May Day

Yesterday I celebrated my last May Day as a student at Emma Willard. Emma Willard values traditions more than any other high school I know of. Opening Convocation. Halloween. Freshman Hall Thanksgiving Dinner. Peanuts and Shells. Eventide. Revels. Ring Dinner. Principal’s Play Day. May Day. Triangle Takeover. Flame Ceremony. Senior Tea. Baccalaureate. Graduation. The list goes on. As a homesick freshman, I was hesitant to jump right in and allow myself to fully experience and enjoy Emma’s traditions. To be frank, they just didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t have enough money to buy a dress for every occasion! As a soon-to-be alumna, I have savored each and every tradition Emma tradition, for they all emphasize spirit, culture, and community.

May Day has become one of my favorite school traditions. I remember liking it more than almost all of the traditions my freshman year (that May Day in particular also happened to be the one where a senior announced Principal’s Play Day for the following day). The senior class chooses a theme that is kept a secret, and many members of the class perform a skit revolving around that theme. Three years ago it was The Wizard of Oz, two years ago it was Grease, and one year ago it was Disney Pixar. Every year the entire schools votes on ‘The May Court’, comprising of five seniors who make an elegant entrance during the skit. There are two dances spread out throughout the May Day performance: the freshman may pole dance and the junior dancers dance. In addition, 12 Tones and JSG perform. Normally the performance occurs on the senior triangle, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, everyone (students, teachers, parents) squeezes into the gym. Every year there is a festive picnic lunch to follow. May Day marks the last full month of school and for seniors, one of the last traditions we get to experience.

This year’s theme was High School Musical. Our class has talked about it ever since freshman year, and we knew at the beginning of the year that this would be our theme. At senior dinner in September, Sun even based her speech around the classic teenage movie (of our generation, at least), highlighting that “We’re all in this [senior year] together”. The High School Musical series is by far one of my favorites from my childhood (and young adulthood). Troy Bolton (Zac Efron) was my first real crush, and I realized that high school was not something to fear. My high school experience certainly does not mirror those of the East High Wildcats, but that’s perfectly alright.

I regret not being a freshman may pole dancer my freshman year. I signed up for it but didn’t make the effort to go to rehearsals, so I ended up losing my spot (and Meghan’s). When I got the email about May Day tryouts for seniors, I knew I had to do it. I loved the movies too much, and I had to be in May Day before graduating. On March 31, I auditioned with my fellow classmates in the Lab Theater. I originally wanted to by Troy or Gabriella, but when I received the email that I had been cast for Ryan, I was ecstatic. At the same time, I was extremely anxious, knowing that I would have to learn three dances and perform them in front of 400 people.

We had rehearsals once or twice a week throughout the early April but started rehearsing every night for the past two weeks. It took us several attempts to learn the chorus of “We’re All in This Together” and even more attempts to perfect “Bop to the Top”. For our audition scene of “What I’ve Been Looking For” we ended up just winging it because there wasn’t much choreography. Annabelle (classmate playing Sharpay) and I both don’t have a strong background in dance, but we managed to learn it and have fun with it after lots of practice. We so desperately wanted to become the characters we love on the screen.

It was a beautiful day yesterday– 68 degrees, sunny, blue skies and puffy clouds. I was extremely nervous. Everyone lined the triangle, including my dad who had taken the day off to watch the performance. And before I knew it, I was on the triangle dressed head to toe as Ryan Evans and cheered on by my teachers and peers. I felt the same type of rush that I did on Revels night. The performance flew by, and I surprised myself by my lack of fitness while sprinting through the tunnels to get from one building to the other. Annabelle and I crushed our “Bop to the Top” dance which felt incredible. I wish I could capture standing on top of the ladder afterwards and looking down at the crowd and may pole. My mom watched this dance during rehearsal on Tuesday night and loved it. Lucky for me, I got to relive it via my friends’ snapchat stories.

The freshmen wove the ribbons around the May pole perfectly. The school joke is that the May pole appears perfect every three years. The senior class that taught our freshman class did it perfectly, so we taught it to this freshman class perfectly. But the current juniors and sophomores messed their May pole dance up, so the freshman classes they teach it to will also mess it up (most likely). The freshmen did great handling the pressure us seniors gently pressed on them. I have no doubt they will do the same when they’re seniors teaching it to the freshman class.

We had burgers and hot dogs, salad, potato chips, lemonade, and popsicles after the performance. My dad said he caught himself crying during the performance. I almost did too. It’s simply hard to comprehend that this is the last month here. And I have come so far since freshman year. To this day, I feel guilty about seriously considering transferring. I wrote in my journal yesterday before the performance I’m ready to move on, but I’m not ready to leave. I think that sums up how almost all seniors feel at this point about graduating and heading off to college.

This May Day was by far the most memorable and special one because I was a part of it and left my mark on this beloved tradition. The three hour rehearsals after my lacrosse games two days in a row this week paid off. I faced my ultimate fear of dancing in front of people, and it felt really, really good. I’ll add it to my list of ways I have stepped out of my comfort zone during high school. To a final May Day for the books. Cheers and happy spring! xo ~e.

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Photos by Sosie Almasian & Katie Coakley

 

17 Songs that will Make You Reconsider Hating Country Music

Let’s face it: a lot of people hate country music. It’s easy to slip into the mindset of ‘Country is all about hillbillies, drinking whiskey, and tractors.’ Sure, some country songs are about those things, but there are so many other country songs that are not. I started listening to country music about two years ago. I figured it was time to expand my music taste from strictly the pop I listen to on the radio. I even went to a Luke Bryan concert two summers ago at SPAC. He brought Lee Brice and Cole Swindell with him as guest stars. I’ve learned that country music is very relaxing for me. It’s probably my favorite genre to listen to on a summer day with the windows rolled down. In Pittsburgh, Fayla and I only listened to country music in the car ride. Listening to country music has also allowed me to branch out and explore other genres. Turns out, I enjoy listening to folk and indie music too.

Some music genres aren’t for everyone, but it can’t hurt to change it up and listen to something different. So if you have convinced yourself that you hate country music, give a listen to these songs (I even got my mom to become a Luke Bryan fan). They may lead you towards listening to a country playlist on Spotify or Pandora. xo ~e.

  • Beautiful Drug by Zac Brown Band
  • Die a Happy Man by Thomas Rhett
  • Mayday by Cam
  • Play It Again by Luke Bryan
  • Think of You by Chris Young feat. Cassadee Pope
  • Playing with Fire by Thomas Rhett feat. Jordin Sparks
  • Love Story by Taylor Swift
  • Crazy Girl by Eli Young Band
  • Roller Coaster by Luke Bryan
  • Take Your Time by Sam Hunt
  • Home Alone Tonight by Luke Bryan feat. Karen Fairchild
  • Stupid Boy by Keith Urban
  • Little Toy Guns by Carrie Underwood
  • Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw
  • Tim McGraw by Taylor Swift
  • Burnin’ it Down by Jason Aldean (per Kayla’s suggestion)

*I do not own any of the media posted. The links are copied directly from YouTube, and they are products of and belong to the artists and their record labels*

Inspiration of the Week #1

I’m currently in the midst of reading Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. This is a book that will live on my bookshelf forever and an author I will always look up to. I first heard of Didion last year in English class with Ms. Layden when we read her short story “Goodbye to All That.” As an aspiring Manhattanite, I loved this story. Take 15 minutes out of your busy day to give this a read. I can promise you it’ll be worth it. xo ~e.

“GOODBYE TO ALL THAT”

BY JOAN DIDION

How many miles to Babylon?
Three score miles and and ten—
Can I get there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again—
If your feet are nimble and light
You can get there by candlelight.

It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me, but I cannot lay my  finger upon the moment it ended, can never cut through the ambiguities and second starts and broken resolves to the exact place on the page where the heroine is no longer as optimistic as she once was. When I first saw New York I was twenty, and it was summertime, and I got off a DC-7 at the old Idlewild temporary terminal in a new dress which had seemed very smart in Sacramento but seemed less smart already, even in  the old Idlewild temporary terminal, and the warm air smelled of mildew and some instinct, programmed by all the movies I had ever seen and all the songs I had ever read about New York, informed me that it would never be quite the same again. In fact it never was. Some time later there was a song in the jukeboxes on the Upper East Side that went “but where is the schoolgirl who used to be me,” and if it was late enough at night I used to wonder that. I know now that almost everyone wonders something like that, sooner or later and no matter what he or she is doing, but one of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.

Of course it might have been some other city, had circumstances been different and the time been different and had I been different, might have been Paris or Chicago or even San Francisco, but because I am talking about myself I am talking here about New York. That first night I opened my window on the bus into town and watched for the skyline, but all I could see were the wastes of Queens and big signs that said MIDTOWN TUNNEL THIS LANE and then a flood of summer rain (even that seemed remarkable and exotic, for I had come out of the West where there was no summer rain), and for the next three days I sat wrapped in blankets in a hotel room air conditioned to 35 degrees and tried to get over a cold and a high fever. It did not occur to me to call a doctor, because I knew none, and although it did occur to me to call the desk and ask that the air conditioner be turned off, I never called, because I did not know how much to tip whoever might come—was anyone ever so young? I am here to tell you that someone was. All I could do during those years was talk long-distance to the boy I already knew I would never marry in the spring. I would stay in New York, I told him, just six months, and I could see the Brooklyn Bridge from my window. As it turned out the bridge was the Triborough, and I stayed eight years.

—-

In retrospect it seems to me that those days before I knew the names of all the bridges were happier than the ones that came later, but perhaps you will see that as we go along. Part of what I want to tell you is what it is like to be young in New York, how six months can become eight years with the deceptive ease of a film dissolve, for that is how those years appear to me now, in a long sequence of sentimental dissolves and old-fashioned trick shots—the Seagram Building fountains dissolve into snowflakes, I enter a revolving door at twenty and come out a good deal older, and on a different street. But most particularly I want to explain to you, and in the process perhaps to myself, why I no longer live in New York. It is often said that New York is a city for only the very rich and the very poor. It is less often said that New York is also, at least for those of us who came there from somewhere else, a city only for the very young.

I remember once, one cold bright December evening in New York, suggesting a friend who complained of having been around too long that he come with me to a party where there would be, I assured him with the bright resourcefulness of twenty-three, “new faces.” He laughed literally until he choked, and I had to roll down the taxi window and hit him on the back. “New faces,” he said finally, “don’t tell me about new faces.” It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised “new faces,” there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already spelt with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him, but the first snow had just begun to fall and the big Christmas trees glittered yellow and white as far as I could see up Park Avenue and I had a new dress and it would be a long while before I would come to understand the particular moral of the story.

It would be a long while because, quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later—because I did not belong there, did not come from there—but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month. I was making only $65 or $70 then a week then (“Put yourself in Hattie Carnegie’s hands,” I was advised without the slightest trace of irony by an editor of the magazine for which I worked), so little money that some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat, a fact which went unmentioned in the letters I wrote to California. I never told my father that I needed money because then he would have sent it, and I would never know if I could do it by myself. At that time making a living seemed a game to me, with arbitrary but quite inflexible rules. And except on a certain kind of winter evening—six-thirty in the Seventies, say, already dark and bitter with a wind off the river, when I would be walking very fast toward a bus and would look in the bright windows of brownstones and see cooks working in clean kitchens and and imagine women lighting candles on the floor above and beautiful children being bathed on the floor above that—except on nights like those, I never felt poor; I had the feeling that if I needed money I could always get it. I could write a syndicated column for teenagers under the name “Debbi Lynn” or I could smuggle gold into India or I could become a $100 call girl, and none of would matter.

Nothing was irrevocable; everything was within reach. Just around every corner lay something curious and interesting, something I had never before seen or done or known about. I could go to a party and meet someone who called himself Mr. Emotional Appeal and ran The Emotional Appeal Institute or Tina Onassis Blandford or a Florida cracker who was then a regular on what the called “the Big C,” the Southampton-El Morocco circuit (“I’m well connected on the Big C, honey,” he would tell me over collard greens on his vast borrowed terrace), or the widow of the celery king of the Harlem market or a piano salesman from Bonne Terre, Missouri, or someone who had already made and list two fortunes in Midland, Texas. I could make promises to myself and to other people and there would be all the time in the world to keep them. I could stay up all night and make mistakes, and none of them would count.

You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. In my imagination I was always there for just another few months, just until Christmas or Easter or the first warm day in May. For that reason I was most comfortable with the company of Southerners. They seemed to be in New York as I was, on some indefinitely extended leave from wherever they belonged, disciplined to consider the future, temporary exiles who always knew when the flights left for New Orleans or Memphis or Richmond or, in my case, California. Someone who lives with a plane schedule in the drawer lives on a slightly different calendar. Christmas, for example, was a difficult season. Other people could take it in stride, going to Stowe or going abroad or going for the day to their mothers’ places in Connecticut; those of us who believed that we lived somewhere else would spend it making and canceling airline reservations, waiting for weatherbound flights as if for the last plane out of Lisbon in 1940, and finally comforting one another, those of us who were left, with oranges and mementos and smoked-oyster stuffings of childhood, gathering close, colonials in a far country.

Which is precisely what we were. I am not sure that it is possible for anyone brought up in the East to appreciate entirely what New York, the idea of New York, means to those of us who came out of the West and the South. To an Eastern child, particularly a child who has always has an uncle on Wall Street and who has spent several hundred Saturdays first at F.A.O. Schwarz and being fitted for shoes at Best’s and then waiting under the Biltmore clock and dancing to Lester Lanin, New York is just a city, albeit the city, a plausible place for people to live, But to those of us who came from places where no one had heard of Lester Lanin and Grand Central Station was a Saturday radio program, where Wall Street and Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue were not places at all but abstractions (“Money,” and “High Fashion,” and “The Hucksters”), New York was no mere city. It was instead an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of all love and money and power, the shining and perishable dream itself. To think of “living” there was to reduce the miraculous to the mundane; one does not “live” at Xanadu.

In fact it was difficult in the extreme for me to understand those young women for whom New York was not simply an ephemeral Estoril but a real place, girls who bought toasters and installed new cabinets in their apartments and committed themselves to some reasonable furniture. I never bought any furniture in New York. For a year or so I lived in other people’s apartments; after that I lived in the Nineties in an apartment furnished entirely with things taken from storage by a friend whose wife had moved away. And when I left the apartment in the Nineties (that was when I was leaving everything, when it was all breaking up) I left everything in it, even my winter clothes and the map of Sacramento County I had hung on the bedroom wall to remind me who I was, and I moved into a monastic four-room floor-through on Seventy-fifth Street. “Monastic” is perhaps misleading here, implying some chic severity; until after I was married and my husband moved some furniture in, there was nothing at all in those four rooms except a cheap double mattress and box springs, ordered by telephone the day I decided to move, and two French garden chairs lent me by a friend who imported them. (It strikes me now that the people I knew in New York all had curious and self-defeating sidelines. They imported garden chairs which did not sell very well at Hammacher Schlemmer or they tried to market hair staighteners in Harlem or they ghosted exposés of Murder Incorporated for Sunday supplements. I think that perhaps none of us was very serious, engagé only about our most private lives.)

All I ever did to that apartment was hang fifty yards of yellow theatrical silk across the bedroom windows, because I had some idea that the gold light would make me feel better, but I did not bother to weight the curtains correctly and all that summer the long panels of transparent golden silk would blow out  the windows and get tangled and drenched in afternoon thunderstorms. That was the year, my twenty-eight, when I was discovering that not all of the promises would be kept, that some things are in fact irrevocable and that it had counted after all, every evasion and ever procrastination, every word, all of it.

—-

That is what it was all about, wasn’t it? Promises? Now when New York comes back to me it comes in hallucinatory flashes, so clinically detailed that I sometimes wish that memory would effect the distortion with which it is commonly credited. For a lot of the time I was in New York I used a perfume called Fleurs de Rocaille, and then L’Air du Temps, and now the slightest trace of either can short-circuit my connections for the rest of the day. Nor can I smell Henri Bendel jasmine soap without falling back into the past, or the particular mixture of spices used for boiling crabs. There were barrels of crab boil in a Czech place in the Eighties where I once shopped. Smells, of course, are notorious memory stimuli, but there are other things which affect me the same way. Blue-and-white striped sheets. Vermouth cassis. Some faded nightgowns which were new in 1959 or 1960, and some chiffon scarves I bought about the same time.

I suppose that a lot of us who have been very young in New York have the same scenes in our home screens. I remember sitting in a lot of apartments with a slight headache about five o’clock in the morning. I had a friend who could not sleep, and he knew a few other people who had the same trouble, and we would watch the sky lighten and have a last drink with no ice and then go home in the early morning, when the streets were clean and wet (had it rained in the night? we never knew) and the few cruising taxis still had their headlights on and the only color was the red and green of traffic signals. The White Rose bars opened very early in the morning; I recall waiting in one of them to watch an astronaut go into space, waiting so long that at the moment it actually happened I had my eyes not on the television screen but on a cockroach on the tile floor. I liked the bleak branches above Washington Square at dawn, and the monochromatic flatness of Second Avenue, the fire escapes and the grilled storefronts peculiar and empty in their perspective.

It is relatively hard to fight at six-thirty or seven in the morning, without any sleep, which was perhaps one reason why we stayed up all night, and it seemed to me a pleasant time of day. The windows were shuttered in that apartment in the Nineties and I could sleep for a few hours and then go to work. I could work the on two or three hours’ sleep and a container of coffee from Chock Full O’ Nuts. I liked going to work, liked the soothing and satisfactory rhythm of getting out a magazine, liked the orderly progression of four-color closings and two-color closings and black-and-white closings and then The Product, no abstraction but something which looked effortlessly glossy and could be picked up on a newsstand and weighed in the hand. I liked all the minutiae of proofs and layouts, liked working late on the nights the magazines went to press, sitting and reading Variety and waiting for the copy desk to call. From my office, I could look across town to the weather signal on the Mutual of New York Building and the lights that alternately spelled TIME and LIFE above Rockeffeler Plaza; that pleased me obscurely, and so did walking uptown in the mauve eight o’clocks of early summer evenings and looking at things, Lowestoft tureens in Fifty-seventh Street windows, people in evening clothes trying to get taxis, the trees just coming into full leaf, the lambent air, all the sweet promises of money and summer.

Some years passed, but I still did not lose that sense of wonder about New York. I began to cherish the loneliness of it, the sense that at any given time no one need know where I was or what I was doing. I liked walking, from the East River over to the Hudson and back on brisk days, down around the Village on warm days. A friend would leave me the key to her apartment in the West Village when she was out of town, and sometimes I would just move down there, because by that time the telephone was beginning to bother me (the canker, you see, was already in the rose) and not many people had that number. I remember one day when someone who did have the West Village number came to pick me up for lunch there, and we both had hangovers, and I cut my finger opening him a beer and burst into tears, and we walked to a Spanish restaurant and drank bloody Marys and gazpacho until we felt better. I was not then guilt-ridden about spending afternoons that way, because I still had all the afternoons in the world.

And even that late in the game I still liked going to parties, all parties, bad parties, Saturday-afternoon parties given by recently married couples who lived in Stuyvesant Town, West Side parties given by unpublished or failed writers who served cheap red wine and talked about going to Guatalajara, Village parties where all the guests worked for advertising agencies and voted for Reform Democrats, press parties at Sardi’s, the worst kind of parties. You will have perceived by now that I was not one to profit by the experience of others, that it was a very long time indeed before I stopped believing in new faces and began to understand the lesson in that story, which was that it is distinctly possible to stay too long at the Fair.

—-

I could not tell you when I began to understand that. All I know is that it was very bad when I was twenty-eight. Everything that was said to me I seemed to have heard before, and I could no longer listen. I could no longer sit in little bars near Grand Central and listen to someone complaining of his wife’s inability to cope with the help while he missed another train to Connecticut. I no longer had any interest in hearing about the advances other people had received from their publishers, about plays which were having second-act trouble in Philadelphia, or about people I would like very much if only I would come out and meet them. I had already met them, always. There were certain parts of the city which I had to avoid. I could not bear upper Madison Avenue on weekday mornings (this was a particularly inconvenient aversion, since I then lived just fifty or sixty feet east of Madison), because I would see women walking Yorkshire terriers and shopping at Gristede’s, and some Veblenesque gorge would rise in my throat. I could not go to Times Square in the afternoon, or to the New York Public Library for any reason whatsoever. One day I could not go into a Schrafft’s; the next it would be the Bonwit Teller.

I hurt the people I cared about, and insulted those I did not. I cut myself off from the one person who was closer to me than any other. I cried until I was not even aware when I was crying and when I was not, I cried in elevators and in taxis and in Chinese laundries, and when I went to the doctor, he said only that I seemed to be depressed, and that I should see a “specialist.” He wrote down a psychiatrist’s name and address for me, but I did not go.

Instead I got married, which as it turned out was a very good thing to do but badly timed, since I still could not walk on upper Madison Avenue in the mornings and still could not talk to people and still cried in Chinese laundries. I had never before understood what “despair” meant, and I am not sure that I understand now, but I understood that year. Of course I could not work. I could not even get dinner with any degree of certainty, and I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner, that I could meet him at Michael’s Pub or at Toots Shor’s or at Sardi’s East. And then one morning in April (we had been married in January) he called and told me that he wanted to get out of New York for a while, that he would take a six-month leave of absence, that we would go somewhere.

It was three years ago he told me that, and we have lived in Los Angeles since. Many of the people we knew in New York think this a curious aberration, and in fact tell us so. There is no possible, no adequate answer to that, and so we give certain stock answers, the answers everyone gives. I talk about how difficult it would be for us to “afford” to live in New York right now, about how much “space” we need, All I mean is that I was very young in New York, and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore. The last time I was in New York was in a cold January, and everyone was ill and tired. Many of the people I used to know there had moved to Dallas or had gone on Antabuse or had bought a farm in New Hampshire. We stayed ten days, and then we took an afternoon flight back to Los Angeles, and on the way home from the airport that night I could see the moon on the Pacific and smell jasmine all around and we both knew that there was no longer any point in keeping the apartment we still kept in New York. There were years when I called Los Angeles “the Coast,” but they seem a long time ago.

17 Taylor Swift Lyrics I Love

It seems as though there are three outlooks on Taylor Swift & her music:

  • You love her and know the lyrics to every single one of her songs
  • You hate her and hate yourself when you sing along to Shake It Off on the radio
  • You like some of her songs but are still perplexed as to how she’s dated ‘so many guys’

I happen to be an extremely proud Taylor Swift fan. There’s no question she is the icon of my generation. She is the person who’s music I will be singing in the car with my children 15 years from now. She is a role model and one of the most influential women in the world, whether you believe it or not. Plus, her songs have the ability to move you, see the world differently, and say what you haven’t been able to out loud. I was extremely grateful to experience her 1989 World Tour live in Montréal this past summer with my good friend, Brianne. We danced and sang our hearts out, something you would expect of two girls at a T.S. concert, and went out for a glass of Riesling and a slice of chocolate cake afterwards. The night was what you could have expected and more.

I thought I would share 17 of my favorite T.S. lyrics. I hope you can inspiration in them like I have. xo ~e.

  1. “I had the time of my life / Fighting dragons with you” – Long Live

  2. “Cherry lips, crystal skies / I could show you incredible things” – Blank Space

  3. “Maybe we got lost in translation / Maybe I asked for too much /  But maybe this thing was a masterpiece / Till you tore it all up” – All Too Well 

  4. “Rain came pouring down when I was drowning / That’s when I could finally breathe / And by morning / Gone was any trace of you / I think I am finally clean” – Clean

  5. “We found wonderland / You and I got lost in it” – Wonderland

  6. “The rest of the world was black and white / But we were in screaming color”- Out of the Woods

  7. “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream” – Blank Space

  8. “But the monsters / Turned out to be just trees” – Out of the Woods

  9. “Wasn’t it beautiful / When you believed in everything” – Innocent

  10. “We show off / Our different scarlet letters / Trust me, mine is better” – New Romantics

  11. “Like any true love / It drives you crazy / Like any real love / It’s ever changing” – Welcome to New York

  12. “I can’t say hello to you / And risk another goodbye” – I Almost Do

  13. “The stakes are high / The waters are rough / But this love is ours” – Ours

  14. “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes / You say sorry just for show” – Bad Blood

  15. “But on a Wednesday / In a cafe / I watched it begin again” – Begin Again

  16. “We wait for trains that just aren’t coming” – New Romantics

  17. “We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely in the best way” – 22

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Photo by Charlie Ma

Jet Blue Has Me Blue No More

Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon, I experienced a unique interaction with one of the world’s most popular airlines: Jet Blue. Allow me to give you some background info on this story that I will be telling my future employers, co-workers, grandchildren, and friends. I purchased a plane ticket from JFK to San Jose, Costa Rica from July 25-August 4 with the intention to have an amazing summer trip to visit my freshman roommate, Juliana. I’ve waited three years to visit her native country, and it seemed like the perfect time: after I graduated from high school and after I turned 18. Many high school graduates embark on a graduation trip the summer before college. I didn’t want to be an exception. My grandpa (Pop) told me he would help me find the cheapest ticket to Costa Rica. He came across a $421.25 Jet Blue ticket. I had the money in my bank account, and I figured I wouldn’t come across a deal much better. So I pulled out my debit card, entered the digits, and printed my flight confirmation. I texted my parents, my friends, my aunt, Juliana, and her parents that I was going to Costa Rica.

I bought the ticket on February 9. Fast forward 4 days to Marist College. My mom and I drove down to Poughkeepsie for a Marist in Italy Info Session to learn more about my year abroad in Florence next year. We came to understand that every FFE (Freshman in Florence Experience) student needs to get his/her student Italian visa after he/she turns 18. Unlucky for me, I turn 18 on July 17, and my flight to San Jose would leave 8 days later. Therefore, my passport would be at the Boston Consulate so government officials could process my visa instead of in my hand at my gate in JFK on July 25.

I was very disappointed. I thought to myself, “Timing sucks. I’m in the midst of another mid-teenage life crisis.” If I had just waited 4 days, I would’ve known not to buy the ticket or to buy a refundable ticket. I wouldn’t have spent $421.25 of my hard earned money. But I was in no position to turn down a year in Florence for 10 days in Costa Rica. Costa Rica would just have to wait. I left feeling excited for Italy but bummed about my situation. I called the general customer service line for Jet Blue on the car ride home. I talked to a rep, explaining my situation, and she told me there was no chance of getting any type of refund. The only thing I could do was cancel my flight, lose $70, and have a $350 credit for another flight using Jet Blue. She did say that the credit was transferrable. I was still not content. When would I fly in the U.S. next year if I was in Italy? I put the phone on speaker and had my mom try and vouch for me, but the rep wouldn’t relent. I hung up the phone, still disappointed for losing my money and the customer service.

For the past two months, I’ve tried to trade my transferrable credit to someone who flies Jet Blue frequently and would give me cash. After watching my bank account balance decrease more and more, I used the sage words of wisdom from my mom, “Talk to someone higher up in the company.” I really wanted at least a couple hundred back, so I emailed the CEO of Jet Blue, Robin Hayes, on a whim. I didn’t even know his e-mail address. I did a Google search, but nothing came up. I figured that most companies have fairly generic emails, so I tried a few out (combinations of his first and last name with symbols). I got a few sent back to me along with one that went through. I figured, “Why not at least try? See what happens.”

This is the email I sent shortly before bed:

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The next day when I got back to my dorm, I saw I had a missed call and a voicemail. I listened to it, and a Jet Blue rep named Shauna had called. She told me Mr. Hayes got my email and asked her to take care of it. I was shocked! Shauna said she would call me back later, knowing that I was in school. I texted my mom, showed my friends at school the email, and felt like I was a step closer to achieving my goal. During my pre-registration for my AP gov exam, I got a phone call from the same Utah phone number. I rushed out of the room to take it. Shauna said it was a very clever and well-crafted email, not even for someone my age. She admired my willingness to go to the very top of the company and that Mr. Hayes is a very nice man who was impressed by my email. After talking some more, she gave me a full refund (something Jet Blue did “for this one instance”). As you can surely imagine, I was over the moon. I promised her I would fly Jet Blue in the near future, and she said she would tell Mr. Hayes we got it sorted out after our phone call. I got an updated email of my order 15 minutes later.

If this were to happen again in the future, I might not get as lucky. But it was another learning experience I am grateful for. This is what I came away with from this experience:

  • Do not doubt yourself. If you really want something, go after it, no matter what measures you have to take. I tried one thing; it didn’t work. I did something different; it did work.
  • Play to your strengths. I used my persuasive and personal style of writing to get my message across successfully, and it apparently worked!
  • Be patient and kind to customer service representatives. They really will try to help you if you’re nice and respectful towards them!
  • Purchase a refundable ticket if you’re unsure about your plans! The extra money is probably worth it.
  • Consider flying Jet Blue! I was very pleased with the customer service I received from them (the second time around).

xo ~e.

 

A Sweet, Local Victory

Last Thursday  I played in one of the most memorable sports game of my entire athletic career. My varsity lacrosse team defeated the Hoosick Falls Panthers 10-6. This was an extremely big win for my team because it put us to 2-0 in our conference. It was especially meaningful to me because we beat a local team. I live half an hour away from Hoosick Falls, it’s the town where my mom has worked for 9 years, and I knew two girls on the team (one is a fellow co-worker and the other is a future college classmate–– always reminded by the small world in which we live). That made our win that much sweeter for me. The game was tied 4-4 at the half. I was somewhat frustrated because I knew our team should have been winning. We just missed that extra drive to take control of the game. Fortunately, we dug down and played an amazing second half. We pulled ahead to solidify our win. When the final whistle blew, we all hugged, taking pride in our efforts.

The most exciting part about this game was that Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Banner) from the Bennington Banner tweeted live game updates. I grew up reading the Bennington Banner because I spent the first 6 years of my life in Bennington, and my dad was a reporter for the Banner for several years. In the past few years, sports reporters for the Banner have attended high school games, tweeting details like who scored, who got the assist, etc… It is perfect for me to keep up with my friends from back home. I even have the notifications on, so the tweets show up right on my lock screen. That way I can text my friends, “Hey, nice goal!” or “Heard you guys had a big win!” after their games. It’s exciting to see “@aggieb98 scores her third of the night, giving the Bulldogs a 6-3 lead. Five minutes left to go in the second half”. This popular form of social media allows me to stay in the know about the high school sports at my tiny hometown. No one else outside our tiny bubble in Vermont may care, but I certainly do.

During my freshman year, I struggled at my high school. I wasn’t used to living away from home. As a result, I was extremely homesick. I missed my friends, my dog, and my family. In addition, I missed the sense of comfort and familiarity. Seeing these tweets made me want to be back with my teammates and have my name appear in the Banner and on Twitter. No one from the local papers here do anything for my games like the Banner does for the schools at home. Therefore, I felt like I was missing out. I even debated transferring back home after my first semester. I’m glad I didn’t because I couldn’t be more happy at Emma Willard, and I have had successful high school athletic career–– being tweeted about or not.

My secret dream to be in the Banner and on Steven’s Twitter came true Thursday. I figured that someone might be at our game because the Banner follows Hoosick Falls because it’s a school close to Bennington, even though it’s in New York. I even tweeted Steven the day of our game and asked if he was going. He replied back that he was! I tweeted again at him that two locals would be playing for the Emma Willard Jesters. I became extremely nervous leading up to the game. I felt a unique pressure to win because it would mean so much, being so close to home. My assistant coach asked every player for her personal goal for the game, and mine was to score. I’ve only scored twice in my lacrosse career! During the second half, I accomplished my goal. I found the drive and courage deep inside me and took a defender one on one to cage on my left. Two steps to the right, a few quick ones to the left, and I had an open shot on goal. The ball swiftly struck the top right corner of the goal. I was elated. Scoring is one of the best feelings. It’s sort of like seeing that big, fat A on top of your paper for the first time when your teacher hands it to you. My teammates immediately rushed around me, knowing that I wanted to score so badly and how much this game meant to me.

I saw Steven watching our game, taking photos, and hanging around the table. I checked my phone after the game, and sure enough, there we were! And there I was! It was very exciting. I shrieked, and exclaimed to my teammates “WE MADE IT!” They were excited too. I was even more stoked when I got a text from my dad on Friday that Steven’s story was published in the actual paper–– with photos and everything! During and after this game, I realized that I could accomplish something I didn’t think I could at Emma Willard and that I didn’t need to transfer schools to be recognized by the local paper. I was beyond satisfied & proud of my team. It was a game to remember, a victory to remember, and a tweet to remember. xo ~e.

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Check out the full article here published online and in the paper itself on April 15, 2016:

http://www.benningtonbanner.com/sports/ci_29769053/second-half-struggles-doom-panthers-loss

In 250-650 Words…

Every senior who applies to college experiences the joy of writing… a college essay. The Common Application along with almost every other college application requires a ‘Personal Essay’ aka ‘Tell us about yourself in 250-650 words and why we should admit you to our institution.’ If writing a page or two that encompasses who you are isn’t a challenge, I don’t know what is. Yes, the college essay is personal and shows colleges something that they may not see elsewhere in your application, but it’s not the same as having a conversation with someone or telling a story in person. With that said, everyone who goes to college or applies to college goes through the same process. I have to say, it wasn’t as painful as I thought it would be. Here’s why:

  1. I love to write. I journal almost every day (when time allows) and like to utilize words to express myself. Writing an essay about me combined my passion for journaling along with a very relevant assignment!
  2. The Common App essay questions aren’t all that terrible. There are five options that one can choose to write about, and the prompts are brief & broad. Therefore, there’s plenty of flexibility to mold an essay that fits into at least one of the categories.
  3. I wrote an initial draft of my college essay during my junior year in English class with Ms. Layden. Ms. Layden is an inspiration to me as a writer, so having her help me by editing and brainstorming made writing that much easier and more exciting.
  4. It’s an amazing feeling copying and pasting the final version of your college essay into the Common App text box. The writing section is at the end of the Common App too!
  5. Once you’re done with your college essay, you’re that much closer to applying to college! The rest of the application is a piece of cake 😉

At the end of the day, I was very proud of my college essay. It became a finished product of something that clearly shouted ‘Emma LeMay’ on paper for a college admission officer who read my application. Here are my tips for those writing their college essays.

  1. Free write before you officially start writing your first college essay draft. Write a story that makes you smile every time you think of it. Write about a lesson you learned. Write about what makes you happy. Write about what makes you sad. Brainstorming is a huge part of writing the college essay. Get something down on paper. Don’t just sit there at your desk thinking “I have no idea what to write” before scrolling through your Instagram & Twitter feeds.
  2. Look at the Common App prompts:
    1. Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
    2. The lessons we take from failure can be fundamental to later success. Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience?
    3. Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
    4. Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution.
    5. Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.It’s a good idea to ponder these prompts and something you would want to write about that fits one of them.
  3. Write a college essay that has 650+ words. This allows plenty of room for editing. 700-800 words is a good target. I would honestly use as many words as you can. Longer doesn’t always necessarily mean better, but you want to make sure that you really get YOU across in less than 650 words.
  4. Have other people read/edit your essay! I know it’s hard letting other people see your work, whether you like to write or not, but it’s very helpful to receive feedback. If you let a parent or friend read it, they might help you add more “You” aspects to it or take some out.
  5. Try and make your essay unique. We’ve all experienced failure. Many of us have gotten our license by senior year. Most of us have gone on a trip that has somehow changed our lives. A lot of us love being on the sports field. These experiences are fine to write about, but make sure that you put your own spin on it. Think to yourself “How can I set myself apart from the other thousands of students who are also writing about these topics?”
  6. Start writing a draft over the summer of your junior year! That way when fall rolls around, you’ll already have something to work with. Fall of senior year is extremely busy. Back to school, college applications, soccer games, homecoming, apple picking, etc… Why not get a head start?
  7. Have fun with this! Yes, someone’s telling you what you SHOULD write about, but they’re not telling you HOW to write. Present yourself maturely and how you want to be presented, but have fun and be yourself. Creativity adds bonus points to any college essay! (Fayla included one of her original poems in her college essay, demonstrating her passion for poetry).
  8. Treat yourself to something when you finish your final draft (a burger at Five Guys, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, a bowl at Chipotle)!This is a huge part of the college application process, and you’ve finished it. You’re happy with it. You can move on to the other parts of the Common App!

Here is the final draft of my college essay that I submitted to 9 out of 10 colleges. I wrote about prompt #1, and it amounted to 608 words.

Good luck and happy writing! xo ~e.

 

The familiar scent of sweat, perfume, and window cleaner fills my nostrils with a surprisingly comforting sensation. Children cry as their parents hurry them up the left side of an escalator. Starbucks baristas bustle around making too expensive, yet delicious drinks, and write names on their famous paper cups for their infinite line of customers. Intimidatingly beautiful women retouch their MAC lipstick, careful not to stain their Essie Fiji nail polish (that I so desperately want) in the crowded, dingy bathroom.

These sights are strangely soothing and solidify the fact that I am Emma Hua LeMay; sometimes I need to be in a crowded room where no one knows my name to be reminded of that. Waiting in Terminal C with sweaty palms at Newark International Airport on June 13, 2015 did just that. I felt like Emma Hua LeMay: confident, beyond excited, and ready to travel to China for the first time. I knew this plane ride would bring me one step closer to finding another aspect to the Emma Hua LeMay I’ve known for seventeen years.

I was adopted from Chongqing, China on December 14, 1998. I’ve always wished that I could remember something about my life in China. What kinds of vegetables I ate, how the language sounded, what it felt like to be carried around the city streets in the morning. Unfortunately, my hippocampus is not powerful enough to allow me to remember any of those experiences. However, I vividly remember my childhood in America. I viewed myself as white throughout most of my childhood; I grew up with a white family surrounded by white friends in a predominantly white, New England town. Therefore, I had rare opportunities to embrace my Chinese heritage, even though my peers often reminded me of it. When I got to the race section of the ERB standardized test in fourth grade, I checked off ‘White.’ My friend said, “Emma, that’s not the right box. You’re Asian.” In that moment, all I wanted to do was cry. I was uncomfortable with my Chinese identity because I was unable to associate myself with it. That changed before my plane had even left the New Jersey tarmac.

When we were waiting at our terminal, a teenage girl my age came up to me and started speaking rapid Chinese. I think she was asking me for directions, but I completely froze up. No one had ever just started speaking to me in Chinese before. In this moment, I realized, “Whoa. I really am Chinese! Chinese people can look at me and tell that I’m Chinese.” In the boarding line, I received several puzzled looks by Chinese people because I had a navy passport, not a maroon one. Boarding the plane, I realized that the ticket person only knew that my mom was my mom because of the same last names in our passport. My mom joked that people thought that I was her Chinese tour guide. I entered the plane before my mom and grandma, and the flight attendant said to me, “xianqián, ránhòu xiàng yòu” (forward then to the right) to direct me to my seat. That was simple enough for me to understand after taking three years of Chinese in high school.

These incidents made me feel confident and independent, as did several similar experiences in China. Just being in the presence of people of my own race in an anonymous airport hanger allowed me to take pride in my Chinese heritage. I learned that my roots are in China and that I am American. The best part of that statement? I will never have to second-guess my identity again.