Lessons Learned Freshman Year: The Ultimate Packing List

I’m going back to college in a couple of weeks, and I couldn’t be more excited! Looking back on my freshman year, I have been making lists of what I used in my dorm last year and what I will need to take or leave behind this time around. Therefore, I thought, why not share this information with the incoming freshies? If you’re attending school in the Northeast, are an education major or musician, or just a girl on a budget, this is the list for you.

the ultimate college packing list

Everything you will need with you can be broken down into these categories: Supplies & Books, Clothing, Decor & Bedding, Hobbies, Toiletries, and Adulting.

The inner part of something; the inside. -the interior has been much restored-. Synonyms- inside, inner part, inner area, depths, recesses, bowels, belly; More antonyms- exterior, outsid

1. Supplies & Books

  • Highlighters
  • Thin-tip multi-colored marker set (Education majors; these are expensive)
  • Post-it notes and bookmark tabs
  • Construction paper (Education majors)
  • Black pens
  • Folders
    • One folder for each class.
  • Composition notebooks
    • I recommend one composition notebook for each class. Not every course you take will require you to take notes, but you can still use it to write essay outlines and make study guides.
    • These type notebooks are best for lectures.
  • Spiral notebooks
    • I recommend these for mathematics, music theory, solfege, and other lab-based courses where you might have to turn in your written work.
  • Crayons (Education majors)
  • Agenda/planner
    • The Day Designer is king.
  • Dry erase board/marker
    • I used this to write cute little messages for my roommate (e.g. “Going to Kent State for the weekend- see you Sunday!”) or to sit on top of the washer in the laundry room (“Waiting for a dryer- please do not remove my clothes!”).
  • Textbooks
    • There isn’t really a way to forget this. I added this to the list just so I could have an excuse to say that you should shop at Half Price Books. My tonal harmony textbook (which will last me two years) would normally cost over a hundred dollars. I got it for $12.
  • Calculator
    • I originally packed a TI-84 and didn’t need it. My college algebra class (that I tested out of in a week and a half) didn’t allow it, and my elementary school class didn’t need it. A normal calculator will likely suffice, unless you are a math major.
  • Tape
    • Masking tape
    • Clear tape
  • Laptop
    • ASUS is the devil! Cheap, but the devil!
  • Books
    • I tried to pack non-fiction and classics, with a few exceptions. And yes, I did actually have time to read. I believe I read five or six books last year.
      • Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 24-26
      • Pride and Prejudice
      • The Secret Garden
      • The Life and Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar
      • Morality and Contemporary Warfare
      • Anthem (Ayn Rand)
      • The Last Days of the Romanovs (Helen Rappaport)
      • The Romanov Sisters (Helen Rappaport)
      • Julius Caesar
      • Iris Has Free Time (Iris Smyles)
      • Of Mice and Men 
        • The only classic book that had me in my feels at the end. Like why did Steinbeck think that was… okay?
      • The Case for Christ (Lee Strobel)
      • I Am Malala
        • I read this book whenever I don’t feel like studying, and it motivates me again.
      • My Bibles
        • English Standard Version
        • New International Version
  • Devotionals
  • Journal
  • Headphones
  • Choir folder (Vocal musicians)
  • Pencils
    • Even if you hate pencils, you will inevitably have to take a scantron test.

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2. Clothes (what I personally packed)

  • Pajamas
    • 2 onesies
    • A few T-shirts
    • 2 pairs of soft pajama pants
  • Pants
    • 3 pairs blue jeans
    • 1 pair colored jeans (pink)
    • 3 pairs athletic shorts
    • 2 pairs black Spandex shorts
  • Undergarments
    • 7 push-up bras (I’m a B; don’t judge)
    • 2 T-shirt bras
    • 2 strapless bras
    • 1 backless bra
      • Didn’t need it.
    • 2 thongs (is this TMI? Probably)
    • Seamless underwear
    • Yoga panties
    • Period panties
    • Black tights
    • Brown tights
  • Shirts
    • Tank tops
    • Blazer (for presentations and field experiences)
    • Sheer shirts
    • Sweaters
    • Blouses
    • Graphic tees
  • Skirts
    • 2 maxi skirts
    • 1 pencil skirt (for presentations and field experiences)
    • 4 church-y skirts
  • Dresses
    • At least 10 sundresses… I own more dresses than all of my other clothes combined
    • 3 maxi dresses
    • Black dress
      • Floor-length for vocalists and cellists
      • Any length for instrumentalists
    • A few homecoming-style dresses, in case of attending any parties
  • Socks
    • Athletic
    • Fuzzy
  • Shoes
    • Black heels (Vocalists)
    • 2 pairs flats
    • 1 pair tennis shoes
    • 1 pair rain boots
    • 1 pair fashion boots
    • 2 pairs fake Uggs (hear me out: at 8 a.m. on a January Cleveland morning, these are like heaven)
  • Scarves
  • Belts
  • 2 coats
  • 2 hoodies
  • Jewelry

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3. Decor and Bedding, a.k.a. the fun part.

  • Pictures, paintings, and/or drawings
  • Command Strips
    • These take more elbow grease to remove than you would think, so use them with caution.
  • Victoria’s Secret bags
    • Everything looks cute in a Victoria’s Secret bag. Cotton balls, nail polish, tampons…
  • Christmas lights (I’m basic, I know)
  • Magazines
    • I made a collage on my desk.
  • Washi tape
  • Shoe organizer
  • Footlocker
  • Rug
  • Long mirror
  • 2 sets of sheets
  • Comforter
  • Sleeping pillows
  • 1 sham pillow
  • Decorative pillows
    • Sleeping on a loft bed, I would highly suggest not bringing these. They made my bed less comfortable, if anything.
  • Stuffed animals
    • I had a stuffed Appa, Naga (Korra’s polar bear dog), and Minnie Mouse, and I was not made fun of for it. I lived.
  • Tiny table (to hold up a small fridge)
  • Blankets/Snuggie

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4. Hobbies

  • Your musical instrument of choice
    • I brought my acoustic guitar because once again, I’m basic
  • Sketch book
  • Art supplies
  • Sheet music and anthologies
    • Even if you’re not a music major, at my school, anyone is allowed to use the practice rooms. Sometimes I’ll spend the night in the Con playing the piano.
  • DVDs
    • I brought:
      • Avatar: The Last Airbender boxed sets of all three seasons
        • These were the DVDs I watched the most. Otherwise, I mostly watched Netflix.
      • The Legend of Korra: Book One
      • The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
      • Big Hero 6
      • Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo
  • Crafting supplies
  • Fitness
    • Leotard (Gymnasts and Dancers)
    • Swimsuit
      • Even if you’re not on the swim team, check the pool hours for open swim.
    • Water bottle
    • Muscle braces
    • Earphones
    • Sweatpants
    • Wipes
    • Towel
    • Gym bag

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5. Toiletries & Medications

  • Makeup (in order of how I put it on)
    • Concealer (a few shades lighter than my actual skin tone. I use white people concealer and I’m not afraid to admit it)
    • Brow liner
    • Foundation
    • Eye liner
    • Eye shadow
    • Highlighter
    • Powder
    • Blush
    • Setting spray
    • Mascara
    • Lip balm (you really should be using this at night but okay)
    • Lip liner
    • Lipstick
    • Lip gloss
  • Face wash/scrub
  • Toner
  • Moisturizer/lotions
  • Nail polish
  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Curl cream, oils, whatever you put in your hair…
  • Hair ties
  • Shower caps
  • Bows, headbands, bandanas
  • Razor
  • Nair
    • You may think I’m crazy for this, but I use it on my eyebrows.
  • Nail clippers
  • Hair cutting scissors
    • Do not, I repeat, DO NOT use normal scissors to trim your hair. Hello, split ends.
  • Cotton balls/Q-tips
    • You’re really not supposed to use Q-tips to clean your ears. I have temporarily lost hearing so many times because of this… and yet… I keep using them…
  • Shower gel
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Flat/curling iron
    • I didn’t even bother packing this because I don’t use heat on my hair.
  • Blow dryer
    • Another thing I didn’t actually pack, but I figure some people might want to.
  • Sponge/loofah
  • Robe
    • Honestly, it was easier to walk back to my dorm wrapped in a towel. I was never there when fire drills happened, so I might have just gotten lucky. But yeah, if you’re not self-conscious about your body, you really don’t need a robe. Especially if you actually have your own bathroom.
  • Towel
  • Combs, picks, brushes…
  • Tweezers, whatever you use for hair removal…
  • Spray bottles
  • Deodorant
  • Pantie liners
  • Pads
  • Tampons
  • Medications
    • Nasal decongestant
    • Vitamins
    • Tums/Pepto
    • Acne cream
    • Naproxen/Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
    • Excedrin
    • Insulin/meds that can save your life
  • Tissues
  • Perfume
  • Toothbrush/toothpaste
  • Shower caddy

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6. Adulting (a.k.a. the not as fun part)

  • Driver license
    • Even if you don’t bring your car, you still kinda need it…
  • Military ID (if applicable)
    • Where student discounts fail, military discounts save the day.
  • Vehicle registration
    • Remember to have this renewed by the birthday of whoever legally owns your car.
  • Social security card
    • An FYE classmate of mine had their parents mail their card to them because they weren’t planning on getting a job on campus. However, being a music major, they were required to provide their financial information so they could play for paid gigs. Luckily, I got my work-study job details handled at orientation, but this student wasn’t so lucky. Their identity wasn’t stolen, though, so it ended up okay, I guess. But yeah. Don’t mail your SS card.
  • Health insurance card
    • I ended up in the ER with chest pain, and this came in handy.
  • Laundry detergent
  • Hamper
  • Laundry basket
  • Car maintenance
    • Get your oil changed
    • Get your battery checked
    • Get your tires pumped
  • Parking pass
  • Fan and/or air conditioning unit
    • In my dorm last year, we had no A/C. I have allergies, so I applied to have a unit installed. Naturally, the university said my allergies weren’t “real” allergies and denied my request. How did that go for me? Well, I did actually get sick during week of welcome. And I was miserable. And hot.
  • Proof of military benefits (GI Bill, Chapter 35, etc.)
  • Food and cooking supplies
    • Apples (they like, never go bad or attract fruit flies)
    • Plastic forks/spoons/knives
    • Napkins
    • Straws
    • Juice/soda
      • Drinks in the dining hall are unnecessarily expensive, so bring a few cold ones to crack open with the boys. And I’m talking about soda.
    • Paper plates
      • My dorm last year didn’t have a kitchen (Baldwin Wallace students, just don’t live in Constitution, okay?), and I was not about to wash my dishes in the communal bathroom sink.
    • Peanut butter
      • Make sure your roommate isn’t allergic.
    • Chocolate
    • Candy
    • Pickles
    • Garlic butter, Chick-Fil-A sauce, ketchup, BBQ, etc.
    • Salt and pepper
    • Soul food seasoning, Lawry’s, Creole, etc.
    • Mug/thermos
  • Alarm clock
    • There were multiple times that my phone’s alarm didn’t go off and I paid the price for it.
  • Tax stuff…
    • I would say more if I knew anything about taxes, but I don’t, so…
  • Retail membership cards
  • Cash
    • Digital money can’t buy everything. I try to keep at least $30 cash on me at all times, especially since parking in Cleveland is expensive, and sometimes, you can only pay in cash.

…And that concludes this (very long) list! Do you think I missed anything? Tell me what YOU packed for college in the comments!

What I Have Learned in My First Year Being Natural

me-as-a-baby.jpg

Me as a baby! Ball was life. Circa 1999

I stopped using relaxers in May 2015 and did the big chop (cutting off bits and pieces over a span of two weeks, but a big chop nonetheless) in July 2016, not knowing much about my own hair texture. The last time my hair was worn in its natural state, I wasn’t even old enough to do my own hair– I was no older than seven or eight. Furthermore, I had just finished my senior year of high school by the time I did the big chop, meaning that at seventeen years old, the majority of my life had been spent with relaxed hair.

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Me, still a baby. I think I’m crying? Circa 1999

For any black or Latina woman returning to the curls after years of chemical processing, there is definitely a learning curve for your new style, which ultimately has great effects on your identity as well. It’s never just hair, which I learned quickly.

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Faith (currently 20), Charity (currently 23), and me from left to right. Circa 2001

1. There is a stigma against natural hair.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean, isn’t curly hair in general considered less beautiful than straight hair?

Well, yes. But if you have Type 4 hair, then you know that there is more to it than that. It’s unprofessional. It’s untidy. It’s gross. These are all things that I have heard about natural hair. Even worse? Some of the most hurtful reactions I have gotten about my hair in the last year have been from black women.

Living in a house of all women (okay, there’s one man… my dad), you’re going to find hair. You just will. And you can always tell who it belongs to. Short, thin, straight hairs belonging to my mother, my eldest sister’s wavy caramel hair lining the sink in her bathroom, my older sister’s long relaxed hair clogging our shower drain. This is just accepted as the norm. I mean, obviously we sweep and all, but you know what I mean.

However, I noticed that when I went completely natural, I received a lot of complaints when I left even one or two hairs in the sink before work in the morning (which I am usually running late for). “Stop leaving your disgusting hairs in the sink” is a common statement that my sister would often frustratingly say. When I questioned why she referred to it as “disgusting,” she claimed she thought that about all types of hair.

However, one day she told me that my hair looked like pubic hair.

She would never have said that about straight, wavy, or even curly hair. This is a comment that specifically referred to my 4b/c coils, and proves just how prejudiced people are still conditioned to be against natural hair. I mean, heck– my sister herself is black, and the fact that she could say something so… well, kinda racist, proves the point that there definitely is still a stigma against natural hair. However, you must learn to ignore it. I love my hair, and I’m not changing it for anyone.

Life Lived in G Major

2. People will say weird things about your hair and/or touch it.

People have said that my hair looks like a sea sponge, one of my first-graders at a field experience patted down my “poofy hair,” people have looked at me in utter confusion, asking, “how does your hair do that?”

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I don’t know what was going on with the left puff. It kinda did look like a sea sponge. Circa 2006

I’m not offended, though. These people do so without malicious intent. In fact, sometimes the awkward things people say about natural hair are actually intended to be compliments. And in terms of touching black women’s hair: don’t, or at least ask first. I honestly don’t mind when people touch my hair, so long as they 1) ask first and 2) don’t complain if the oil-or-cream-of-the-day gets on their hand.

march 09

There is so much wrong with this picture. Out of view I’m wearing boot-cut jeans and a white tee under this shirt, but I can only take so much embarrassment. I mean, we’re all thinking it: I looked like Dora. March 2009

3. Don’t shop by hair texture.

When I started transitioning, I became familiar with my hair type: 4b/c. However, there are so many other things to take into consideration– porosity, color treatment, thickness, length– the list goes on. This goes to say that just because a product works on your favorite beauty blogger (my favorite is Ana Lidia Lopes) does not necessarily mean it will work for you.

grade 8

There were much more cringe-worthy photos from middle school, believe me. This was actually a good day for me; I saw For King & Country in concert. March 2012

The Curl Enhancing Smoothie? I’m so mad that I spent more than ten dollars on it; it weighs my hair down. It’s just way too thick for me. But I thought that since literally everyone was talking about it, it must work pretty well, right? Yeah, no. I mean, it is a good product. Just not for me.

louisville

Singing at the 2012 National Fine Arts Festival. That’s temporary dye, because you know, I was thirteen. August 2012

4. Your hair is going to grow rapidly.

A friend of mine recently sent me a picture of the two of us shortly after I did the chop, and I can’t believe my hair was ever that short. Now, looking in the mirror, I can definitely see progress. In fact, if I didn’t trim my hair so often (about every 2-3 weeks), my hair would be even longer than it is now.

When I was regularly relaxing my hair, I would often complain that my hair just wasn’t growing. The closer it got to shoulder-length, the more it snapped off. In fact, throughout middle and high school, I often alternated between pixie cuts and bobs; my hair was rarely longer than chin-length.

freshman hair

I’m a thirteen-year-old freshman here. September 2012

Now, however, my hair is past my shoulders when stretched, and this could be due to multiple factors. First of all, taking care of my hair is so much more fun now that I have an Afro, so I put more effort into moisturizing, washing, and detangling (well, the detangling part might not be 100% true). Second, I have not even touched a flat iron since I chopped off my relaxed ends. Third, I utilize low-manipulation styles, often putting my hair up with a headband or bandana, or wearing it in a protective style. Finally, now that my hair has no chemicals in it, naturally it will be more healthy than processed hair. Because of this, my hair has seemingly grown at an exponential rate.

chase

I used a curling set to get this faux-natural look. Freshman year I kinda began transitioning (I stopped relaxing for a minute there) but ultimately went back to the creamy crack a few months later. Winter 2013

5. What worked during transition may not work post-BC.

This really took me by surprise. At some point during my year-long transition, I got tired of waking up super early to straighten my hair every single day. At this point, I began pinning my hair up in (extremely lazy) halo twists while using Cantu coconut curling cream.

headshot (drank)

We’re just gonna skip ahead to my transition. This was at the start of my senior year. I was sixteen. October 2015

That stuff. Man. I was obsessed with it. I swore by it. But after I did the big chop, I noticed it wasn’t really working too well on my hair anymore. My hair hardly seemed to respond to it; the only benefit was that it smelled good.

may 2016

My pathetic attempt at halo twists. At this point, I was so done with transitioning, but I wanted to wait until after my friend’s wedding. May 2016

I knew that my curl pattern might change after the chop, but I didn’t expect my virgin hair to respond so differently from the rest. Perhaps my relaxed hair responded so well because it was very porous, due to heat and chemical damage. Whereas, the new growth was normal- to low-porosity. It is almost as if two completely different types of hair used the same product, and therefore got different results.

graduation

I tried to crop my girl Bri out of the picture. Since I didn’t ask her permission to post this, but ya know. Look at me and my seventeen-year-old Baldwin Wallace-bound self!

6. Different seasons call for different products.

In custards, styling creams, in oils, in cups of curl cream, in inches, brushes, in bottles, in trims. In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure a year with a ‘fro?

me as a bridesmaid

“I can’t wait to go home and cut this all off.” June 25, 2016

Excuse me while I off-key belt all of Joanne’s lyrics from “Seasons of Love.” I noticed that many of my products that I loved during the cooler months seemed to be overkill during the summer months. For my low-to-normal porosity, 4b/c, short-medium length hair, this is what has worked best:

Summer: Coconut & Hibiscus Curling Gel Souffle (Shea Moisture), Twist & Lock Gel (Cantu), a spray bottle with water and castor oil, Coconut Jamaican Black Castor Oil, cinnamon and olive oil mixture, macadamia oil. Utilize cornrows to like, lower the temperature on your scalp.

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Seventeen-year-old me starting my freshman year at Baldwin Wallace! Natural for more than a month now. Circa August 2016

Fall: Rosemary Jamaican Black Castor Oil, Coconut Curling Cream (Cantu), cinnamon and olive oil mixture, Comeback Curl (Cantu). Utilize twists and puffs, if your hair is long enough. Mine wasn’t long enough last fall, but this time, it will be.

clinton rally

Me after attending a Hillary Clinton rally. Circa October 2016

Winter: Peppermint oil, tea tree oil, coconut oil, Peppermint Jamaican Black Castor Oil… basically, shower without a cap and seal with a heavy oil and/or butter every night. Wear lots of hats and scarves with a plastic cap underneath to keep the moisture in.

winter hair

I may or may not have made this horrible-quality photo my FB profile picture… Christmas Eve 2016

Spring: Spray bottle with water and castor oil, leave-in conditioner (Cantu), olive oil hairspray (Proclaim), EcoStyler gel. A “wash ‘n go” will usually work best in the springtime, in my opinion.

spring hair

Celebrating my friend Anne’s nineteenth birthday at her school, Kent State. March 2017

7. Protective styles save lives, yo.

I might be exaggerating. But if there’s anything I should have done more of this past year, it’s protective styling… and detangling.

I’m lazy. I really am. At least when it comes to detangling and styling my hair. This is why I usually just put on a headband and call it a day (irresponsible, I know!). You can imagine how many single-strand knots I’ve had to cut out of my hair. My hair has managed to grow at a pretty fast rate nonetheless, which proves that it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have the talent to braid/twist your own hair or the money to either pay someone else to do it or purchase weave/braids. But still, it would have been much easier to manage (and I would have had longer hair) if I used protective styles more often.

8. Always, always wear a headscarf.

It doesn’t matter how tired you are. Put. It. On. Just like you’ve gotten into the habit of wearing deodorant and brushing your teeth, be sure to make a habit of this. Getting too drunk to properly protect your hair at night is not a smart move. Not that I know this from experience or anything, but… it’s just not. Your hair will be matted beyond belief. Which leads to the next point…

9. Do not sleep with an Afro.

I did this pretty much all year, and like I said, I had a lot of tangles that could have been avoided. If you don’t have time to keep twisting and re-twisting, buy a pack of tiny combs to separate and elongate your sections at night. That definitely helped to keep my hair stretched out.

10. Scalpicin will get you through those last couple days before wash day.

You know the feeling, especially if you have a sensitive scalp like yours truly. You just washed your hair two days ago, your style is looking on fleek. But. You scratch that first itch with the tip of your fingernail, and before you know it, the rest of your scalp is on fire, too (cue “Girl on Fire,” written and performed by the singer-songwriter Alicia Keys). Your scalp is YELLING– no, SCREAMING at you to shampoo it. “PLEASE, girl, PLEASE!” But you can’t. And you ran out of tea tree oil yesterday, so all you can do is pray.

Well, buy Scalpicin from Wal-Mart and you will never have to know this agony ever again. I’ve been using it on-and-off since I was a baby, so I know it works.

11. Dry your hair with a t-shirt, NOT a towel.

The soft fabric of shirts will keep from tearing any delicate strands.

12. You might find yourself stuck after six months or so.

I’m going to be honest here. My hair has been stuck at shoulder-length for a long time now. Considering that this time last year my hair was only a tad bit longer than John Legend’s, this might come across as a little dramatic. Even so, it’s still annoying that I still can’t seem to fit my hair into a puff. We’ll see with time if my hair gets past this.

13. Castor oil is magic on bald spots.

Be aware of how long you keep your protective styles in, because braids can be tough on your edges. However, if you happen to misjudge how long your style should be in and end up snapping off some edges as a result, all you need to do is massage in some castor oil for a few days and it’ll be back.

AND THE FINAL LESSON: SET GOALS!

As I wave goodbye to my first year and hello to a second year of being 100% natural, here are some things that I hope will happen.

  1. I will begin working out more (2-3 times per week), especially focusing on cardio.
  2. I will begin watching what I eat. I plan on eating protein and carbs before workouts and salads and vegetables/fruits after workouts. On days I do not go to the gym, I will allow myself to eat more normal food.
  3. I will use the inversion method more often when oiling my scalp.
  4. I will thoroughly detangle my hair both before AND after washing.
  5. I will find a wash day regimen that works for my schedule.
  6. I will learn how to do more hairstyles.
  7. I will stop comparing myself to other naturalistas with “good hair.”
july 2017

One year of owning my ethnicity and loving my hair! July 2017

The Inclusion of Individuals with Exceptionalities in Education

Background of Inclusion

Historically, the inclusion of students with exceptionalities in schools actually begins with the inclusion of non-white students in integrated public schools, as was mandated by the famous case, Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Acknowledged as one of the greatest Supreme Court decisions in American history, the Court’s unanimous decision led to the banning of segregation in public schools. This decision was made due to segregation violating the Equal Protection Clause and Fourteenth Amendment, and therefore the application of segregation was deemed discriminatory and unconstitutional. Furthermore, the separate institutions for white and African-American children were inherently unequal; black children in segregated schools had lower self-esteem than their white peers, which led psychologists to the conclusion that separation in itself leads to dangerous inferiority complexes that may have an adverse effect on the success of black children in academics (McBride). Ultimately, the decision did not immediately succeed in desegregating schools, it still set the foundation for more cases that would follow in its footsteps to support the rights of those who may not have originally been seen as equal under the eyes of the law.

Eleven years later, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (known as ESEA) addressed the improper treatment of Americans living in poverty, therefore committing to helping lower- and working-class families gain access to quality education. Additionally, the act mandates that funds be used for professional development, instructional materials, educational resources, and to promote the involvement of parents. This act is renewed every five years, adding revisions and amendments (known as titles) during each cycle (Social Welfare). Included in the ESEA series of amendments is Public Law 91-230 (1970), which includes Title VI. Title VI advocates for the education of the handicapped, providing definitions for learning disabilities. Furthermore, the amendment was implemented to encourage adults to complete a high school education through the Adult Secondary Education component (History of the Adult Education Act, 2).

Another amendment to ESEA is Public Law 93-380. This law set procedures and criteria for education, providing funding for programs to aide handicapped, migratory, and delinquent children. Such programs put in place as a result of the law include the National Reading Improvement Program, which funds the use of additional resources to effectively teach students with reading deficiencies and learning disabilities (Perkins).

Public Law 94-142, known as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, was established to ensure that children with disabilities have free appropriate public education available, with services designed to meet each child’s individual needs. Furthermore, the act ensured the protection of students’ and families’ rights, assists the states and local school districts in providing appropriate education for disabled children, and assesses the effectiveness of the institution’s efforts to provide an adequate education for students living with disabilities (Archived). This act helps provide the resources evident in the academic system in modern times.

Current Status of Inclusion in the Public School Setting

In today’s educational settings, students with disabilities and impairments are covered under requirements mandated by law. Two of the most common concepts discussed in special education are the plans that students with exceptionalities are able to receive accommodations under: The Individualized Education Plan and the 504 Plan.

The Individualized Education Plan assesses student needs and growth over the course of a designated time period. The information one may find in a student’s IEP includes their current performance or performance at the time of beginning the program, the annual goals that the child can reasonably accomplish within a year, the services that must be provided for the child (e.g. professional development for school faculty in order to assist the student), the student’s integration with non-disabled students, their participation in standardized testing (for example, a secondary school student in Ohio with a severe learning disability may not be required to pass the Ohio Graduation Test in order to graduate), the specific time and duration of when services are provided, transition service needs beginning when the child reaches the age of fourteen, and progress measurement (Guide to the Individualized Education Program). The IEP is commonly used when a student’s disability greatly interferes with their ability to perform in the classroom. For example, if a student is unable to comprehend their math homework due to Dyscalcula, this may greatly affect their ability to pass the course without assistance. However, if a student has a disability such as Asperger’s Syndrome (on the Autism spectrum) that may not have an adverse effect on their performance in the classroom but still leads to social or organizational deficits that make the school setting in general difficult for them, they will not be covered under the IEP. Instead, the student may be covered under the 504 Plan.

The 504 Plan is designed to help students with physical or mental impairments in order to ensure that students are treated fairly. These disorders may affect the student’s ability to walk, breathe, eat, sleep, communicate, see, hear, speak, read, concentrate, or work (Bachrach). Services provided by the 504 Plan to help these students include access to preferential seating, extended time on assignments, verbal and visual aids, excused tardiness or absence, and pre-approved nurse visits. These services provided by the IEP and 504 both strive to make living with disabilities less stressful for both students and their parents, assuring that every student can succeed with the support of their community.

My Experience with Inclusion in Schools

From September 2011 through to May 2016, I was a student at the Dayton Regional STEM School in Kettering, Ohio. Although funded like a typical public school, admission into the institution required the completion of an entrance application, admissions essay, parental explanation of the family’s interest in the school, and submission of Ohio Achievement Assessment scores to ensure the student’s ability to thrive in the academic program. Therefore, the vast majority of the students in my school came from the top quarters of their graduating middle school class, and were proven to have an ability to thrive in the mainstream classroom. However, there were roughly seven students (out of a 2016 graduating class of sixty) who did live with learning disabilities and/or disorders affecting their ability to attend classes. Of these students, the majority of them lived with Dyslexia, Dyscalcula, and Attention Deficit Disorder. The remaining students were covered under a 504 Plan, suffering from Chronic Migraine and similar neurological disorders. These were students who may not have needed academic accommodations, but needed exceptions to be made in other aspects of their education. Such examples include the option to complete frequently missed courses online, the allowance to miss a greater amount of school days than the average student (exceeding 20 absences), exemptions from certain class projects, and extended due dates in the event of a student’s inability to meet the original deadline due to hospitalizations and other extenuating circumstances. The students covered under the Individualized Education Plan had access to all of these resources, as well as having extended assessment time, assisted reading of test questions, and guidance in planning their assignments and responsibilities. Students under both plans were given access to a resource room which they had access to during their homeroom and study hall periods. However, all of the students were enrolled in mainstream courses.

One critique that could be made of the Dayton Regional STEM School’s policies regarding special education affairs is that it is insensitive to student privacy. Students would often be removed from their classroom for testing in non-discrete ways and teachers were (although not intentionally) vocal about who was receiving a “modified” exam, thus giving the students little to no confidentiality for their own academic records and progress. Therefore, although inclusion in the public school setting has come a long way, there is still a long way to go.

Inclusion Classroom Design

When designing the classroom structure, it is important to consider the educator’s personal behaviors as well as the behaviors of those in the classroom. One must keep a positive mindset about the abilities of all students; a student having a disability may be a hindrance to their goals, but it does not render them impossible. Therefore, it is important to respect the student’s goals and capabilities, encouraging them while also advocating for their comfort in the classroom. This means that educators must have a zero-tolerance policy for the harassment of students with disabilities in and out of the classroom, must respect the student’s confidentiality (therefore not discussing a student’s disability with others without their consent), and educating the entire classroom on diversity. Furthermore, it is important to respect the student’s personal identity by addressing them directly. The application of this concept is to call on the student themselves; a teacher should not ask their aide or companion to speak for them or exaggerate speech. This can be considered rude and condescending, even if intended to be helpful. Additionally, when working with hearing impaired students, it is important to always have the mouth faced towards them (and in a well-lit room) so that the student may read their lips (Brown University). Also, it is highly recommended not to require verbal presentations for those with speech or hearing impairments; it is often humiliating to the child. Most importantly, as an educator, it is important to respect the student as an individual. An individual is not defined by their impairment or illness; they are their own person with their own values and cognitions. Therefore, when designing a classroom, it is important to remember to always uphold the most respectful behavior.

Reflection

Through what I have learned about diversity and inclusion in school settings, I have come to the conclusion that as educators, it is of the utmost importance to be careful in how academic and administrative decisions affect the students’ ability to succeed in school. Students with specific learning, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities must be treated with the same amount of dignity and respect as their non-disabled peers, and therefore in order to ensure that students received the best education and transition services possible in order to become a contributing member of society when they graduate and/or reach the age of 21, educators and administrators must be sure to engage in professional and personal development to ensure that their knowledge expands. Furthermore, I have learned that I believe in assessing students based off of progress, in lieu of solely based upon accuracy. While accuracy is highly important, I believe that a student improving from consistently receiving scores of 40% should be celebrated for raising their scores to 70%, rather than being punished with low marks on report cards for not scoring high “enough.” Rather, I want my students to understand that it is persistence that will lead them to success someday, and that progress is always a great place to start.

Works Cited

ARCHIVED – Thirty-five Years of Progress in Educating Children With Disabilities Through IDEA– Pg 10. (2016, April 27). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/idea35/history/index_pg10.html

Bachrach, S. J. (Ed.). (2016, September). 504 Education Plans. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/504-plans.html

Brown University. (n.d.). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/support/accessibility-services/resources-teaching-students-disabilities/interacting-students-disabilities

Guide to the Individualized Education Program. (2007, March 23). Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/parents/needs/speced/iepguide/index.html?exp=0#contents

McBride, A. (2006, December). Brown v. Board of Education (1954). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://www.pbs.org/wnet/supremecourt/rights/landmark_brown.html

Perkins, C. (1974, August 21). H.R.69 – 93rd Congress (1973-1974): Elementary and Secondary Education Amendments. Retrieved April 02, 2017, from https://www.congress.gov/bill/93rd-congress/house-bill/69?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22pl%2B93-380%22%5D%7D&r=1

Social Welfare History Project (2016). Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved April 2, 2017, from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/programs/education/elementary-and-secondary-education-act-of-1965/

History of the Adult Education Act: A Preview. (1991). Retrieved April 2, 2017, from https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ovae/pi/AdultEd/anniv40/silver-a.pdf

Personal Development as a Student Music Therapist

Music Therapy as a Profession

To me, music therapy is a profession dedicated to enhancing the mental, emotional, and physical health of participants through the use of musical interventions. Such interventions may include (but are not limited to) lyric discussion, active music listening (giving the client the option to choose a desired form of music to listen to), neurologic music therapy applications (addressing rehabilitation and maintenance of functional behaviors), guided imagery, and music-assisted relaxation. Interventions for clients are carefully chosen to suit their needs, which is why another important aspect of music therapy is the development of therapeutic rapport between a therapist and client. Through the building of trust and secure attachment, the therapist is given the ability to develop an understanding of their client’s goals, strengths, and weaknesses. As an aspiring student music therapist, my philosophy is that music as therapy is the use of creative methods to make medical and psychotherapeutic experiences more personal and enjoyable for the client, as well as actively affecting the wiring of the nervous system.

Critical Skills for Music Therapists

Musically, every music therapist should develop effective transposition, theoretical, sight reading, and aural skills in order to serve their client effectively. While working in the field, there will be many experiences when a client may want to use a song that the therapist has not previously heard or learned the chords for. However, to maintain professionalism, it is important to communicate to the client that they have a choice in the musical selections used, and that they do not need to worry about the therapist’s ability to perform. Rather, music therapists are by definition professional musicians, and therefore must develop advanced musicianship techniques. If a song that a client wants to hear/play is in a key difficult for the therapist or client to sing/perform, then the therapist must take it upon themselves to transpose on sight, memorizing the key signatures and chord progressions. A music therapist must also use musical elements to communicate transitions, emotions, and key phrases in the music through the use of vocal dynamics (i.e. crescendo to communicate anticipation of the next verse, diminuendo to communicate a change in a story’s theme, etc.), tempo (i.e. accelerando to communicate emotions such as excitement and happiness, ritardando to transition to a song’s cadence, etc.), and instrumental patterns (e.g. the choice to strum or fingerpick on the guitar).

Non-musically, a music therapist must develop self-awareness. Not only must one be aware of their personal strengths and weaknesses, but they must maintain awareness of how their behaviors are reflected in their work. This means an awareness of the vocal dynamics they often speak at, and reflecting upon whether or not it may be too quiet or loud for their population. For example, a geriatric music therapist with a typically quiet voice may want to work towards speaking louder, in hopes of being heard by clients who may be dealing with hearing trouble. Similarly, a therapist with a consistently stoic facial expression may want to participate in improvisation classes or work towards expressing emotions more evidently, especially if they are working with young children who are still developing an understanding of the six basic human emotions.

Critical Traits for Music Therapists

Music therapists must be resilient. As a psychological, medical, educational, dramatic, and musical profession, music therapy is arguably one of the most difficult professions in the nation. As a student, one must complete three practicum experiences, an educational field experiences, a recreational music course, 180 pre-internship hours, the interview of a board-certified therapist, several psychology courses, and music courses on a primary and secondary instrument, all while participating in University ensembles and completing core university requirements. On the way to board-certification, many lose hold of that dream that initially led them to where they are, and they walk away from the profession. However, the dedicated music therapy student will find a way to succeed; they will face the obstacles with confidence and determination, knowing that their efforts will be worth it when they receive their certification and are licensed to work in the community. Furthermore, upon receiving certification, one must also understand when it is beneficial to take a break from working. As a music therapist, Compassion Fatigue is a common occurrence, especially when working in palliative and chronic illness care. However, in order to maintain personal health, it is important for a music therapist to understand the importance of self-care, and remember that although they may have the privilege to work in a career they love, they are still a person separate from their job.

Personal Skills, Strengths, and Weaknesses

Personally, I believe that my most well-developed skills and traits are my optimism and persistence. I am a firm believer in stressing progress rather than comparison when working with others; I want individuals to understand that they do not need to have any prior musical training to participate in therapeutic interventions. Rather, I want them to focus on where they are today, and how much they have grown over the course of treatment. Furthermore, I am persistent. Throughout my entire life, I have been recognized for my work ethic; whenever I have a goal, I put in all of my energy to achieve it. This means that no matter how difficult it becomes, I will find a way to help my client achieve their own goals, and I will make sure to show them that I will do whatever I can to ensure that all needs are met.

As a student music therapist, I believe that my main weakness is my performance anxiety. Anxiety was not a major hindrance to my musical performance originally; however, this past year, it has become a major stumbling block. Both musically and socially, I have found increased difficulty in making eye contact, communicating with peers and professors, initiating conversation, and performing in front of trained musicians. I am unsure if this is the result of an anxiety disorder (as I have avoided psychoanalytic therapy my entire life); however, I plan to begin attending counseling sessions to improve my interpersonal and musical skills to ensure that I am able to continue to pursue music therapy as a profession.

My Future in Music Therapy

While the field of music therapy is highly interesting to me, unfortunately it does not seem likely that I will be continuing in the major. Due to an unsuccessful audition, I will not be able to study here at Baldwin Wallace. Although I could hypothetically audition again in the Fall semester, I do not believe that I will be able to perform well under the pressure of presenting in front of professors whom have previously rejected me. On the contrary, in the event of a successful audition, paying for two extra years of liberal arts college is too difficult financially. Therefore, I am auditioning at Cleveland State University (where I would plan to double major Music Therapy and Education), Wright State University, and Wittenberg University to pursue a Bachelor of Music Education. After, I may consider Post-Baccalaureate studies in order to prepare to take the Board Examination.

Furthermore, I am switching to a Music Education major due to an increased interest in educating children with mild and moderate special needs. After completing a field experience in a fourth grade resource room, I have discovered that I am passionate about teaching young children who live with intellectual disabilities. I want to teach the students how to become musicians as well, rather than solely focusing on using music as an intervention. Therefore, I believe that I may be needed more in the field of education than I am in therapy.

Although I am not continuing in the study of music therapy for the time being, I believe that what I have learned in this course will benefit me greatly as a special needs music teacher someday, in the event that I do not become a music therapist. At any given time in a special education classroom, there will be children with multiple types of disabilities, ranging from Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, and other common exceptionalities. Therefore, learning how individuals living with these conditions will aide me in providing the highest quality education and care, showing them that no matter where their musical and non-musical abilities lie, they can always find peace and comfort in music-making. Anyone can learn how to make beautiful music, if only someone gives them the chance.

My Educational Philosophy

Education and school settings are important because they teach the individuals of the future generations the skills and values that may benefit them and their community someday. Ultimately, this is my inspiration for becoming a teacher: serving as a mentor and motivator for all students in the community, so that they may have the opportunity to not only contribute to the existing society, but so that they may also leave the world a better place than it was when they arrived. Some of the key components of education in the school setting include but are not limited to the teaching of the core subjects (mathematics, language arts, natural sciences, and social studies), spiritual and religious curriculum, physical and athletic activity, and embracing cultural and personality diversity. Many of my values are derived from that of existentialism; my personal philosophy is that education in itself serves as a tool to aid children in finding meaning and purpose in their own lives, guiding them to find their own sets of beliefs in lieu of adults directing each child’s learning experience. Furthermore, school settings are important because students are socialized by their peers; additionally, students are known to learn best through discussion and non-lecture activities. Such philosophers that serve as leaders of the theory of existentialism are A.S. Neill and Maxine Greene.

A.S. Neill, the creator of the Summerhill school, created the school in order to encourage children to become independent, making their own decisions on what they want to learn. More recently, Maxine Greene held the belief that it is crucial for students to find meaning in their lives. She was an advocate for the use of humanities and arts in school settings, as they move individuals to become more aware of the world around them (198).

As an educator, I hope to teach my students about how their work will ultimately contribute to the greater good. As an aspiring music educator and therapist, I want to diverge from the standard education that solely focuses on the performance of Western music. Instead, I intend to teach my students Ethnomusicology, how to interpret the poetry of the piece’s lyrics, and how to apply their knowledge to their own life, whether that is through the composition of their own works or an application in an entirely different field of interest. In the classroom, my students will engage in small group discussions with their peers about the course’s material (as well as the music that they listen to in their personal time), present pieces to the class/studio, and participate in group activities such as drum circles and song leading exercises. I will provide the instruments to them (a piano, guitars, percussive instruments, recorders, etc.). In addition, I intend to teach them life lessons that they will encounter anywhere they go, especially the experiences of failure and loss, and how they can survive any dilemma through perseverance. I believe that these are skills that should be taught in schools, so that children can grow into fully-functioning, emotionally intelligent adults who can take the lessons that they learn in school and apply the knowledge to improve their personal life and lives of others.

With the theory of essentialism, it can be inquired whether or not its effectiveness can truly be measured. Therefore, I intend to assess my children’s work through comparing their skills and knowledge with where they were previously, assessing their progress rather than comparing them to where traditional teaching standards think they “should” be. Rather, I believe in using beginning- and end-of-year assessments and performances to measure the effectiveness of my teaching strategies.

Lessons Learned Freshman Year: The Power of Friendship

We’ve all said it about our closest high school friends at some point: “we’re going to be friends forever.”

However, forever is a very long time, and upon graduation, you have to decide which friendships are worth keeping for that long.

So, how do you determine which friendships are worth it? And how do you make sure they last?

skills you should know

1. Make a list prior to graduation or before freshman year of who is on the chopping block.

During the February of my senior year, I had just about had enough with some of the people in my high school. Not that I’m proud of this personality trait, but I keep receipts. On everything. Like, there are some people who I am still mildly mad at over things that happened in elementary school. So, by the end of high school, you can imagine that after five years of knowing these people, I was done with at least half of them.

Luckily, I am still friends with the vast majority of my friend group. However, I will admit that some people who were technically in my group began to get on my nerves for various reasons, and I, being extremely bitter and petty, actually made a list of people I planned on cutting off after graduation. I ended up changing my mind about some of the people on the list, but it still ended up helping me in the long run.

It helped me find out what I value most in a friendship, and how much I am willing to put up with. And if I didn’t notice changes in behavior soon, then I would know that it was time for the relationship to meet its end.

Also, when making the list, be sure to include your reasons for placing the individual on the list. And store it in a safe place, like a journal (for the love of all things good, do NOT use any sort of digital technology).

2. Make a list of acquaintances you don’t want to break contact with.

I can name a lot of people in my graduating class who I wasn’t extremely close with, and perhaps only talked to them because I was always in near proximity to them, but I still genuinely enjoyed their company. I had a friend (if she’s reading this, she knows who she is) who I sat with in my senior year psychology/sociology period. Even though we didn’t hang in the same circles and rarely saw each other outside of school, we often messaged each other Pinterest ideas that we thought the other person would enjoy, tagged each other in Facebook articles, and both loved cake decorating and baking.

I genuinely liked her, but we don’t talk anymore. I haven’t seen her since her graduation party. However, I plan on writing her a letter just to say that I haven’t forgotten her. Same with quite a few of my acquaintances whom I haven’t really been able to see, and quite possibly might not see again. They may not have been my best friend, but they still played a great role in my life, and I want them to know they’re being thought of.

3. Make an effort to meet your closer friends whenever you’re/they’re in town.

Best friends don’t just break apart without a bad falling out or lack of effort. It is possible that your friendship might not be as tight as it once was, but you should still try to maintain it at the very least. And what do you know? You might pick up right where you left off. I have a few friends whom I can go months, or even full calendar years, without seeing or talking to them, and we go right back to the way things were.

Just make an effort to show them that you’re still willing to put in the effort to maintain the relationship. More likely than not, they’ll be thrilled to see you again!

4. Break things off with old friends gently.

Honestly, if some “friends” are placed on the chopping block, you don’t even need to tell them. Unless they’ve really crossed some lines. Then by all means, my petty self is rooting for you.

But I mean, if they really aren’t that bad of a person, but you just don’t vibe with them anymore, then just let it fizzle out. I had some friends that gradually began to get on my nerves over time (not really listening to me, bossing me around, speaking to me like a child, giving backhanded compliments, etc.), but like, I still kinda care about them. I wouldn’t jump in front of a train for them, but I’d say hi to them on the street.

Honestly, I’d just say to ghost them. If they don’t try to reach out to you, then they probably don’t want to continue the friendship, either.

5. Try to make new friends at your job or at your college.

Work is that much more fun when you have a work bestie. At my work study job, I absolutely loved my co-workers and my supervisor. Like, I would invite them to my wedding. Assuming I ever get married. I could just talk about life with them, ya feel?

I have a few close friends at BW as well. I have exactly one friend at Cleveland State (and ding ding ding, he’s a guy from work, so he doesn’t technically count), but I’ll work on that… once I get there. But at BW, my closest friends are Early Childhood Education majors. Honestly, education majors are the best and I will fight anyone who says otherwise. In terms of personality, at least. Yes, even better than music.

Anyway. Try to make new friends, and don’t just stick to those in your major. Make friends who are STEM majors. Make friends who are *groans and rolls eyes* theatre majors. Make friends who are art majors. When you have a diverse potpourri of friends, you will learn so much more.

Furthermore, it is important to make new friends as an adult, while maintaining your childhood ones as well. Maintain your childhood friendships, because those are the people who really shaped you into who you are today. It is much harder to make new friends once you enter the adult world, as schedules get crazier and you’re no longer forced to be around people 24/7. Unless you work in a desk job. Then um. You might be forced to see people 40 hours a week.

But my point is, it will never be as easy to make friends as an adult as it was as a kid. So treasure the friendships you have, and try not to let them fade.

On that same note, know that you will not always have your friends from high school, and not everyone is meant to be in your life forever. So always be open to new individuals.

Summer Music Challenge: My Oldest Friend

This installment will be about someone I’d rather forget about.

music challenge

I am fortunate to not have had too many falling outs with friends. I don’t have many enemies, either. Even the people I’m on bad terms with aren’t worth me writing a blog post about. However, even though I don’t straight-up hate anyone, there are a few friendships I wish hadn’t ended. I’ve had a few that fizzled out with time, and I wonder that with just a little more effort, maybe they could have been saved.

I present to you “My Oldest Friend” by Andrew Belle from his album, The Ladder.

Don’t wanna sound ridiculous
But I think you know I’m sick of this
And I kind of think that we can bend, do you?
I’ll try to be a better friend to you
You know I miss you in my life
And I kind of think I realize
That I was only looking out for me
Instead of getting you the help you need

Oh, who do you think you are?
Who do I think I am
Barely listening to my oldest, my oldest friend?
Oh, my oldest, my oldest friend

I’ve given one, you’ve taken two
But this medicine has followed you
From the eastern coast and back again
So, I tell you once but not again
That I only miss you in my life
And I hope you finally realize
That I’m only looking out for you
When I’m not afraid to see this through

Oh, who do you think you are?
Who do I think I am
Barely listening to my oldest, my oldest friend?
Oh, my oldest, my oldest friend

So, wanna sound ridiculous?
‘Cause I think you know I’m sick of this
And I kind of think that we can bend, do you?
I’ll try to be a better friend to you
You know I miss you in my life
And I kind of think I realize
That I was only looking out for me
Instead of getting you the help that you need, but…

This song is giving off some “How to Save a Life” deja vu. I think the main storyline is that it’s about a friend who is addicted to drugs, hence the “This medicine has followed you” lyric. Belle alternates between statements of “I’m only looking out for you” and “I was only looking out for me,” which represents the inner turmoil anyone who has lost a friend due to addiction or other vices can relate to. You’re constantly torn between thinking you did everything you could and blaming yourself for something you could not have possibly known better about.

It relates to my life (thankfully, not in that way… for the most part), because there is blame on both sides. In every friendship of mine that has failed, there is a recurring pattern of me not paying enough attention to their needs, and them having a total disregard for mine.

The lyric “Who do I think I am, barely listening…” especially relates to me. I don’t know if this is true or not, as I have never been friends with myself, but I feel like I do more talking than listening. Which, someone who is not close with me would be confused by this statement, because I’m a rather reserved individual. However, in my close friendships I am very outspoken. I love to make my friends laugh. I love to share stories (very dramatic ones, if I do say so myself). And you can tell I love to ramble on because look at how long this blog post is.

I just don’t feel like I listen enough. There is one specific friend of mine who doesn’t really tell me much about herself. I have noticed in recent months that perhaps she prefers to divert the conversation from her life back to mine, and maybe I’m not completely selfish. But I still feel like I am. I feel like I’ve failed her in some way. And while we’re still friends, she is starting to pull away from pretty much all of her friends. Including me. I’m scared that I’m not fighting to keep this friendship.

On the other hand, there’s the lyric: “I’ve given one, you’ve taken two.” This applies to many other failed relationships I’ve had. None romantic. I think quite a few people will be able to relate to being taken advantage of; you give someone one thing and before you know it, they just keep taking. And so you try to be patient with them. You try to be a better friend to them.

But sometimes, even if you miss their presence in your life, you are no longer friends for a reason. It is easy to think back on the good times and think that the end was a mistake. But sometimes, there is too much damage on both sides. Sometimes, the best decision both parties can make is to move on.

Summer Music Challenge: The Water

This installment in the Summer Music Challenge is one of my favorite songs that reminds me of summertime.

music challenge

This song is one that I have held dear since my freshman year of high school, I believe. My, how the time flies! I can’t believe I was a freshman five years ago; sometimes, I still feel like that thirteen-year-old wannabe-broadcast journalist with the 3.0 GPA who could never be good enough, no matter how hard she studied. I can’t believe how far I’ve come since then. But this post isn’t about my mediocre-to-dean’s lister Hallmark inspirational story.

This song is “The Water,” written by Trent Dabbs. It is from his EP Decade Fades. I won’t get too much into his history, because I will probably include his other music in this challenge as the summer goes on.

If you go out late tonight, search for the morning stars. If moonlight is by your side looking lovely, daylight is in your arms.

Walking out with me now, question just where you are. Don’t let your fingertips hold it steady; shine it out with the sun. Oh no…

(Here is the water) ‘Cause I’ve always loved you, girl.

(Here is the water) Let this remove all doubt.

(Here is the water) Oh, my love.

If this be a parting wave, gather up what remains. If ever one night you should remember, let it be love today. Oh no…

(Here is the water) ‘Cause I’ve always loved you, girl.

(Here is the water) So let this remove all doubt.

(Here is the water) Oh, my…

Looking right at your brow, I need more than time allows. I’ll hold you closer than any other; tell me you hear me now. Oh oh…

(Here is the water) I’ve always loved you, girl!

(Here is the water) So let this remove all doubt!

(Here is the water) Oh, my love.

(Here is the water) I’ve always loved you, girl!

(Here is the water) Let this remove all doubt.

(Here is the water) Oh, my love.

I’ve always loved you, girl. I’ve always loved you, girl.

I’ve always loved you, girl…

I’ve always loved you, girl…

I’ve always loved you, girl…

I’ve always loved you, girl…

I’ve always loved you, girl. I’ve always loved you, girl. I’ve always loved you, girl.

I’ve always loved you, girl.

This song is so… simplistic. It’s to the point, but so poetic in a way. I didn’t even really process this song’s lyrics until I typed them up just now. And yes, I manually typed them because it is apparently an obscure enough song that none of the lyric websites have it.

I’m going to keep my analysis simple because it is a simple song. It’s just not that deep, and that’s kind of what I love about it. I think it’s about being in a serious relationship with someone and knowing that it may not last forever. Perhaps it’s about knowing that while you may be what one another needs right now, but you may not be soul mates.

And so, he reminisces back to their favorite place; likely the place where they fell in love. It is a place that seems to have already been dear to him that he introduced to her, and is letting her in emotionally by bringing her to such a special place. By bringing her to the water, it is such a small but at the same time very large gesture; he is showing how important she is to him. This is why every “Here is the water” is followed with, “I’ve always loved you, girl… so let this remove all doubt.”

Even if it doesn’t last forever, he wants her to remember the special place she holds, and will always continue to hold in his life. The last minute of the song also has some incoherent mumbling. I took it as whispering words that only she would know, like an inside secret. However, he continues to repeat “I’ve always loved you, girl” throughout the entire ending as the piano gently plays, like water in a shallow creek hitting the rocks.

I believe that the song’s last minute could be his future self looking back on his past self. It is him looking back on the water, the day, and the relationship as a whole. He remembers how special she was, and how special the place was to them. Looking back, he knows that he will never forget his first love. He has always loved her, and he always will. And so, he concludes with a final goodbye as the music fades.

Summer Music Challenge: 9,000 Days

Although more than one day has passed since the last post, here’s the next installment in the series: a song I like with a number in the title.

music challenge

The song I have chosen today is “9,000 Days,” performed by the South African vocal group Overtone.

“9,000 Days” is a track composed for the 2009 Clint Eastwood motion picture Invictus, featuring Morgan Freeman as the late South African president Nelson Mandela. The film, set in 1995, focuses on Mandela’s new freedom after spending 27 years in prison (roughly 9,000 days), hoping to begin to reunite South Africa after the recent end of apartheid. In order to begin, he tries to unite the country through rugby. Which, fun fact, I was in rugby club for a semester in eighth grade, but that’s not important right now.

The song, although the title pays homage to the amount of time Mandela spent incarcerated, is based loosely off of William Henley’s poem “Invictus.” The poem is written below.

Out of the night which covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Out of the night that covers me
I’m unafraid, I believe.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Beyond the hours that turned to years,
I thank whatever, whatever gods may be.
 
9,000 days were set aside,
9,000 days of destiny,
9,000 days to thank gods,
Wherever they may be…
 
It matters not the circumstance,
We rise above,
We took a chance.
And I thank whatever, whatever gods may be.
(Whatever gods may be…)
9,000 days were set aside,
9,000 days of destiny,
9,000 days to thank gods,
Wherever they may be…
 
Oh, a broken heart that turned to stone
Can break a man but not his soul!
 
9,000 days were set aside,
9,000 days of destiny,
9,000 days to thank gods,
Wherever they may be.
And I thank whatever, whatever gods may be…
This song is actually genius. It borrows phrases from the poem “Invictus” which is the poem that movie Invictus was named for, meanwhile connecting it back to Nelson Mandela through the repeated use of “9,000 days,” and LET’S NOT EVEN TALK ABOUT THE STRINGS SECTION OR THE BEAUTIFUL HARMONIES AND I– *breathes*
What I love about this song is its seamless incorporation of Henley’s original words. The original poem is so powerful, its meaning closing the work: I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul. 
It doesn’t matter what circumstance you’re in; it doesn’t matter what the odds are. You do not have to be conquered. You are the master of your fate, and you can decide how far you go.
And I love the lack of closure, how whenever gods are addressed, it is always followed with, “…wherever they may be.” It speaks to this weird part of the human soul that is unsure of its place in the universe. No one knows for sure what God has in store for us, and no one has solid, physical evidence that there even is one. But there will always be a desire for something to be out there, someone listening. Wherever or whomever they are, there is always a reason to be grateful. Even in the midst of the storm, there is always gratitude.

Summer Music Challenge: Black Sun

I have decided to participate in a Twitter summer music challenge, posting my thoughts on this WordPress instead.

music challenge

Today jump starts the challenge: a song I like with a color in the title. The song I have chosen, although there are so many good songs I know with a color in the title, is Death Cab for Cutie’s “Black Sun.”

“Black Sun” is a track on Death Cab’s 2015 album, Kintsugi. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken materials (such as pottery) with gold, showing that even though the scars of the brokenness prevail, the material will be made even more beautiful for it.

There is whiskey in the water
And there is death upon the vine
There is fear in the eyes of your father
And there is “Yours” and there is “Mine.”
There is a desert veiled in pavement
And there’s a city of seven hills
And all our debris flows to the ocean
To meet again, I hope it will.

How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When this black sun revolved
Around you?

There is an answer in a question
And there is hope within despair
And there is beauty in a failure,
And there are depths beyond compare.
There is a role of a lifetime
And there’s a song yet to be sung
And there’s a dumpster in the driveway
Of all the plans that came undone.

How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When this black sun revolved
Around you?
How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When this black sun revolved
Around you?

There is whiskey in the water
And there is death upon the vine
And there is grace within forgiveness
But it’s so hard for me to find.

How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When this black sun revolved
Around you?
How could something so fair
Be so cruel
When this black sun revolved
Around you?

This isn’t the most obscure song out there; you might have heard it on Quantico (and apparently it was on American Idol at some point). So, why am I sharing a song that you might already know?

As you may know, the beauty of art is the freedom of interpretation. If you know the history of Ben Gibbard (lead vocalist), you may have interpreted the lyrics as the story of Gibbard’s divorce from Zooey Deschanel. I believe that may be true. I mean, it definitely makes sense, given that many of the lyrics seem to point to the end of a marriage (i.e. “There is ‘Yours’ and there is ‘Mine'”, “There’s a dumpster in the driveway…”, “There is grace within forgiveness, but it’s so hard for me to find”).

However, I like to interpret the song’s overall message as coming to terms with the end of something; that something may be a marriage, it might be getting laid off from a job, losing a friend, etcetera. It is a song about knowing that you have reached the end, knowing that you cannot turn back anymore. And yet, there is still confusion. There is still a looming emptiness. There is still a desire to experience good times that will never come again. Then there are the questions that haunt. How does something just… end? How do you find the beauty in the failure? How do you rebuild after your plans come undone? How do you learn to forgive those who have wronged you?

And what if there is no person at fault? What if there is no clear right or wrong? What if things just met their natural end? Maybe no one was at fault; maybe it was fair. But how can something so fair be so cruel?

The lyric that breaks my heart the most is: “There is grace within forgiveness, but it’s so hard for me to find.”

This lyric has applied to my life time and time again. I know that holding grudges will only lead to my own demise. I know that I have to let go of whatever negative emotions I’m holding onto if I want to move on. I know that forgiving those who have wronged me in the past will lead me to a better path. However, it is just so hard to forgive. Sometimes, it’s just downright impossible.

Sometimes there is no clear end to the conflict. There is no visible light at the end of the tunnel. Although tragic, it is what makes life beautiful, in a way. There is no certainty, no way to know how the story ends. We’re left with a deceptive cadence, even after we are gone. Sometimes there is no clear higher purpose. Sometimes, life is just cruel.