Hathaway Brown School
Instructor: Scott Parsons
Rise and Fall
Rise and Fall
The sun rises on one side when the other sets.
Someone gets out of bed when the other gets in.
The goods and bads of life,
The ups and downs of the roller coaster,
Show up on both sides of a person.
Insecurities and flaws
Are real, painful, and overwhelming at times.
We all have them.
We are all not perfect.
I'm sorry to tell you
But life lies to us.
Through the moments of truth,
Through the moments of friendship,
And through the moments of success.
Not everything appears one way
Or the other way around.
But trust will always be there.
Even if it means
We must lie to get ourselves to trust our dreams and our life,
Just do it.
Because we are not perfect,
But we are all beautiful,
And every little insecurity or flaw,
So when the sun rises
On your side of the world,
Let it open up and close out
The beautiful you.
If I Would Have Known Earlier
If I Would Have Known Earlier
The first time I thought about death,
I was in a supermarket parking lot.
My life was not easy,
Up to that point in time.
No parents, dog passed away, best friend died in a car accident,
Things were a struggle.
School began to feel more like a chore,
Day by day.
My teachers never understood why I never raised my hand,
Nor turned in my assignments on time.
Just a bad student I guess,
Is what they thought.
No one truly understands anything.
That day when I drove myself to buy candy from the store,
The crashing thunder and furious rain
Let all my feelings out.
Death seemed so simple,
Suicide would be so simple.
One flicker of a light and then I'm gone.
One turn of the switch and I'd be gone.
The pain would not be so enduring anymore,
And life would finally be able to stop tormenting me.
Never told anyone about it,
Kept it all to myself.
The feelings, emotions, tears buried inside of me,
Brought me into a downward spiral.
But I would never be able to forgive myself.
I now understand that death is not that simple.
The pain I would put into everyone around me,
Isn't worth any amount of pain in myself.
Sometimes, other people deserve more than me.
Uncovering the Light of Headphones
Personal Essay & Memoir
Uncovering the Light of Headphones
When I was younger, I always thought people who wore headphones were some of the coolest people to ever exist. However, I never understood why they wore them because I didn't think the purpose was solely for the looks. And listen to this, I was a smart kid, but the idea of noise blasting in your ears all of the time did not make the slightest sense to me. I did notice though that it didn't matter if they were running to catch a bus or plainly sitting on a bench in a park pondering life, because they were always listening to something. Why? There was already too much noise in the world, why would you need more?
I remember one time I was visiting my grandparents in China and we had to ride the subway to reach our destination. It overwhelmed me as soon as we walked into the station; mass amounts of people, tickets on the ground, subway trains zooming past the platforms all created this barrier of noise. I was thrown for a loop and my head wanted to explode. It's hard to describe the feeling, but it felt as though I was blocked in and surrounded by an uncontrollable force. It was uncomfortable. And then I saw it: almost every person was wearing headphones. At this moment, I came to a realization, but not a full conclusion. The headphones were not really adding noise, were they?
My parents bought me my first pair of headphones in 7th grade, ones that I didn't even ask for. These Beats Studio headphones sat on my desk for a couple years before I physically picked them up. That year after I traveled to China was my first time doing so. At that point, I was starting freshman year in high school and my life was already full of stress. I have always hated being put in situations where I am unable to think because of the chaos occurring around me. It aggravates me, but even worse, it prevents work from being done. I tend to describe myself as an efficient worker because I try to take advantage of my time. But here I was, needing a miracle that could block out everything and anything possible. And then, there it was again, I saw it: those Beats headphones in plain sight, covered in dust but right in front of me. I wondered if those headphones could somehow be that miracle, if they could somehow provide a different light…
Listening to music through headphones was not really something I had thought of before because I never found use for it. I was confused what purpose it held when all I thought it did was contribute to surrounding noises. When I think of delight or happiness, puppies and rainbows come to my mind. Notes, words, and sounds never seemed like it could provide a sense of comfort or light in my life. However, putting on headphones for the first time flipped my whole world upside down. The noise cancellation immediately blocked out the havoc of the outside world. Instead, music was put in, creating a beautiful sound that healed my heart and brain. Was I frustrated that I had not discovered this delight before? Yes. But was I glad that I finally discovered something that I could use to block any overbearing noises? Yes. This was my second realization. Similar to the people in the subway station, there was a ton of noise in my world that I wanted to get rid of. I realized that in fact those headphones that they were wearing did not add noise, but allowed that noise to be blocked out. This is what led to my final conclusion of music and headphones: the disrupting atmosphere of outside noise could actually be converted into a delight of sound inside your ears.
Tennis is the Greatest Sport and Here's Why
Personal Essay & Memoir
Tennis is the Greatest Sport and Here's Why
Most exceptional athletes such as Michael Jordan and Lionel Messi are described as the "greatest of all time" because their skills are above the rest. However, greatness also signifies a form of respect and for these reasons, tennis is the greatest sport of all time. Trust me, I know this is a huge claim and that many will disagree, but just hear me out. Tennis has the best benefits for both physical and mental physique; it is considered the hardest sport, making the best players extremely respectable for their ability and talent.
When I was about four years old, my love for soccer began. I was doing ballet at the time as well, but soccer was the first true sport I played. My parents always worried about my physical health and development. When I was a baby and I got sick, it would develop into pneumonia and a 103°F fever in minutes. They brought me into soccer to better my immune system, but as I continued to play, I grew more and more fond of it. However, when I turned seven, I became increasingly intrigued in the sport of tennis. Don't get me wrong, Ronaldo was incredible to watch, but the tennis professionals on screen that were able to seamlessly glide around the court while effortlessly hitting powerful shots made me want to do it too. Up until seventh grade, I balanced my lifestyle between soccer and tennis, traveling with a club team for soccer games and hitting with coaches and other players at tennis practices. But once the seventh grade year hit, I got devastating news. I had to choose between the two because I no longer had time to play both.
I do not exactly recall why I decided to choose tennis over soccer, but I am convinced now that it was because I thought it looked cooler on the big screen. I never understood the difficulty of the sport until I began to play it more often. Only then did I learn that tennis is known for its complexity, strategic variations, and satisfaction. Watching tennis appears straightforward, but the range of strokes and spin variants on the shots make it much more complicated to play than watch. Strategically, too, it is complex because there are arguably many different styles that can be played. Being able to move and react at such fast paces deserves notable applause. Additionally, the psychological aspects are incredibly more difficult to overcome than other sports. Tennis exerts acute and particular mental pressures where if you are even the slightest bit spaced out on the court, you will lose control of your emotions. Professionals in this sport are certainly the most respected, especially those who have retired at older ages such as Serena Williams and Roger Federer. Respect is one of the key qualities that makes tennis the greatest sport of a lifetime; there are many more to come.
My younger self not only thought tennis was cool, but I thought tennis would also be less physically demanding than soccer. Since I am generally a considerably lazy person, I wanted to go with the easier route of exercise. Little did I know that tennis actually requires conditioning for all parts of the body. It takes a significant amount of effort to be able to develop the strength and agility to play a match. The variations in shot choices such as serves, groundstrokes, volleys, slices, etc. use the mobility of almost all of the muscles. However, playing consistently can help maintain good fitness and health. Tennis can lower blood pressure, improve metabolic function, increase bone density, and improve muscle tone. In fact, an hour of playing singles (one player vs. one player) can burn up to 600 calories for men and 420 for women.
Based on what I just stated, I know what you are probably thinking now… tennis is too hard and excludes those who cannot compete at that physical demand. I admit that tennis is quite a strenuous sport at the higher level, but you are wrong. Being a non-impact sport, tennis is immensely diverse and attracts players from all ages and skill levels. Each player is different in terms of when they start, but there is always someone of a similar ability that will play with you. Additionally, playing just for fun can help to make new friends in the community through socialization whilst benefiting your physical being as well.
Another reason I chose tennis over soccer was because I was able to use it as therapy. I remember about a year ago, I became extremely down on myself because I could not reach the expectations others and myself had for me. I felt that I had no potential for greatness, but one thing did help me survive through that period of time. Tennis. Compared to soccer, tennis is a much more independent sport because there is no reliability on others to support you in terms of your mentality. In fact, many coaches will say that it is a complete mental game, so the importance in developing the strongest mental toughness is one of the hardest challenges of the sport. I think being able to grow as a player and a person through this difficulty crucially helped me throughout the years I was struggling with my mental health. By focusing on staying calm and attempting to relax, each hitting session became my way of managing my anger. Even if it was simply a horrible day, hopping onto a court and smacking a few balls helped to release a majority of my stress—one of the greatest benefits I continue to receive from playing this sport. It helps me deal with physical, mental, social, and emotional challenges in my life, still building my mental toughness to an even higher level that would be unachievable from playing a different sport.
Tennis is a deep, deceptive, and multi-levelled sport. No one realizes how underlooked it is to the naked eye because it appears to be so easy. People always expect greatness out of you but what they do not realize is that it takes a vast amount of physical and mental effort to be competitively and consistently good. Even professionals lose confidence in themselves because of a simple mistake. Additionally, the way the sport is scored, you can win more games than your opponent and still lose the match, making the concept of it a difficult game. A win or loss does not define you or your ability though. In fact, it actually shows your greatness no matter what happens on the court. Tennis is a sport that should be more highly respected. It is one of a few that can be played for a lifetime, but even discontinued, the benefits that carry help you for the rest of your life.
Gogol's Isolation Perception in The Overcoat
Gogol's Isolation Perception in The Overcoat
Although isolation seems to always have a negative connotation in life, there are many instances where loneliness is proven to have benefits and advantages. This idea carries through Nikolai Gogol's short story, The Overcoat, where he portrays an especially important lesson about isolation. Throughout the story, the main character, Akaky, changes in personality when he loses himself to the "benefits" of his new overcoat, which include social and emotional excellence. Gogol shows a change in attitude in Akaky to display how a fake sense of emotional comfort and unloyal people affect his life. Akaky's lesson to himself from the process of his own life and his lesson to the important person teach the reader how isolation can be two-faced and misleading. Gogol attempts to communicate that sometimes, being alone is better than having to fake feelings to experience brief moments of emotional comfort and a better social life.
At the start of the story, Gogol explains all of the positive aspects of Akaky's life before his change in attitude to show how he was perfectly content with his life in isolation. Akaky's personality represents him as a natural introvert and extremely independent. Gogol explains Akaky's boring job of copying papers in the office, but Akaky seems to enjoy working on his own. In addition, while his peers in his department make fun of him, his experiences of being alone all of the time allows him to develop skills of patience, hard work in the office, and optimism. He focuses more on the happier, smaller things in life, proving that isolation can provide joy and other advantages. The narrator even says, "Not once in his life did he ever pay attention to what was going on or happening every day in the street…when someone on the other side of the street has the footstrap of his trousers come undone—which always provokes a sly smile on his face" (398). Although Akaky appears sad and oblivious that he does not notice anything around him, as the reader, I realized that Akaky truly enjoys his life being alone. Furthermore, Akaky maintains an optimistic attitude even though he is generally ignored by others because of his threadbare appearance. Everyone in his department criticizes him, but Akaky stays unbothered because he perceives appearances differently than others. He is content with himself and his life and does not care about others' comments or societal standards. The buoyancy of his nature leads the narrator to say, "Akaky Akakievich did not give himself up to any diversion. No one could say he had ever been seen at any party. When he had written his fill, he would go to bed, smiling beforehand at the thought of the next day" (399). Akaky never went out with friends nor talked to many people because he enjoys a solitary life. Himself, along with his ink, pen, and papers were enough to make him smile at the thought of the next day. Gogol stresses the views that Akaky has towards social life, conveying his fulfillment with his life. However, Akaky does not stay happy as he is. His new overcoat causes a change in attitude, highlighting the lesson Gogol wants the reader to take away. Akaky feels that he has a euphoric life even through his isolation from others, but once he is led into a fake sense of emotional support, his life breaks down.
Akaky has a sanguine outlook towards life throughout his isolation, but the new overcoat brings a change in his attitude and the resulting consequences that come with it. Akaky realizes that he has been missing emotional support in his life, and for the first time, his new overcoat fills in that gap. He first discovers this when he learns that he must purchase a new overcoat. As he begins to save money, the narrator describes: "Only here did he begin to collect his thoughts, see his situation clearly for what it was, and start talking to himself, not in snatches now sensibly and frankly, as with a reasonable friend with whom one could discuss the most heartfelt and intimate things" (404). In his reclusive lifestyle, Akaky never had anyone to talk to, but his new overcoat resembles that person from this point on. Additionally, Gogol talks about how Akaky feels more complete as a person, as if he is married and has someone else there with him. It gives him comfort and a feeling of finally being accepted. However, this creates mixed emotions for Akaky about how he wants to move forward with his social life. His new overcoat makes him many friends at his workplace, but when he is invited to parties, he does not want to attend. He realizes that he must fake his feelings in order to fit in with society, beginning to put doubt about wanting a better social life into his mind. Unfortunately, Gogol decides Akaky's fate for him when the reader learns that Akaky's overcoat is stolen. He barely holds a few days worth of emotional comfort and a real social life when he begins to be treated like a nobody. When he talks to the superintendent about his stolen overcoat, he stands up and declares that his situation is important. But despite that, he is ignored because without his overcoat, he does not show high social appearance. Akaky did not only lose his overcoat and emotional aid, but he is isolated again. This time though, he is depressed and quite upset. Akaky lost his excitement towards life because his new overcoat inflicted his emotions, which led to his downfall. Gogol represents Akaky's tragic events to portray this idea that living secluded from society in the first place does not result in the worst consequences.
Eventually, Akaky dies a horrific death, but his ghost appearance and his afterlife teach many other characters in the story a lesson about isolation. He portrays a message about their treatment towards him when he was without his overcoat. The character that he teaches the most important and severe lesson to is the important person. During his process of trying to find his stolen overcoat, he talks to an important person who is obviously integrated into society. However, the important person treats Akaky with disrespect because his position as a high ranked government official changes his behavior towards people who appear inferior in status. The narrator describes how "the important person was in his office and was talking away very, very merrily with a recently arrived old acquaintance … their conversation had long since been interspersed with lengthy silences" (416). The important person cannot even be honest with a friend who he has known for a long time, signifying that his behavior is because he cherishes his appearance in front of others. This contrasts with Akaky's ideas, showing the two perspectives of isolation. The important person believes that isolation from society is miserable. He would rather sacrifice true friends than be left out of social events and lose his important appearance in society. On the other hand, Akaky realizes in his afterlife that being distant from others would have turned out much better for him in the long run than drifting towards emotional comfort. At the end of the story, the important person learns his lesson about treatment towards others when Akaky's ghost gives him a sense of horror by stealing his overcoat. At this moment, Akaky knows that no one cares about his death, so he comes back as a ghost to teach the mortal world a lesson. He forces all of those who ignored him after he lost his overcoat to pay him their overcoat for ruining his happy life. Through the different views of Akaky and the important person, Gogol communicates that possessing importance in society but having to hide emotions results in a far more miserable lifestyle than being less important in society but having a happy life.
Throughout the entire story, Akaky's life and his lesson to the important person allow Gogol to emphasize a moral about isolation. He communicates to the reader that being in isolation but living the best life possible is more beneficial than becoming manipulated by temporary emotional support and prominent appearance. Akaky and the important person both make mistakes in their life which result in a downfall of events, but they learn their lesson about isolation in different ways. Akaky has an intriguing life story because he learns from himself. At the end of the story, his ghost appearance permits Gogol to take the opportunity to teach other people lessons. The important person steps into Akaky's shoes when Akaky's ghost steals his overcoat, teaching him a strong message. Overall, isolation is one of the most important themes in The Overcoat, but Gogol communicates many other principles that continue to hold their significance in the world today.
The Denouement of Jane Eyre
The Denouement of Jane Eyre
Some readers say that the ending of a novel is the worst part because the story is over. Although they may be right, the ending is the most important as it gives the novel meaning. In Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, the ending of the novel is especially significant because Jane finally culminates her quest for happiness. She goes through many struggles throughout her experiences at Gateshead, Lowood, Thornfield, and the Moor House, and she slowly realizes how unhappy she is. However, at the end of the novel, Jane ultimately finds her "heaven", achieving her pursuit of stability and happiness. The ending represents a harmony between the conflicts of her passionate nature and the moral wisdom of Christianity, she is finally able to possess her own fortune, and Brontë brings an upending of social class at the end of the novel.
Throughout the novel, Jane reaches many moments of conflict between her two impulses: her passionate nature and the moral wisdom of Christianity. However, all of her struggles give way to the ending when she finds a harmony between them. As a child, Jane grows up learning about the morals of Christianity, and specifically at Thornfield, she justifies most of her choices and ideas through religion. When Jane leaves Mr. Rochester, she decides to trust in God and herself although her heart tells her otherwise. She says, "I would have got past Mr. Rochester's chamber without a pause; but my heart momentarily stopping its beat at that threshold, my foot was forced to stop also… There was a heaven—a temporary heaven—in this room for me, if I chose" (368; ch. 27). She loves Mr. Rochester and believes that she can find a temporary heaven with him, but God tells her to leave Thornfield for good. Jane believes in the idea that the ones who are meant to be together will find their way back, so when Mr. Rochester asks her how he will survive the blow of her actions, she says, "Do as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet there again" (364; ch. 27). She takes full trust in God and believes that they will find each other in heaven again. However, on the other handopposition, Jane rejects St. John'sJohn of his proposal for a different reason than Mr. Rochester's. She realizes that a life devoid of passion is just as bad as a life devoid of principle. She chooses to listen to her heart and head, firmly standing up to St. John's religious power of his proposal. She says, "'No. St. John, I will not marry you. I adhere to my resolution'... 'Formerly,' I answered, 'because you did not love me; now, I reply, because you almost hate me. If I were to marry you, you would kill me. You are killing me now'" (475; ch. 35). St. John tells Jane that if she does not agree to marry him, she is turning her back on Christianity. However, Jane's heart tells her that he does not truly love her and she does not truly love him, allowing Jane to follow her intuition and push past St. John's religious manipulation. This moment is significant because Jane decides to turn against religion, the opposite of her actions at Thornfield. Eventually, at the end of the novel, Jane returns to Mr. Rochester on her own terms because she knows that it's the right choice. Her two impulses finally find harmony where she can listen to her heart yet live with herself and her decisions. The ending shows Jane's happiness as Mr. Rochester's wife, and it symbolizes the realization she acquires in which she brings together her passionate nature and religious morals to truly live a happy ending.
Jane's marriage with Mr. Rochester at Ferndean not only brings happiness for Jane, but it also shows how she is no longer under his control. At the end of the novel, she gains the ability to possess her own fortune, an ability that she did not have before. Throughout her life, she always depends upon others or is controlled by them. She never really has full control of her future nor fortune, but the ending of the novel gives her that ability by bestowing her with wealth and stability. However, before then, Jane goes through many stages of struggle with inferiority, bias, and manipulation. Jane's childhood at Gateshead and Lowood show significant periods of time where she is controlled by adult figures. Mrs. Reed "takes care" of Jane at Gateshead, but because her husband always loves her sister's children more at family reunions, she keeps a feud against Jane, controlling her throughout her childhood. Furthermore, Mrs. Reed decides to keep money from Jane's uncle away from her, preventing her from controlling her fortune at an earlier age. Jane eventually moves away from Gateshead and Lowood to Thornfield where she becomes a governess. Her happiness increases after moving, but having Mr. Rochester as her master allows him to take control of her. Unfortunately, even after Thornfield, she continues to be controlled. At the Moor House, St. John wishes to marry Jane and asks her to accompany him on his mission to India. He practically forces Jane to go with him, but because they do not love each other, it proves to be an excruciating process for her. She says, "All this was torture to me—refined, lingering torture. It kept up a slow fire of indignation and a trembling trouble of grief, which harassed and crushed me altogether" (473-4; ch. 35). St. John is literally killing Jane with his religious power and force, emotionally torturing her and causing her to leave the house. These moments with Mrs. Reed, Mr. Rochester, and St. John all show her incompetent ability of controlling herself and her own fortune throughout the novel. However, the ending reverses Jane's fortune. In Jane and Mr. Rochester's marriage, Mr. Rochester has to depend on Jane for sight and touch. She also obtains wealth from her uncle who passed away, giving her the money and ability to control her future. Eventually, Jane is able to gain stability in her life, a quest she has been searching for throughout the novel.
Although Jane's wealth contributes to her ability to control her future, it plays a more significant role in the rise of her social status from the beginning to the end of the novel. In the 19th century, wealth and beauty were important in society and marriage. It is obvious that in Jane Eyre, Brontë expresses her opinion of femininity and the need for equality. Jane's father worked with the poor and died when she was young, resulting in Jane's abuse from the Reeds. Her lower social and physical status at Gateshead causes her trouble from the very beginning of the novel in finding happiness and stability in her life. Even the servants tell Jane, "'You ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs. Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poorhouse'" (16; ch. 2). Jane depends on Mrs. Reed to live, and due to her lack of wealth, she is unable to gain social status until the end of the novel. To add on, wealth plays a huge role in Jane's love relationships as well, especially when she compares herself to Blanche Ingram. Her love, Mr. Rochester, plans to marry Blanche instead of Jane because of her beauty and social class. Jane states that she is not as wealthy or beautiful (in her own description) as Blanche Ingram, and she compares herself to her by painting portraits of them both. She says, "Whenever, in future, you should chance to fancy Mr. Rochester thinks well of you, take out these two pictures and compare them: say, 'Mr. Rochester might probably win that noble lady's love, if he chose to strive for it; is it likely he would waste a serious thought on this indigent and insignificant plebeian?" (187; ch. 16). She insults herself in order to shut her feelings away. Not only does Jane doubt herself and her beauty, but she becomes unsure of Mr. Rochester's love for her. At this moment, her social class disadvantages her in this relationship. However, at the end of the novel, she returns to Mr. Rochester after he moves to Ferndean and they marry. Brontë brings an upending of social class in the novel from Jane's time at Gateshead to Ferndean. Her struggles in her childhood as a poor orphan eventually build up to the ending where she acquires wealth and marries her "master" from Thornfield. Although Jane did not personally care about social status, it shows Brontë's hopeful image of equality in the 19th century.
Throughout the novel, Jane searches for an ending where she can settle and enjoy her life, and Brontë concludes it in a fascinating and happy way, by culminating her quest for happiness and stability. The ending represents a harmony between the conflicts of Jane's passionate nature and the moral wisdom of Christianity. Furthermore, she gains the ability to possess her own future and fortune, along with a rise in social status by the end of the novel. Although it is clear that Jane reaches a happy ending in the novel, the ending of Jane Eyre can be ironic, or even "not perfect" because of the other characters' fates in the novel. However, in my opinion, the ending perfectly displays Brontë's intent of the importance of independence and how Jane struggled and eventually succeeded in finding such independence. She shares her feminist views, ultimately concluding that the end represents Jane's experience and prosperity in gaining equality and happiness.