Declarative Statements About the Future

by Hazel (’13)

It seems that kids are supposed to know what they want to do with their lives at younger and younger ages. Anyone who is in school right now (and possibly others, though I can’t speak for them) will probably know what I’m talking about. The thing is, it’s so accepted that it’s not one of those things people complain about as they congregate around their lockers between classes; it’s just an accepted source of stress.

Considering the specialized nature of SOTA, there actually are a lot of people who have a pretty solid sense of what they want to do in college, if not for the rest of their lives. It’s admirable, it’s impressive, and I wish those people the best of luck in pursuing what they love. And yet, the proportion of people who seem confident in their plans for the future strikes me as implausible. Can all these people really know themselves that well? The very thought of it baffles me.

Like many people in high school, I usually try to blend in, and when I see someone else doing something I like, I try to do it too. So, because I perceive other people my age as having concrete goals that are relevant to the rest of their lives, well, I want them too. So I’ve started making these big, declarative statements.

“I’m going to get a low-paying job to support myself while I write books!”

“I just want to own a bakery!”

“I’m going to go to trade school and become a mechanic!”

All of these things sound nice. But goodness gracious, I am only seventeen years old and I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I say things like this because everyone else seems so confident and that scares me. But I have to be honest with myself and with everyone else. So here’s the new statement:

I don’t know what I want to do with my life, but I know what interests me. I’m going to go to college, try out lots of things, and eventually find that one thing I could do for the rest of my life. As much pressure as there is to decide right now what my future career will be, I refuse to choose, because I would only be lying to everyone present.

This is why, after months of consideration, I am planning on going to college next year. I always assumed I would, but after talking to classmates with different plans or at least concerns, I became less sure. No one system will fit every person’s needs. But one thing I know is that I love learning, and while there’s a lot I can learn wherever I end up, there are things that I probably could not teach myself, so I’m going to go find some folks who can. And one day, it will all come together and I’ll know what I want to do. But there’s no good reason to rush.

Re: Social Media

Okay, I totally get it when people judge and poke fun at social media: Facebook cuts down actual face-to-face communication, Twitter is for twits, Tumblr’s just plain weird.

Instagram is Twitter for people who can’t read/write (the joke being– Twitter posts have a 140 character-limit).

And then the less mean one: Instagram just makes photos look old, what the hell’s the point.

…The point is, I like photos. I like taking them, composing shots, editing them.

The cliché is that people who use Instagram just post pictures of Starbucks, what they’re eating, selfies, and the sky.

(A cliché that is actually true to a definite percent on a piechart.)

But there are also tons of respectable photographers and photo-editors self-publishing on Instagram.

I like photos a lot.

Instagram is a quick auto-editor, with enough options for filters and blurring etc. that I feel like I have a say in my composition.

Most ridiculous; don’t write me off as a person for using Instagram.

More of Carville Annex

by Abigail (’14)

Frances and I recently went to another Carville Annex reading. (This time it was at the Carville Annex building in the Sunset, not in a forest glen.) The reading was a lecture given by Molly Prentiss, “non-famous famous person” from Brooklyn, on– quoting  “aspirational objects…commercial tactics…and reasons why stories will not die.” It was also a party for the revamped Actually People Quarterly.

I got there a little early, so Sarah Fontaine, one of the Annex founders, invited me up to the attic to wait for everyone else to arrive. She told me about what she’s planning on teaching us in her CW unit later this year– it’s going to be about, as I understood it, the places where genres overlap and make new kinds of writing. I won’t reveal anything else, but she seemed very excited about it.

The reading was in the attic. Maybe 40 people were there– it certainly felt packed– and most were sitting on the floor. Before she started, Molly (it feels wrong to call her Ms. Prentiss when the setting of the reading was so intimate) handed out “non-linear” maps of the lecture, which was titled “The Necessary Narrative.” A picture of part of a map is shown below. It was especially useful afterwards, when I wanted to be reminded of all the things she’d touched on.

Molly Prentiss has not only a unique perspective, but also a unique style. She grew up in a commune in Santa Cruz; now she works in fashion advertising. She told us about her “fake,” unfinished novel, which might become a real, finished novel, without boring us, and about noblewomen’s long nails, and about her pretend childhood pony, Midnight. She was also funny. Although Frances and I were confused about how loudly people were laughing– she’d make a joke that wasn’t uproariously amusing, but everyone else was rolling… That part was slightly off-putting.

I wanted to read her lecture again after she finished. I haven’t searched for it yet, or tried to get ahold of her, but Frances and I got copies of the new Actually People Quarterly, which has some other Molly Prentiss pieces in it. I could bring mine in and leave it on the shelves in CW, if anyone else wants to share a good thing.

Coming up is another Carville Annex lecture:

Saturday, April 20th, 7pm
Inventory of Shimmers: The Neutral in Three Parts
a lecture by Colleen Stockmann


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by Abigail (’14)

Last Thursday, I went to the Girl With a Pearl Earring exhibit at the DeYoung. Ever since I read Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett in maybe fourth grade, I’ve wanted to meet a Vermeer in person. Last year, someone gave me a stack of novels about Vermeer paintings (apparently he and the mystery surrounding him are popular subjects for writers). I read them all obsessively. So now you can imagine my excitement.

The only disappointing thing about the exhibit was that there was only one Vermeer there, but if there had to be just one, I am glad this was it. It was the only painting in its room, lit softly. You could tell it had been set up like this for dramatic effect, but any sarcasm this realization might have induced was erased by the painting itself. Some reproduced art looks almost exactly like the original; Girl With A Pearl Earring doesn’t at all. I won’t even try to describe her. A guy behind me said, “Dude, she looks just like Scarlett Johansson,” but that doesn’t give quite an accurate impression, either. You have to go see her to fully appreciate her.

Or you could try Girl With a Pearl Earring, a novel by Tracy Chevalier. As fanfiction goes, it’s pretty high-class.

In The Neighborhood

by Amelia (’13)

Dance Mission

If you have ever been to the mission district of San Francisco, you know you will never run out of things to do. Among the taquerias, panaderias, bookstores, cafes, yoga studios and thrift stores is a dance studio very close to my heart, a space tucked between a Chinese restaurant and a Turkish café, Dance Mission. My time at Dance Mission has not only informed my modern/contemporary technique, but also educated me on contemporary artistic feminism and issues that plague women and minorities around the world. I have danced for oil drilling and deforestation in South America, victims of domestic abuse and violence and women’s reproductive rights. Not many dancers in the dance department at SOTA can say that. But now if modern isn’t your thing, that’s fine, you could try out hip hop, salsa, bellydance, Afro-Cuban, or taiko drumming: I certainly have. What is utterly lacking in Dance Mission is its sense of elitism. Dance is often made out to be an expensive, individualized art for the few who can dedicate their lives to it. Dance Mission has never and will never operate like that. The Grrrl Brigade youth program (not unlike Riot Grrl) seeks to empower girls and women in their communities by allowing them to realize their potential through dance. Dance Mission is a matriarchy, made up almost entirely of queer feminist artists lending their abilities to social awareness through dance, spoken word, sign language and taiko drumming. These women are incredible. They are all indisputably talented, ridiculously compassionate and unabashed about standing up for what they believe in.

I am coming up on my final performance as a principal dancer with Grrrl Brigade and my first incorporating my own writing. I suppose this warrants some self-actualization in how, over the years, my dance and my writing are equal players in my identity. To remember: writers are not lethargic and dance is not void of poetry. I am terrified of leaving a community that has been such a support system and so attentive to my personal strengths and weaknesses. What if a “conventional” dance studio doesn’t suit me? What if my next instructors don’t want to have drinks with my mother and ask me about my poems? I will leave that up to time. But if you ever find yourself at 24th and Mission with an hour to kill and $11, I urge you to discover something you will be inexplicably unable to forget.

Taking A Walk

by Jules (’14)

One of the things I have found extremely comforting in the recent weeks– with school getting more intense as everyone hurdles towards the springboard of senior year, with all the old people I know getting more or less fatally so– is forgetting everything, skipping out on homework and/or school itself to just walk. It’s one of the most profoundly satisfying feelings in the world, to be a machine operating at full capacity, taking in air and putting land behind you and looking at nothing in particular because you’re thinking of nothing in particular. Humans are built to get everywhere on foot, and in a world that is powered by gasoline and magnets it’s really easy to forget that 150 years ago everything was within walking distance. Even more satisfying than walking by one’s self is walking with another person, someone who you can talk to (but don’t have to), someone who you can communicate with through mostly hand gestures and inarticulate noises because the only thing better than hearing your own shoes crunch leaves or slap pavement is hearing somebody else’s keeping time.

Girl Scout Cookies and World-Building

by Olivia A. (’14)

Many of you have probably noticed by now that I’m a girl scout (especially now that it’s cookie season, meaning that you can buy cookies from me for $4 a box if you feel so inclined). It’s difficult for a lot of people to imagine high school-age girl scouts. One would think girls would lose their attraction to the organization once they age and the cookie-selling gets tough (it’s much easier to make money if you are six years old, adorable, and shivering on a street corner). However, my troop has stuck through it for eight years now and has morphed over time to become a very intimate, eccentric group. Ours is probably the only troop in history to also be a band (four ukuleles and an occasional children’s accordion).

A couple of years ago we came up with the idea of doing a Harry Potter-themed camporee to put on for younger girls in our service unit. We were excited by the possibility of fully entrenching not only ourselves but those around us in an exciting world of our own invention. It became a very complicated and involved process. Not only were we planning the logistical aspects of hosting a camporee for one hundred guests, but also creating the fictional world we would reside in for the weekend. We used the basic structure of the Harry Potter books to plan out the world, yet we created our own characters, legends, and traditions—all complex and fully realized.

I was Professor Kale P. Cucumere for the entire weekend. I had a backstory, costume, and personality that I occupied and believed in. The younger girls did too. They believed that the Oobleck I was teaching them to make had magical properties, and that I had real stories to tell them about my days as a wild werewolf loose in the Oregon forests. They often came up to me, excitedly demonstrating how they could get the non-Newtonian substance to shift between solid and liquid. They asked me about Kale Cucumere’s middle name, her family, and her favorite place in the forest.

I don’t think anyone came away from our camp expecting to perform real magic, and I didn’t honestly envision myself transforming into a werewolf after I went to sleep at night—and yet, I like to think that in fully realizing the stories that we created, my friends and I briefly brought to life a world that we felt at home in.

The Eatwell Farm

by Josie (’16)

I have worked for a farm called Eatwell Farm at the Ferry Building farmers market, held on Saturdays, for a year now. Eatwell Farm is a small, organic farm located in Dixon, California that produces a variety of products from body scrubs to eggs.

I got the job at the farmers market not only because my family has been friends with the farmer for a long time, but also because my brother and sister worked at the stand when they were in high school. Now that they have moved on to college, I get to fill in for them. I love working at the farmers market and I love Eatwell Farm.

Recently, the farmer, Nigel Walker, had expressed an interest in having a farm rap. So, over winter break, my siblings and I created the Eatwell Farm rap and gave it to Nigel as a Christmas Present. We are very proud of our creation:

Eatwell Farm…it’s all I think about
Let me tell you bout a place called Eatwell Farm
It’s certified organic so don’t be alarmed
And it’s run by a homie named Nigel Walker
He’s an awesome dude but a Facebook stalker
Always tryna set people up with a love that’s true
but that’s okay cause Eatwell Farm’s a great place to meet yo boo
we got cows and chickens 
and food that’s finger lickin’
and a horse and a pond 
and a real deep bond
with the bay area homies that invest in our CSA
that’s who the farm be workin for every single day
growin kholrabi and tomatoes
lavender and potatoes 
without harm in’ the Earth
We’re Eatwell farm dawg
and Dixon, California is our turf
EATWELL FARM that’s all i think about…
Jason’s growin out his hair soon it’s gonna be a mullet
homie don’t complain if we only got pullets
cause our eggs are the best, everybody knows it
the chickens live like kings
and that orange yolk shows it
and don’t get me started with those strawberries man
they the real bomb-diggity 
When yo chillin on the farm there ain’t no better offer
then kickin back in the sun with a Drinkwell softer
but watch yo back dawg
don’t make a mistake
if you ain’t careful the Walker twins gonna throw you in the lake
So dawg you might be askin,
Homie what’s a CSA?
well it’s community supported agriculture baby
and it’s A-OKAY
Dawg you must be cray-cray not to be in our CSA

Zest Books

by Noa (’16)

Zest BooksA few months ago, Colin and I began an internship at Zest Books. Zest is a company that publishes non-fiction books geared toward teen audiences, on subjects ranging from how to make clothes out of old jeans to the memoir of a teenage girl diagnosed with leukemia. It’s an awesome company that accepts teen advisors (such as myself) to come in and work with a very nice and fashionable lady named Anne and read manuscripts that Zest is considering publishing, in order for them to get a teen’s perspective. We all sit around a table and drink tea and eat cookies and talk about what we think of people’s writing, which, at least to me, is a pretty ideal way to spend one’s time. The great thing is that we are actually allowed to say our honest opinions about the manuscripts, like “this cover is so weird why would this exist,” or “I really love the idea of this book, but the graphics are off-putting,” and it seems like they generally appreciate and value our advice. As a young person dipping my toes into the (very, very intimidating) writing industry, I can honestly say that the fact that the company and the adult-people running it are so lovely and interesting makes me want to be part of the publishing industry so much more.