, just so we could grab lunch and I could tour her around Manhattan for a few hours. Between our conversations about friendship and writing and college, she encouraged me to continue to pursue my future intentionally and to maintain strict priorities, even when it seemed like others were achieving more glamorous goals than I. When I mentioned how difficult it was to be attending Baylor in the fall instead of some ivy covered institution, she talked about my maturity in picking a school that was right for me, even when other people didn’t appreciate my decision.

Year after year, I have encountered teachers that have worked far above their job descriptions to inspire me to grow into a independent learner and creative thinker. Teachers have supported me through my transitions from middle school to high school, and again from Tech to home schooling. They have endlessly encouraged me to become someone I am proud of, both as a student and as a person.

Yesterday, my mom laughed as I listed off the math courses I plan to take before I graduate college.

“Well there’s the rest of the calculus sequences, and then differential equations and linear algebra, and of course I’ll need to learn plenty of statistics…” She interrupted my ramble with a laugh. “You’ll be a math teacher before you know it.” She was right; I have long been considering the option of becoming a professor and teaching math is a passion of mine. Just like my dreams to become an author morphed into a desire to be a scientist, so I know that my ambitions will likely change as I enter college, where I will undoubtedly be influenced by new professors and encouraged by adults willing to speak into my life.

Maybe one day I will stand before my own throng of helpless students seeking guidance, or maybe I will work in a quiet lab with nothing but Bunsen burners to keep me company, but whatever my profession, I will always be indebted to those that chose to use their careers to pour into my own.

Oh Write

by Erica

I’m not a writer. I’ve never been a writer. Writing involves baring your soul. Writing involves talking about your emotions. And I’m not good at that.

I always jokingly tell people that I think emotions are for the weak. Now, I don’t really believe that (some of my best friends are the most emotional, wild, yet unwavering people I know), but I personally am not one for sappy discussions. I want to be an engineer, for heaven’s sake. Have you ever met an engineer before?

But somehow, now people expect me to write. Thanks to graduation requirements (bless highest honors), I’m taking a fiction writing class. Thanks to college applications, I’m throwing together sixty-seven* college essays about myself and my life story. And thanks to this blog, I’m writing.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, mind you. I’ve had blogs, journals, and story ideas, but they never spiraled into anything bigger. I’ve always wanted to be encouraged to write more, and maybe with everything that’s happening now, I’ll be able to do just that.

So if you have a desire to read more about bread puns, camel discussions with underlying political commentary, or actual meaningful blog posts by Allison and I, follow this blog by entering your email address in the box on the right sidebar.

Here’s to senior year.

*approximation

On Honesty

Allison here, ready to start off this blog for real. Not that I don’t love camel discussions with political undertones. But I’ve always wanted to run a blog and just be brutally honest. Let my brain fall onto the page; words, thoughts, emotions laid bare for the uninterested internet to ignore. But at least it would be out there. I have read blogs about difficult things, about others’ struggles in their lives, about people fighting for peace, for clarity, for something. I have always wanted to record my own fight. And, finally, here I am, running a blog.

But now I’m not sure if I know how to be honest. I want to tell my story but I don’t know what my own story is anymore. How can I be raw and real when even I don’t know so many layers of my own truth? How can I be sure what I’m writing is really me when I’ve spent so much of my life not being real? My personality is partial to openness- I’ll tell my story to a stranger. I suppose it’s how I cope. But each time I tell this story, it is different. It’s molded for its intended audience. I leave out unfavorable details and hack off memories better left unsaid. I use softer words for hard subjects. I cleave off entire parts of me when I craft my story, different parts for each person listening. My pastor didn’t hear the same story my brother did. The boy I liked didn’t get the same details my best friend listened to. I mold it into something somehow more flattering, something more acceptable.

But suddenly, I am audience-less; the internet is an unspecific, undemanding audience. So what is honesty, what is real? What details should be hidden if I have no specific reason for hiding something? My story remains before me, daunting and so very vexing. After all, what do I know of honesty if I have never been honest?