The Body Electric by Charlotte Pocock

In April of 2018, I was diagnosed with a rare migraine condition known as New Daily Persistent Headache, or NDPH. The details are vague and, from what I can gather, not fully ironed out. The basics of my condition are as followed: two days before my seventeenth birthday, I was recovering from the common cold and developed a splitting headache that reduced me to a noise-sensitive puddle curled in a dark room, and it has remained this way for fourteen months now. “The brain’s job,” the pediatric neurologists explained to me, circling my brainstem on a diagram, “is to keep on doing what it is already doing. It is quite good at this, it’s what keeps us alive.” With NDPH, the brain recognizes the amount of pain chemicals it is releasing as normal, and thus registers that pain level as the homeostasis it is meant to maintain. This level of pain is referred to amongst NDPH patients as a “baseline.” In my family and amongst those who know of my medical condition, it has become common practice for me to respond with “how are you” with a number. In the beginning, my baseline was a near-constant seven. I spent most of the latter portion of my junior year lying behind a screen in my Marine Biology class, head a fog of migraine medication: naproxen, sumatriptan, naratriptan, prochlorperazine and diphenhydramine. I would register that my body was floating down the halls to my Pre-Calculus course, but I was unable to feel any of my limbs. The only feeling present was the pain. For several months, I was rated by the doctors as having “moderate to severe disability.” And I was angry, God I was so angry. This wasn’t supposed to be my life! I loved poetry and museums, spending nights out late with my friends and getting into trouble, going on long walks around the city. My grades had slipped tremendously, but I was too tired and embarrassed of my condition to tell any of my teachers why; I was too afraid of being seen as faking it for attention. One of my clearest memories of this time is lying on the floor of my bedroom, staring through the dark to the ceiling and thinking “something has got to give.” I could feel the itch to live again in my blood, like static, like the electric impulses in my brain telling itself that it’s fine, it’s okay, everything is happening as it should be. These days are gone now. I’ve learned to be what nurses call “high-functioning” while they pump dihydroergotamine into my veins. Treatment hurts, of course it does, but it’s not as painful as watching your life pass you by, drowning under all that could be if it just had been different. I’m not sure how I identify these days. My disability numbers are still high, but not as high as they were, and my family panics whenever I mention it. I’m in school, I have good grades, I am attending the University of California, Santa Cruz in the fall. I have a part-time job, friends I love, and I learned how to drive at a baseline of five. Life is out there, and I’m very likely to be able to experience it despite my barriers. I’m not sure what the take away of this is for you, if you are reading this. I encourage you to live your life to the fullest. I wish you health, and fulfillment.

Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019

On Wanting by Charlotte Pocock

The morning of my first in a series of near-chronic migraines, someone had taken to an add for discounted Clipper Cards outside the Rockridge BART Station with a sharpie. Black marker blurred over the black type on bold yellow paper with a question, simple in its phrasing but complex in its meaning: WHAT DO YOU WANT? It was underlined twice, the lines crossing sloppily towards the end. You could tell it was written in a hurry. Beyond the throbbing in my temples and the twisting of my empty stomach, I thought of what it was that I truly wanted. I was to take the SAT in a month– a clinical symptom of my college diagnosis– and I had already visited two college campuses, so it isn’t as if my future has not been called into question. It’s all been more about expectation than want, however. Necessity.

I cannot picture a life in college, or how I would be making a living after, but it is without a doubt the path that my life is going to go down. I have modest expectations. But since the discovery of this rushed my transit existentialism, I have begun scribbling my desires down where I can: candle wrappers, cafe receipts, lipstick price tags, the corners of my library copy of In Cold Blood, teal-stained post it notes. Here is a list of what I have comprised so far, but in this process I have discovered is that what I want most of all is to grow up satisfied with what I have. 

WHAT DO YOU WANT?

  • I want small and tiled kitchens and the ability to sustain plants.

  • I want coffee boiling on my stove and fresh nectarines on my table.

  • I want the sun on my collarbones and I want the wind in my hair.

  • I want the orcas outside my window and the museums preserved.

  • I want the Venus di Milo to never go out of style

  • I want my grandchildren to know the ocean as I have.

  • I want mud in my boots.

  • I want to have enough regrets to not wreck me.

  • I want gilded frames and Milan and neon lights and Tokyo.

  • I want my mother to stop worrying and I want my brother to be happy.

  • I want malt milkshakes and French cinema, rainwater and tapioca.

  • I want a thousand lives, each one with more time than the last.

  • I want more than I deserve.

Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019

Year Eleven by Charlotte Pocock

When introducing myself to someone for the first time, I often find myself describing myself first as a high school junior. This, by default, means that I have completed ten whole years of grade level academics and am working on my eleventh. I am now sixteen years old, and, if you count Pre-K, I have been involved in some sort of schooling for exactly three quarters of my life. Recently, I have been thinking about how my high school experience has culminated. As a newly minted upperclassman, I have been able to review the past few years with all the wisdom of a middle aged parent.

I remember freshman year as being in a constant state of confusion. My fourteen year old self was still reeling from the whirlwind that had been my middle school experience that everything was the biggest deal in the world to me. I was anxious about how I came off to my peers and unsure how I would strive in both my academics and art. By sophomore year, I had sunken to such lows that I feared I would never claw my way out. This was when I encountered a phenomenon known to the public as the Sophomore Slump, which is self-explanatory. I was morose at the idea of not even being halfway through high school and was unsure what the point of the content I was learning was.

Now, I am nearing the end of my third month in the eleventh grade, a little less than thirty percent done with my junior year. I can no longer say that I am confused or unmotivated, as I have been here too long to be confused and the threat of colleges lingering over my GPA is enough to get me out of bed to do work past midnight. No, the only way I can describe myself is tired. I am tired of waking up at half past five to get myself to school on time, and I am tired of being awake until the early morning. I am tired of my caffeine dependency. I am tired of biting my nails, waiting to feel important and having stress dreams in which the grade book on Synergy has me marked down for assignments that don’t exist.

I am so hungry to learn, and I am too exhausted to fill my plate.

Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019

How To Embody Wanderlust by Charlotte Pocock

  1. Go weeks without sleep listening to the same song on repeat. Watch the moon from your window, frown at the lack of stars. Tell yourself you’ll never get tired of looking at the sky. Get tired of looking at the sky. Climb out of your window like an escaping thief to watch the sunrise. End up scaring a large dog across the street.
  2. Invest in too many maps and too many pins. Pin the places you want to go in white and the places you have been in red. Congratulations, your white to color ratio is now equal to the U.S. Congress. Get angry. Take down the map.
  3. Create a five-page list of the places you want to go. Loose the list. You temporarily give up hope. I mean, you don’t even have a job.
  4. Try for months to capture this feeling, this constant reminder that you are here and not everywhere else. Fail.
  5. Create a tumblr tag titled “places”. Fill it with pictures of great cities and not-so-great landscapes. Spend three hours scrolling through the “Prague” tag.
  6. Receive money from your grandparents for your birthday. Tell your grandmother you’re going to run away to Prague. She won’t believe you. You don’t believe you. What are you even going to do in Prague?
  7. Watch others explain that they often write about the experiences they’re not having and the frustration it ensues. Repress the urge to stand up and scream YESYESYES at the top of your lungs.
  8. Download a bus route app on your phone. Find out that you can get to Seattle in twenty-three hours and eleven minutes. Get off at the bus stop and stare at the train for five minutes. Go home.
  9. Tell your friend about the Seattle incident. They don’t believe you. You don’t believe you. What are you even going to do in Seattle?
  10. Accept that you’re going to be stuck for a couple years. You’re going to be stuck your entire life. But maybe, one day, you’ll be stuck somewhere else.

    Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019

Going Places by Charlotte Pocock

I started a list the other day of all the places I want to go in the world. It is currently five pages long. Each page is for a different continent, their titles being “Europe”, “Asia”, “South America”, “Africa”, and “Other” (because I am not going to dedicate an entire page to Antarctica and I am not too comfortable placing Iceland under “Europe”). There are, as of today, twenty-six countries and twenty-one specific cities on the list. These include Prague, Tokyo, Victoria Falls, Palau, and the Northern Lights.

I may never have enough money or time to visit the twenty-six (and counting) countries. I could, maybe, make it as a gypsy. I could learn Romani and join the ones I saw on the sides of highways in Greece and travel from place to place with them. I could learn self-defense and hitchhike across Europe. I could walk across borders, doing small jobs so I can afford food and to renew my passport. I could do a lot of things, but I probably wont. At a certain age I’ll settle with the handful of wonders I have seen in my life and spend my time finding new things to love about wherever I end up.

We have recently started working on our fiction unit. The hardest part about writing, to me, is deciding where I want to go with the piece I am working on. Many difficult choices come with beginning a work of fiction. There are so many ways to interpret things, so many ways to develop a prompt. Most of the time, I have no idea what I’m doing when I start writing. Of course, after a few lines, I start to get an idea of what I want to do and things start formulating themselves, but it is still a frustrating process. Some days I feel like I’ll never be able to start a piece smoothly.

However, writing is free, and I have so much time to grow, to develop skills and plotlines. Who knows, maybe I’ll still be making things up as I go by the time I’m a senior. Maybe I’ll never see the Northern Lights. Maybe I’ll wake up one day and regret all the things I never did. But I doubt it.

Charlotte Pocock, class of 2019