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Every year, creative writing seniors complete their senior theses—long, personal writing projects of any genre that seniors have several months to write, edit, and turn in. This year, unlike other years, most of my senior class bound our theses into self-designed chapbooks.
 
This meant that after we had finished the long and painful process of writing and editing our manuscripts, we all began a new process; that of imagining and creating what the text would actually look like. Though this was daunting at first, I finally found it comforting; there was something nice about taking care of text that was so worked-on and precious, like building a nest for hatching eggs.
 
After having bound my books, I find it strange to me that bookbinding is not a regular part of the writing process. There are no words involved, but binding is similarly creative, and has the similar goals of attempting to tell a story in the best and most fitting way possible.
 
Hand-bound chapbooks are valuable because they are personal. Also, because they tell no other stories; there is no prestige in this kind of self-publishing, only care. When I bound my chapbooks, I felt like I was telling the world, and myself, that I was proud of my work. I hope future seniors find similar comfort in creating their final theses.

I am graduating from high school in less than a week so I think I’ve accumulated a bit of wisdom about how to go about dealing with school from the approximate ages of 14 to 18. Now it may not be much, however, it’s all still fresh in my mind, and thus it might be slightly relevant. So here is a list of things that I advice highschoolers to do (keep in mind that I have not done all of these things but I wish I had):

  1. Do your homework. It’s so much easier than rushing to make it up at the end of the semester
  2. Show up to class.
  3. But it’s OK to sometimes not show up.
  4. Be nice to everyone. As much as people suck in high school, most people are going through some crazy and horrible s*** and you don’t want your rudeness to add to their sadness and anger.
  5. Find at least one person (student or otherwise) that you completely trust and feel comfortable with because it will make everything a whole lot less lonely.
  6. Participate in things you’re interested in. Join a club and if none of the clubs interest you, make your own.
  7. If you have a crush on somebody, do something about it. You’ll regret if you don’t, and take it from someone who got rejected from all her top colleges, rejection really isn’t as bad as it seems
  8. Peer pressure is super easy to avoid if you simply say “No.” Don’t be dramatic about it, don’t make other people feel bad for their decisions, just be super casual and say “no” and no one will bother you about it, trust me.
  9. Along the same lines as #7, if there is something you really want to do, even if it upsets your parents, do it, as long as you are safe! Seriously.
  10. Be happy. One of the most important things I learned while in high school was that happiness is a choice and no matter what is going on, your outlook is all that really matters. And honestly, it does take some effort, but after you get the hang of it, positivity is pretty great.

There is definitely more to add (a lot of things not appropriate for this blog) but, no matter what you are doing, just have fun! It’s clichéd but it is not overrated.

The seniors are leaving. Each one of them is such a unique individual and yet they manage to work together so well. They treat each other with respect and kindness. At this point they’ve grown up together; the trauma of high school has brought them all together.  They understand each other, and although they may or may not admit it I think they all love each other a little bit.        

At SOTA, high school doesn’t just make friends. It makes families. It’s a small high school to begin with, so everyone vaguely knows each other. Then you mix in the griefs and losses each grade itself undergoes, and you find yourself leaning on your classmates for comfort. Even if you don’t like some people, what you both experience bonds you. I know the seniors, as freshman, lost both a student and a teacher, along with the tough but common cases of kids missing school or dropping out because of drugs, mental health and ED outpatient programs. As a result this senior class is one of the bravest, most vibrant, creative, funny and kind group of individuals any of us will ever encounter. Their talent by far surpasses that of the class before them, and their charm and sincere interest reach even to the freshman.       

You know how close classes get. Take it to a departmental level and you’re looking at some people who’ve spent over two hours together for five days a week for four years of their lives together, give or take. I’ve written about how close I personally feel to my class. If I take that and double it I can only imagine the depth and level of empathy our seniors must feel for each other.

Today Creative Writing had our form of a Seder, which Maia dubbed a “C-dub-der.” We each brought in a food that somehow portrayed freedom to us, and combined them to create our own Seder plate (shown below). The rationales ranged from genuine to comical. Colin came up with a separate metaphor for each kind of snack in his bag of Munchies™, which I will not attempt to recite (you can thank me later).

The food was accompanied by two pieces of writing per writer: one piece written during the Haggadah unit, and one piece written by another artist. Giorgia sung a capoeira thingy (Hymn? Chant? Just song?) in Portuguese. The readings, though we only got about halfway through, rounded off the C-dub-der nicely. Overall, a pleasant ritualistic feast and poetry recital. Also, I got Swedish fish out of it, and we all know that’s what really matters in the end.

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This past Friday, a new tradition was born. It was kind of a bittersweet day, with many of us feeling not only the dull relief of finishing our final finals, but also the pain of the impending loss of our amazing and irreplacable seniors. When we walked into the CW room and were greeted by the sight of a podium at the front of the classroom, we weren’t sure what to expect. Was there another guest speaker? Were we going to have to make impromptu speeches for the seniors? Wrong and wrong. Some twenty minutes later, after Isaiah Dufort made a dramatic, smartly dressed entrance, we learned that that the CW room was now the site of the first annual Excellence in Eccentricity Awards, curated by Heather, Maia, and Isaiah. Everyone in the department recieved an official paper signed by Maia, Heather, and Isaiah certifying their unique affinity for something or other and an accompanying gift from the dollar store. I was awarded Most Likely To Institute a Hug-a-thon to Raise Money for CW (Allegedly). The award came with an adorable pink stapler since according to Isaiah, I’m always trying to steal Heather’s. I have no idea what he’s talking about.

The ceremony continued with more spot-on, strangely specific awards and gifts. After it was all over, we drifted to the carpet for a compliment circle to appreciate our lovely seniors. Fond memories were shared. Tears were shed. An entire box of tissues was used. We’re all going to miss the seniors. It’s going to be weird starting the new school year without them. Friday’s class was a mixed bag of emotions, but having our awards ceremony was an excellent way to acknowledge the awesomeness and uniqueness of every single person in the department. I, for one, am in love with this new tradition. Long live the EE Awards!

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Giorgia and I are writing poems for our own graduation ceremony—which is a mere few days away (!?!). Our mission, as I have interpreted it, anyway, is to be creating something that will be both meaningful to and easily understood by everyone in the auditorium. Something that both preserves our authenticity, and conveys our classmates’. Something not overly cynical. Plus, I found out that I would be writing this poem with only a week or two to spare. I only turn out four or five poems per year that I’m completely proud of, and most of those take me at least a month to finish. In other words, this might be the craziest assignment I’ve ever been given.
I’m reminded of the process of writing a college essay. This is more fun, of course, but some of the elements are the same. The guidelines are, if not strict, at least clear; you’re writing to a very specific group of people; you’re writing to them for a prescribed reason. That doesn’t mean you have no freedom, or that whatever you write will be contrived. But every so often, I catch myself becoming dangerously skeptical about the purpose of writing this poem. Does graduation have any intrinsic meaning, or is this all just pomp and circumstance?

Since this kind of thought tends to occur right after I’ve been writing irritably for half an hour with no results, it’s pretty easy to put down to momentary crankiness. Yes, graduation is meaningful. And not just graduation as a moment in time—graduation as the event that the school puts on and that we’re all obligated to go to in slightly silly-looking hats. One of the reasons it will be meaningful is that the seniors get a final chance to show off our art: to write poems for the occasion, and play music, and dance, and do all the stuff that has been of ultimate importance to us for the last four years.

For my final blog post of my CW career, I’m supposed to be writing a testimonial to bring all you crazy blog-readers who are not already convinced of the value of CW over from the dark side. Obviously, there’s not enough space in one post to give a full brief, so I’m going to have to choose just one aspect of CW to talk about: Heather.

Today, I went into Heather’s office to consult with her about a poem (the one I’m writing for graduation) for the last time. This felt more final than any of the other events of the day—more so than attending my last high school English class or bringing my cap and gown home or even being part of the “senior appreciation circle.” I have the impulse to frame my enthusiastically-scribbled-on poem and hang it on my dorm room wall.

Working with Heather has been a defining part of every senior’s time in CW. “Working with Heather” may have included any of the following and more: sleeping on her couch; calling her at all hours of the night; eating her food; being showered with ego-boosting compliments; sometimes, grading her papers. Perhaps most importantly, hearing her explain something about your poem—some clever syntactical choice or meaningful image—that you hadn’t even consciously considered. Any CW knows how pissed off I get at apathetic teachers. Heather is the opposite of apathetic, and her complete generosity with her time, energy, and love is unearthly. She wins the Nobel prize for life-changing teaching.

Prospective parents reading this? If you think your kid can find a teacher like this at any school, you are wrong. Prospective CWs? If you have ever felt like you didn’t fit in, or like nobody understood you, the chances are that Heather will be able to fix that. Along with teaching us to write, it’s what she does.

Well, it took us a couple minutes to learn to love it. When the always adventurous Maia told us that today we would be working alongside another department, most of us were a little reluctant. It’s not that we don’t thoroughly appreciate the talents of the Instrumental Music department or the merits of working together, but I (and I’m sure many other CWers can attest to this) experienced a sudden onset of social anxiety. It meant we would have to SPLIT UP and it’s so HOT OUT WHY would they make us MOVE out of the CW room and what if they DIDN’T LIKE US and what if they JUDGED our poetry?? But, with the urging of the always wise seniors and Maia, all fourteen of us trudged on over to Orchestra room. We were then split up into groups (one or two CWers alongside three to five musicians), and assigned decades from which to compose a musical piece and a written piece to accompany it. My group, assigned the 1920s, wrote a short piece that begins: “Speakeasy, hold my secrets….” So you know there’s going to be some pretty good flapper drama going on in ours. Anyway, as I looked around to all the other CWers and musicians, working side by side to create their own beautiful, original pieces of art, I realized something: collaboration is scary, but its rewards enormously outweigh those few seconds of social anxiety. Interdisciplinary collaboration is so valuable and important in instituting a real feeling of community in the school and an appreciation for other art forms outside of your department, and I really hope that this day sets us on a path for collaboration between all departments in the future.

Below are pictures of our collaboration day:

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Recently we visited the school farm. Part of this adventure was visiting the chickens they keep on the farm, something I, personally, was very excited about. See, I like to think of animals as my friends, and I wrongly assumed that these chickens would feel a similar love for me. 

Maybe I should have stayed out of the chicken coup. When you go into a dangerous zone like that, you have to understand the risks. Of course, I was just excited to pet their soft, feathery heads and did not consider the possibility that they were not as eager to be petted. 

Maybe I should have just patted one or two on the back, watched them run in circles for a while, and gone home unharmed. That’s not the kind of person I am though, and after seeing Olivia Weaver pick up a chicken and give it a big hug I decided that there was nothing stopping me from doing the same. 

When I grabbed the hen, she seemed at least partially content, and I was so exhilarated by the knowledge that I was holding the chicken and had therefore made a friend that I did not notice that I was being crapped on until it was too late. Fortunately, chicken feces are mostly grass and don’t smell too bad, but the whole experience was tarnished by that one traitorous chicken.

At this time of year most schools have a Winter Formal. School Of The Arts has a Drag Ball. I learned about this when a Drag Queen in flamboyant colors and excessive makeup stormed our classroom, arbitrarily picking me up in the process. Dances aren’t large events at SOTA, and the student government is looking to change that. After what I am sure was a long and arduous process, they decided to stay close to our core values, and start what I predict will become a tradition.
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The image, in its absurdity, seems symbolic of SOTA and San Francisco. In Sochi, Russia gay propaganda is illegal, despite it hosting the Olympics: a symbol of worldwide unity. I wonder what they would think of the Drag Queen there.