Writing Catalog

Laila Kirkpatrick

Grade: 11

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong

Driving Down South Taylor

Personal Essay & Memoir

Driving Down South Taylor

I like Taylor road for two reasons, the first being that the street is well maintained, I'm talking about no potholes, people always stop at the stop signs, and that kind of road. However, I also like Taylor because that green sign that has the letter T-a-y-l-o-r plastered across it in bright white reminds me of Emma. We used to say that we were twins because we were born in the same hospital on the same day by the same doctor. Apart from the fact that she was white and I was black. She had straight blonde hair and I had tight black coils. We ended up going to the same school from Kindergarten until second grade. We liked to try and peel our grapes at lunchtime and trade our Squinkies during recess instead of playing tag or doing the monkey bars. We watched wipeout at her house on the weekends and lay in her hammock. One day in kindergarten we were deemed to be the "good kids" so we sat in the back of the class together; that's when I learned her full name. Why did we feel so cool sharing this knowledge with each other? I don't know; there really is no secret behind a middle name is there? Emma Carolyn Taylor was my twin and somewhere in North Carolina she probably doesn't remember me or peeling grapes, or middle name secrets, but sometimes I wonder if there's anything around her that reminds her of a memory of that one girl from kindergarten that shared her birthday, and her Squinkies, and her grapes.

As I was driving home from school when stopped at a red light I took my eyes off the road for a second to notice what was around me: the weird green color of the sign and the white words plastered over it, the particles that floated through the air. I was tired. I looked down at my shirt to find that pieces of dog fur were littered all over the black fabric, remnants of the once annoying now adored dog fur that clings to fabric no matter how old it is.

I had never had a pet like a dog before, just a hamster that had its cage in my brother's room and a fish that my sister got. I didn't feel any real connection to either of these pets. It took lots of persuading to convince my parents to get a dog. We had to drive all the way to Pennsylvania to pick him up. When we picked him up the most room was in the back row of the car where I was sitting. When we finally arrived home I got up and my dress was covered in dog hair from all of his shedding. He shed all over the floor, the couch, and the rugs. Anywhere he went a trail of tan and black fur followed. We probably bought more lint rollers in those four and a half years than I've ever seen before then. While at the time it seemed so annoying having to lint roll the sheets every time he got off your bed. Now when I find the dog hair in my bed it reminds me of the times when I would be woken up by his nails clacking against the hardwood floors in the upstairs hallway This was his sign that he wanted to be let into your room so he could curl up at the foot of the bed and sleep. Now when the wind blows the door open I like to imagine that it's because he is coming to curl up at the foot of my bed and sleep.

These are the moments that I cherish most now. The memories that are triggered by something that was once so annoying or random moments have become a reminder to seek out the joys that are sometimes shrouded in what can be sorrowful moments. Realizing this can help you empathize with yourself when you are missing who or whatever you have lost, as well as enjoy the moments that remind you of the now cherished moments that may have at one point seemed annoying or random.

Social Norms and Societal Pressures

Personal Essay & Memoir

Social Norms and Societal Pressures

The complexities that come with joining any new environment can be overwhelming and the intense fear and anxiety that can come with entering into an unknown can be too hard to deal with. In fourth grade, I started going to HB and the precognition that I would be ostracized was enough to make me fear all that lay ahead. The genuine fear that my nine-year-old self felt about attending a new school and entering into an unknown left a frisson in my stomach, a lump that rose to my throat that I quickly swallowed in favor of the excitement that permeated this new experience. This was a chance to be someone new, and rid myself of the labels that had been put on me since I first walked into kindergarten.

People who lie repeatedly often strive to have control over their life and everyone who moves through it. People often use lies in order to control what people know about them. This could be because they are embarrassed about the truth or because they are deliberately trying to keep a secret in order to trick others into perceiving them a certain way. Through determining what you know about them and what remains hidden from people who lie, controls your perception of them. To these people, the truth is not something that could allow them to explore a new facet of their identity but instead consume the life that they've created leaving them in a poor light. These types of liars lie in order to manipulate their surroundings. They can even lie so much that they can begin to believe their own lies in place of the actual truths of their lives. (ACA, 2019)

When James Gatz decided to change his name to Jay Gatsby he envisioned what his new life could be like. This new persona enabled him to be a part of a new level of society. This new persona allowed him to pursue Daisy whom he had not been able to because he needed to be of equal status to Daisy, his transformation is what allowed him to try and gain Daisy's love. His love for Daisy throughout the book turns into his penultimate goal. "He wanted nothing less of Daisy than that she should go to Tom and say: "I never loved you." (Fitzgerald, 109). This quote from Gatsby shows that his intense love for Daisy has enveloped his personality. At this moment when Gatsby has reached his goal of gaining Daisy's love, he is being thwarted by her conflicting feelings about Tom.

Walking into school on the first day and climbing the stairs up to the highest floor of the primary school building was a long-anticipated moment. I remembered loving my visit so much that I wanted to start going there immediately. I thought that I had found a group of peers that I could relate to, but now that I was here I couldn't shake my imposter syndrome. I felt myself retreating into my head to try and hide from the thoughts that I wasn't smart or rich enough to belong here. Before I had said a word to any of my new classmates I felt that they would immediately know to not try and befriend me.

The peer pressure so often depicted in high school movies has roots in ancient Egyptian societies in which class level or status was determined by literacy. This is the first point where we see people striving to be like those who are in a class sense above them. The social norms established by societies in the early stages of civilizations emerged as patterns of behavior that are stable in part due to the standards set by ancient civilizations and have since been altered on the surface to change with society, but at its core, it has not strayed from its core values that those in the upper class are superior in intelligence and access to the very finest materials. (Tao, 2015)

Gatsby's pining after Daisy Buchanan shows that after his time in the war he is feeling a sense of loneliness and longing for times that happened before he lost time that he feels could have been spent nurturing a love that shouldn't have ended. Gatsby's desire for the past as displayed in the novel reveals facets of his identity that were shoved away because he was trying to put on a facade of control and sereneness that he felt came with money and wealth. However, even though he fit the mold of what society at this level was supposed to look like he was not accepted by those around him. "An Oxford man!" He was incredulous. "Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit." "Nevertheless he's an Oxford man." "Oxford, New Mexico," snorted Tom contemptuously, "or something like that."(Fitzgerald, 122). In this quote, Tom exposes Gatsby's lies about him attending oxford. This quote shows that Gatsby's past life coming to life is giving credence to the dislike of people.

When I walked into the classroom the first thing that I considered was where I was sitting. Most everyone was already there and was setting up their desks with erasers and pencils. I quickly found my seat and began doing the same so as not to draw any more unnecessary attention to myself. As the people at my table introduced themselves I felt my anxiety slowly die down as they were all kind and genuine in their greetings, Our conversing about how to create little villages at our desks with rulers as rivers and erasers as houses I felt that I had made some ground in making friends. The distinct social advantages drive people to want to fit within the ultra-specific requirements of the upper-class members of society. Being out of this ring of the elite enhances one's desire to fit in and can often result in an even more intense want to be a part of the social elite because as humans we believe that fitting in will make us happier. However, these intense wants have been proven to do nothing but drag those lower in the social class down, and then those who benefit the least from these systems are put in the position of gaining less and less because they were never meant to benefit from the system. (LaMorte, 2022)

This new personality that he has taken on as Jay Gatsby has allowed him to both experience things that he never would have as James Gatz, but it also has forced him to reckon with the idea that whatever he has done to try and fit in with the other members of society will not be enough for them to accept him "He was profoundly affected by the fact that Tom was there. But he would be uneasy anyhow until he had given them something, realizing in a vague way that that was all they came for. Mr. Sloane wanted nothing. A lemonade? No, thanks. A little champagne? Nothing at all, thanks… I'm sorry—"(Fitzgerald, 101). This quote shows that although Gatsby has thrown lavish parties and changed his name and lifestyle to try and fit in with the level of society that he has entered he is still seen as an outsider by people like Sloand and Tom because they will never see him as "one of their own". Additionally, this quote shows how eager Gatsby is to fit in as he tries to make Sloane and Tom comfortable but they don't accept his gestures of kindness.

As the day went on I felt my anxieties slowly diminishing, much to my relief. However, when I arrived in the dining hall I felt the fears rising once again. Even though we had pre-assigned seats I couldn't shake the feeling that this would be anxiety-inducing. The teacher at our table asked us what we had done during summer break. While I listened to everyone else at the table tell stories about vacations in places I had never been I felt increasingly anxious about myself. My insecurities got the better of me and I quickly said that I had been on vacation in Florida like some others had said even though I had never been there before. I enjoyed the smiles and feeling of relief that followed my lie, and while I still felt like an imposter to myself the smiles and nods that I received gave me relief.

The continuation of human evolution over the past century and a half has challenged scientists to come up with several hypotheses about why the spread of social norms has changed. Many of these factors include technology, religion, and culture. These ideals allow others to easily track the spread of trends and whatever is new. Also with the addition of social media, the information that everyone receives is much more likely to be convoluted if it is coming from one source rather than being spread by word of mouth. Another hypothesis on the spread of social norms relates to cluster spreading. This is often used in religious tie-ins and can be seen to have a distinct effect that has stayed constant throughout the years. The idea behind this hypothesis is that if a group of people is passionate about what they want, the normal for handling certain situations can be if they have a large enough sphere of influence in a specific area they can easily influence larger areas. This method takes longer, but it can be spread via word of mouth as well as by social media and technology. The spread of social norms is ever-changing, marking a new point in human evolution. (Review of Economic Studies, 2015)

"It was James Gatz who had been loafing along the beach that afternoon in a torn green jersey and a pair of canvas pants, but it was already Jay Gatsby who borrowed a rowboat, pulled out to the Tuolomee, and informed Cody that a wind might catch him and break him up in half an hour."(Fitzgerald, 98) This quote shows that the person who Gatsby is in his "real life" is the one who led him to where he is now. The quote opens with the fact that James Gatz is the one who had been on the beach that day, but that it was Jay Gatsby who pulled the rowboat out to go help the man on his boat. Fitzgerald's masterful depiction of the changes already in motion in Gatsby's life shows that he had been trying to reinvent himself, perhaps not this dramatically but it is what he wanted for himself.