The Post Where I Tell It All…

It’s 10 AM on Wednesday morning, and I’m about to head into my weekly lesson with my trombone professor. I am a third-year music education major with a recital coming up in a month, yet for some reason that day, that was the only thing that I did not have on my mind. It was stuck in the past.

The previous semester had been rough, admittedly the worst semester I’ve had in my life. Not always because the classes, which were hard, but all the little extra things that occurred with them on the side. These things ranged from out of class mentorings, coming to terms about my uncertainty of the future (aka the should I or shouldn’t I decisions being made about me keeping an English minor), knee problems, excessive fatigue, and then a person that I let hurt me in ways I never would have imagined.

Now I know the last one may seem pretty specific and dramatic in the scope of things, but I learned just how much of an impact a person can have on you in such a short time. That 10 AM lesson marked months of that same impact and that impact seemed like it was permanently built into my brain. I was beginning to reflect, and I didn’t want to. I had to rehearse. I had other things to do. But my brain doesn’t work like that. It demands to be heard and at whatever time or cost, whether I want it to or not.

I also went to see a therapist last semester, after taking what I thought would be a very long hiatus from my visits from the previous spring. I was very wrong. So then with those appointments I learned that what I was dealing with with my mind and self was actually something common that many other people like me were also experiencing. Depression, while so common, occurring and millions and millions of people, is a real butt-kicker. Yet it made so much sense when I was talking with my therapist. It explained almost everything, yet it gave me a label. It’s ironic; I hate labels almost just as much as I hate feeling the way the label explains things to be. It did and still does so much to me; it  makes me want to say everything and absolutely nothing all at once. But mostly, it took what should’ve just been a tough semester, and made it a personal inner hell. I found so much darkness within me that I never knew I had. I felt like a completely different person because of it; I still feel like different person because of it. So therefore, instead of withholding all of the contents of my brain’s “junk-drawer” within me, it’s time to dump it all out. So at 10 AM, when I twist the door handle into a roughly 10‘ x 12‘ office space to rehearse an Arthur Pryor piece, this, my story, begged to come out…

It had felt like forever since I can remember last time I did not feel like this; feeling normal isn’t a familiar concept to me. But I can pinpoint exactly where things began to escalate. In the spring of 2016, I had a person blindside me and make me feel as if they cared more about me than they actually did. Regardless of what you’re going through this kind of thing already sucks. I lost a friendship, but as a result I don’t think either one of us realized just how much the “conflict” messed with my own self worth. Then fast forward to that summer. I got over what that person did to me, but this lingering feeling of mediocrity swept over me. I would feel down and exhausted but I had no reason to. I logged long hours at my summer job to keep me busy, and while I hated it because of what it was, I loved it because it served as a distraction. Then at the end of July, I attended a conference that today impacts me heavily in my music education philosophies. But while I was there, I was so unhappy. I wanted to be alone all the time and I just felt broken down. I came home a week later having enjoyed the conference, but also feeling like I couldn’t experience it like I wanted to. My feelings of unhappiness and worthlessness prohibited me from participating fully.

Once I was back to school I had to assume my role as a section leader in my college’s marching band. It was a lot of responsibility at once (which I already knew to anticipate, but still) and then before I knew it I was going back into the familiar fall semester routine. I was making new friends luckily, and I got to know this one person very closely and it seemed like for just a few short days that things were looking up. Me and this person got into a relationship and I felt so lucky. I felt like I also would have somebody there for me to support me when these feelings were to come back again. And he did. He said he was there for me and he made me feel valued. Now that I look at it, I feel like he was only saying those things because he knew that was what I wanted to hear. Because let’s be honest, those kind of things are the things that we all want to hear deep down.

I wish that I could leave it right there. It had started off so well despite my mood and at the time that’s what I thought was the worst I could handle because I at least had a support system. But then he started to act different, and my anxiety got in the way. I questioned things, but then I would face this backlash for doing so. And then I would feel guilty, and this led to me making an apology that I shouldn’t have had to make. All of this was going on while my mood had been getting worse, probably aided by stressful semester and an unspoken relationship pressure. I wasn’t exactly satisfied with it anymore, but I thought it was something that could be pushed past; it would get better. But then I can distinctly remember a phone call when he told me “I can’t be around somebody who brings me down“ and it just took my breath away. It seemed as if I had a choice to be happy and that was a very unfair choice for me to make; it wasn’t even a choice, I was unhappy whether I liked it or not. I had never felt like such a burden like I did in that moment. And I made excuses for it. I blamed myself instead of questioning this response. It didn’t seem to be the response somebody who climbed have cared for me as much as they did. He had his own problems as well, but mine were treated like a prime issue.

This relationship ended a few weeks later. And it tore me up. Not because of the value I had in it, but in the way in but she was handled. I’ve never questioned an interpersonal connection like that before.

After that I had the rest of the semester to go, and I never knew how hard it was just to accomplish simple things when I felt as badly as I did. I started to shut down just a little. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to classes and sometimes even skipped them. I would just randomly break down throughout the day and kept a little log to jot down how I was feeling when I felt anything. I had nearly eighty entries. I kept up with my persistent perfectionism and it became an awful enemy. I was never good enough for myself and I felt like my feelings were unfortunately getting validated. My professors knew something was going on with me but they had no idea how bad it really got. I was tired. I felt like the way I was feeling was hurting other people. And then it would just cycle from there.

And then I got a concussion in November and I wasn’t feeling right physically. I had no energy, headaches, and couldn’t focus myself as well as I used to. I kind of lost momentum when I needed to pick it up. I had exams, a jury, and a huge capstone paper to write. Writing a capstone paper when you can’t focus by the way is super difficult and an experience I don’t want to have again. But do you know what the funny thing was? I didn’t want to exert and it was so difficult yet I made it out with the best academic rankings and grades of my life. The price was just far too steep.

I started seeing my therapist yet again weeks after Christmas. The holidays were also just awful for me. I spent Christmas Eve in bed. Everything I did left me feeling the label of “meh.” I never thought that I would get out of this rut. It would take a while but things slowly started to improve to a point. Not exactly a point I want to be at but a better one than the one I was at in November. So I see a therapist. I try to socialize or do something I want every once in a while. When I have a bad day, I come home and try to sleep it off. I try to take care of myself because I had neglected to.

All the way up until today, I am starting to take these experiences as a series of lessons. I deal with what I deal with, but I can try my hardest to not let it define me. I have learned that my greatest supporter has to be myself, and I am enough. It is so incredibly hard for me to act on that but at least I can recognize it. I have learned that I do not always have to apologize for everything, and that it is okay to stick up for yourself. I have also learned that I am not, and I will never be alone. The amount of support that I’ve gotten from those who have known my experiences has been amazing. For that I am very grateful. There are millions and millions of people who face similar struggles, and we all have to be there for one another. There is love and compassion in support.

Last of all, I would like to explain a little bit more as to why I am writing this and sharing this with you. I have learned that being open and vulnerable can be a good thing, and it’s okay to not be okay. I want people to know that is the case for me. And plus, if I’ve seemed a little weird lately this is probably why. I’ve been advised to be more open about how I’m feeling; this is me trying.

Or I’m just sleep deprived, because after all I am a college student with a recital coming up and many more 10 AM lessons to attend.

Never take crap from anyone. You deserve the best. Surround yourself with people who truly care for you and support you. It’s okay to care for yourself. And it’s okay to not always be okay. Love one another and be supportive. Don’t ever put anyone down. Your health comes first. And you will thank yourself in the long run.

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The Post Where I Tell It All…

Much Ado About Liechtenstein

Note- This is a “creative nonfiction” work that I submitted last semester in my creative writing class. While I am still trying to perfect my style and avoid my weaknesses, I am pretty satisfied with this work regardless.

 

Much Ado About Liechtenstein

by

Emilee Manning

 

Look at the sky. We are not alone. The whole universe is friendly to us and conspires only to give the best to those who dream and work.” -A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

 

Midnight may be great for many things: snacks, parties, finishing homework assignments, and Netflix binging, but for me it was great for the conversation I was having in a dorm room  with the closest friend I’ve made since going to college. In fact, one of the closest friends I’ve made in my life. Period.  My legs were folded over her lofted bed, covered in a white blanket and miscellaneous Disney memorabilia (she may or may not have a slight obsession with everything Disney) and she sat in a chair, much lower to the ground next to her desk. Outside, people aren’t bustling around like they usually are and it’s eerily quiet. It’s a weekend and they were probably out or home, not sitting in a dorm like us. We’ve been like this for hours, first talking about her position on drinking and then how I was too afraid to ask out this guy I’ve been crushing on for a while; she lost a friend in a drunk boating accident and I was just merely a chicken. Then we talked more about loss, fear, and the pain of getting hurt. About dementia and unexpected death. About dying alone, or never having anyone fall in love with us ever again, in which she replied to me “I’d date the h*** out of you if I were a lesbian.” Extreme as that sounds, we just had that kind of friendship. You just had to see it in action to understand it.Then we reflected on our previous relationships, and why they didn’t work for us. Maybe we were difficult for others to love, but not unlovable.

This was definitely no ordinary conversation; it was an act of two souls baring themselves to one another, in the purest and simplest form you could ever imagine. It was detrimental for our survival, because sometimes you just feel as if you need these kinds of conversations in your life. Without them, you break down and then break apart into tiny pieces.

Two hours past the conversation’s initial start, we arrive here, just minutes away from  midnight. My friend is a geography major, and beside her bed are two world map prints plastered on her wall. One of them is much larger than the other, but the smaller one is more updated; it shows Sudan’s recent split.

Many of our mutual friends tease her about her major. First of all, many people have the common misconception that geographers study rocks, and this bothers her the most. She would protest “I don’t study rocks!” and then hold a grudge on whoever made the unfortunate mistake in the first place. I actually find it amusing. What wasn’t so amusing, however, was the intensive questioning and interrogating she would sometimes get after. I could relate to her on all of this; you meet a lot of resistance when you are a music education major. The comments and questions would often go like these: What are you even going to do with your major? Shouldn’t you do something else a little more worthwhile, like becoming a lawyer or doctor instead? Phew, you need to marry someone rich (if only I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I would be)!

Anyway we are finally sitting in the “now,” and the stroke of midnight flips on our philosophical switches just like it turned Cinderella’s coach back into a pumpkin. We looked at those maps, and it was like our perspectives on the world and our lives had changed. Having your perspectives just shift like that is transcendental, spiritual even, and gazing at large scale maps in someone’s dorm room can make you think about many things. For one, it makes you think about time and motion. The Earth is spinning, and the world is happening all at once. We are all spinning at once.

I wondered out loud if you could ever be still enough to feel the earth move. Now I promise that I wasn’t drunk or high when I thought about this, and I also know that I’m not stupid and there was an explanation for this somewhere I didn’t want to look, but I thought about it anyway. I’ve been feeling it move my entire life, but I’ve never actually felt it move. We could be on the underbelly of the globe right now (again, I’m being hypothetical, not dense) but forces (ie. gravity) hold us in, and give us the perception that we are not upside down, the world is actually flat, nothing is spinning or rotating, and nothing else exists out there beyond us. Just like it is just us in the dorm room with a stuffed Simba and no one else around us. We knew that wasn’t true, but it didn’t matter because that is how we felt; that was the perception.

Before she got into geography, my friend (who will remain unnamed) told me that she wanted to work for NASA as an astronaut. Fascinated and terrified by astronomy, she wanted to be propelled into the abyss that we call outer space. She wanted to see the Earth for herself. Like me, she was stuck in this conundrum of knowing how the globe worked, but not entirely believing it because it was just so incredible to believe without seeing. So she aspired to be shot into the beyond and to the moon, just so she could see the world we live in, all together and in one single form.

“But then I became diagnosed as a diabetic,” she said matter-of-factly. So there went her opportunity of ever flying in a space shuttle. But she has accepted it after many years and then moments and has refocused her attention back to the wall.

“I think time happens all at once,” she said, a moment later, going back to the comment I had made before about the earth’s rotation.

“Yeah?” I responded, not entirely grasping what she meant by that statement

“Yeah,” she says. “Like everything that has ever happened to us is all at once. Like our past lives or something happens together.” She gets up out of her chair and her stool scrapes against the floor when she pushes it with her foot. She is too short for a lofted bed but I know better than to tell her that. We’re on the opposite ends of the height spectrum, and the jokes while funny, are old. Then the mattress squeaks and she is sitting beside me, her head inches away from Africa. Her eyes scan the map again and before I can even respond, she speaks again.

“People tell me that all geography is is looking at maps of places you will never be able to go in your life. The way I see it is that it is a map, but it is filled with places I want to go, and places I will go whenever I get the chance. It’s just so fascinating.” Upon hearing this I twist my body toward the map, pushing myself onto my knees so that I can get a better glance. I can read the tiny names written in black ink on the Atlantic. I can see islands that I couldn’t before. Then I see a yellow familiar boot-shape. Italy.

A common ice-breaker that I’ve heard far too many times in my life is “if you could go anywhere in the world, where is it that you would go?” It’s a valid question; more of us want to travel off to somewhere new then we let on. My mom was and still is set on Australia and my dad doesn’t even want to leave the county. For me, it used to be England. There was tea and royalty, and plus I was a huge Harry Potter fan. Now, my heart still wants to visit London, but it has ventured out this time into the Mediterranean. Italy, Greece, Turkey. And with my study in music, Italy stuck out to me from the cultural standpoint. It has been on my bucket list for years now.

“Where would you want to go first?” I asked. I’m expecting her to answer quickly but she actually takes a moment before responding. Then she points a finger over China.

“Here,” she says as her finger still hovers over this place filled with ancient tradition, the longest wall, the largest population, Buddhism, and Mandarin. Given her Jewish heritage, I find myself feeling slightly surprised. Genealogy is also a favorite discussion point among her and her family. She could tell you just what percentage of each ethnic group existed in her genetic makeup. She did in fact tell me this in detail sometime last year. Meanwhile I don’t even fully know the origin of my own last name.

“But do you want to know what my second favorite country in the world is?” She has this giddy, childlike look on her face and I know just by that expression that I’m going to have to play her “guess the country” game again.

But she doesn’t hesitate. “It’s one of the greatest countries in the world, yet no one even knows about it.” Her hand scans over Europe and then I recall a tiny tidbit of information from one of my English classes. Geography was no longer required of students to learn in order to meet the academic “standards” so if you learned about it, it was a surprise. However, during my senior year we had a whole unit on European literature in English so therefore, my teacher decided that we look at a map then. She told us we needed the culture.

Back to the map. I’m scanning all over Europe and I swore I knew it. I even remember looking at the map and wondering “woah, how long has that been there?” A name appears to me, and it is almost on the tip of my tongue.

“Lit-” I start.

“Liechtenstein. And do you know what makes it so great?” I shake my head. Beats me.

“It has one of the highest GDP rates in the world, some of the lowest unemployment rates, and no military.”

Upon further investigation I later came to find out that along with this information, the literacy rate of the country is almost at one-hundred percent. Food for thought: as of 2013, over thirty million Americans were illiterate. That is nearly fourteen percent of our population. Liechtenstein also has one of the lowest crime rates ever. Prison sentences fail to surpass two years, and citizens feel comfortable enough to reduce security measures in a way that other countries would think is insane. For example, in my own home, the garage door would be shut at night with the side entrance locked, and then the other door entering the house inside this same garage would be locked as well. Our windows are locked, and my dad keeps a gun inside for safety. But the thing is that we live in a safe neighborhood. So why do we have to take all of these measures?

This question applies in more ways than just this one. What about rape culture? Gender identities? Why should someone have to go through so many measures to ensure that nothing bad happens to them on what is supposed to be a fun night out? Why should people have to fear being themselves, and getting hurt or threatened for it? Why are we afraid of the homeless people asking for money in the street? Why are we so afraid to trust? Ethics aside, is it logical to not have a sense of trust?

And then a large-scale question pertinent to American existence: what about terrorism and national security threats?

We have been subconsciously trained by crime reports, relentless media exposure, and terrorism fears to take the more extreme measures. In America, these measures seem to be taken everywhere you turn. Schools, hospitals, college campuses, and even shopping malls. Let’s face it: bad things happen sometimes. People can be nasty creatures. Evidence supports this, and sometimes even rationalizes our fears. But we are still paranoid on a daily basis, living in a constant never-ending state of fear. Meanwhile, there is this far off country who leaves nothing locked, and doesn’t even have an army (which it doesn’t even need in the first place) to protect itself? There is this story about Liechtenstein getting “invaded” by its neighbor, Switzerland. It was completely accidental; Swiss members had no idea that they crossed international borders. It was so casual and a matter worth laughing over. No harm, no foul. But that was one of the bigger “conflicts” that it has ever experienced.

If that wasn’t enough, it also baffles me entirely as to why hardly anyone has ever known this information about the country, let alone heard of it. It is peaceful, prosperous, and educated. It has qualities that I believe nations should strive for, but they don’t. Liechtenstein is literally the alternative cool kid stereotype that you would find in contemporary high schools. They’re the vegan kids, or members of the high school jazz band. They’re different, but they stand out and they’re everything you want to be; everything about them just seems to be right. They aren’t clean cut and traditional, but their methods work for them, and there is this element of intrigue. Yet, at the same time, no one tries to be like them. While the idea of excelling sounds like a dream, the idea is also terrifying; it’s an identity crisis in the works. That is why we will never amount to anything even close to this unordinary country. I know of numerous people who relentlessly want to pursue a path toward radical change, but then I know of many people who are okay with this sense of complacency in our nation. I see this divide putting us all into limbo. Complacency is sometimes put into a positive light but should never be seen as a good thing. Like our relationships with other people, our relationship with our country should never be stagnant. We are too afraid and complacent with where we are now, and if we remain that way, a lack of positive change is inevitable.

So as I sat beside my friend in her dorm room on the hill, I couldn’t help but to be a cliché and think about my life. I was on the path that I wanted to be on, but yet I was so… discontent. My life was an unorganized and a total, absolutely chaotic mess. But yet nothing about life and the universe we live in is ever perfect. Universes exist and sometimes disappear. Stars die and we see them fall through the sky. We hurt. We try, and we fail. Sometimes we don’t even try at all. Some of us have Liechtenstein within us; we are exceptional but go unnoticed. Many with greatness in them go unnoticed and unappreciated on a daily basis, but that’s just how it works. Or on the other hand, we may never be like Liechtenstein. We’re complacent, and we tell ourselves that where we are in the moment is perfectly okay, even if it isn’t. We are confronted with the question to be, or not to be? But Liechtenstein or not we have to continue onward because our lives don’t stop regardless, even through the less spectacular moments. We don’t stop as long as our hearts keep beating and the earth keeps spinning. We always have the “now;” it is just up to us how we choose to live it.

Much Ado About Liechtenstein

The Light at the End of the Tunnel (aka winter break is almost upon us!!!)

WARNING: This is a slight vent post, but I mean it all in good nature.

Hey all! As my lack of posts have most likely told you, I have been busy this semester. Well, busy is a little bit of an understatement, but you get the picture. Sophomore year is hard, especially in music-majorland (it’s a real place, I assure you). For example, there aren’t many other majors where you encounter hours of practice on your instrument, another hour or so on another much more foreign one (I’m talking about you, bassoon), a game or three, theory and singing tests or quizzes, workouts thanks to a Phys Ed sort of class, hours of rehearsals for multiple ensembles, service projects, and oh yeah- PLENTY of 8 AMs to go around (when you’re a music major, there is no escaping them).

PS- Whoever complains about the difficulty of getting up for your noon class: your point is irrelevant to all of us.

Anyway, as you would have it, my mental health is about shot. Correction. It is shot. It’s like having 28 hours worth of work to do and only 24 hours to do them, even when you don’t procrastinate. I know I am not alone on this. But there is yet comfort up ahead. As I am writing this, only one more day of regular class remains and then the dreaded Finals Week is upon us. However, music majors aren’t as worried about this compared to those in other fields. The reason why? Classes with three-hour credits are the only ones that have exams during exam week. A music major’s schedule has maybe only three or four of these because the rest of their ten or so classes only get ONE HOUR of credit. Which means our Hell Week began weeks ago. Finals during the actual Finals Week are just the closing ceremony. Oh wait, I forgot. Juries. Hmm, maybe we all are still anxiety-ridden until the end. But you know what? There are 21 days left until Christmas, and we will get through the end of this semester. We’ve got this.

-Emilee Manning

PPS- I still love my major.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel (aka winter break is almost upon us!!!)

The Value of $200

It took me a while to understand two things: math and money. Math came easier to me as I grew older, but money? Whew, that was terrifying. I don’t know many things about money, such as how to file out tax forms, how to manage a bank account, how to determine income, and I still am ashamed to admit that I forget how to fill out deposit slips from time to time (update: I’m perfectly clear on the deposit slips now). However, I do understand the value of money and the amount of work it takes to earn it, because let’s face it- somewhere down the line money was earned somehow. I may blow it, but I know a thing or two about working for it. This brings me to my next point of many, and I promise that I have a take-away. You see, after a bit of time passed, I realized that the value of money to other people is different. And not just in the numerical amount. Let’s take two-hundred dollars, for example. Using those wonderful math skills that I acquired while going through school, I’m going to throw out some different things that two-hundred dollars can “buy.”

Two-hundred dollars can buy a meal for 500 children in Africa, and provide 2200 meals (Feeding America) in the United States. It can buy 83 loaves of bread or 164 bottles of water. Or, it can buy 50 Big Macs, or 134 large sodas, or 200 plain cheeseburgers from McDonalds. It can only buy two or three full course meals from a fancy steakhouse (I’m looking at you, Ruth’s Chris…), and it can buy approximately fifteen to twenty alcoholic beverages (only at Happy Hour though!) from a bar such as the one in every Cheesecake Factory. Next, let’s step away from food… Two-hundred dollars can buy five or six pairs of jeans, or a designer purse. It can buy maybe three pairs of running shoes from brands such as Nike (and some customizable shoes run two-hundred alone). It can adopt a pet, or maybe even two or three of them. This money can pay important bills, and allow you to make small repairs on your home or your car. It may even buy a romantic date for you and your significant other. Two hundred dollars can buy two tickets to a concert, or one ticket to a Broadway show with nice seating. You can see a movie alone around twenty-five times if you don’t get popcorn, or you can buy twenty to twenty-five large bags of popcorn. You can visit an amusement park or stay overnight in a good hotel. You could even buy 200 lottery tickets, or invest the money so that it may be worth even more in the future.

As we can clearly see, there are so many things that two-hundred dollars can buy, but there is one thing that it cannot. And it should never attempt to purchase this; no monetary amount can. You. Cannot. Buy. Love.

So many times I have seen someone trying to buy their way into acceptance, or use money as leverage in a relationship. While it can buy so many nice things, the things should never act as a replacement. It cannot buy the bond between a husband and wife, parent and child, friends, or anyone for that matter. If you want nice things and can afford them, then go on and buy what your heart desires. But do not let that replace love. Credit cards and checks do not solve or create  a single thing. If anything, they teach the recipient that it is okay to use money as a solution or primary, sole way of showing affection. That is not okay, and it will never be okay.
So tell your loved ones that you love them, tell people you appreciate them, and focus on the memories that you make. Prioritize love and friendship. There is so much more to life than money; money is only just one aspect of it all. Let all of the great things in your life overcome their numerical worth, and I promise you that you and your companions will become far more happier in the process.

 

-Emilee Manning

The Value of $200

Hey Hey EC

Hi guys! These past two weeks has been nothing but hectic with my return to classes for the fall semester. If you want to be technical, the FDOC was a week ago tomorrow, but I have been making the habitual drive to campus a full ten days days before then. Why, you may ask? I have only two words for you: Band. Camp.

Yes, the Marching Pirates have kicked off our annual preseason camp, which ended last Sunday. If I have to be up front about it, it was the LONGEST week of my life. I had to be there for two extra days because I am a section leader for the season (Bone Squad, HOO RA), but that wasn’t what made the week long. Nope. It was the heat. The good ol’ Eastern Carolina humid heat, with a triple heat index on top. I’m telling you, I was sweating EVERYWHERE. The day started at eight-thirty in the morning and I would be lucky if I got home by ten at night. My sports bra would still be sweat soaked by then…

So now that classes are starting to creep their way back into my daily ritual, I am going to have less and less time to write new posts. Sigh. With that being said, here is a compiled list of goals I have for the upcoming academic school year.

  1. Become a better musician; with barriers coming up at the end, my major depends on this.
  2. Learn how to manage stress and continue not to perform reckless acts of abandonment on my body.
  3. Become more active in Tau Beta Sigma.
  4. Strive to become as healthy as I can be; physically, mentally, and emotionally/spiritually.
  5. Make and strengthen my friendships.
  6. And most importantly… Survive.

Hey Hey EC, let’s make this year a cool (ha) one…

-Emilee Manning

PS- Please excuse my terrible use of puns. You will see lots of these.

Hey Hey EC

“The Opposite of Loneliness” and Marina Keegan

“Do you wanna leave soon?

No, I want enough time to be in love with everything…

And I cry because everything is so beautiful and so short.” -Marina Keegan

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Okay, so as I write this, I am sitting on the couch of our condo, on vacation. I wasn’t planning on bringing my laptop with me, and was definitely not planning on writing anything, yet here I am. I owe it both to checking my final exam grade for the math class I’ve been taking all summer and Marina Keegan.

Marina Keegan was a graduate from Yale (magna cum laude) and a brilliant writer. Her works have been published in The New Yorker and in the Yale Daily News. She was also a playwright and aspiring journalist with a lot of promise. She had this profound voice that captures your attention instantly, and it became a hit with her professors, fellow writers, and audience. Sadly, her life ended barely after her graduation from Yale in a car accident. She was twenty-two.

The book, titled after her speech given at Yale, is a posthumous collection of her short stories and essays, and I must state that they are utterly breathtaking. I am only halfway through the book, and it was so phenomenal that I had to start this post ASAP because her writing is that good. As you all know, I have read my fair share of amazing writing but Keegan’s style is set apart from the rest. Her words are raw truth, and they speak to me. Her first short story in the collection, titled “Cold Pastoral” broke my heart in less than twenty pages, making me feel this heart-wrenching pain that I haven’t felt since Dobby died (spoiler alert).

Keegan’s style has also inspired me in a short amount of time to improve my own writing. In a list of “pitfalls” explored in the introduction/forward, Keegan discussed ways in which she desired to improve her own craft. The last object on this list was “THERE CAN ALWAYS BE A BETTER THING!” She reminds us through her personal goals that there is always room for improvement, and as a writer, this guideline is life-changing. That’s also because it applies to our lives in general. Keegan was all about living her life to the fullest even in her limited days, and serves as a reminder for us all to do the same because to be simply put: life is too short.

Without any doubt in my mind, I fully recommend “The Opposite of Loneliness.” It not only is a spectacular collection of written works, but also a legacy of a profound writer who left the world too soon.

“The Opposite of Loneliness” and Marina Keegan

The 5th Wave Trilogy

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Okay, so I am a big fan of reading books before their movie counterpart comes out. I am also a firm believer in “the book is always better than the movie.” However, I tend to be a little busy when it comes to reading so I cheat and go on and watch the movie. This kind of happened with “The 5th Wave.” Oops. I still blame everyone else around me for wanting to see it immediately, and I couldn’t just say “no,” you know? But, I will have to admit, the movie was pretty decent even after reading the books and Alex Roe (he plays Evan Walker)? Adorable.

The books have been on my “must read” list forever, and when I walked out of the movie theater a couple of months ago, I was like: “Okay, I have to read these now.” I still procrastinated and got the book a few weeks later, but once I finally got to reading, I was hooked. Rick Yancey (the author of the series) is a phenomenal writer as I’ve heard from the past. He wrote “The Monstrumologist,” which was a book on a list for my competitive reading team back in high school. I never got around to it, but everyone who read it quickly deemed it as their favorite. I can see why.

Yancey writes his perspectives cleanly, and has a great sense of who his characters are and how to write for them. I read a book recently (not going to title it; it was still a fantastic story nevertheless) in which the author wrote in a contemporary setting, but still used cheesy slang from the nineties for fourteen-sixteen year-olds using smartphones. Yancey did not do that at all, and I found there to be intelligence to his writing. Again, I am not trying to degrade the other authors out there; I am just super impressed. Plus, I found myself able to emote with the characters, and enjoying every bit of them he had to offer. They were complex, and had well-supported backstories, and if there is something I enjoy, it is a good backstory. In this trilogy, nearly every main character has one (and there are a ton of them), which I thought was very nice.

Upon finishing the trilogy (I did this last night but was too tired to write this then), I was disappointed: entirely in the fact that it was over. The suspense and thrill, mixed in with the dark components (YA is getting very dark these days, but I do not mind) made this trilogy one of my favorites, and the themes/ideas of an apocalyptic world, extraterrestrials, and young people going beyond their dark capacities honestly kept me up at night sometimes. I want to discuss how this trilogy ended so badly, but I do not wish to spoil the end for you. Believe me- it is so tempting. So instead, I will just have to say that you need to read this trilogy if you haven’t already. If you are looking for good, intelligently written dystopian-sci fi in the YA genre, this trilogy is definitely for you, and you will not be disappointed.

-Emilee

The 5th Wave Trilogy