The Common Cold By Carrington Hughes

As I recover from my most recent disease known as the common cold, I reflect on all the thoughts that consistently plagued my mind during that god-forbidden time. Considering that this was my first cold in two years, I found this experience to be particularly daunting due to my crippled immune system. I have decided to share these thoughts with you all in an attempt put my suffering into words and provide hope for anyone else going through such trauma. Sorry in advance.


Day 1: Dang, my throat is a little sore. I probably shouldn’t have left my window open before bed while it was literally snowing. I guess I’ll just take a Covid test and some medicine so that I’ll be better by tomorrow.

Day 2: I don’t have Covid but…my throat…is more sore than yesterday…no worries haha. I’ll just take more medicine and I will definitely not be sick tomorrow.

Day 3: *Loses Voice* Okay. I don’t remember the common cold being this bad lol hahaha hahahaa it’ll all be fine. *starts mixing medicine*

Day 4: Golly gee this cold is really kicking my buttocks. It’ll be better soon I am sure.

Day 5: Dying. Death. Deathbed. Can’t breathe. Death.

Day 6: *googles the symptoms of tonsillitis* *Convinces myself I have tonsillitis*  *Mother completely ignores me because she knows I do not have tonsillitis* *Finds out I indeed do not have tonsillitis*

Day 7: *acceptance*


My Odyssey By Claire Borden

The Odyssey (Barnes & Noble Signature Editions) eBook by Homer - 9781435141209 | Rakuten Kobo United States

I had to get out. That was all I could think. I couldn’t even be bothered to put on shoes before rushing out the door. During that time, meltdowns like this were a common occurrence, whether over a fight with my siblings, or a limit my parents set. I had no experience with the typical “run away” that most people can tell a story of their own about, though. 

I started out at a run, emulating a character in one of the books I loved to read. I did things fairly theatrically, because I read a lot and acted in plays, so playing the part of a wild child runaway was right up my alley. Of course I never meant to stay away, only to satisfy my classic middle child thirst for attention by making my entire family sick with worry and ashamed for antagonizing me in the first place. 

As night began to fall, I started to regret not bringing shoes or something warmer, but I couldn’t turn back now. In reality, I probably hadn’t been gone for long, but to a fourth grader with adrenaline pumping through her veins, it felt like hours. I deliberately took wrong turns and tried to get myself lost; my old, safe neighborhood grew dull and tiresome. I especially didn’t want to run into any nosy neighbors. Soon I passed a couple I didn’t know walking their dog. 

“You alright sweetie? Need any help?” the lady asked. I stopped abruptly, embarrassed and guilty, as if I had been caught doing something I shouldn’t.

“No I’m fine, thanks. My house is right up there.” I said hastily, pointing vaguely. I walked away quickly. As it got darker and darker I started to get uneasy. Why didn’t I ask the couple for directions? In reality I was probably within a mile of my house and having always been granted free range of my neighborhood, I knew I would never face any real danger. My real problem was getting back home. I kept taking more and more turns, thinking I recognized street names, but I only got more and more lost. Then, I saw it: CVS. I had been walking or biking to CVS with my sister for years to pick up candy and snacks, so to me, that fluorescent drug store sign was like an oasis in the desert. 

As I quickly made the trek home, the guilt started to set in. I felt sure that my parents had filed a missing persons report by then, and when I walked in the house I would be met with tearful hugs and kisses. This always happened; I would do something I couldn’t take back in the heat of the moment and then regret it once I had cooled down. Why couldn’t I ever control my temper? My cheeks and neck started to burn bright red. I took a deep breath and got ready to face the music, certain that I deserved whatever punishment my parents decided on. I walked through the door and into a dark living room. Hearing the door shut, my mom came downstairs and I braced myself for some sort of reaction.

 “Hi sweetie, were you on a walk?”


November Music Review By Jaimee Martin

Winter is practically here in Northeast Ohio, and it’s time for a catch-up and chill-out moment. For this top 10 mix, it means R&B and steady electronic with a little bit of alternative and subtle accents mixed in. On the interpretive side, I’m bringing all the emotions – some melodramatism, a lot of complex, beautiful love, nostalgia, and a drop of that winter depression for comfort. You should definitely feel on the page if you listen to all of them, and maybe even open your mind to making them regular shuffles. The last mention, there’s no hiding it, this month’s review is dominated by Australians and Black people, so celebrate….I’m not sure what but it feels a lil celebratory to me. Obviously, I love every song on here, so they aren’t in any particular order just displaying my current loves for the readers (and listeners, of course). Happy listening!

1. Free Time – Ruel

I know I said these go in no particular order…..but this is definitely, hands down the number one song of the month. While a lot of Ruel’s music is categorical into a singing, dancing, or montage playlist, this song isn’t – it’s uncategorical in the best way. Free Time glows in this gray area that’s all emotions and love, making you think ‘I want to be wanted that way’. Its alt-pop with rock undertones quality reminds me of 5sos music – I mean Australian men, what can you do? – but with a different punchline in knowing that the feelings are all him. No co-writers to fall back on, when you listen you feel the love Ruel feels, you want with the intensity that he wants. Free Time is a repeat, solo listen, and/or fitting into any metaphorical playlists you have.

2. Session 33 – Summer Walker

The follow-up to Walker’s Session 32 released as an add-on to the Over it (Complete Set) version gives an emotional, deeply vulnerable look into her life as a single Black parent who is also simply a heartbroken young woman. It’s a beautiful balance she showcases on a classic studio ‘session’ style guitar melody; I picture her sitting on a barstool inside the box with her eyes closed as she feels the music flow instrumentally through her fingers and spiritually through her energy. At least, that’s how she makes me feel each time I hear her voice combined with her smooth R&B tones. This one is a must to check out, especially when you want to feel what you’re listening to.

3. Summer Insecurity – KIAN

Ok so here is Aussie #2, KIAN, who is also beautiful and stunning and wonderful. The entire Bliss EP encapsulates him so well as others’ perception of him work in combination with his perception of himself. Summer Insecurity is the height of it: a poetic, blissful piece about the unique depression that can settle in summer, set on neo-R&B instrumental. And that is exactly how it reads, a ‘windows down, night drive in the summer’. Purposelessness is its own vibe. All of Bliss is an aux must, but if you’re particular about your car listening, this is the one to add.

4. 16 – Baby Keem

21-years-old and opening a specific piece of the rap industry for himself, Baby Keem is growing more authentic with each release. In a way, being underrated adds a line of connection for the listener in his music, especially 16. It’s the kind of song you associate with a person while simultaneously seeing yourself and feeling the artist come through. There’s ‘young love, young life’ value in the song alone as well as in the context of the greater album’s theme. It only adds dimension to it as a safe place, with an underlying desperate calling you hear even in his young love when put in the context of his trauma. 16 is a song that exposes, but only if you look for it, and even if you don’t it can still fit almost any mix.

5.  Where Did I Go – Park Hye Jin

The best aspect of music is that it is the universal language in itself – not just in the instrumental, but in the way artists articulate themselves. While some of Jin’s music is in English, most of her non-instrumental songs are in Korean, sung with a low tone EDM vibe. Her latest album, Before I Die, sounds like what you would expect, while also bringing a new and fresh alternative autotune variation. Where Did I Go is easily my favorite song on the new release because of its versatility as well as a connectedness to Jin as an artist. The repeat of a simple question shows her mental self and makes you end up asking the same question when you’re laying around listening to it. To diversify your mix, add Jin to an ‘in my room’, ‘on a walk’, or ‘skating’ playlist.

6. Everything Has Changed (Taylor’s Version) – Taylor Swift ft Ed Sheeran

Swift’s Red of 2012 was everything you wanted it to be, and to have Taylor’s Version only makes it better. That being said, Swift and Sheeran together then was my favorite on the album, and it’s no different now. The combination brings out this ‘I click with your passion, but we just get how it has a simple and real meaning’ in each other that is not only rare but changes the song itself. I hear Taylor when Ed is singing and vice versa as they express the value in people that is so unmatched to other parts of life. The acoustically modern twist she’s added to much of her Taylor’s Version songs has only enhanced their nostalgic and ‘personal to Taylor’ quality. Checking out Red (Taylor’s Version) will only bring you more and extend your already existing love for her.

7. Introspection Reimagined – UMI

When a title track is what makes the album, it enhances both the individual song and the entire release. Introspection Reimagined does just that, but then on a whole new level because it’s the title track of, UMI’s alternative EP to the original Introspection. Both releases are incredible in their own right, but the jazz, soul, and rhythm remix in the ‘reimagined’ version makes it go crazy. Above all this song is very, very artistic when you see the layers unfold, not to mention all of its ‘normal’ great music qualities. UMI’s abstract, poetic lyrics put you in the jazz scene perfectly, giving a Black speakeasy and cocktails sound with the youth that never fails to bring life into her tone. Introspection Reimagined the song is a diversify-the-mix must, and you might as well get to know the EP stories while you’re at it.

8. courage – Ruel

Anddd…Australian appearance #3. Although to be fair, this time it’s an artist repeat which could mean worse or better depending on your music taste. Ruel’s third studio EP, Bright Lights, Red Eyes really taps into his 70’s vintage, alt-pop sound, complete with grain in every dull but colorful music video. courage, however, hits this bull’s eye of catchy Am, Em chords, with lovely layered lyrics – it’s so unexplainably addicting. Ruel sings with a certain simplicity, that is consistent with courage as well but takes it to an entirely new level where you feel his humanity in not only knowing, but just being ok with himself. It’s a repeat listen, that you’ll never stop relating to.

9. Moth To A Flame

The Weeknd is my favorite music artist, which any who continue reading will soon come to know. This isn’t my favorite by him, but of course with a bias, that I allow myself to have, he sets the bar so high that average still gives me chills. For those that know his style well, you can feel the horror-alt quirks woven into what is now seen as a pop-R&B version of The Weeknd. His ‘sex, money, drugs’ theme never becomes old because it’s too vulnerable and him to be old; He’s unfeeling while knowing he feels, and he avoids while knowing he can’t help himself. All of it comes through, albeit, at a basic level, but still comes through in the way he calls to this mysterious girl who’s ultimately as melancholic as he is. It wraps you up in this love complex with also giving you the modern, winter music vibe.

10. New Rules (SG Lewis Remix) – Dua Lipa

New Rules is the only true oldie on here, but you gotta mix it up sometimes; Catching up doesn’t always mean literally current songs, it’s more of a mental satiating. Lipa’s Remix combination radiates just that, but SG Lewis’s version is unique in that it’s timeless. We know the original song and the original lyrics, so there’s no escaping the 2018 vibe completely – it’s inside your brain – but Lewis’s mix practically achieves it in itself. The chill EDM mix is perfect for any energy level, while still maintaining the Dua Lipa and 2018 music we love. If you haven’t sought out the remixes EP before, now’s the time to go back and see the song in a new light, but make sure SG Lewis’s version gets saved.

Scaredy-Cat Struggles by Sonali Khatri

As we move past Halloween and into the holiday season I’ve started to reminisce. The memories I’m starting to recall are related to me being scared. I used to be scared of everything. A class A scaredy-cat. Here are a few instances that stand out to me:

  1. Evil Furby: I remember when I was eight years old I got a bright blue Furby for Christmas. We were practically inseparable until my brother told me he watched a video that said Furbies had the ability to record your voice and spy on you… Without even giving it a second thought I threw my Furby into a drawer (the farthest empty vessel from my room). Even though I disposed of the Furby, the fact that I knew it was still under my roof sent chills down my spine. 
  2. Horror Movies: My fear of horror movies growing up was so bad that even seeing the movie poster of Annabelle would keep me up for hours. The dark mass next to my closet? Annabelle. The random floor creaks? Annabelle. Who would grab me if my arm was dangling off my bed? Annabelle. You get the point. I didn’t even have to see the movie to be scared straight.
  3. The Dark: I’m sure this was a universal experience. There was just something about the dark that would give me cold sweats. I have some core memories of turning off the lights and sprinting up the stairs to my room in the middle of the night. Yeah, my heart would be pounding out of my chest, and I could barely catch my breath, but at least I outran whatever monster was magically conjured up when I flicked the light switch.
  4. Urban Myths and Ghost Stories: I was scared but also unreasonably gullible. Whatever urban myth you can think of, I definitely believed in it. Ouija boards, Bloody Mary, the random chain mail messages that would threaten you with a haunting if you didn’t send it to ten other people before midnight…  The list goes on.

However, I’m proud to say that my fear tolerance has since improved. Horror has become one of my favorite genres, I walk up the stairs in the middle of the night, and Halloween is my favorite holiday. I think if my six-year-old self saw me now she would be relieved. Life without irrational fears is so much better.

Dungeons & Disaster by Ella Szalay

About a year ago, the Shaker Theatre Arts program put on a virtual production of She Kills Monsters, most of which takes place in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. A friend and I were both in the show, and after a few weeks of rehearsals, they asked me if I wanted to actually play D&D. They said I could join a campaign with some of their friends, even though it had been running for a few months. I had never thought about trying it, but since the opportunity came up, I was like “Why not?” I got a character sheet made, and Haruko Crispina, my first ever D&D character, was born. Since it’s been about a year since her creation, I thought now was the perfect time to look back on the, for lack of a better word, interesting things she’s done.

Originally, I imagined Haruko as a book-smart voice of reason for the campaign who also makes a few questionable decisions on occasion. Until she started traveling with the rest of the party, she was a major bookworm who had never left her hometown, which is a safe haven for magic-users like herself. However, if there’s one thing I’ve learned after being in a few campaigns, it’s that your character will often end up being a bit different than you originally imagined. I’m not sure what exactly it was that made me change Haruko’s personality, but chances are that it was the very first session. As I said earlier, I’d joined this campaign a few months after it started, so the rest of the party had been traveling together for a bit. At the point Haruko was introduced, everyone else arrived in her hometown, and they were taking tests so they could be protected by this city in the future. While three people still had to pass their combat-based tests, two others were finished and decided to go watch the others. On the way, they met Haruko and invited her to come with them. They then proceeded to drink excessive amounts of chocolate milk as they watched the rest of the party complete their combat trials. Because of this incident, not only did Haruko join the party, but the group decided to call themselves the Chocolate Milk Club.

Fast forward about six months (in campaign, not real time), the Chocolate Milk Club found themselves “forcefully employed” by the government, which is a very long story. They had been there for about three months at this point, and Haruko gained the position of a junior researcher, as well as an intern under one of the main researchers of the institute, Lia Amakiir. Haruko had noticed that Lia hadn’t been coming to dinner for the past few weeks, and she decided to use her pager to tell Lia to come eat. There had been a few incidents with the Chocolate Milk Club and poorly sending messages, so the DM thought it would be funny to have me say exactly what it is Haruko was going to say to Lia. I have no clue what possessed me while I was improvising this message, but I started it with “hey shawty,” which greatly confused everyone there. I decided to roll with it, exclusively referring to Lia as shawty the entire session. Eventually, one of the party members asked why Haruko was calling her that, and I panicked because I didn’t have a reason that made sense in character. On the spot, I created the story of a book from Haruko’s childhood where the main character was a half-elf wizard who worked for the government as a scientist, much like Lia. This character happened to be named Shawty, and Haruko saw the similarities between her and Lia, and that’s how it all started. However, the best part of the shawty incident has to be when Haruko attempted to check out a book from the library, but she was too low-ranked to check it out, and so sirens started blaring and she was taken by security guards. Seeing her badge, the guards asked who her superior was, to which she replied, “Lia Shawty Amakiir.” This led to a lecture from Lia herself, not about setting off the library alarms, but about when and where Haruko can call her shawty.

So the moral of the story here is  1) try new things, because otherwise you’ll never know if they might click, 2) not everything will always turn out the way you imagine, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, and 3) don’t call your boss shawty. At least, not in front of government officials.

My First Panic Attack By Kian Baker


Reflecting on my first panic attack in fourth grade, I wrote about how I felt during the attack and pieced together what I could remember about my surroundings.

Gripping the vinyl picnic table with my cold hands, they turn white from the pressure. I can feel my heart pounding in my chest, my head becoming heavy, and the muscles in my back tensing. My thoughts are an endless cycle of personal abuse, emptying rounds of self-hatred into my skull and bleeding from eyes and nostrils. My breaths are short and confined, like an iron plate has been set on my chest, with my conscious pushing his hands down harder and harder until I drown in my own emotions. I never understood why they hated me so much, but I knew it was my fault.

Watching others cut you with their words, digging deep into insecurities you didn’t know you had, feels like falling down the stairs expecting to hit the hard relief of the floor, but it never arrives. My own selfishness is what I presumed to be the problem, pushing other people away because I couldn’t trust them, but now I wonder if I was justified in my choices. I’ve learned no one is naturally empathetic; it is learned from our peers, and those who presume their blood is concentrated with other people’s emotions, only look down from their pedestal of sympathy.

I am selfish, entitled, and arrogant, putting myself first before others, and slashing their sentences with my own internal hatred. I will gossip and treat others poorly, only to reflect on my behaviors and regret my actions. I am nothing but mistakes stitched together by lessons I have learned, and a strong desire to fix those I have broken. I have been coerced to reveal my vulnerabilities, and manipulated others to do the same. 

They have stared into my eyes, denied my identity, and boasted their delusions, filling my veins with acid and muscles with sand, but I keep my composure. I smile and don’t entice them, because I know they are polite and distant as birds, but claw out your eyes if provoked. Do I have a right to compare them to animals? Am I nothing more than a weaker bird with weaker delusions? Have I been trained to believe I am unique and special, but in reality we are the same?

Opening my eyes I feel the cold air pierce my pupils and the blue sky swallow my thoughts. My hands now hurt from the pressure, and I feel a hand on my back. She never asks me why I am upset, only looks at me with concern. She never asks me to explain and never tells me my reasons are subpar. Sometimes she doesn’t listen, but when she does, she takes in every syllable, pause, and stutter in my speech. They converse about my concerns and work without my knowledge to find a solution. I should be grateful for all I have, the house I live in, the counters I sit on, the blankets I pile under, but does my privilege justify my spiral of self-hatred? Is it punishment for the things god has given me or is it another lesson I must learn from?

She walks me to the baskets of tickets, and I get to break them apart across their perforated lines and sit in silence. The warm stone floors and dark wood trim have absorbed my panic and drained my mind, releasing me from the torture of my conscious. 

Although they write in their notebooks, draw on their screens, and hand me pills and pages of paper, sometimes I feel like they aren’t listening, no matter how hard I scream.

The Holiday Conflict by Reece Turner

As Halloween fades, its decaying pumpkins becoming compost for the soon to be frozen over front lawns that once held plastic skeletons and inflatable Frankenstein heads, a new holiday aesthetic is quickly yet silently ushered in. The ghosts and zombies that were once plastered on every fingerprint-stained store window fall to the ground, their adhesion used to put up evergreen trees and festive deer and images of crystal balls hanging upside down. 

“What about Thanksgiving?” collectively groan the workers and students forced to endure the Mariah Carey and Rankin Bass stop motion clogging the airwaves TV channels otherwise devoted to more tolerable entertainment. 


The worst offender of this holiday erasure is the retail hivemind, whose storefronts in a manner of days change from orange to green and purple to red. Of course, Thanksgiving isn’t profitable; you can’t sell turkeys and cranberries as well as snowmen and magic, but this economic characteristic renders November a conflicting mess of leaves and snow and caramel apples and eggnog, each vying for control over the collective consciousness of the middle class. The holiday war comes to a crescendo midway through the month, around thanksgiving, when the excitement of the poultry-lovers and amateur chefs builds to the point that even 20-foot trees and elegantly blinking lights can’t snuff it out. After a Black Friday denouement, the muddled tug-of-war dissipates, and blankets of snow cover the decaying leaves and a curtain falls on the season of floundering heat and bountiful harvest.


And as December hits, an interesting phenomenon occurs: the dissidents of Christmas silently assimilate, their hatred for the boisterous holiday being finally eroded in this final month. And in the coming weeks up go the Christmas trees and Christmas ornaments, and on go the Christmas carols and Xmas sales, with even the most staunch of festive opposition coming to terms with the encroaching Christmas spirit. This peace lasts until the New Year, where the reindeer and elves hibernate until the next Christmas cycle, their influence echoing on into the coming year.

Dear NXR by Mia Compton-Engle

Dear NXR, 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you, first and foremost, for the swag—I mean, I’ve been hyping up these (detachable pom pom, might I add) neon hats excessively, and yet they did not disappoint. Thank you also for the extravagant exhibitions of Nike might—the columns, the painted van (Oregon license plate, nice touch), the start and finish, and oh my goodness, that course (*swoon*). I understand now why LaVern Gibson is fit for champions and Terre Haute, Indiana is Cross Country Town, USA. Truly, yours is a victory, and my pilgrimage (albeit capitalistic) was nothing less than the epitome of self-fulfillment.

Upon reflection, though, thank you for more.

Thank you for a car ride’s deep meaningful conversations, Red (Taylor’s Version), and rest, a bell jar’s chilling nihility warmed by companionable silence. Thanks—and thanks again—for my dear burrito babies, this temporary satiation of my never-ending runner’s hunger. Thank you for distant connections (absence makes the heart grow fonder, or so they say), and thank you for loved ones near, hot cocoa in a homey lobby away from home. Thank you for a desolate, post-apocalyptic midwestern landscape breathed new vitality by the optimistic “Just Do It” youth. After running through snow and sleet, wind and mud have never seemed more exhilaratingly possible. Thank you for the Heat Waves beat drop the moment we flew downhill, surely intentional on your part. For some nights to come, all I will think about is you. Thank you, too, for hazy showers, for endless carbs, for tours of Italy Nonna style (and, of course, friends who fork-feed you). Thank you for a community in which I can sincerely appreciate All Too Well: The Short Film only somewhat misty eyed. And, hey, thank you for the lively board games, the comforting Disney movies, and the overwhelming sense of security as I surrender myself to sweet sleep. 

Thank you, furthermore, for early morning bathroom study sessions followed by the ultimate breakfast—peanut butter toast, please! And thank you for the cowbells, because seriously, who in their right mind hasn’t experienced a serotonin boost from a simple cowbell. Thanks for the chill van time, the team dad time—let it be known that I have never been so proud of myself as when I successfully closed that overflowing trunk. Fatherhood triumph! And, okay, fine—thank you for the race itself. Thank you for this last opportunity to rewrite my high school cross country narrative and establish my senior legacy, not just as a competitor, but as a teammate. Thank you for the chance to be silly and spontaneous as a Shake City Snake (hiss?); I have freed unadulterated joy for running from past pressure and expectations once again. Thank you for a final podium finish with my family, somehow more meaningful by surprise. And thank you for the nostalgic memory tree (you know the one), the ability to launch my well-worn running shoes onto a branch already supporting countless others—thus joining my season with that of the collective—and at the end of the day, walk away from it all, finally content.

In other words, thank you for the closure. Dear NXR, I thank you, thank you, thank you.





Breaks and Mistakes by Evan Barragate

Whether it is in spring, summer, autumn, or winter, or if it lasts three months or only a week, I always appreciate breaks from school. After months of being strained for five days a week with a two-day weekend, much of which I spend working anyway, there becomes nothing to look forward to until I am reminded of an upcoming break. As with the weekends, I do not take this time off for granted, and it is miraculous how quickly I loosen up. However, this is not because I resent school, as many students do. I instead resent the consistency of the school year and the lack of freedom I face. So, I rejoice when I finally reach these scarce, seasonal breaks. Despite the joy it brings me, this freedom’s most prominent effect is its tendency to lead me to do things that I’m not supposed to do.

Despite being an angel, I almost always get in trouble or do something embarrassing on breaks. But this doesn’t happen because of any rebellious motive I harbor throughout the year that appears over holiday breaks, like Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. And it’s not intentional the majority of the time; it just happens, and the events are memorable. In regards to a break, I may be quick to forget the food I ate, the sights I saw, the people I met, or even where I vacationed, but I always enjoy reminiscing on the embarrassing mistakes I have made over break. I would also assume that others would be more interested in hearing these stories as well. If I explain my nearly annual trips to the magnificent New York City and describe the eminent sights I see, I wouldn’t expect anyone else to be interested because this is only significant for me. Similarly, I wouldn’t be interested in hearing about other people’s vacations.

So, to celebrate the finish line of the autumn portion of the school year being so near, as Thanksgiving break is in a week, I have decided to look back on these instances of my foolish faults that have taken place during any break.

The first example that comes to mind is my hot tub confusion in Turks and Caicos while vacationing over spring break with my family. For context, this was a beautiful location with one of my favorite hotels. The pool was incredibly long and stretched from our hotel to the white, sandy beach. So, it only made sense for there to be a hot tub as well. And then I saw it: a circular, smaller pool with jets letting water majestically flow until they crashed into the surface below. My discovery overjoyed me, and I immediately leaped to grab a raft and make my way into the hot tub. For an unknown reason, the water wasn’t nearly as warm as I had anticipated, but I still felt complete bliss. After a couple of minutes floating on my raft in the hot tub, a hotel employee (who didn’t know how to mind his own business) had the nerve to yell at me, claiming that I was in the hotel’s fountain. This was an incredibly embarrassing moment for me, so thankfully, I can say that I was only in fifth grade – even though I could see this happening now.

The second experience in mind was actually during the same trip, which I’m sure you could assume was an entertaining one for my family. A day or two following my hot tub incident, I decided to go paddle boarding. Excited by the endless turquoise water below me and clear skies above, I easily got the hang of rowing and felt I could continue paddling forever, which I subconsciously seemed to be doing. However, all vacationers are familiar with the long ropes attached to floating bobs that enclose the designated area of the ocean for a resort. These ropes always frustrate me because why should I be prevented from the rest of the ocean? It’s a body of water; it doesn’t belong to anyone. Am I going to be arrested by the ocean police for paddling beyond this flimsy rope? So, I ignored this border and continued paddling into the distance. Also, I didn’t truly paddle this direction because I was set on doing so, but mostly because I didn’t know how to steer. This caused the beach safety patrolman to “rescue” me by boating out to my location. I shamefully had to travel back to my family and the crowd of beachgoers on the back of this boat – my day of paddling being cut short.

My third tale of embarrassment did not take place while vacationing with my family, but while on a short trip with my friends at a summer camp to a kayaking service on a river. As usual, I failed to pay attention when the instructors explained where our stopping point would be. But I figured that I would be fine. After these instructions and beginning our trip down the river, I became displeased with friends’ rowing speed and impressed by my own, inspiring me to leave them behind. I possessed some competitive attitude that seems to have disappeared by now, and I internally made the leisurely activity out to be a race. I felt accomplished after passing everyone I was with – beating them in a race they didn’t know they were in. Nothing could stop me, but that was my problem. I didn’t know where to stop, and I didn’t know where I was going. So, rather than logically deciding to put down my paddle and wait for the others, I continued at my intense rate with no clear intention. After what felt like hours, I observed my surroundings shift, and I felt as if I had kayaked out of the country. Finally, I gave in and decided to paddle back towards where I came, which I knew would take far longer as I would have to travel against the river’s current. After an eternity of kayaking, a diving unit discovered me, asking if I was alright and preparing to take me back. They acted as if I was drowning and like they had to rescue me, causing me to roll my eyes the whole way back.

I believe that the freedom brought by vacation goes to my head, which results in these embarrassing events. Does that mean that I think I should restrain myself while on break to prevent these mistakes? No, I believe the opposite. I regret none of these experiences because everyone deserves to do what they want when they get a break after a period of hard work, regardless of whether or not it is allowed. Hopefully, I will be able to laugh at another one of these mistakes this Thanksgiving break.

Rules of a Sanctuary by Julia Mennes

Sleep. Ever since I was little, it has been something I have looked at as a daunting chore. Even when I find myself with the rare opportunity to go to bed early, the experience soon becomes anything but relaxing. My mind grows anxious as I desperately count the total hours I will be able to sleep. As I watch this number slowly decrease, I quickly think up all of the more productive things I could be doing than just lazily laying in my bed. I always assumed I was just one of the unlucky ones, that I was cursed with the unpleasant gift of insomnia. But, recent realizations have led me to the conclusion that I do not have to settle with this recurring problem. Sure, everyone has times that they simply can’t sleep, but I do not have to just watch from the sidelines. I realized one of the most important parts of my sleep is the setting I put myself in to drift off. And as I like to call it, my sanctuary. The Miriam Webster dictionary defines sanctuary as a place that provides safety or protection. This was exactly what I was in search of. In order to make my bedroom a sanctuary, I had to make a few changes in both my physical space and my habits. After making these changes and experiencing a bit of trial and error, I have compiled a list of my rules for creating (and maintaining) a sanctuary. 

  1. Start by looking at your daytime habits. Sleep is not just something that involves night. Do you have enough activity (physical and/or mental) going on to even be tired at night? How about your caffeine intake? Are you napping during the day? In order to get the best sleep and make the most of the sanctuary, your mind must be ready for relaxation.
  2. Lose the distractions. I know it’s hard to do, but screens do not belong in the sanctuary. From personal experience, they disrupt sleep and add an unneeded distraction to your mind. This goes along with homework. If possible, doing homework in a space other than your room is much better. Having it right in front of me as I try to relax just stresses me out even more. 
  3. Make the space personal! I would assume your room is already rather personal, but add some things that specifically calm your mind. For me, this is a pumpkin candle I keep on my bedside table. Lighting it every night is one of my steps to relaxation. 

With that, I hope you can sleep soundly knowing you are maximizing your relaxation time in your very own sanctuary.