Depression of high school

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Along with being unable to accept compliments, there was also this long held concept of being less than and inferior to others, which began early on for me. I struggled in so many ways to match the speed, ease and ability of my classmates that I saw it as a flaw in my very character rather than strictly my ability. It defined me to the core, this idea of not measuring up. That even if I managed to improve, it seemed to matter very little because someone else was still better. My focus was all about how I compared to others instead of establishing my own track of development.

You’re supposed to pay attention to your interests and abilities to recognize talents as those might influence future areas of study to pursue and a potential career path. How do you successfully accomplish this with a negative view of yourself? Yes to a degree I saw that writing and creative writing were more strong suits. But it wasn’t enough to completely draw confidence from it or to see it as an actual talent. I still felt misunderstood for preferring to write in a notebook rather than trying to talk with others.

I twisted most of the compliments I received, convinced that people were just trying to be polite or telling white lie because they felt sorry for me. And with this internal, self-defeating attitude, you can tear yourself down pretty far. I didn’t need extra help in this area. So the emotional and sometimes verbal bullying/antagonizing that I received in previous years just reinforced this feeling of being inferior and incompetent, unworthy.

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Poetry philosophy: Show me, don’t tell me (also struggling with compliments)

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I’m not sure where the phrase “show me, don’t tell me” first originated. I think it was through exposure to creative writing exercises and other writing efforts. But I took that to heart. I took that seriously. And in many ways that influenced my approach to poetry writing.

You don’t want to just say “she was upset”; that doesn’t tell you much. But instead you describe the used tissues scattered on the bed, the box laying nearby, how her eyes are puffy. You acknowledge the remnants of a bowl of ice cream. You describe the girl curled up on a bed, clutching tight to a pillow or stuffed bear. These images offer more details, they help tell the story. She probably didn’t just screw up a pop quiz; it’s more likely that she had a fight with her boyfriend or they broke up.

I was much more interested in showing the details of a story and describing the scene versus being straightforward. I still had trouble balancing what was described and how much to describe rather than saying things outright. I often went overboard on the descriptions and imagery, especially early on, but I was trying to find my style, trying to figure out what worked. How much detail do you really have to give?

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Poem: The Golden Days

In some ways I think this is the high school version of the poem Road ahead is closed.

There will always be a sense of longing for times in the past that seemed easier. But that ease is mostly because that particular situation is now familiar and comfortable; the emotion completely overlooks how challenging and daunting it was in the moment.

This was written during tenth grade

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Poems about peacefulness

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Most people probably have a spot they like to go to for peace and quiet. It might be a daily place of refuge or more infrequent. It might mean going to a physical location or just closing your eyes and creating a special environment in your mind. Or doing a daily Bible study and meditation which helps to start the time with a proper frame of mind.

In high school and college, my happy place was with a journal. Writing out my thoughts and feelings offered me peace. I could vocalize what I needed to there without having to worry about pleasing anyone or needing someone else’s approval. So, yes, despite all the uncertainty that encompassed my life, there were still moments of seeking calm and peace … and finding it.

These poems were both written during tenth grade. I have no idea what prompted the first poem, although it was written before I had any concept of yoga. The second was written after finishing my biology final exam.

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Applying for Governor’s School

As I’ve mentioned before, I often shared my poetry writing with the school guidance counselor. She was the one who encouraged me to another step in developing my skills.

She was the one who would hang posters on the wall of the cafeteria of scholarship contests and other scholarly opportunities. I first heard about the South Carolina Governor’s School for Arts and Humanities by spotting a poster in the cafeteria. The Governor’s School was offering a 5-week program in the summer for various visual and performance arts, music and creative writing. The poster included details about a one-day workshop at a local community college to offer a chance to work on poetry and learn more about the summer program. Even though I was attending a high school in Georgia, I remained eligible to apply because I still lived in South Carolina.

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Mr. Kremin assigns 10th grade autobiography

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A treasured note I received from Mr. Kremin.

Tenth grade meant taking a religion class with Mr. Kremin. I remember him standing at attention in front of the crucifix (in the way only a former member of the military can) to lead us in prayer at the start of class. He faced forward with his back to us; his reverence was an example for the rest of us.

Kremin’s class was amazing because he gave us one of our first tests of being treated as adults. When you walked in the room, you were met with an air of respect. You had to decide how to respond to it. It was the first time that respect in the classroom really seemed palpable: You walk in and you matter. It’s hard to put into words, but it’s one of those intangible things that really resonated with me.

He was a natural teacher and storyteller. What he shared was captivating, maybe because it seemed to be more than going through a lesson. He wanted to communicate more than just the material but to truly reach you, to challenge preconceived notions.

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Poem: Grandma

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My maternal grandmother died when my mom was 16, so I never got a chance to meet her. I had a relationship with my step-grandmother, but it was still a bit distant and formal. My paternal grandparents lived several states away so we didn’t get to spend a lot of time together either.

Generally speaking I got along with my step-grandmother, but we weren’t super close. We would spend time together a few times a year, usually going out for lunch. In many ways she was the classic Southern woman, and she tried to teach me manners and social etiquette. Not that I was an animal, but I had a preference for eating burgers and fries that she wanted to change. The  biggest restaurant moment that stands out is her insisting I try chutney with my meal. (I must have branched out with a chicken sandwich.)

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Poem: Questions for My Sister

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I grew up with Andrew, my brother who is two years older, but we have a sister, too. She was stillborn because of umbilical cord complications. She would have been three years older than me.

My parents named her Lauren Elizabeth.

While growing up, I’d often wonder how our family would be different if she were alive. How our relationships would be different. Thinking of how maybe, just maybe, when I felt like I couldn’t confide in anyone else, I probably would have been able to turn to her. Longing for that sisterly advice. I generally got along great with my brother, but there are just some topics you can’t really bring up.

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Why didn’t Cinderella wear Airwalks?

The shoes I had but different colors.

My church was trying to establish a consistent presence with the youth in our parish. There had been a few different leaders/youth ministers over the years but none at the time lasted more than a year. The constant turnover didn’t help with creating stability in the program and keeping interest.

By tenth grade church leaders were trying again, and there was a guy in charge. I remember we had a social event. It must have been an actual dance because there was dancing that night and I can’t imagine dancing just being a small part of the evening rather than the focal point. Anyway, it’s awkward enough to go to dances, but I was trying to push myself and trying to meet people.

Anyway, what I’m sure was intended to be a fun ice breaker ended up having an isolating effect. Wouldn’t it be fun for the girls to leave a shoe in a pile and the guys pick up a shoe and that’s how the first dance begins? What could possibly go wrong?

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Feeling lost in history

In tenth grade I took honors English and history (Ancient and Medieval history, to be more accurate). Both classes thoroughly kicked my butt. Over the summer we had a massive research project for history. I consider having to look up 30-40 people and events and write maybe half a page on them explaining their significance a massive project. Again I wasn’t good with doing research. Some of them didn’t have their own entry in encyclopedias or other resources I looked at, so I didn’t know where else to try. And for whatever reason, it still seemed like a cop out or failure to ask the librarian for help. I didn’t do very well for that project. That wasn’t a good introduction for the class.

I suppose I could have dropped the class upon learning about the summer requirements, but I didn’t. Maybe I didn’t realize that was an option.

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