It could be a family gathering, the first day of class, or even a coffee with a friend, but a question that is commonly asked and percepted as a great way to know everything you need to about someone is, “What is something you feel passionate about?” I’ve answered this question in a variety of ways.
My typical go-to answers are:
#1. "I love being a part of Blue Jay Journal, telling people’s stories is something I feel honored to do.”
#2. “Having the opportunity to student teach Special Education students at the Early Learning Center has really opened my heart a lot and I love doing it.”
Both of those responses are completely honest, but I always felt like I wasn't answering the question completely.
I am not just journalist Autumn, and I am not just teacher Autumn. I am a lot more than that. So when asked this question again recently, I decided to spend a little more time thinking about it.
I'm passionate about journalism and teaching. I'm also passionate about my family and friends. I'm passionate about my job. I'm passionate about a lot of things. What they all have in common is that they require me to push myself. Realizing all this, is when it all made sense.
I'm passionate about working hard to achieve my goals. I enjoy working for my successes and failures. I don't mind having to interview six different people for the perfect story. I don't mind whenever one of my preschoolers doesn't want to listen because I know they have it in them to be better tomorrow. I don't mind working hard because the people I work with and meet make it worth it.
Now, I know that I'm passionate about the process of success.
For the first time ever, a novel blew me away by how descriptive and purposeful each and every word was from page one. The author, Affinity Konar, did a fabulous job in her critically-acclaimed book, Mischling. She took me exactly where she wanted me, Auschwitz.
Mischling’s setting is in the midst of the World War II era in a concentration camp in Auschwitz known as the Zoo, where Dr. Mengele, known historically as the “Angel of Death”, conducts experiments on Jewish duplicates (twins, triplets, etc.) and those who are born with genetic mutations like Albinism.
Konar takes readers on a journey when she picks us up from our everyday lives and places us in the lives of Pearl and Stasha, a set of identical twin girls, whose inseparable bond before the Zoo is tested repeatedly until Pearl’s absence becomes the ultimate test.
Mischling is a powerful tale of what it's like to be made to feel truly worthless and helpless, but to overcome that with an unshakeable perseverance to regain justice for one's family. I would 100% recommend this book for anyone looking for a meaningful read that will evoke many feelings.
In many recent articles found all over the internet, journalists, bloggers, researchers, psychologists, and parents are outraged with one of America’s most beloved forms of social media: Instagram.
Seemingly picture-perfect to the eyes of most users, many people are unable to see the visual violations and dangers that can occur to anyone using the app. The harm can be real, especially to children.
With Instagram being entirely picture- and video-based, it is the only social media, other than Snapchat, that children don't have to read to understand. However, Facebook, Twitter, and other textually-based apps make it a bit easier to protect children from content that is not always appropriate for their age level.
As technology use is becoming prevalent in youth at younger and younger ages, children are beginning to grow up and face issues that people historically didn't face until their teen years or early 20s. Social media platforms and technology tends to expose kids to "adult" situations much faster.
Social media can be a very helpful tool for adults, but for kids it can introduce them to many topics they are not ready to be exposed to, such as sexuality, addiction, mental health issues, pornagraphy, and so much more.
One of the most common issues children with access to the Internet face, specifically Instagram users, is idolizing, depression, self-harm, and even suicide. Unattainable images of what life "should" look like, along with the ideas that being different at an age where acceptance isn’t always easy to come by, all contribute to the problem.
Outside of studies, I’ve seen this effect the lives of one of my family’s close friends, simply because they were given a phone and installed Instagram. From there, they were exposed to all sorts of different types of pages that were not appropriate for children whatsoever.
I feel that an elementary school student should never be given the opportunity to see content above their age level. Yet, some adults are handing over phones and tablets with installed social media apps to young children, even though the vast majority of social media platforms require their users to be 13 or over.
This may be a bit heavy, but it is a real issue that affects real people. More often than not, those impacted are young children.
So please, be sure to monitor what sites and apps are accessible to children. Also, make it clear that if they have questions about heavy issues, they should go to their parents, not the Internet. Another helpful tip from someone who has many social media accounts herself: I would start with Facebook instead of Instagram. Facebook is a lot more “caring” for their users and filters content very closely.
This summer, I took Driver's Ed (see my previous blog) and I also took PE.
Now as much as this blog could be about the benefits of taking a PE class and working out, it's not.
It was hot. I was sweating for miles and miles. I swear I get PTSD trying to recall the events in the horrid gym, but I did survive it with the help of some high-quality pals.
On the first day, I went in to the class knowing the rumors of the horrible month to come. Also, I had no friends enrolled to endure it with me.
As I looked around the room, I glanced one more time with a smidge of hope that I might know someone. Of course, I was disappointed.
It was then that my instincts kicked in. Almost with a predator/prey notion, I looked for the easiest group of individuals to target that had the least likelyhood to shoot me down. I swear a golden light was shining from above on a group of girls that looked almost as ill-prepared as I was. They also looked a bit younger than me, so I could play up that cool "senior thing" that seems to work with underclassmen.
I marched on over and told them I knew no one and I was going to be their pal for the course of this class. And they were cool with it.
It was that easy.
From then on it was like we had known each other for years. We were stoked to see each other every day we had class. We laughed and told each other about what was going on in our lives, and complained about the class we all mutually hated. As if 4 hours together everyday wasn't enough, we all texted every night, too.
Without these girls, I honestly don't know if I would have gotten through summer school PE at all. And even better, we've stayed friends after the course ended.
Tonight as I'm writing this blog, I struggle to keep my eyes open because I had such a great time at Six Flags today with my “Summer Squad”.
The moral to this story is don't fear the unknown. Don't stand by yourself afraid to meet new people. The reward is worth it!
Are you 15 and getting excited about driving? Or, in my case, are you 17 and a huge procrastinator who wants to make sure you’ll pass the driver’s test the first time? Whatever your age or comfort level with driving may be, Driver’s Education will be a huge advantage in many ways.
After getting the interview and putting it together, the reaction it got took me and Dylan completely by surprise. The whole school was talking about it and began giving Dylan the support and recognition that he deserves for his hard work. From drinking water for Dylan, to making channels of their own, he has become iconic.
As cool as it was, it really touched my heart that a kid who hasn’t always been the most popular or understood got to shine for purely being himself. I’m proud to call him my friend.
#3. The Gossage Family
I've known the Gossage family for a huge part of my life. Our families came together during our lowest points; when we lost my sister to Osteogenesis Imperfecta, and when their son Zac was diagnosed with Cancer. Knowing their story and knowing their hardships, I felt that they have overcame so much and have a story to share with others.
I decided to take a different angle on their story and I’m proud of myself for it. I chose to not only focus on childhood cancer, St. Baldrick's, and Zac's journey, but also throw in what it's like to be the stepmom in this situation.
This is by far the most personal and heartfelt story I produced this year. It was also my first story I did on my own and I’m very proud of it. I think I had to really grow and learn in this class in order to produce a story like this one without another staff member helping me, and I’m so thankful I have made it to this level. Being acknowledged for my hard work really is a special memory to me, and it all came to be with this story.
People of all ages and stages in life deal with different forms of loss. It doesn't matter what type relationship you have with someone dealing with loss, you want to help.
How we comfort the people that we care about in their time of need is not always simple. Questions pop up that are hard to answer. How do we talk about their struggle? Will we come across wrong? Will they hate us for it? It’s also hard to maintain a balance of being there and smothering them. We often struggle to navigate the difficult waters of loss.
As someone who’s been through loss and has been there for those who have experienced loss, here’s some steps I have learned along the way:
Step 1: Be a decent human being. Don’t stare. I repeat don’t stare. No one likes someone who just stares at them. What’s even worse, is when the stares turn into whisperers. I've noticed that people think nobody can see (or hear) them, but everyone definitely can. People are not that blinded by loss. If you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything at all. However, you can acknowledge someone just by a simple wave. Say good morning or hello. Just talk to the individual impacted by loss. Don’t make them feel different because they already feel isolated enough.
Step 2: Realize everyone is different. We have the cryers and the ones who need hugs. We also have the people who like to talk about it and the people who get uncomfortable when you do. So when someone is going through loss, take the time to pay attention to their reactions. Their body language is a huge indicator of what they need from you. Sometimes, people need a comfortable silence, while others will need your ear and shoulder.
Step 3: It’s not about you. For a split second, pretend that you are a nice and supportive mirror. The person who is hurting sees you are all about them and not all about yourself. Not everyone wants to hear, “I had something just like that happen to me.” Launching into your entire life story for no reason whatsoever does not put the focus on the person who is hurting. DON'T DO IT. It will immediately shut down any form of relief, I promise.
Step 4: The power of listening. One of the hardest things about going through loss is going through it alone. Most of the time, when someone loses someone, they’re surrounded by people who are going through it too. They are constantly consumed by the loss. Be the person who hasn't gone through it. Be the person that is just there to listen. Talk less, listen more! (This also ties back into Step 3.)
Step 5: Remind them you care. Let the individual know that if they need anything you are there, and MEAN IT. Whether it’s a phone number, address, or an offer to hangout; make it something substantial so that they know you are serious. Just knowing that you're serious enough to make time for them will mean the world to them.
When we support someone at their lowest point, they’re going to be there for us when we need it. Then, the cycle will hopefully continue so that this world can be a more empathetic and kind place to live in.
It was a Thursday night and I had just spent the evening at City Museum with my family. It was a really great night, but the email that we received when we got home was even greater.
Our adoption consultant sent us an email explaining that there was a woman who was trying to find a family for her son who was due in 2 weeks. We were excited, but not too excited because of past adoption efforts ending poorly.
However, this was already starting differently when she said that she wanted to stay involved in the child’s life as an aunt-like figure. It’s not often that people pursue open-adoption cases because of the fear that the birth mom would want the child back, but we decided we would consider this case without giving it much thought, just to see where it would go.
Then came the technicalities. Our home study was ending in a week, just short of the birth and there were a lot of things expiring for an adoption to work at that time. We were prepared to either deal with these issues or pass up on such an amazing opportunity, but then a miracle happened.
She was going in early.
Due to the strain of pregnancy on the birth mom's body, her date to deliver was moved to that very Thursday. This was a day BEFORE the home study expired. This is what really kicked us in gear. We met with her the night after we found out about her due date and absolutely fell in love with her, her family, and her story.
After that, everything just fell into place. He was born on June 16th with my mom and dad in the delivery room, holding Ashlee, the birth mom’s hand the whole time. She signed away her rights the next day to bring comfort to us in solidifying her word and we gave him the name of Ezra Gene Turner.
Since his birth, we’ve spent holidays with “Auntie Ashlee’s” family and it is known that her parents are his grandparents. With complete trust there, we see an open adoption as more love for Ezra and for our entire family as well.
Since we have been blessed with Ezra in our lives, everything just seems complete. All the wounds that were there from losing a child, miscarriages, and a failed IUI have started to heal. Yes, we finally felt somewhat healed as a family.
I can’t imagine life without my new brother and best friend. Not a day goes by where I don’t let him know how perfect he is and smother him in kisses. It may seem a bit much, but after a hard day of school and/or work, seeing his face light up when I come home makes me feel like at the end of the day there’s someone who looks up to me and makes me feel loved. He’s had this effect on us since day one and I don’t think it will ever change. I am thankful for my new brother Ezra.
Proud WHS Senior and second year BJJTV staffer. Journalism has proven to be a passion of mine. I can't wait to see where it takes me.