artsandyouthlove

Books, Music, Movies, Youth Issues, Random Stuff

Archive for the ‘Youth Op-Eds’ Category

Op-Ed: The Quirks of Being An Outsider

with 3 comments

A couple of years ago, I read a book called The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth by Alexandra Robbins. The book discusses high school popularity and the quirk theory. The quirk theory states that the traits causes you to be excluded in high school are things that people will value in adulthood and outside of school.

I read this book feeling comforted because I was one of those excluded teens in high school. However, I was also skeptical. After all, how could I experience the quirk theory while attending a community college? Not only were there no clubs, but commuting  made college seem more like high school (minus bullying and racial cliques).

This summer, I will be starting classes at a four-year college and I’ve reread The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, hoping that the quirk theory would be proven this time around. However, looking back on my community college experience, I realize that the quirk theory has already appeared in my life.

According to Robbins, the quirk theory has many traits. Here are the ones that have been validated for me in community college and outside it:

Curiosity, Love of Learning– I took an American Lit. course in 2011 that changed me as a student, poet, and person.  I’ll call the instructor of that course Professor X. In that course, we were going to study part of Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself”. I read the entire poem beforehand using a book from the library. I’d been writing free verse poetry since 8th grade and studying a very long poem like “Song of Myself” fascinated me. What was the big deal about it?  And so, I read the poem and subsequently fell in love with it.

When the time came to study it, I was excited! I remember exclaiming, “Ooh, it’s Song of Myself!” before we read it as a class. One girl looked at me like I was weird, but Professor X grinned widely. One year later, my love of studying poetry and literature earned me a student editor position for the campus art and literature magazine.

Creativity, Originality- During the fall of 2010, I got a poem published in the campus newspaper.

Passion- I started this blog in the fall of 2011 for myself and to inform others about the things I enjoyed and disliked so much. I expected only a dozen followers and ended up getting much more.

Resilience-  The fact that I made it to community college gives me a reason to be proud of myself. I survived the bullying and exclusion I experienced high school and have used what I’ve been through as inspiration for short stories and poetry. I’ve also been raising awareness about the impact of bullying through youth op-eds on this blog.

Authenticity, Self Awareness- I’ve said before that I never changed who I was in high school despite what I went through. I’m happy that I’m still myself today, even if I come across people who think I’m weird or too whatever. It is because I’ve stayed true to myself that I’ve had the other quirk theory traits admired.

I’m not going to say “it gets better.” To me, this statement implies that your entire life will always be full of happiness after high school. In fact, I’ve had to fight depression in community college. Although I’ve beaten it, I haven’t completely accepted myself yet. However, I’m still here and I’m slowly working toward my inner peace.

Instead of saying “It gets better”, I’m going to say, “It will be okay.” It may take some time to be that way. If you keep being yourself and be willing to live and share yourself with others, then you can make it.

Here is a song that keeps me strong; I hope it and my personal testimony can help others do the same.

Advertisements

Written by Serena Zola

May 16, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Op-Ed: The ME Generation (TIME Article)

with 4 comments

The recent front-page feature of TIME magazine is about Millennials. Mr. Joel Stein has written an article on how my generation is lazy and selfish and then attempts to soften the blow by saying, “we’re empowered” and that “we’ll save us all.”  He has taken the old “Millennials are going to Hades” argument and “improved” it with studies, statistics, and academic quotes.

Normally, I brush a news article like this off. However, the way the article was written and supported is condescending and insulting.

First, the photographs. A girl taking a picture of herself? Captions that show how many followers this girl or guy has on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook? Way to say, “Look, look, I told you these kids were selfish and shallow!” Is Stein proud of becoming a hypocrite?

Also, the “interviews” with millennials were only a couple of sentences long, whereas the interviews with non-millennials like casting director Doron Ofir have a paragraph. Since Mr. Stein thinks that millennials are too busy social networking and texting to speak long, I guess it can’t be helped.

Furthermore, there is the fact the interviews of millennials and most captions refute Mr. Stein’s argument  For instance, Mr. Vali Shekhanzi, 25 , is an entrepreneur and have a tourist service. Meanwhile, 17 year-old Tavi Gevinson runs an online fashion magazine named Rookie.  Aren’t  they supposed to be lazy and selfish?

Besides that, there is the fact that I think that we do have a culture to rebel against. You’re either society’s definition or your own definition. In other words, you’re either Mr. Stein’s  (or somebody else’s) stereotype or yourself. I personally think that for every Barbie and Ken doll, there is a geek or freak.

Lastly, there are the things that are supposed to represent us. Kim Kardashian? She’s the epitome of the Stupid Girl epidemic (listen to P!nk’s song “Stupid Girls”). Also, if my entire generation actually watches reality television, then I’m Sailor Moon. We didn’t “grow up” on it; we inherited it after 2008’s Writer’s Strike!

All in all, Joel Stein’s article mostly is cow manure. The only thing that he is correct about is millennials being more accepting of differences. Most millenials, like myself, are diverse (I’m bi-racial)  or have been exposed to enough diversity to become tolerant of others.

Guess what, Mr. Stein? We are not a statistic  or a guinea pig. We are human beings who deserve to be judged honestly and fairly.

Written by Serena Zola

May 10, 2013 at 5:58 PM

Bullying and Me: The Full Story

with 4 comments

Authoress Note:  There will be some profanity on this post. It is not because I enjoy cursing, but because the people around me involved in my experiences do.  Also, names have been changed to protect identity.

   *****

  Kids will be kids.

Words are just words.

Just ignore it.

Not everyone is going to like you.

These are a few things that I’ve heard to excuse bullying when I was being bullied as well as today when bullying is brought up in the news. As if  bullying is dust can be brushed away. It is not that easy.  I’ve mentioned my experience being bullied before on previous youth op-eds, saying that I got called “ugly” and “retard” for making good grades. That is not even the half of it.

My bullying experience started one day during lunch in 10th grade. I was almost finished eating when a girl’s voice called my name. I turned to see Nadia and her friend Nikki staring at me.

“Give me some candy!” Nadia snarled.

Turning back to my food, I said in a calm, firm voice, “No.”

“Ugly ass.” Nadia hissed as Nikki giggled. Throughout 10th and 11th grade, Nadia and Nikki were my enemies and they took the time to tease me whenever they felt like it. It sucked because they were in three of my six classes that I had.

In addition to Nadia and Nikki,  I had boys and girls who teased me in Literature & Composition class in 10th and 11th grade. They made fun of me because I liked reading and made good grades. It really hurt me because it was my favorite subject  and enjoying it subject was just a part of who I was.

Another thing that stung was that none of my classmates who were bystanders stood up for me. They probably didn’t want to be bullied themselves, but their inaction felt just as bad as getting teased.

When you have some people tease you and nobody sticks up for you, you end up thinking that no one cares about you.

I wanted to scream “You don’t know me!” at the jerks. Yet, I couldn’t. Any huge disruption in the class resulted in my teacher giving everybody essays. Sometimes, we got two or three in one class period. Despite what my classmates thought, I hated doing them.

All the bullies mentioned have one thing in common: they were black. It is not cool for black kids to be smart. If you really get noticed for it like I did, then you’re in trouble. In middle and high school, it isn’t cool for anyone to get noticed for being smart. Yet,  for young minorities, it is considered taboo because they aren’t portrayed as smart in society that often. Just look at television and the news  if you don’t believe me.

Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have been so affected by bullying if I hadn’t been so insecure before the bullying started. Since 9th grade, I was extremely aware of how different I was from other black girls. Instead of shopping, I enjoyed playing video games. Instead of listening to rap and R & B, I enjoyed alternative rock and soundtrack music.  Instead of watching BET, I enjoyed watching cartoons  from Japan.

I had a hard time making friends, especially with other girls. Before the bullying started, I’d managed to make one new friend that was female and different like I was. However, the bullying still hurt me  because I felt like an outsider among my own race. You see, the friend I’d made wasn’t black; she was a Mexican girl named Rose.

I didn’t tell any adults about being bullied because I’d figured no one would understand. Most teachers wanted to leave disruptions outside the classroom and focus on learning. My parents were a slightly different story. My mother wanted me to tell her so she could talk to the teacher. My father told me how he was bullied and how he became strong.

I didn’t want the bullying to go away. In fact, I knew it wouldn’t go away even if I had told someone, because one bully is easily replaced by another.

I only wanted to know that it was okay to be different, that it was okay to be myself. I also wanted to know that it was possible for some people who don’t know me to accept me.

In order to become strong in the face of bullying, you need a good foundation of self-esteem. That foundation should be made by the parents from the very moment a child is born. My mother, as good as she can be, had been making me feel like I wasn’t good enough.  My father did his best to empathize with me, but his praise wasn’t enough.

While I felt smart at school, I felt like a stupid failure at home. To compensate for the approval I didn’t get at home, I worked harder than I usually did at school. I had always made the honor roll at the end of the semester, but now I wanted to make an A or B throughout the semester on everything.

The combination of bullying at school and emotional stress at home started to make me depressed in 10th grade. The following year, it felt like I was being bullied more often because of the pressure teachers were putting on students to pass the graduation tests. My school and many others needed to make a successful academic yearly performance in order for the county to keep its accreditation. As a result of the added pressure, I became even more depressed and hated the school’s guts. Were we just tools to be used to make the school look good?

The cracks in my resilience came the night before I turned sixteen. My mother told me goodnight and that I couldn’t do anything right even though I was sixteen. The following day after school, I wrote in my journal that I wanted to die. If I was nothing more than a freak at school and a failure at home, then what was the point of living anymore?

I spent the rest of that year trying very hard to answer that question with hope. It was a blur of depression and suicidal thoughts like me jumping off a freeway pass. I hadn’t written anything since my sixteen birthday. To cease writing when it had given me freedom to express myself  was a  sign that I had truly given up on life.

I had decided to kill myself on New Year’s Day so I could truly experience the feeling of a new beginning. Only problem was, I didn’t know how. I had been spending the holidays at my sister’s apartment so I was unfamiliar with what could be used to end my life. I wanted to jump of the roof of the building, but didn’t know how to get there.

Then I realized I had a headache from thinking too hard and a very small voice told me how it would suck to kill myself and make my family sad. Therefore, I told my sister and my mother about my feelings. I still didn’t want to live, but I didn’t want to make people sad either.

My sister empathized with me somewhat, but  my mother couldn’t. She had tried changing the way she communicated with me for a day or so, but soon fell back into her old habits. I was still depressed, but because I cared about making my family happy, I trudged on. Then, something happened that brought my spirit back to life a little more.

During a Spanish class in my junior year, a loud argument had broken out between Nadia and another boy named Kerry. It had caught the attention of the entire class. I never found out why they were arguing because Kerry’s next words had me stunned.

“DUCK ASS HOE!” he screamed at Nadia over and over.

She stared down at her desk forlorn, looking the same way I felt when I got bullied. Kerry noticed her expression and said cruelly, “Yeah, go ahead and cry!”

At that point, my teacher intervened and kicked Kerry out. I hadn’t stood up for Nadia  because I didn’t know what to say. I was still staring at her, feeling a mixture of pity and confusion. I’d hadn’t considered her or my other bullies human until that moment. Why was this happening to me and Nadia?

Obviously, I couldn’t ask Nadia that. She may have gone from being the bully to being a victim, but she still didn’t like me. In fact, I divined that she had been bullied before she ever met me. Therefore, she probably felt as mistrustful as I did when I was being bullied.

To find answers, I started reading our city’s teen newspaper. The newspaper featured news stories, personal essays, and artwork from inner city teens. I wanted to see if there were stories on bullying that were similar to mine or Nadia’s.

There were two that caught my attention. One story was by a girl who had been bullied since grade school and started dressing provocatively and using profanity in high school so no one would tease her. It worked, but she didn’t like the way she had no self-respect. Eventually, she started being herself again and found new friends who assist her in raising her self-esteem.

The other story was by an intelligent black boy who wished that more of his black peers would reach their full potential. He explains how his classmates would tease him about using SAT level words and how ignorant and degrading they were being by dressing in hip-hop styles and addressing each other with profanity.

Just then a soft, teenage boy’s voice in my head created an epiphany. It said, “Things are rough all over.”

The voice belonged to Ponyboy Curtis, the main character of the classic coming-of-age book The Outsiders. I’d been in love with that book since I’d first read it in middle school, but I never realized how much it applied to my life until the Spanish class incident. Like Ponyboy, I had a huge lesson to learn about people.

My bullies were just people who wanted to be accepted just as much as I did. They were doing a bad thing for a good reason because they saw no other alternative. They expect little of themselves, because other people do. In order to stand up for themselves and make themselves feel better, they turned to bullying.

Upon realizing this, I forgave my bullies and vowed to hone my writing skills so that I could creatively and realistically tell my side of things. I still had other demons to fight off and they would eventually break me again in college. However, I took some pride in knowing that I had survived bullying.

Since I graduated from high school, I have read many tragic stories involving bullying. In fact, it seems almost every week I hear of a bullycide (i.e. suicide due to bullying) via the blog Ronkempmusic. Some of kids were bullied even worse than I was, because I was NEVER cyberbullied. Nonetheless, I’ve struggled for many years trying to find the perfect words to explain my feelings.

The truth is no one is perfect.  We all make mistakes, some bigger than others. No one is ever all good or all bad. It is not right for bullies to torment others, but it is also not right to label bullies as monsters as I once did.

Furthermore, it is important for bystanders to try to do something if they witness bullying. Even in my stunned state, I could have yelled, “Shut up!” when Nadia was getting teased. It would have been awkward, but it might have been life saving too. After all, Nadia could have been pushed over the edge like I was and killed herself, leaving me  feeling guilty and still confused.

Thankfully, I saw Nadia again my senior year. She transferred out of a class I was in, it seems she still didn’t like me, but that was fine. At least, it provided closure; I was never bullied again by anyone.

I end my story with one last lesson for those being bullied. Throughout my torment, I never ceased being myself. I kept reading,  making good grades, and doing whatever made me happy. It annoyed the heck of my tormentors, but it was sweet revenge sometimes.

In the words of  The Outsiders’ author S.E. Hinton, “Stay gold.” You may get dented emotionally for being yourself, but don’t let who you are get eaten away. Stay gold.

Written by Serena Zola

March 5, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Posted in Youth Op-Eds

Tagged with , ,

Op-Ed: 11 Year Old Transgender Girl’s Letter to President Obama

leave a comment »

I was making my usual rounds through the Huffington Post this morning when this article caught my eye. The words “eleven year old transgender” interested me because this was a person that was a part of an identity that I and most of the United States are struggling to understand. I have known about the transgender community for a few years now and have come to tolerate it through research, particularly through personal testimonies about what it is like to be a young transgender person.

To have someone as young as Sadie write such a heartfelt letter is amazing. The last personal testimony I read was in a book entitled The Full Spectrum: A New Generation of Writing about Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Other Identities. I read this book  a few years ago, not recently. It wasn’t until I tried looking for more writing like this that I realized how rare it was. Besides Sadie’s letter, the only other recent personal testimony I’ve read by a young person from the GLBTQ community was the one by Richard Blanco, the 2013  Presidental Inaugration poet.

Besides the personal testimonies, I’ve also tried to understand the transgender identity through young adult fiction. Since I still don’t know the subject matter too well, I’ve been unsure of what to read because I’m not sure if what I’m reading accurately represents the transgender identity. However, a book I’ve recently reviewed entitled Beauty Queens has a transgender character that is very realistic because she expresses feelings similar to Sadie’s. 

Even though I still don’t understand the transgender identity as well as I would like, I know that it is important for letters like Sadie’s to be read and understood. For those like Sadie, it sends a message that they are not alone. For the rest of us, it sends a message that shows Sadie’s humanity, which still exists in all of us no matter how we identify ourselves.

It is clear to me  is that if Obama didn’t address the transgender community, he needs to read Sadie’s letter and act on it as soon as possible. While the GLBTQ community may have different identities, they both share the same enemies: prejudice and discrimination. Most people should know by now that these things have tragic consequences, including suicide and homicide. When I saw Sadie’s letter, I thought of another transgender person named Brandon Teena. I wish Sadie the best of luck and hope that she will continue to live life to the fullest and not have it cut short like Brandon’s was.

Written by Serena Zola

January 24, 2013 at 11:24 AM

Defining Generation Y Culture

leave a comment »

The Baby Boomer Generation and Generation X have all had books, movies, music, and more that represented them.

What about my generation, Generation Y, or as we are known by some, The Millennials?

I know for a fact that my generation is one of the most diverse. I’m bi-racial and went to school with blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and whites. If we are diverse, then are the things that represent us diverse as well?  I think so.

Here are the things that represent me as a Millennial:

Music-

Linkin Park– These guys were one of the first rock bands I really liked. They represented the angst I had in high school. Now that I’m in college, they represent my newfound hope.

Significant Songs

In The End- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6DoCiyX1p8

Numb- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxwOf6RZAAs

Waiting For The End- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mh2DqdGSQLs

Roads Untraveled- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gzy0S-NO-bI

Pink– Thank goodness she isn’t another Britney Spears. If it weren’t for her, I’d still be ashamed of being a black sheep among girls. She’s shown me you can be you and be successful.

Significant Songs

Raise Your Glass-  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHtms9voyEg

Perfect- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BIye98Ryic

Stupid Girls- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GCgHEQuVtmw

Books

The Harry Potter Series- These books introduced me to fantasy fiction and mythology. Without them, my imagination would be non-existent.

Technology

High Speed Internet- Show of hands if you had dial-up almost all throughout high school. To this day, I still wonder how I got my homework done. Not to mention, the mainstream music I had to suffer with until I got high-speed internet and this next bit of innovation:

Internet Radio- Pandora Internet Radio made my music tastes be eradicated and reborn like a phoenix. I found music I truly liked and I eventually developed the eclectic taste in music I have now.

Movies

RENT (2005)–  This movie is the most awesome embodiment of the diversity I mentioned earlier because it has different races, genders, and sexual orientations. Furthermore, the movie doesn’t focus on what makes them diverse. Instead, it focuses on the friendships and relationships between the characters. In fact, the only time it focused on their diversity and individuality is when they were celebrating it.

Significant song from the film: La Vie Boheme (lyrics in description)- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTbOTjXOT-Y&feature=channel&list=UL

So dear readers, if you are a Millennial (i.e. a child of the 90s) like me, what things represent you? 

 

Written by Serena Zola

October 26, 2012 at 7:16 PM

3 Things To Survive Bullying

with one comment

Since the beginning of October, I’ve known that it is National Bullying Prevention Month. I wasn’t planning on posting anything because I wasn’t sure what to say. After all, I’ve already told my story about being bullied in an opinion editorial.

Then today, I heard about Amanda Todd and the Youtube video she made: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vOHXGNx-E7E&feature=share

Her story has to be the most tragic case of bullying and suicide I’ve read yet. Not only did she die way too soon, she also never got what she really needed to overcome her pain and live. Based on what I saw in the video Amanda made and my own personal experience, here are three things that can help young people survive bullying:

  1. Support– When I say support, I mean mostly from friends AND family. Parents are a must, but having supportive friends shows that there are some peers your own age that like you and that not everyone is out to get you. It angers me that Amanda didn’t have good friends around when she needed them. In addition to support given by people, there are resources you can use to get help and music and books that can provide comfort. 
  2. Acceptance- If you like yourself even a little bit, then that will help you develop a resilient spirit. When I was bullied, I didn’t have much pride in myself, but I preferred being myself instead of being like everyone else. Furthermore, I knew that there were a few people who liked me for me. All Amanda knew is that some idiots liked her for her body and that and the lack of peer support led to her suicide.
  3. Empowerment- Ultimately, the support and acceptance combined should let you know that you have control over your life. The support I had and the small bit of self-acceptance I had allowed me to graduate high school and survive bullying. Tragically, the same can’t be said of Amanda.

3 Books That Will Comfort Bullying Victims:

  1. The Outsiders This book doesn’t deal with bullying exactly, but the main character Ponyboy feels the same need for acceptance and belonging as bullying victims do.
  2. The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth This book is non-fiction and it informs the reader how the things that cause them to be excluded in school will benefit them outside it.
  3. On the Fringe– This book is a collection of stories  by well-known teen fiction authors. It will relate to anyone who is treated like an outcast.

3 Songs That Will Comfort Bullying Victims:

  1. The Messenger by Linkin Park-a song of comfort: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6etygnUXIWU
  2. Perfect by Pink- a song of self-acceptance:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BIye98Ryic
  3. Don’t Jump by Tokio Hotel- a rallying song against suicide: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axbYQfxqLX8

Suicide Resources:

National Suicide Prevention Site for Youth: http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/home/get-help/help-for-you/

Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=7049F2F1-C9C4-C392-588484F7906539D6

Written by Serena Zola

October 12, 2012 at 9:10 PM

Op-Ed: What’s Wrong With Reading?

with 9 comments

This week, I was happy to read an article that defends reading for pleasure. It was reprinted on the Huffington Post from Youth Communication. The article was written by a fifteen year old named Anthony Turner.

I wish I had been able to find someone like Anthony among my black peers when I was in high school.  Like Anthony, I was teased for enjoying reading in high school. Unlike him though, I couldn’t take pride in what I loved because I felt alone and that I didn’t have a place to belong. Fortunately, I managed to identify with literary characters like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Ponyboy Curtis from the teen fiction book The Outsiders.

In the article, Anthony mentions that black youth culture prizes guys who are athletes and musicians. A similar value is placed on black women. Instead of intelligence, black youth culture values women’s looks and how provocative they are.

While the same thing can be said of men and women of almost any race, Anthony mentions that black and Hispanic men have the lowest graduation rates. According to the National Women’s Law Center, 37 percent of Hispanic female students and 40 percent of black female students drop out of high school.

How sad is it that a good chunk of young minorities become nothing more than a statistic?

There are two things that cause reading to be disdained: the lack of a good family rearing and the influence of the mass media, especially entertainment media. A less minor reason is that the right book isn’t being read.

As a black female, I am grateful that my parents showed me the value of an education and instilled in me a love of reading. In fact, my mother told me that she read while I was still in her womb. Not sure if it’s true, but it paid off.

With the influence of the media, some minority youth are brainwashed into selling themselves short. If you don’t do what is considered cool or popular, then you are considered lame. Even worse, some minority youth are asked by their peers and others, “Why don’t you act more Hispanic?” or “Why don’t you act more black?”

I was asked the latter question indirectly. Despite the angst I felt with that and being teased, I rebelled against the status quo and kept reading for pleasure and being myself.

What most of my peers didn’t know is that I only liked reading for pleasure when I could choose the books I wanted to read. I hated reading the majority of books that were assigned to us in high school. Thanks to the library and a cool teacher who introduced me to teen fiction in middle school, I found material that I enjoyed.

Now in college, I have gained pride in being a bibliophile and share that pride with others by blogging. I hope Anthony Hall’s pride never fades and continues to grow.

If more young people like me and Anthony can develop the courage and resilience to become knowledgable and follow their passions no matter what, then this world will become smarter, more unique, and awesome.

Written by Serena Zola

September 21, 2012 at 8:52 PM

%d bloggers like this: