All posts by Amy

PW: The Hurt, the Resentful, and the Accepting (May 21)

Disclaimer: This post features three versions of the same speaker, thinking/talking about the same situation. It shows how emotions progress with time, and what different approaches people take.

The hurt. 

After months of calling me beautiful, kind, and smart, you left; acting as if none of that mattered. You told me that the beauty of my mind and heart surpassed the beauty of my facade, and I believed you. I believed that my worth extended far beyond my looks; that it was within me. I believed that you admired my strengths and supported my weaknesses, but only because that’s what I did for you. I noticed everything you said, did, and felt, because it mattered to me. I wanted to know what made your mind tick, your skin crawl, and your smile beam. I wanted to know how to make you happy. I thought you wanted the same for me. That was ignorant. It was enough for me to know that my actions were strengthening you, even if they were simultaneously beating me down. It was enough for me, because through your radiant smile, bright eyes, and lively voice, I could feel that strength that I helped you achieve. I gave everything to you, and when I was around you, I thought that was reciprocated. I was misled. Your radiance was constant; unaffected by me. I hope you learn to appreciate others the way I appreciated you. That is an irreplaceable feeling. 

The resentful.

“You know… I wasn’t going to say any of this. I was going to keep my mouth shut and pretend everything’s fine like I always do. I was going to sit here and nod along, acting indifferent about everything you told me. But how is that fair? How is it fair to me, that you get relieved of all the pain and guilt that has been dwelling inside you, through giving it to me? Your words, your actions, your being there looking all too proud of yourself for “doing the right thing” enrages me. I am fed up pretending that everything is ok. What is it preserving? My reputation? Because I hate to break it to you, but my reputation is built off of my timidity. It’s built off of all the moments like this one, where I didn’t bother to stand up for myself, because I was scared of what I would be called. When you get angry as a girl, you get called irrational, sensitive, moody… You receive looks telling you to back down, and words telling you to “calm down.” You get told that you’re being hormonal, just because you’re raising your voice after months of being silenced? No. Get over yourself. You were the one who did something wrong; not me. I will not be treated like the villain, just because I’m finally defending myself. Kindness is something I always aspire to, but right now, you don’t deserve that from me.”

The accepting. 

I remember the first time I saw you. Your brown hair falling in lazy waves across the top of your head; your emerald green eyes popping against your sunkissed, tawny skin. I didn’t know you, but I knew I wanted to. Not because of your charm, because of your radiance. People felt lucky when you looked at them, because it felt like you were sharing your happiness. It felt like a gift, crafted solely for their enjoyment. Your kind words and generous smile shone brighter than the sun, and when you felt pain, everyone could feel it. I couldn’t believe it when you chose me. The whole world gravitated in your direction, and you gravitated in mine. The looks of shock I received forced me to wonder what I was doing with you. No… what you were doing with me. I wanted to travel the world with you, live alongside you, learn from you. But eventually, we realized that we weren’t meant to be with each other; and that’s okay. At first, it hurt. I resented you. As much as I loved the feeling of being lit up by your radiance, I hated the feeling of it being ripped away. My sun, my beam of light, my power outlet was being pulled away from me and I couldn’t believe how different I felt. I cried, I lashed out, I felt alone. Nevertheless, I ended up okay. I healed, I went through that process, I learned how important it is to do so. The initial pain is unbearable, but putting it in retrospect, it is essential. Which is why I urge you: keep being happy. Keep lighting up rooms, and filling people with joy. Be someone else’s’ sun, let yourself feel pain, and let yourself grow from it. Make that matter; because if that doesn’t, what else will. 

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IRJE: Emma (May 15th)

In Emma, by Jane Austen, the correlation between marriage and social status is a prominent theme. In this novel, marriage is essentially the only way for a woman to change her identity or social standing. Marriage can change who someone is completely, and to some, that is all that matters. It can elevate one’s status, build fortune, unite families, or even lower one’s status, depending on who they marry. There is a heavy amount riding on an engagement; much more so than simply happiness. Emma Woodhouse, a 21-year-old woman of high intelligence, social class, and beauty, has taken it upon herself to play matchmaker for her friends.  After successfully uniting her dear friend, Ms. Taylor, with the widowed Mr. Weston, she realizes that she is quite skilled at it, indeed. As Ms. Taylor moves away, Emma befriends Harriet Smith, who is a younger girl, often referred to as foolish, with insignificant parents. She is a very handsome young lady, which I suspect is why Emma takes such a strong liking to her. After a brief acquaintance is made between a man names Mr. Martin and Harriet, he claims to have fallen in love with her, and proposes to Harriet through a letter. Emma is with Harriet when she reads the letter, and is not pleased by the idea of marriage between the two. Harriet ends up refusing Mr. Martin, which Emma later tells her friend, Mr. Knightley. His response is not what Emma was expecting:

‘Then she is a greater simpleton than I ever believed her. What is the foolish girl about?’

‘Oh! to be sure,’ cried Emma, ‘it is always incomprehensible to a man that a woman should ever refuse an offer of marriage. A man always imagines a woman to be ready for any body who asks her.’

‘Nonsense! a man does not imagine any such thing. But what is the meaning of this? Harriet Smith refuse Robert Martin? madness, if it is so; but I hope you are mistaken.’ (p. 57)

Harriet Smith, although a rather undeveloped character at this point, was judged for refusing marriage. In the society that she lives in, people feel that it’s their right to comment on the decisions and lives of others. Harriet’s decisions have nothing to do with Mr. Knightly, and yet, he feels the right to express his negativity on the subject. His comments on her character, social status, and intelligence are shameful. Furthermore, as Emma said, why should Harriet feel pressured into marrying him, simply because he asked? Although in a completely different manner today, people still feel the right to comment on the lives and relationships of others. We pass judgements or remarks regarding other people, then proceed to be vexed if other people talk about us. This is a hypocritical cycle, and based on the similarities we see in this novel, it has been this way for some time. In Emma, marriage is formed to satisfy society. Societal pressures dictate the moves people make, because one toe out of line will cause revolt. If people saw a high-class man marrying a lower-class woman, there would be an uproar. This leads me to wonder, why? Why is speculation so regular; something most people engage in? Why are we so interested in the lives of others?

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PW: No Trespassing (May 7th)

I live by the ocean. Not on the water; my house is at the top of a hill. I can see most of Victoria, the ocean, and some of Washington state from where I’m situated. I can see the whirling riptides, the boats that are constantly travelling through our harbour, and the rolling clouds. The blue sky is so vast it looks limitless. The ocean is so deep it looks bottomless. It’s a peaceful place to live.

There is a trail on my street that leads to the beach. The path becomes steeper gradually, except at the end, where it is quite abrupt. When we moved to this house six years  ago, I thought I was the luckiest person. To have a beach in my backyard,  and nothing but time to  explore it. I would walk down frequently, despite the challenging trek back up. My parents and I discovered this area, near the bottom of the hill, that was covered in blackberry bushes and broom. There was a fence that always intrigued me, but I always adhered to  the, “No Trespassing, Violators Will be Prosecuted” sign. 

As the years went on, I went to the beach less and less. My priorities changed; my schedule filled up. I  would still go occasionally, but it wasn’t something I made time for. Until now, the time where we have unlimited time. We have online school, and lots of homework, but not so much that  it fills up the entire day. Near the beginning of isolation, I started  walking down to the beach daily. It became a routine that helps me cope with everything;  that helps me stay sane. Regardless of the weather, I would walk down at least once a day.

Like the years prior, I noticed myself being drawn in by the fence that I was not allowed to cross. I could see a path through the chain-link fencing, and there was an opening in the fence that was calling my name. I advanced through the broom and blackberry thorns, surprisingly without a scratch. I maneuvered my way through the opening, and then I was on the other side. I kept going. I kept going through the tall grass, with the ocean on my left. I walked further up, and reached what I thought was  a summit. It wasn’t. I looked around, and the field was enormous. Piles of gravel were placed in a seemingly unstrategic manner, and the  ocean looked beautiful through the multicoloured trees. The wind was refreshing, and the space was so open it was calming. On my right,  there was a hill that I immediately recognized. Not the path that I walked down on, but the hill behind my house that I occasionally take my friends to. It’s a much  steeper hill. And there’s no path. The grass is high,  and there are patches of clovers and flowers throughout. I walked towards it, and when  I reached the bottom,  I started climbing up. As  I got higher, the view got even more beautiful. Although it was steep, I was determined. I made  it to the top, and I could see everything. I could see all of Royal Bay, some of Metchosin, and a large portion of Colwood. I could see the sky, once again vast, and the ocean, once again deep. I could see the city, the clouds, and the trees. And to think that I followed the “No Trespassing” sign all these years. What a shame. 

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John Anderson, My Jo

“John Anderson, My Jo,” by Robert Burns, presents a form of love that we haven’t seen in other works. This poem shows a side of love that’s beautiful, serene, and reflective.  It is not dramatic, nor is it begging for attention. The speaker does not appear needy, or jealous; she is simply in love. I consider the lifestyle that she demonstrates to be appealing and attainable, especially for later life. Rather than focusing on the initial stages of love, this poem is a quintessential example of what changes occur over time, in a healthy relationship.

One of the first observations I made when reading this poem was the speaker. Although we have read a wide variety of poetry, all of which featuring speakers with different views, this is the first poem that is spoken by a woman. She presents love in a refreshing manner, because it doesn’t focus on unhealthy ideas.  The relationship between herself and John appears to be honest and healthy, unlike others we have seen. For example, in “Song. To My Inconstant Mistress,” there is an extremely harsh portrayal of punishment the ex-beloved should receive. Although it’s due to unfaithful situations that aren’t present in “John Anderson, My Jo,” it still puts the topic of healthy relationships into question. If the two were truly in love in  “Song. To My Inconstant Mistress,” would the speaker genuinely want his beloved to be damned to hell? He could be saying those things solely out of pain, but in comparison, the relationship seems to lack the love and caring attributes that we see in “John Anderson, My Jo”.  In this poem, the speaker is reminiscing about her experiences with her lover, which is very admirable. When she says, “When we were first acquent, / Your locks were like the raven, / Your bonie brow was brent;” (ll. 2-4), it demonstrates how well she remembers their first encounter. This shows that he had an impact on her immediately, and the later lines show how that connection only grew.

Frequently, we consider love as the typical first stage of it: passionate, intense, and full of sparks. Love may stay that way for certain couples, but I believe it often evolves into something resembling the love shown in “John Anderson, My Jo”. The love shown in this poem is different to the love shown in others. There’s no doubt in it, especially since the speaker is reflecting on what has occurred, rather that the uncertainty of the future. Talking about the past in this manner shows how their love has withstood the test of time, which can be a good measure of how sincere it is. The metaphor of the two climbing a mountain is a wonderful way of showing that, “We clamb the hill thegither; . . . Now we maun totter down, John,” (ll. 10, 13). These lines represent how they were able to overcome difficulties, and how their love stayed strong despite any challenges. The speaker doesn’t appear to be trying to prove anything to herself like the speaker is in, “Sonnet 116”.  She isn’t questioning her love, or proving what it means. Ultimately, this love feels wholesome, happy, and true.

This poem follows a rhyme scheme of ABCB. When reading it aloud, it gives a strong sing-song effect that is only intensified after listening to the song itself. The ABCB rhyme gives me the impression of suspense within the quatrain, because you have to wait for the rhyme. I associate that with gratification, and how we appreciate something more when we have to wait, but are expecting it. We know the B rhyme will repeat itself, but it isn’t as sudden or regular as simple couplet rhymes. For instance, when she says, “John Anderson my jo, John, / We clamb the hill thegither; / And many a canty day, John, / We’ve had wi’ane anither:” (ll. 9-12), the rhyme only feels complete when she says “anither,” due to that sense of gratification. Similarly, I have noticed that the syllables correspond with the rhymes. Whenever there is a repeating B line, they have the same amount of syllables. For example, the lines, “When we were first acquent, . . . Your bone brow was brent;” (ll. 2, 4) each have 6 syllables, and the lines, “We clamb the hill thegither; . . . We’ve had wi’ane anither:” (ll. 10, 12) each have 7 syllables. The correlation between the rhymes and the syllables increases the song-like effect of the rhyme, as well as how it affects the audience.

Love can be many things. We’ve discussed the wide varieties of that word, whether it be referring to your lover, your favorite movie, your friends, or your family. Furthermore, romantic love can be divided beyond that. As love goes through stages, it changes, which is inevitable. Romantic love can be many things, but ultimately, I believe what they have in this poem is as good of a definition as any.

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IRJE: Pride and Prejudice (May 1st)

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen,  Elizabeth is an intelligent, strong, inspiring woman, despite the limits of her time. When I began reading this novel, I was astounded by the differences between society then and now. Women were truly treated as property, and their lives mainly revolved around marriage from a young age. Marriage was a way for women to move up socioeconomically, and was certainly not principally based on love. However, in this novel, Elizabeth begins to fall in love with Mr. Darcy. They challenge one another intellectually, and both have a kind spirit and social etiquette. Unfortunately, Lady Catherine, an upper-class woman who is also Mr. Darcy’s aunt, does not approve of their union. Before they even get engaged, Lady Catherine travels to Elizabeth’s home, to advise, nay direct Elizabeth not to marry Mr. Darcy. Lady Catherine’s behaviour is despicable, not to mention insulting to Elizabeth and her family. And all because Lady Catherine wants her own daughter, Mr. Darcy’s cousin, to marry him instead. She essentially says that she will not leave until Elizabeth promises her that she will not get engaged to Mr. Darcy. Elizabeth’s response to this rude and forceful statement is as followed:

“And I certainly never shall give it. I am not to be intimidated into any thing so wholly unreasonable. Your ladyship wants Mr. Darcy to marry your daughter; but would my giving you the wished-for promise make their marriage at all more probable? Supposing him to be attached to me, would my refusing to accept his hand make him wish to bestow it on his cousin? Allow me to say, Lady Catherine, that the arguments with which you have supported this extraordinary application have been as frivolous as the application was ill judge. You have widely mistaken my character, if you think I can be worked on by such persuasions as these. How far your nephew might approve of your interference in his affairs I cannot tell; but you have certainly no right to concern yourself in mine. I must beg, therefore, to be importuned no farther on the subject.” (p. 304-305)

In this response, Elizabeth achieves everything I would long to say in a similar situation. She presents herself as articulate, respectful, and brave. She defends herself, and her honour to a woman who is disrespecting her on the highest level. In the 18th century, this was quite uncommon behaviour on both sides. As far as I’m aware, society was conducted in a very civil manner, and respect was always given when deserved. One, especially a woman, would rarely speak out of turn to defend oneself. This is something that makes my skin crawl. Although they were conditioned to being proper, silent, and reserved, I could not imagine a world in which I could not stand up for myself or voice my opinions. However, I would have likely conformed in this case, due to societal pressure. But not Elizabeth. She demonstrates her respect for herself and her family. She proves that women could be powerful in this time. She’s truly an inspiration, and I aspire to speak as eloquently and persuasively as she did in this passage.

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PW – April 21 – Overthinking

If you don’t overthink situations, you’re lucky. Here’s why. 

I was in the middle of getting dressed, when I remembered it. A moment that happened months ago, that still makes my entire body recoil. I squeezed my eyes shut, and tried to forget. I tried to think of anything else. But no matter how  hard I tried, I couldn’t get that unpleasant thought out of my head. 

I try to use distractions to keep my mind occupied, but in isolation that’s challenging. When I was younger, this occured most at night. Right as I would try to fall asleep, my mind would go haywire. Bouncing from one thought to another, whether that be negative or simply distracting. I would try to clear my mind, but as seconds turned into minutes, and minutes turned into hours, my thoughts were still racing. I developed a strategy. I would think of positive thoughts and people, and I would repeat them to myself. I would say my dogs’ names in a loop. Or recite the lyrics to my favorite song. But as I got older, my thoughts got stronger, and this technique stopped being effective. 

At times, this trait can  be beneficial. I believe it adds attention to detail in my schoolwork, because I genuinely care about how hard I try and how well I do. On top of that, I focus more on how the people around me are feeling, and I try to be considerate based on that. I think this quality makes me more attentive  and aware, which I’m thankful for. Furthermore, I often think about really positive experiences, which boosts my mood. Despite the positives, overthinking can be truly negative. I end up dwelling on a bad grade, a negative interaction, and how I appear to others (physically and personally). I tend to assume others’ opinions, even though I know that what someone thinks about me isn’t my business. I’m working on accepting that.

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IRJE – April 15 – Pride and Prejudice

In Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Mr. Darcy’s character is quite difficult to identify. The first impression he leaves on the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, is certainly negative. He insults her honour, which leads everyone to believe that he has far too much pride to be agreeable. However, when Elizabeth comes to Netherfield (Mr. Bingley’s residence) to nurse her sister back to health, Mr. Darcy starts to act differently. He begins to notice things about her, such as her beautiful eyes and her lively spirit. Although Mr. Darcy seems to be filled with pride of his accomplishments, and prejudice toward people of a lower social standing, he starts to seem… nice. Elizabeth often catches him looking at her, and he tries to engage in conversation. Despite the poor impression he originally makes on her, he is recovering fairly well. Unfortunately, when Elizabeth speaks to Mr. Wickham, who is essentially like a second son to Mr. Darcy’s father, her impression of Mr. Darcy becomes as negative as ever.

“I had not thought Mr. Darcy so bad as this—though I have never liked him, I had not thought so very ill of him. I had supposed him to  be despising his fellow-creatures in general, but did not suspect him of descending to such malicious revenge, such injustice, such inhumanity as this.” (p. 74)

Prior to this, Mr. Wickham tells Elizabeth something terrible about Mr. Darcy. Mr. Wickham claims he was so beloved by Mr. Darcy’s father, that when the father passed away, he was meant to receive a portion from his will (even though they are not related). Mr Wickham tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy used a loophole in his recently departed father’s will, to maliciously take Mr. Wickham’s share from him. My hopes for Mr. Darcy depleted as I read this.  Before then, I genuinely liked his character! He did leave a negative first impression. However, I find that relationships are most intriguing when they start in that manner. If the characters previously disliked or hated one another, the relationship is unanticipated, and usually quite passionate. The relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth hasn’t developed at this point, because she truly dislikes him. And honestly… I can see why. As Mr. Wickham illustrates Mr. Darcy’s character, there is absolutely no detail that reflects positively on him. As I read on, the novel begins to reflect that it isn’t actually Mr. Darcy’s character that’s this flawed, but it’s the portrayal. Mr. Wickham is sabotaging his image, which leaves me wondering, did Mr. Darcy deserve this? Perhaps his character is what I thought, and perhaps Mr. Wickham is the true antagonist of this story…

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PW – April 7th – Dreams

Nearly every night, right as my head hits my pillow, I remember my dreams from the previous night. As if something’s clicking in my brain, or that the association is exactly what I needed. Even if I couldn’t remember in the morning or throughout the day, that familiarity sparks something within my memory.

This stimulated my curiosity. Is everyone like this? Can everyone remember their dreams? I asked my friends and family, and I was surprised to find out that many of them couldn’t ever remember their dreams.

Dreams are a place where I can escape. I can be somebody I’m not, do things I’m too scared to do, and experience something I couldn’t even imagine in real life. I can fly above the Swiss alps, wander a foreign city at midnight, and jump off a mountain without any of the inconvenient consequences. Even though the possibilities are limitless, I often find myself dreaming about much smaller experiences. In a way, I actually prefer doing so. I can revisit and correct a conversation that had a negative outcome, experience new memories with people I don’t get the chance to see on a regular basis, and meet people I haven’t actually met. This allows me to learn more about myself, in a way that wouldn’t be possible in a conscious state.

My mind deals with problems in ways that I find fascinating. During this pandemic, I dreamt that our city had a flood. These correlations that our subconsciouses are able to make are incredible. Although they can be so odd and obscure at times, I love my dreams, nightmares and all.

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IRJE – April 1 – A Separate Peace

In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, Finny’s death comes as quite a shock. Throughout the novel, Gene has been struggling with the guilt of knowing that he caused Finny’s accident. However, I am certain this feeling has intensified. Near the beginning of this novel, Gene reminisces about a time where he shook the tree Finny was in, which caused him to fall and shatter his leg. As an athlete, Finny was devastated, but he never once held Gene accountable. After Finny healed for a few months, he returned to the Devon School for boys, and other than his inability to play sports, everything seemed back to normal. Unfortunately, one night, Finny fell down the stairs while discussing his injury with his friends, and broke his leg again. The doctor assured Gene that this was a cleaner break, and that he would only have to set the leg back into place. Despite the reassurance, this did not go as planned, and Finny ended up loosing his life in the process.

I did not cry then or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family’s strait-laced burial ground outside of Boston. I could not escape a feeling that this was my own funeral, and you do not cry in that case. (p. 214)

When I read that Finny had died, I thought I was hallucinating. There seemed to be no hint that it was coming. One moment, the doctor was telling Gene what a simple procedure this was, and the next, he was telling Gene that Finny was dead. I couldn’t help thinking to myself, did I miss something? Did my brain not comprehend the novel I was reading at 11:45pm? How could the author do such a thing to two friends, who have been through so much already. As I read, and reread these pages, I thought back to the last conversation between Gene and Finny. What would they have said to one another if they knew it would be the last? The passage that I chose exemplifies the relationship between the two boys. Gene is expressing that Finny wasn’t simply his friend, he was an extension of himself. This bond is not like any other, because your pain becomes their pain, their pain becomes yours. Loosing that would be agonizing. And loosing that with no warning, indirectly due to an accident that he caused, would be unbearable.

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Sentimentality in Love Poetry

There are moments in life where my heart feels heavy. I feel overcome with emotions that are often too vulnerable to expose to others. It’s not that sharing them would make me feel weak; it’s that I feel too weak to share them. Often times it’s easier to leave them untouched, because it’s too difficult to dig up such a deep emotion. However, there are people that chose to expose those emotions, whether that be through writing, television, or simply to others. This is often defined as sentimentality; the “indulgence of easy emotions” (Mr. MacKnight) such as sadness, nostalgia, or tenderness. When reading the “Love Poetry” handout, I immediately thought that When We Two Parted, by George Gordon, Lord Byron was the most sentimental.

Sentimentality is quite varying to love, because love doesn’t require dramatization; it’s enough on its own. Sentimentality is easier to follow and comprehend, because it’s designed to spark an emotional response. It’s meant to make you feel the way that they feel, in a way that relates to your life. When We Two Parted appeals to the sadness one feels when saying goodbye to someone, or when losing someone. It not only demonstrates the qualities of sentimental poetry, but also makes you feel that stereotypical wave of sadness and sympathy.

One of the preliminary observations one should make to determine the sentimentality in poetry is the rhyme scheme. The rhythm should be very regular, which is the case in When We Two Parted. Each stanza has an ABAB CDCD rhyme scheme, which allows it to flow nicely and repetitively whilst reading it. Furthermore, the consistency of 8 lines in each stanza proves the regularity, which allows for the ‘sing-song’ effect.

Another key component to sentimentality is vague, flowery, and “poetic” imagery (Mr. MacKnight), which is used throughout this poem. An example of this is displayed in lines 9-12, “The dew of the morning / Sunk chill on my brow– / It felt like the warning / Of what I feel now.” This poetic imagery gives the reader a sense of chills and coldness, due to the narrator’s experiences and sadness. When he describes that specific feeling as a warning of how he feels, it indicates his pain, without truly explaining it. Another example of this is in lines 19-20, “A shudder comes o’er me– / Why wert thou so dear?” There is a similarity between these two examples, because the author uses physical feelings that everyone has experienced, to reveal how he felt emotionally. This almost gives it a far-off sensation; as if you can hear his tone and emotions, and feel how he feels, without having to hear every word. This puts the focus on the depth rather than the surface, which is what this type of imagery and language provides.

The final reason contributing to my belief of the poems sentimentality, is the lack of reason, logic, and detail. As I previously mentioned, this poem focuses largely on the emotions. The poet describes how he feels, but doesn’t explain why he feels that way. One can clearly assume that it’s regarding a separation. However, he doesn’t explain the situation, nor the reasoning behind it. That being said, sentimentality is based around a feeling, therefore an explanation is truly unnecessary in order to convey his emotions.

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PW – March 21st

We are less that one week into self-isolation, and I am officially bored. Monday started off fairly normal, although we had to instate new policies at work, due to the virus outbreak. On Tuesday, I entered work, to be notified that we would be closing. As the week progressed, I found out that many of my friends were leaving the country, with no expectation to return. Not only that, but I found out that I would never have the opportunity to see them again, or say goodbye.

Although I like Brookes, that’s one thing that I truly hate. Having to say goodbye to friends that I’ve made, with no hope of seeing them again, due to the fact that they live so far away. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel worth it to get close to someone in the first place, if you know that they’ll likely just be leaving after a year. However, if that were the case, you would miss out on friendships that end up having the most impact on you.

Before spring break commenced, I was only prepared to have two weeks of online school at most. Therefore, naturally, I didn’t truly say goodbye to anyone (it can be too much of a scene). Within days, we were notified that we would likely not be returning until September, and that many of our international friends would not be returning at all. On top of that, we’ve been instructed to take part in social-distancing, which is stopping me from seeing any of my local friends.

I understand the importance of self-isolation. I understand why all of the action being taken is so crucial. I understand that in order for us to “flatten the curve” we must follow these regulations. Nevertheless, it’s frustrating, disappointing, and extremely sad.

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IRJE – March 15th – A Separate Peace

In A Separate Peace by John Knowles, the friendship between Gene and Finny is continuously growing. At the Devon School for boys, the two are having a summer packed with enjoyment and adventures. This novel is narrated by Gene,  and although he considers Finny as his best friend, there is a prominent feeling of jealousy that Gene feels towards him. In Gene’s eyes, Finny is perfect. He’s the quintessential example of what Gene aspires to be. Finny is confident, athletic, social, and kind, which I believe subsequently affects Gene’s self-worth. When Finny opened up to him, and told Gene that he was his best pal, I feel that his self-worth was slightly restored. Finny expressed a raw emotion, without prompting, which could have boosted Gene’s confidence. Perhaps this following passage is an attempt to maintain that emotional strength, or perhaps it’s something deeper.

Exposing a sincere emotion nakedly like that at the Devon School was the next thing to suicide. I should have told him then that he was my best friend also and rounded off what he had said. I started to; I nearly did. But something held me back. Perhaps I was stopped by that level of feeling, deeper than thought, which contains the truth. (p. 44)

This hesitance surrounding the expression of his emotions is quite a natural response, that I’m sure everyone can relate to. However, this makes me wonder, why are we so scared of sharing our emotions? Is it the pride of knowing that we have the power to control how the situation plays out? Is it the fear of rejection, or the fear of knowing that there’s a very real possibility of getting hurt? Or, is it simply as Gene said, a feeling that we as humans can’t quite grasp in a conceptual way. In this scenario, Gene isn’t facing rejection, since Finny has already admitted that Gene is his best friend. Nevertheless, there is still something holding him back from saying it aloud. Which for now, may just have to remain inexplainable.

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IRJE: A Separate Peace

In A Separate Peace, by John Knowles, Gene Forrester reminisces about parts of his life 15 years ago, as he walks through his old school. In his eyes, Devon School has been well preserved; surprisignly, even more so than when he attended. As Gene describes his experience at Devon, it’s clear to see that he associates the school will fear, rather than with sentimentality. He attended the school in the early 1940’s, during World War 2, so this response seems only natural. As the novel progresses, we start to see more of the explanation behind his resonating trauma. However, as he’s reflecting on the surface-level growth of the school, he makes an observation about how his life has changed in 15 years.

Everything at Devon slowly changed and slowly harmonized with what had gone before. So it was logical to hope that since the buildings and the Deans and the curriculum could achieve this, I could achieve, perhaps unknowingly had achieved, this growth and harmony myself. (p. 7)

I find it fascinating to hear someone reflecting on their life at school. I always wonder what aspects I will remember, and what I’ll forget. Will details that are so significant to me now, be relevant to my future? Will I remain friends with any of my high school friends? In this passage, Gene isn’t certain that he’s experienced a prominent sense of growth nor harmony. It seems that he feels that his school has changed, but in a way, he still hasn’t. Perhaps this is hinting at aspects of his life that he hasn’t yet moved on from. As Gene explores his past, it seems that he never truly received the closure he deserved, and that his encounters and mistakes are still haunting him. This makes me wonder how memorable the events occurring in my life genuinely are, and how memorable they will be 15 years from now.

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PW – Dear Evan Hansen

Dear Evan Hansen, written by Steven Levenson, is an award winning musical, and it is so for a reason. It follows the life of Evan, a teenager with social anxiety. Dear Evan Hansen is conveying the message of finding yourself, and that even if you think you are, you’re not alone. The plot is based around one of Evan’s acquaintances, Connor Murphy, who commits suicide at the beginning of the year. The musical shows the affects it has on Evan and Connors family, as well as the action some students at their school take, to guarantee Connors memory is kept alive. After its debut on Broadway in 2015, the musical has only grown, and continued to reach success.

Needless to say, due to my prior love for musical theatre, I adored this musical. By solely listening to the soundtrack, I found myself consumed (ask my friends, I’m sure they would confirm my severe obsession). After a few years of listening and memorizing the entire soundtrack, I finally had the opportunity to see in live. On February 29th, I took the ferry to Vancouver, and on March 1st, I saw the show.

Have you ever read a book, then watched the equivalent movie, and been amazed by the difference? Well, this was absolutely nothing like that. Dear Evan Hansen came alive. Every song coincided perfectly with the visuals, every actor portrayed the character much better than ever anticipated, and the musical itself left such a powerful affect on everyone, including me.

Dear Evan Hansen was full of life, humour, love, sadness, romance, and relatability, as you follow a teenager struggling through high school. One of the most powerful and memorable songs, called “You will be found”, sends a message that can be extremely valuable to many. Even though it may seem cheesy, I would highly recommend listening to, or seeing this musical. I consider myself fortunate for having this opportunity. Therefore, if you are able to as well, you won’t regret it.

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Romeo and Juliet Personal Response

Going into reading Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare, I was fairly narrow-minded. I was well aware of the story portraying two young star-crossed lovers, forced to hide their love for one another due to their warring families. I was also familiar with the seemingly unrealistic concept of love-at-first-sight, which appears to only occur in movies, television, or literature. I thought of Romeo and Juliet as a played-out love story (although, to be fair, it likely wasn’t played-out at the time), that uses *instantaneous love* as a cover for two teenagers who were physically attracted to one another. Additionally, I felt ill-at-ease knowing that schools were teaching millions of easily influenced youth a story that romanticizes suicide, due to the era we are living in. Although I still don’t agree with the ending, or the message it portrays, many of my opinions have changed regarding the characters, and the connections with our world.

Although I see their rapidly escalating relationship, early marriage, and premature suicide as a reflection of the characters’ immaturity, I no longer believe it’s based on lust. Romeo and Juliet both made quite large, incautious and conclusive errors. However, I believe they were in fact in love. It’s difficult to grasp that idea, because I find the story to be so unrealistic. However, their connection is demonstrated through several passages, interactions, and their overall characters.

Juliet’s kindness, innocence, and desire to please others is quite stereotypical, but is so for a reason. These qualities lead me to believe that she not only loves easily, but is loved easily. Romeo’s character is almost mirrored in that sense, which we can see through his love for Rosaline, directly prior to his sudden love for Juliet. Combined, these two characters form a couple of hopeless romantics, which could be a cause for their powerful and instantaneous connection. Nevertheless, this doesn’t minimize how the characters feel about one another. Romeo and Juliet are both strong minded, determined people who would do anything for love, which did not end in the best way for them. Regardless, I like their characters individually, and even more as a couple. Through reading and watching Romeo and Juliet, I could feel their connection. I wouldn’t say that it’s something that I aspire to, but it feels genuine, which is admirable. I also sympathized with their characters very strongly, because all they wanted was to be together, but that was taken away due to miscommunication. They were willing to run away from their high socioeconomic standings and family names for each other. This sincerity alone, along with everything else, justifies my anger regarding the ending.

Learning about Romeo and Juliet has allowed me to realize how far our world has come, and how different it was in the 16th century. Women were completely controlled by the men in their life, whether that be their fathers, or their husbands. Not only that,  but they were expected to marry so young, usually to someone much older. Juliet was only 13 years old when she was expected to be married. Our world has different issues facing women today. However, I’m thankful that gender equality has become a priority, and that we’re moving away from the mistreatment of women. This play is quite different to my world, which is a relief. Although I often say that I would love to have lived in a different time, I’m beginning to realize that I wouldn’t be overly satisfied with the past after-all…

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PW – February 21st

At the time, I really liked middle school. I was lucky in that way. Many people hated it; just the idea of going back makes them recoil. It’s the opposite for me. Sometimes, I wish I could go back, to see all of my old friends, teachers, and school. Unfortunately, so much has changed since then, and that’s really not an  option.

Grade 8 was by far my favourite year. Mostly due to the fact that I had an amazing group of friends. Megan (yes the one that goes to this school now), Mataya, Izzy, Jasmine, Sophia, Charlotte and I would always sit on a hill at lunch. Of course, this was near the end of the year, when it was bearable to be outside.  We were able to talk about anything, and nothing was ever boring when I was around them. There was also a boy equivalent to our group, that consisted of Jim, Liam, Roman, David, Thomas, and Sean. They would hang out with us often, and they were some of the funniest, weirdest, nicest people I’ve ever known.

At the end of grade 8, we had a big celebration. We called it our grade 8 grad, and it was by far one of the best nights I had ever had. However, it was bittersweet, because of the anticipation for high school. We all knew that that would be one of the last nights we would all be spending together, because everyone separated after middle school. The majority of our group went to Belmont, and they’re still all great friends. I talk to a few of them, and I get updates and videos about their lives, but it’s not the same. Megan and I came to Brookes, which isn’t a decision I regret because I know it’s much more beneficial for my education and future. Despite that, I still miss everyone from John Stubbs so much. That night, we wore dresses and collared shirts, danced for hours, ate subpar burgers at tables filled with our friends, took photos with everyone, and cried because we knew our gang would be splitting up.

If I could go back, I wouldn’t do anything differently, because I liked the way  it was. Nevertheless, I still wish I could see them more often, because every time I do, it’s filled with just as much fun and excitement.

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IRJE: Mrs. Dalloway

In Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, Clarissa Dalloway is living in a post-WW1 society. This novel lets us peer into the life of an aristocratic woman in the 1920s, by  showing us a day in her life. While Clarissa is enjoying an early morning walk in London, she reminisces about her younger self, and her past friendships. Peter Walsh, who’s proposal was later rejected by Clarissa, shared very surprising insights regarding societal standards, pressure, and conformity. In this following passage, Clarissa recollects a conversation between herself and  Peter.

How he scolded her! How they argued! She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she had cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of the perfect hostess, he said. (p. 6)

When I began reading Mrs  Dalloway, I wasn’t sure what  to expect. I was aware of Virginia Woolf’s feminist undertones in literature, which is why I was originally intrigued. However, I was also skeptical, because it was written in a much different time, with significantly different societal values, beliefs and stereotypes. I was anticipating defined gender roles, that entailed a working husband who provided for a family, and a wife who stayed at home and  supported the husband in doing so. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was a man such as Peter Walsh, being critical of Clarissa’s conformity to those aforementioned gender roles. I was pleasantly surprised that in a piece of literature written so long ago, the man has ideals supporting feminism. Peter was using that typical housewife/hostess stereotype as an insult, because he thought she could do better, and be better. Although using these attributes in a derogatory way isn’t necessarily a morally sound or acceptable thing to do, it’s refreshing that he recognizes the flaws of their sexist society.

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PW – February 7th

There’s this girl I know. With bright eyes often masked by glasses. And hair that I love but she hates. She has a laugh so happy, that it’s painful when  she’s upset. But it  isn’t very often that she appears upset, because she shields those emotions. For those who don’t  know her, she seems happy. Maybe even loud, or impulsive. I think that’s because her presence fills up a room,  and her confidence radiates, intimidating people. Also, because she doesn’t  want people to really know what’s going on inside. To shield others from her pain, or maybe to shield herself.

She wears her hair up, her pants rolled up, and her face natural. When I ask her how she’s doing, she always replies with, “I’m good, how are you?”. It’s so instinctive, I bet she would say it if she had tears running down her face. She’s not scared to say what  she’s thinking.  And yet, I feel like she hides so much.

I think she underestimates not only her abilities, but her character. I wish she could see herself  in my eyes, because I see her as a person I would aspire to be like. She has flaws, but so does everyone. I won’t describe her as perfect,  because I  don’t believe anyone deserves that title; it’s too much pressure, too much to live up to. She’s social, funny, and loved. But what’s underneath is still somewhat of a  puzzle.

Sometimes when I’m around her, I’m blown away by the comments she makes. They’re insightful, and intelligent, and I notice them even when she  doesn’t think anyone’s taking her seriously. I know that she does the same for me, because she’ll laugh at the jokes that nobody else picks  up on. I feel heard, and I hope she feels the same around me. I hope she knows that whenever she talks,  I listen, and I hear her.

But it’s hard.  And life can be hard. And you don’t always want to talk about  things. And you don’t always want to be heard. Sometimes. . .  you just want to know that someone’s there in case you need it. So, this is just a reminder that, well, there is.

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IRJE – February 1st: The Sun is Also a Star

In The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Natasha’s family is being deported. Due to being illegal immigrants, they must leave the US, and return to Jamaica. To put it lightly, they’re not pleased to be moving. Natasha is neglecting to pack, and has scheduled a meeting at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office, in all hopes that a solution will emerge. Her desperation proves how much she doesn’t want to return to Jamaica. Although we don’t know the reason for their sudden deportation, we see a glimpse of foreshadowing into the cause.

My dad doesn’t say anything. He’s mute with anger or impotence. I’m never sure which. His frown is so deep and so complete that it’s hard to imagine his face with another expression. If this were even just a few months ago, I’d be sad to see him like this, but now I don’t really care. He’s the reason we’re all in this mess.  (p. 3)

Although this passage appears early in the novel, it’s clear to see that Natasha has a strong resentment towards her father. At the moment, it’s unclear what he did to deserve this. However, this writing technique is telling us that it’s a prominent detail in the plot, and that we will be receiving an explanation further on. This is an excellent way of hooking the reader, because I immediately started to wonder what Natasha’s father did, and if they will be able to make amends. It seems that what he did is affecting their whole family, including himself. I’m curious to find out what created this unfortunate dynamic, and how it will be (hopefully) repaired.

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Personal Writing – January 21st

Why is there such an extreme amount of pressure put on youth today? Amongst homework, family life, friendship drama, extra-curriculars, social media, societal standards, employment, future paths, and so many other meticulous details to worry about, where do we have the time to breathe? Oh right… I forgot… We don’t have any time to breath. We’re living in some of the most stressful times for youth, and it’s time that we get a grasp on this issue.

The amount of pressure put on our developing adolescent minds is becoming much too overwhelming. In an age where A.I. is rapidly progressing, we’re treated people too much like robots, rather than what we truly are: human. We’re all human. Simply with less experience and more hormones. According to healthychildren.org, 1 in 3 teenagers from ages 13-18 today are facing a variation of an anxiety disorder. What can we blame this on? School? Friends? Overall stress? Is there anyway we can lower this statistic?

As population increases, standards rise, and by extension, pressure increases. And yet, I can’t think of a single solution to this rising adversity. We can’t decrease the amount of homework, we can eliminate friend related stress, we can’t avoid family problems, we can’t force society to accept us, and we can’t hide from our futures. What we can do, however, is to learn to cope with this overwhelming world. Whether it be through talking to parents, friends, teachers, counsellors, or through other coping methods, we can hopefully find a way to deal with this stress, for those who need it.

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IRJE: The Catcher in the Rye – January 15th

Within seconds of reading, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, we discover the relatability of the main character, Holden Caulfield. Holden is struggling through a time of alienation, a sense of failure, and depression. Throughout the novel, he’s retelling the story from a mental hospital, which enlightens us on the root to all of his struggles. A common question surrounding Holden’s character, is what made him this teenager full of angst, separation, and a complete disregard for his own wellbeing? We’re first introduced to this source of unhappiness and trauma, when he mentions his brother, Allie, who died of leukemia. Holden is asked by his roommate from his former school, Stradlater, to write a descriptive essay of an object, where he chooses Allie’s baseball glove. However, we soon realize that he ends up describing much more than just the glove.

He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class. And they weren’t just shooting the crap. (p.43)

This passage demonstrates how much Holden valued his brother. It really forces us to sympathize with his character, because of the pain he’s going through, due to his brother’s death. Holden is forced to cope in a situation of deep heartbreak, that not many can understand. When people wonder why Holden seems so unmotivated and careless, this is why. He’s broken. Holden has gone through a loss that has sent him in a downwards spiral, all due to his grief. However, it’s hard to realize that through the minds of others, because all they see are his surface level emotions, rather than the ones that have taken control of his life. Holden suffers from forms of PTSD and depression, due to this tragic death. It’s so upsetting to imagine that so many teenagers are going through what he is today, and how much it truly affects their lives, as we can see with Holden.

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Personal Writing – January 7th

How are we able to still worry about such minuscule, unimportant issues, when there’s so much going on in the world? Let’s be honest, everyone is guilty of this. We constantly have things on our mind, that may seem overwhelming at the time, but when looking back at them, they seem so very petty. Now, as a disclaimer, I’m not talking about mental illness in any way, because that is a completely different story. I’m talking about day to day activities or stressors, that we truly don’t need to worry about; like a bad grade on homework, or how many followers you have on Instagram. And yet, we still do, because it’s human. But why?

As of right now, our world is facing political rivalries between countries that play vital roles in our world, such as the very serious conflicts between the USA and Iran. On the other side of the globe, Australia is in the midst of fires that have killed nearly 500 million animals, over 23 people, and are ruining the ecosystem that was once beautiful and full of life. Despite that, we are living our lives, as normal, continuing our worries and focus on our lives. We may discuss these issues, but what will that do at the point? So long as we keep remaining impartial to these events, they will keep progressing. I’m not saying that we have the power to stop these issues, because being students far away from the conflicts and fires, that’s out of our reach. However, there are things that we can do to help, such as donating money to one of the causes eliminating the fires in Australia. Or, climate change in general, which is the root of that issue.

What my point is by saying this, is that it’s time that we gain some perspective on these issues. Because if we don’t, we will continue worrying about insignificant events, rather than ones that truly will effect our world.

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IRJE: The Edible Woman (January 1st)

The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood is beginning to pick up in speed and intrigue for the main character, Marian.  When Marian runs into her old college friend, Len, she proposes to have dinner with him, and her boyfriend, Peter. Marian’s roommate, Ainsley, ends up coming as well, which she wasn’t expecting.  At the dinner, some unpleasant conversation mixed with a previous unknown instability of Marian’s, she reaches a breaking point. After crying in the washroom (which is so unlike her), she regains her composure with the help of Ainsley’s comforting and a breath of fresh air. However, not for long, as she gets a sudden impulse, leading to an unexpected urge to run.

I was running along the sidewalk. After the first minute I was surprised to find my feet moving, wondering how they had begun, but I didn’t stop. (p.79)

This passage thoroughly stood out to me, because this does not reflect Marian’s character so far, whatsoever. We’re seeing a completely new side of her, which is why I found this so captivating. The novel is starting to develop Marian’s character in an unfamiliar manner, which is why I believe that this is the first event leading to her eating disorder, and her changing lifestyle. She’s acting up, and toning down her sensibility. It’s a fresh layer for her, one that’s impulsive and full of risk; one that takes action based on emotion, rather than channelling her meticulous thought process. This new side of Marian is really introducing some depth to her, which is something that is essential when looking to connect with a character. That sudden urge to just escape, is something that many can relate to, it just wasn’t expected in Marian.

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PW: December 7th

“Wait! Don’t open your eyes yet!” he exclaimed, to ensure that his point was conveyed.

“I won’t, don’t worry,” I replied to ease his mind. I could smell gingerbread baking in the oven, accompanied by the faint sound of Christmas music playing in the other room. I felt a sudden wave of heat wash over me, which was an indication that the fireplace had just been turned on. Even with my eyes closed, I could tell that the room felt happier than it had in weeks.

“Okay, you can open your eyes now,” which filled me with a sudden surge of excitement. The Christmas season always gave me a sense of nostalgia and happiness, even though it may seem stereotypical or tacky. Our house was always decorated, music was constantly blaring, and below our tree there were always gifts. Ironically enough, the moment he said that, the music turned off and my other senses weren’t as defined as well as they were just minutes earlier. In fact, the room felt entirely different.

I opened my eyes, and the room was completely empty. The decorations were gone, the people were gone, the music was gone, the warmth was gone, the happiness was gone. Wiped away, and for a reason that I wasn’t even aware of. I was standing completely alone. I didn’t understand why or even how everything was taken away so rapidly. Was this a joke? Am I dreaming?

A previously magnificent room was ultimately bare. I looked around, to see if there was any trace of what happened. I walked over to the counter, and on it was an envelope with my name on it. I ripped it open, and it only read:

Everything has been donated. Enjoy your Christmas.

Everything clicked instantaneously. The one wish I had this year, was to improve the Christmas of others, no matter what cost. I had originally meant financially. However, this was 1000 times better.

Sometimes, we need to learn to give things up, to make others happy. And only when you learn to do that, you will find the satisfaction and happiness you need, knowing that it isn’t material or superficial, it’s legitimate. Now, how is that for being stereotypical?

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