End of the Year

This school year started so ordinary.  If someone told me back in September, “Hey! I’m from June of 2020. Here’s what’s up. The U.S. almost went to war with Iran! LOL the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union! Half of Australia was decimated by bushfires! City-sized swarms of locusts jeopardized the wellbeing of ~10 million South Africans. Widespread protests are rocking the U.S. after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. Heads up about the whole pandemic thing! 375K people have died, mass amounts of people are in grieving, and the economy hit record lows. Speaking of records, May had a record-breaking 59 mass shootings. Best of luck with the remaining 7 months,” I’d split. From Earth. Probably search the solar system for the newly confirmed UFOs floating around just to slip out of Earth for a while. On that note!

Academics

The night before the first day of school, I was texting Zadie about our goals for the year. I said, “At this point, I value my happiness over school work.” The MATURITY. Okay, looking back, that conviction faded. I compromised my happiness by taking two sciences. But, you live and you learn. As a sophomore, I made all these grand plans about attending Cornell as a Biology major. This year, as an AP Biology student, the course kicked my ass to the Moon and back. I found that I don’t want to study biology in the future. Talk about confliction- I have no idea what I want to study anymore. Knowing myself, I’ll just procrastinate deciding my major until the last second. But hey, the procrastination trait somehow never failed me. I made it to the top 3% of my class! I couldn’t be more proud of myself. 

Emotional

As I said before, I made an effort to prioritize my mental health this year. That entailed shutting-down my very sketchy therapy side hustle. Last year, I dedicated 100% of myself to helping others through personal crises. Whether it was helping a friend through transitioning or spending my lunches holding someone’s hand in the principal’s office, I was there. It was beyond emotionally draining. I remember reporting four sexual harassment claims in one week to Mr. Doddo. That Friday, I remember my Dad asking me how my week was. I just started sobbing, telling him about all the stories I’d heard. I never knew myself to be an optimist, but damn. I was. And that 24/7 support to others was depressing. This year, I called it off. Cue segue into “Social”! Instead, I invested in forming friendships.

Social

LOL I love my friends. Completely and wholeheartedly. I think about them and I get brought to tears. Steph and Michael found out that if they say, “Lila, we don’t want you here,” I cry. No matter where we are, no matter the time of day. If I ever pissed them off, those assholes would MAKE ME CRY. While that’s also a testimony to them being d*ckheads, it also shows how much they mean to me. Just the *thought* of my closest friends disliking me brings instant tears. Roasting is our love language.

Those hours I used to spend with Steph and Michael are now filled with daydreams about our summer together. Beaches and sleep overs and copious amounts of ice cream. Sunset swims with Michael’s angsty playlists while Steph complains about her shoulder detaching from her body. Forcing Michael to strap-in while I drive my #2003 Subaru through the Hudson Valley, Steph’s shoulder in tow. 

All in all, I love my life. Writing this reminded me of my privilege. I believe in Generation Z and our commitment to eliminating the discriminatory system that bolsters racial privilege. 

New Space

We’re literally watching as major history takes place.

You’d think such a historical turning point would be impactful, but it isn’t. Well, impactful in prevalence to me. Yes- the Coronavirus pandemic has echoed upon countless aspects of society; a few being the economy, local businesses, and most of all, social interaction. Nevertheless, this episode feels like a break from school more than anything. I don’t know why or how I’ve managed to minimize the gravity of the situation, but I have. My family doesn’t reflect this mindset in the least- my mom is hesitant in letting us leave the house. My father is stir crazy to the point of insanity, while Adam perceives this as a game-fest.

That’s The Team

As for how I’m processing the current media overload, the answer is- I’m not. I’d rather be selfishly ignorant than an anxiety-ridden hypochondriac driven mess. So, I listen to my mom when she tells us to limit social interaction. I practice social distancing. I do my part, just in an uninformed manner. As for a brighter turn of events, I couldn’t help but overhear a podcast on the current environmental breakthrough across the globe. A bounce-back in wildlife and environment spans major cities; Seoul, Korea has deer roaming the streets while the canals in Venice overflow with clear, fish-filled water. 

Pictured is a visual depicting reduced CO2 emissions in China

I still haven’t figured out if my generation is using humor as a coping mechanism or if we genuinely don’t give two shîts about the current situation. I hope it’s the first. One death, no matter the person’s age, is devastating to SOMEONE. We make plenty of jokes about Coronavirus being a Boomer Remover, and justify this loss of life with “Well they left us with a dying planet.” WHAT? WHAT? That Boomer belongs to somebody. Considering our parents age, that Boomer might belong to us. Between the Karen’s of the world hoarding toilet paper, the assholes of the land traveling in the name of Spring Break and non-social distancers hanging out for the fûcks of it, my faith in humanity is nearing a low. But hey! At least I’m not in school.

I align with this because of my love for the movie Holes. I watched it yesterday. That’s it.

We Need the Tonic of Nature

Absolutely nothing is more cathartic than a primal scream. Pent up anger and frustration wishes away to leave behind a still calm. However, there are some environments unfit for a blood curdling scream; for example, school! Has that ever stopped me? No. It’s genuinely worrying that not a single adult or student on the premises finds it alarming to hear a scream echoing out a random side door or gym exit. 

While a brief yowp during the school day is fun, nothing compares to my front yard at night. The expansive view of the Hudson Valley  stretches across the horizon. Mount Beacon stands imperiously tall against the midnight blue sky while the whooshing Hudson blends into the Newburgh waterfront. Even closer is the open field in front of my house, filled with sleeping deer. It’s everything I want after a long day at school. 

After considering David Thoreau’s ideas of wild nature and freedom, I find myself in disagreement. As Freedman put it, I find myself indifferently coexisting with nature. While I am impacted by weather, it doesn’t hold the same emotional significance to me as it does for others. For example, seasonal depression. I don’t see myself as susceptible to the strain of weather on my general outlook compared to others. Then again, I live in a moderate climate. The seasons shift, but without extremes. I probably would agree with Thoreau if I lived in a region with extreme seasons of climate and light hours.

What Am I to Do

To me, conformity plays a large part in societal norms and expectations. These expectations bleed into all aspects of society. Among the impressionable youth, conformity is rampant. 

Just today, in the English regents testing room, the silent space screamed anxiety. The pent up energy leads to wandering eyes. Wandering eyes further distract yourself, and in turn, lead to more stressing over wasting time. As the vicious cycle continues, you start to key in on other students’ progress instead of your own. Page by page, answer by answer. Again, this exacerbates stress. We’re all so preoccupied with being up to pace with the person next to us that we fail to realize the inefficiency of our thought process. Our fixation on the people around us influence our own actions during testing. 

For me, I see conformity in how I dress. I am to please others, whether family, friends or society. Today as I got ready for a regents of all things, I found myself thinking about whether or not sweat pants and a sweatshirt were appropriate. FOR A TEST. It’s unimportant. 

I mean really, since when am I deliberating outfit ideas before a major exam? At what point did re-wearing a clean shirt become taboo? 

The many fashion rules perpetuated by fellow peers and parents are the answer to both questions. Yet still, I, and many others, conform to these standards. Whether in a testing room or fashion show, societal standards lead our lives into conformity.

Hobgoblin Thinking

My personal beliefs and values have always been heavily influenced by Adam. When Adam introduced me to iFunny, an adult-themed red-pilled meme site, I was infatuated. My impressionable 12 year-old self was fed inflammatory, wrongful jokes hours a day with my “cool” older brother as my guide. Each and every post was either racist, homophobic, transphobic or sexist. The edgier the post, the better the meme. Keeping in mind that I spent hours a day on this app, I became immersed in the values behind the memes. I found myself repeating, and worse believing, hateful rhetoric. 

One of the more mild jokes I casually repeated had the punchline,“I identify as an attack helicopter.” The joke took a jab at the LGBTQ community, more specifically, non-cisgender people. While the joke might have been mild in comparison to the more provocative content on iFunny, it was still incredibly offensive. It mocked a sensitive, personal aspect of a person I had no business in. To make the situation worse, the joke was seen as acceptable by my generation at the time. 

Now that I’ve matured, I see the wrong in my actions. I’m ashamed at my insensitivity and lack of critical thinking. IFunny was a heavily conservative app that perpetrated ignorance through teenage-friendly content. The app was also male-geared. I purposefully repeated the transphobic joke around guys in search of their validation. I could write an essay on how backwards that thought process is.

Today, I stand up for my transgender friends. Not out of shame for my past actions, but because it’s what I believe in. I believe in supporting one another. Transgender, agender or otherwise, people deserve an open environment to express themselves how they want. I am proud of my personal evolution as a thinker.

Gen-Z Manifesto

Generation-Z is a bunch of adolescents fueled by memes raised into a near apocalyptic society. 

Between political unrest, social polarity and a crumbling planet, morale isn’t at a high. This impending sense of doom stifles motivation, work ethic and curiosity among teenagers. After all, what’s the point in knowing the eight stages of the citric acid cycle if our civilization is reduced to waste, anyway? How with the divine dynastic cycle of ancient China equip me with survival skills capable of pulling me through the impending war over water? 

Parents and teachers love to complain about the laziness of Generation-Z yet refuse to acknowledge the hypocrisy in their beliefs; the vast majority of adults were complacent in the devastation of Earth and its resources. So yeah, teenagers now-a-days are lazy; but at least we are honest with ourselves.

Still-ignorant baby boomers, sometimes referred to as “Boomers”, are inactive and uncaring as we now face the consequences of their complacency against climate change. The same media Boomers criticize is one of the only platforms in which Generation-Z has the privilege to advocate. Essentially, older generation’s scrutiny of modern technology reflects their fear of Generation Z’s growing power.

Last Meal

Hidden within the peak of Mount Sinai laid a traditional Thai feast. 

As I watched the sun rise over the red-stained mountain, steam billowed off of  piles of spiced coconut-rice cooling over a bed of papyrus leaves. Beside the overflowing rice plate sat a platter of garlic naan and curry dishes. The sweet tang of the red curry competed with the spice from the meat marinade. The aromatic spices from the green curry lured me to the plate of lime-curry chicken. Each bite balanced and seasoned, I couldn’t hear the voice of my guest over the sound of my own chewing. 

“Where do you think that bird is flying?”

My single guest was devouring her own feast as she watched the eagle glide along the landscape. 

The scent of our food wafted toward the bird as it banked left, hard- right at us. It took a second to process what was about to happen.

“Quick, cover the curry,” I shouted.

“But I haven’t tried the som tam, yet,” she responded.

“Who cares about a papaya salad?” 

“I care. It’s a refreshing palate cleanser. The sweet crunch of the papaya pairs perfectly with-”

“Enough! Just protect the food, Ma.” I repeated.

The eagle had begun circling us, waiting for the right moment to swipe a juicy shrimp. With each pass the bird got closer.

“You really had to ask about the bird? Was it really that pertinent? Now look what’s happened,” I complained.

 Now near fully risen, the sun gleamed upon the mountain tops. The lack of vegetation was shocking- I was used to the layers of New York’s vegetation. Without the sun, the cold would invade our homey cove atop the mountain.

As if it perturbed by my griping, the screeching eagle swept high and away.

My mom and I faced one another, set a glow by the now-risen sun. With a smile, we resumed our feasting. Looking up, I saw my mom shovel som tam into her mouth, her eyes grinning.

Suffering and Time

However subjective, time is the progression of our existence. Despite its positive connotation, the word “progression” doesn’t acknowledge the prevalence of the past. It speeds past accomplishments and experiences that shape our existence. With that being said, time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Back in middle school, I had a best friend. They were, and remain to be, the only person outside of family I’ve loved. Losing them is lasting. Just when I think I’m fully healed, it hits all over again. 

Just last week I was working on a few math problem sets during my free period. Sitting around me were a few friends debating the meaning of friendship (I know, pretty deep for a bunch of sleep deprived kids in a hot classroom eighth period). My middle school best friend was one of the people in the conversation. Watching her talk about our old friendship shook me. Sitting there, in a room full of people, tears welled in my eyes as I looked at her. I just miss it.

I recognize that we don’t fit together anymore. We’ll never be as close as we once were for too many disheartening reasons. Maybe we need closure. Maybe, against better judgement, we should try again. 

Sure enough I have close friends, but none fit like her. I feel like the asshole that fakes “I love you” messages- it’s feels like an attempt to replace her. I hope I’m just caught up in dramatics, otherwise, this is pretty sad. I don’t want to always be comparing people to her. It’s just not fair.

As of right now, no. Time does not heal all wounds. Let’s just hope that me-in-ten-years disagrees.

Fear

Few things make my heart race in my chest. Send involuntary shivers down my spine. Steal my reasoning. Nothing compares to the feeling of a Scenario.  

I mean, everything has a name. I call them scenarios; the alternate realities straight out of my nightmares. The customary rape scenario is probably a product of late night Law and Order binges. These scenarios pervert normal activities like Chadwick runs more than anything. I attribute the supernatural scenarios to an idle mind with too many fantasy books. Those scenarios entertain my fear of a gruesome death.

Worst of all are the Adam Scenarios. The countless ways he could prematurely die. Each thought more suffocating than the next, the panic is consuming. These scenarios have no trigger that I can detect. They’ve happened everywhere; in the car next to him, in a classroom down the hall, on my bed with a box of tissues. Not to be dramatic or anything, but these scenarios ruin me.

My worst fear is Adam dying.

Review-Chîchen Wangs

Hot wings stand as one of the best foods in American civilization. Originating in Buffalo, New York, the combination of tangy hot sauce and crisply cooked chicken wings is the ultimate comfort food to Yankees all across the way. 

Coming from an experienced, cultured individual such as myself, the best hot wings can be found from my Ma’s kitchen. The mix of Egyptian cuisine and American comfort food births the perfect meal of hot wings, chopped salad, white rice and blue cheese dip.

The wings are cooked over a gas grill for an hour. Each wing is periodically hand-rotated to ensure even cooking. The sizzling mess bastes in its own juices when turned, ensuring a juicy, crisp chicken wing. While the wings cooked, an overwhelming, sinus clearing mix of spices and hot sauce meld over heat in wait of the cooked wings. The wings are drenched in the heat right before serving to ensure a crisp, tender skin.

An Egyptian cucumber-tomato chopped salad seasoned with the basics is used to cool the palate after the fiery heat of hot sauce masks all other sensations. Under the salad lays a basin of soft, fluffy white rice. The rice soaks you the vinegar-tomato juice leaking from the thicc* chunks of tomato in the chopped salad. The balance between heat and sweet makes for the perfect bite.

A happy recipient of my Ma’s hot wings say, “100%”

Does it get any better? No.

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