What is Normal? by Tomasina DeLong

I have been writing college essays lately and at one point, I caught myself using the word normal. This prompted me to ramble for another paragraph about what “normal” is. I deleted this paragraph because it was unnecessary, but the ideas have not left my mind.

In that context, I said that I wanted to be normal. This meant that I wanted a life without complications. I wanted a life where I not only looked “normal” but lived a “normal” life as well. This was in reference to my medical conditions — I want to be able to go to a friend’s house or leave the country without fear that my breathing and allergies will flair up. I want a life with all of the good and none of the bad. I think about kids at school who are ordinary and don’t have to leave class every day to visit the nurse. I envision that the lives of my peers are simple — without complication — but everyone has their own problems. Even if it is not evident, everyone has their own struggles.

No one’s life is normal because there is not one typical life that a majority of people have. I desire a life that is non-existent, because there is no such thing as normal. I started to think about what my life would be without the things that make my life difficult, and I realized that there are good things that have come from my “abnormal” life. I have good qualities and character traits that have come out of my personal struggle. Good relationships with people and new personality traits have emerged. I am proud of how I have grown from these obstacles.

There is no such thing as “normal.”

My Writing Process by Ian Marr


Sunday, January 6th. 9:13 AM.

I stare at my computer monitor. A blank sheet of paper stares back, untouched by words.

A research paper. Requiring eight sources cited with a minimum of 1,500 and a maximum of 2,500 words.

I tell myself that I’m going to finish it today. Who knows when I’d be able to make myself sit back down and work on it later?

I swallow and begin typing. It’s 9:34 now. Straining myself, I finish typing the last word of the title. 11 words. This is going to take a while.

10:50 AM.

277 words. I have 4 tabs open that are unrelated to the assignment. I’m not worried though. After all, the day is still young, isn’t it?

11:16 AM.

277 words. I found a cool new YouTube channel. This guy’s making videos about various stories he has to tell from his high school years. They’re pretty engaging. I should really get back to work.

11:45 AM.

346 words. I’ve more or less paraphrased the entire first half of one of my sources. That’s definitely how writing essays works. The teacher probably won’t notice.

12:20 PM.

381 words. Time for a lunch break! I heat up a few slices of leftover pizza from two nights ago. The pepperoni slices are still a little cold. Otherwise, it’s alright.

1:08 PM.

381 words. That lunch break took a little longer than I though. I sit back down in the swiveling chair in front of the computer. I can’t work on an empty stomach, can I?

1:40 PM.

473 words. I have come to the conclusion that research papers are incredibly boring. How any one person can spend hours grading these is beyond me.

2:33 PM.

604 words. I found a website with lots of games available that I used to play when I was younger. A quick trip down memory lane ought to be alright.

3:28 PM.

604 words. Did I really just spend an hour playing that? It wasn’t even that fun, now that I think about it. Still, it was pleasing for my nostalgia.

4:15 PM.

698 words. Almost halfway there; I decided a while ago that I wouldn’t be getting far beyond 1,500 words. I really need to figure out how to focus better… I think I’ll Google how to avoid procrastinating. That ought to work.

4:52 PM.

760 words. I’m finally starting to feel a little anxious about finishing this research paper. But, nothing for it but to keep chipping away, I guess.

5:10 PM.

802 words. I wonder if I can use a Wii Remote as a controller on my computer… seems logical to me.

6:29 PM.

802 words. The Wii Remote doesn’t work at all.

6:37 PM.

802 words. Mom says that dinner is ready. I’m glad; I was waiting for something to take my mind of the remote that wasted over an hour.

7:00 PM.

802 words. Mom wanted to watch some television, so I guess I have to go do that now.

7:55 PM.

802 words. I fell asleep in front of the television. Probably a well-deserved nap, but I really should get back to work.

8:36 PM.

911 words. I wonder how long it would take her to notice if I copied and pasted an entire source into my paper.

12:18 AM.

911 words. I woke up to find a massive line of sssssssssss lining the whole screen. There’s a little fewer than six hours before I need to get ready to leave for school. I can get this done by then, right?

12:59 AM.

1,032 words. My eyes keep closing and I’m losing my train of thought. Why did I do this to myself again? I need sleep.

1:45 AM.

1,126 words. I reread my latest paragraph to discover that I had absolutely no recollection of typing most of its content. I don’t know how I managed to do that, but I’m not complaining.

2:32 AM.

1,209 words. I’m going to make myself a bowl of instant ramen. Time for a late-night snack.

3:38 AM.

1,209 words. It turns out that it takes a lot longer to eat a bowl of ramen when there are memes to be browsed on your phone.

3:56 AM.

1,298 words. The day is no longer young. Maybe I’ll just finish the rest at school. At least two hours of sleep would be pretty nice.

4:34 AM.

1,367 words. I’m so close!

5:20 AM.

1,411 words. Seeing the morning fast approaching, my focus shoots through the roof. Just a little bit farther…

6:00 AM.

1,511 words.

I type the final sentence just as I hear my alarm going off from upstairs. As I stare at my finished handiwork, I feel a rush of relief… and remember that my next essay will likely turn out the exact same way.

Birthdays Are Weird by Monet Bouie

Birthdays are weird. Don’t get me wrong, I love the attention. As narcissistic as that sounds, it’s tremendously true. I’m very overt in my anticipation for gifts, food, and the “Happy Birthday” song. I revel in the fact that on your one special day you can practically do whatever you want. On this day you are royalty, or even a god, and all must bend to your command. But birthdays also seem perplexing in that we choose to celebrate a pagan tradition with balloons, cake, and candles to commemorate to getting closer and closer to death.

Wow, that got morbid really fast.

So this past Thursday was my birthday (December 13th, in case you want to put it in your calendar for next year). My 18th birthday to be exact. People have told me that your 18th birthday is a major milestone in your life. The 18th birthday is arguably the most important in American society. There are a multitude of responsibilities and expectations that come with it as well. In the eye’s of the general public, you are a young adult.  I’m like a metaphorical butterfly who’s ready to burst out of its cocoon!

But how does one… “adult”? I woke up that morning not feeling any different. I put on my clothes and they didn’t fit any differently. In the mirror I still looked the same. I didn’t notice any wrinkles or grey hairs. I walked downstairs to get breakfast and I still craved my favorite cereal filled with high fructose corn syrup over my mom’s healthier alternative, Shredded Wheat. On the car ride to school I still opted to blast 2000’s Disney music over listening to a podcast. And so on and so forth.

Nevertheless, there are a handful of privileges one get when they reach the prime age of 18:



Now that I’m of the legal voting age of 18, the 26th amendment states that I can vote! I can vote in all local and national elections.


Getting a tattoo/ piercing (without a parent permission)

I can tat up my whole body and pierce literally anything and everything… cool. I just have to get over my fear of the needle first.


Open a credit card

I can apply for my own personal credit card without a cosigner. Now someone just needs to tell me how they work.


Enlisting in the armed forces

As a legal adult, I can enlist or be drafted into any branch of the military.


Prison (Big Boy Jail)

Being 18 comes with new consequences. My bad decisions may have landed me a slap on the wrist or a stern talking to but the whole game has changed.


Play the Lottery

That means it’s time to buy $50 worth of scratch cards and try my luck!



Wait, what? I can adopt another human being? That’s crazy! I can barely remember to water my plants! How can I be old enough to care for another person?


Get Married

Marriage? Yuck! That’s just a lot of commitment. I’ve never even had a serious boyfriend. What happened to just going to the movies? Ice cream? Playing cat and mouse? I mean, I always said I wanted to marry Harry Styles as soon as I could but I was only kidding! My mom told me that I couldn’t get married until I was 85 anyway.


Sure, I was a butterfly in its cocoon. It was warm, safe, familiar. But instead of bursting out and flying into the sunset, I was evicted and smacked on the ground. If I’m being honest, I’m afraid of the foggy and unclear journey ahead of me. When will I finally know how to adult? Does anyone truly know?

The Absolutely Horrendous and Hell-Filled Season of Finals and Flu by Bronwyn Warnock

Flu and finals season is upon us. The flu combined with finals makes for the most mind-boggling stressful time of the year. The span of time from late December to late January is mentally straining and pushes some students past their limits.

Prior to winter vacation, I was hit with a double whammy of the flu and strep throat. It was a fun week-long trip of me laying in bed, flushing myself full of lemon-lime Gatorade, and worrying about the enormous mound of schoolwork that was piling up. I tried not to think about school, yet deep down I knew that when I got back the stress and responsibilities would overtake me. Like many others, I work hard throughout the semester to prepare myself to be in a good situation for finals. It is so annoying that I got sick right before break. I feel like I missed out and now I feel like I am behind and UGH.

The flu is a fast and vicious monster that attacks during the winter season. The current flu vaccine only has a 48% protection analysis. That means that more than 50% of people will get the flu even with the vaccine! The school environment spreads germs and thus easily spreads the flu. The Shaker Heights High School finals season directly correlates with the flu season. I believe that the finals schedule should be moved away from the germ-ridden winter season.

Limited Vocabulary by Astrid Braun

I wondered the other day, as I lay in bed, whether writers are ever satisfied with their attempts to express emotions. The older I get, the more limiting the English language seems to me — I flip through my thesaurus in an attempt to expand my vocabulary, but there are concepts that have not yet been put into words. In our language, at least.

The Hindi word jijivisha refers to the strong, eternal desire to live and to continue living. The Spanish word querer describes a love of friends or family that is purely platonic; amor describing its counterpart.

Does the lack of terminology for these feelings in English reveal the blind spots of our cultural values, or does it only show a difference in language development? I assume both — language development and culture are tightly woven together. After all, even if I were to adopt jijivisha into my own everyday vocabulary, it would not convey what I want it to, because we don’t have the cultural understanding to surround the word.

But it could serve its purpose for me, if I developed its meaning enough in the context of my life. I cannot write papers for English class that use después, because somehow it fits better than “after,” but if I choose to do so in my own writing, I can employ whatever words I want. Eventually, still, I will run out of words.

So it is that same cultural understanding — the one that limits me so much — that I need to rely on in order to have any confidence that I’ve conveyed my feelings correctly. I have to know that everyone takes in the same short breath when they come across a deer in the woods, or the same joyful soreness in their neck after they’ve watched fireworks all night. But I know that no one experiences anything the same, and that will always be both my advantage and disadvantage.

No one will ever understand what it is to be me, but maybe my words can help them better understand what it is to be them.

An End of An Era by Madison L. Wilson

In retrospect, the past four years have actually gone by fast, but I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to call my team, better coaches, or a better bagel selection at each XC meet!!!
Much Love.