Sunday Sermon

This past Sunday was the third of the month; in my parish, that means the deacon, rather than the priest, speaks the Homily. For anyone who doesn’t know, in a Catholic mass the Homily occurs after the three Bible readings. In the Homily, the priest or deacon tries to explain or add insight to what we had just heard. Usually, I don’t particularly like when the deacon at our church does the Homily. He’s not terrible, he just utilizes the same writing technique every time, which, as a writer, tends to get on my nerves.

However, this Sunday was different. Saturday night I randomly woke up and felt empty inside. “There is no God,” I thought to myself, not sure where this sentiment came from but believing it nonetheless. The next morning I didn’t feel as faithless, but could not fully trust in my religion, even though I still prayed and sung throughout the Mass.

As the deacon performed the Homily, my mind drifted between listening intently to what he had to say and wondering whether I should apply for that campus job. Fortunately, I tuned in to hear a beautiful comment  from our deacon.

“We seem to focus so much on who we think should be saved. Instead, let’s focus on strengthening our own faith.”

This is a really important idea for Catholics and other Christians to hear in a world where people march against gays and abortion or condemn the use of birth control. Sometimes we spend so much energy, resources and time attempting to persuade others to do “the right thing” when we could be improving our own religious dedication through prayer, service and love. I literally smiled in church, relieved to hear this statement after hearing our priests discuss the evils within our modern society every so often and how we must be the metaphorical light of the world.

Furthermore, this is an attitude someone of any race, gender, nationality, age, and yes, even religion, could adopt. Changing others is difficult, especially when dealing with a) those who do not wish to change, or b) opinions rather than fact. This does not mean abandoning our own beliefs and submitting to someone else’s views. Rather, we should concentrate on enhancing our way of life instead of attempting to change others, because no one can claim they live a perfect lifestyle.

This wasn’t the end of #quotableChurchmoments. During another part of the mass, a lector reads a list of intentions, or things we want to pray for. After each intention, we all say “Lord, hear our prayer”. This was one of the best intentions I have ever heard:

“We pray for all those who are searching for God, that they may be enlightened so that their natural goodness will shine through”. 

Anyone who has studied Classicalism and Romanticism knows most religious institutions, especially the Catholic church, follow many classical beliefs, including the idea people are born evil and must be taught to be good. Contrariwise, this prayer recognizes people are children of God and therefore naturally good creatures. Beautiful.

Though these experiences have not reinstated my faith to its full health, this Sunday sermon made me hopeful for alterations in the attitude of the world and hopeful for my own future. As I look forward to college with excitement, anxiety, and some fear, I know this will be a time of change and self evaluation, of figuring out who I am and what I want. Through my own natural goodness, I can strengthen my faith and achieve my full potential in whatever I’m supposed to do on this earth.

*Note-all comments are paraphrased.

Back to Reality

Spending four days at Wildwood with my two best friends was absolutely wonderful, and now it’s time to return to reality. Throughout these four glorious days, I acquired:

  • A black t-shirt that has the German emblem and “German” written on it in gold, black and red.
  • A Germany jersey (I’m a sucker when it comes to Germany. I’ve decided that after I graduate from college I’m going to travel to Germany so I can be there during the next World Cup).
  • A pound of fudge for my family.
  • A necklace with “ACP”, which stands for “Awesome Cool People”, the club my best friends and I created when we first met in 6th grade, engraved on a charm.
  • A sore throat, nausea, and mucus-filled eyes. Not sure why my body decided to get sick on the second to last day.
  • Deep fried Oreos (I’m sure they’re still swimming around in my stomach somewhere).
  • Some sunburn, though my friend got the worst burns on the first day; only the spots I lotioned for her, her back and shoulders, remained unscathed.
  • Rad vacation memories unblemished by alcohol or drugs.
  • A few selfies and pictures my friend took.
  • A CD of road trip music from my friend, who let me keep it after we came home.
  • Four books: Great Expectations, Dubliners, The Portable Shakespeare, and the Diary of A Young Girl. Yes, my friends and I managed to find the ONLY book store on the boardwalk and proceeded to rampage through it.

The post-vacation depression from this adventure is likely to be severe, so I am going to do my best to keep myself preoccupied, which will hopefully include more frequent posting and writing.

Busiest Week of My Life

This week I had no time to blog; as much as I feel bad about not posting anything for a long time, there were occasions and to-do’s that I could not ignore.

Monday was my only semi-fee day, though I had an orthodontist appointment right after school. I spent tonight finishing an application for a special first-year “virus hunting” research course at Gettysburg as well as finishing a variety of other assignments I would not have time for later in the week.

Tuesday was a half day in school, but I attended a paint crew meeting after school. Last year I was hired, along with some of my peers, to be a part of our school’s paint crew, which (you might’ve guessed) paint the parking lots, hallways, etc. of all of the schools in the district; I will be doing the same thing again this summer. This meeting took almost three hours, but I can’t complain because we were all getting paid. We have not been told who will be the paint team managers, and I am torn between wanting to make more money by ascending to a leadership position and not wanting to have to assert myself to be in charge of a group.

After this meeting I went home and got ready for a scholarship reception dinner. I won a scholarship through my father’s union, and we were invited to attend a fancy dinner. I had a slight headache by this time, due to high temperatures that, after a cold winter, I am not quite used to yet. The food was good, the conversation, which I managed to interject into a few times, was excellent, and it was absolutely phenomenal to see all these students who had contributed so much to their community.

Wednesday after school was our Science League party. I had previously been very excited to attend, because Science League has been one of my favorite parts of high school over the past two years, and I love everyone in that club. However, we did a competition bowl, and I did not answer a single question though I knew a lot of the answers. Not only that, I was jealous of one of my peers who is incredibly intelligent and began to hate myself and feel very angry. When I came home I essentially gave up on doing anything and succumbed to sadness.

Thursday I was supposed to take a AP Chemistry test, but even if he put a 64 in the grade books (the lowest grade you can get on a test in AP Chem because of a lenient curve), I would still get a 94 overall. When given the option to skip the test, I took it. I was supposed to have an appointment with my therapist but did not have a car to drive, so we had a very short phone conference before I went to my friend’s house so she could paint my nails for prom. After that we sojourned together to Senior Awards night, where I was very happy (not jealous for once) to see everyone winning small monetary prizes for excellence in academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and community service. I received $50 as an academic award and $50 for Science League.

And…Friday was my senior prom! Half the fun was preparing for it. We had a half day of school and I went to the salon and got my hair (in the style of Elsa’s coronation from Frozen) and makeup done. We went to my friend’s house and stopped at school to get inexpensive professional pictures taken. We did not participate in Promenade, so we went back to my friend’s house and spent some time eating and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in our prom dresses.

Then our parents all came over and we took a ton of pictures. My parents drove us to and from prom for fear of reckless and/or drunk drivers. The first hour or so was awkward picture-taking with friends. Two girls from my AP Chem class essentially attacked me when they saw me, telling me I looked beautiful and they hardly recognized me (yanno, because I never wear makeup in school and wear glasses, whereas tonight I was all dolled up and wearing contacts). The one girl actually came up to hug me and told me I could easily be the most beautiful girl there. Not to be conceited by writing about this, but I was very grateful for the compliment, which really helped my self-esteem.

I may be biased, but my friends and I were the most beautiful people there. Both of them looked like absolute goddesses. After eating we all got up to dance for two and a half hours straight; my feet did not hurt until the last half an hour of the prom, a huge accomplishment considering I wore my (albeit comfy) wedges the whole time. It was great dancing with my two best friends as well as a lot of my other friends in school. My friends and I reflected a little, on the ride home, how we were already a bit nostalgic because this was our senior prom, which would never happen again. But it was a fantastic time, and I would not have traded my prom experience for anything.

Now that this memorable week is over, I am both proud I have survived and am looking forward to whatever challenges await this week.

The Cotton Anniversary

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedding_anniversary

It has been over two years since I started this blog in my Internet and Web Page Design class. So, I’m going to do what I did on my one year blogging anniversary (blogiversary?), relating 33 ways I have changed/33 things I have done in the past year.

1. I have engaged in therapy to treat depression and anxiety.

2. I have become, not of my own will, single again.

Wow I kind of started off really depressing. I promise it will not all be that bad!

3. I attended my first All Time Low Concert, which was friggin awesome. I started listening to more alternative/alternative rock music.

4. I won a $2,500 four-year scholarship from my dad’s union.

5. I got my first summer job, which was painting buildings for the town’s school district. Basically our paint crew went to different schools and repainted hallways, rooms, cafeterias, gyms, parking lots, etc. It was a really great job, 40 hours a week, and a little bit over minimum wage. This year if I do it again I’ll be paid even more!

6. I survived AP English. That is a huge accomplishment. Not only that, but I improved my writing skills tremendously.

7. I applied to seven different colleges: I was not accepted to Dartmouth College or Johns Hopkins University (woah big surprise there), but was accepted to the University of Rochester, Gettysburg College, The College of New Jersey, Pittsburgh University, and Arcadia University.

8. We attempted to visit TCNJ but I was having an emotional low and my stomach felt bad (which could have been a side effect of the emotional low), so we ended up driving up there, driving around the campus, and coming home. We also visited Gettysburg where I got a fantastic feeling, and the University of Rochester, where I had thought I would be attending but when I got there the feeling was not right.

9. Ultimately, I decided to accept admission to Gettysburg College, and am extremely pleased with my decision.

10. I “played” soccer on the Varsity squad; in reality I was a benchwarmer, and soccer made me feel inferior and terrible about myself almost every day, so I am quite happy I will not have to deal with that pressure and negativity anymore. It was not the other players who were negative at all-they were all fantastic-it was just my own low self esteem causing itself to sink lower.

11. I received 1,000 Places to See Before You Die and have made it a life goal to visit as many of these places as possible.

12. I have gotten addicted to gaming videos on YouTube, and regularly follow everyone in Smosh Games. I have also begun watching Achievement Hunter, including Red vs. Blue. I am currently about to start the fifth season.

13. I have also become obsessed with vlogs, some of them including WatchUsLiveandStuff and MostlyMelanie, to the point where during my day I narrate my life as if I am doing a vlog. I have been considering how I would feel vlogging versus blogging. Should I try it? I do not know if I have the right presentation skills or technology, but maybe I can upgrade my camera before college and try it.

14. I survived 18 years on this planet. That also means I upgraded my license and can drive more than one person at a time.

15. For the NHS induction ceremony this year, the teacher I nominated to speak at the ceremony, my AP English teacher, was chosen. Subsequently, I was given the opportunity to write an introduction for her and speak at the ceremony, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside because she is such an important mentor for me.

16. I lost my Mommom (my dad’s mom), which has been a complicated and very sad experience.

17. My ex and I came this close to winning our last Science League competition. We were only 8 points, or two questions, behind the dominant school at these competitions, and our two schools had essentially slaughtered everyone else. It was a fantastic way to end one of my favorite extracurricular activities.

18. I felt lonely, unmotivated, hateful, sad and a conglomeration of other negative emotions. I have essentially become a pessimist, which is a bit ironic or funny or whatever because I used to be the most optimistic person I knew.

19. I became a lab tech for my Chemistry teacher. Though most of the work she has given us has been menial, and the fact people always ask my ex for assistance makes me jealous still, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and how chill it is to hang out with the two Chemistry teachers during my SRE and lunch.

20. I saw Frozen, which was really personal for me because of the depression and anxiety Elsa experiences. We also blame Disney for promoting Frozen so much they decided to control the weather and make it the snowiest winter we’ve had in years.

21. Other than on this blog and my sister blog on Tumblr, I still do not share my writing pieces with other people. However, I have given my best friends and my ex (well, when we were together) permission to view my blog.

22. I took German IV (finally), and am so excited to pursue German as a minor in college.

23. I came this close to passing a 2100 on my SATs, but I think a 2090 excellent. Yeah this part of the list is pretty arrogant, but considering how low my self-esteem is, I hope you all will forgive it. Even though it is a worthless number that in no way gauges how smart you really are.

24. I did not attend the senior trip because my two friends did not go; I was not as upset as I thought I would be. I will get to Disney World…eventually.

25. I have decided, for the moment, I want to major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology while minoring in German; I could possibly add a minor in Neuroscience or English.

26. I have been expanding my comfort zone as far as food goes. Previously I have been a picky eater, but I have been trying new foods whenever I get the chance, worrying most of my family to the point that they will put a hand to my forehead to see if I am feverish.

27. I unfortunately engaged in self-harm, though I have been cut-free for months now. I think that deserves a =).

28. I tried to start learning for the knowledge instead of the grade, and to ingrain information in my mind for long-term learning rather than the short-term, forget-about-it-after-the-test thing I have been doing for most of my academic life. AP Chemistry made this sentiment a lot harder.

29. I attended Black and Gold Night, in which the entire high school is separated by last name and the Black and Gold teams duke it out, first in study hall activities like Pictionary and Wii Bowling, and then on Black and Gold Night, where they have a lot of spirit and athletic competitions. And, for the first time in YEARS, Gold Team (my team) won.

30. We successfully pranked my AP English teacher on April Fool’s Day and made her believe none of us had done our homework. It was one of the most amusing events I have ever witnessed.

31. I started watching Attack on Titan. I am not sure if I am in love with it yet (I have only seen the first three episodes), but I really want to find it subbed instead of dubbed, which is all I can seem to find. I abhor dubbed; it feels weird watching anime without the emotion of the original voice actors. Plus dramatic statements in English just sound awkward to me.

32. I ate at Panera for the first time ever, and have discovered their magical macaroni and cheese. Seriously, the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had. The macaroni, which I think is just spaghetti shells, is soft and the cheese is so gooey, a small cup of that with a piece of bread is enough dinner for me (but then again, I like eating multiple small meals).

33. Though my friends circle has, I suppose, shrunk a little, I still have the best friends in the world and love them dearly. For example, I was emotionally distraught this morning and just laid around the house all day. After telling them what was wrong, they came home over my house for a quick visit to hug me and tell me I’m perfect. They are the reason I have the energy to finish this blog (and hopefully complete other tasks throughout the day).

Well, that is probably the longest list I have written in awhile, so thank you if you actually read through all of it! Happy two years, Just Me and My Thoughts, and here’s to another year of blogging awesomeness!

8 Reasons I Fell In Love With “The Fault in Our Stars”

(Sort-of spoilers ahead, specifically in #3, 5 and 7. If you haven’t read the book yet, you should be able to read the other numbers or at least the bolded sections. Maybe writing this in depth list isn’t so helpful to people looking for a good book to read if it spoils parts of the novel…oh well.)

Yesterday I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which has got to be one of the greatest modern novels composed, for the following reasons (in a somewhat but not really particular order).

1) Allusions and Symbolism. Lots and lots of allusions. Being a former AP English Lit student, I was able to identify them many of them as the meaning each work brought to the novel. Allusions include “The Red Wheelbarrow”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and of course, Shakespeare. The title of the novel comes from a line in Julius Caesar, in which Caesar says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves” (Shakespeare 1.2.140-141). Furthermore, there is a smorgasbord of symbols, particularly representations through the characters. There is a ton of water (rebirth, cleansing) symbolism (for example,  Augustus’s last name is Waters and they (Hazel and Gus) travel to Amsterdam, a city famous for its canals).

2) Writing Style. I’m usually a fan of the classical, lots-of-fancy-language-and-run-on-sentences style of writing, but the ideas surrounding the novel are so strong John Green does not need to be “fancy”. Moreover, it just makes more sense the writing style is more relaxed, considering a teenager is the narrator. It includes some script-like conversation between characters (Example: Me: Hi Mom. Mom: Hi there), which I really enjoyed for some inexplicable reason.

3) Themes. There are a multitude of important concepts covered in the novel, the most important being the struggle for immorality and two ultimate life questions: Will I be loved? Will I be remembered?

The novel emphasizes the way even a novel cannot immortalize an individual. For example, John Green states, “Nothing (at least that can be done by humans) immortalizes anyone. The Fault in Our Stars will hopefully have a long and wonderful life, but it will eventually go out of print, and eventually the last person ever to read it will die, and then the characters will no longer live in any consciousness” (The Fault in Our Stars Q and A 5-6).

So that might seem depressing, especially to someone like myself who adores the possibility of immortality promised in writing. However, Green goes on to explain, “Also, that is okay…What Gus in particular must reconcile himself to is that being temporary does not mean being unimportant or meaningless” (TFIOS Q and A 6). Even though one is mortal, the here-and-now of life is just as important as it would be if our lives were remembered forever. Essentially, the novel suggests the meaning of life is to continue to lead significant lives notwithstanding our own mortality.

The novel also describes the struggle of those like Hazel who attempt to refrain from becoming a “grenade”, harming their loved ones with their departure (specifically death). John Green demonstrates through Hazel and Gus’s relationship hurting one’s loved ones, simply by being loved, is okay. As Gus writes, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you” (TFIOS 313).

4) Characters who also love literature, metaphors, and using big words. These are people I can relate to! Not only do these characters make reading more personable (to me at least), it allows John Green to include important literary allusions flawlessly (see #1) in the novel.

5) “Okay”. Isaac and his girlfriend say “Always” to each other as a sugary, romantic way of saying “I will love you forever”. “Okay” becomes Hazel and Gus’s “Always”, which is not a promise of a forever but of real, substantial love. Sort of the kind of thing I find attractive in a relationship (not overly romantic).

6) Realism. Many of the other components of this list could fit into this category, such as writing style and theme, but I wanted to point out just how real this book feels. Its characters and the interactions between them seem pretty legitimate to me. The novel addresses realistic ideals, including the impossibility of human immortality.

7) The novel does not portray cancer patients as overly cheerful, strong, wonderful people, or the dead as virtuous and venerable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mommom, who passed away this year. But she had many, many flaws. Cancer patients, stereotypically depicted as heroic survives, can be these astounding, angelic individuals. But they are still real people, who experience anger, misjudgments, and, well, all of the normal human emotions. All of the cancer patients in this novel-Hazel, Gus, Isaac and Caroline Mathers-are complex characters with good and bad qualities.  Additionally, when Isaac and Hazel write their eulogies for Gus’s funeral, though they opt for a more sentimental speech at his actual funeral, they poke fun at his life and his shortcomings. Green does not “sentimentalize or romanticize anything in the book” and combats the oversimplification that “suffering is heroic, and that cancer suffering in particular strengthens you and makes you better” (TFIOS Q and A, pg 23).

8) I read this novel at a perfect time in my life. The past year, more specifically the last month, of my life has been encompassed by the question of the meaning of life. More importantly, what is it that I want from my own life? While I was reading the novel, especially in the beginning, I was shocked by the reality of my own mortality, and, in short, would not accept it. As I began to realize I was “temporary”, I spiraled into more depression. I would channel my inner Augustus Waters and ask myself, what is the point if no one will remember us?  After finishing the novel, I have been satisfied with a somewhat answer. Indeed, there is a point in living fully even though we are only mortal. I have yet to discern the specifics of the meaning of my own life, but will and must continue to hope living is truly worthwhile.

I am so excited to see the movie when it is released in theaters, and am very pleased to have enjoyed the “small infinity” contained in this novel.

A Pro of Breaking Up

It’s been a little over a month since my ex and I broke up. I would like to  report a full recovery, but this of course is not the case. I’ve thought about him almost every day, and recently there have been some pretty bad nights. Additionally, I’m not quite sure how to equate the break-up into discerning my levels of depression; I cannot decipher if my depression is making the break-up more difficult or if the break-up is making my depression worse. Or maybe both.

However, I have recently noticed how the break-up has helped me become closer to my friends (again). When I was still dating my ex, he was usually the first person I turned to whenever I had an issue  because I knew he would text back immediately. Now that I am dedicated to establishing (and enforcing) that post-breakup “space”, I find myself incessantly turning to my other friends for help. I am also spending more time with them, in and out of school, which has breached the distance between us.

For example, today in my lunch/lab technician period I was able to enjoy a 30+ minute conversation with my best friend about, among other things, the couples in her stories and our multiple OTPs (which of course destroys the purpose of a “ONE true pair”, but that hasn’t stopped anyone else). Last night we texted for about two hours, and we plan to take her prom dress shopping  (hopefully with our other friend) this weekend.

I still miss conversing with my ex, and will be grateful when, after the pain has waned, I can talk to him again. However, I am thoroughly enjoying my restored closeness with my best friends, and really hope they sense it too. I also hope they realize how sorry I am that while going out with my ex we were not as close as we should have been.

Lenten Progress Report: Well, I caved, and I am quite disappointed in myself. Though I did not venture into the depths of Tumblr, I listened and sang various songs which perpetuate my bad mood. However, I will not be discouraged and remember God love sinners, and I can redeem myself.

Another bad religious joke (courtesy of my little sister): Hey, do you wanna build an ark. I know-a (Noah) guy.

Feeling #ForeverAlone on Valentine’s Day?

It could be worse. Your boyfriend could have broken up with you the week of Valentine’s day.

Yeah….

I’m still in a period of mourning-currently I’m in the guilt stage where I’m looking back on what I might have done differently to prevent the break-up, though I suppose it would not have changed much. What are the other stages of breaking up I have gone through so far?

First it was denial, which occurred right after we broke up. Nothing really felt that different at the time, so it was hard to realize I no longer had a boyfriend. In the middle of my stage of denial, I had a night of crying hysterically and thinking how unfair our break-up was because I really love him. I had thought our relationship was perfect, but now I see from his side it wasn’t, and I wonder how long it had been that way.

I continued with my denial until I suppose the end of the next day, because I had gone through a whole school day that had no involved seeing him. Though we agreed to be friends (because we do have a fantastic friendship) I conveyed I needed space for some time in order to get over him.

In order to push through my lingering sense of denial, I listened to some really sad break-up songs (mostly Taylor Swift) so I could get some crying out of the way. They hurt a lot, but I believe they will help me in the long run. Acting like a strong, I-don’t-care-we’re-over type of woman in real life doesn’t help anything; in my opinion, it simply prolongs the pain because one does not confront their emotions and let them wallow and become stronger inside. My friend also shared an excellent Sara Bareilles song with me that was exactly what I needed-a song saying that I was still devastated by the break-up, and would not get over this guy very quickly, but one day I would. At this time I truly entered the  mourning stage.

I’m still very much sad, but I will survive. Though I might have mixed feelings on why we broke up, I am definitely not mad at him for his timing. I would rather be broken up with prior to Valentine’s Day than to think my relationship is perfectly fine on Valentine’s Day when it’s really not, only to be broken up with a few days later.

Though there are a lot of songs I could relate to my situation, the one that puts me the most at ease is Taylor Swift’s “Sad Beautiful Tragic”. Despite the tragedy of the relationship, it was very beautiful at the same time, and once the pain has passed I will be able to look back on it and reminisce of how wonderful (albeit bumpy) this relationship had been.

Thanks to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along-Block, I no longer say “Everything happens for a reason”. Just, “everything happens”. And you deal with it.