Jaiyeola Omowamide. Two words, seventeen letters and 9 syllables of utter confusion.
For the longest time, I hated my name. It was something that I detested. It was like carrying a huge boulder on my back; nothing but a burden.
I didn’t always despise it. Maybe because I was too young to recognize the difficulty associated with it, but my detestation didn’t begin until I started elementary school. As a child, I was called many names; Zion by my mother, Jaiye by my father, Jaiyeola, by my grandmother, and even Butterfly because my mom described me as ¨being shy and always floating around¨ I recognized all these titles and had love for all of them...until I began school.
Throughout preschool and kindergarten, I had zero insecurities about my name. My mind was filled with the innocence of juvenescence, but when first grade commenced, I soon began to mature and with maturity, comes dignity and establishment of self identity. I became aware of how difficult it was for my teachers, classmates and even family members to pronounce my name. This made me very uncomfortable and in return, I developed a deep insecurity towards my name. An island of unconfidence began to grow around me where I was surrounded by Taylors, Michaels Ashleys and Brians, and then it was just me, Jaiye; alone, feeling like I was the only one. It’s a curse I thought. I felt like I didn’t belong and that inaugurated a shamefulness against my name , that would take years to overcome. It was then and there that I automatically ignored all of the love I had for “Jaiyeola” and replaced it with hate.
First days of school were always the worst, at least for me. Not because I was nervous to see all my friends but...you guessed it, because of my name.
It was the first day of fifth grade. New school, new teachers, different faces. I hesitantly walked into the classroom. About twenty faces stared as I walked in, face down, trembling because of the intense anxiety that dawned on me as I realized that the teacher would soon have to call out my name on roll. As I waited, I went over in my head fifty times how I would correct her once she pronounced my name wrong. Should I just interrupt her before she even attempts to? Or should I just tell her now before she starts roll call? It was like self torture. I could feel the prickly heat of sweat begin to to form. The teacher began to go down the list. I was completely unaware of when my name would be called next. As she read each name, apprehensive thoughts filled my mind. What if the class laughs? I was so distracted with the thoughts in my brain, that I hadn’t noticed that she had approached my name. I knew because she made a strained face. Her face became tense as she thought of how she would pronounce it.
“Jeyailoa?” she said. Every syllable that passed through her thin lips felt like nails on a chalkboard. That was nowhere close to how it was supposed to be pronounced. I could hear snickers in the background. I could feel the burning sensation behind eyes begin to form. Don’t cry I told myself. I forced myself to wear the most genuine smile.
“It’s Jaiye. Jaiye for short.”
“Oh...that’s different. Very different.” she softly smiled.
From that moment on, not only did I hate my name even more, but I hated first days of school.
Days that I had substitute teachers were even worse. With my normal teachers, they would learn my name after a week or two, so the stress eventually would be lifted off my back, but when a substitute showed up, it was like my life was rewinded back to the first day of school. And the hatred would suddenly came back. I remember cringing as the sub would try to pronounce my name. I wanted to shoot up from my seat and yell “ It’s Jaiye! Jai-yay! It’s not that freaking difficult!” But instead, a quivering hand would hesitantly, shoot up.
“It’s Jai-Jaiye,” I would stutter. “Jaiye is short for Jaiyeola.”
Even though there are people out there in the world, with more difficult names to pronounce than me, I felt as if I was the only person out there who experienced this problem. I didn’t have much as a significant problem with my last name because I didn’t identify with my last name as a first name, but I felt the worst towards “Jaiye” and “Jaiyeola” because those are names that people call me by. Other people that I knew had difficult last names, but easy ¨American¨ first names and I felt left out. Did my mom and dad not get the memo?
I was at the point in my life where I wanted my name change. I went through a list of names that I could get that was deemed “normal”. Christina? Or maybe Amy like my mother? My name was an anchor holding me back from fitting in. I just wanted to feel accepted. I wanted to feel like the standard white American. And that could all happen if I could discard this confusing, foreign name.
During the afternoon, in the school library, I was at the librarian desk waiting to check out some books. A white male librarian began to scan my books on the monitor. Since it was the school library, all of our names were in the database, so automatically “Jaiyeola Omowamide” popped up on the screen once he scanned the first book. I cringed when I saw the blue lettering on the computer screen. He raised his eyebrows at me in astonishment.
“ Wow, how do you pronounce your name?” he asked.
“Jai-yay-hola, O-moe-wah-me-day.” I replied.
“West African huh?’
“ Yes, Nigeria to be exact.” I smiled
“ It’s beautiful. Some of the most beautiful names are foreign to this land. Enjoy your day, young lady”
I walked out the library with a grin as big as the sun, that beams from ear to ear. It was the happiest I felt towards my name in a long time.
But how could something so incomprehensible and ugly be seen as beautiful? I felt as if he and others would just say that to be polite. There was this constant battle between what I heard, and what I wanted to believe. Do these strangers really think my name is as great as it sounds? I spent hours, days, months, and even years, thinking about this, and then it hit me. If these random people can tell me that they love my name, why can’t I?
Jaiyeola Omowamide; meaning a life of happiness and wealth and that a child has come to us. I was a child that my parents saw as a blessing so in return, I should carry great dignity with my name. My name is Yoruba, a language spoken in Nigeria. It means happiness and success, not depression and failure. It holds great amounts of history and heritage, and was given to me to be carried on to my future children and for those to come. Most African Americans, can never have their original names because their identity was robbed from them when forced to become slaves. I realized how lucky I was. Why hate it? Because it’s not “normal”? Some of the greatest people that lived didn’t become known because of being ordinary. They were unique. Distinct. Individual. And that’s just what my name is. One of a kind.
I now love my name more than ever. It’s something that I hold with considerable respect and I am forever thankful to my parents for giving it to me. And although, I still get people who mispronounce it, I laugh it off. We shouldn’t have to feel self conscious of ourselves, because we don’t fit the norm. Don’t be ashamed of who you are. And don’t let society deem what is and isn’t normal. This country isn’t just made of one culture, but many; a huge melting pot. Show pride in our heritage and what completes your identity.
I was happy because I was supporting what designs my favorite artist was making and I was watching his dreams play out as I see mine doing in the future. I think it is very important to have some sort of role model as a kid. Sometimes parents do not give you all the support you need so you look to other places to mold you. You are your role models, because you aim to be like them. You are inspired by their actions and often you try to be more like them. Kanye West was a big role model for me because he always stood up for what he believed in. His ideas are never compromised by those around him who always try to tell him what to do. And I believe that thoroughly; If you have something to say, you must put it out there in the world so that it can become more than just a thought. The world can always use more ideas.
Kanye once said: “Nothing in life is promised except death.” To me this is very inspirational. What this quote means to me is that if you have a purpose in life you need to give it 100% because failure is not the worst thing in the world. The worst thing in the world is dying without having anything in your life to show your success. That is why it is important for you to work at the things you love, and never give up. The only thing that you can know is that you will die. You do not know how anything will pan out. So in this time you are given you have to take advantage of it and really live it to the fullest. This is why I always feel like I need to hurry up and make my dreams come true. I constantly am anxious that I am running out of time.“I remember sitting in my room as a little child doing my homework. It was a rainy day and my mom had not gotten home from work yet so I busied myself with school. My dad was home but he was working in his room. Lately, I was feeling down. I was always bored and I didn’t like the kids at my school very much. We just never clicked. When I heard the door open, I started to run down the stairs in excitement to see my mom.” This is the type of excitement that I have always felt when it has came to this man’s art. It has always spoke to me. It never mattered if it were a song or if it were clothing or actual art. The amount of effort that he puts into his work is impeccable and can not be duplicated. But I aim to be as courageous and brave as he is and want to complete my dreams like he has.
It’s hot. I’m sweating, sneezing, and coughing, a side effect of allergies. I get up, walking to the bathroom. Strangely, I begin to think of my father. My father does gigs around the country with several bands, and he usually gets home around 12:00-3:00 am on Sundays. He has the most beautiful voice when he sings, containing enough power to make crowds start to sing along, or bring them to tears. Music is power, at least that’s what I feel when I listen to a good musician. Still in the bathroom, I wish he was here so we could sing together. Around the time I leave the bathroom, my mother wakes up. She’s dressed in one of my father’s shirts. She waddles around, with her usual bewildered face she has on right after she wakes up. “What time is it?” She asks me. “12:42”, I sady. “Where’s Al?” She says to herself. She continues to pace downstairs, waiting for that jingle of keys and sing songy voice we know all too well to come bustling through the door.Time passes, an hour, 2 hours, 3 hours. No keys. No humming. Silence. I wonder if silence can be a form of music, and if it is, what it’s supposed to make you feel. In those passing hours, the silence was deafening. It was silent in the normally raucous home save the sounds of my mother calling my father and only hearing a quiet, but persistent beep of his dial tone. The silence seeped into all of my pores and cracks like a wintry chill I couldn’t keep out. Finally, a break in the monotony. The knock on the door is like a sharp shock to my nerves, snapping me awake, blowing away the silence like the leaves off a dying tree. I wonder if my dad lost his keys, why he was coming home so late. It wasn’t him, it was a police officer. I heard my mother and him discussing whatever they were talking about in low voices, almost as if they were trying to shield me from the information they were discussing. My mother called me downstairs a few minutes later. She sat me down again. That silence was coming back, stronger than ever.”Al was in a car accident” “Is he ok? He’s still here right?” She shakes her head. The silence is so loud I can hear it, pounding down onto every square inch of my body as if in a thunderstorm. To me, silence is scary. Silence is the calm before the storm. I will never hear his song again. Sure, music never dies, but the vessels they use to produce it do. Silence always has the final word in any song, poem, sound. In this instance, it felt like time slowed down. When I finally reacted, I sang my song of despair, a wailing, joyless cry. Thinking back on that time from this aspect, I saw something completely different from what I had in that moment. At the funeral, people commented on the traits that my father allowed them to see, never anything more. However, everyone had a story of him singing. To me, I always thought of him as a father before everything else, and music was just one of the many memories that fit together in my head to make the jigsaw puzzle that was my father. Music is powerful. My father was powerful because his body was imbued with the power to produce it. I feel like now, his purpose here was not only to provide for the people he loved, but to share all aspects of his musically sound soul with all who would listen. When he achieved his purpose, he was taken away. He died coming back from a gig. That can’t be coincidence, there must’ve been a reason. I believe everyone came into this world with a set purpose or end goal, no matter how long they were alive. Be it twenty seconds or 100 years, everyone has a purpose. I believe when you die, you’ve achieved it. My fathers was to spread the power of music to as many people as possible. Just like his life, music begins and ends in silence. Silence is music. Silence is the music of the dead.
I sit outside on this warm sunny day in between my mom and my sister waiting for my cousin, Kim, to make her way down the aisle to meet her groom. Everyone is whispering wondering when she will come, how her hair will look, and how beautiful her dress will be. Everyone is focused on the physical space, but not the real meaning under the surface. Connection.
She finally comes into view with wide eyes being escorted by her mother, my aunt Frannie. They both have smiles that stretch from ear to ear while they hastily make their way up the aisle to her soon to be husband, Scott. She looks gorgeous with her bright white dress. It looks as though it was made just for her. The ceremony begins and soon I find myself spacing out from the words being spoken and start looking around at all the faces. I see the faces that I do not see enough. Frannie, Kim, Arthur, his wife, Aunt Donna, uncle Paul, little Paul, Kristine, Genna, Angie, and her kids. I miss them, but I wonder if they really miss me and my family. Then I look around at the familiar faces, most of which I see almost every weekend. Mom, aunt Tina, uncle Paul, Brittany, aunt Jayne, uncle Morris, Yvette, Alex, Daniel, and Bill.
As I turn my head looking around, I notice that we are even physically divided at this wedding that is supposed to bring us together. I think to myself,”Why is there this separation?” I know that it is more than just the distance of the aisle that separates us. Our main difference is our incomes. They live in beautiful houses surrounded by gardens while we live in row homes in the city trying to figure out a budget. We are supposed to be family, and family does not judge, but only loves each other for better or for worse. Instead, we now function as two separate families that only meet about twice a year and barely keep in touch in between. Sure, we may blame it on the distance and our busy lives, but is that really the issue at hand or do neither of us just not care enough to put in the effort?
These thoughts remind me of my cousin, Jamie’s funeral. During the viewing, my aunt Donna and uncle Paul took my mother and I aside to talk for a while and try to clear our minds of the dark, bleak clouds of sadness that swelled inside of us. I remember my aunt Donna said, “We need to see each other more… and under better better circumstances.” As soon of these words flowed out of her mouth, I thought to myself, “If that is really true then why don’t we ever hear from you? The only steady communication we have is through Christmas and birthday cards as well as our family’s Christmas party. No calls or texts. Nothing.” Our side of the family has tried countless times to reconnect by inviting them to parties and get togethers, but there was always an excuse as to why they could not make it. These ignored invitations reached a point where we just stopped inviting them. In my life, I have not received any invitation to any of their parties other than big ceremonies like weddings, christenings, and funerals. Then I think, I shouldn’t be blaming them, because we are to blame as well. We don’t try to keep in touch with them with a simple call or text once in awhile just see how they are doing. We also shouldn’t quit inviting them to parties, because we feel ignored. It would do more good to just tell them how we feel and ask them why they do not heed our invitations to see how they feel about the situation. We can’t jump to conclusions since we don’t walk in their shoes.For months my aunt Donna’s words stuck in my head. I kept asking myself, ”Why are these the only occasions that bring us together?” Maybe most of the time we only come together in times of ultimate tragedy or fortune, and we believe that this reconciles all that we’ve missed or neglected in between. A family is supposed to be there supporting you every step of the way no matter their differences and distances. This ever-giving loyalty depends on every single individual putting in effort for the sake and benefit of everyone else in their family.
In a small town, 8th graders usually do not have to worry about what high school they are going to go to. There is only one elementary school, one middle school and one high school. Students are with the same people for all of their lives. In big cities like Philadelphia, if you do not want to go to your neighborhood high school you can apply to other schools and if you get in you may go to that school. In Philadelphia, you can apply up to 5 schools that is not your neighborhood school. There are “Special Admission” and “Citywide Admission” schools in Philadelphia. Those are the best schools in the city. If you go to one of these schools you will get better educational opportunities than you could get at your neighborhood school.
I was one of the students that wanted to go to the a better school than Germantown High School, which was the school I would be zoned into. As a straight A student and a good test taker I knew I could get into any high school I wanted to go to. I applied to Central, Science Leadership Academy, Franklin Learning Center, Engineering and Science and GAMP. At first I really wanted to go to Central. My mom went there so I wanted to go there as well. One of my best friends was applying to Central as well and we were planning to go to Central. It was almost like if I didn’t get into Central my life was going to end. Then when I went to SLA for my interview and shadow day I really liked it a lot. The teachers seemed nice and coming from a small middle school I liked how it SLA had a small population as well. I did not like SLA as much as Central at the time but I thought this was a nice backup plan just in case I didn’t get into my number 1 choice.
In March we got our letters from the School District that said what schools we did and did not get into. I got into all five of my school choices. I was so excited! I got into Central! But something was holding me back from saying yes to Central that same day. It was SLA. I couldn’t believe it. I have been wanting to go to Central since I was 10 and now I was second guessing it. I really couldn’t make up my mind. It was at the point that I was staying up until 2 am on school nights just laying in my bed just thinking of the pros and cons of each school. My mom told my Grandma about my problem so she wanted to take me out to dinner to talk to me about.
It was the night before the due date to let the schools know where you were going and my Grandma and I went out to dinner.
“So tell me what you like about both schools.” She asked.
“Well SLA is a much smaller school and I like that a lot. I also like how as a freshman I can go to the Franklin Institute every Wednesday.” I replied
“What about Central?” She said right after.
“Central is Central. It has always been one of the best public schools in the city. I am going to get a better education there and be more challenged at that school as well, plus my mom went there too.” I replied once again.
“Do they both have baseball teams? I know you love baseball.”
“Yeah they do”
At that moment our waiter brought us our food out. My Grandmother got a salad and I got a bacon cheeseburger with fries.
“Well think about this” She said before she took a bite of her salad.
“Central has way more kids than SLA, like way more kids. You are more likely to play for varsity at SLA way sooner than you are at Central because there is more likely more talent at Central than at SLA because of population.
I never thought about that. I always wanted to play baseball in high school and I wanted to play varsity as soon as I could.
“I never thought about that” I said.
“Just a thought” She replied.
The next day at school I went to my counselor’s office to give her my decision. I still didn’t check off the box next to the school I was going to attend to in the fall.
“Jason this is not a bad problem to have” Mrs. Watson, my counselor said.
“If I were to rank Philly public schools in order I would say number one is Masterman, then Central and SLA at number three. You got into two of the three best schools in the city. Something not many kids in this school or this city could say.” She said in a soft voice.
I just sat in a chair right across from her looking at the paper and listening to her.
“Look I know this is going to be a hard decision for you so you can stay here as long as you can.”
She walked out the office. I just sat there. This was the hardest decision of my life up to that point. I again thought of the pros and cons of that school. Mrs. Watson came into her office and asked if I made my decision. I finally did. I ended up choosing SLA.
Looking back, picking a high school should have not been a hard decision for me. I over thought it. It is just high school. I thought it was going to be a choice that would haunt me for the rest of my life if I thought I didn’t make the right choice. But I was wrong. I am glad I choose SLA. I made lots of friends and learned a lot. I would not have changed my decision.
Family means stick together no matter what! I always think about all the fun and bad times we had as a family. How annoying everyone was to me and how life is changing very quickly in a blink in a eye. We are all growing up so quickly and fast. One day my mother will be here and the next day she won’t. I think about how we all are maturing as people. Family means a lot to me because I really learned what family is really about and the meaning of what family means. Having my back through the good times and worst. The person that who I know who will always have my back is my mother always and forever no matter what it is.
I hear my mom screaming and yelling “Wake up, wake up, wake up it’s your big day.” I hear the sweet loud voice and then try to head back to sleep, but my mom comes in the room and wakes me up. I finally wake up tired and happy because today is my big day. Time to become a big boy now and it's time to step up. I finally get up out of bed smiling and cheesing hard to start getting ready for the big day. I go brush my teeth clean as I could and go wash up as the best as I could.
When I’m done that I watch my mom iron my suit clothes and take out my new dress shoes. My dad comes to pick my family up to go to my kindergarten graduation. I realized that my big day is finally here, I have achieved my first goal and that is to pass kindergarten. “Fodie Camara”, the announcer called my name on the mic and I headed to the stage smiling and my stomach growling like I had to use the restroom. I was very nervous to walk up there. My family members and mom was all taking photos of me. My mother was there smiling at me and congratulating me all I seen was that big happy smile and then made me smile.
My mom helped me get to this goal. She helped me with my homework every single night till I fully understand it. She cares for me so much, she wants me to progress in life and be successful. I know even though if she is annoying me and trying to be smart, she just wants the best for me always. My mom really care for me because she tried her best to help me even though knowing limited english she sometimes even late for work because of me and I appreciate that.
I woke up smiling after the best dream. I woke up happy and felt so good about myself. Today was my big day, my day and no one else. No one in the world was going to mess up my birthday. It was August 28 2005. It was my sixth birthday. I was getting older and older every single year, month, days, minutes, seconds. I finally woke out of bed and got dressed. I had a bunch of new clothes to pick from to wear for my birthday thanks to my mother. I had the sun shades, shorts and a white tee.
My mom said “get downstairs now, it’s time to go to chuck e cheese.”. I came down stairs and we left on our way to Chuck e cheese. We went there we bought food and played games for about 5 or 6 hours. My dad came and picked us up and we went back home. I asked my mother if we could have some chicken kabobs and she said yes. It felt good getting treated like a prince and being caring for. One of the days I will never forget about this day thanks to my lovely mother that I adore and love so much.Mom and mother is two different things. A mom is a person’s mother. A mother is a woman in relation to a child or children to whom she has given birth. My mom is my mom because she is the best mother ever in the world. Many people thinks it is a good thing to be independent as a person and be lonely but that isn’t always a good thing. I don’t know why people always want to be lonely. That isn’t a good thing. You always need some type of support in your life no matter what good or bad. Support is the key to having a good or average life. A mother is always going to be there for her child regardless what the situation is. Even if your mother and you don’t get along, she will be there for you. For that, I love my mother to death…
My Role Model:
For people who has a role model or someone/celebrity that they look up to, that’s completely fine. People don’t understand where we are coming from. They think about how we have a such “crazy obsession”. There’s so much back stories to as how they have that role model. That role model could have helped the person throughout their life. Throughout the essay I will be talking about how it feels/how I have a role model.
While, I don’t think I have a crazy obsession but I have a role model. This role model has helped me so much and she inspires me everyday. My role model is Tori Kelly. She’s a singer that has been denied and was told “no” so many times but she never gave up on doing the number one thing that made her happy, which was continuing to sing.
Tori is the type of singer that writes about things that happened in her personal life. She takes the event that happened and turns it into a song. The songs are usually a deep song that you can connect to.
Having a person you look up to is really important because each person has a different story as to how that person is their role model or the person they look up to. In my opinion, I can connect to every one of her song. The first song that I listened to was “Dear No One”. The song is basically about how a girl is done giving up on looking for their “future someone” but she’ll wait for the right guy because she knows that there is someone better out there for her. A friend kept singing and playing it over and over when I was in 6th grade. That’s when I instantly had a connection. I’ve never felt as if one song can change my point of views on things. I was not the type of person, who needed to feel like she’s loved by just one person. I knew that I had that type of love and support from my family. However, I did feel as if I will need to feel this feeling later on in life.
Tori has taught me a lot of things about life. I learned so many things from listening to her songs but most importantly, she released her first debut album this year. Each of the songs on the album is a stage of my life. Not to mention, but she cowritted every one of the song. She has spoken about this so many times in interviews, she likes it when fans goes up to her and tells her that she helped them get through this experience or how they connected with a song or two. After listening to her live performances of her singing “Unbreakable Smile”, which is a song about how the music industry once pressured her to basically do “sex sells”. At that time, she was at a really young age, around 12. Her parents and family always had her back and they eventually stopped being signed with that label. When hearing this song for the first time, it was really deep. She talked about the experiences that she went through as a kid. Now, that she’s older, she’s going to be her for her, not changing who she is for the music industry. This opened up my eyes about the music industry. After listening to this song, I started to see how “sex sells” in the music industry.
There are so many reasons as to why she’s my role model. First thing, as I mention, she’s very hardworking and she never gave up. After all of the denies and no, she still strived to do her best because she believed that there was never a plan b for her when it came to singing. This has taught me to be more committed and to believe that everything happens for a reason. Even if you think it’s meant to be, there’s better opportunities out there.
Having a role model is different for most people. That role model has affected their life in some way. So, don’t judge someone for having a role model because it’s not a “crazy obsession”. It just means that, that person has a lot of strength because of one person that they look up to. There’s a lot back stories as to why or how their role model became their role model. This is about my role model and how she became my role model. I have a lot of more wisdom and better points of views because of her.
Days By the Water
[The goal of this paper was to polish and publish a collection of my summer journal entries. In this essay I’m confident that I successfully expressed the way that I felt in a vivid and relatable manner. An aspect of this essay that could be improved is the vocabulary that was used. The essay becomes somewhat monotonous at certain points. ]
The water was clear and calm, as it always was. The few usual patrons mingled with each other underneath of the awning that sat across the pool from the lifeguard station. The shaded area where they sat would soon be compromised by the setting sun. The midday guard had just departed as 6 O’cock rolled around, signaling the end of her shift. The opening guard took it upon himself to become relieved of his responsibilities and left an hour before he was scheduled to. That was the regular routine between the two of them. The midday often did her job as it was to be done. He had apparently become jaded half way through the summer and decided that once another guard had arrived he was not obligated to complete his job.
That was business as usual at this place though. I rarely minded if either of them had left early. It was a slow pool anyway; everyday was basically the same. The midday guards departure marked the beginning of the two hours that I would spend guarding alone until closing time,y favorite two hours of every day. I could finally relax and retreat into my mind to sort my thoughts.
As the last two regular patrons start back to their apartments, I put my earbuds in and let the music bring life and color to the dull world that I live in while on guard. “Don’t want to be an American Idiot!” are the first lyrics that I hear as Green Day’s explosive energy and high speed tempo make their way into my thoughts. The music was rarely on the forefront of my mind though. It had always served as a background for the things that went on in my mind, a soundtrack of sorts.
I sat, thinking and humming along to the next track on the album. “I’m the son of rage and love.” I said to myself. It was as if I needed to be reminded of who I was, and this album always did the job. With all the time I spent alone here at that place, you would think that I’d know that by now, but there are just too many days when the thoughts fail to form inside of my mind, days when everything seems just out of my mental reach. It’s been like this for so long that I have given up on trying to snap myself out of it.
I stood to gather the water testing materials. Guards are often required to test the chlorine and Ph levels of the pools that we are stationed at. It had become a mindless task, like taking a shower, or brushing my teeth. As I dipped my left hand into the cool water I began to question whether or not this job was actually worth it. Yes, it may have been the easiest job that I’ve ever done, but it felt like a waste of time. Eight dollars and twenty five cents an hour never felt so pointless. I reminded myself that I’m just there to make money. That’s what I tell myself every time I question my . But now it just seems like the money isn’t worth it. Forty hours a week, plus overtime. No, it wasn’t worth it. I should be off somewhere with my friends, enjoying the beautiful season of summer, but no, I had become a slave to money. As time slowly crept past 7pm, the thoughts of everything I would rather be doing found their way into my mind: sleeping, enjoying friends, running, my guitar. I could have spent the summer playing guitar, feeling elated the way I did when I played my way through my first chord progression. I vowed to myself that I would not let next summer be as much of a waste as this one had been. After next summer, I want to have fun memories and good times to nostalgically look back on. I think back to the times of excitement and joy. Two feelings that I wish that I had right now.
In this piece, my goal was to portray the beauty behind living an imperfect life. Everyone has times where they feel like life gets hard. What separates people is how they react to these set-backs. My main character, Lewis, writes in his journal about his everyday struggles in an attempt to turn them into fuel which ignites him to keep pushing forward in life.
Reflection on December 31st, 1999
Current date: January 12th, 2000 Journal #1
As I sat in the backyard, I couldn’t fathom what I was reading. My eyes were glued to the hero-like photo of me in the daily newspaper. “Wow” was the only complete english word I could form my lips to say. Was my hard work and dedication beginning to catapult my family and I directly into a life of endless luxury?I felt that the universe was finally speaking back to me with this news article. Those expressive journalist inked the newspaper beside my picture with phrases like “athletically gifted” and “tenacious on both sides of the ball” . In response to this, I felt that I needed to concentrate on living a more focused and positive lifestyle! I decided to start a journal to record my eating habits and things that were constantly on my mind. This happens to be my first entry. My ambitious goal included drinking all water and staying on a strict diet! No candy, chips, soda, or life-shortening fast food! After an hour of giving the newspaper undisrupted attention, I laid back on my mattress and plastered my eyes on the walls. The walls were filled with photos of Allen Iverson and Yao Ming. Soon my picture would be up on millions of kids walls too.
To new beginnings...
Update on my current life
June 25th, 2000
It’s been awhile since I’ve written… I haven’t been being discipline lately. Just this past week, I’ve indulged in two cheesesteaks, four sodas, three cakes and three bag of chips… I haven’t been feeling too good mentally as of lately. Consistency is something I’m having a hard time becoming associated with. It’s almost like a butterfly. It always seems so easy to catch but as soon as I reach out to touch it, it flutters away slowly giving me enough time to reminisce on the opportunities it would’ve presented for me. The far-fetched “no candy, chips, or soda” mentality lasted two days. On top of that, my brother got shot. I told him to stay out of the streets! It’s a trap! The streets are a black hole. It’ll suck you in if you get too close to it! I know he takes our dad not being in our life hard and feels as if he has to take desperate measures to provide but damn! He can’t use that as an excuse. I hope this is enough for him to leave this relationship he has formed…It’s a disease that I could see was starting to affect his thought process. As for me, I have to focus on my craft more! I’m slacking terribly. Devastatingly enough, I am only averaging 15 points when I was averaging 23 during last season. College scouts have stopped showing interest in attending my games. Oh yeah, and that melanin goddess, Keisha! Lord have mercy she is beautiful. But I know she’s only here for the ride and a chance to get a piece of the pie. But this pie I had in mind was strictly for my mom and brother to eat. It’s time to get focused! As of right now, I’m going to go sit in the ICU room with my brother. It’s so quiet in there but the air is thick because it’s filled with thoughts of my brother possibly not making it...
Be more than exceptional, Lewis.
The copying of my father’s letter
August 13th, 2000
Hey kid. I don’t really know how to start this letter. I know we’ve never met but I don’t want that to stop us from bonding and building now. I’ve seen you in newspapers lately. I’m really proud of you. I know you’re probably wondering why I have never been in you or your brothers life. I… I… I had other things to focus on. My life was a broken jigsaw puzzle that I didn’t want to piece together. I wasn’t fit to be a father. I didn’t want to risk not being able to provide for you guys. I thought it’d be better for me to just leave instead of adding two more jigsaw pieces to my life that wouldn’t fit in. I know now that that was a parsimonious decision. That’s why I’m writing you now. I hope to hear from you soon kid. I love you…
Response to my dad’s letter
August 27th, 2000
You have some nerve. You write me asking if we could BUILD a relationship between us?! I guess you read about the sneaker deal I signed with Under Armour and that I committed to the University of Kentucky too. Now all of a sudden, you want to be a dad. You’re pathetic. Catch me on T.V. putting on for my mom and brother.
Enjoy your life.
Reflection on Life
September 4th, 2000
My growth has been tremendous. I’ve been meditating, eating well and helping my mom out with the bills. My brother broke off his relationship with the streets. Now he’s my manager. Life is going great. I leave for college tomorrow morning. I’m so excited! Over the past 9 months, life has taught me that no matter how hard punches are thrown at you, you always bounce back with a stronger game plan to lessen the impact of those blows. This is the cycle of life. Laurie Notaro, an American writer, once said “If you really believe in what you're doing, work hard, take nothing personally and if something blocks one route, find another. Never give up.” Once I realized that my problems were actually greater than just a road block, I started to connect them to my success today.This is the simple formula for flourishing in life. Despite my brother having history with drug dealing, us growing up in poverty, my dad not being in my life and me struggling with consistency, I still push forward in life to better my families future.
Thank you for the motivation, Universe!
I looked in excitement all around me as I walked through the Colosseum. After waiting outside in the sun for what seemed like forever being able to finally see the inside of this magnificent structure and touch its ancient stone walls was exhilarating. I knew that thousands of years ago this arena was standing almost exactly like it was standing today, except much newer and less crumbly, but it was almost impossible to truly believe. I imagined that maybe once when there still were Roman events in this colosseum a girl my age stood right where I stood, touched the same spots that I touched, and marveled at this incredible creation. Knowing that this building had been in contact with so many millions of lives before mine and probably millions of lives after mine made me feel amazed but at the same time a little overwhelmed. Seeing something thousands of years old is thrilling and disheartening. You feel wonder and excitement at seeing something so ancient, so important, and so magnificent but at the same time you feel saddened at the thought that although people remember the name of this thing that is thousands of years old, in less that two hundred years it is very likely no one will remember your name.
During my travels I have seen many things that will be remembered for hundreds, thousands of years to come; including the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, the Eiffel Tower and the David. All of these things will forever ensure that people recognize the names of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Not only will their names be remembered and revered but their work will impact people for thousands of years; their work will amaze people for thousands of years. Maybe sometime in the future their names will be forgotten but if the people of the future ever come across the beautiful things these people left behind they will know that they have discovered not just something beautiful and aesthetically pleasing but also something meaningful. Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and Alexandre Eiffel all did something that impacted the entire world. They did things that mattered.
Almost my entire life I’ve wanted to do something that mattered. Not something that just matters to me or just me but something that affects the entire world or nearly the entire world. I want to do something that ensures my name and actions are remembered for thousands of years or at least the next hundred years. When you’re young it’s easy to have big goals and boundless ambition. It’s easy to delude yourself into thinking that you could be someone who changes the world. The reality is that most people go through their entire lives without ever doing something special or unique. After thousands of years it’s hard for someone to think of an original, unique thought and it’s hard to be someone who hasn’t already existed before. Most things worth saying have already been said and most ideas worth thinking of have already been thought of. So, it becomes increasingly difficult for one to do something that is new and important, much less change the world forever. Most people live ordinary lives doing the same jobs that others have done millions of times before and having the same conversations others have had thousands of times before. Sometimes we like to pretend that we are all unique and different but we are lying to ourselves. Most likely there have been others almost exactly like us in the past or maybe in the present. This just makes me want to do something amazing and unforgettable even more. It’s hard to do something original and important but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying. We should never stop helping others and we should never stop trying to do what we love because that is how we can change the world and make an impact.
Sometimes I feel like it’s silly to want to do something more than the ordinary. Sometimes I feel guilty for not being satisfied with my life. I wonder if I should just be happy with what I have instead of constantly wishing for and wanting more. But then I realize that if people were always just satisfied with what they already had the world wouldn’t get anywhere. If Leonardo da Vinci had just been satisfied with a simple life instead of an ambitious life where he got to do what he loved the world would be much different today. Ambition and goals are essential not only to the advancement of ourselves but also to the advancement of the world. So I will never give up on trying to do something special because that is the only way the world will get better. Not only is ambition and the desire to leave behind a legacy essential to the advancement of the world but necessary for people need to feel happy. Working to leave a legacy gives us a sense of meaning and purpose which is something urgently need. We have spent thousands of years trying to find a reason for our existence and find validation for ourselves. We have religions and different beliefs that we have created in an attempt to find meaning but it is not enough. That is why we desperately want to leave behind a legacy and be admired by those who will come after us, to validate ourselves and our existence and to find a purpose in a meaningless and purposeless universe.
Going into this paper, I had no ideas about goals. I've always struggled with the personal essay, so I began by describing the outlandish porch and front lawn of my grandmother's house. I wanted to convey the strange accumulation of objects that really gives character to her two-story small-town house. I feel that, of all the parts of my essay, that was my strongest piece. I hope that the reader will be able to visualize the house as vividly as I can in my mind. I'd have liked to expand more on my respect for my grandmother and her strange passions.
A myriad of glittering thrift-store finds litters the front yard of 407 E. School Street. Crystal orbs catch the sun and reflect rainbows onto unsuspecting fairy figurines as faded gnomes topple over one another in attempts to reach the safety of the darkness under the porch. A hazard to the inattentive intruder, rocklike plastic flowers sit hidden amongst Buddhas and Vishnus in the 6-inch grass. New age posters sporadically pasted on the front door are visible from the low chain fence surrounding the house. When standing on the doorstep, a woman’s glowing eye watches from above the decorated doorknob, “The World is Waking Up” written on a tarp reaching across her face. Wind Chimes ring dissonantly from the right hand corner of the porch though there isn’t any wind, lending a magical, ethereal air to my grandmother’s house.
There’s no need to ring the doorbell; she leaves her keys at home enough to leave the door unlocked. However, she enjoys greeting visitors as they traverse the maze of objects scattered across the entranceway to the dimly lit living room. To the unaccustomed eye, the cluttered room seems bigger than it should be, given the house’s modest exterior. A cacophony of crystals are tucked between East Asian wall hangings and bowls full of rings, rocks, and beads. Two crystal skulls, one perfect, one slightly cracked at the base, peek their hollow eyes from the crowded coffee table in eerie greeting, offset by the joyous sheen of the large, iridescent crystal balanced atop a silver candlestick beside them.
To question the purpose of this queer collection is to put oneself in danger of an hour-long lecture about the Priesthood of Melchizedek or the awesome experiences she encountered while traveling through sacred ruins in Ireland. Some find it unwise to press her about the labyrinth she attempted to build at the local Unitarian church, or her humanitarian adventures in the Amazon. They dread getting sucked into the world of her new age travels. It’s tough to digest, the multitude of chakras, healers, and lightworkers, and for many, it’s too onerous a task. Understanding my grandmother requires listening and patience beyond the will of most people, but the payoff is worth the time.
Though the shameful superiority that characterizes the spoiled oldest grandchild imbues my connection to her fantastical tales, the beauty that I see in her unfiltered storytelling and new-age ideas is no less genuine. The simple, innocent belief in goodness that emanates from her being is so infectious that her adventures become my own; my dabblings in the strange, spiritual worlds of astrology and wicca are infused with her spirit. When walking along her labyrinth, or watching intricate interlacing spirographs of color float across her TV screen to the tune of sitars and wind chimes, I’ve thought, for fleeting seconds, that I was at peace. It may have been a placebo, but whether or not I actually felt anything was irrelevant. She felt it and wanted me to feel it, and her contagious attitude made me feel it too.
I have been open enough to face my prejudices towards the strange and mystical and learn from new age teachings. In fact, much of my personal interpretation of spirituality and religion comes from the teachings of Grandma Pilar. She claims to be all religions, and to an extent, that I am too. My personal views treat religion as more of a moral compass, allowing me an open minded perspective that exposes me to the diverse disciplines of multiple faiths. Too often are people caught up in the literal meaning of religious texts, and in doing so ignore greater messages of love, compassion, and tolerance. The abnormal represents the sinful; the new is damned. Since our society’s morals are so influenced by religion, this intolerance has become intrinsic to our daily lives. There is no room for empathy and collaboration when people are unwilling to put aside their dogmas and animosity.
Grandma Pilar’s charm hinges on her reluctance to be anything other than herself: her childlike joy, her unquenchable curiosity, and her wacky “eyeglashes” (fake eyelashes stuck onto the rim of her glasses). To accept her requires casting away one’s ideas of normalcy. One must become, as stated in an 8-part audio series about herself, a “willing atom”. It is when we are willing that we can truly appreciate the ordinary beauty of life.