It’s My Birthday (the 17th One) by Jaimee Martin

VISION BOARDS — CANDICE DENNISYesterday I was 16, today, at 10:21 A.M., I am 17.

That’s right, it’s time for Dancing Queen and road trips to Virginia Beach, real college preparation, and learning how to spend money like an adult.

You see, 17 is truly the best age, there’s no contestor; There is no time in teenage years that captures the intersection of the opposite kinds of freedom offered by childhood versus adulthood better than 17. You have all the privileges of the 18 and older people, but none of the responsibility, and you have all the privileges of 4-year-olds, but the capability to actually do something with it. I can go out when I want, be with who I want, and yet not have to pay any bills or think about retirement. I can say I’m mature and ready for the world, but I can still act wildly irresponsible and play the “I’m just a kid” card – it’s beautiful.

17 is the year for living, a timed but endless, bucket list year in of itself because of its unmatched ‘sweet spot’ qualities, and I plan to live it as much as living will allow for. I want to be reckless while keeping my heart on the future, I want to make memories that will last me for the rest of my time into that future. Most of all, I want to just be, because that’s the ultimate part of living; I want to be here, be with people who I keep the closest, be in my own skin. (So thank you to 17 for giving me the time to experience it)

Yes, 17 does have its moments for the depressed teens too; We’re beginning the journey from packing bags to moving out, to maybe even living in a different country. It’s scary and sad, really sad, because as exciting as the ‘new chapter’ is, we’re all ultimately leaving the life we’ve known and people we’ve loved. The beauty of 17, though, is that the ‘living’ part outweighs it, and you can let the depression mix in organically in a way that makes time still feel safe.

All of this reminds me, for Christmas, my 5-year-old nephew, Henry, got me a trophy. It was made of wonderfully, intricately crafted plastic comprising a lovely, matriarchal woman with her arms spread to the heavens upon a blue base engraved with the words “Congrats on Adulting”. Least to say, it’s the best present I’ve ever received, and yes adulting is coming, a journey of its own I’m more excited than ever to eventually go on. But for now, I’m on the journey of 17 – the journey for living – and for now, to time, I give my gratitude more than ever.

Negative Capability New Year by Sonali Khatri

One day, during a 110 minute English class I became enlightened. Poetry has never meant much to me: a bunch of fancy words that I don’t understand organized into stanzas and iambs. This year, however, we’ve gone beyond the surface level and into the most minuscule details. The conversations I’ve had get so deep at times they give me a mini existential crisis.

The topic for this particular day was Keats and his negative capability. John Keats, a romantic poet, wrote in a letter to his brothers a couple centuries ago about negative capability: mans’ capability “of being in uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts without any irritable reaching after fact or reason”.

It was eye-opening because it reminded me of all my personal experiences in which I have felt uncomfortable with not knowing what the future will hold. Whether it be waiting for college decisions, anticipating a test grade, or making a risky decision it’s always been hard to step away from these sorts of situations with a level head. Keats would argue that this “up in the air-ness” adds to the charm of life.

If we knew everything about everything we wouldn’t be curious or have an imagination. Not knowing what your future will hold allows you to develop personal dreams and goals. Just as Keats believed that refraining from fact and reason allows beauty and art to manifest naturally, refraining from overthinking similarly allows life to take its course in the way it should.

So if you haven’t decided on a new years resolution just yet just jump on the negative capability bandwagon. Living with this philosophy in mind has already helped me on a daily basis. It’s about feeling comfortable in your decisions, remaining in the present, and normalizing the feeling of not always having a definitive answer. So if anyone is nosy and asks what you’re working on this year just say you’re strengthening your negative capability.

Disposables by Kian Baker

I love waiting for the envelope from Walgreens, anxious that my 24 pictures are going to be blurry or unrecognizable, and excited to finally see the little album I have been creating for months. My perspective on photography is that the quality of the image doesn’t matter, but the memory each photo holds does.

At the beginning of my junior year, my family decided to take a road trip to California to visit my mom’s extended family and make stops in Kansas and Colorado to visit my grandma and great aunt. I wasn’t too thrilled to be stuck in a car with my brother and parents for two weeks, but I didn’t have much of a choice.

Before we left, I had started experimenting with taking pictures on a disposable camera. I mainly photographed my family and friends, and only had one camera developed before we left for our trip. I found that when I took disposables, I didn’t care if I looked good, if the lighting was subpar, or if people were moving so much that they came out blurry in the photo. In fact, I started to love those things. I loved the idea of trying to capture hours of excitement into one frame, never wasting one of my 24 chances to click the shutter button, and not worrying about how pale the flash made me. I only cared about pinning the picture on my bulletin board and reliving the moment every time I saw it. So I decided to buy two cameras before leaving, 

At the beginning of our trip, I began to take pictures from the car. I photographed the different landscapes we traveled through, from deserts and cornfields to mountains and hills. Then, as we stopped throughout our trip, I began photographing my family, the places we walked to, and the different places we stayed. I even got a close-up of a squirrel while I was on a hike, and my brother holding a random bird that flew into his hand. As our trip came to an end, and my disposable cameras had zero exposures left to take, I was excited to see the final products of my excessive picture-taking, hoping they would all be clear and colorful.

After I finally got home and gave my camera to Walgreens, I waited an entire week for my photos to come back. When they finally came, they turned out better than I could have imagined. Each photo was clear and every exposure had a story, one that wasn’t told over and over again through endless photos on my phone, but one that was physical and had meaning to me. The road trip cemented my love for film photography and influenced me to buy a point-and-shoot film camera, allowing me to buy cheaper rolls of film and capture even more moments in the future. 

I don’t know if I will ever stop taking pictures, even if that means using my phone in the future, but film cameras have opened my eyes to what photography is all about. No matter how pale I look, how red the glare in everyone’s eyes is, or how blurry their faces are, I think each photo is perfect, and hopefully, in the future, the photos I took will tell those stories all over again. 

Semester One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly by Ella Szalay

After a whole year of learning at home, I found my way back into the halls of Shaker Heights High School this past August for the start of my junior year. Now, here I am, four-ish months later, and I’ve official made it through my first in-person semester of high school since I was freshman. And my goodness, what a semester it’s been. I can’t really think of a good word to describe it because I have several mixed feelings about it. Instead, maybe it’d be easier to reflect on this semester by recalling some of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts.

The good:

  1. Of course, the Shaker Writing Center. Every odd day, when I remember that I have the writing center that day, my day instantly gets better. My confidence in my writing has continued to get better this year, as it did last year thanks to the people who I work with in conferences.
  2. Cyrano de Bergerac. I missed performing live on stage so much during the pandemic, and the cast of Shaker’s fall production of Cyrano made my first live show since COVID hit back in 2020 so memorable. Despite the fact that I cooked alive in my floor-length dress, performing in school for my grade was so fun. I’ve never been able to go to the in-school previews of the fall play, and I’m so glad that the first time I did, I got shoved off stage with a bunch of pastries and poetry in hand while my English class sat front and center.
  3. Marching band. Because I am an upperclassmen, and also because we didn’t have a season last year, it was partially on me to help not just the freshman, but also the sophomores learn how to march this season. They learned very quickly and made this fall’s season so exciting. Can’t wait for the next one (especially since my younger brother will be joining the band as a freshman next year)!

The bad:

  1. Readjusting. Going back to in-person school after a year of online is easier said than done. I had a hard time paying attention to a Google Meet last year (especially with the long periods), so I often made friendship bracelets or colored in a coloring book while listening to my teachers online to help prevent myself from going crazy. Unfortunately, I can’t do that during in-person classes, so relearning how to pay attention in class has been a struggle, and I’m still not quite there.
  2. Even days. My odd day schedules are so nice, but that also comes at the cost of my even day schedule. While my odd days have band, stagecraft, writing center, and Asian studies, that means I have all my most stressful classes jammed into one day. My even schedule goes from pre-AP German to English, pre-calculus, and astronomy. I don’t really dislike these classes, but having all of them on the same day is extremely overwhelming at times.
  3. Migraines. I haven’t had many this school year, but the big one I had was terrible. It was the end of October, and I got what was easily the worst migraine I’ve ever had. It lasted three days (Wednesday-Friday of that week), and the worst part about the whole thing was that I really should’ve gone home and rested, but I didn’t because I was scared of missing too much work. If there’s one thing I learned from that time, it’s that I shouldn’t do that.

And lastly, the ugly:

  1. The fire alarms. I think we can all agree that being in and out of the building four times in one day gets exhausting after a few weeks. Picking up all my stuff knowing that there’s no actual fire in the building and someone just really wants to get out of class (and for some reason, it was always during my favorite classes) got old very fast. Thankfully, we seem to have moved past this era, and now we’re all experts at evacuating the building in case of a real fire.
  2. The PSAT. I didn’t plan on taking the PSAT this October, but it seemed the school had other plans. Personally, I didn’t care much about how I did, but I wanted to at least see how I did since I went through the effort of taking it. However, the day they were meant to come out, no one in Shaker could see their scores. As of now, they are still unavailable. To me, this is just a minor inconvenience, but to others, not having their scores has been extremely stressful.
  3. And of course, COVID. I’m currently writing this on December 17, the last day of the semester, from my desk at home because of the seventy-four new cases of COVID in the high school alone. Seventy. Four. My eighth-grade brother and I decided to stay home today out of concern for our safety, and I know many other students and parents had the same idea.

All that said, my first semester of junior year was crazy, both in a good and bad way. I’m sure many other students feel the same about this semester, and I’m hoping that next semester starts feeling more natural, like how everything felt before the pandemic.

My New Hobby by Lizzy Huang

At summer music camp, I picked up a new interest. I wouldn’t really call it an interest, per se, but more an obligation.

I met a friend who played chess extremely well. I was dragged into one game with him during camp, and I slowly but surely got hooked. Like a fire kindled over time, this obsession started with a few red flames arisen. It started out with a few chess games here and there, every other day, losing most and winning rarely. I started to play more and more with my friend, and watching chess videos not just for entertainment like I had before, but for instruction as well. I started to learn more lines, to watch more grandmasters’ games, and to keep up with the latest news in the chess community. I gradually found it to be a hobby that filled up the little free time I had already possessed.

Now, don’t get the wrong idea here. I am, what you might call, horrible, at chess. I am truly abominable at this game. I invented the art of hanging pieces every time I could, forgetting pieces here and there, tunnel-visioning attacks, blundering left and right. But this game of chess, which I now hold so dear to my heart because it found me one of my best friends now and one of my most engaging interests, has taught me more than I could ever have foreseen.

You see, in the game of chess, it is absolutely vital that you look at the big picture. If you want to succeed, you must never focus on individual pieces or one-move attacks. You must always have a plan, and that plan must be carried and defended on the largest scale you can muster. Chess is not only a game of logic and strategy, but also an art of manipulation and influence. You must be able to manipulate your plan, to manipulate the board such that you force your enemy into submission with little mercy to spare. You must be flexible and change your plan quickly when it does not work in your favor, and you must be able to quickly conjure a new one. You must be able to influence your opponent’s mind such that you are able to carry out that long-run attack you had planned; in the end, you have to see the biggest picture.

One of my flaws has always been my inability to see the bigger picture. My constant compulsion to focus on the little things that don’t matter, to cry over spilled milk and to get upset over broken Legos, have long driven the course of my life. My subconscious refusal to recognize the insignificance of these little, broken, things, have more often than not affected the way I act and respond to certain situations in a negative way. I have been told by my parents numerous times, “it’s not a big deal!” or “don’t worry about it!” But in the moment, how could I know that such heated, fiery emotions that coursed through my veins and enticed my heart to feel such pain was ‘not a big deal’? Only after my emotions subsided and my brain could take control again, did I only ever realize that the pencil I had just lost was indeed, not a big deal.

I had always liked to think that I was improving. I had always liked to believe that everyday was a new day: that with the blooming of the flowers in the fresh air of spring, with the changing of the leaves in the brisk wind of fall, and with the rising of the snow in the frostbitten chills of winter, my inability was slowly turning into an ability. But little did I know how much I really was improving. How could I measure such a thing?

Only until I started playing chess did I realize the severity of my issue. When I started playing, I was absolutely devastatingly terrible at chess. I mean, just downright worse than abominable. Now, as I have improved just the little bit that I have, I like to think that I am better not only at chess, but with my attitude in life. I start to see in my chess playing, which has reflected in my life, that I no longer possess the same level of tunnel-vision that I have before. I am more attentive and have seen more restraint in my life. I am not as impulsive as I was before, and I am certainly not as hotheaded.

Now, I cannot be sure if this development has stemmed from my new hobby. I cannot be certain about that at all. But I can be appreciative of what it has taught me and how I have learned to move forward.

Christmas Wishes by Evan Barragate

Iphone Christmas Gift Stock Photo - Download Image Now - iStock

As far back as I can remember, every kid wanted the same thing for Christmas growing up. It wasn’t a toy, a book, or a game. Everyone wanted Santa to leave an iPhone beneath their festive tree.

This was all I can recall putting on my list as a kid, and I envied any other who had one. I remember scorning anyone my age with a phone and denouncing them as unworthy with my other phoneless friend. I cried tears of joy in fifth grade when I finally received the only gift I had ever wished for in my childhood. After years of making fake phones and carrying empty cases, I was gifted a beautiful, silver, shiny, iPhone 6.

After that Christmas, I became the most confident version of myself I have ever been. I held my device as much as possible – displaying to the world how incredible I was because of my phone. It must have been a rare occurrence all the way back in 2015 to have a cell phone; I must have been one of the only people to have one. I remember the airport being one of the main places I would show off my gadget, likely because of the masses of people there. As I went through the metal detector at customs, I purposely would leave my phone in my pocket so that the detector would beep. Then I would pretend to try to figure out what could have possibly set off the machine, before announcing that I realized it was my iPhone – just to let everyone know I had one.

The excitement and jealousy continued the following couple of holiday seasons. Each year, I asked for the newest model of the iPhone. Thankfully, my parents realized how unnecessary this was, and I continued to criticize those who received this gift that I hoped for. When a girl in our grade lost her iPhone 7, my friend and I agreed, “She deserved it.”

But as time went on, I realized how tired I had become of slow internet, annoying texts, and low storage. Cell phones became something I know that I need, but don’t actually like. So, today I have truly become my mother. My phone is a few years old, and I never update it because I have no interest in doing so. This year, I am not concerned about the gifts I receive, as Christmas is not about presents – it’s about the food.

Last Christmas, This Year by Mia Compton-Engle

I think I speak for everyone when I say that no serotonin boost compares to the opening chords of Wham!’s musical masterpiece Last Christmas (1984). I mean, let’s be honest—you know Last Christmas, you love Last Christmas, and even now, as you recall this forgotten friend, you’re nodding awkwardly to the beat of Last Christmas in your head. At this point, you don’t really have a choice—either you embrace Last Christmas or Last Christmas embraces you, a fate far too traumatizing to imagine, let alone articulate here. I’ve accepted the former—a burning passion for Last Christmas—and encourage you to do the same. Better to be swept away by mind-numbing oblivion in the form of a harmless 80s synth jingle than confront any number of potential existential crises, am I right! In other words, our world has countless problems, but Wham!’s Last Christmas certainly isn’t one of them. Dear Viv, this is the hill upon which I am prepared to die (and accordingly ascend to heaven, where I will inevitably find myself in Wham!’s esteemed company, and we will perform Last Christmas karaoke version on repeat until higher powers rightfully conclude that we are menaces to society and banish us forever. But I digress. The gist is that I’m unhealthily obsessed with Last Christmas). 

Every year, this one being no exception, I eagerly anticipate the holiday season exclusively for Wham!’s siren song. Not only is Last Christmas a tried and true means for familial torture (just ask my parents; they’ve made it painstakingly clear that playing Last Christmas twice in a row is two times too many), but I genuinely appreciate the song’s lyrical ingenuity. In just four minutes and 22 seconds, Wham! captures the entirety of human emotional capability, from heartbreak to heartache and anguish to… nostalgia about anguish (?). I laugh, I cry, I hit rewind and begin again, over and over until Last Christmas becomes a dizzying labyrinth to which sole salvation is Wham!, omnipotent savior, *angelic sigh*. Of course, Wham!’s exaltation would be incomplete without due appreciation for half the duo, your friend and mine, leading lad George Michael, the objectively inimitable English heartthrob who established his pop stardom through Careless Whisper (1984) and… well… other songs too. Probably. Regardless, cool guy, sweet tunes. Nothing like a smooooth sax to set the mood this winter, uncomfortably intimate tone intended. Oh yeah. 

Anyway, disregarding my out of pocket tangent, if the most wonderful time of the year has offered me any insight, it is to cherish Wham!’s disturbingly intoxicating serenade. But don’t just take my word for it; cozy up under that beloved blanket, fire crackling, snow storm raging all around, life’s questions decidedly unanswered, and act by my example: queue Last Christmas again, and again, and again.

Ozymandias and Legacy by Reece Turner

“And on the pedestal, these words appear:

My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;

Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

 

These are the last lines of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s 1818 poem, simply titled Ozymandias. Told through the testimony of “a traveler from an antique land,” the poem concerns Shelley’s ever-present fear of being forgotten; his legacy ground down by the sands of time until he only exists in far-off whispers and cryptic fossils. Shelley’s Ozymandias ironically became notorious, leaving a substantial mark on popular culture nearly 200 years after its author’s death. On the other hand, Ho

race Smith’s Ozymandias, published 3 weeks after Shelley’s as part of a competition between friends, was much less successful, being relegated to obscurity today. Somewhat fittingly, despite being much less influential than Shelley’s, Smith’s Ozymandias remains one of his most well known works; a substantial portion of the author’s legacy stemming from his association with his more successful friend.

 

Another of Shelley’s works, the lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound, was based on a trilogy by the Greek tragedian Aeschylus, of which only one play survives. Our only information about the other two stems from the various praises and descriptions of his successors, the manuscripts of his work having burned in the fires of the last 2500 years. Similarly to Ozymandias, Aeschylus was incredibly influential during his time, yet his Prometheia trilogy only survives to this day through the congratulatory whispers of playwrights lucky enough to avoid the razor of time, a fact that Shelley surely came upon while writing his own work, and one which likely influenced his tale of gradual demise.

If, as Shelley proposes, founding a legacy is ultimately futile, what’s the point of creating, of putting in an effort to express yourself despite the overbearing erosion of history? One possible answer is that influence is relative; while Ozymandias’ 

direct legacy is lost to time, his influence still exists through the actions of all who beheld him, the proverbial Ozymandiases becoming the Caesars and Napoleons that follow in their footsteps. Similarly, although Aeschylus’ Prometheia trilogy remains undiscovered, it still survives through its influence on the works of Sophocles and Euripides, and through their influence on Roman playwrights and their influence on Elizabethan playwrights and so on into contemporary writing. Another answer is that it doesn’t matter whether an artist maintains a legacy, that true artistic achievement comes not from one’s impact on others but rather from personal advancement and self expression. And even though Percy Shelley, despite his notoriety, was ultimately overshadowed by his more successful wife, Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, their association doesn’t negate the importance of his works, just as Horace Smith’s association with his more successful friend doesn’t negate his own personal achievements.

 

The last lines of Smith’s Ozymandias are as follows:

 

“We wonder,—and some Hunter may express

Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness

Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,

He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess

What powerful but unrecorded race

Once dwelt in that annihilated place.”

 

Although he may have become relatively obscure in the course of modern history, and just as the Shelleys may become relatively obscure in the centuries to follow, Smith makes one thing clear – at the end of the day, it won’t have mattered in the first place.

 

Please Don’t Make New Year’s Resolutions by Julia Mennes

As we begin the final week before winter break, we are getting dangerously close to the season of New Year’s Resolutions. To put it simply, I find them useless and annoying. To me, they seem like a more socially acceptable way to brag about the goals you know you will never stick to. Resolutions make it seem like you are broken and need fixing, when in reality, you probably just want to better yourself.

Think back to your list of resolutions from last year (I know you had one). Did you seriously follow through on any of them? I definitely didn’t. In fact, I have a hard time even remembering my many ambitions for the year. If you can genuinely say you followed through on your resolutions, good for you! But, if you’re like most of us, you probably either gave up or forgot about it completely. Most of the time, people give up on their resolutions because they attempt to make too extreme of changes, and they get burnt out. This year, start small. Set mild goals that are actually achievable, and they just might make it past February! 

I do not say this to shame anyone, but instead to draw attention to the fact that setting unrealistic goals is not required just because the calendar tells us it’s a new year. I get it, “new year, new me” and all, but try to stay away from the shameful world of New Year’s resolutions. If you are determined to make changes in your life, turn your aspirations into goals with a specific plan. But whatever you do, don’t stress yourself out with a lengthy list of unrealistic resolutions. Your life does not need to be resolved! 

The Murderer and I: A Love Story by Maria Krouse

She was beautiful. Her eyes were dark and tantalizing. She had sharp inky leather boots and a yellow crochet tube dress. She had a mystique about her – a femme fatale aura leaving a trail of silky streamers when she walked. With legs stretching twice her torso and cheekbones jutting out like fangs, she could be on the cover of Vogue, or rather National Geographic. She was about the size of a coaster with eight legs, eight eyes, and looks that could kill.

 I met this majestic woman at the age of 5. I was forced into the painstaking voyage to visit cow country Iowa with my family. We visited some distant cousins who lived in a quaint creaky farmhouse surrounded by miles of corn. Nestled beneath the chipped windows and rotting siding were blooming flowers in deep magentas and pale ochres. But most importantly, stretched between two large sunflower stocks was an architectural masterpiece. In the center of the palace, constructed from satin strings and prismatic water droplets, lay the queen. She was the ruler of the thousands of millimeters of jutting pebbles and menacing garden gnomes. I watched her bask in her throne for a few moments and as I turned and I heard a soft pluck. I gawked in horror as she put a delicate monarch butterfly into a deadly chokehold. The silk that once represented beauty and elegance was now being used as a murder weapon. She slowly swaddled the paralyzed butterfly carefully and thoughtfully almost like a mother to a newborn. 

As I grew older I learned to love spiders.I would memorize their names, mannerisms, and eye patterns. Slowly, my fascination grew whenever I would hear a long sustained “Mariaaaaa,” or “You got to get Maria over here,” or the most common one, “Kill it!” I would come running. I would take my soft bare hands and gently coax the small arachnid into my palm. After the brief admiration, I would swiftly place the spider into a grassy bed. I became a protector of the spiders. I believe they are misunderstood. I think society’s collective fear and hatred of spiders is because they are so alien to us. Their strange and obscure traits aren’t something humans can identify with.

 I own two plots at the local community garden. Each year in mid-May, I am hacking, prodding, but most importantly, feeling the earth’s heartbeat when I dig into the soil. I smile at the slimy earthworms and iridescent spiders. I believe spiders can teach us about ourselves and how we can learn to accept each other’s differences. Amidst the chaos, it can take something just as simple as appreciating a spider to open up a new way of thinking.