When I was ten, I wanted to be eleven. Sitting in junior high I just couldn’t wait for high school Once there, right away the rushing began; I was itching to leave Today standing tall, looking over and realizing, I wished too soon for it all to be done, And now it was. A pity.
Sacrificing my two weeks of winter break to spend ten hours every day working on the same 5 essays that could drastically alter the course of my life was oddly fulfilling. Applying to a university with an acceptance rate below 5 percent is usually a daunting process; applicants are forced to dig deep within themselves to answer essay prompts about who they are. 1000 words total for somebody to assess your 17 years of life on Earth in 5 minutes. Scary. But I enjoyed the experience. Having to write about who I am, what makes Camilo Camilo, and the why behind my life, made me realize a lot of things about me. I learnt through my own writing what I might be passionate about. I discovered a possible life mantra. Kitsch? Excessively so. When my admission officer holds my fate in her hands my essays aim to be a breath of fresh air after reading hundreds of identical applicants proclaiming they were the perfect student.
I based my application on the fact that I am definitely imperfect, with an appetite to grow. It’s illogical to think that any student is fully matured in high school, so I sought to reflect the most genuine version of me in my essays. When asked what was meaningful to me, I answered with honesty. The bowl of oatmeal I eat every morning is meaningful to me, which I attempted to explain in 250 words or less. When asked what made me genuinely excited about learning I answered with the concept I see in every class I’m in: culture. When asked about a distinctive element of my background that made me who I am today, I wrote 650 words about the time I brought a pigeon to school. Will any of these essays work to gain me admission to my dream school? Who knows. But I am happy I did not put up a facade. I would much rather they reject me for who I am than accepting me for someone I am not, keeping up a false image of me through four years of college would be exhausting.
Writing such important essays is not easy. Again and again, I had to delete sentences I loved and had spent hours working on. Being open to input is not easy when you’ve spent 40 hours wordsmithing a paragraph and someone tells you it needs to be deleted. But I appreciated the brutal honesty my friends provided for me; it elevated my essays ten-fold. If not for them telling me that my essays were hot garbage, I would have submitted them in early infancy. Tight word limits were not kind either. Boiling down so many thoughts and reflections to only 250 or 650 words means an inner struggle and fight every time you delete a phrase. I worried deleting so much would kill my message. Except for the more words I deleted, the better my writing became. When every word must be there for a purpose, you must choose only the most meaningful ones.
The biggest challenge was finding a balance between deep reflection, introspection and light-hearted humour. I could not write boring essays about who I was, or people would sigh as they read them. I could not write purely funny essays because people would laugh but not learn anything about me and recommend me to a comedy school instead.
Life and vividness had to be infused into my writing. I consciously thought about that objective while writing. Maybe that will be what pushes me into the pile of accepted applicants: simply being who I am. I sure hope so. April 1st we find out.
There’s a thief in my life. It steals something precious, and yet I don’t even notice, I even help it rob. I’m consumed by this thief, my fancy pacemaker, controlling me so I ask “How can I live without you?” It’s hard to say no to something so pleasing, distracting me with sweets while silently robbing me. We’re more connected than ever, yet we struggle alone against an addiction of our volition. Oh, to live a day unbothered, unburdened. Allowed to rediscover ourselves. How freeing it’d be to remember how it felt to be untethered, no longer enslaved to my metal master. If only the thief could give back what it's taken. Ding! Our screens light up as our lives get dimmer and we start to forget the value of our limited time, of our lives.
A great art has been lost, before it ever truly began. So needed, so wanted, yet still destroyed. I wonder Where have the thinkers gone? Those curious innovators? They must’ve disappeared, forced to hide, to escape! When faced with the fear of a little wooden desk. They didn’t belong in a place where their vivid flame that burned within would be extinguished by those who meant well. In its place, a pulsing drum placed, beating furiously to a beat of A B C or D? I long for them, mourn those secrets left undiscovered, the joy that accompanied; forgotten. Like sheep killed by their shepherd, a tragedy for the ages as children become students. But do not worry! For the exam next week is passed, flying colors with small price to pay: a fail on another. The forgotten exam, the one not written sitting in rows. the one proctored not by a teacher but by life. I think to myself, must be easy, for I’m prepared! Those years of memorizing, the sleepless nights. Except when I open the booklet, a startling revelation! I panic. There’s no A B C or D.
I nervously share one of the poems with world, unsure about it. When I try to compose poetry, I simply go with the rhythm of the words, go where they choose to take me. Maybe this is an effective approach, maybe not, time will tell. I’m very new to this, I’d love some feedback too.
The poem is more a reflection on education as a whole in society then my own personal experience, because my whole life I have been blessed with exceptional teachers who have cultivated my passions and stoked the embers of my curiosity. All great shepherds. No complaints from me, except that not every kid is privy to the same nurturing environments and education that I have received, and it is for those kids that this poem goes out to.
With a return to some semblance of normality in our everyday lives, the face mask has become a necessity every day for hours, obligatory for every venture outside of our houses. We tolerate them for their obvious benefit in reducing the spread of Covid-19, as the face mask blocks the transmission of miniature droplets emitted from our mouths and noses. But more then droplets is being stopped.
The transmission of emotions—emitted from our hearts—seems to be stopped by the mask too. It turns out our feelings, reactions, passion, and fervor are also blocked by three layers of fabric hung off our ears, obscuring even the most expressive faces and hiding away what we used to share readily with our peers. We’ve been robbed of our most basic exchanges of information, our most basic connections. A toothy grin from a friend or stranger can no longer be counted on to lift our spirits on a gloomy day, we must instead try and discern messages from sleepy eyes alone. A smiles price has skyrocketed much like our active case numbers, it now must be cherished even more then before. Perhaps the advent of the face mask then served as a way to make us realize what we had taken for granted for so many years, a tragic loss to remind us to appreciate the little things—like the twinkle in someone’s eye.
The irony then, is how freeing a face mask is, removing the need for a strict filter of emotions. I find myself more willing to express feelings when I know they’re safely hidden away behind double pleated cotton. Given permission by the blank facade I must wear, I can freely grimace in disgust, smirk at someone, blush, or even squirm, and nobody is the wiser. The liberation is quite intoxicating, to be allowed to feel fully, to let those sentiments bubble through to the surface to power a grin. However it’s isolating, because humans are meant to share our joy and sorrow with each other. Perhaps because we cannot share our emotions with others as we’d like to with a smile or frown, we are condemned to feel them ourselves more strongly.
By the time masks are no longer needed, I wonder if I’ll be able to relearn to filter what I choose to share through my facial expressions, or if I should even try? Maybe the mask has taught us something valuable, absolving us of these self-imposed restrictions on what we can or should share with the world.
Although the pandemic has taken so much from us, it has given us a gift, unburdening us from the need or expectation to put on a show to the world with a manufactured smile that says I’m fine when we really aren’t. Putting on a cloth mask lets us take off our other masks. We can finally be honest with ourselves, under the safety of a mask, without consequence or repercussion. And only when we begin to be honest with ourselves, can we truly be honest with others.
No legacy is so rich as honesty.William Shakespeare
Here begins my blogging journey. They say journaling is therapeutic to the soul, so we’ll see. Maybe there is merit in writing to nobody in particular, creating something that will—chances are—never be read by anyone but me. I wish to pursue those thoughts that keep me up at night, to question why things are the way they are, or how we so readily accept the status quo of existence? I like to think of myself as a baby philosopher, just beginning in the journey of thinking, offering a unique perspective through the lens of someone whose life has really only just begun. As I navigate my way through the trepid waters of maturation into adulthood, my only hope is that I never lose this awe inducing fascination with the world that surrounds us. Because it is what gives me life.
Our approach to life is funny. It’s this beautiful, yet fickle concept, something that one must slow down to appreciate. But ironically from our first breathe to our last, slowing down becomes an unattainable commodity, as we race to a finish line that will never get closer. Some call it the rat race of life, others accept it as reality. So then, the question becomes, where are we racing to?