Tag Archive for Growing Up



I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama taught at Whitten Center.

Where the retarded children rocked


And forth

In their seats. I wonder what they thought.

I remember my thoughts as a child.

I knew them, but could not say them right

Out loud.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

My mama got sick when I was in first grade.

My grandmama came to take my sister and me to school,

And I got there late for the first time.

Ms. Kelly was eating lunch with the other teachers

In the reading room.

She asked me to bring her a fork from the cafeteria.

I did.

I told everybody that the teachers did not eat in the teachers’ lounge,

They ate in the reading room.

No one believed me.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I dreamed that I had extra toes on each foot.

It was so real.

I did not worry about fitting into my tennis shoes.

I was sad that I could not wear sandals.

When I woke up, I was so relieved.

I had five toes on each foot.

I slid them into

A pair of sandals.  My toes looked like cute pink piggies,

And I was pleased.

I have not worn a pair of sandals in eight months.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I think of the rocking chairs on the porch of the Cracker Barrel

In Rock Hill.

I sat in one as my sister and I played checkers on a blanket board.

Mama had taught us how.

No one could beat me at checkers.

I moved my king back and forth in the corner

Until she tired and gave up.

I have not played in four years.

I don’t know that I could still win.


I am rocked with uncertainty.

I am sure that I will go to heaven when I die.

Dr. Shrum’s son killed himself by overdosing

On that stuff the dentist gives you to numb your mouth

Before he pulls.

His father was a preacher.

Did he go to heaven?

Dr. Shrum read a poem someone had written called

“Spring Will Come Again”.

I remember a sermon about how everyone passes through

The Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus did not want to be crucified.

Allen Navlyt committed suicide in the eighth grade.  He shot himself.

He had been sick with some kind of muscle disease.

He could not take gym class, so he was the library helper after I was.

He finished a poster I started – clouds and kites for March.

He put all the grey clouds together.

I wonder if he went to heaven

I wonder what he thought

Before he pulled.

Science Class

The gravity of fact weighs down upon me.

Planets are spinning around in my head.



I hate physics class.


Giggling girls

Pointing Boys

I’m at the blackboard

Turning pink


I hate myself some days…

The days when I can’t

Seem to find the simplest solution

Like today…

Embarrass myself

Whoever said that the stupidest question

Ever asked

Was the one that was



Was obviously

Not in high school

When he said it.

Looking Back

Sometimes at night, when it is so dark the darkness becomes almost smothering, I lie awake listening to the cars outside and the endless crying of the baby next door. I think back through my life, to try and comfort me into restful sleep.

I remember summers from my junior school days. The images yellowy, orange, warm, happy. Endless weeks abroad, the sun almost unbearable in its cruel sunburnt heat. A time when swimwear wasn’t a terrifying thought—flabby thighs, see-through bikinis were things I was oblivious to. My parents, endless sources of ice-creams and drinks, not the embarrassing, overprotective people they have become.

Every year I would go to summer camp—my sister, our two best friends, Jemima and Sally, and myself. We awaited the holiday with desperate anticipation. When I was ten we went to France alone for the first time; our previous camp experiences had been confined to a large mansion house in Shropshire. There we were at the coach station on the departure date. Armed with matching purses, our straw-blonde hair drew us together, a giggling, whispering bunch, the most devoted Boyzone fans. We were an endless source of lies. We were a set of orphaned quadruplets. We had been left millions and lived on our own with seven swimming pools with dolphins in them. We were almost feminist in our approach to boys, the fat boy who dared to send Sally a love letter obviously had not realised the cruelty of which we were capable. After arranging a secret midnight liaison behind the archery course we bombarded him with water bombs and cruel chants.

We were exclusive, we needed no-one else. We scoffed at the other girls and made up secret names for them that kept us awake until midnight giggling. The entrance to our room was taboo, out of bounds to anyone other than ourselves. A place where innocent inquiries could end up with your hand trapped in the door and where friendly invites always had hidden agendas. A place where the boys from our group would congregate eagerly trying to guess the password and secret knock. They were a gangly, nerdy crowd and were an endless amusement to us. Toby mistaking the shower for a french toilet, Ben crying constantly for no apparent reason, and Mark the little, hairy one, an unfortunate target for our jokes.

I smile to myself as numerous comical incidents flash randomly across my mind. Just as sleep is beginning to tug at my eyes and my thoughts are turning to dreams a more sobering picture comes to me. My innocent childlike memories are shattered. I think where we all are now—the ‘blonde bunch,’ ‘friends forever’—and come up with a more recent vision. The fallout, when the tables were turned and I was the one they wrote spiteful notes to, the one they giggled at, whispered about. Suddenly those holidays don’t seem so nice; they were an omen of what we were to become, bitching, malicious, ruthless teenagers.

Glass Bead Realizations

She went to the land of Bollywood with a glass bead wedding necklace hanging loosely from her neck like a noose before it gives its snapping goodbye. She went to the land of dreams with pride coloring her shadow; a haughty swing of her thick plait; and why not? Her name was Sapana—she was named after a dream.

Why not? I thought, though I cried the night before because she got the chance bestowed to her curvy hips, her white Colgate smile, her Lackmed eyes. And what about me? What about me. I have never had the smartness of a woman.

I envied her from the day I realized that looking pretty was more important than being rough. I had always been good in games, in fighting, in being, well… rough. When we were much younger, I used to bully her so badly that she never joined any of our games. She became a weak ghost, a girl who was just that… a girl. No more. Well I… well; I was more of a boy, a fighter, someone who laughed when the mother advised the daughter to wash her hair in red mud to make it shiny and black as coal. I ran after kites and learned that slamming the flat of your hand into someone’s face is much more effective than curling that same hand into a fist. I learned that one should never box someone with the thumb hidden inside the white-knuckled clench of a fist. I learned that if someone digs at your eyes with two fingers, you could just bring your flattened hand vertically up at your nose, and whoever’s fingers however long, would never reach your eyes. I learned that being flat was more beneficial than being round.

The day I discovered that I was turning round, that my legs could not carry me fast enough, that the boys I used to beat up now towered over me; anger glinted inside like a raised knife waiting to fall. From then on, I stopped fighting with boys and started fighting with girls instead. I could have died for my gang—a group of seven girls who knew that their only honor was their strength.

One day my friend was walking down the road after a harvest party with a cup of alcohol made out of rice gurgling in her stomach. She bumped into an older woman with a baby clinging onto her hip; and the woman turned around and told her to watch where she was going, if she wanted so much to bump into somebody, why not pick on a boy and not a woman with child. My friend lunged for the woman, who managed to push her baby just in time into the arms of a stunned passer-by. With sour rice spinning in her head, she grabbed the first thing she could lay her hands on—the hanging glass bead wedding necklace of the older woman. My friend would have choked the woman if the latter had not bitten her hand so hard that it bled. When she came crying to us, shamed, with a bleeding hand, we promised to revenge her.

A gang of young girls met a gang of married women on an open field. They swore at each other across the field, draining their vocabulary of all possible provocative words. Then they ran at each other. One group slammed faces with the flat of trained hands. The other tried to box with clenched fists, thumbs hidden in… at least that was what we expected. But no, both groups used the flat of their hands, both groups were equally trained, both groups were down on the ground before a batch of nearby factory workers separated bodies that grabbed for each other like angry magnets. That was the day I realized that those married women had been like us once upon a time. It was only the glass bead necklace that made all the difference. From that day, I promised never to enter a fight again unless I wanted to make a total fool of myself.

We were playing a game of volleyball in our village school. A group of soldiers were staring at us from the barracks adjacent to our school. I felt anger at the leering stares; while I pulled my shorts a little lower down my hips so that they touched the top of my knees. Then I rounded in my shoulders so that they hid the roundness of my chest. Just as I realized that though flatness was more advantageous, roundness would be with me my whole life; I saw Sapana at the edge of the field, leaning over the fence to receive a red rose from the best looking of all the soldiers. She was smiling, saying something while flicking her black hair away from her face with a flat hand. I realized that there were many ways to win, many ways to use a flat hand.

I did not see the compact white roundness of the volleyball come flying towards me. By the time the other girls screamed words of warning, I had turned my face away from the fence just in time to receive the full force of the ball smack in the middle of my forehead. Roundness introduced herself to me the way I had always wanted—with a punch. They say I blacked out after that. The only thing I remember is waking up seeing nothing but the white sun and thinking nothing but that Sapana had listened to her mother and washed her hair with red mud, making in shiny and black as coal.

Somewhere between feeling the volleyball slap my forehead and waking up thinking that Sapana had washed her hair with red mud, I realized that I had missed something in life; that something had zoomed past me with the speed of a taxi, and I was left behind choking on the hot fumes.

Sapana came to school every day on the arms of a boy, the same one, a different one; I could not catch up on the latest news of her life. She gained popularity so fast; my previous gang friends joined her company. They started looking at boys themselves. They began smiling, talking, giggling, slapping back loose strands of hair with the flat of hands. They started washing their hair with red mud.

A week ago Sapana took off with one of her boy friends. “Eloped”—the news came in the form of hot speedy gossip. Everyone else’s question was “which one?” My question was “how?” Some said it was the one who dropped her to school on his brand new motorbike once. Others said it was the one who bought her a new sari. No one said how.

Two days later, another piece of gossip fired through our tiny village—Sapana has been sold, it screamed in bold letters, she has been sold to a whorehouse in Bombay. The boy only pretended to fall in love with her. He asked her to marry him. He said he would take her to his rich house in India. She flicked back her shiny and coal black hair and thought she would finally be out of here. She would finally show all these people who she really was. She would no longer be bossed around. She would finally be somebody. Her shadow colored with pride.

At first I cried because I had not learned how to become a woman. Then I cried because Sapana had not learned how to become the right type of woman.

I cried for her as I fought. I cried for her future as I broke my promise to myself. I cried for the man who sold her as I broke jaws with the flat of my hand.

I have earned a black belt in karate. I have fought with men. I have won national tournaments. I have fallen in love. In a month’s time I am going to start hanging a glass bead wedding necklace about my neck. What I will do with that necklace—that will be the hardest fight of all.

The Act of Seventeen

My face is hot but my feet are cold.

I’m choking on the emotion

I won’t let myself feel,

Wishing my mother was here,

That I had a father to speak of.

Because one is not two.


I hate that I’ll remember seventeen like this:

Responsible and overwhelmed;

Dying and living each minute.

Wanting to do nothing,

while knowing there is so much left to be done.

I’m overwhelmed and there is too much,

she says.


She is the me looking back and caring.


And I cry.

Appreciating It All

I entered the week as an Indiana Jones figure. I arrived a day late to the student council leadership camp, having been stuck the day before in a Miami airport returning from a week of liberating the children of an exotic third world island. The camp had been informed Sunday night that I would be arriving the next day, since I had called ahead to say I was getting back late from Haiti.

I got there shortly before lunch on Monday, and when we ate in the cafeteria of the college which was hosting the conference, everyone was eager to hear about my adventures once they realized I was “the guy from Haiti.” I had taken along a selection of my photos from the trip and promised to show them to several girls who asked to see them.

That spring, when I was informed that I was being sent for a week of camp, I was nervous—council members are notorious for being snobby. I worried how well I’d fit in and, more importantly, if I’d have much fun.

It was this immediate interest in me, however, that calmed my fears. Here was a group of ninety-some student leaders who were well-respected and liked in their schools, mostly because they respected and cared about others a great deal. They intrigued me, and it meant a lot that they were interested in me as a unique, idiosyncratic person.

I guess that I often look at the social misfits in school as misunderstood, but I learned during the week that the most popular and esteemed students also face this problem. I went in expecting a gathering of stuck-up preps, but left the week wishing I could stay just one more day.

One of the reasons for the great week was that most of the girls at the camp were attractive, if not downright hot. It’s well known that were Gallup polls to be taken for high school elections, looks would be a leading qualification for the girls. The ratio was in favor of us males, nearly three to one. We basked in it. We were suave as heck: opening doors for the girls, jotting them notes, taking empty lunch trays. I still hear their delighted squeals when they looked out their second-story dorm windows one night to see all us guys on the lawn crooning, “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling,” and I see our smiles as we returned to our rooms, telling each other, “Tomorrow we’re gonna get a piece.” We never did, of course, although a couple guys were rumored to have gotten a kiss, but we kept pouring it on, and the girls, unaccustomed to such treatment, soaked it up.

It was during this week that I encountered my first truly appreciative audience. My second night there, Tuesday, we had a camp-wide coffeehouse in the college’s basement pub. After several Chicken Soup selections and a couple genuine pieces—songs backed with guitar strumming, mostly—I sat on the stool before the mike and kicked off my turn with Poe’s “Annabel Lee” from memory, which I followed with a reading of Dick Allen’s “The Cove,” and my own “Embracing, though Little Wiser.”

I felt as if I had exposed my soul to the world in an act of complete trust and had not been let down. I had let the cat out of the bag—I am human, too—and my audience had remained bona fide confidants.

On the closing night, we held vespers. I read “Israfel,” another Poe poem, followed by the poem I had written the night before at the prompting of several new friends. The poem focused on how my childhood dreams to be a knight had matured with me to a deep appreciation of the beauty that already surrounds me. I talked about my trip to Haiti—about how the children were beautiful if you looked into their wide eyes, and how radiant human life is. I reflected on my time in Haiti and at the camp to show how beauty transcends usefulness and exists because life creates it.

A youthfulness pervaded the camp throughout the week with its hormones, idealism, and unhindered enthusiasm. The world was ours to conquer in love, and we as leaders of a new generation had the power to do it.

Earlier the day of final vespers we held an outdoor relay competition. Donned in my green shirt like my teammates, I was ready to do my part in the food-eating relay. One of six team representatives would run up, grab a random food item from a plastic grocery bag, and shove it down his throat as fast as he could. We could only have a drink once all the food was gone.

I picked the pack of peanut butter on cheese cracker sandwiches, and opted to throw three in my mouth and then worry about chewing. My body struggled, with little success, to make enough saliva to handle the mouthful of dry crackers on demand. Caught up in the excitement and frustration, I started shaking. I was fine, but my hands and body shook to the point that I worried one of the counselors.

It wasn’t until later, when the school year began again, that I realized how weak our beauty is, how vast the gap between reality and our dreams. I believe the world is ours to turn upside down; beauty needs only the eyes of a beholder. But I cram too many crackers into my mouth, and I shake beyond my control.

In Defense of a Teenager’s Right to Question

Teenagers are known for their bizarre mood swings, questioning minds, and incessant energy. These traits mixed in with a parent’s habit of denying a teen’s request without a justification are common causes for many of the conflict between parents and teenagers.

This occurs because in childhood “no” is accepted without question—a child is not mature enough, in many cases, to question, but that is not in a teen’s nature. They are no longer children and should not be treated as such. It is wrong for parents to say “no” without any reason. In doing this they are inciting a teen’s anger and encouraging rebellion, therefore causing conflicts that disrupt the peace in a household. For example, a classic fight between parents and their teens can be about permission to go to a party. A parent might know that at that party, their teenager might be offered drugs. If a parent states this concern as a reason why he or she is not letting the teen go, then there is a better chances that this teen will understand and that together they will come to an agreement. Perhaps the teen, out of his or her own free will, eventually will decide not to go.

The situation mentioned previously shows that behind such an empty word as “no” there always is a reason. Adults are given explanations, even if they are not quite obvious—why should it be different with teenagers? Although they may not be as mature as adults, teenagers are perfectly capable of analyzing and understanding the reasons why certain ways of conduct, dressing and actions are prohibited. In fact, most are likely to accept and even agree with a parent provided he or she actually sits down and discusses the matter in a mature and civilized way.

In any case, contemporary and classical education teaches us to question. This is a method through which people learn to think for themselves. The right to question is, in fact, human nature, as well as essential. All people have this right and it would be discriminatory as well as an act of tyranny to deny to the right to teenagers simply because of their youth. If anything, a teen’s right to question should be encouraged. How are teens expected to grow and learn if no one teaches them—merely gives them vacant answers such as “no”?

Knowing this, however, many parents still hold on to the detrimental habit of assuming that teens don’t have the right to know why they are being denied a request. It is foolish to think that the curious mind of a teenager will be satisfied with just a simple “no.” Parents have the option of helping their teens grow, teaching them as well as keeping the peace. By justifying their reasons why something is right or wrong they send a positive message: they want their teens to learn, and they care enough to take the time and teach them. After all, if teens always accept “no” and never question, how will they be able to stand up for themselves?

A Short Story Not About Asprin

Beep! Beep! Beep!

That damned alarm, the most hated of Joseph McLaughlin’s possessions, began its insistent whining at precisely 7:15 a.m. on July 5th. A fist groggily snaked out from underneath the Cindy Crawford duvet cover and hit the top of the clock. It stopped whining. After some very peculiar movements, the duvet gave birth to a thirteen-stone, bleary-eyed seventeen-year-old boy. The inhuman apparition staggered towards the bathroom. It paused when it came upon the mirror, seemingly startled by the ghastly visage reflected in the honest glass. Joseph groaned, swore, spat and returned to the place affectionately called “The Black Pit” by the rest of the family.

He visited the bathroom an hour later, reemerging looking considerably more human that the thing previously spotted. He was wearing a smart but casual luminous green shirt and bright blue denims. He looked like something from the nightmares of the Man From Del Monte’s. Citrus-coloured and smelling like soap, Joe ambled slowly downstairs for his breakfast.

Joe met up with his best friend Ross Marshall at around twelve, just outside McDonald’s. As was the custom by this time, both argued over whose turn it was to pay for the food, resolved, as ever by the tossing of a coin. As they munched on their soggy Big Mac burgers, their conversation steered towards the party that night.

“You goin’ then?”

“Aye, widnae miss it fur onythin’ in the world. Anyhow, Martine’s gonnae be there, mebbes I’ll hae a chance wi’ her this time.”

“Aye, Ross, and my bum’s jist swallied China.”

“Ah thought ye were lookin’ a bit heavier that usual, but ah wis too polite tae mention it.” At this, the two friends collapsed in fits of laughter, not even stopping when Ross began to choke on his burger.

“Ross! Ross! Are ye chokin’ or aren’t ye serious?” Ross’ laughter didn’t help stop him choking, and it took five minutes for him to calm down enough to swallow, never mind talk.

Later that day, both boys went shopping for those last-minute items that always come in handy at parties. Joe bought his usual seven or so packets of Doublemint gum and chewed on one thoughtfully while he waited for Ross outside the Chemist. When he finally appeared, Ross was bright red from a mixture of embarrassment and anger. He explained to Joe what happened: “Ah wis standin’ at the counter, by masel’, a’body else wis looking fur stuff on the shelves. The wummin behind the counter must be wan of the stupidest people alive! Ah did mah usual, Ah said ’Do you have any asprin?’ while winkin’ and pointin’ like a mad yin. Daft bint only brought me o’er a box o’ Anadin. So, ah tried again, makin’ mah winkin’ and such a bit more obvious. Still the fool didnae get it. Aboot five minutes later, wi’ a queue behind me, she finally twigs, an says at the top o’ her bloody voice, ’Oh, ai get it! You want condoms, don’t you?’ I swear tae God, every single sod in that shop turned round tae look at me. Ah didnae even stop tae get my cha— Hey! Whit’re you laughin’ at?”

Joe was virtually having a heart attack on the pavement due to the hysterical laughter shaking his body. Seeing Ross’ indignant frown only made the images in his head clearer and started him all over again. Ross calmed down and began to see the funny side of the situation. “Aye,” he said, “It’s really bloody funny. But ye wilnae be laughin’ when ah get tae use these babies on wee Martine.” He grinned, his head now full of images, none of them unpleasant. As they reached the end of the road, they parted ways, agreeing to meet each other at the party. With that, they went home to get ready.

They used the time between the “Chemist Incident” (as it came to be known) and the party to get ready, and believe it or not, they used it all. They took five hours each to seemingly change, wash and fix their hair.

Anyway, they arrived at the party together. Smiles wide, hearts light due to the fact that they had their best ’ladykiller’ clothes and hair and stuff ready. The party was about half an hour in by this time. The perfect arrival time. The early arrivals would be loosening up and the drink and music would be in full swing. Joe just hoped that Martine wasn’t ’swinging’ with anyone else; he couldn’t bear the thought of having to escort a crying Ross through the streets of Cumbernauld. Still, on the bright side, it would be the ideal opportunity to throw him in a ditch somewhere and leave him there. Joe smiled; maybe the night would have a happy ending after all.

Ross started his ‘smoothie’ routine straight away. He sidled up to Martine and flashed her his most brilliant smile. Joe slapped a hand over his eyes theatrically when he noticed the small piece of lettuce between Ross’ front teeth. Martine smiled wryly and quietly informed Ross of the vegetable patch sprouting from his upper gum. He gave a little yelp and rushed to the bathroom, leaving Joe shaking his head in good-humoured disbelief. He decided to give Ross a little helping hand, and ambled over to where Martine was standing. It is noticed, at this point, that the boys’ use of slang seems to evaporate when speaking to members of the opposite sex. This may or may not be a subconscious thing, but it has been spotted in young men from Argentina to Zambia, no one has ever figured out why…

“He’s a nice guy, by the way, Ross is. Despite the, er, organic nature of his dental hygiene. He never stops talking about you.”

“Really?” asked Martine in her smooth Dublin accent, “That’s good.” She smiled again, “I’ve known that he likes me for ages. I quite like him too, I’m just having a little fun with him, don’t worry. I won’t bite him, unless he asks me to, of course.” She laughed.

“Don’t be giving him any ideas, he’s bad enough as it is.” They both shared a knowing smile and went their separate ways. Joe was content in the knowledge that he wouldn’t be mopping up any tears tonight, and went about the process of relaxing, and of enjoying the party.

About an hour later, Joe was watching Martine and Ross dance with an amiable smile on his face. Occasionally, Ross would give him a thumbs up sign behind her back, in reply to which Joe could only grimace theatrically. There was the lightest of taps on his shoulder, and he turned around. Standing in front of him, looking shyly at the floor was possibly the most beautiful girl that Joe had ever seen.

“Hi,” she said. “I’m Samantha, Sam, what’s your name?”

“Hello?” she said. Joe continued to stare at her with a goofy expression on his face.

“Are you all right?” she said. Joe snapped out of it and returned from whatever planet he’d been inhabiting for the last few moments.

“I’m sorry?” he said. She repeated her question. “Oh! Hi! I’m… I’m…”

“Joe,” piped in Ross, who’d danced slightly closer so that he could listen in.

“Yeah, that’s right,” stuttered Joe, “I’m Joe. Joe McLaughlin. Pleased to meet you.”

“Likewise, I’m sure,” smiled Sam. “So, would you like to dance?”

“He’d love to,” came Ross’ voice from somewhere behind Joe’s left shoulder. Joe shot him a glance, smiled at Sam and they both hit the dance floor.

Things were going brilliantly until around half past twelve. Joe and Sam had danced and talked all night, and he’d even succeeded in getting her number and the promise of seeing her again when the dream was cruelly shattered by Martine yelling and swearing. Joe felt that familiar sinking feeling and turned around, dreading to see what Ross had done this time. Ross was standing in the middle of the floor, a look of terrified shame on his face as Martine stood a foot away, pointing at the condom lying on the floor.

“What the hell is that for then?! Eh? What kind of slapper do you think I am?”

Ross stupidly attempted to answer. “Well… Umm… No… I… You… I just wanted to be prepared just in case anything happened,” he managed. “But I wasn’t expecting it to… Honest,” he quickly added.

“Yeah, right!” shouted Martine, who then slapped Ross smartly on the cheek and stormed upstairs, daring anyone to follow her. Joe looked apologetically at Sam. She nodded, a resigned smile upon her lips.

“Yeah, I know. You’ve got to help your friend. It’s OK. I understand. I’ll see you later. Give me a call sometime.” With that, Joe took the dumbstruck Ross by the arm and gently led him out of the door.

As they walked home, the two friends reflected upon the night’s events.

“Ye should have seen your face, Ross! Ye were like a wean caught stealin’ a sweetie!”

“Yeah,” answered Ross, sadly, “But it wis a’ goin’ so well up tae then.”

“Talk tae her the morra, explain whit happened. If she’s worth it, then she’ll gie ye another chance.”

“Aye,” interrupted Ross, a cheeky grin on his face, “And if she isnae, at least I got tae feel her ar—”

The two friends laughed their way down the darkened, but familiar, old streets. It looked like the holidays were going to be a lot of fun.

My Journey

The Greek playwright Sophocles presented the following riddle to the main character in one of his stories: What animal starts out on four legs, then moves to two, and then to three before dying? Of course Oedipus Rex answers correctly: man, who crawls as an infant then walks erect in middle age and finally uses a cane in the elder years. The journey of life follows much the same arc; we evolve from needing influence and guidance to finally reaching that point where our lives are up to us. I consider myself very lucky up to this point in my journey. Some people become sidetracked and wind up on a far different course than initially planned, but the detours I made have only assisted in embellishing the individual instead of devouring it.

According to Freud a person’s most important period to grow personality ranges from birth to six years. In that span my biggest influences came from my family. When I think of that time before kindergarten, the single most important person to my development was my grandmother Carmella. She didn’t graduate from college or sell wheat futures in the stock market, but she had wisdom and tenderness so few possess. My parents worked, so each morning my mother would drop me off at Grandma’s house. I didn’t realize it then but in retrospect, this woman has led a remarkable life. She birthed three sons all by Caesarian section, lost a husband in middle age, then all but raised a grandson for half a decade. She taught me how to walk and gave me my first piano lessons. She remains close to all her grandchildren yet her and I both know she holds a special place for the first one.

When I began school, friends began to shape paths for this journey. In the beginning we hardly know these classmates. Common interests and experiences bond or repel certain people to others. I didn’t understand what friendship meant until August 16, 1997, though. That morning, I fell asleep at the wheel of my car and ran into two utility poles and a tree while going 40 miles per hour. An ambulance rushed me to Memorial East and within a few hours the first person to visit me outside of my immediate family was my friend Matt. I hadn’t shown up to bowling that morning so he called my house then came to the hospital. Nobody made him come to see me so quickly but he did. I will never forget the look in his face as he stared down at me. Hopefully every young person can look at two loving parents for guidance and help. I know how fortunate it is that I live with both of my natural parents, and that they both want the best for me. My parents embedded the values I cherish today into my spirit: the difference between right and wrong, the correct way to deal with anger, the importance of dedication and hard work in life. Those seem like clichés, yet it is society that refuses to hold those basic principles sacred anymore. I consider it an honor and privilege to have parents with common sense and self-worth.

Other things have also affected the path I continue on today. Music certainly opened doors and exposed undiscovered emotions. Playing the saxophone, conducting, and even composing allowed this aestheticism to flow out from the depths of my being. Without becoming an artist I certainly would not understand my potential or the self-discipline that reaching a particular goal entails. Listening to poetry and music has helped to forge the Nick Capezza of today. The sonnets of William Shakespeare and symphonies of Beethoven express desires and feelings that I have yet even to discover. Without those outlets to describe the indescribable, I would probably be a more isolated and confused person than I am today.

Now that I have pinpointed what has pulled me to this point in the journey, maybe it’s time to discuss what will pull me further down the line. The overwhelming spectacle of college life certainly will play a hand in the Nicholas Capezza of tomorrow. Professors, fellow students, academic advisors, and even the nurses in the infirmary may all give insight and knowledge into an area of my psyche yet to unravel. Without parents there to kiss the tears away with milk and cookies, college will become the ultimate test between temptation and my inner-strength and the morals I have placed for my own behavior.

Possibly the biggest choice of any person’s life remains what vocation to go into. Even areas people have skills in may not give enough satisfaction to turn into a career, whether that satisfaction stays financial or otherwise. Whatever occupation I choose, I sincerely hope that the trek will remain on its uncertain and awesome course.

Throughout this journey of life many outside forces manipulate whom all of us become. These demons shake each individual in different ways, making it so the simple question, “What is quality?” cannot have a true answer. To me, quality means taking responsibility for one’s actions and standing tough in the eyes of a challenge. Quality includes honor, loyalty, and the instinct to do the right thing. Now who created my personal connotation? Through every relative, friend, and composition it boils down to me. I have taken all these beliefs and crammed them into a six feet, two inch frame. The real journey lies ahead, the journey from young adulthood to old age. I only pray this journey includes many travels and few destinations.