Jack McHugh: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

Good Morning students and faculty. About 2 weeks ago I was tasked with writing a speech for this assembly today about a story or memory of my choosing. Every day since then I have gone through my life thinking about the most monotonous tasks and thinking about how I can turn them into a 6-minute speech. I thought about writing about the time I ran backward when I was 5 during a football game and laughed the whole way or even running into a tree dressed as Darth Vader at my brothers 5th birthday party and crying the rest of the time. All of these are pretty self-explanatory and haven’t had a significant impact on my life. I want to share something important to me, that has inspired me and had a huge impact on who I am today.

One of the things most people know about me is that I love a good laugh. Doesn't matter what that joke is about, I just like to laugh. Just picture what would make a middle school boy laugh, and that’s right down my alley. In fact, a couple weeks ago we were in the cafeteria and Matt Brittingham threw a singular piece of bread at one of my other friends and I lost it. I became tomato-faced and struggled to find time to breathe. This leads to others at the table laughing hysterically as well at my expense. Do I know in any way why this was funny, no. But does talking about it make me smile and chuckle, yes without a doubt. Sometimes though, not all my jokes are hits and people are silent and look at me like I have 3 heads and tell me that was stupid. Now I turn red from not laughter but embarrassment. These moments are extremely awkward, but I allow myself to move on and move past that joke in favor of one I think the person would like. Now I’m not gonna stand up here and say that laughing will cure all your problems, because it won't. What I can say though is that it often helps you put life in perspective and just makes you feel better. I am going to share some funny experiences that have in fact shaped who I am.

Recently, for those who don’t know, I was in the prestigious Mr. GA competition, the all-male beauty pageant here at the academy. For my talent section, I sang the song Fergalicious. It’s a great song but what I thought made my performance memorable was my outfit. I had on a nice hipster theme outfit. This consisted of bright floral patterns on the top and bottom, a way too tight pair of pants that if I had to bend over would rip instantly, and a “shirt” that more just covered my chest. And to top it all off, a black wig that was knotted. I didn't want to project it because there are young kids in the crowd and it is definitely not rated g. I think if I had just gone up and sang, people would’ve enjoyed it greatly, but my dancing also entertained the crowd. Maybe it was the fact that I am a bigger kid in small clothes dancing or that I am a great singer and they weren’t laughing but cheering as I belted out some of Fergie’s rap. Making the people in the audience laugh is what made my night and honestly so far my year.

A little before that competition, I starred in my English groups trailer of Everything I Never told you, which by the way is an amazing book. Once again, I was wearing a wig and I was playing the role of the books main character Lydia. Most of the scenes would revolve around me and every time we would do one I would start cracking up. Mainly because at the absurdity of what I was doing, but also at the fact that the other members of my group would be laughing at my facial expressions during the scene. Mr. St Jean and other teachers seemed to enjoy this one more than kids because of the complexity of the script and the dashing man that played Lydia. But nonetheless, I received compliments and chuckles when someone would say something about the film.

Lastly, is a story about a year ago. Once again I was on this stage here except I was wearing a short baby blue dress that frayed at the end and again, you guessed it, a black wig. My brother Sean and I were up on stage singing Don't go breaking my heart, a lovely duet about not breaking a heart. I played the lady and sean the man. This was about 30 seconds of us uncomfortably standing up on stage singing and making awkward eye contact with each other. I'm pretty sure at one point I looked at him lovingly and reached for his hand, but he pulled away. I guess he was just playing hard to get. Anyway, everyone was laughing as we made fools of ourselves up on stage for our house. The rest of the day people would walk up to me and say how what Sean and I did was really funny.

Now, what do all these stories have in common besides a black wig? Humor. All these stories are about me making fun of myself for the benefit of others. Why do I like to make people laugh, I don’t really know. The only reason I can think of is that I am good at it, usually. But why I really do it is because everyone needs to feel good especially with everything that happens in our world today. I think that making fun of myself is the easiest way to accomplish this goal. No one is going to get upset or offended if I am making a fool of myself, they will just laugh at me. People are able to come together regardless of who they are and talk about how stupid I looked or what I did was really embarrassing or funny and laugh. Now I'm not saying I bring the whole world together because I wore way too tight pants, but I am saying that everyone can laugh at me and just enjoy that moment and hopefully feel better about themselves because they aren’t wearing those pants. 

I also like to make people laugh because I’m extremely awkward when I first meet someone. I’m not the smooth guy that most of you think I am, I’m normally quite awkward and shy. Being able to make people laugh feels like to me that they are sort of accepting me. I obviously don’t go straight into a wig and dance when I first meet someone, but I like to make them laugh with a dad joke because it brings me ease knowing someone likes the same humor as me.

One thing I try to do is go through my day making everyone I talk to smile. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s what I think is the best medicine. I know sometimes it’s not that simple and that a dad joke won't always fix it and that’s ok. But what I want everyone to think about and hopefully remember from my speech is, even some of these weird moments mean a lot to me. These experiences are so silly and goofy and sometimes seem insignificant, but reflecting on my time in high school, they are what stand out to me. These times where I make fun of myself have shaped my time in high school and allowed me to connect with others. They are what I am going to remember most when I am done here. I hope all of you can find some seemingly small experience that makes you smile and laugh, and hopefully brighten that will your day. Thank you and have a great day.

Tai Humphrey: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

Love is All Around Me...Sometimes...

Or at least that’s How I want it to be.

Today I am going to talk about something that we don’t usually hear about at school: something that is a huge part of who I am as a person and how I was raised. I am going to talk about love. Google defines love as: “an intense feeling of deep affection”, and/or  “a great interest and pleasure in something”. Scratch that: love is whatever you want or need it to be.

Most of the time we use the word love to refer to something we really like, or we often use it in ironic or sarcastic ways. I think this has to do with not only our lack of appreciation for the word, but our discomfort with the subject. I am someone who is becoming pretty comfortable with the love I have for myself and for the people around me.

I have mistaken different things for love, such as people taking advantage of my kindness. But at times, love has saved me, and I think it can save others too. A sprinkle of love in everything you do makes life a little better honestly.

A heart without love is a life without meaning. Eyes without seeing. Mind without reason. Existence without being.

This quote is representative of how significant love is in my life. And as I share this collection of poems with you about my journey, I want you to keep this in mind.

Love is essential to my being.

I pride myself upon being the bigger person and continuing to love regardless of what goes on. Of course this doesn’t mean that I am perfect, but this is how I choose to heal myself and navigate through the world.

My goal today is not to make you uncomfortable, but to share my journey and my experience with love. Vulnerable, I know right? This is mostly for me, but I hope to touch the hearts of, or inspire at least a few people in this room. The moments I am going to share are going to be full of emotion and that’s okay. Please don’t brace yourselves, just sit back and relax as I show you love through my lens.

Intro:

Tell ‘em to record this,

Because what I’m bout to expel

Is something that

You shouldn’t miss

Get into this

Imma tell my story of love

With quite a twist.

I’m gonna tell you how I found love

Amongst the chaos we call “high school life”

At some points it’ll be “deep” and some points it’ll be nice ,

Please listen closely

These are feelings I’ve felt more than once or twice.


No matter what you experience,

Let go of your strife.

You gotta learn to be peaceful within

N as j cole would say, “love yourz”

You gotta love your life.

Love has many definitions that are said to be true,

but the most important lesson you must learn

Is how to love you!

Love isn’t just about just “having a boo”

Who’s job is to love YOU,

Love is raw. It should be in everything you do.

I  speak only of love and it’s power, and how my heart is a tower that stands unconditionally, but inside it has faced a war, as most hearts do. However this trauma is the base of its beauty and I’d love to take you on a tour through the heart of yours truly.

These  poems represent my journey. From being an innocent little kid who could rule the world, to my first heartbreak, to the love I found in my friends, and finally to the love I found in myself.

Part 1: Giggles and Berries
Giggles and berries  

The sweet essentials.

Contributors to my inner and outer beauty

beneficiaries.

Blisters on my hands from the monkey bars,

And a small scrape on my knee

were the only things I thought could really hurt me.

Invincible I was,

heart pure and gracious like the wings of doves.

On a natural high,

I truly believed that I could touch the sky.

Beautiful brown and my moms reading was the most beautiful sound

Informing me that I should ONLY accept a crown

And nothing less

Because I was the best.

She is so beautiful,

They would tell my mom in awe,

Smiling at me and pinching my cheeks,

Fixing my jaw to smile, because

Those old ladies really were so sweet.

Your eyes are so big and brown,

Your hair, long and strong,

Don’t let anyone EVER tell you you’re ugly

Because they’d be terribly wrong.

My mom would tell me the story of a girl who was a

Beautiful Brown,

And I just knew I was her!

Deep down the rainbows on the cover of

That book reminded me to never frown,

Reminded me that “Colors come from God... Just Like Me!”

And I am  a Beautiful Brown.

At a young age I walked with my head held high,

Remembering to keep good posture like a

Sugar Plum Ballerina,

As we would say now,

My drip was severe, I left a puddle

Of water, Aquafina!

All jokes aside, my head was never down,

Because I never wanted to lose my crown.

Part 2: Heartbroken

What good is love when it isn’t taught to you properly?

My first heartbreak came from my dad:

In and out of my life, he made me sad.

Thinking it was all my fault

My growth of confidence, and sense of freedom

All came to a halt.             


My sense of self love, was put away and stored in a vault.

Tensing up when you would touch my shoulder,

You never physically harmed me, but you weren’t to be trusted.

I feel like you stole from, me, making me less whole.

An emptiness in my soul,

I asked mommy,

“Why doesn’t daddy love me??”

And she said you DID.

But only God knows,

So I pray. I pray for you

Hoping that you’d finally

Say a word to me that was true.

But your lies came as no surprise:

I went to sleep most nights

With tears in my eyes.

Writing was my way to forgive you,

But it was temporary

Always doing the most!

You were in my life,

And then you were gone like a ghost.

Haunting me in the form of other people doing me wrong.

I have gone through this again and again,

With a boy, because I’ve never known a man.

You got to me

I Started giving the wrong people my energy

These people don’t deserve me

They were far from worthy,

But I allowed them to hurt and take advantage of me before I made changes.

Preying on me while i Pray for them.

I was a beautiful flower but I allowed them to cut me at my stem,

Taking all the nutrients from my roots.

With an apology and a smile,

I let it go because

They told me I was cute.

I lost track of the love I had for me within.

Can’t believe I allowed people like YOU

To surround me

You gave me nothing but

Disrespect...

I sought love in the wrong places

I thought I was insignificant,

So insignificant I remained,

Emptiness in my heart was the same

But then,

“I started to remember who I was and the whole game changed”

Part 3: Rekindled Love

Best friend love

Family love

I found love for the man

I believe in above.

Dancing with my friends in the night

Knowing the love between us is

What makes everything alright.

Its to the point where your pain is mine

And I want to be with you all of the time.

I’m all in off the rip

and I’m telling you I love

You and I’m giving you all kinds of tips.

Seeing in you what I can’t find in me

I love you to an outstanding deree!!

I became the honey to your bee.

Love you out loud so that everyone can see.

I push you because I want the best for YOU.

When in reality I should do the same for me.

Friend, you became my sunlight,

Being around you was a sign that everything was gonna be alright.

Brightness filled my heart,

letting me know where my pain should end and my joy would start.

Some came along,

I gave them love and they still did me wrong

But the love i found in my friends

Allowed me to find what I was searching for within.

It gave me the shove

To rise above.

Part 4: The come up

I stand here now before you,

Seeing myself better than ever before.

Remembering Grandma’s unconditional love

And my mom’s lessons on valuing myself,

I am on my way to the top of the mountain to

Reclaim the love that was mine to begin with.

Knowing that I am a Beautiful Brown with a beautiful vibe

Knowing i am phenomenal on the in and outside!

I am learning to walk around with pride.

Ashamed of this journey,

I am not.

I simply loved who i was and then I forgot.

I am on my way back and on my way up

And for those on a similar journey

Be kind to yourself

And know that you are more than enough.

Your value is not to be determined by anyone else.  

Never fall in love with someone’s words

For they aren’t always true

The best thing to do is to fall in love with you.


Love and passion for myself is

Something that I will daily affirm,

Making it clear that I cherish me

Until it is confirmed.

The leaves on my flower have now returned

And I will continue to water my plant so I can grow

And grow.

This piece is an ode to me

And all the great things

That I will be.

To my own beauty,

That I couldn’t always see.

Thanking God

And other powers that may be

I’m proud to live each and every day

As me and only me.



Paul Seggev: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

While this experience may not be universal, I am sure that for many of you, your parents ran your lives when you were a child. This is certainly true for me. I would wake up in the morning to see my white polo, striped black sweater, and corduroy pants laid out for me by my mom, who would then make my breakfast and drive me and my brother to school. I lived a carefree life, with no responsibilities whatsoever. And because of that, I craved responsibility.

I began to lay out my own clothes, pour my own cereal. I remember when I scheduled a playdate all by myself for the first time. The only thing that the parents did was give permission. This was astounding to my parents, but they understood that children taking responsibility is just another part of growing up.  

In Middle School, I woke up to my own alarm (from my handy iPod Touch-- yet another big responsibility) and fought my brother for the shower. We picked our own clothes, poured our own cereal, and walked ourselves to school. We might see our mom in the morning, but her only role in the morning process was to shout goodbye.

Being self-sufficient made me feel cool, independent, but it also made me feel sad. While young-me still desired responsibility, young-me was also scared of change (which current-me still is).

 No longer would I be able to have morning chats in the car with my mom. No longer would I be dropped off in the Lower School circle. As I grew up and took on more and more responsibility, I began to realize how much I missed having everything taken care of for me. I too understood that taking responsibility was part of growing up, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss seeing my mom in the morning helping to make sure that I was ready for school.

Nowadays I walk alone to school, with only my podcasts to keep me company. My mom might be woken up by the sound of the front door opening and shout her good wishes to me, right before I go off into the world. This may seem close to a life of self-sufficiency, but upon closer inspection I still live a very sheltered life.

The clothes I put on by myself in the morning? Thanks for cleaning them last night, mom. The muffins I eat for breakfast? Thanks for buying them for me, mom. The dinner that I eat every night? Thanks for making it for me, mom. I may feel like I’m independent from my mom at times, but without her, I’d be lost.

The only things that I know how to cook are toaster waffles and DiGiorno miniature microwavable pizzas. Despite being 18 years old, I still do not know how to drive. I still have a lot to learn before I move on to the next step: College.

Because I have an older brother in college, I have some idea as to the level of independence I can expect once I move out. Making my own schedule, being responsible for feeding myself, scheduling my own doctor’s appointments, all harrowing tasks. Maybe, like my brother, I’ll be so busy being independent that I won’t have any time to respond to text messages from my family (scowl).

Getting used to these changes is one of the greatest challenges in life. I still have trouble coming to terms with my newfound independence, and I probably always will. But thankfully, humans aren’t meant to operate alone. There will always be an uber to make up for my lack of a license, there will always be someone to help me navigate the labyrinth known as “taxes.”

Even though I may feel alone when I am in college, I know that my mom will always be ready to help me check the wording on a professional email. I know that my family will always have an extra bed ready for me. Until I am a wrinkly old man in a retirement home, I will always have more and more responsibilities as I grow older. But there will always be millions of other people trying to deal with those same responsibilities with me.

Because this speech is about going from childhood to adulthood, I thought that I’d bring back some advice that was frequently given in Kindergarten in case we were ever lost: Look for the helpers. As a kid, this means a teacher, a police officer, a crossing guard, but when you’re grown up it means something a little different.

Even when you’re a “real” adult, it is still important to look for helpers, and to be a helper too. Make yourself available, be a friend, be ready to simply listen. And if you’re feeling lost or stuck, look for the helpers. To boil the lesson of this speech to just a few lyrics from a Bill Withers song,

“Lean on me, when you're not strong

And I'll be your friend

I'll help you carry on

For it won't be long

'Til I'm gonna need

Somebody to lean on” 

The song is a treat to listen to and is relevant to this speech so maybe put it on in the car on your way home. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share this with you. I love you.

 

Emma Caplan: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

Hi everyone, my name is Emma Caplan. Before I begin, I would like to thank Mr. Nelson for giving me this opportunity and thank you guys in advance for bearing with me as I nervously give this speech.

I came to GA in the fifth grade and I failed the very first assignment that I was given, and I mean miserably failed. It was a test on the 50 states, but I could only identify 13. Brutal. It would’ve been a different story if I took it back in 1776, but that just wasn’t the case. 

The night before the test I was sitting at my kitchen table and told my family how nervous I was. They tried to comfort me, saying: “You’ll be alright. You studied really hard and that’s all you can do.” I broke down in tears and confessed that I in fact did not study at all not because I didn't want to but because I didn't know how to.  

I had never been asked to prepare for a test before. My family berated me, and it was in that moment that I had never felt like such a failure; I had never felt such disappointment from my family before, --but how was I supposed to know what I didn’t know.  

So, I failed the test… I got to retake it and I passed, but it was mortifying. Things weren’t much smoother in middle school. I continued to struggle with my studying habits, and it became harder to fight the part of my brain that screamed FAILURE. I practically believed I was a failure. Now that didn’t mean that I wouldn’t try, I did, I couldn’t help that part of myself that wanted to please, but I would play off my failures by pretending I didn’t care or by making self-deprecating jokes. But as I look back on those times, I realize that those were just defense mechanisms I used to avoid how I was really feeling. Defeated.

When I entered my freshman year, I was still struggling. My sister was a senior, and I envied her accomplishments: she was the top of her class, a patriot scholar, a prefect. All I wanted in the world was to be just like her. But it felt hopeless. Despite the unwavering support from my friends, parents, and teachers there didn’t really seem to be a point for me to try harder. I received my grades for my freshman year a few weeks into the summer and I did horribly. In fact, I was incredibly frustrated because I had been told over and over that “I had so much potential” and “I was smarter than what those grades represented.” And I thought, “well, if I’m so smart, then why is my GPA so terrible!” This was the second time I felt like a complete failure.

I'm really lucky to have such supportive parents. They would say to me “you can only go up from here.” but I didn't see it that way. I saw it as, “I'm here and I'm going to stay here”. When sophomore year arrived, and my sister was no longer at GA, I wanted to fill her shoes. I began the year with a really good head on my shoulders, feeling positive for the fresh start, but then my home life got pretty difficult. My brother was diagnosed with cancer and everything fell apart. I would come home to only one of my parents while the other was in DC with my brother who was getting treatment, my mom and dad became much quieter and tended to seclude themselves. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the support system I was hoping for with my “new year, new student” attitude. I remember when I got my first interim grades back that year, I sat in one of the study rooms and cried, I didn’t feel like they reflected me. But I didn’t know how to get better, and it felt like those B's and C's defined me.

The winter of my sophomore year was my abyss; I felt pretty hopeless. I wish I had an exact moment when I realized things were going to turn around, but that’s not real life. Real life is growth and growth is slow and initially unrewarding. I realized that I needed to take responsibility for my own success and push myself to try harder without relying so heavily on others’ support. So, I did, and I moved those C’s to B’s and those B’s to B+’s, it was a lot of work, but I ended my sophomore year with a GPA that was a little better. Yet, it still didn’t feel like enough. I still yearned for something that I could be really successful at, so the summer of my sophomore year I started doing more graphic design and writing sketches, some of which I turned into videos (which you may know from my YouTube channel). I started to feel that fulfillment. I had found something that I not only loved but seemed to be good at too. I took my newfound mentality into my junior year and told myself that, if I wanted to see A’s on my transcript, then I had to work for it myself. I had to find something within me that made it worth it. I knew that the people who surrounded me saw my potential, but my junior year was about proving that potential to myself. 

As I entered my senior year there was a lot of weight on my shoulders: the task of getting into a school that I loved, that offered the major that I want, and that ultimately would accept me. I went full throttle. Trying to balance putting 100% into my classes, extracurriculars and my social life wasn’t easy. It drained me. One really important thing that I’ve learned through all of this is that, determination, persistence, realism, and wanting success more than your next breath-- are the keys to success. I think this is a very powerful way to live your life. Because at the end of the day I couldn’t wait around and hope things would work out, I needed to put myself out there, and try something new if something wasn’t working, because once you find the goodness and potential in yourself, that’s when the support from the people around you turns into respect. Thank you.

Clark Wang: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

I would like to thank Mr. Nelson for giving me the opportunity to speak in front of all of you today. It truly is an honor.

Before my family left for the United States, I started watching American films to practice my English. Man of Steel immediately grabbed my attention. I remember staring at the television and moving closer as I became more intrigued. I was so excited when Clark ripped open his shirt and transformed into Superman. I jumped off the couch and, like him, landed on one knee. I became a Superman fanatic — I even named myself after the Man of Steel. I became Clark Wang.

The blue suit, red S-shaped symbol, and seemingly out-of-place underwear symbolize American hope. For me, though, it is the glasses that stand out. The “disguise” hiding Clark Kent’s secret identity. Just like Superman, I have a secret identity that only a handful of people know: Yidi. My two names help me navigate through two worlds. Yidi represents my Chinese self that is my heritage and my parents’ expectations. At a young age, my parents pushed me to take English and math lessons as a part of my after-school program while participating in countless competitions and exams. My parents also heavily influenced my standards. To my mother, a 99 on a test is just a better 60. She always says that a one-point difference could have a serious impact. Her high standards have a profound influence on me and encourage me to achieve perfection.

However, I have experienced more conflicts with my background in America. Because of my expectations and desire for perfection from my heritage, I had always wanted to know the outcomes before initiating any actions. As you can imagine, this thinking may have worked out great with trip-planning and shopping. On the other hand, it had hindered my ability to take risks and undermined my confidence. I had brilliant approaches to math problems, but I did not speak up because I did not know if they could yield an answer. I still haven’t asked out my crush. I hid my feelings because I was not 100% sure if she would turn around and say yes. I wanted to explore and voice my mind, but my standard occasionally caused me to doubt myself. My culture turned out to be the source of my biggest insecurity.

English was not a part of my culture. Even though English was mandatory in lower school, it was all, what I like to call, text-book English. We would just read aloud scripted conversations from the textbooks. Conversations like “How are you? I am fine thank you and you?” didn’t prepare me well for the unpredictability of the English language. As a result, I avoided all human interactions and focused solely on internal monologues. I really went above and beyond. I used to starve myself to avoid conversations with the lunch lady. To no surprise, when someone invited me to sit at her table, I wanted to bail out. Sitting at a table means more small talk, which gave me anxieties. So the best way to avoid all of that was a rejection. Her invite was my first taste of GA hospitality. I blamed myself for not taking up her offer. I wanted to integrate into the community. I wanted to live like I did before, but I was afraid to commit and step outside of my comfort zone.

Pushing myself wasn’t always easy. I was so insecure to the point that I was basically pre-scripting conversations. In class, I rehearsed what I was going to say in my head over and over again so that I didn’t sound unprepared and stutter. I was so scared to talk to people that I had to revert to texting for proper conversations. However, as time passed, I wanted a change because I realized I missed too many opportunities.

Do you ever have that moment of regret when you miss out on an opportunity? I had that feeling every single time! Seeing people speak freely and eloquently killed me on the inside. My expectations and standards kicked in. I wanted to be a part of the conversation. However, I knew that changing from an introvert to a more outgoing person wasn’t going to be easy. I told myself countless times to speak up in class or strike a conversation with someone in the halls. Nevertheless, all the courage I worked up slowly dissipated from my body, almost like a leaky balloon, so by the time I got near the person, I had no desire to talk anymore and felt an overwhelming urge to end the conversation with an “I need to go; I will talk to you later.” Once I had been around for long enough though, I started to notice the beauty of GA. Everyone’s so grounded in our shared and inclusive community, people started actively reaching out to me. That’s how I got to know my friends from day one. No more sitting alone in the dining hall chomping on chicken tenders. No more playing on my phone during advisory. No more sitting in the back row during study halls. And no more skipping school events.

In truth, after all that has happened, some things remain the same. I still have trouble talking to certain people. Occasionally, I still wait for others to initiate or revert to the texting approach. You have probably figured out that I am still bad at public speaking, and seeing this many people makes me even more nervous. When Mr. Nelson asked me to speak, I was still hesitant. However, standing here, I also realized that my struggle is ongoing. It has not yet become second nature for me to be this far outside of my comfort zone. Having been through this adaptation, I realized that I am not defined by my problems and insecurities, rather I am defined by how I live with them. My time at GA is only the starting point of this journey. Because of all my friends and teachers, I have grown into the person I am today. I am like every other student: binge watching Netflix on a school night, camping in house lounges. I have conquered cultural and language barriers and adapted while maintaining a sense of self. I owe that to my class, my teachers, and the school. I said yes to speaking today to talk about my experience, to show you my growth, and most importantly to leave a mark on this wonderful community that has helped me so much. Thank you.

 

 

Pooja Anand: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

I am a first-generation American. My father came to America in 1998. He arrived with a bag of clothes, one hundred dollars in his pocket, and one phone number in his hands. He came because he wanted a better future for his kids. He worked tirelessly and used all his savings to support our family here and in India. When my mom arrived, she got malaria and had to lie on the ground for days covered in blankets without any medicine because my father’s employer had tricked my parents and kept the money he was supposed to use for their insurance.

This is just one story, the story I am most familiar with, but I know many more exist. And, I know there are many more people who had it much better or much worse, a few of those are the stories of the families of some of the people in this room.

When I was born, an American citizen, I didn’t go through anything they did; I didn't even have one painful or traumatizing experience. My parents started from scratch, working endlessly to create a comfortable life for their children. They gave me the childhood they dreamed of, so I could have the education, community, and luxuries they couldn’t. I never shared a room with five people, started making dinner for my family before doing my homework, or lived with inconsistent electricity and water. Instead, I rode around my backyard in a pink Barbie jeep, swerving through the swings of my personal playground. As a kid, I never lacked anything; everything was given to me without any hesitation or expectation of anything in return.

When I ask my dad about his journey to America, he always makes his journey sound easy and effortless, but I know it wasn’t. He left the only world he knew, his home, and entered a world of unknowns. He left behind the banana trees from his backyard, the lush paddy fields, the open arms of close neighbors, and the comfort of the beige sky and soft, fragrant soil. My aunt, Pinkal came here in 2002. She waited fourteen years for a green card, a piece of paper that would allow her to go back to India without jeopardizing her residence here. She could only go back home to India for a few days, and only because her father died.

I am a product of immigrants. My background has given me the ability to empathize and to understand others. It has given me the ability to embrace difference and learn about new things. It has taught me to love and respect other people, regardless of how they look or where they came from.

Two years ago, my other aunt moved here with her husband and seven-year-old son, Rohan. That year, as I was struggling with Algebra 2, he was struggling to make friends. Whenever he spoke in English, he used this fake American accent because he didn’t think he would be accepted otherwise. He didn’t think he could make friends without it. It was unfair. He was one of the cutest, smartest, and sweetest kids I knew, but he felt like people would not want to get to know him and like him if he didn’t sound like an “American.”

Rohan's and my family's experience has taught me that being an immigrant is extremely hard. Uprooting yourself from the only place you know and moving to an unknown land is hard. Changing yourself to adapt to a new culture is hard. Not being accepted for how you talk or how you look is hard. It shouldn’t be hard, especially in a country that was founded by immigrants.

Being an immigrant is not easy. Being an immigrant takes courage and determination. Being an immigrant is leaving your world behind in hope for a new home with the opportunities, education, and liberties that you didn’t have. Being an immigrant is adding to the diversity of a country and strengthening an economy. I believe that all of us should understand what it means to be an immigrant and realize unity is not conformity; it is diversity, awareness, and understanding.

Immigrant is just a word. Behind that word are millions of different stories. I hope you will try to hear and understand a few of those stories. I hope you will take the time to listen, truly listen to someone who does not have the same beliefs as you without thinking about why they're wrong. We as a whole, as people need to learn how to respect one another, even if we disagree. We need to listen to people, understand what they’re going through without judgement. I hope you will take the time to listen, to understand, and hopefully you will be able to see the world through a new perspective. Thank you for listening! And thank you Mr. Nelson for giving me the opportunity to share my story.



Translation by Academy Monthly

Typically, translation means changing words from one language to another in order to help someone understand something. In Kingston’s case, she translates herself according to the readers she predicts will not understand aspects of her identity - American readers and her Chinese family. She believes that Americans will not understand her Chinese identity and that her Chinese family will not understand her American identity. 


Kingston translates herself well to me. Her explanation of her mixed identity as a Chinese-American resonates with me, particularly in Maxine’s story about her mother cutting part of her tongue. Maxine wishes that her mother either hadn’t cut her tongue at all or that she would have cut it all away. She does not appreciate her mother’s intentions to allow her to “speak languages that are completely different from one another” and, ultimately, have more than one identity (164). Instead, Maxine wishes that she could have a tongue that allows her to speak only Chinese or both Chinese and English fully, signifying either a solid Chinese or a solid American identity. If her tongue were not cut at all, she feels that she would not be able to speak any English. If her tongue were cut fully, she feels that she could easily speak both Chinese and English. But with the tongue that she has, she has a “terrible time talking”, revealing her struggle to express herself (164). I understand Kingston’s feeling of wanting to have one identity, rather than a complex mixture of the two. I used to wish that I was fully Korean or fully white. I felt more white than I did Korean since I was the odd one out in Korean school, and since I was typically surrounded by white people. As a child, I remember thinking that if my skin were paler, I would be fully white. Therefore, I would try to make my skin as light as possible by staying out of the sun and by asking my parents for extra sunblock when we went to the beach. Clearly, I was silly and did not understand my identity or race, but looking back at how extreme my desire was to be “wholly” one thing, I understand how Maxine feels torn between two worlds. My past desire to not be half white is similar to Maxine’s desire to have a tongue that is not half cut; both of us craved the simplicity in conforming to one side of our identity. 


Kingston describes the troubles she once faced in writing herself into the world by explaining the expectation for Maxine to follow Chinese tradition and remain silent. Brave Orchid constantly complains that her children act “impolite” and “untraditional” like barbarians, implying that these barbarian characteristics are American since they are “untraditional” to the Chinese (121). Since Maxine’s mother always calls Americans barbarians, Maxine feels the need to hide the aspect of her identity that is American, that is “barbaric,” making it difficult for her to translate her true self to her traditional mother. But it is not just her mother who wants Maxine to be traditionally Chinese, Moon Orchid also expects silence from Maxine. She does not like the way that Brave Orchid’s daughters look at her; she asks Brave Orchid why she does not teach her “girls to be demure” (133). Brave Orchid counters, “They are demure. They’re so demure, they barely talk” (133). Brave Orchid prides herself on her daughters’ silence; she values how they do not talk like Americans. Yet, Moon Orchid sees the “American” in the daughters’ eyes. Moon Orchid sees America as the “wilderness” that raises the girls to be “animals” (133). Even though they do not speak, Moon Orchid identifies the “animal”, or American, in the stare of Brave Orchid’s daughters. Moon Orchid knows that the girls appease their mother by hiding the “animal” inside of them with their silence.


Maxine imagines that her family hears Ts’ai Yen’s songs at the theater because she hopes that her family can hear her “song” as a Chinese-American woman. She does not want to stay silent as an obedient Chinese girl; she wants to sing as a Chinese-American woman. When barbarians capture Ts’ai Yen, she sings about her family in Chinese, but “the barbarians understood” her “sadness and anger” (209). Words are not universally understood, but emotions are. Although Ts’ai Yen sings songs meant for a barbarian reed pipe and “from the savage lands”, the Chinese translate a song so that it can be played on “their own instruments” (209). The Chinese embrace Ts’ai Yen, even her barbarian side. Kingston feels that her multifaceted identity, including her American “barbarian” side, should be recognized and accepted like Ts’ai Yen’s by her Chinese family, and she hopes that her American readers can understand her “song” as well. 

Work Cited:
Kingston, Maxine Hong. Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. New
York, Random House US, 2010.

David Li: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

Hello children, the following are three tales about me, your chubby neighborhood asian. So buckle your seatbelts and keep all appendages inside the vehicle. Let us begin.

It was a picturesque autumn evening. From the tree tops, Appalachian winds gently sundered brittle leaves, which cascaded down in every color the sun aspires to be. Children snuggled under blankets and watched cartoons to their heart's content as the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie filled the streets of America. I, however, knew there was work to be done. A new Lego set had just arrived, and I, like a crack addict who was once again soulbound to his cherished substance, was bouncing around like a lemur on a sugar high. As I opened my new set, any hopes of me doing school work were instantly dispelled - there was no time for such trivial matters. From the box showered forth a spectacular technicolor canvas of brick pieces, soaking the dense grey fibers of my carpet in a glorious mess. I stood and marveled at my surroundings, the aftermath of a plastic typhoon. This was going to be an adventure. This was the meaning of my life. I jumped in, relishing in the mess I had made, and slowly, my creation took form as I zealously stacked brick after brick, long into that autumn night.

That, children, was me, a tiny, squinty-eyed gremlin on a perpetual caffeine rush, who couldn’t help but treat girls as aliens, and knew more about the World War 2 Pacific theatre than he did about playing soccer. You see, as a child, I was a troublemaker. Whether, it was clogging toilets because I wanted to see if pudding cups would flush, or putting a hole in the wall of my parent’s bedroom because I wanted to learn Kungfu, no crevice of my home could find sanctuary from my devastation. Very few things could keep my attention for long, one of these things was Lego, the other was video games.

My first memories of videogames are also some of my fondest. As a child, I perched myself on my dad’s lap and watched him storm the beaches of Normandy under the lead rain of German machine guns, and battle both the bitter cold and Panzer divisions to take back the city of Stalingrad. It was the same game, the second installment of the Call of Duty franchise, but every playthrough was like a new adventure, a new story. I watched my dad live a life far more exciting than that of an 8 year old gremlin, so I couldn’t wait to play games myself.

It was 10:30pm, an hour past my bedtime. I was sitting on the cold hardwood floors of my room, salvaging the light that seeped through the doorway, so I could read. I was simply biding my time. My parents had become ruthless dictators when it came to videogames, and there remained only one opportunity to play - the unpasscoded computer in my Dad’s office, the office that he was still in. So I, like a little rebel fighter under the boot of a terrible empire, waited for my chance to strike. I looked at the clock again, 10:39, the minutes dragged on, but I refused to turn in. Patience was critical in this daunting operation. At long last, the clock struck midnight, and my father decided to sleep. Showtime! I had endured the torments of boredom, and finally, I was able to claim the fruits of my labor. Like an arctic fox, I pranced silently into my father’s office, cautiously, gracefully. This was not the time for frivolous mistakes. I planted myself onto my father’s chair, and shook the computer’s mouse. The screen flashed on - no password was requested, my plan had succeeded flawlessly. I opened the browser, and began to play my favorite game, webkinz. For thirty minutes, my pets would have my full attention. For thirty minutes, I was free to game without my parent’s incessant nagging. For thirty minutes, it was worth a day of eyelid drooping and wholesome yawns, because the video game, came above all else, to me.

This next story, is unlike the others, but still relevant enough to be included, and entertaining enough so that you may all hopefully laugh at me. I had a friend, her name was Denise. We shared common interests such as Legos and Webkinz, and if you had liked either of those two things, we were cool. I liked Denise, she was pretty awesome, but she was just a friend, until one fateful day, at a Vacation Bible Study Camp. I couldn’t have been more than ten years old, so very innocent. It was late in the morning, we were all dancing to Amazing Grace. I saw her strutting to the Christian melody, across the room. Something in my tiny, underdeveloped childish brain clicked, and suddenly, Denise, the friend, became Denise, the most attractive person in the world. Slowly, I made my way to her, while still dancing to Amazing Grace of course. As I neared, I began gyrating my hips at her. She, with a countenance of both confusion and horror, began backing away. Progress. I continued with my advances, until she finally moved to the other side of the room. This was only a minor setback. My flirtatious harassment would haunt Denise for another couple of years. And even with the benefit of hindsight, my skills with women did not improve.

As I’ve grown, my peculiarities have grown with me. I still love building, whether it’s with Legos or cardboard or computer software. I still love gaming, despite my parents stonecold determination to stop me. And I still understand differential calculus more than I understand conversation with girls. I’m weird everybody, and I love that about me, and every single one you in the audience, is a weirdo in your own brilliant way. Embrace it, savor it, never change that which you love about yourself.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Introduction and First Body Paragraph) by Academy Monthly

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Díaz, is a novel about the fight against evil, in the form of colonialism. For colonizing nations, colonialism was deemed necessary for the education and improvement of uncivilized countries. However, while these countries benefited from certain aspects of colonialism, they suffered even more, especially because of the loss of their independence. Colonialism has suppressed the culture and individuality of many countries and imposed foreign people, culture, and laws on their citizens. In the Dominican Republic, United States’ intervention left Trujillo as dictator. While he brought a certain degree of prosperity to the Dominican Republic in the form of materials and necessities, he brought even more hardship (“Rafael Leónidas"). He controlled the country and its people through a “mixture of violence, intimidation, massacre, rape, co-optation, and terror” (2). Even though the title of Díaz’s novel implies that it is about Oscar, in reality the novel examines the effects of the evils of colonialism; Díaz portrays love and writing itself as a kind of zafa, or counterspell, capable of resisting this evil.

Díaz begins his novel by articulating how the evils of colonialism at a historical, national level in the Dominican Republic caused the death of its people and the country itself. Columbus’ arrival in the New World brought “civilization” and European culture, but it also brought disease, hierarchy, and suffering. In this sense, the belief that “the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed fukú on the world” is really true (1). After Columbus, Trujillo, supported by the United States, added to the Dominican Republic’s suffering by restricting people’s civil rights, silencing their voices, and forcing his rule through violence. He placed the Plátano Curtain on the country and isolated it from the entire world. While he may have been trying to keep foreign influence and involvement out of the country, Yunior indicates that he “seemed equally intent on keeping something in” (225). Through the Curtain, Trujillo restricted the Dominican Republic’s story, history, and culture from spreading. He essentially detached the country from the rest of the world, killing its place in the world, and essentially killing it as a country. This was not the only way he killed the Dominican Republic. He also turned the country into a version of himself: selfish, individualistic, and cruel. The people, fighting for their own safety, joined Trujillo’s Secret Police and turned against their own neighbors (226). Rather than standing up together against a common evil, the people protected their own families, even if that meant harming someone else’s. For instance, there are two different stories behind Abelard’s arrest; the first is Abelard’s, which includes his innocence and laughing friends, but in the officers’ version, Abelard is guilty. The officers had “hidden ‘witnesses’” to testify against Abelard and prove him guilty. The hidden identity of these witnesses suggests that they were Abelard’s friends. This betrayal reveals Trujillo’s ability to break one of the strongest bonds, that of friendship, and truly kill the unity of the Dominican people. His impact on the Dominican Republic was so relentless that “even after death his evil lingered” (156). The word, “linger”, has a connotation of continuance and permanence, which demonstrates Trujillo’s lasting malevolence and its effect.

Mykal-Michele Longino: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

When I was 5 I didn’t know I was black. I know it sounds silly….but....for a long time I just didn’t know. I knew my skin was darker, and my hair was curlier, but if you were a little girl who only ever went to school with predominantly white kids who... would never be as dark as you, what would you think? I….didn’t know what to think, but I now know for a fact that my Pre-K brain was not advanced enough to handle the confusion that came along with identity. To me, my hair was no different than the rest of my friends and even though I wore my hair in braids more than they did... and I couldn’t jump into the pool without a swim cap on...nobody had given me a reason to b made me uncomfortable. I also started to realize how often these microaggressions, or these subtle slights were taking place. Like when I was 12 and my teacher, singled me out in front of the class just to say “You should think about doing the Kwanzaa presentation at the holiday assembly because “you would be perfect...” What do even do with that? I should have said no, because it was and still is offensive to assume a person celebrates Kwanzaa just because they’re black, but I said okay sure, because I wasn’t confident enough to question an adult, let alone a teachers judgement. In 7th grade, I skipped a week of school because I couldn’t handle our in-depth study of the Civil Rights Movement. It wasn’t the content, it was the stares. I didn’t like sitting in the back of the class with my head down every time the movie said the n word, and I didn’t like having to explain why I cried every time we talked about Bloody Sunday. And, this experience of being the only wasn’t exclusive to the classroom…. Literally last year at a cheer competition my MALE coach screamed in front of my entire team, “mykal-michele just because you’re black doesn’t mean you can wear a black bra under your uniform,” because I guess me not looking like everyone else bothered him….which is ironic because, again, I was the only black girl on the team. (so the not looking like everyone else thing still confuses me) Now, I’m 18 and I know I’m black. After my parents and I spent a few years watching every episode of That’s So Raven, and The Proud Family , I started to realize how important representation is. Looking back, I needed to see myself in these characters in order to realize that different versions of blackness exist. And them showing me positive examples of black females in similar positions as me made me realize...it’s cool to be black. Since entering Upper School, I have new black peers to identify with, finally I’m not the only black girl in the grade... but as I’ve gotten older and started to interact with more people like me, I began to realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. What I mean by this is that I’m a black girl who was born in California, and now lives in Doylestown where the black population is 4 percent, and so because my experience is different then alot my black peers, I get judged. I’ve been told I “speak white,” my hair is too long and my skin to light to be, and I quote “full black.” Basically I’m not black enough. When people would make these remarks about me, it felt like I was back in Lower School, but the aggressors changed. For a while I let these comments affect me….I let them “revoke my black card.” ….but I eventually realized that there is no such thing as a black card. Nobody can tell me what being black is supposed to be, because it doesn’t have to be one thing. And so I’m not up here to rant or to complain about my circumstances, because I feel like I wouldnt be the person I am today without these experiences. Defending myself on both ends of the spectrum has taught me more about who I am as a person, and has helped me develop my own identity. I am comfortable defining my blackness on my own terms, and have learned to embrace my identity. And while my school has stayed the same, I have changed the way I view myself in it. In a way, I am thankful for those past experiences, because they have taught me how to overcome adversity and to remain true to who I am. And even though my blackness is a big part of who I am, it does not define me. I spent so much time caring about what other people thought and changing and watering myself down in order to fit into a mold I thought would make me more likeable. But I now know that I am under no obligation to make sense to anyone, other than myself. As I said, I am only 18, and so nothing about my life “makes sense” to me yet, but in the 18 years I have been on this earth I have realized that it’s hard to be yourself. It’s not as simple as waking up and making these decisions, I think so many times we ignore these boundaries that we all face as people everyday, whether it's the boundary of what your family tells you to be, or what society tells you to be, or what school tells you to be. It forces us to wonder, how does one become their authentic self within the process of living within whatever society is telling us to be? And so for me, as I enter a new community for the next four years I hope to take what I have learned with me, and continue on my journey of finding myself. I think at the end of the day everybody's dream is to achieve some level of success. But the one thing I have learned over the course of my time here at GA is that success doesn’t necessarily come with being your most authentic self, success comes with the process of at least trying to be.

A Monster Calls and Finding Neverland Comparison by Academy Monthly

This sculptural representation of Mum and Sylvia Llewlyn Davies, the mothers in A Monster Calls and Finding Neverland respectively, illuminates the hopeful vision of death that the children in each story were able to embrace. The image of Conor’s mother kneeling into a pond of darkness stands alongside the mother of Peter, Jack, George, and Michael flying through the windows to Neverland, leaving their world for a better place. I chose to create angelic figures dressed in airy white and gold fabric to suggest the way the children may have seen their mothers disappear. The black cliff, representing the darkness of death, juxtaposes the imagery of peace radiating from the figures. The piece illustrates the death of each mother through the eyes of the children in a way that allowed each to process the painful experience of loss. The clear rods represent the way the children imagined the trajectory of a path to another world, to a better place. All the children came to see death as beautiful, freeing, and magical and in turn were able to heal.

Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls parallels the story of the Broadway production of Finding Neverland through the relationships between mothers and children. In each story, the mother figure dies from cancer and the children have to learn to move on and heal. The tales told by the Monster and J.M. Barrie in each story allow the kids to believe that they will be able to heal from the loss they experience and guide the children to view death as a peaceful freedom.

In Finding Neverland, the children see their mother leaving into a space created by J.M. Barrie “where life is eternal and evergreen, a future of happiness all in your hands, here in this place of your dreams, here inside Neverland” (Neverland). In A Monster Calls, Conor is able to let his mother go when he sees her on the cliff’s edge. She “had her back to him, but she was looking over her shoulder, smiling. She looked as weak as she had in the hospital, but she gave him a small wave” (Ness, 174). In both of these moments, the children are able to realize that their mothers are going to a better place. Freedom associated with the figures reflects the way the stories help the children see their mothers becoming free from the world.

“When your feet don’t touch the ground, when your world’s turned upside down, here its safe, in this place, above the clouds… when your feet don't touch the earth, you won't feel the things that hurt, and your free, there’s no need to come down… keep your faith, and in time, you will spread your wings and fly…” (When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground).

Anjalee Bhuyan: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

Since I was little, the rule was take off your shoes when you walk into a home, or else risk showing disrespect.  Shoes. We wear them to feel comfortable outside our homes, so when the road gets rocky or you step on something sharp, or cold or hot, your fine.  But when you enter a house, your supposed to leave your insecurity about stepping on the ground, at the door. Visiting Hindu temples works this way, you always take your shoes off before going in. 

As an Indian-American family, my parents were always pretty lenient about making me connect to my heritage.  We speak only English at home, and honestly I know more Spanish than Hindi.  As for practicing Hindu tradition? We light candles on Diwali and make traditional Indian food, but I wouldn’t call us devout.  The only things that really connects me to India on a daily basis is well, my appearance, my name and of course dance. 

 

Bharatanatyam is an Indian classical dance form that originated 3000 years ago as a means of passing down religious concepts.  I began training in this dance when I was 5, learning  to appreciate the values these stories told, even though most of the time I did not even understand the words of songs I danced too.  One of the first things I learned as a dancer was that you never dance in shoes. The amount of effort and achievement put into a dance was measured in how badly your feet hurt after practice.

Last April I stood on this very stage, and performed an arangetram, which is a four-hour recital demonstrating my capabilities as a dancer.  Over the course of junior year I spent extra hours almost every day outside of typical class time, choreographing and training hard for this goal, a chance to become a teacher at my dance academy.  The recital is a test of endurance, technique and creativity, and it required all 10 years of my experience to make it through, and still my feet were burning when I left the stage .  

Not all dance forms require you to be barefoot, with a dance instructor yelling at you to step like you mean to break the floor. but Bharatanatyam does, and I understand why .  Every time I tell some story through dance, taking off my own shoes and walking barefoot allows me to more easily step into the perspective of the person I have to become.  When I stop to think about it, stepping  onto the stage to tell another person’s story, is a lot easier to do when I establish that I have left my own opinions and concerns  behind with my shoes, to become present within the story I am telling. 

Last year I had the opportunity to visit India, more specifically the Meenakshi temple in Tamil Nadu, which is the state where Bharatanatyam formed.  It’s a beautiful temple, with intricate artwork, golden pillars and towering statues. However while I was in the temple all I wanted was to get out.  Every square inch of area was packed with people, making every step forward an achievement at some points.  Between the smoky smell of burning incense, deafening clanging of bells, chanting of priests, and clamor of people, I was panicking.  I had discarded my shoes at the entrance of the temple , and I really, really wanted them back as I  struggled to not fall on the slippery brownish sludge coating the temple floor.  I was trying to push my way out of the crowd to find some escape, when suddenly there was this elderly lady in front of me getting pushed around by the crowd too.  She had some garlands and held one out to me and I was like no thank you, but she kept beckoning me forward and I was stuck anyway so I let her put it on me and finally, looked up from my feet.  Yes I was still thinking about what exactly was in the brown sludge I was stepping in, but I also realized everyone else was stepping in it too.  As I looked around I realized that people around me were praying, chatting, even laughing, content with what I saw as chaos around me.  I was finally present in the situation around me, able to leave my own judgements and concern behind and calmly find my way out of the temple, back to my shoes. 

Seems like all my contact with the Indian culture have involved me having no shoes on! And why has that been important to me?  Let me tell you one more story. 

Senior year startled me, not entirely in a good way.  My computer broke down every class in the first week of computer science.  I accidently left my brother, who is 3 and in the GA daycare, at school and drove home before realizing I had to pick him up. Twice.  I accidently taught my dance students the wrong dance for a performance.  And the Common App became by newest arch enemy.  The worst was yet to come though because on a crisp December day when I should have been in class at GA, I was instead at a viewing. Standing without shoes, of course, in all white, per tradition, in front of a hundred people.  My grandfather had died four days before this, but this was my grandmother’s funeral.  I felt vulnerable standing there, speaking of perspective and memories and moving on with strength, and suddenly I was back in that Hindu temple finally looking up from my feet, looking around with focus instead of panic, recognizing discomfort and finding the strength to be calm in the chaos.  

Entering a house, a temple. Walking. Dancing. Panicking. Grieving. Barefoot.  It has taught me how to be present in my life.  To find strength in discomfort and realize that part of understanding others requires you to be vulnerable yourself.   

 

Tim Ruth: Student Voices Speech by Academy Monthly

 

There’s a lot of pressure in high school, especially when you are just beginning and starting at a new school. Many things run through your mind as you try to grasp at this new and scary experience. My first experience with high school and with the GA community was through football. This wasn’t the first time I had felt pressure to perform, to be liked by the team, to find my role as a player, or to show what kind of person I was, but still, this felt brand new to me.

The first week of preseason football, I remember the nerves, the insecurities, the expectations, the pressure. I remember on one particular day. It was hot, it was raining, and I was tired. I was in the team room in carey stadium and players started coming in, preparing themselves for the day of work, the grind. I saw this kid come in, hood up, sunglasses on, and a wawa bag in hand. In my head, I was like why is this kid wearing sunglasses? It’s cloudy and it’s raining. He was one of the last to dribble in, but he wasn’t late.

I didn’t expect anything from Santino. I thought he was just going to be another kid on the football team I knew. I didn’t think that over the next three years I would talk to him or hang out with him or that he would ever be such a good friend. I expected him to keep to himself, but I quickly learned, to my surprise, that he was not that kind of introvert I initially judged him to be, but rather, he was an outgoing, funny, weird, be-yourself type of kid. I definitely didn’t expect him to reach out to me or mentor me as he would. But again, to my surprise, after getting to know him and figuring out who he really was through interactions on the field and through his jokes, I started to look at this guy as a leader. I remember after one practice as we were packing up to leave, he said, “Yo Tim, if you need help with anything, just let me know.” I responded with something like, “Okay. Thanks, dude.” But most significantly, I remember feeling like I was accepted. Now, I know that it was just a couple of words and maybe I was just overreacting to this small gesture, but the fact that he said it really made me feel like I was a part of the team.

I had spent my last 8 years at two small, catholic schools where there wasn’t much interaction between different grades. We spent the most of our time with one class of  8 or 9 students which made each grade feel separated. So coming to GA, and meeting these Juniors and Seniors, observing the close bond they had with each other, I realized I wanted that. I wanted to be a part of this tight community.  The more I got to know guys, like Tino, the more I felt like I was not just a part the team, but also a part of GA.

While I know he could definitely rub some people the wrong way and he could really get on some people’s nerves, ultimately, his actions as a teammate and as friend, not only made me feel connected to this tight knit community of teammates, coaches, and managers, but it additionally gave me a sense of comfort within the GA community which made the transition into high school much smoother. Just by being himself and offering a small expressions of guidance, Tino, along with some other teammates, enabled me to move ahead within my own life and relieve some of my fears about high school.  

Furthermore, this small act would set the precedent for how I would try to treat my teammates and future incoming freshman. In addition, I’ve realized that it is a HUGE help to someone, if you just reach out and say something encouraging. It will not only enable them to be more comfortable around the team or our school, but will it also help them move forward into high school and feel like a part of the GA community.

 

Respect and Harmony Go Hand in Hand: a Synthesis on The Wife of Bath’s Tale and “Stone Mattress” by Academy Monthly

In modern society and throughout history, men and women have always been separated and characterized by their differences. In literature, this familiar dynamic is often represented by a power struggle between the sexes. Usually, it is women who must fight for their own independence and sense of respect from society, and this remains true even today: as of 2017, according to the World Health Organization, “1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime” (World Health). Male dominance over women arises as a central theme in both Atwood and Chaucer’s works, as these men and their female counterparts struggle to strike a peaceful and mutually fulfilling existence in the wake of sexual assault. In the 14th century text Wife of Bath’s Tale, as well as in the modern text, “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood, this power struggle between male and female characters drives the storylines. In The Wife of Bath’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer and “Stone Mattress” by Margaret Atwood, two almost parallel scenarios demonstrate that women and men can coexist happily in a society that addresses the importance of openness and honesty between the sexes and, above all, respect for women.


In both stories, the immediate reactions to sexual assault against women greatly differ; in this way, these responses provide important insight into the overall importance of women within their societies. For instance, after the knight rapes the maiden, he is almost instantly brought to King Arthour’s court to answer for his crime, where it is understood that, “By cours of lawe, [the Knight] sholde han lost his heed” (892). Through swift action and harsh judgment, Chaucer demonstrates that there seems to be strong respect for women in this society. To further emphasize this point, the queen takes a major role in determining the knight’s fate when she and a group of women “preyeden the king of grace/ Til he [the knight’s] lif him graunted in the place” (895-896). In this way, Chaucer portrays women as authority figures over the knight, placing the power back in women’s hands after the assault of the maiden. In contrast, society reacts differently to Bob’s rape in “Stone Mattress.” When Verna is left on the side of the road after the rape, Bob’s friend, Ken, picks her up and tells her to “[not] say anything” (7). Though Ken seems to feel some pity for her, he ultimately urges Verna, who is clearly traumatized, to remain silent about the rape, establishing just how little respect and sympathy exists toward women in Verna’s society. Atwood further emphasizes this when Bob attempts to silence Verna’s crying in the car, threatening her by saying “Shut up or walk home” (7). This suppression of truth, intimidation, and forced silence seems to indicate that, especially to the men, rape is normalized and not a big deal in modern society. Compared to the Knight’s environment, Verna seems to be in a society where women are expected to carry the burdens of men’s actions against them. Furthermore, Verna reflects how Bob had “gone scot-free, without consequences or remorse, whereas [Verna’s] entire life had been distorted” (7). In other words, this culture of silence works against victims like Verna and greatly encourages men like Bob to continue their behavior. While the Knight receives immediate and drastic punishment for his actions, it is almost the reverse for Verna.
After committing their crimes, both the Knight and Bob receive chances at redemption in hopes that they will learn how to respect women along the way. In the Knight’s case, the queen intercedes to halt his death penalty. She gives him a riddle instead, telling him, “I graunte thee lif if thou kanst tellen me/ What thing is it that wommen moost desiren” (904-905). This riddle not only gives the Knight a chance to escape death but also simultaneously forces him to find out more about what women want. He almost fails to solve the riddle until he meets the Old Wife, who promises to share the answer under one condition: “The nexte thing that I requere thee/ thou shalt it do, if it lie in thy might…” (1010,1011). In this way, the Old Wife can now indoctrinate her soon to be husband with the lesson he was supposed to learn. Verna acts similarly, giving Bob the chance to right his wrongs, but in a less straightforward way than the Knight’s ultimatum. As Verna contemplates Bob’s fate, she gives him two ways to escape death: “If he recognizes me spontaneously, I won’t kill him… If I tell him who I am and he recognizes me and then apologizes, I still won’t kill him” (10). She decides that Bob can redeem himself through acknowledging his past crime, specifically by apologizing or even just recognizing her; if he can do this, then he at least deserves to keep his life. Although this chance is not explicitly communicated to Bob, he still must repent for his actions in some way. Thus, through these chances at redemption, the Knight and Bob are given a chance to prove that they understand and are sorry for the moral wrongs that they have committed against women.


Both the Old Wife and Verna give their rapists a chance at redemption in order to ultimately emphasize the importance of respect. After the Knight complains about his new wife’s age and ugliness, the Old Wife feels not only comfortable, but empowered enough to lecture him about his disrespect toward her. As a result of her passionate speech, the Knight realizes his faults and submits himself to the Old Wife, claiming, “I put me in your wise governaunce” (1231). As the Knight feels embarrassed and ashamed of himself, he finally learns his ultimate lesson and gives full mastery to the Old Wife, a clear sign of respect and deference to her superior wisdom. When she rewards her husband by transforming into a younger and more beautiful woman, she claims that “We be no lenger wrothe,/ For, by my trouthe, I wol be to you bothe,/ This is to sayn, ye, bothe fair and good” (1239-1241). Because the Knight expresses his honest emotions towards his wife and the Old Wife is able to respond equally honestly, this transparent relationship shows how open communication can lead to happy harmony between men and women. 


In contrast to the Knight, Bob fails to atone for his sins. Unlike the Old Wife, Verna has mental conversations with herself but does not communicate them to Bob: “Shouldn’t bygones be bygones? … Why should any human being be judged by something that was done in another time, so long it might be centuries” (10). Just as she was urged to be silent about her rape in the past, she is again silent about seeking resolution and atonement from her rapist. This clearly shows that, because her society has embraced silence and shame rather than straightforward communication, she is bound by the same rules. Because Verna’s society treats her rape as something that should not be spoken about, which heavily implies a lack of respect toward women, Verna struggles to demand an apology from Bob instead of being encouraged to directly address her suffering. When Verna finally does reveal herself to Bob on the stromatolite island, it is the moment of truth: Bob reacts by “smirking” in a way that evokes a troubling image for Verna, in the form of “a vivid picture of Bob capering triumphantly in the snow, sniggering like a ten-year old. Herself wrecked and crumbled” (11). At this moment, Verna realizes that Bob has not changed, living his life “scot-free, without consequences or remorse” (7). Most importantly, she also realizes that Bob has lived for years with no respect for women; therefore, Verna kills Bob. Compared to the Knight and the Old Wife’s relationship, Verna and Bob’s relationship is characterized by a clear inability to respect women, as well as an important dismissal of transparency that could have helped Verna find closure for her pain. Thus, because Verna’s society has chosen to embrace silence rather than encouraging open communication, Verna cannot safely speak her mind. Eventually, the tension between man and woman grows so much that one party takes violent measures. This further demonstrates that, without society promoting respect for women, as well as honest communication and transparency between men and women, happy coexistence is extremely difficult to achieve.


In the the Wife of Bath’s Tale and “Stone Mattress,” relations between men and women are portrayed in drastically different ways. Interestingly, the Wife of Bath’s Tale is essentially a fairy tale told as a fable, whereas “Stone Mattress” has the characteristics of a more realistic society where relations between men and women are far from mutually respectful. This comparison seems to demonstrate that the perfect relationship between man and woman can only be achieved in an idealized world, a world in which women are respected and therefore can share that respect with men by allowing transparency. For example, in the The Wife of Bath’s Tale, sexual assault is a serious crime for which the Knight faces death, whereas in “Stone Mattress,” it is barely acknowledged and victims are silenced. By treating sexual assault with seriousness and severity, women are able to feel more respected and valued in society, yielding greatly improved relations between men and women. The Wife of Bath’s Tale also demonstrates this by showing that, because the Knight and the Old Wife are able to openly discuss their emotions, they are able to achieve peaceful harmony in their relationship. In contrast, the lack of respect for women in Bob and Verna’s society presented in “Stone Mattress” fosters a rejection of thoughtful, open discussion that leads to the complete destruction of their relationship. In this way, a comparison of the two texts provides interesting insight about the importance of societal respect for women, particularly by encouraging safe and honest communication for women to address their inequality, as a means for happy coexistence between men and women. 
 

Unconditional by Academy Monthly

Unconditional

People always look at my father and notice him. They notice his towering figure, his infectious laugh, his pure smile, his prominent presence. They remember him. 

People say I take after my father’s personality and “leadership”. They say it like it’s the best compliment that I could receive. And maybe it is. But personally, I don’t really see the resemblance.

My dad has a special sort of charm. Combined with his cunning cleverness, he has a way of appealing to people like I’ve never encountered. They open up like an unwrapped present, spilling secrets and overflowing with issues. His bubbly and effervescent personality make him memorable, as displayed in his constant tenacity to forge connections and maintain them through social media and pure effort. It’s a little intimidating how much he does- golf, squash, deacon, chemist. I really don’t understand how he can balance all that he does. 

On the contrary, here I am, already cracking after only 15 years. My patience is nowhere near the level that his is. My “charm”, if you could even call it that, comes and goes, varying with mood and audience. My presence isn’t awe-inspiring or especially vibrant. 

I emit deep purple- moody, unpredictable, a storm rising on the horizon. My father exudes scarlet- refined, passionate, a picture perfect sunset filled with confidence and grace. People love scarlet. People bathe in scarlet, blind to the fiery nature and chronic strain inside.

They don’t see the man struggling with aches and pains from his unappreciative children. The one who desperately needs a break from his endless roles.  

    How can one appear so strong yet be so fragile?

    Hiding behind this façade is someone I don’t think anyone knows. He appears on occasion, revealing himself in moments of pain. Moments of pure anguish where he says to me, You break me. 

That hurts me more than anything I’ve ever known. 

My heart aches, my eyes water, my hands shake. Guilt overtakes me and the impact of my betrayal is evident in his eyes. I want to crumble, reverse my decisions and pretend everything was normal. I can’t seem to stop myself, hurting him again and again, armed with lies and empty broken promises, until I finally understand the extent of his unconditional love. 

Unconditional love. A word loaded with immense meaning and dedication. A rare, stagnant, unwavering emotion. Something I never believed in until I truly saw my father. A parent’s undying love for their children is one of the many things I can’t comprehend. How can one care for someone more than themselves? 

But this is the case. 

My needs come first, my schedule is unadaptable. His needs come second, his schedule is flexible. My role is to show up and perform. His role is to provide, with unlimited resources, and support with unwavering belief. Shelling out thousands for my numerous camps and activities, the effort going into earning that money flying out of his pocket without a second glance, but thinking twice about buying that expensive shirt for himself is nothing out of the ordinary. An incredible amount of selflessness, and love, always radiates through.

His exterior emanates bold, determined character. Yet his emotions are delicate, dictated by such miniscule decisions and events. My decisions. My events.

 This power is not one I want. Despite my incessant need to control every situation, I am beyond ready to let this one go. The fact that he cares so much about me is terrifying. I am bound to break his heart over and over with my selfish choices, yet he is willing to go through that pain countless times. For his daughter. An impulsive teenager who is lost in her small little world, insignificant in the big picture, but comprises his whole view. 

I should be more wary. My life has a direct impact on his- how he feels, what he decides, how his effort gets put to use. The fact that he allows me, an inexperienced child, to influence his actions as an adult is almost pitying, but in a lyrically beautiful and poetic sort of way.

I hold his pumping heart in my grimy hands.

And that scares me like nothing I’ve encountered. 

 

Antigone Essay by Academy Monthly

In Sophocles’s play Antigone, Antigone is a young woman sentenced to death after breaking the law of Thebes by burying her brother, Polynices. Her rash actions and desire for attention lead to the death of many others as her own end creates a ripple effect that results in a gruesome tragedy. Antigone’s demise was ultimately a result of her own careless actions as her passionate impulsivity for oikos, desire for glory, and yearning for death influenced her decisions towards placing her own needs before the laws of Thebes. Despite her strong passion and martyrdom, Antigone’s motives are not ones that are admirable as they stem from and are spurred on by her own egotistical desires. Her lack of submissiveness, differing from the norm in an unexpected but not necessarily negative manner, both as a woman and as a citizen of the law creates a sense of bewilderment that challenges the extent of Greek society’s norms and the expectations of someone in her position.

    Antigone has a diverging perspective on the traditional hierarchy of priorities as she places the needs of oikos before those of the state, which eventually results in her death; her blind passion and loyalty puts a strain on the rigidness of the polis, as well as weakening her own personal relationships and sense of self. Her dedication to her family is illustrated as she states, “Death longs for the same rites for all,” as she believes the gods will support her for doing the proper thing of an honorary burial for her brother, even if it comes at the cost of her own death (188). Antigone is coming from the hierarchy with oikos at its apex, viewing Eteocles and Polynices both as deserving a honorary burial with rites. On the other hand, Creon has the opposing view, seeing the polis as superior, with Polynices as a traitor and Eteocles as a brave warrior who defended the state with immense honor. Their perspectives clearly create a web of conflict that progresses into more advanced stages of the play as Antigone decides to take action for her family’s well-being against the state. She justifies her unlawful actions by saying, “But mother and father both lost in the halls of Death, no brother could ever spring to light again,” holding oikos to be of great importance as she is passionate in honoring her deceased relatives (211). Having another brother is an impossibility, so she holds Polynices to an extremely venerated and sacred position. Believing she is protecting Polynices in the underworld as well as during this lifetime, Antigone’s unquenchable thirst to protect her brother is motivated by the fact that he is now irreplaceable, as they are without any parents to extend their family further. Seeing her own death as honoring the dead, her stubborn mindset of extreme zealousness carries on the tradition of burying her family members with the same respect that she herself desires.  Although Antigone’s values differ from the classic hierarchy of needs, she is seen as a family-oriented daughter who is determined to bring her relatives into the afterlife properly with honor; however, her dedication to oikos is overshadowed with the selfishness that precedes it as the motivation behind her actions. 

Antigone’s hamartia is her hubris and relentless pursuit of glory; her need for recognition and attention spurs her on to act impulsively in order to obtain the gratitude she so desperately craves. In an rather direct fashion, Antigone reveals her true desires as she exclaims, “Give me glory! What greater glory could I win than to give my own brother decent burial ?”(187). In this egocentric manner, she manages to make her own brother’s demise more about herself rather than focusing on the recent tragedy. By using the gods as her scapegoat and excuse for attempting to gain the respect of others, Antigone’s core motive is revealed: a lasting reputation as someone who died valiantly for a justified cause. She desires this very recognition so desperately that she is willing to sacrifice almost anything, demonstrated through her brash and extreme actions and words. In a moment of epiphany, Antigone realizes that her impulsive actions were all in vain: “Your own blind will, your passion has destroyed you… no loved one mourns my death (104)”. This is her anagnorisis as Antigone herself comprehends the fact that not a single person cares about her death. Since there is no one present to satisfy her need for attention, she dies with her hubris unsatisfied and the thought that her destiny was determined by her own stubbornness and excessive pride. Although Antigone’s efforts to bury Polynices prove successful, she attempts to portray it as honoring the oikos and the gods in order to mask her true intentions of glory and selfishness. Even though she succeeds in honoring her oikos, the laws of the polis were fragmented as her own careless deeds brought upon her the punishment she rightly deserved. 

Antigone’s perspective on life is in fact one centered around death. Throughout the play, it seems as though her ultimate wish is the final release from life as she lives recklessly in order to pursue that desire. Her hubris is once again revealed as she accepts her imminent death, almost embracing her own end: “And even if I die in the act, that death will be a glory… I have longer to please the dead than please the living here” (63). As she believes that her actions are venerating the gods, she trusts that she is going to lie with Polynices with honor in the afterlife, which is of more importance to her as it is longer than the duration above the ground. Willing to abandon her sister, Ismene alone without any existing family only further proves Antigone’s blind passion. With this mentality, Antigone’s actions do not have to be completely thought out as her own death is not a primary concern to her lifestyle. When Ismene tries to alleviate some of the punishment from Antigone, she is faced with hostility as Antigone rejects her offer, stating that she does not desire promising words over actual actions. Antigone’s dedication to dying is expressed repeatedly as she states her mindset with persistent yearning: “And if I am to die before my time I consider that a gain...I gave myself to death, long ago, so I might serve the dead”(82;88).  Mentioning all the grief Antigone has faced during her lifetime, her reasoning seems just; however, in actuality, she does not want Ismene to obtain the glory that she does not rightly deserve. This may seem like a selfless act on the surface, but it is selfish of her to crave all the glory for herself, even if it means giving her own life up. Depicting herself as so devotionally committed that she is basically married to death, Antigone states that she is living her life for death, which will be a sweet and inevitable relief from the immense grief she has faced during her lifetime. Antigone yields to her fatal hamartia, following through her words with extreme actions, which ultimately takes her own life as well as the ones around her.

Antigone’s demise was the final product of her own impulsive actions as her blind passion, immense hubris, and careless attitude towards life ultimately served as a motive to her selfish actions. As a result of her impulsive and brash decisions, Antigone’s punishment was rightly deserved. By breaking the law for her own selfish reasons, masked by the greater need of the gods and oikos, her motives for carrying through her actions are not ones that should be inspirational. Sophocles was able to create a complex character with whom the audience would have favored yet challenged. Because she was a woman, her influential actions were supposed to be nonexistent and suppressed by men, such as with Creon whose intentions were ultimately in vain. The characterization of Antigone attempts to dismantle the powerful prowess of the patriarchy, and succeeds at it as well because of the audience’s sympathy as they relate to her struggles. By victimizing Antigone, readers tend to overlook the fact that every action does have a consequence. When put to the test, people’s actions can waver as fear replaces their desire to defend what is vital to their own morals and ethics.

Hamlet Essay Conclusion by Academy Monthly

Hamlet’s “rogue and peasant slave” soliloquy communicates that Hamlet’s tragic flaw, his failure to act, reflects the flaws of his state. As the prince, he is given the authority to make decisions and act on them. However, he does not and as a result, his failure leads to the downfall of his nation. This tragedy informs the audience to be meticulous when contemplating actions, or the lack thereof because there are always repercussions. While Hamlet’s idleness is exasperating, he demonstrates an informative experience of the dangers of inaction. By embracing indecisiveness and avoiding risks, one can strip their potential and power to bring change.

The Stranger by Academy Monthly

One day, I woke up as a little sister. A little sister who cried every time her brother went back to college, and to fill the void, wrote him endless letters bursting with puffy stickers and crayola residue.

Then what felt like just the next day, I woke up as an “enabler,” a tragically hopeful interventionist, and a soul trapped within circumstances way too real for only fourteen years old. I don’t know where he came from or why, but I met a stranger. He took the place of the brother I once knew... haunted him almost. He changed me. I became one to cry every time my other brothers came home, because I knew that when they came together with The Stranger, argumentative attacks were inevitable. Nobody could get along with The Stranger. For awhile, I still wrote letters to The Stranger’s shell that was once my brother, but I did not await them in return. Rather, I regretted wasting my time because I knew he would roll his eyes and scoff at the fact that I am so young, so dramatic, so naive. I know that my true brother would have read them, if only he were here. I wish I knew that a few cuts of stationary and eraser shavings would not help to bring him back.

My brother was the first I ran to, but The Stranger is the first I run from. My brother and my relationship was bound by a mutual love of art, animals, and family. The only relationship I have with The Stranger is bickering at the dinner table when he gathers just enough sobriety to sit upright for half an hour.

The Stranger looks like my brother. He has the same warm features, same boxy hairline, but different everything. His skin glows with demise, his body is limp with frailty, and his personality is nothing like the boy I once knew. My brother loves fishing, music, and just about everything else. The Stranger has one motive, one passion, and he cheats to get it. He is warped; bound by the mental and physical restraints of poison. The Stranger rationalizes his actions through artificial ignorance. He knows the damage he causes, but he does not confront any of the implications.

I do not know who he is, but The Stranger ruins everything. He has driven my father to dangerous levels of angst. The Stranger fights with my father, a man who would never harm, all in efforts to chase the next high. All my father does is work; he works to give us the life he never had, and The Stranger takes advantage of that.

The Stranger causes my beautiful and lively mother to slip into the depths of despair. How could he? How could he exchange such a loving woman’s thoughts with images of poison while she lives vicariously through memories of an absent, once pure, son?

The Stranger makes my brothers mourn their third link; they now endure an empty dynamic of brotherhood lacking friendship. The Stranger’s friends are his suppliers, and my brothers are their victims.

Maybe I lost my brother due to a specific plan. Maybe The Stranger stealing his identity gave the gift, rather than the burden, of recovery, or rebirth. Maybe one day I will wake up to my brother, returned. Maybe he will have even more creativity and compassion than the brother I knew before...if that is even possible.

One day when my brother’s world is not so unbearable, he will have the strength to cope. One day my brother will be free from The Stranger’s toxic grip. One day my brother will wake up with clear eyes; the same day that I will wake up as a little sister again.

Amir's Responsibility by Academy Monthly

Amir is most responsible for Hassan’s rape and what happened afterwards because he has many chances to stop and alter the situation, but his selfish feelings towards Baba blinds his judgements and affects his decision to not help. When Assef, a main antagonist is about to attack Hassan and try to pin him to the ground, Amir, while reflecting back on this moment, admits to being responsible for the actions that happen after Hassan’s rape when he narrates, ”I opened my mouth, almost said something. Almost. The rest of my life might have turned out differently if I had. But I didn’t. I just watched. Paralyzed” (73). If Amir had opened his mouth and said something to defend Hassan, like Hassan had done dozens of times before, the situation would have been changed and the bond between Amir and Hassan that breaks after the incident would have still existed. Later in the scene, while Assef is committing his crime, Amir has a decision to make. He says that he has “one final opportunity to decide who I was going to be” (77). “I could step into that alley, stand up for Hassan--the way he’d stood up for me all those times in the past-- and accept whatever would happen to me. Or I could run. In the end, I ran. I ran because I was a coward” (77). Amir’s decision greatly impacts the story and what happens after the incident. He is most responsible because if he had stood up for Hassan, his bond with him would still be strong after the incident. Amir says that he ran because he was “afraid of Assef and what he would do to me. I was afraid of getting hurt” (77). However, his real reasoning lies with the kite that he had Hassan run. As an afterthought, he adds, “Maybe Hassan was the price I had to pay, the lamb I had to slay, to win Baba” (77). His feelings towards Baba blind his judgement when he has to make his choice, making him want to spare the kite that Hassan ran for him, so he can finally build a relationship with his father. This reasoning is why Amir is responsible for Hassan’s rape and what happens afterwards. 

Look Up, Get Up, but Never Give Up by Academy Monthly

A rattle, and then the ball was flying, zooming directly at me. I grunted as I raised my racquet, the brunt force of the ball’s velocity pushing me back a little. I smiled as I saw my backhand skim over the net, fast and low. My opponent returned the ball just as fast but towards the net at my partner. 

“YOU!” she screamed, but I was already running towards the ball. I hit it back, barely keeping the ball in the court. My opponent sliced it into the net, and we won the point. Deuce, 9 all. It was a tie. I needed to win this match. I had to. The coach was looking on, her sharp gaze scanning over the court. We were currently playing a 10 point tiebreaker. I took in a deep breath and remembered the first time me and my dad had played tennis together. 

“When you hit your backhand Amanda, you always gotta remember to lift up and get under the ball. Otherwise it will go into the net. Also, you have to remember to have the right grip Amanda. And keep your racquet face closed or else the ball will go way out of the court” I nodded, and tried to hit a backhand as the sun blinded my eyes. 

“Good job.” My dad winked and smiled. I gleamed. I loved it when my dad complimented me. But I knew it was just an average backhand. It barely even went over the net. I took in a deep breath and  tried to hit some more backhands but sighed as I saw them go into the net instead. I could feel the sun burning my face.

“Alright, alright,” I panted. “Let’s take a quick break.”

My dad chugged down his water as I gulped mine slowly down. 

“You know Amanda, you’ve improved a lot.” I smiled. “But, you still have a lot to work on. You hit your serve way too low so the ball does not have as high of a chance of getting over the net as a high serve would. And when hitting low balls Amanda, you need to get under the ball.” I sighed, but nodded. “Alright. Let’s get back on.”

I swung some more backhands at my dad, but got more and more angry with each hit as they kept going out or into the net.

“UGH.” I grunted. “This is so stupid. I can’t hit any of the balls Dad. I suck. I mean I can’t even seem to get a stupid backhand over the dumb net. Like, how bad do you even need to be to do this bad??? And the stupid dumb sun keeps getting in my eyes. My skin is literally going to burn off.” 

I got off the court and sat down to get some water. My dad came over and sat next to me. I pouted my face knowing how childish I was being. My dad took a deep breath and smiled.

“You know Amanda, when I first started, I wasn’t able to hit the balls very well either. I only had one arm and just holding the racquet was hard enough. But you know what? I didn’t care. I kept practicing and practicing. 6 to 9 hours straight. Do you know how bad I would get sunburned? Grandma would always yell at me about it and tell me to come home earlier. She would always get worried when I stayed late out. But anyway, those long hours of practice are what got me so far. You can’t expect to become good at tennis overnight. You know long it took me to get here? 9 years. You’ve only been playing for a couple months, but I see you’re already getting pretty good. You just need to practice some more and you’ll get there. Never forget that Amanda. I know you get frustrated easily but you gotta know that you have to give it some time. Never give up Amanda. Try taking a deep breath when you feel anxious or mad or annoyed or something. That’s what I used to do.” My dad laughed. “Okay, now let’s get back on the court and hit some more.”

“Mm.” I smiled. I grabbed my racquet and headed back on.

“Hello? Amanda? Where you at? Hurry up and serve the ball!” It was my partner. Back to reality. I served. I cringed as I saw it go into the net. 

“C’mon Amanda. You got it.” My partner gave me an encouraging smile. I took a deep breath. 

“High serve Amanda.” I remember my dad saying. I throw the ball high and raise my racquet before bringing it down. It slams into the service box and bounces it high over the opponent. 

“OH MY GOSH! ACE!! AMANDA WE WON!!” My partner was screaming. 

“AHAHHAHAH WE WON!” I raised my hand and gave my partner a high five. 

“Nice job girl. We did it!” I giggled and gleamed. We won. Heh thanks dad.

Later, my dad drived by and got into the car.

“So, how did you do?” He asked.

“We won.” I smiled. My dad smiled and gave me a thumbs up. My smile widened even more.