Looking Back on Childhood Friends and Memories

There are hundreds of relationships that one will have during their lifetime. There is the childhood friend, the high school group, the best friend, the boyfriend and the family friends. Of course, there are plenty more, and each will have different and unique experiences and memories. There will be a ton of laughter, smiles, and secrets, but also tears, fights, and second guessing. It happens with everyone, slowly, but surely, and at different times of everyone’s life. Within each relationship that you had, have and will have, there are lessons that you learn. The lessons, in turn, will be established in future friendships that you will make.

When I was little, like many, I had a childhood best friend. We did so much together, which was less of our choosing and more because our moms were close friends. Either way, we wanted to have “play dates” and play imaginary games. Personally, I believe that having a childhood best friend is important. It could be a person, imaginary friend, or a loved pet. With any of these types, we learn to play, love, interact and learn from others. I can confidently say that my childhood best friend began to teach me all of these characteristics and everyday human capabilities that would later turn into major building blocks for other friendships.

There is always a specific memory that you can tag to a person. With this friend (you know who you are), we used to play on the wooden swing in her backyard. It was the type of the swing that had a plank of wood connected to rope, you know, the ones that swung really high with just one push. We used to take turns playing on that swing for hours, screaming and smiling all at once as we quickly got higher and higher off of the ground and closer to the shining sun. This was one of my favorite things to do when I was a kid, plainly because it was just so simple but so fun.

Unfortunately for me, I have always been scared of heights and also that feeling of dropping backwards without having control of it. Therefore, I would always have fun going up, but as soon as it hit the highest part of the swing and began to go back to the ground, I would panic. I thought that I was going to run into the wooden fence that shut my friend’s yard off from weeds and sharp bushes that lived in her neighbor’s. I would shut my eyes tight, and turtle my chin into my neck, ready for impact. But it would never happen. She would always catch the swing before it would hit the fence. I would open my eyes and find myself still intact.

As silly as this sounds, these simple playtimes at the swing helped me to begin building trust for people besides my family. The fact that I never crashed into the fence because of the true dedication of my friend (think about it, two small and young girls can’t stop a fast moving swing with someone equally as heavy on top of it that easily) helped me to open up to other people rather than hide from them.

Now, with an experience that brought me so much trust to instill in my everyday surroundings and the people within them, came others that brought me back down to earth. We all have experienced friends who talked about us behind our backs, lied to us, or smirked meanly at us when we made stupid comments. Maybe you didn’t know it, but someone did. Middle school and high school, for most of us, are the grounds for bringing down our trust levels. Especially for girls. We really are mean. I mean, guys are also pretty bad. Though, in middle school, they tend to separate themselves into two categories: loud and obnoxious or quiet and shy. Girls on the other hand, well, quiet or not, we are just plain mean. If not all of the time, then a pretty good amount of it. And half the time we don’t even intend to be.

For me, I was more quiet in middle school and stuck to a smaller group of friends. But was I a perfect friend who never talked about anyone behind their backs? Absolutely not. It’s in our nature, and at a time when everything both physically and mentally is changing for us, it helps something to feel normal. This by no means excuses bullying, however emphasizes that sad fact that we as girls do eventually thrive off of some sort of drama in order to distract ourselves from our own ongoing lives.

As I thread through thousands of unfinished journal pages covered with sloppy handwriting and unidentifiable drawings, I remember those times in my life while growing into that “awkward middle school phase.” I remember times that I was mean (like when I threw a dinner roll at my aunt to stop her from telling an embarrassing story) and then times that people were mean to me. (Remember FormSpring?) If I could relive those moments now, as a 20-year-old woman rather than a ten to 13-year-old girl, I would probably change a couple of things. One, I wouldn’t throw the dinner roll, I would most likely let my aunt continue her embarrassing story and secretly plan a less harmful revenge. Two, I would probably delete my FormSpring account and never look back at it again.

Both of these instances described above, (one being cute and nostalgic, and the other more of a laughing stock), are completely different. However, both of the relationships had in them helped me to become the person I am today. As you can tell through this article, I am a big believer of “everything happens for a reason.” But thinking back onto every relationship you have ever had (which is a lot), there is some sort of happy, sad or angry ending to it that makes you more wary or trusting about others around you. If all of the relationships that we had in our lives were happy and had positive outcomes, no fights or crying, then we would never expect anything bad of anyone. We would be naive and a serious target for anything and everything horrible and evil.

Even through intimate relationships we learn. If I acted shy and uncomfortable around my current boyfriend like I did with my first boyfriend, then our relationship would not be going very far (and would possibly already be over.) If someone had never made fun of me, then I never would have built a thicker skin (and a wildly large determination to do everything to prove them wrong.) And even as I am presented with similar relationships that I dealt with in the past, I realize that it is another chance to deal with them in a better and more responsible way than how I did before.

As awkward as our memories of the past may be, they can not be rewritten. And honestly, why would you ever want to?

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It’s a Love-Hate Relationship Between Siblings

Does anyone remember that 2003 movie, Cheaper by the Dozen?  It’s the one starring Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and a teenage Hilary Duff. In the movie, Steve and Bonnie have 12 kids and they move from the country to suburbia for Steve’s dream job. The entire family has trouble with relocating and the film ends with a huge reunion after one of the children, Mark, runs away.

As my brother picked me up from work the other day, I was reminded of Cheaper by the Dozen. Not because I have 11 siblings—I can’t even imagine what that would be like—but because of the relationships the siblings maintained with each other. There were rivalries, alliances, fights and making up. Underneath it all, there was loyalty and love.

I’ve realized that siblings have a unique relationship. Sometimes the relationship can be extremely close. Other times it can be distant or volatile. Almost always, though, the relationship changes over time and with maturity. Before I entered kindergarten, my brother and I were very close. My mom tells me that when I started going to school, my brother Joey, would constantly ask, “Where’s Ally? When’s Ally coming home?”

If I was writing this article five years ago I would have laughed. That friendship my brother and I shared disappeared in late elementary school/early middle school. Maybe this is because at that age we’d been developing our own ideas and figuring out our identities. Younger children wouldn’t have yet experienced the divide caused by “eww boys/girls have cooties.” Also, at that time, we’d recently moved. We’d previously lived in a housing complex where we’d had mutual friends with similar interests. As we discovered what new activities we enjoyed we began to drift apart.

Then add in teenage hormones, the belief that we were invincible, independent, and infinitely knowledgeable and there was no way my brother and I would ever get along. We became two entirely different people. Joey was, and still is, charismatic, athletic and social. I was, and still am, introverted, quiet and studious.

During middle school and high school, our rivalry grew out of control. Every day as we got off the bus, Joey would rush to the back door before I did. He would then slam the door shut and lock it, prohibiting me from getting inside. He’d laugh; I’d yell. Our relationship was not a happy one.

Now that I’m older, I think that a reason we didn’t get along is because our personalities were so different. We saw in each other qualities we wanted to possess ourselves. He wanted to perform better in school while I wanted to meet new people with ease. I think that this situation can be attributed to almost any sibling relationship. Each person has a distinct personality and due to insecurities, hormones and any other pressure, whether it’s coming from friends or family, relationships become strained. It’s almost like a battle of who has the dominant personality.

This is not to say all siblings will act like opponents circling one another in a boxing ring. I have two friends who are twin sisters. They’ve always been close and even though they’ve had their differences, they’re still close today. They have a mutual friend group and similar hobbies.

As my brother and I are nearing adulthood, we’ve re-forged our friendship. Nowadays, we’ll have long conversations about our weekend plans, our parents and what we want in our futures. With maturity, we’ve grown comfortable with who we are, our interests and our individual idiosyncrasies. We’ve acknowledged our differences and know that we want to get along so that we can always be in each other’s life. For anyone, maturity changes you. You’re more knowledgeable and not as naïve. You also begin to realize what is important and what you want as a priority in your life.

Obviously, not all sibling relationships are like the one I have with my brother. Joey and I are only a year apart and so we both had to face similar challenges around the same time. Many siblings have a larger age gap. Some have step-siblings or half-siblings they may not see often due to a multitude of reasons.

While every family is different, siblings may still face similar challenges. Personalities may compete, differences in opinions on a subject may cause a heated debate. There are a number of reasons why siblings may not get along. With maturity and time, however, the relationship between siblings will change. Whether this is to bring siblings closer together or have them drift farther apart is individual. In my case, I’m pleased that my brother and I get along. He’s another person in my life I know I can count on and he knows I’ll be there for him as well.

All Aboard to Hogwarts!

Almost every year my family takes a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents. This year we decided to fly down, not for a family visit, but to vacation in Orlando. As we planned our trip, I told my mom and dad that we had to see Harry Potter World. Harry Potter is my favorite young adult franchise. I’ve never read the books (I know, blasphemy!) but I still fell in love with the movies, the characters and the amazing story. It’s a series that has created an entirely new world and forged an unbreakable fan base.

I remember when the final movie premiered in theaters. I was at a sleep-away summer arts camp at the time, but the counselors took all of us to the local theater to see it. Many of us attempted to dress the part of young wizards by breaking sticks to look like wands. We were a raucous bunch, but it was the most fun I’ve had while going to see a Harry Potter movie.

I also recently returned from a semester abroad. During that time, my friends and I visited London, which is where Warner Bros. has their Harry Potter studio tour. We spent three hours slowly walking through and taking photos of all the costume pieces and props used in the films. The Hogwarts castle model, an enormous, extremely detailed white structure, had a dedicated room.

So after all of my fabulous experiences delving into the world of Harry Potter, it was undeniable that we would visit Harry Potter World at Universal Studios Orlando. Here, Harry Potter World is broken into the two parks: Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure and Diagon Alley in Universal Studios, Florida. The Hogwarts Express connects the two parks and is accessible with a “Park to Park” pass.

Unfortunately, Universal is extremely expensive and with four people it wasn’t feasible for us to visit both parks. After deep deliberation, we chose to see Hogsmeade. This park features the village just outside of Hogwarts’s borders and a huge replica of the castle itself. Several of the village’s shops also set up residence in the park. Honeydukes, a candy shop with a secret passageway to the castle, is filled with a huge assortment of sweets like chocolate frogs, while Ollivanders contains shelves of wands available for purchase.

As soon as I arrived at Hogsmeade, it felt like I was in the “real” village. Snow-covered stone buildings with triangle roofs lined both sides of the street. Workers in black robes played Hogwarts students, some waving their wands and pantomiming magic. We passed by the Hogwarts Express station, where the iconic train awaited passengers and we stopped for a brief street show. A Hogwarts student presented the scene from the Goblet of Fire where the girls of Beauxbatons Academy of Magic and the guys of Durmstrang Institute are first introduced. Four students from each school performed their introductory dance. Music played along as the guys chanted, flipped and smacked their staffs against the ground and the girls twirled with blue ribbons.

Since the weather was almost unbearably hot, we stopped at a street cart for butter beer. This cold, creamy, frothy drink was perfect to wet our tongues and prepare us for the next item on our to-do list: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride takes you through the castle replica and follows Harry Potter as he meets various magical creatures, including Dementors, Aragog, and the basilisk. Although the wait time said 60 minutes, the line was constantly moving and it ended up as a 40 minute wait. As we moved forward in line, we traveled inside the castle. We passed by the entrance to Dumbledore’s office, listened to the paintings hanging from the wall and stepped inside the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.

The actual ride was just as fun as the line to get on. It wasn’t a fast roller coaster with twists and upside-down loops. Instead, the ride swept us through the castle where huge mechanical monsters jumped out at us and occasionally stopped in front of screens that depicted Harry Potter flying on his broomstick. Our seats rotated up, down and sideways to follow Harry’s flight, leaving us feeling as though we were flying with him.

This was by far my favorite part of Harry Potter World. It truly felt like a magical experience and made it seem as though Hogwarts and Hogsmeade were real places. Everything, from the atmosphere to the architecture to the excitement rippling through the air made my visit to Harry Potter World worthwhile. And though I may be a little disappointed that we weren’t able to see Diagon Alley, I’m wholly satisfied with Universal’s presentation of Hogsmeade. It’s definitely an attraction I would recommend to any Harry Potter fan.

Movie Review: Inside Out

Warning: This review contains mild spoilers!

I’ve always loved animated movies. Even now as a college student, I still get just as excited about animated movies as I did when I was younger. I believe that there’s no age limit for animated movies. I’ve heard before that adults are too old to go see animated movies and that they’re only geared towards children. I don’t think this is true. While animated movies definitely have characters and themes that are meant to be enjoyed by children, these movies often contain other themes that can only be understood by adults. Tangled represents an abusive mother-daughter relationship, Frozen represents a teenager dealing with depression and Inside Out also contained its own themes meant for an older audience.

The first trailer I saw for Inside Out seemed to be geared toward older audiences, as it contained clips from older Disney Pixar movies like Cars, Ratatouille and Finding Nemo. It left me feeling extremely nostalgic and I wanted to see the movie from that moment on.

Inside Out was all I expected it would be and more. I expected it to have some sort of moral at the end, but I didn’t expect it to get as deep as it did. The movie follows an 11-year-old girl named Riley Anderson who moves with her parents from Minnesota to California. A lot of Riley’s experiences are projected through the five emotions inside her head and how they operate to make sure Riley is safe and happy.

However, when Joy and Sadness, along with Riley’s core memories which make up a large part of her personality, get sucked into long term memory and are no longer there to help her, things start to go terribly wrong. The other emotions, Fear, Anger, and Disgust, try to act like Joy but their responses only come out as rude and sarcastic. Throughout the entire movie, everyone is focused on Joy’s absence since they’re convinced that Joy is the emotion that is vital to Riley’s well-being.

Towards the end, however, when Sadness tells a sad story about a hockey game that Joy remembers as a happy memory, she realizes that some memories can contain more than one emotion. Up until this moment, all the core memories were only happy and all of Riley’s memories were broken up into the five categories that each emotion represents. Joy realizes that if Riley wasn’t sad the day of the hockey game, then she never would have been able to turn that into a happy memory. She was sad about losing the game, which allowed her parents to go and comfort her. A memory that Joy remembers as a happy one, only became that way because it started out sad.

At the end, the emotions realize that there can be happiness if they all mix together. During the entire movie, they tried to push away Sadness, but at the end she was the one who saved Riley from becoming completely devoid of emotion and running away from home. Sometimes being sad is the only way to get over something.

Children’s movies usually show sadness as something that is negative and only happens when something bad happens. However, Inside Out shows that being sad is okay and perfectly healthy. I thought this was a really good moral to impart on viewers both young and old alike. This movie was funny, sad, dramatic and relatable all wrapped up into one. It was a unique idea unlike anything I’ve ever seen done before and I really enjoyed it. Go see Inside Out, it’s a good example that you’re never too old for an animated movie.

The Nutcracker Ballet and Me

Now that Thanksgiving break has passed and the end of the semester is rapidly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the holiday season. Everybody has their own traditions, whether it’s a specific food only served during the holidays, a favorite movie that the whole family watches, or a ritual, like going out on Black Friday.

For me personally, one of the things I look forward to the most around Christmas time is seeing The Nutcracker Ballet. I can’t really remember how this tradition started for me, because I don’t remember the first time I watched it or heard about it. Much like Christmas itself, the Nutcracker Ballet is just something that’s been a fixture in my life for as long as I can remember.

I have several cousins who took dance lessons and a dance teacher for an aunt, so I came by ballet naturally. I can vividly remember being four or five-years-old, watching my cousins perform in a local youth production of the Nutcracker and being absolutely enthralled by it. All I wanted was to be like the beautiful dancers on stage, so I started taking lessons, and finally got to be in the Nutcracker when I was seven. Of course, I ended up with a cute little role that didn’t actually involve any dancing, but every year I came back and every year I got bigger parts and got to dance more.

Even though it was the busiest time of year, the Nutcracker was almost the most fun time of year when I was little, especially leading up to the performances. During tech week, I got to stay up way past my bedtime to be at rehearsal, where I could hang out with my friends and watch all the dancers. Plus, every year I got to skip a day of school to perform in the “school show,” which was for field trip groups. The weekend of performances-almost always threatened by some kind of snow storm-were complete pandemonium, but I loved every minute of it. I felt very grown-up being backstage, putting on my makeup and my hairpieces and getting to wear the gorgeous costumes.

When I was 12, my usual annual Nutcracker treat was supplemented because my grandmother took my mother, my sister and me to see Boston Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker for Christmas. I’d been performing with the same group for five years by that point, so I’d had that production memorized, but being able to watch a different company-and a professional company with actual, adult, professional ballerinas and in the real, honest-to-goodness Boston Opera House-was an unforgettable experience. It was one of those truly transformative moments, one of those moments where you’re so happy that all you want is to be that happy for the rest of your life.

Around that time, though, my local production of the Nutcracker was becoming a little less fun for me. At 13, you could start trying out for roles on pointe. I hadn’t started pointe yet, though, so the number of roles I qualified for was limited. (They were even further limited by the fact that the directors played favorites and gave the same kids the good parts every year, but that’s a different story.) I was also older and just getting to be too busy for the show. It was fun as a nine-year-old to stay at rehearsals and shows until 11 o’clock every night, but as a high school student with other commitments, it was too much.

I quit the Nutcracker when I was 16, after performing in it for nine consecutive years. I kept dancing with my own studio even after that, but after getting injured my senior year of high school, ballet has mostly been put on hold for now. But even after all the frustration, the Nutcracker is still extremely close to my heart. Every year I find some way to watch it multiple times. I don’t always make it to Boston Ballet’s production before it closes, but I own the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s version (with designs from children’s book author Maurice Sendak) on DVD. I also watch any version of it I can find playing on TV (especially Ovation’s “Battle of the Nutcrackers,”) and sometimes I’ll even stop by my old company’s production of it, just to see how the show has changed over the years.

I can’t pinpoint what exactly it is about the Nutcracker that I find so magical. Maybe it’s because I’m a fantasy nerd  and I’ve always been obsessed with stories that involve magic, transformations and journeys to other worlds. But I also think that nostalgia is a huge factor in why I love it so much. Whenever I drive around my hometown in the fall and winter, I think about being a little kid and being shuttled to Nutcracker rehearsals on the weekends. The Nutcracker is something that’s always stayed constant in my life for so many years, even if the way that it plays a role in my life now is different than the one it played when I was younger. I think everyone has these things in their life, the things that they can’t quite let go of and that stay important even after so many years. Moreover, I think it’s good to have these things. They’re a good measuring stick for how much you’ve grown but also good for reminding you of the ways that you’ve stayed the same, even after all these years.

What are your favorite, nostalgic holiday traditions? Let Atlas know in the comments!

Homecoming

Although I recognize that “home” may not always be the place where people feel the most welcome, it certainly hasn’t been that way for me. There is always something special about going back home after being away for a long time.

First, there’s the food. For the most part, it’s good. It has taste, substance and doesn’t instantly send you running to the bathroom. Most of the time, even if it isn’t necessarily good, it’s familiar and it’s something you’ve grown up with your whole life, which is a feeling that always makes me smile.

Then, there’s the comfort of being somewhere that you know like the back of your hand. You can stumble out of bed in the morning and make your way to the bathroom without even fully opening your eyes. You can sink your into the familiar spots of the pink carpet that you picked out when you were five and the horse posters on the wall offer a bit of comfort that the Fight Club posters in your dorm room never quite will.

And of course, there’s the people. You may not always get along with your family and your friends from home may be far from perfect, but there is usually someone that you’ve been dying to see. Personally, I find myself constantly surprised by the people I end up missing after being away from home for a while. Sometimes, you end up missing the weirdo kid you’ve known since first grade who actually makes you laugh or maybe it’s your best friend’s ex who was kind of a jerk but now is sort of getting his act together.

There’s something about home, something so comfortable, that comes back to you in unexpected ways. And of course, if all else fails, at least there’s the food.

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Think of middle school. Try not to cringe.

The reason I say this is because for myself, and for most people I know, middle school is our most embarrassing time period in our past. (I feel my face turning red even just thinking about it.)

There were braces and Hollister t-shirts that were so simple and boring but cost a fortune. There were crushes, AIM profiles and giggles exchanged next to vending machines– attempts to talk to cute boys from class. There were angsty pop-punk lyrics written in your math notebook and Jonas Brothers posters hanging in your locker (maybe this was just me, but humor me here.)

I think of that time and feel utterly astounded that I had any friends at all, never mind many of the same friends that I still consider some of my best friends now. I stop and think about it and realize that my friends at the time were just as cringeworthy as I was.

We were all navigating “teenage years” and constantly changing social hierarchies. We were coming to terms with our bodies as “adults” and feeling more emotions than we thought possible at such a young age. Life was starting to become real, at times too real, which is why we whispered to our friends over a bag of Doritos at 4 a.m. on Friday nights.

And I think there’s something so inherently beautiful in that. The friends I cried on the bathroom floor with when I was thirteen over a bad report card became the people I turned to when I had my first broken heart. They were the first people to call me out when I lied about being okay, because they had seen me in middle school when absolutely nothing was ever okay.

Friends that you have grown up with just fit you so perfectly. You were shaped and formed all throughout your childhood and adolescence and during this time you were surrounded by people that slowly filled the cracks with laughter and salty snacks. When you are an “adult”, or at least you are told you are one, these friends have already been cemented, a foundation so strong and unforgettable that it can never be ripped apart.

I am a Poseur

I’m a huge poseur. I have been all my life. And while I’d been mimicking other kid’s skooter tricks for years, the art of posing truly began to manifest in my sophomore year of high school. That’s when I decided enough is enough; I was going to look exactly like Rae Jefferson. Rae was a girl in one of my classes who I’d been idolizing for over a year. She was effortlessly cool, confident, and dazzling. I wanted to be just like her even though we had nothing in common. I decided the best way to do this was to start with her clothes which I mimicked horribly for the next three years.

That’s where it began: my horrible imitations of Rae’s outfits. With that, the act of copying those I admired became a way of life.

In fashion, I looked to more people I admired and started dressing like them too. I admired Rachel Berry’s talent so I bought bobby socks. I listened to a lot of Lana Del Rey so I made and wore flower crowns.

Later, when I decided to become serious about writing, my poseur life dramatically shifted in a new (and not so surprising) way. At this point, I had written a few stories but, like every young writer, lacked an individual voice. As a result, I decided to copy exactly how other writers wrote. I read Les Miserables and forced myself to write like Victor Hugo, I read Mrs. Dalloway and did the same with Virginia Woolf. My point of view switched as I changed from J.K. Rowling to Sylvia Plath to Stephen King. Each author suffered my embarrassing wannabe stories in their style. When I go back into my journals and read my old short stories I can distinctly identify who I was reading at the time.

Of course, this whole confession of my posing is embarrassing. Looking through the archive of my Facebook I usually shutter. But while I was trying my hand at floral button downs and abstract prose I wasn’t just looking and writing poorly, I was figuring shit out.

The thing is, writing and fashion have become the two main ways in which I express myself. Being 14 and not knowing anything about myself, it was imperative that figured out who I was by copying. And now, since I have gone through all the posing, I feel I have a better grasp of what I like and who I am. I am able to more easily craft what I have to say and present myself to the world according to what I’m feeling. All this with the help of being a poseur (*crowd cheers*)

Of course, a lot of people say that this time for experimenting is contained to high school but I don’t think that’s necessarily true. Since people are constantly growing I think it’s safe to say posing is something that happens your entire life. With that being said, I think, in particular, Emerson is a place where it’s impossible not to be a poseur.

That sounds like an insult but it’s not. Emerson, as campy as this sounds, is a place for artists who are trying to find their individual voice. It’s a place where people with great taste are able to pluck what they like from those they admire and string it together to make it theirs. Are yes, they are poseurs until they do make it theirs. They are poseurs when they are inspired by a filmmaker, when they have heroes and when they create through that lens. And, you know what? It’s wonderful.

In many ways being a poseur seems like the most human thing in the world. It’s how people adapt to who they really are; like Eat, Pray, Love mixed with Darwinism.

I think Lourdes “Lola” Leon, Madonna’s daughter, sums up the embarrassing yet beneficial life of posing in her recent blog post. As an aspiring fashion designer Lola experimented a lot of clothing which eventually brought her closer to the style she likes. She writes:

“Oh how I wish I could go back in time and urge my 14-year-old self not to wear black rhinestone-studded t-shirts with bloody skulls on them, purchased from really “hip” stores (wtf is hip anyways). I like to reassure myself though, that I had to go through that awkward time of ‘trying stuff out’ to figure out what I liked wearing best.”