I looked out the window and looked at the beautiful blue sky and then thought to myself, “What a wonderful world.” I decided that I would go for a walk to a cafe and come back later. I ordered a cappuccino with extra whipped cream and took it to go. I shortly left and just went to the park and read for a bit and got tired and started my walk back home. As I was walking, I heard screaming. Not the good kind of screaming but the bad. I walked towards the sound of the noise and found three goon men beating up a guy who was bleeding profusely and DEAD. I gasped and I started running. Not the little jog that I do when people chase me for fun, I was full-on sprinting. So many thoughts were running through my mind. I heard men screaming after me but that gave me more morale to run even faster. At some point, I went into an isolated area and hid. One of the goons caught up to me and started searching for me. The goon that came for me with a scar on his lip shot at the sky and I cringed. I thought I was going to die. As if my silent prayers were answered, the other goon came running and said, “I think little princess girl is gone, let's head back to the boss.” I don't know why, but I started crying. I had a death scare and I'm still alive. I cried so much, my eyes turned bloodshot red, my nose was running and probably red too and I was shaking. I decided to run back home. I was traumatized, that was for sure. I couldn't talk or eat properly. I would skip school and not go out of the house. I felt so trapped in my mind and body. I would lock myself in my room with my back to my door and just look into space and do nothing but breathe and think. “Honey, you have to get out of there at some point. You can't stay in your room your whole life. When will you graduate if you plan on dying in there,” my mom said with a sad voice. The day I came back from the incident, I didn't talk to anyone. It's been a week and I hadn't left my room. She left after some time, probably waiting for my response which she didn't get. “Darling, Adrien's here and he wants to talk to you,” Mom said. I was tempted not to open and let them in but I love Adrien. He's my big brother and my best friend and I couldn't just not see him. After a lot of contemplation and thinking, I opened the door. I hadn't stood for a week because I was sitting the whole time. My legs were wobbly but Adrien caught me and hugged me for the first time in a long time. He had moved to California for uni and I hadn't seen him in almost a year. “You smell, bug,” Adrien said and I laughed. I missed him so much. I was out of my room but I still wasn't talking. I hadn't talked in some time and it was weird. Adrien and Mom tried talking to me but I wouldn't speak. I refused every time they tried and they gave up and decided to leave me. My mom tried asking if I would like to talk to a therapist but I gave a pained look. She must have thought that there was something wrong with me. I was watching Friends when Adrien came with popcorn from the kitchen and sat next to me. “Hey,” he said with his perfect smile, and I couldn't help but smile. He looked at me with a look of happiness then pity. I looked away because if I saw that look in his eyes, I would start crying and I didn't want that, for him to see me cry. “You know, if I didn't leave the house that day, I would be fine,” I said, but since I hadn't talked in quite some time, my voice was hoarse. He nodded until he realized that I had just spoken. He called Mom and she came running from wherever she was from and screamed, “What, what happened?!” “Hazel, she just spoke,” Adrien said with the hugest smile I've ever seen. Mom smiled too and it was nice, to cause someone's happiness. “My baby, she's speaking,” Mom said with tear-filled eyes. After what felt like a zillion years of telling them what happened that day, I like a heavy load was lifted off my shoulders and I felt good inside, to not suffer alone. Everything changed when I read the book, “Girl, wash your face” by Rachel Hollis, and was moved when I read the part which said a lot but when summarised said, “Girl, get a hold of your life. Stop medicating, stop hiding out, stop being afraid, stop giving away pieces of yourself, and stop saying you can't do it. Stop the negative self-talk, stop abusing your body, and stop putting it off for tomorrow or Monday, or next year. Get up right now. Rise up from where you've been, scrub away the tears and the pain of yesterday, and start again… Girl, wash your face!” To say I was moved was an understatement, I was touched to the core. I told myself that I would rise up and be better because what I went through and what caused my depression and anxiety doesn't define me but what does is how I move on and become the better me.
On a rainy day, the drivers hooked their horns while waiting for the traffic to flow again. Nearly 45 minutes to 60 mins of cars backed up from the highways, and the drivers began to be impatient with each other until the patrol police officers controlled the traffic, allowing people that get to their destination. Over by the pizzeria, Nicholas' Seeker, I begin my work shift by checking to see if screens need to sort out, restacking the boxes, grabbing sauces from the coolers, and refilling the parmesan and powder sugar shakers. As hours pass through the evening, orders flood the screens within minutes; Simon, the general manager, told us to kick into high gear. When I saw the food items flowing out from the oven, I suffered from a panic freeze and silently imagined daydreaming. Rosa and Lisa saw me freeze in my imagination and woke me up with a musical shake on my body. Immediately I woke up and witnessed food items dropping on the ground like a gumball machine. While they work on new and remake orders, Lisa, Rosa, and I speed us boxing orders as road runners dodge the coyote's traps. After four to five hours of rush orders, the screens started to clear, and everyone took a short break while eating, snacking, or drinking. While some days can run smoothly, there are days where it's out of control and let course take its wheel. That's why I kept pushing and let my mind run free. Next time we have rush orders, I'll bring my lucky pants and hat.
A peaceful and rapid rain poured over the State of Texas. People hook their horns to the nearest front cars while waiting for the green light to turn on. The ground begins to create puddles that spread wildly like a portal. Over by the pizzeria place, Nicholas' Seeker, Kyla clocked in to prepare for her shift. She placed her purse inside the office while grabbing her drinks from the oven. Kyla checks to see if anything needs to complete before starting her day. She became one of the recognized employees the customers enjoyed seeing daily. Everyone loves the smile on her face, which helps them keep faith that their day runs smoothly. One of the managers, Rosa, waits for her to take over the oven and layer a chicken box and bread box. "Hola!" Kyla shouted. "Hey, mama. I'll be back. I need a smoke break," Rosa said before walking away. "Gotta it. Leave it to me," Kyla said. The general manager Simon returned from the restroom and washed his hands before jumping onto the makeline and telling the workers to load the three ovens. The orders flood the screen, triggering the workers to kick into high gear and make these orders quickly. "Kyla, we're loading all three ovens. Let us know if you need help," Bella said. As the food items pile close together, she breaks a sweat and immediately needs assistance at the oven. Brie and Lisa ran to Kyla's aid to help her. "Brie, read the tickets, and I'll help Kyla," Lisa said. Brie nods and begins reading the tickets. Even with three workers, the oven pushes the food out like a vending machine dropping candy or snacks. Kyla's speed could be better, which makes her feel low self-esteem and silent from speaking. "Come on, Kyla. Let's push forward and worry less about everything else," Brie said. "How nice of you, Brie? I want to go fast like Sonic or Road Runner, yet I can't kick into high gear. I'm like a sloth, who sleep all day and night, and come to work feeling like a zombie," Kyla said while laughing softly. "Oh, yea? I didn't sleep last night because my neighbor committing a mistake in front of my house was okay. I came in two hours late from my shift time after finding out what they did," Lisa said as she laughed. Kyla and Brie couldn't contain their inner laughter and release it. As the last food items were boxed and sent to the customers, Rosa returned from her break and saw them sweating off their bodies. "Rosa? I thought you left," Brie said shockingly. "You said you promised to come back and left me to dust with these orders," Kyla said. "Well, excuse me, miss! I came in early this morning and carried these heavy boxes myself without help. Afterward, my back hurt, and I dislocated my ankle went I slipped onto the floor," Rosa said. The ladies looked awkward and walked away for a short break before another round of rush orders. Kyla sighed as she barely survived the short period of food items coming out quickly; however, with the help of her coworkers and managers, she managed to do little work while they picked up the slick.
Edit: I've removed this piece for submission elsewhere. Congrats to the winners!
Ariana packed her bags in a hurry. She was going back to her parent's house for her year-end holidays and she couldn't wait to get there. Her dad would be picking her up and she didn't want to be late. After ten years of staying away from home due to her dad's constant moving from one state to another on work assignments, her stay in her paternal grandparents' home was coming to an end. She lived with her grandparents so she could attend a private school nearby their home. It was a missionary school and Ariana loved attending school there. However, she didn't stop missing her family when away from them and looked forward to the holidays when all of them could be together again. She especially missed her dad as he was the one person who would mollycoddle her and indulge her with presents and whatever she asked for. Mom was always the strict one. But with her dad, she could throw a tantrum when she didn't get what she wanted and not be punished for it. She looked forward to the year-end since her birthday falls in November and come December, Christmas and New Year celebrations made her time with her family all the merrier. Ariana had a secret passion though. Her parents lived near the seaside and each time she went back for the holidays, she would always look forward to catching the sunrises and sunsets that graced the skies there. She would count the hours to sunset just as the hours of sunrise trailed away. Before dusk, she would walk, sometimes miles down the beach, talking to the winds, hearing her voice echo back as the tides washed softly ashore in a welcome whenever she traipsed down its sands. Like her, the waters of the seas believed she belonged among them, and she whiled her hours away till the evening sun lit up the horizons in unbelievable colors of crimson and gold. Ariana had an affinity for the seas, the tides, and all of the skies' splendorous revealing. She knew them to be as mystical as they were seraphic. The colors of the skies were seraphic and blissful in nature. They created artistry and displayed the wisdom of the Gods. Her dad pulled up at her grandparent's house, and after saying their goodbyes to them, Ariana and her dad were on their way. It was at least a five-hour drive to reach her home in another state from where her grandparents lived. When they reached, it was late evening. Her mom and siblings ran out to greet her gleefully. Mom had prepared an elaborate dinner to celebrate her return. All of her favorite food was laid out on the table. Ariana had a sumptuous meal that night with her family members. They sat down together after dinner and talked about Ariana's plans to further her tertiary education since this time around, she was back to stay for good. Ariana could smell the sea from her house. So after they had finished talking, she walked out to where the beach was. It was dark but the path to the beach was lighted as were the surroundings of her home. She saw the park empty on the way when usually the residents who lived there would come out after dinner to sit around and talk or walk on the grounds and enjoy the cool breeze that blew their way from the seaside. When Ariana stood by the fence overlooking the sea, she heard the waves rise and splash against the rocks. She couldn't see the waters in the dark except for a lighthouse in the distance. And its light shone and shimmered on the waters of another part of the sea. Ariana thought about how light dispels the dark. The lighthouse was symbolic of it. She listened for a while longer to the waves and waited to catch the sunrise the next morning. Dawn was only a few hours away, she came away thinking. That night Ariana slept peacefully while listening to the sounds of the tides and the winds. They instilled a deep sense of solace and calm within her. Ariana woke up to dawn and got dressed quickly. Her mom was already up and about in the kitchen. She briefly told her that she was going down to the beach and rushed out. She sat on her favorite spot on the beach and waited to see the first glimmer of light. Like her, the skies waited their turn for the radiance from the rising sun. The sun drew an embodiment of colors across the sky and rose in resplendence. Far in the distance, the horizons came alive almost like the skies sat upon the seas and transmitted an array of visually colored clouds throughout the celestial universe. Ariana sat mesmerized as never before for the winds whispered that they would create a splendorous viewing just before dusk overtakes the night once again for her. Ariana walked back home appeased. She began her count to the hours before sunset. She had heard it in the winds and wanted to be part of the sunset's silhouette. It was going to be an exquisite, lustrous day. Ariana's embers of passion for celestial beauty would be reignited once again. The End.
When I noticed the illuminated gas light, I knew it was too late-I would never make it to the next big town, 22 miles away. Then, like a mirage, an old building with the words GAS/FOOD painted on its side appeared. Unfortunately, I quickly realized that there was definitely no gas in the pumps, and that there probably hadn't been for years. I looked around helplessly, allowing the worry train in my mind to run at full speed. What would become of a Black Jewish woman, alone and stranded in the boonies of a red state? I could feel tears pricking at the corners of my eyes, begging to fall. Suddenly, I heard the sound of laughter and followed it to a set of tall wooden doors. The echo of collective chortles, chuckles, and hee-has derailed my thoughts long enough for me to make a move, and I wrapped my hand around the cold metal moose-head door handle. The antlers made it so my fingers spread into an awkward claw. I pulled one of the doors open, and behind its heavy mass sat seven white strangers and a white bartender. My breath felt caught in my chest and butterflies fluttered up from my stomach into my throat, choking me. “Hi. Um, can y'all tell me where the gas station is?” My voice came out shaky and those damn tears were still fighting against me. A tall, thin man with shoulder-length grey hair, a thick mustache, and a familiar face stood, looked me up and down, and said, “You're shit outta luck in this town.” The tears finally won their battle and marched right out of my eyes and down my cheeks like hot soldiers pumped up with the emotions of victory and the price paid for it. "Don't worry, come on now. Don't you worry. Is your gas light on?” “Yes,” I replied, feeling foolish with my red eyes and puffy lips, “and I don't know how long but I've driven at least 20 miles since I noticed it.” A blonde woman, the only other woman in the bar besides the plump bartender looking on from behind the old wooden counter with an air of indifference about her, smiled at me. “Oh, I bet you could make it sweetie! I almost run out of gas all the time, but now I know exactly how far I can go once that light turns on!” She broke into a laugh that nobody joined. The tears incessantly fell from my face and were beginning to slide down my neck, which was already sticky with sweat. “I really don't think I can make it, I'm scared I'll get stuck.” The tall man still seemed to be analyzing me as he said, “I really think you'll be fine. Just go on ahead and try—" “I'll go get you some gas.” We all turned our heads toward the low, raspy voice. A man who had been sitting silent in the corner, wearing a white t-shirt and khaki pants stood and pulled his keys out of his pocket. "Be right back, y'all.” He pushed open the door and sunlight rushed into the room, brightening our faces. It slammed behind him with a thud and we were left with our jaws open. A younger man with a large body broke the silence. "So what the hell is a girl like you doing in lil' ol' Pringle, South Dakota?” I wiped the tears from my face and told them about my solo road trip. The large man seemed amused by my response: “Well honey, you sure ain't home in California anymore! You in Trump country now!” I laughed nervously. “Oh, hush Jimmy!” The blonde woman playfully slapped his arm. “What now, darlin'? I'm just tellin' her like it is!” And then to me, “You don't believe in this global warming bullshit now do ya?” The woman slapped him again, harder. “Don't listen to my husband, he's just giving you a hard time.” “It's okay,” I told them, "I wanted to travel this country because it's easy to come up with ideas about people who think differently than me, when I really don't know them at all.” The blonde woman liked that a lot and smiled at me, nodding her head in agreement. “So," I asked, "is this where Pringles chips were invented?” The people laughed and the air felt lighter. We carried on a cheerful conversation, ending abruptly when the door swung open to reveal the silhouette of the khaki man holding a gas can, and sunlight once again spilled over our faces. The blonde woman followed as I led him to my car. She was beautiful, with a face so warm; she could have been one of my grade school teachers. As the man poured gas into my tank, I dug through my backpack for a ten dollar bill I remembered tucking away earlier that morning. “Thank you so much, can I give you some money for all of this?” “No.” He tightened the gas cap and snapped the little door shut. “Alright, this should get you to town. Keep an eye on your tank now, ya hear?” “Yes sir, thank you, I will.” Pulling away, it struck me that I'd had a transformative experience. My gas light illuminated, and it brightened my perspective on humanity.
The nightingale watched him like a hawk. The flautist took out his flute, and looking up at the nightingale, he said, “I shall play a tune to match the moonshine for you. You can sing along if you want.” The soothing sounds of the flute reached the far corners of the land. The nightingale became a shadow for it couldn't match the melodious composition of the song on the flute, a love song that awoke the night from its slumber. Please watch the short video of The Nightingale & The Flautist, taken from The Goddess of the Himavan, best-selling ancient & classical literature on Amazon. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=arpFUl7fJRU&t=57s Thank you for watching. Please subscribe, like, and share the video. Happy New Year, 2023 everyone.
When I came home from my graduate program for spring break, I knew I would be out of Syracuse for more than two weeks. The pandemic was ticking up on my timeline, the Ivy Leagues were moving full semesters online, and my school would likely follow. My younger sisters, both in college, were likewise sent home. I thought my older sister would stay away. Serving in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, it seemed unlikely she would be pulled. However, she was soon taken out of West Africa, routed through Europe and the American Midwest, and brought back to New York State and to us. 2020 was the year of four twentysomething sisters, diverted, living once again under the same roof. My older sister and I have had a tense and complicated relationship for most of our lives, and I was unexcited at the prospect of bunking together in the attic. I blame her for many of my faults, unfair as that may be. My defensiveness, my intense fear of being vulnerable, my possessiveness: these I trace to her. There are a few stories I tell about her when first explaining our relationship. One is her pushing me into the deep end of a pool before I knew how to swim. The second is her taking my (very thick) middle school cell phone and chucking it at the mini Zen Garden I had bought at Dollar Tree, chipping a sizable chuck from the corner (“she ruined my Zen,” I tell people). There's the time I performed in my first school musical, and she told me: “you weren't as bad as I thought you'd be” (her version of a compliment). None of these are very bad and, truthfully, she wasn't a Very Bad sister. Yet these instances characterize my relationship with her. She was violent, invaded my space and property, and any time I was proud of something she insulted it. I kneeled; she stood on me. Even now, sometimes, I'll tell her something she did, something that hurt me way back when. “Oh that was a good one,” she'll say. She cut my favorite necklace in half and threw it in the garden. She slammed my head against the wall for eating her Goldfish. “I should write these down,” she smiles. She sprit in my hair, screamed at me when she lost her phone, hit me in front of my friends. - Everything we see in each other is colored by expectation and the need to build a differentiated identity for ourselves. We project freely and our defensiveness is reflexive. We are fonts of unsolicited advice and unwelcome criticism. There's a judgement there: we assume we know each other best (or truest) even though each one of us withholds so much. Our presumption of knowledge is not so much about events but character. As though the two are not related. We believe we know each other best and believe that none of the others really knows us. But there are these moments we decide to suspend all reality and laugh at some novel bit or deprecating observation, times when we decide not to be self-conscious and let ourselves take the jab-- we enjoy it. There are times when the joke is good, or when we willingly do favors for one another, or when we all cohort as siblings for parental leverage. There are times when the low snickering and secrecy feel nostalgic of a happy childhood. - Tonight, Julia was giggle-screaming at Rachel about a centipede which had fallen from the ceiling of her room. She couldn't find the monster and absolutely COULD NOT sleep knowing it was waiting somewhere to crawl into her mouth while she slept. She came downstairs to beg for help, asking myself and Ashley to PLEASE come up to her room, find the centipede, and catch it. I lay horizontally across Julia's bed, the flashlight of my phone pointed at the corner of floor where the centipede had apparently landed. Hanging my head over the edge of the bed to look beneath, I found: three hair ties, a barrette, a Christmas chocolate, dust, a plastic toy (this to Ashley for her enjoyment), and a Spanish-language flyer which, when moved, revealed a centipede. Ashley goading me to touch the centipede felt like I was soon to be the butt of a joke, so I made her do it instead. She assumed the post with me holding the flashlight above her. Julia had provided an empty Tylenol bottle for capture. It was an awkward angle, and Ashley was having trouble. Julia tossed me a magazine to squish the bug, but she missed horribly, and the rogue copy of The Atlantic landed near Ashley's head in the corner, scaring the centipede. This led to Ashley attempting to resign the task and blaming Julia, Julia admitting fault but BEGGING us to stay, and the centipede once again being found on the floor, opposite the side of the bed where it had started. Ashley acquiesced attempted to nudge and scoop the centipede into the bottle. The window was open and waiting for the poor creature's defenestration. It wasn't working well. “Kill it,” I said again. “Just do it.” As the centipede ran, Ashley took the magazine, dropped it on top of the bug, and gave one large, socked step. “You can deal with this,” she said to Julia.
Just one word to describe this year, and it's a 'hell'. I don't know if it's because of the pandemic or I'm just too tired, but I've been experiencing mental disorders since last year. Something 'big' happened last year, it should've been the start of my brilliant career, but it turned out to be a trigger that caused my depression. That something big was many people's dream job but not my dream job. I got that job, but I wasn't happy with that. I told my parents about how I feel, but they kept pushing me to just accept that job for my future's sake, and yeah, I initially tried to do that and tried to accept my 'splendid' destiny. But at that time actually, I started living in hell. You know, I prefer fighting with other people than fighting with my own mind. That's so freaking hard! I fought my depression, I cried every single night, I couldn't sleep, I didn't eat or drink. My world turned upside down, but no one cared, no one asked me about it. This year my condition was getting worst, I started harming my body, even trying to kill myself several times. Yeah, I was a suicidal who tried several silly methods to end her life. I tried to make myself overdose by drinking a lot of pills, I tried to hurt myself by drinking ethyl alcohol, and the climax was when I tried to kill myself by eating rat poisons. The last trial ended with me being rushed to an emergency room and needed to be intensively treated there for half a day and needed to stay in hospital for two days. Rat poisons were not good, they're the worst! I tell you, my stomach was in extreme pain at that time. I cried aloud because of the unbearable pain, the doctors and the nurses did their best to save my life by doing many emergency treatments. For the first time in my life, I experienced a horrific experience when they started entering a hose through my nose to my stomach. They said that was the method to rinse my polluted stomach. For one day that hose stuck into my nose and that's extremely uncomfortable! I couldn't even eat and only drink milk through that hose. After that ugly experience that felt like a nightmare, I was interrogated by my parents as to know why I did that stupid action. And here we go the drama. I cried while explaining my real feeling and my mental condition, I told them that I couldn't do it anymore, I couldn't do that job anymore. I wasn't a saint, I wasn't a good person, I didn't want to pretend to be righteous by kept doing that job. I thought they would understand, I thought they could see how pathetic I was after seeing me in critical condition, but I was wrong. Instead of feeling pity, my father decided to disown me. Yeah, my father was angry, and starting that day, he ignored me like a plague. We lived under the same roof, but he never saw me as if I was invisible. Do you know the pain in my heart? That's beyond painful, I don't even know how to describe that. My mother was a saint. She hugged me at that time, saying that I just need to do what I want to do and that I don't need to force myself to do something I don't want to. Do you know? That sounds like Calum Scott's song titled No Matter What, and that's my favorite song anyway. I lived in hell after that. The place that once I called home, now it's a hell. I was jobless so I stayed at home all day, doing nothing. The anxiety attacked me so many times that I cried over the smallest things. The smallest things like when my internet getting slow, I cried. When my computer mouse stopped working, I cried. When my sister didn't answer my call, I cried. I cried every day and that's tiring. My depression wasn't different. I felt so depressed, I completely changed my habit. I used to be a clean freak, my room used to be ant-free, but now my room is ants palace. I didn't even want to take a shower, I didn't do the skincare routine, I didn't even eat and drink. I was a complete mess. You know, there's this guilty feeling inside my heart. I've disappointed my parents. I don't blame my father for his cold treatment towards me, I know he's just very disappointed in me. I just keep blaming myself for everything. I don't know whether it's caused by my depression or not, but I really can't stop blaming myself. My family was poor, I should've given them a better life, but I failed. Lately, I have also experienced a worse physical condition every time the anxiety attacked. I experienced breathing difficulty, my chest was stuffy that I couldn't breathe properly. I'm also scared when I'm outside and meet people. I'm afraid that they would judge me. That's suffocating, that's terrifying. I know I need to see a professional's help, but now I'm jobless and penniless so I can't do that just yet. I can only distract myself by writing since originally I love writing. Writing is like an escape, I feel safe when I'm writing. I hope one day I will be able to get through these tribulations and proudly say, "Once upon a time I lived in hell, but now I'm happy like in paradise."
By the age of 5, I already attended a fair share of quincenearas and knew by then that I did not want to have a traditional 15th birthday celebrated by my Mexican culture. Wearing extravagant gowns with lace trims wasn't my style. I'd rather don a Jedi robe and in lieu of a flower bouquet, I'd carry a lightsaber. My parents, partially to blame for my love of all things Star Wars, gave me the middle name Leia, after Princess Leia. I was a freshman in high school and college and was turning 15 in 2020. My family kept trying to persuade me to have a quinceanera, even trying to coax me into having an 18th Birthday celebration, customary in my Filipino culture. Despite their persistence, they caved in and built the Star Wars themed party I dreamt of, including personalized lightsabers down to handcrafted Baby Yoda ears to wear, to be followed by a Disneyland trip. March, Friday the 13th, a day before my party, there was news about quarantine for this thing they referred to as Covid-19. All that meant to me was my party and trip were canceled. It was spent binging Star Wars to peel our eyes off of the coverage of COVID. We soon realized much was unknown, except for the numbers–numbers of infected, number of countries with outbreaks, number of dead. Numbers were something I loved, math was my favorite subject; solving equations or analyzing statistics. I've never been more scared of numbers. School announced we were doing distance learning and it became a reality, it wasn't just my birthday that came to a halt, everything I normally loved doing was put on pause. Everyone thought it would be 2 weeks, an early spring break. Two weeks became a month, a month became two. and then the rest of the year. It was when our school issued Chromebooks to learn from the safety of our homes that it cemented—2020 history included life in a pandemic. Online school brought challenges: I dreaded someone noticing I was still in my PJs, secretly trying to scarf down breakfast while in class, or dozing off because of the comfort of doing school at home. Uncomfortable desks and creaking chairs were something I thought I would never miss. I longed to hear the chitter-chatter of my classmates, instead of the silence of muted mics. There's a pang of guilt for feeling my world has turned upside down; it's not even remotely comparable to what others go through. Before the pandemic, my only worries were maintaining a 4.0GPA, working towards my AA degree, and meticulously planning that perfect 15th birthday. Instead, I was consumed with worry over things I never thought I'd agonize over. Extreme germaphobe tendencies of my mom plastered on sticky notes were instilled in me, I worried about what germs were harbored on each inanimate object I touched (or even just barely grazed). I felt like I was constantly washing my hands to the tune of Happy Birthday, a reminder that my celebrations were called off, not to mention the constant washing made my eczema flare-up. My hands were dry and itchy, burning when I would apply hand sanitizer for what felt like the 100th time that day. Breathing in another person's air became my worst fear as the CDC reported how the coronavirus spread. It shouldn't be an issue because I wasn't going anywhere, but my father's a correctional officer-a frontline worker. Every night we had a longstanding tradition; I would sneak to the room right before he fell asleep, and put one of my stuffed animals next to my dad as I kissed him goodnight. However, that petrifying word, numbers, haunted me at home. A great number of staff and inmates were infected. Anxiously, I would refresh the website that tracked cases at his work, praying we wouldn't see an increase. The news reported many frontline workers were making makeshift homes away from homes to protect loved ones. Our family just couldn't fathom the idea of dad living away from home. Hugs became air hugs. No cuddling together on the couch. Goodnight kisses turned into video calls as we made that heartbreaking decision because my mom and I both had underlying health conditions. My world became all about screen time. School had turned into Zoom meetings, visits with my sister and nieces who lived just a walk away were now on FaceTime, hanging out with friends in person became video gaming together online, and to be informed with the outside world, I was now consuming more television and social media than ever. My Sweet 16th was another quarantined birthday, which also meant the pandemic reached over a year! However, there's that glimmer of hope as I received my COVID vaccine. For a sense of normalcy, I get dressed up as if I'm going physically somewhere to meet online. I believe in science and chose to make the best of what I can do from the safety of my home and my newly transformed room my parents did for me to make things just a little bit easier. After all, I'm now spending so much time there, we might as well make the most ideal space for me to be in!
'And the award goes to…' The crowd goes wild, a standing ovation with shouts of praise ringing from all around. Familiar faces past, present and future glowering with satisfaction yell 'Speech! Speech!' I stand up, my confidence glaring, my strut overconfident and my smile misplaced as I walk up the stage to receive my award. I take a stand directly under the spotlight, right in the middle of the platform. I don't need a microphone, my words come were their own amplifier, I raise a hand and a sudden hush fills the room. 'I am young,' In another world this is an advantage, to aliens, I am worth something. An able-bodied youth that will protect their homeland and one day build their economy. The welcoming of a successor to leaders in transition, a key to a luminous future. Then there is the world that I live, where I am lazy, weak and useless, a bane to the existence of my elders. I am languorous and pessimistic as I waste my life on things that do not even bring me true joy. But I was not born this way. You see at my Genesis I had a clean slate, a myriad of options lay before me. And it was the duty of the sages in my community to guide me on the right path so I could become something of substance. This is where failure began. When the so-called patriarchs of my dear land, who were too busy sniffing up white arses, brown faces turned darker by foreign faeces, to care what I was to become. My role models who myopically rob their own pockets. Fogey pregnant men that do all that is within their power to keep my realm gerontocratic, so they may never have to deliver. I ask what example can a human with no morals set. Then there are the parents, the omniscient ones that force and beat me into conformity. That tied my dreams of creativity down like a balloon to rock and thrust their version of reality upon me. "You cannot be an actor, you will be a doctor," "You cannot be an athlete when you can be a chemist," "You cannot be a musician, that is not a profession" My progenitors, their word is law, I obey. They delay my independence for the fear that I would become wayward. Suddenly I am shoved into a world I do not understand when they deem it time for me to be an adult. Ohh and I must not forget the unsung heroes of my miseducation, the teachers and the preachers. Those who instruct me on the most old fashioned and conservative way to live my life. Spent old bores that squash my free-thinking, training clones not individuals, followers not leaders, in learning centres they work on my eyes not my mind nor my heart, not even my hands. What exactly do I do with such baseless beginning? I will tell you, nothing, I just sit at home and waste my youth. So here I am with eyes but I refuse to see, a brain but I refuse to think. Will I remain a rebel in ways that only leave me with more scars or worse strive for more mediocrity? In a void-less paradigm, in a world without depth; in a country without a voice, after decades of using lies to keep me in check, I stand now stuffed on untruths and I accept your award for Repressed Nigerian Youth.
Updated: The new contest is accepting submissions now! Please follow instructions at www.biopage.com/contest. Thank you for submitting your article for the Biopage Storytelling Writing Contest! The current contest is closed. We have received a large number of submissions, many excellent essays. It will take about 2 weeks for our Writing Contest Committee to evaluate them and choose the winners. It will be a difficult decision to make. The winners will be notified by email, and will be announced on the next writing contest webpage. Meanwhile please consider doing the followings to your essays: 1. You may still edit your essay by clicking “Edit Post”, to correct typos, and re-format your essay. Please note there is a “Poem mode” for poems. 2. Please add a picture or short video to your essay. This is important because the contest is to encourage writing in a new social media style. 3. Make sure you used "writing contest" as one of the tags. To add tags, write tag words separated by commas in the Tags field. 4. By clicking “writing contest” tag, you will be able to read essays from other writers, make comments, and communicate with the writers. 5. You are required to write a biography to introduce yourself and upload your user picture and background picture. Please make sure to change the “Name” filed in your profile to show the name you like to use and show. 6. You may want to set your account as “Public” to let us and other writers to read your essay. 7. Please download Biopage mobile app from iOS App Store or Android Google Play, sign in to your account. Later announcements may appear on your chat window there. 8. Ask your friends to read, like, and comment on your essay. You write and you want people to read your writings, and your friends should be the starting point. These are some of the factors to consider when we choose the winners, but of course your writing is most important. 9. New contest will be announced soon, you are welcome to enter again. And you can always write more Updates to your account on Biopage, and tell more stories! You can communicate with your friends on Biopage; there is a Messaging section on Biopage, you can chat with your friends on computer or Biopage mobile apps. Good luck and happy writing! Biopage Writing Contest Committee
It's the 3rd of February, the world's at its best pace. I'm on my terrace, walking, thinking, dreaming. The sky looks beautiful in its deep blue. The orange sun is yet to set. I start browsing, I witness a myriad of vacant rooftops and just one or two human figures, either in search for a dependable cell phone network or peace. I come here for the latter. My father is a social worker, he has devoted his life to service. While I was in school, I wouldn't see him for days, even if he was still in town, by the time he'd come I was mostly asleep and by the time he was up, I was in school. My sister is completing her studies in a different state, I don't even remember the last time I talked to her for more than five minutes. My mother is a homemaker, but she's barely home probably because she's a "social person" and when she is home, I either have an assignment to complete or some place to visit. It's been ages since I've had a proper conversation with any of them, or since the four of us sat together talking about the good times and amusing. My family is just one of the thousands of things that pop up in my head while I'm up here. I walk further to the edge of the terrace, I bend slightly to get a peek of what's going on in the world below. I discover a bevy of kids playing soccer, people wrapping up their days, cars honking moving around in a rush, a couple walking hand in hand, a small time grocer trying to desperately sell literally everything he has to a single customer. I see the kids again, this time half of them celebrating their victory by hugging each other and laughing in delight. Besides them, I see two women, probably neighbors, fighting and abusing each other with complete vigor. One of them is now looking skywards and yelling some terrible words, I wonder who she's shouting at, there's nobody up here except me. Oops, I better get back to my walk. So basically today looks just like any other day! Now let's fast forward a little to when a pandemic took over our lives and everything just flipped. It's the 26th of march today. A few days back our Prime Minister announced a complete lockdown in our country. I still come up here, on the terrace, but it's an entirely different sight nowadays. The sky is still in its deep blue, I still hear noises, but this time not of the cars honking, today I hear the sounds of humans, a lot of humans, to be fair. The rooftops that once never showed signs of life, now look like a carnival, only a socially distanced one though. On any other day I would've been slightly disconcerted by the fact that the only place I turned to for peace had transformed into some kind of playground filled with people. But not today, and to be honest I actually feel delighted, because I don't just see individuals, I see families, families that have probably laughed together for the first time since ages, families that have conversed with each other as a whole, families that held hands like there's no tomorrow. Even I am not alone today, I'm walking alongside my father, talking about things we never thought we'd ever talk about, discovering interests, we never knew we had in common, exploring my plans for the future that I never thought would fascinate him. A few feet apart, I see my sister and my mother sitting together and laughing about how terrible my sister had cooked last night, and surfing for new recipes on the internet for my father who's next in line to cook dinner, and it's not just the four of us, I see joy and happiness all around me. Funny, isn't it? The times that are the hardest, are the times I am surrounded only by felicity. My father went and sat next to the mother-daughter duo, gesturing me to join, I tell him I'll be there in a minute. I would've just gone and sat with my family, but I'm so amused by looking at everything around me, that I was tempted to uncover this new world. I see a young couple teaching their toddlers badminton, I see a mother teaching her kid to ride a bicycle next to her husband who was listening to his daughter explain some features about the laptop, I also see the neighbors who once used to come to blows quite often, today sit on their respective balconies, chattering. I smile to myself and go sit with my family. People feel that the pandemic somehow forced families and individuals to come closer, but I feel that the pandemic just gave us a reason to pause and reflect. We'd all been so worried and in such a rush to get the best of our lives that we missed savoring the most beautiful moments. The pandemic, let us stop for a moment and breathe, it let us contemplate, realize and understand all those pieces that we had missed in these hasty lives of ours. I'd once read "Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours." This pandemic made us reach out and hold one's hand as well as let our hands to be held.
We were making vareniki. It wasn't the first time and probably wasn't the last one. My mum was sitting near refrigerator in our small kitchen, while the last rays of the sun were hiding behind orange ambries. You know, there are days when everything seems like honey and when you remember them, your thoughts are sparkling and the old music is playing around. And sometimes there are simple moments which look like eternity, perfection, which are completely finished. That day was one of those. Calmness is a huge whale and it leaves in our house. My mum was talking about her childhood, how her parents and she had been picking up blackberries and mushrooms. Sometimes I'm thinking about being there with them. I'm sneaking along these paths behind them. I don't even have to try hard. I hear their voices: my grandad is talking about the importance of being patient, he is young. He says: ‘sometimes you just have to wait'. It is about chanterelles, hiding in the moss, but I know, he is talking about something bigger than just a mushroom. My mum gave me the dough, it is ready to be rolled. She continued. Mum spend her early years in a small town. Unlike the big ones there are things which are not changing ever. Like my granny's mum and her mum they used to roll the dough with the bottle. The tradition is always a small thing. After a long long day in the woods the whole family gathered in the kitchen talking and making dinner. And the bottle was there. That evening they were together. My mum and herself, but 30 years younger. The girl of my age was there in our kitchen. Mum was making absolutely identical waves on the top of vareniki. The plate was almost filled with them. It became darker outside. lanterns lit and reflected in the window like little fireflies. The water have boiled. My mum put the vareniki into the water. We were waiting. We were quiet. Only the old music of the memories was playing around.
Life is a wonderful journey for those who are ready to see it unfold and are prepared to receive the surprises and shocks that might be thrown towards them. For some people, life is an uninspiring labour because what they expected and what life gifted them were two different poles. Things on which we are having control seem to be easier than those on which we don't have any control. Obviously. Such uncontrollable circumstances take the name of problems. Every problem has its own solution. It is just like how every lock is made with a key. Once a person is born on this earth, no matter how hard he/she tries, can never escape the clutches of this life until the time to leave the world comes. So basically, there is no point in sitting and moaning about things happening around us. If we have the rights to cherish the good moments of life, likewise we are also having the responsibility to battle against the sad moments of life. “Every problem has its own solution; you just need to find it.”😊 Only then will your mind open up to search for solutions. Our mind is one of those wonderful creations of God fixed in a human body that can solve all the strange mysteries of this beautiful planet. We need to use it well and believe in our efforts which shall further go on to solve the problem. There are a lot of people out there who create problems. There are a lot out there who just complain about problems. There are plenty of those who only see the problems and run away from them accepting defeat. None of these three categories of people take any action to solve anything. I simply believe that when adversity knocks.... one needs to simply knock it out. Something very unique happened this year. We were struck in a mysterious dilemma this Ramadan (the month in which Muslims from all over the world observe one month of fasting) 2020. It is always such a spiritually encapsulating experience, that for those thirty days we believe we can be better people and we do our best to become them.😌 However, this year, ever since the government-mandated lockdown was imposed all over the world and in India on account of the corona virus pandemic, people had been advised to stay indoors, and this has had quite an effect on the spiritual and social aspect of Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims go out for Iftar (post-fast meal congregation), Suhoor (pre-fast meal congregation), go to the mosque for prayers, and to the markets for shopping, buying food and plenty more with our friends and families. Ramadan has indeed been a bit glum this year. It was for the first time in many years, that the streets were desolate, and it definitely dampened our spirits to a little extent. But since, every problem has its own solution so we needed to find something positive out of it, so this Ramadan the lack of distractions helped us focus wholly on improving ourselves spiritually. The grim situation in the world made us a lot more grateful for everything we have. It brought us closer to the Almighty and everyone has finally started to care for lesser fortunate people. Corona virus is a proof that the tables can turn at any point and it is very important to be kind. Ramadan this year felt way more special, we were actually doing what we are meant to. Offering more prayers than usual and remembering God more often. I also believe that people secretly liked the solitude and loneliness this Ramadan. The pandemic did have an effect on the celebrations, but it was good in a way because there has been less waste and no hectic shopping. It is true that Eid was low spirit wise. Because that is the one day when everyone lets loose, from sales, shopping, gathering, dinners, all of it. People use to meet relatives and friends and the festivities continue for a lot more days. But during the times of pandemic, with all of us stuck indoors, unable to go to the mosques for community prayers, unlike in the past, we made it a private and a closed-door affair in order to combat Covid-19. And everyone prayed for the situation to turn normal. Almost all the festivals were celebrated in a similar way, with less pomp and show and greater connection with God. Our country has a lot of festivals, and we as Indians compromised and that too, willingly for our well being. What we need to remember is that this quarantine is not going to last forever. Right now it is important for us to stay inside and do our part for our benefit as well as of the world's. We need to extract the positive aspect from this scenario. So overall, this quarantine is not less than any 'Blessing In Disguise' for all of us. In fact my first ever book 'Born & Raised On A Go' is a result of this pandemic only.😇 ( You may check it out here :- https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Farheen_Ali_Born_Raised_On_a_Go?id=6Dz2DwAAQBAJ )
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