Beware the Sides of March | I’ve Seen Both Sides Now

Beware the Sides of March | I’ve Seen Both Sides Now

There is no doubt this month pounced its way in like a lion with the coronavirus happy whoreshit, and ended today, March 31st, with the death of Tomie dePaola, famous Strega Nona writer. Remember those books we read as preschoolers or kindergarteners? We were too young to even remotely understand the ideas, let alone words, like “pandemic” or “death.” These words didn’t make sense to me until my grandmother’s death in fifth grade, and when the Swine Flu pandemic began in Mexico in sixth grade.

I remember, in sixth grade, some of the first things that were ever spewed out of the mouths of “authority” at my middle school were “this year’s theme is survival.” Little did I know we were going through a recession, as we are right now, but we were sixth graders just trying to navigate middle school — the worst years of our lives, or at least mine.

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I saw a picture of an otter recently, and it reminded me of how otters sleep while holding hands so they don’t drift apart. Random animal fact, I know. But it should make you smile, nonetheless. But I remember even the simplest of sixth grade days, I had a fuzzy backpack, and I convinced myself I was both bad at math and friends, which made me relate to an American Idol contestant who sang “Barracuda” for an audition. Her name, I forget at this point in time. But one thing I still remember is how she used singing at a mode for survival. This was the year that Adam Lambert lost to Kris Allen. These were simpler times.

However, another thing I was doing, other than watching American Idol, was creating my own stories. My favorite subject, though everyone else hated it, was English. I remember coming home after school and wanting to read something like P.S. Longer Letter Later, and I actually liked Tom Sawyer. I became fascinated with the idea of writing stories. I did this to block out the idea of me being bullied, which was, unfortunately, my reality.

Dealing with reality, nowadays, during this world-wide pandemic [that everyone is sick of talking about], is harder for some people. It makes us feel like we are out of control. But the fact of the matter is, we are more than what we think. Our souls overpower our fear(s). This time is certainly uncertain for a lot of people, if not everybody. According to a quote by Danielle Doby, “…in the uncertainty, you hold the power to create anything.” Shakespeare was living proof of this, which is one of the main reasons he remains as one of my literary idols. He wrote Romeo and Juliet out of the Black Death. Even Isaac Newton’s university closed down for two years, thus he had to retire to a country home where he developed calculus. I was in my senior art studio “class” via ZOOM, and although I had my aches and pains trying to get comfortable for a four-hour class, it was refreshing to see what people were creating. My anxiety has been through the roof recently because of this new transition towards online courses, but now that I’ve seen things through a positive lens and I’m actually getting stuff done in my office [my room — a room which I draw, read, and write in.]

In short, you can see March as “hell month,” or see that March isn’t so bad, after all. I’ve seen both sides of March, now. It can’t phase me any more than it used to do.

Burn and Over-Salt Your Peanut Butter Cookies and Eat Them, Too! | Accept Failure

Burn and Over-Salt Your Peanut Butter Cookies and Eat Them, Too! | Accept Failure

You’re probably looking at the title like, “umm, what? Has April lost her mind already? Three days into the semester?” HAHAHA no. 1) headlines are supposed to capture people in and 2) this actually happened to me on Christmas Eve.

Learning to accept failure is growth. With that being said, I’m going to start off with a different story.

It was my senior year of high school and people were just starting to get college acceptances. The night of the National Honor Society Induction, however, was when the tidal wave of emails from [insert school here] was being sent out while we were sitting and eating our chicken and broccoli ziti. By the end of the ceremony, I had opened up my email in sheer curiosity if I got any emails. I did — from one of my top choices. I couldn’t wait to get home to open the email, but my stubborn butt didn’t want to wait. So, I opened it on my phone, and although there was a slight glitch in the email, I could still make out the words, “We regret to inform you…” There were nine of those in total throughout the next few weeks.

If I had chosen to do anything differently, I would have taken a gap year. In fear of being looked down upon and judged, I didn’t. Another factor that went into my decision is that I would have thought I failed. The fact of the matter is I failed more biology tests and chemistry tests in my first semester of college. But life is not about the “what ifs.” It’s about “what could you do to benefit from your current situation?” In other words, what can be better? For some, it means drastic changes, like myself; I transferred, we all know that (and I got into my top choice transfer). I not only edit documents but I also edit life. When you edit a paper, for instance, you make it better. You may have failed at completing a successful rough draft, but it doesn’t matter because it’s a rough draft. It’s just like how any day is another day. Will that rough draft matter by the time you graduate? No. In fact, in college, rough drafts aren’t even graded. Critiqued? Yes. Edited? For sure. I’m not saying transferring is failing because it’s not. It’s an opportunity to be more content in life. Just like how having your paper edited is an opportunity for a good grade when you hand in your final draft!

I remember when I was applying to colleges, and the prompt I answered was, “what’s one failure you experienced and how did you overcome it?” So I answered with this:

What a great weekend. We’d explored galleries, toured vineyards, and at 8:15 a.m. Mom and I laughed and joked as we strolled to our car with coffees in hand, ready for the long ride home from the Cape.

Fifteen minutes earlier we’d said good-bye and thanks to friends for their hospitality, packed the car and driven straight to Starbucks in a nearby Stop&Shop; fifteen minutes later we’d be marooned with no idea when we’d finally see home.

At the car, Mom slid her key into the ignition and turned it. Instead of hearing the engine turn over, we heard five cheery “dings” … and silence. Ten tries later, Mom began banging her head on the steering wheel, and I realized that we were stranded. Modern day Robinson Crusoes, shipwrecked at Stop&Shop. Not a sand dune or ocean wave in sight. At least we wouldn’t starve.

But, with a dead battery, we might roast. We couldn’t open the power windows and the temperature in the car was climbing fast. After what seemed like an hour — but was only about two minutes — of silence, Mom finally said, “Please open your door and get some air in here.”

“Maybe we should call a cab,” I suggested.

“No.”

“Should we start walking?”

Silence.

“What if we open the hood and take a look?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

My mind raced for solutions, but each idea was rejected. We finally called my dad to come get us. He was eighty miles away, recuperating from knee surgery, and is terrible with directions. Help would take some time to arrive.

I love a good adventure, but it was getting hard to see our situation as exhilarating. As we waited for Dad to arrive I could either listen to Mom come up with new swear words to growl at the car, join in, or find a way to turn things around.

I rummaged through the backseat and pulled out Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories. Not the best choice in reading material, under the circumstances. Sitting back against the cushioned upholstery of my seat, I swung my feet up on the sun-warmed dashboard, and was soon engrossed in the book. As I continued to read, my contentment soured. This was life imitating art. In the next seat, Mom had given up creative cursing for a magazine, oblivious to how much we resembled characters in O’Connor’s story about serial murder.

Our weekend getaway ended with the two of us marooned and defenseless in a faraway outpost, awaiting a dubious cavalry to ride to the rescue. I had stayed alert for passing psychopaths. Not the most upbeat scenario, but “upbeat” is in the eye of the beholder.  This was an adventure.

Growing up in a small town, I occasionally crave adventure. But I’ve learned that adventure is where you find it. Going to college will be an adventure – without the serial killer, of course. I’ll face challenges – big and small – that I’ll need to meet on my own. I may even find myself stranded somewhere again. There’ll be new members of the cavalry: professors at the top of their fields, friends from many places, RAs, and others. But staying alert, being resourceful, knowing when to ask for help, and maintaining a positive attitude will be just as important as it was back in that parking lot.

When Dad finally arrived, he found us both safe, sound and a little sweaty. “Sorry it took so long,” he said as we unloaded our things. “You must be really bored.”

“Bored? Are you kidding?” I was incredulous. “There was no time to be bored!”

From the corner of my eye I could see his puzzled expression and almost began to explain, then thought better of it. Not everyone is the adventurous type.

So, if you think you’re “washed up” or “not growing,” just imagine where you were 1-5 years ago. And if you feel lost, just remember J.K. Rowling, Tina Fey, or Oprah Winfrey at 23-years-old.

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