28 March 2017

Regal Hearts Book Tour: Interview With Livy!

Good morning, everyone! Today I have a wonderful surprise-- I'm participating in the Regal Hearts book tour to promote this new mini-series! Now, usually don't do interviews, but I've read the first two episodes and absolutely loved it. It's really good. Here to join us on the blog today is Livy, the creator of the mini-series as well as the founder of Crown of Beauty Magazine, to give a bit more insight about the first ten episodes of the season.

L: Regal Hearts begins with the dramatic birth of our main characters - royal daughters who get whisked away in the middle of the night, just after the Queen of Bella Adar (their Mother) is murdered. The girls are then placed in the care of the URIA who finds secure homes for each of them. Fast forward sixteen-years, and each sister (who all live radically different lives from one another) discover secrets from their past, and embark on a roller-coaster ride of adventure and craziness in search of their true identity. 
L: The character I relate to the most is definitely Emma! She's much more introverted than I am, but I absolutely relate with her desire to lock herself up in her room, clam up at social situations, and stumble awkwardly through life. It's been really fun hearing reactions from the readers, discovering that Emma is a favorite character of others as well. Even though Emma is somewhat shy and reserved, she has very strong opinions about the things going on around her. The story which breaks out in her life is a little bit insane, but Emma would never imagine herself as a lead or a heroine. I think she's just so incredibly normal that most everyone can see a little bit of themselves in her.

Emma is one of my favorite characters, too-- she reads a whole ton and just watches the busy world around her.
L: Something that each of the sisters have in common, is their search for true identity. I'm so fascinated by the idea that they grew up their entire lives, sixteen years of thinking a certain thing about themselves and their world, when suddenly something crashes in and challenges everything they've ever known. All at once, their comfort zones and secure anchors are shattered. That intense confrontation between their old and new identity means that they now have a choice to make: are they going to continue to be the old person they always thought they were, or step out into the unknown and be the person that God is calling them to become?

In the first two episodes, we're introduced to three different sisters, each living drastically different lifestyles: one is in Europe, another is a famous Hollywood actress, and the last is an Amish girl living her life contently. Pictured above would be an interpretation of Aurora, the actress, donning a pair of shades.

L: I love playing around with this idea in a fictional sense, because in some small way, we are all dealing with this in our lives. There's a continuous struggle between the person we used to be, and the person God is calling us to become. We see this in the Bible over and over again! God called Gideon, Abraham, Sarah, Esther, and so many others to abandon everything they used to know about themselves, and step into their new identity. Just look at Saul to Paul! In Christ we are a new creation, and the old has passed away...but we have to choose to let go of the past. Like a caterpillar, we all need to go through the process of enduring the painful and uncomfortable cocoon before breaking out into the butterfly God wants us to be. And that's what each of these characters experience. The process of metamorphosis.     
L: The villain in this story can easily be labeled as the enemy of our souls. In the same way that Raymond attempts to steal, kill and destroy the Bella Adarian throne - the devil is trying to do the same thing with us. The devil is trying to do the same thing with us. He uses fear, intimidation, and lies to keep us as far away as possible from our royal identity in Christ. But in the same way that the girls are given an opportunity to reclaim their royal heritage: so are we. If we choose to embrace and believe what God says about us, we don't have to give the enemy any room to keep stealing from us.

There's a bunch of underlying motifs and symbolism lying around...
L: There are a total of 10 episodes in Season 1, and Season 2 is already in the works! Season 1 is all about introducing the characters, drawing you into their stories, and confronting them with important decisions to make...but Season 2 is where things get really intense, as you begin to see the results of some decisions that are being made. And trust me, it's powerful, crazy exciting stuff! So anyway, my hope is that after Season 1, readers will be super stoked and expectant for Season 2, because the story isn't finished yet. I believe that God is going to use this story to speak to hearts about a variety of things, but as I mentioned earlier, I really hope that everyone will be encouraged to fully embrace the person that God has called them to be. My prayer is that fear is shattered and we all step out in boldness into the new adventures God has for us. That we're able to let go of the past, abandon wrong ideas and patterns of thinking about ourselves and our lives, and make some HUGE waves for God's glory and His Kingdom!

Eeep, thank you so much Livy for this wonderful opportunity! Are you interested in reading the series? Out of the three characters listed so far (although I didn't list their names), which one sounds the most like you? Be sure to read the first episode and catch the second episode, out this Friday! That's in three days! 

25 March 2017

How To Let Go of Regretted, Embarrassing Things

"There's only us, there's only this. Forget, regret, or life is yours to miss." –“Finale B,” Rent

Regret. Out of the cumulation of high school semesters, this is the one held with the most of it. Opportunities standing in front of life squabbled away like injured chickens, and when I arrived at the end of the corner, the chances of grasping cinched shut. My position squandered the floor with full force as life slammed fifty bags of past embarrassment slammed me further into the ground.

I turn red whenever I "gracefully" ascend to the ground or sometimes accidentally say something without thinking. We have the capacity to laugh it off because we are human, not androids (although someone like Iko would be cool), and that's a part of life. Combine embarrassment with regret, however, and something lethal is born.

How do we deal with past regret or embarrassments we simply just can't get over?

I think the first step is to remember while we attempt our best to control everything that goes on in life, it doesn't always follow accordingly to our plan. We can control what many things in life. We can choose what we eat, drink, choose to hang out or visit, the little things. There are the events we wish to have control over: having a consistent creative outburst with a gusto rivaling Mozart’s is a great example for writers who simply are waiting for their muse to come back from vacationing in the tropics.

The world doesn't dictate life in our favor every day. We are all flawed human beans and it's been included since the day we embarked on this adventure called life. Something awry may go wrong and leave one in an undesired position. One person may have said something unretractable in the heat of an argument. Another person could have an embarrassing photo on Instagram, forgot about it, and now can't delete it because they forgot their old login.

It seems like the worst because this horrendous, ghastly thing pops up out of nowhere. On the exterior, you appear calm, with the only sign of slight distaste visible for a few seconds. Within the interior, your arms reach outstretched and multiple small versions frantically scatter across your brain, screaming, "Ahh!"

Reevaluation is important. Thinking with a clear mind is imperative-- but first pacify the flailing! Drink tea or coffee! Physically run around and flail. Dance dorkily around to super cheesy pop songs, just dance to whatever works best. The fast-paced movement will tire you. Sleep on the problem, and don't spend time before bed dwelling on it.

Talk it out!

Once your mind is clear, think: how bad is the situation, really? A huge reason we regret embarrassing things is because they poor of representation of who we are at the time of the incident. It may seem like the end of the world, but it's not... because the end of the world is the white border of the map you have. The paper was bound to run out of room soon. If you're still panicking, talk it out with friends. It's better to vent it out than keep it all in, anyways.

Tell yourself people change--and hopefully, for the better! One of the people I chatted heavily about a situation was Christina, and she said something wise while watching me gallop around in a frenzy storm was,

"I think most people understand that humans grow and change... like they do anywhere else."

I applaud her for this, because it's something that slapped hard in the tunnel-vision situation. Tunnel vision can be the scourge because in that moment, we are focused on ourselves and forget everything else around us. We need to step back and look, friends.

A small mishap that you're embarrassed of happened, and so it happened. Personally, I imagine life like a scale with good and bad on each side-- there's still plenty of changes for filling up the scales with good. The average person in the world lives up to seventy years! Small mistakes, mishaps, embarrassments, regrets-- they happen all the time, but what about the huge portion of the time remaining? More than likely it's been spent doing positive things. We need to remember the positives.

Forgetting seems easier, but if you wish to forget, step forward with the notion you are going to do better. It does take time and effort, but if you persevere and try, you're making progress.

Be willing to leave it in the past, resolved, and then-- let go. I've come to realize over the course of spring break that dwelling on negatives of past events is a corrosive that deteriorates someone meaning to move forward and progress in life. There's so much out there that we need to see, and we shouldn’t have this one moment define the entire being of your existence. Over a million things make up the sum of a person-- strive to make things better. The good that you do now, the changes you make, it's down to you. It's all up to you.

Look up, because as hopefully and dream-like as it may sound, life on the outside in cool.

The lyrics in Finale B are much more impactful, now that I look at it closer. There are two things but if one lurks in the past, the opportunities of life will bequest you. We need to be at peace with our past, accept it, and look back. As Oakstar said to me,

"I'd want to own up... and be proud of everything I've done that's brought me to this moment."

Are there things that you've regret in the past? Are there even more steps than the generalized in the post, or do you have another process you use? How do you personally let go? 

16 March 2017

Stranger Things Happened This Past Month

 Art central, let's go! Most of my friends are artistic in drawing or painting.

High school pulled me back into the depths of the busy life, and luckily Spring Break has given a reprieve before the last fourth of the school year comes into play. Internally, you're all thinking, "Abby, where were your 'scheduled posts?'"

*cue cricket noises*

In short, the posts didn't schedule properly and so none of them posted the times I wanted them to. Enough excuses: let's talk about the pancake and doughnut-filled month I had!

// Blog Designing? My return to the blogging world would have been sooner, but I decided to help a "new" blogger converting from Wordpress by designing her blog. It's still a work in progress, but isn't her header pretty? I ended up lettering a lot of her decorative text. Go say hello to Allie Taylor, everyone!

 I lose interest when it comes to painting, thus this piece being dubbed, "The Collection of Miscellaneous Thoughts (With a Five-Year-Old Aesthetic)"

One of my friends was teaching how to draw out something using this circle, but what it was, I can't remember exactly.

// I am overcoming my fear of horror films (slowly). Scary movies became a fear of mine at the age of ten. I can't go into specific details, but the generalization is this: my eldest cousins decided to put on an incredibly intense and mature movie, driving ten-year-old me to play Lego Harry Potter on my pink Nintendo DS in the kitchen an hour past my bed time. For future reference, focusing on moving around the Dursley household to forget the terrifying images from hours before is a very healthy way to cope with the aftershocks.

We have the essentials... we should have gotten a bigger bag of Swedish fish. We need more protein to deal with our anxiousness and jumpiness at midnight!

Several weeks ago, my small friend group planned to binge watch all eight episodes of Stranger Things in one night. Swedish fish and chocolate pudding became energy for our venture. The show was grounded enough with fleshed characters to make its storyline less intimidating. The first episode played. Poor Will Byers disappeared eight minutes in. This plan backfired to a small degree because when my friend's three other siblings were all streaming Netflix at eleven o'clock (what a coincidence) and it kept buffering at the ending of Episode One to where the wifi in the house was turned off. "Want to watch Breaking Dawn: Part Two?" asked my friend's eight-year-old brother when he exited Netflix. Another friend was up for it. I shook my head, turned towards the bedroom, and collapsed asleep.

What's more terrifying than a film adaptation of majority-voted Mary Sues? Waking up to the alarm clock going off at five in the morning and the Breaking Dawn screen selection lighting the wall on a Saturday.

I'm sorry I keep posting food items! They're just really good, though...

// Declamation for Spanish Poetry. I received first at the regional level, yay! Sadly, I didn't get anything at the state level, but there's always next year.

I sketch rather lightly, but it's a portrait of one of my characters when she dresses in everyday attire. The hat came before the "Wot in Tarnation" meme popularity. 

// One small detail change causes ripple effects-- in a novel! I'm still editing and rewriting Hidden in the Shadows for critique in the fourth quarter and to prep from the second novel of the series, tentatively scheduled for writing over the summer. The stakes will be higher with the conflict. All I can say is this: the most docile character of the quartet will slowly destroy the team. This is going to be a ton of fun. A formal post about it will go up in July, if it becomes my Camp NaNoWriMo novel.
Several weeks ago, I reexamined the series fixed plot points and realized Sam needed to become aware of one aspect that in previous drafts he was oblivious of to help the growth of his relationships. His growth comes into play to pacify the silent destruction one of the four makes.

The internal groans cannot be loud enough already, but again, if one would like to protect their novel, it's essential to take care of your characters. In short, certain dialogue will be scrapped and replaced. His featured chapters will be edited and scattered in with a more cohesive plot line, and the obscurity of his backstory will be clarified. I am ready to put my characters in a world of turmoil-- oh, wait, right. Authors shouldn't take joy in destroying their characters, but a tiny fraction of them do to allow their growth.

Now that I think about it, the sketches kind of also look like the Wolverine. Hmm...

A huge aspect of my time is also spent drawing characters. Guy hair is hard to draw; I doodled some perfectly in between class periods, but when it comes down to the actual drawing? Both male protagonists look like Mr. Darcy.

// I'm super pumped for Beauty and the Beast and Anne: the Series! They're some of the strong independent fictional heroes I looked up to as a kid, and my friends have been fangirling over Gaston's high tenor voice.

These books are ALL. SO. GOOD.

// Speaking of writing, I applied for writing scholarships for summer camps and now I've been waiting anxiously for the results. It's been forever since an opportunity to the writing craft became available. Old clubs shut down, budgets got cut, and the only way to receive actual critique is to sign up for the adult clubs which require a hefty membership fee.

WAITING FOR THIS IS TWICE AS HARD AS WAITING FOR CAST LISTS. This is something I really want. I want to learn and improve while meeting like-minded people all at the same time. The best way to pacify the wait is studying for AP Calculus and reading novels.

The room as we watched Woman in Gold-- it's a good movie involving art and history, based on a true story!

What posts are coming up? A rant about college, an interview, and far off into the depths of April, a post about party planning involving mascara, five dollars, and hugging, but that's a story for another time. I'm also really excited for my school year wrap up post(s) because, if it's anything like the previous two years, I have some good content to share!

Have you seen Stranger Things? Would you like to enter a foreign language declamation contest? What's been going on in your life?

14 February 2017

Waiting for Prince Charming... or Gilbert Blythe?

Anne Shirley is one of the closest literary heroines I relate closest to. My black hair and tan skin contrasts to her fiery red and freckles, but we are both dreamers. Isn't there a bit of Anne in all of us? By personal choice, I'm not open to have an romantic relationship in high school, but bits of my soul emulate thoughts of a hopeless romantic. New scenarios and "perfect" characteristics belonging to Prince Charming formulate each time I toss in bed. He'll probably be tall, brooding, sweeping me off of my feet. He's the dream guy everyone looks for.

The truth?

There's no such thing as Prince Charming. Stepping out of fantasies and waking up in cold reality is generally a constant struggle. I watch my friends, courting and dating, while I stand on the sidelines, probably making an assortment of Valentine's Day related crafts during my volunteering job, making sure that the relationships they have are healthy and happy. My friends, who are all of the good sort, are respect my decision about abstaining from the romantic scene and remaining single as a solitary pringle at the bottom of a can, but they always tease that I'll miss the right guy as I frolic away in a dreamy state. A little part inside says that they're probably right.

If people had to find a define a "perfect guy" in literature, it would probably be no other than Gilbert Blythe. What's there not to like about him? He is tall, with curls, with intelligence, an insane amount of charisma, and immense understanding. Gilbert loved Anne so much he waited two years for her before she finally stated yes. He waited for a long time. Suddenly, Prince Charming converts into this literary character, from a general faceless character to someone concrete and almost real like. Anne and Gilbert's relationship, like everyone else's, has their faults, but in terms of realistic standards, it's perfect.

Here's the problem.

To take out all of the good parts that this fictitious relationship holds and demand that the relationship I want has to have every single functioning cog in place in order to deem the relationship compatibility is just wrong. First, ideals and realities are not the same. Someone who is redecorating a bedroom could have some aspects of their dream design unavailable for use. The same concept applies here! To impose such high standards right away and force them to meet all of them is unfair to the person on the other end. It's better to take the most desired qualities, particularly the intrinsic qualities, see if they have those with some room for improvement, and then build from there.

Secondly, relationships do not necessitate nor require one-hundred percent compatibility. Any relationships, romantic or platonic, does not require a full-on equivalence in everything an individual does. Compatibility in the important things (especially those relating to morals)  are things needed to be in sync. Tiny stuff, like who's taking out the garbage or what movie to watch-- those can be heavily debated on.

Face it: not everything is going to be perfect. There will be some things the two individuals will clash on. Take a dreamer who is romantically linked to someone more grounded that clash on the mundane things because the former isn't doing their share of the chores. When people embark on a relationship, I don't think it starts off perfect. We try to be perfect together, but we're still far off the mark. As single separate entities, we too fall from the mark.

Isn't the point of any kind of relationship to experience growth, hopefully for the betterment of ourselves by the interactions we have with other people? People change people, and if there is change, it should be for the better.

Finally, what's all this waiting for true love business? Love does not just solely exclusive to romantic love. It's the easiest thing of all to forget. There are other relationships people can dedicate themselves to-- friendships, families, acquaintances wanting to maybe reach closer to the friends level-- love can be applied to all of those relationships. Instead of dedicating all of our time to Prince Charming and Gilbert Blythe, why don't we improve the current relationships we have in our life right now?

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day, whether it be with a significant other, a group of friends, or by little kids doing arts and craft. As it was once said, "Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside."

08 February 2017

Four Year Blogiversary (+ Major Changes?!?!?)

It's my blogging anniversary today, friends! And guess what? I’ve been blogging for four years.

I’m not entirely sure what to say. Much of the days go by pursing the little moment gems tucked away in the sea of mundanity—today, it was texting a friend snail jokes. When momentous occasions happen, I’m rendered speechless. I am thinking everything and nothing, a paradox with repelling forces existing where it shouldn’t exist. Uncertainty lingers longer. Things go timey-wimey, according to the Eleventh Doctor.

If I had to say anything, it would be this: wow. I’ve grown from a middle school child who created a blog during a time artistic spontaneity to an individual stepping outside of the house for the first time, and all up to someone who has learned to experience what life has thrown in front of them, one day at a time. Now? I’m a high school student who’s looking on readily at life after I graduate. Plus, I also have much shorter hair than I did in middle school and more food photos on my camera than I can count. Growing up is scary. No matter what the future may hold, this blog is always going to be a part of who I am.

Some major changes are coming up here on the blog. I heard this analogy of people constantly changing. The atoms which compose us slowly change, and every second, we are becoming someone new, still with the same initial core, but a new individual altogether. The two major changes that will be coming up relate to names and tie into the analogy well. Change is hard. It’s been a feuding battle for me to make these decisions, but hopefully they are for the best.

// My blog title, The Ups and Downs of My Not-So-Average Life, will still formally hold, though stylistically it will be referred to as Ups & Downs. My naming skills in my youth were okay at best, and the blog title is somewhat of a mouthful to state. The core of the title will still hold, although it will be referred as Ups & Downs. What each reader wishes to call it to be up to them.

// Secondly, the even scarier decision which still terrifies me as I type this. In life, people have many names, whether they are adorning nicknames from friends or a shortened version of their actual name. MorningTime4 has been a name that has been around for such a long time, but now, I am going to change to my real name, Abigail. If you're confused by all the bloggers with the same namesake, you can call me Abigail Lennah. This decision is made due to thinking about the future and college, and if I would like to remark that I have blogged during high school, this is the place to go. MorningTime4, like my blog’s name, still is a part of who I am—in fact, the nickname “Morning Time” has stemmed long before my blogging days—so if you still wish to call me by screen name because you get confused by the other Abigail bloggers or if you're too stubborn on calling me by anything else, by all means, go on ahead. I’ll still refer to myself as Morning on many occasions.

Now, away with the sappiness! Here’s a well-known fact: bloggers tend to have a ton of food photos on their camera that they simply cannot use for blogging. That logically makes a lot of sense. So, to make up for that, the section below is dedicated to all the delicious, scrumptious food that now have their chance to shine.

Before I close out for the day, I would just like to thank all of you for sticking by these past four years. I know that I haven’t returned to stamina my blog’s golden age had because of other life commitments, but it’s because of you all that I keep this going. There are so many countless people I want to thank, but just remember—you all rock my world. Now go and join the comment party on the Guestbook page (and maybe suggest to be part of another blogging project I'm brainstorming, I don't know).

04 February 2017

Morning Wins Not One, But Two, Silver Keys in Writing

HI, FRIENDS! For the past several hours, I have been screaming, flailing, and crying mixed emotions because something happened in the writing world after months of waiting and waiting, and it has something to do with this little writing competition called the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. Okay, perhaps it is not as small of a deal as it appears to be, and yes, this is the same competition which I entered in last year and received a small award in, and once again, I won something. I worked increasingly hard on these pieces to the point of being stressed with gray hairs appearing on the ends! It’s been such an insane journey.

This morning. I was greeted by my AP Language teacher, who I discussed all the setbacks and waiting I encountered. “I’m stressing out. See, the forms I had to mail out had the wrong address—well, right address, just the wrong department—and I don’t know if they received them or not. Plus, waiting all month in January is excruciating. My brain is internally screaming.”

“I don’t think your brain internally stresses, Morning,” he remarked back.

I nodded. “Yeah. It’s probably actually just me stressing out over little details that really shouldn’t be a big deal that I stress over anyway.” Who wouldn’t be shaking with nervousness if the envelope was sent to the wrong address and kept refreshing their email every ten minutes to see if results were released anyway?

Today, third and fourth hour passing was nerve-wracking. The blue lunch bag perched on my right wrist struck my stomach several times, and in my right hand was my phone. A list of one-hundred sixty-nine pages of names and columns overwhelmed my brain. Thoughts scattered my mind. The jolting feeling of a dropped stomach from first hour’s email notification rang my body once again. I typed in the first three letters of my last name—over one hundred results popped up. Fingers scrolled down through the page, and as I entered the choir room, I realized that my name appeared on that list, plastered with the Silver Key Regional Award.

A Silver Key.

I screamed in the classroom, hands flailing in the air, heartbeat pulsating through. A Silver Key wasn’t enough to enter nationals, but it was a set higher than an Honorable Mention, which was what I received last year. People gazed upon the scene oddly (as I hardly EVER scream in that class). I perched in my chair, glanced at the list twice, and saw that not one, but TWO of my three entered contest pieces received Silver Keys in the competition.

Fast forward running into a classroom and screaming congratulations to a friend from the book competition team who also entered the competition but was unaware of the results coming out. We spent roughly ten minutes screaming and hugging and crying and jumping around the classroom, congratulating one another. It was like we invented the cure for cancer and miraculously saved a litter of puppies. Fangirling screams that appear when new book releases come out did not match up with this—this was ten times greater than whatever Green, Rowling, Stiefvater, and Han book hybrid that ever came out which also included free chocolate in its purchase, because unlike waiting for a book by another author coming out, the work being celebrated was written by our own hands.

Yes, this is celebratory cheesecake.

What were the two pieces that received recognition? A personal essay / memoir piece and a flash fiction piece entitled “Parents, Listen to Your Children,” and “The (Starving) Artist’s Dilemma,” respectively. I took a ton of risks this year, for two main reasons. One, both pieces were written in second person. Second person is hard to use because its riskier. It’s imperative that if second person is being used, the author can convincingly allow the reader to portray their feelings due to the direct usage of “you.” Secondly, the subject matter was risky.

“Parents, Listen to Your Children” does not necessarily denote the relationship down to its two titular subjects, although it does heavily focus on that. The moral of the story was incredibly important to me and was something that I desperately wanted to share: relationships, specifically those revolving around friends and family, involve two people, and for the relationship to work, both sides need to be open to listen to one another, even if their ideas may clash at first glance and one side wants to shut the other right away. Because it was a personal essay / memoir, it was a very honest and emotional journey that just hits the feels constantly.

“The (Starving) Artist’s Dilemma,” unlike its sister entry, was fueled with a more frustrated look on art and social validation, and was an idea I’ve had for some time now after thinking about indie artists with some of the most amazing songwriting not having a larger audience. It almost seemed paradoxical to be sending something admonishing to the art community about social validation through a contest, but with the use of strong language, it was also meant to point out the imperfect, cracked edges of the community, which was the main point I wanted to get across.

What am I going to do now? Because I want to edit my pieces and give them more time to shine either in my senior portfolio and other writing contests, I will not be sharing them publicly online. Also, because Gold and Silver Key recipients are eligible for a summer scholarship in several writing programs in the country, I’m going to see if I’m able to apply.

Now, excuse me, I’m going to retreat into my room and perhaps scream and be happy some more.

20 January 2017

Brown Eyes, Brown Eyes

Brown eyes, brown eyes—actually, yours are gray.

The vestige of laughter wore off any traces of fatigue in the dimly lit classroom. Loose bonds knotted from the previous day's testing bound this small triplet in the corner together. Nothing, sans the chatter of the classroom detracted my attention from delight of the conversation. From the side of corner of my eye, you weaved your way past the musicians blocking off the entrance. An array of pink, brown, and turquoise flank the desktop. Thud. Our trio, still enraged over our individual, yet equally fastidious, essay prompts, roared over our meek responses.

From the corner of my eye, something caught my attention. Future plans were touched upon during our trio's hour-long wait drenched as sprawled figures on the floor, sure, but all recollection of such a jovial time shut under lock and key. Maybe it was the good mood of the morning or my sleepiness, but when I glanced into your expression, I saw you don the exact expression I wore nearly three years ago where our roles were reversed.

I inhaled sharply. Fear, with a pin of uncertainty rung your eyes, your lips, your snarky remarks silent. For the first time in a while, my eyes directly contacted with another's, and my body ran cold, even as our teacher tapped at us to look to the whiteboard.

Our minds cower away and filter our perceptions to what we wish to see, yet as clear as day, the first day of growing up flared in my mind. There was you, wearing a pink flowing shirt with skin as tan as the coconut oils of Hawaii. I, vesting a gray shirt resting snugly on my shoulders. Us, both cackling away at a sanitizer joke. This was before the ranking, before intellect was prioritized over friendships, before the underlying scintillating, scathing scorn strained our ties for they had chosen you, before our positions into moving forward in the next step had us locked with little leeway in movement.

Both of trajectories were both for success, but yours was a straight path, while mine zigzagged its way, straining to grasp the top. Over the years, we sat across the table, indifferent to the individual sitting across from us. Genetic makeup may dictate otherwise, but our struggles mirrored each other as if placed on opposite sides of a mirror.

The days flow murky as we swam (you could swim—you were a fish) in the sea of school. Locks clicked lightly into place. Colorful lunch boxes slapped the hallways to and fro. Your snappy comebacks stood as a usual medium for sleepy mornings in the classroom. Life dictated for years to us to eschew, separating into our respective groups of friends. Yet somehow, conversations sprung from our parched mouths, sometimes one-sided on both ends, but still a conversation. "The test was hard." "Oh, she said..." Banality blocked the roads, and we clawed our way past, nails bleeding and functions etched in our hands.

Time had not been good to us. From hindsight, your sass did not stand on par with my earnestness. Sentimentality? A foreign word not spelled out in your nearly impervious armor. We hardly know each other! We hardly know the other's personalities or eye color!

Our minds cower and filter a perception we wish to see, but now? It is time to step out and meet you in the day's light, and I honestly cannot wait.

p.s. A small thought piece, with some elements of fiction & nonfiction weaved in. Which parts are which, though, is up to you to decipher. Something I wrote last night before panicking over Declamation forms. Check out my Guestbook & Survey, anyone?

05 January 2017

2017 New Year's Resolutions & Survey

The New Year has arrived, and it's that time of year to create new year's resolutions. Now, I've read some pretty decent posts by my good friends Rachel, Hannah, and Oakstar. Self-improvement is a lifelong process. It's exceptionally important to understand the root of the problem of something one is trying to improve at and then work towards that, although not having to follow the traditional set path put on the ground. These are all important things to consider.

Here are the targets I have for this year. Except for the writing category and one in the Life section, every single target set on the list is broad. I’m not too keen on having a set plan that lacks a chance for any sort of wiggle room. Many more targets exist, but these are the ones I want to strive for this year, as I do believe they are practical and easy to accomplish.

// If life allows for it, get a job. (At the very minimal, a summer job.)

// Write snail mail. There is something simple and grounded in handwriting a letter and sending it to another person in a physical form that electronic communication sometimes fails to express. One of my mentors over the past two years moved away, and I've been meaning to send her mail because she did leave a way of communication.

// Study effectively for school and have an idea about post-high school life. I've progressed in my study habits degree, but little details need to be tweaked for finer improvement. Also, as for what I'm planning to do after high school? Go to a university, for sure, but to major in what, I don't know. Right now, I'm considering to enter Environmental Engineering with Creative Writing as my minor. Thinking about the future terrifies down to the legs, but a choice which needs to be solidified (at least, as an action plan) near the end of the year.

// Drink lots of water and moisturize often.
// Stretch and get active frequently. With dance lessons and potential rehearsals, this should be fine.
// Read at least 75 books. I miss reading lots, but my to-be-read pile is ready to be read.
// Open to the future more certainly.
// Comment on more blogs.
// Stick with good close friends that can be relied upon, and view them as equals.
// Stress less, and learn how to relax more.

// Write at least 500 words daily. If this happens, then it would roughly come 182,000 words over the year! That’s a lot.

// Finish editing Hidden in the Shadows by spring. My editing process has been snail-paced in the fast-paced world screaming to prepare for college, but I may or may not have accidentally told some people who I interact on a day-to-day basis that they can beta read starting a certain date. Externally, I quietly smile as said people flail around because they've been wanting to see my writing for months. Internally? I'm screaming my head off while also fangirling too much at the world created to do productive work. At least there's a fixed reason editing needs to occur, pronto. 

// Write the first draft of its sequel. Hidden in the Shadows is a part of a five-installment series (which I'm super pumped to unveil). There is so much that goes within the surface that I want to throw a party with confetti at the end— the story of my four protagonists is burning to uncover itself. Especially when (insert a million spoilers here) happens!

// Write around sixty blog posts. 

// Enter more writing competitions. Kate of Clover Kate cracks me up so much because she's 
always complaining about scholarships and the hunt for college money. There are five competitions I'm eyeing at that provide money—every little bit is going to help. I'm also entering for the sole purpose of competing. Showing off my work isn't in my comfort zone, but I must admit, it's a little bit fun.

// Submit pieces for lit magazines. Christina Im, who I've known for almost five years where I know her screen name from her youthful NaNoWriMo days, dominates this area (as she does with everything else). Her work has been published in so many lit journals, both in online and print format, and why not submit work to them? I'm so excited to step foot into this aspect of writing, and suddenly, it makes this aspect of the world appear more defined.

// Complete things for a bucket list that I won't be revealing until May. This is a specific bucket list that needs competition at a certain time, but it needs more time before it's revealed. Why? There are many reasons. All I can say is this year is going to bring it.

// Explore more of the state and travel. The chances of my family traveling are somewhat probable, so wherever we decide to embark to, the trip will be great (expect a travel log)!

// Attend youth group more. I'm so pumped for the activities we're doing this semester. Hiking? Acting nights? Captain America movie marathon? Yes, please!

// Work on the other project related to my introversion and sort of fear of social conversation... talking is hard when you're getting to know people, but it's incredible, the meaningful one-on-one conversation that can pop up. Meeting new people can be fun, sometimes, when not bombarded with numerous names at the same time. This is more of a personal project that won't be discussed much on the blog. Yes, there is fifty ongoing projects and their long titles are rather vague, but trust me, there's more to them than how I'm wording it right now. 

What are your New Year's resolutions / targets? What are your expectations and fears for this year? Also, maybe take this survey!