Junior Year Died

Since I recently concluded my junior year of high school, the cliché “Year in Review” blog post feels natural for this week. At first I thought I would just cover the best happenings of each month, but then I realized I only associate negative occurrences with some months, so I’m covering it all: the good, the bad, the could-have-been-better, the could-have-been-worse, the absolute best and the complete worst.  

August: This Blog: As a brand new Online Editor-in-Chief for the Free Press, I felt as though the paper’s website needed some sprucing up. I wasn’t the only one who felt this way–the Journalism Educators of Metropolitan Kansas City continuously agreed with me in their harsh reviews of the site during the years previous. Incorporating staff blogs seemed like the first step in up-ing our JEMKC rating of “fair” to “good.” I remember typing my first post, worrying about what my mom, my grandma and random Googlers in Russia would think about the stuff that goes on in my head. Nervous, I steered clear of deep personal matters for that post, instead musing about the catastrophe that was my accidental and incestuous gerbil farm.  You can read that post here.

Ian and me after our race. My shirt came off because I am such an athlete.

Ian and me after our race. My shirt came off because I am such an athlete.

September: A Marathon Relay: My mother forced me to participate in a marathon relay with my grandma, my father, one of my little brothers and her. Actually, she will say that she didn’t force me–she “asked if I was interested.” What she won’t mention is that when she asked if I was interested, I said, “No, not interested,” and she signed me up anyway. But I was a good sport, even if I ran the shortest leg of the race and ate more than everybody else at the finish line. Also, it should be noted that nothing compares to that special feeling I have inside knowing that my grandmother could kick my butt in a footrace or a push-up competition or any physically-demanding activity whatsoever.

October: Jonas brother Concert (Almost): One time the Jonas Brothers were going to get back together, and my friends and I were going to relive our childhood on one magical Halloween night concert of the century. After weeks of scraping together ticket money, assigning Disney-themed costumes to members of our group and feeling a general sense of ecstatic anticipation, we were dismayed to discover that because of a “deep rift within the band,” the entire tour had been canceled and there would be no concert.

November: Boston: I went to Boston for the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention. My newspaper friends and I roamed around the city, self-touring Harvard, Boston College, Emerson and Boston Harbor, practicing our horrific Bostonian accents all the while. Because of bad weather in other parts of the country, our flights got delayed so we missed an extra day of school, which was fabulous. I also took stealth photos of hot guys that you can check out here.

December: Surprise Birthday Party: After avoiding birthday parties for three years, I reluctantly rejoined the trend of yearly celebrating one’s own existence. I also blogged about it, which you can read here.

January: Student of the Month: My calculus teacher nominated me for Student of the Week in December, probably because I frequented math tutoring with somewhat embarrassing regularity. Eventually, I magically won Student of the Month and got a sweet parking spot for the last 10 days of January. Also, the group responsible for managing Student of the Month announcements forgot to change the Student of the Month board by the office for several months, so my reign as Eleventh Grade Female Student of the Month of January lasted until early April. Ironically, the calc teacher that nominated me for Student of the Week recently rejected me for Link Crew–a group of upperclassmen that welcome freshmen to high school in August. Not sure what that means about our relationship.

February: Forensics: I went to a forensics tournament every Saturday of February at 6 a.m. in my best business casual. I broke to finals exactly zero times, but I learned how to give an informative speech in heels, so it wasn’t all for not. You can read about my experience here.

March: Pygmy Goats: Baby Pygmy goats are the G.O.A.T. My aunt has several kids–human and goat–running around her farm, and I got to hold all of them in one of the cutest days of the year.

April: What Hell Feels Like: April was the most stressful month of my entire life. A couple of my friends were convinced that I had an anxiety disorder–some of them still are–because of my constant emotional state of freaked out. This was also the month when I (unsuccessfully) attempted mediating and drinking weird teas to find my inner zen.

May: Double Take: Double Take is an advice column, co-written by a local psychologist and a high school senior or junior, that appears weekly in the Lawrence Journal World. Each year, a contest is held in late April/early May to find the next high school-aged co-author. Surprisingly, after an incredibly awkward mock TV interview and sub par first essay, I came out on top by such a narrow margin that there was almost a tiebreaker.  I’ll begin imparting weekly teenage “wisdom” in August. It’ll be a lot of writing, but I’m going to give meditation another go, so everything should probably be fine.


Cry Because It Happened

Saturday morning: I’m at Starbucks, hunched over some Doctor Who-themed T.A.R.D.I.S. notebook paper that I’m trying to pass off as nice stationery, stringing together an alarming number of clichés to describe how much I care about my graduating friends and their future endeavors. I’m also tearing up a little. When the college-aged hipster next to me casts a sideways glance from behind his Macbook and Chai latte, I mutter something about allergies and misplaced eyelashes and unsuccessfully attempt to pull myself together.

As I grab a tall java chip frappuccino for my grad party buddy and head out the door to pick him up, I experience more “allergic reactions.” But I’m not emotional because I’m sad, really–just sentimental about all of the good times I’ve had with the class of 2014.

Because I had so many good times with the seniors, I spent 11 hours grad party hopping, congratulating graduates and eating delicious barbecue and candy yesterday. I also went to some grad parties today and Friday, so I’m pretty much an expert. Here are my grad party-goer Do’s and Don’ts:

DO: Get the graduates a gift. It can be as simple as a heartfelt note of encouragement or as extravagant as a desk made of solid gold and wrapped in $100 bills. Since I make minimum wage, I wrote a lot of heartfelt notes of encouragement.

DON’T: Write your notes in a public place, unless you aren’t bothered by the potential of unexpected waterworks damaging your desired emotionless persona.

DO: Have a go-to grad party buddy. Preferably one with lots of friends in common, so you don’t awkwardly end up at several grad parties celebrating the accomplishments of people you weren’t even aware existed.

DON’T: Listen to my last “DO.” Some of the most delicious catering was at the parties for the seniors I’d never met. If anyone looked at me strangely for being there, I just said that I was my grad party buddy’s chauffeur/official taste-tester for the afternoon, and all was forgiven.


We are seven-year-old children trapped in these teenage bodies.

DO: Show up late. After realizing that Facebook invites that say, “the party begins at 2” really mean “the party begins at 2:40,” my grad party buddy and I altered our schedule slightly and set aside an hour to swing and climb on stuff at the park in order to maintain our cool kid status at the rest of the evening’s festivities.

DON’T: Show up too late. A couple of my friends showed up to what I considered one of the best grad parties of the day after the bouncy house had been taken down, most of the food had been eaten and pretty much everybody else had left. I suppose you could make the best of the awkward situation by chatting one-on-one with a grad and expressing genuine interest in his or her plans for the future, but you would have to do so without a bouncy house, which kind of really sucks.

If you show up too late, you might miss out on a photo booth. Do not miss out on a photo booth.

If you show up too late, you might miss out on a photo booth. Do not miss out on a photo booth.

DO: Avoid thinking about the fact that this may be one of the last times you’ll see a friend for a while. Focus on celebrating the good times you’ve had and the exciting uncertainty of the future. As one of my close senior friends so eloquently put it last night at her grad party: “Kyra, I know you hate quotes, but this one totally applies to this situation: ‘Don’t cry because it’s over–cry because it happened.’ No, that wasn’t it. It was something better than that. Dang it.”

Good luck, seniors of 2014. I’d say Free State will be quiet without you, but there are plenty of excessively vocal freshmen moving up to take your place. It’s The Lion King’s circle of life, and it’s sad and beautiful at the same time.

My Kids Will Read This and Laugh

Push it out your you-know-what. Let it suck on your boob. Clean up its excrement. Listen to it cry (and cry and cry and cry and cry).

And that’s just the beginning.

At this point in my life, I am not interested in having my own child, possibly ever. Speaking as an adolescent, I know I would not like to be on the receiving end of some of the terrible things I’ve said and done to my mother. I appreciate her for listening to my tirades, enduring my selfish, bratty behavior–and loving me anyway. But, the truth is, I’m not sure if I could do the same for another human being. I’ve actually thought about it quite a lot, so I made some lists.

Reasons I do not want to have a child now or ten years from now:

1. Kids are expensive. Babies can be really cute, but sometimes they look like potatoes. Regardless of your kid’s appearance, you still must purchase food and clothing for her. Even when your child is being an absolute brat, you can’t stop paying for her needs, unless you want the state to take her away from you. Babies need cribs and toys and mushed-up baby food slop and tiny spoons for the mushed-up baby food slop and blankets and onesies and diapers and more diapers and wipes and changing tables and strollers and bottles and high chairs and car seats and binkies and all sorts of other stuff (like containers for the mushed-up baby food slop). Then, they outgrow these things and require replacements. Children are a black hole in which you dump large sums of money, never to be seen again. And when (or if) they move out, they still might want money for food and somewhere–or someone–to do their laundry.

2. Kids are ungrateful. So as a parent, you pay for your child’s needs and sometimes more than that. You try to get her a good education, fun toys and nice clothes. You organize birthday parties and play dates, go on adventures and class field trips, watch her terrible magic tricks and awful animated movies, but for what? For your child to be upset about the color of sucker in her gift bag or the lack of a specific dessert in the house. Kids are often ungrateful little snots who only say “please” and “thank you” to get what they want.

3. Other people are mean. Among parents, children sometimes seem like a competition–a battle to see whose combination of DNA will be the first to say the ABC’s, make a soccer goal or graduate top of the class. If your kid does something wrong, sometimes other people think there must be something wrong with you. People are judgmental and gross, and kids are just another way for them to let you know.

Reasons why I think people have kids:

1.  They haven’t thought it through. Having a child is not like having a cat. You can’t just dump a lot of Fancy Feast on the floor, close the bedroom doors and leave your kid alone for the weekend when you need to get away. Also, your kid might not be the mini me you always wanted, and she won’t be a cute little baby forever. In fact, puberty will happen, and your kid will probably look and act gross for a couple years. Are you prepared to deal with that?

2. Kids might bring love, emotions and lifelong connection. I mean, yeah, I suppose kids offset some of their negative qualities by doing something sweet every once and a while. They definitely love you when they’re little, and even if they feel distant during the teen years, they could totally swing back around and become lifelong friends. In other news, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that it will cost an estimated $241,080 for a middle-income couple to raise a child born last year for 18 years. 

Right now, I’m not prepared to deal with issues mentioned above and others unmentioned. Knowing my mother has loved me through many of the circumstances that make me averse to the idea of my own personal motherhood just increases my respect for her. On this Mother’s Day, I want to thank my mom for persevering through my potty-training, my unclean room, my unkind words, my junior high drama and my college concerns. Based on precedent, I know that she’ll always be there for me when I need her, and I know that I will always need her. If I ever settle down and decide to have children, I hope I can be half as gracious and loving as my mother is to my brothers and me.

Breaking: high schooler discovers obsession, labels it “passion”

Recently in Humanities, my teacher had the class do word association to demonstrate a point. I forget what that point was, but I did learn something, which I’m sure was one of the teacher’s objectives. When he read the word “spread,” most of my peers wrote “butter” or “hazelnut” or “thin.” As instructed, I wrote down the first words that came to mind: “yearbook, newspaper” (page layouts in yearbook are called “spreads”). Call me crazy, but I think this may indicate an obsession with journalism.

I like to say that my “obsessions” are “passions” because people tend to respect those more, so, to clarify, I am “passionate about” copy-editing, news-writing and interviewing, not “infatuated with.”

I stumbled into the newsroom quite on accident when I was in eighth grade. The English teacher at the small private school I attended at the time decided to start a school newspaper. She invited me on as the “Entertainment Editor.” Basically, she wanted me to write a column about my day-to-day experiences (pretty similar to this blog, actually). I agreed to join, and ended up really appreciating my bimonthly column in lieu of actual reporting. Not much happens in a K-12 school of 150 kids, and if anything does happen, it’s usually the same five kids making it happen, so the news writing gets mundane and repetitive.

Freshman year, I took Beginning Journalism as a prerequisite to joining the Free Press staff at my new, large public high school.  I learned AP Style basics, watched a surprising amount of news-related movies and drew a ton of pictures of sheep in suits with monocles and bow ties.

When I applied to be on staff for my sophomore year, I remember telling my mom that I had no interest in being an editor because editors had to do too much work and I just wanted to write stories. Now, looking back as Editor-in-Chief for the 2014-15 school year, I still agree with half of my 9th grade belief: editors do too much work.

As a sophomore, I realized newspaper was my niche. The required  day-to-day communication with strangers pulled me, the shy private school kid, out of my shell. At semester, I was promoted to Social Media Editor. While I felt like I had a position similar to Dwight Schrute’s role of “Assistant to the Regional Manager” in The Office, I noticed that some people didn’t have a title, even a made-up one, so I still felt a little important.

I still remember the pride I felt during the week second semester sophomore year when the National Scholastic Press Association accidentally included the Free Press in the list of National Pacemaker Finalists. Even though NSPA quickly rescinded the honor, claiming the Free Press was added due to a clerical error, not every school is a National Pacemaker Finalist for a week due to a clerical error, so I still felt a little important.

When I returned to the Free Press in the Fall of my junior year as co-Online Editor-in-Chief, my true passion was awakened. With the ability to make decisions to improve the publication, I found myself disregarding other schoolwork so I could learn HTML and assign stories. I tried revamping the website with online-only content, fancy widgets and staff blogs. While the website still received a “fair” rating at the JEMKC Regional Contest, it was a way better “fair” rating than it got last year, and I’m certain that next year, we will be “good” at least.

As I finish rereading the Humanities-required Machiavelli’s The Prince to prepare for my reign as Supreme Overlord of the Newsroom–I mean Editor-in-Chief–I want to thank my Humanities teacher for another real life application.  The first Free Press issue produced by the 2014-15 staff comes out on Thursday, and I could not be more excited.