Elizabeth Warren is the Politician We Need

Permanent Massachusetts resident or not, it’s likely that you know Elizabeth Warren’s name by now. She’s currently the senior US senator from Massachusetts and is a very prominent figure in the Democratic Party. There’s even talk that she might put in a bid for the presidency in 2020. And for many Emerson students who lean to the political left, the possibility of Elizabeth Warren becoming president in four years is the hope they need right now.

Having grown up in Massachusetts, I have watched Warren rise from a Senate hopeful to a leading voice among the country’s Democrats. Though I might be biased given my political party of choice (hint: I love the color blue), Warren’s journey has undoubtedly been an incredible one. I’m glad to have witnessed it firsthand as a Massachusetts resident.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Warren is the Politician We Need”

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How to Survive Boston’s Weird Weather

“How’s the weather today?”

This question has been on my lips every morning for the last three months. Growing up in Rhode Island, I have learned from a young age not to question 60 degree days in December, snow in April and everything in between. But what about Emersonians from warm places like LA, Miami and New Orleans who have never known this kind of debauchery? How are the people from even harsher places handling this–the ones who have always relied on cold staying cold? How are the international students who are just now experiencing life in this hemisphere? My advice to everyone baffled by these strange occurrences: look no further and have no fear. There is a way to cope with Boston’s madness and I suggest you take notes.

Check the Weather Reports

If you have a smartphone, you can access weather data instantaneously with the touch of a finger. Don’t make the mistake of relying on friends’ opinions of what it’s like outside. Each person’s experience of temperature is subjective and unique to their own perspective on the meaning of “cold.” I have one friend who wears nothing but converse and a blazer in a foot of snow. Do the smart thing and check the temperature on your phone–it even gives you an unbiased estimation of what it “feels like” based on wind chill. Just be aware that forecasts going later into the week are subject to error.

Listen to Your Mother

Even in the event of an unseasonably warm winter like this one, a cold snap is always lurking around the corner. Don’t get faked out by a week of t-shirt weather; the next day it can drop to below freezing. Try to dress accordingly to the weather app’s predictions, but also pay attention to how long you will be out. If you leave your dorm or apartment in the morning and come back at night, things will be quite different. This is why I say to listen to your mother and dress in layers. When I was just a tiny tot, my mom used to put me in the puffiest coat she could find. To further the marshmallow effect she added mittens, a hat much too large for my head and huge snow boots. Now that we’re all adults here, you can make these choices for yourself. That means that you can exclude certain dorky factors if you wish, but you still might want to wear a third item on top of your shirt and beneath your coat. Think of it like this: if it ends up being colder than you thought it would be, an extra layer will be appreciated. If it gets up to 50 or so, you’ll be glad to have some middle ground between your ski jacket and t-shirt that you can peel down to. Another tip from all the moms out there: bring a hat and gloves!

Plan Around the Temperature

If you’re like me, you had some cool stuff planned during the last snow day that unfortunately did not happen. If I had been smart like you are and read a blog post like this one, I would have known to look ahead and plan that stuff for a day when the wind wasn’t trying to rip my face off.

I personally am still getting used to the concept of not being able to hop in the car and drive somewhere. The T is arguably a problematic fave, to be favored only above walking. In nor’easter conditions and light flurries alike, you never know when some tracks will get shut down. Keep in mind that rush hour times will be particularly bad when the train you need is only running half as often as usual. Plan ahead and don’t get caught in the middle of a blizzard with no milk for your cereal!

Learn to Love It

When you’re feeling particularly resentful towards the weather, remember that not everyone gets to witness all four seasons in a year. Boston may be annoying from November to March, but hey, at least there’s never a dull moment. When it rains, put on your moody poet face and sit in a coffee shop–you can even glare at people broodingly as they walk by the window. When it snows, go outside and try to catch snowflakes on your tongue. And when it’s a bitter cold, take a walk down memory lane and remember all the good times you had when it was sunny!

Learning the Forgotten History of Boston’s West End

When people think of neighborhoods in downtown Boston, they think of the North End, the South End, Chinatown and Beacon Hill. When I heard of the “West End” of Boston, I wasn’t even sure if it existed.

Because it doesn’t.

Of course, the area of land that is the West End still exists, but there is no longer a neighborhood. Instead, the space is home to complexes that take up vast tracts of land, such as the Mass General Hospital and the TD Garden.

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 8.22.53 PM

So what happened?

A complicated but ultimately devastating political movement called “urban renewal” occurred in the 1950s, which explains why many cities in America look the way they do now. Urban renewal is “the redevelopment of areas within a large city, typically involving the clearance of slums.” Boston embraced this movement, particularly in two areas: the West End and Scollay Square (what is now Government Plaza). It’s hard to imagine what these places look like to what we immediately know; the equivalent of these neighborhoods is the North End, which was spared from the razing.

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By City of Boston Archives, “West End Urban Renewal Project sign”, https://goo.gl/uVuz5r

I had never known this chapter of our city’s history and always assumed things were just the way they were. Looking up pictures of the West End in its original form, I see a completely unrecognizable village, featuring the brick built homes that give Boston its character. Observing the before and after pictures of the urban renewal policies shows the scope of destruction. The only remnant of the “Old West End” is a single tenement. It stands at 42 Lomasney Way. 500 feet from the building is the West End Museum, a museum dedicated to preserving the history of the neighborhood. The exhibit I visited, “The Last Tenement,” tells the story of how an entire community dwindled down to a deserted flat.

by City of Boston Archives, "56-62 Leverett Street", https://goo.gl/M85JZq
by City of Boston Archives, “56-62 Leverett Street”, https://goo.gl/M85JZq

At the entrance of the room, the introductory sign asks its patrons a few questions. What makes a neighborhood and what makes a slum? What makes a community? How do local values and public policy interact with each other? How do cities come to make decisions? All of these questions are answered in the tragedy of the West End.

For most of its existence, the West End was a haven for Boston’s “undesirables.” These areas were home to lower-class Bostonians and immigrants: Irish, Italians, Jews and various nationalities from Eastern Europe all lived side by side. Something that was completely unknown to me was that the West End was home to a number of free black residents, starting in the late 18th century. Between the years 1876 to 1895, at least one black resident from the West End served in Boston’s community council. The information was enlightening, especially since the stories of black Bostonians are a component of the city’s history that are too often overlooked.

by the Boston Public Library, "West End Branch - story hour", https://goo.gl/3Ezyxo
by the Boston Public Library, “West End Branch – story hour”, https://goo.gl/3Ezyxo

The museum does its best to humanize those who were residents, to show that this was once a place where real people made their lives. Trophies from sports clubs are on display in a glass case, bulletins from the social clubs are framed and pictures of kids in classrooms are shown in grainy black and white. There is heavy emphasis on what makes a community: active church life, the importance of the corner store, a sense of belonging despite differences. One sign jokes how Greek Jews and Russian Jews complained about each other, while the Italian Catholics had their opinions on Irish Catholics; but when confronted with outsiders, they stood united in their shared West End identity.

by the Boston Public Library, "Christmas and Hanukah at the Boston Public Library's West End Branch", https://goo.gl/CljC0X
by the Boston Public Library, “Christmas and Hanukah at the Boston Public Library’s West End Branch”, https://goo.gl/CljC0X

Alas, they could not stand against the larger forces in the city and federal government that were determined to destroy them. While the process of urban renewal is perplexing and dense to tell, the museum manages to explain the neighborhood’s demise. Important historical events such as the middle class flight from the city, the Housing Act of 1949 and decaying buildings all contributed to the razing of the town. What surprised me most was that initially most West Enders did not fight the demolitions, because they had been promised housing in the “new West End.” Thus, there was no major protests or outrage from residents. Only when their tenements had been destroyed did they realize they would never be able to return home.

by City of Boston Archives, "[Unidentified location in West End, near Massachusetts General Hospital]", https://goo.gl/52A2xH
by City of Boston Archives, “[Unidentified location in West End, near Massachusetts General Hospital]”, https://goo.gl/52A2xH
Of course, Boston as a city has changed significantly over time since it was founded in 1630. Even the exhibit noted how the West End went from a collection of marshes, to Yankee townhouses, to immigrant settlement homes. Cities are ever changing organisms and should embrace their role of being places where transformations can flourish; whether they be technological, political or social.

Some may wonder at the purpose of such discussions when these issues are clearly a matter of the past. Yes, cities should embrace change; but the nature of how cities change should be decided by the citizens that call it home. These discussions are especially relevant now, in Boston and all over America, when gentrification is becoming a major determinant of change in urban life. Who gets to to be a part of the conversation and who gets left out? As the lessons learned in the West End shows, including residents in the process is absolutely vital to creating thriving cities and happy citizens.

The West End Museum is located at 150 Staniford St, Boston, MA 02114. It is open to the public from 12-5 PM Monday-Friday. Admission is free.

The ‘Sconset Bluff Walk in Photos

As I’ve written about previously, I have a penchant for exploring how the one percent lives without having to spend any money of my own. Public pathways like the Newport Cliff Walk and the lesser-known Sconset Bluff Walk are the perfect way to do this.

Located on the island of Nantucket in the town of Siasconset, the Bluff Walk is a much more intimate experience than the Cliff Walk. Nearly unadvertised, the only official sign for the Bluff Walk is a stone post marked “Public Way.” No concrete path or tourism fanfare; just a beaten dirt path with views of the Atlantic on your right and the “quaint” summer homes of millionaires on your left.

A Day Trip to Salem

My boyfriend’s parents are visiting Boston and were kind enough to take my boyfriend and I on a day trip to Salem. I have lived in Boston for three years and have never been to Salem. It’s absolutely outrageous. Luckily, last Monday I was able to visit for the day and was finally able to attach history and geography.

Salem is a beautiful city, it is right by the water and much like Boston, still maintains the historical charm while accommodating to the needs of modern life. A $15 roundtrip ride will get you to Salem in 31 minutes. Perfect for a day trip!

When we arrived to Salem, like good tourists we followed the signs to the Peabody Essex Museum. What we did not know is that the museum is closed on Mondays (a good thing to know if you are traveling specifically to the museum.) We weren’t too disappointed, however, since there is plenty to see and do in the city.

Bird Nests
Bird Nests

We decided to walk to the House of Seven Gables which is a 15 minute walk from the museum. On our walk we spotted many cool stores. Unsurprisingly, most of the stores sell souvenirs, as well as anything witch-related you can imagine. My personal highlight was the Harry Potter wand store, called Wynott’s Wands. We also got to see the Naval Maritime Museum, as well as the U.S. Custom House which is a very pretty historical landmark.

When we finally arrived to the House of Seven Gables, we took a tour. First, we went into Nathaniel Hawthorne’s birth house. It was moved from its original spot, but was still intact. It was a lovely way to see how people in the 17th century lived, the things they used and what was considered fancy at the time. I am not a personal fan of Hawthorne, but it was still extremely interesting to see the places where he use to write and keep his manuscripts.

Then, we took a tour around the House of Seven Gables. This is the original house from where Hawthrone drew inspiration for his novel. The house has a beautiful view of the water and is still incredibly intact. The rooms inside the house are decorated lavishly, showing the wealth of the family. Apparently, Hawthorne’s cousin lived in that house and was the one who told him to write about it. During the tour I also learned that Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather (John Hathorne) was a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. He was the judge who carried the trials on and never repented of accusing people to be witches. To eliminate the bad reputation the named carried, Hawthorne added the ‘w’ to his last name. The tour of the houses was very inspiring. They were both beautiful and entering them was like traveling through time.

House of the Seven Gables
House of the Seven Gables

Once we had seen both houses, we went for a bite to eat. We decided to try Boston Hot Dogs. It was definitely a good choice, they had all sorts of crazy hot dogs and many options to choose from. They also had vegetarian and vegan options, a huge plus for me.

After the good food, we went on our night tour. We took a Historical Salem Night Tour. The guide was himself a practicing witch and had grown up in Salem. He took us around to the Memorial and to some of the other landmarks where the witch trials had occurred. The guide was very good in debunking myths about the trials and gave an informed overview of what had occurred historically. We did not see any ghosts or witches during the tour, but we did happen to walk around the second oldest cemetery in the nation. Having our good feed of Salem history, we were happy to get on the train back to Boston.

Memorial for people accused of witchery
Memorial for people accused of witchery

The trip was very successful. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about American history, while also engaging on a fun look at witchery stores. It is also great to go during summer, since the weather is nice and it is not nearly as crowded as it is during October.

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View from House of Seven Gables

The New Mall Culture (And Tips for Surviving It)

Changing fashion trends and the rise of online retailers has changed malls from the malls we grew up seeing depicted in 90s teen movies. Despite major rebranding efforts from wildly popular malls from the 90s and 00s, stores like Delia’s and Abercrombie & Fitch seem to have missed the mark with teens today. This year, Delia’s closed all its stores and Gap announced its plans to reduce their number of stores by 175. It seems teens would rather shop at thrift stores and Forever 21 than buy a shirt branded with the Gap or Abercrombie & Fitch logo. American retailers appear to be struggling to maintain steady business as fashion trends and methods of shopping drastically change.

As an employee of the same mall on the border of New Hampshire and Massachusetts for the past four years, I have seen the decline in foot traffic. Even with the allure of no sales tax just over the New Hampshire border, malls seem to have transformed from suburban gathering places on weekends to now being the destination for sporadic trips at best. I have gone from working in a children’s clothing store where it seemed like my main job was to keep kids under control to now working in a high end women’s clothing store, where a pair of pants cost more than what I make in a day, and my main job is to entertain bored housewives with small talk.

Tips for surviving retail employment:

  • Make friends with employees at the other stores. It can lead to discounts and insider scoop on upcoming sales.
  • Similarly, befriend the employees of food stands and food court restaurants in order to receive discounts. (For me, I know becoming friendly with the people at the pretzel place has worked in my favor.)
  • Bring a book to make it through the lulls when no one in the store is intellectually stimulating.
  • Turn the bizarre coworker and customer encounters into inspiration to further creative projects.
  • If not inspiration for writing, at least let them become funny anecdotes to tell your friends.
  • Embrace the diversity of stores within the mall, as well as the diversity of the different employees that work at each store. It can lead to a very eclectic environment.
  • Learn all you can from working at a supposedly “dead end retail job,” because customer service skills look great on a resume. (Not sure how to do this? Check out my article about it here.)

American brand stores, such as Gap, J. Crew, and Abercrombie & Fitch, have reported slumping sales. Instead, consumers are spending their money at foreign-owned, fast-fashioned retailers, such as H&M and Zara. It seems American malls filled with American stores may be on the decline without a lot of hope to make a rebound. Only time will tell.

Even though working at a mall has had it ups and down, from the larger than usual paychecks after working long holiday hours to the irate customers who are more full of self-loathing than anger towards the store, I will always hold on to a bit of nostalgia towards the suburban American mall. After all, it provided me with employment throughout my teen years and bizarre inspiration for countless years to come.

A Day Trip to Nahant

Despite being located on the ocean, there are few places (or at least not enough for me) to get to the open water from public transport in Boston. As I studied the coastline of Boston from Google Maps I came upon Nahant, a small mass of land jutting off from Lynn. I was fascinated. In the words of Liz Lemon, “I want[ed] to go to there.”

When I told my mom I wanted to visit Nahant, she didn’t respond kindly. Instead, she quipped with an overdone Masshole accent, “Ya wanna go to Naah-hahnt?” She grew up on the South Shore, but since living in Minnesota for the past twenty something years, she has most definitely lost her accent. I had been pronouncing it Na-hant (hant as in can’t) before I had talked to my mother, so maybe getting the help of a local is not so bad after all.

Separated by a spit of land, Nahant is an island with an area of one square mile with about 3,500 people. Native Americans originally called it “Nahanten”, meaning “twins or two things united.” It was settled in 1630 by Puritans and officially incorporated as a municipality in 1853.

Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.
Houses on the edge of Nahant Beach.

It takes less than ten minutes to drive down the main street, Nahant Road, from the mainland off to the end of the island. As soon as we entered the town, we realized the local charm was turned up to the max. All of the makings of a classic New England community can be found here: 17th century houses, American flags, historic churches and town halls.

Houses in Nahant.
Houses in Nahant.

On the outermost tip of the island is Castle Rock, an inlet that seemed like it belonged in Maine. We were all in disbelief that something like this was 25 minutes north of Boston.

Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.
Canoe Beach in Castle Rock.

Unfortunately for us (and for all tourists,) the accompanying beach is “for residents only.” Still, it was definitely worth a drive down and I would recommend a bike ride for anyone visiting.

View of Castle Rock from a park bench.
View of Castle Rock from a park bench.

One thing to note about the geography of the island is that it is very hilly. There were multiple instances where we thought we’d drive straight into the ocean.

Side street in Nahant.
Side street in Nahant.

The aptly named Marginal Road is a perfect example of this. There is nothing protecting your downward car from the depths of the ocean except for a few rocks, so reckless drivers beware. Nahant is not the place to fool around. Driving down every road, I wondered how anyone was able to make it through the past winter.

Marginal Road.
Marginal Road.

Great views of the Boston skyline and Revere Beach can be found on the southern side.

The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.
The Boston Skyline, from the Bayside Room.

Local businesses are scattered around the island, but reflect the town’s sense of pride. With names like Nahant Convenience Store, Nahant Seafood, Nahant Deli, you really know where you are in this place. The most popular restaurant is Tides Bar, which sits right atop Nahant Beach. It features family style dining and reasonably priced meals with a view.

The exterior of Tides Bar.
The exterior of Tides Bar.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.
Inside the restaurant: views of Nahant Beach and the open ocean can be seen from here.

The only chain store on the Island is a Dunkin’ Donuts, but even that was renamed to Dunkin’ Donuts Cafe in order to keep with the quaint vibes of the town.

Not your neighborhood Dunkin'.
Not your typical neighborhood Dunkin’.

If you’re looking for a place to spend a quiet day away from the city, Nahant is the perfect mini-vacation.

Nahant Beach.
Nahant Beach.

Getting there from Boston? Car most recommended. While there were plenty of bus stops lining the main road and one could walk the entire island in three hours, getting there is the main difficulty. It is possible to get there by public transport, but it takes about an hour longer, plus multiple transfers from T to bus.

Taxing Film Out of Massachusetts

If you have been watching the local news lately or at least following the local news on Twitter, you probably know that Governor Charlie Baker’s first budget proposal while in office is to get rid of the Massachusetts film and TV tax credit. Massachusetts gives film and TV productions spending over $50,000, with tax incentives such as a 25 percent production credit and a 25 percent payroll credit, according to the Massachusetts Film Office. In order to qualify the production, they need to shoot 50 percent of their principal photography in MA or spend at least have their budget here.

As a Media Production major myself, I, of course, want to see films and TV shows shoot in Massachusetts, because of the potential opportunities it could provide me while in school. However, the real reason I’m passionate about keeping the film tax incentive is because it provides good jobs to people in Massachusetts. At first, people may assume that the film tax incentive is simply lining the pockets of “big hollywood” producers and while that may be partially true, a lot of people have neglected to see that these productions coming to Massachusetts create jobs for hard-working middle class citizens.

The state argues that each job created costs them money, which is true but shouldn’t the state’s money be invested in creating jobs for its citizens? The budget saved could potentially be used to benefit low-income families in Massachusetts. I completely support the state aiding low income working families, and think the state should make subsidizing low income families a priority in their budget.  The solution should not be to take away an incentive that provides other working families with steady jobs. The average person who benefits from the film tax incentive is middle class with a family and needs of his or her own.  If Massachusetts loses the film and TV industry which has been slowly growing since 2006, thousands of people working in the production industry will be out of work, and then may potentially rely on state assistance.

Furthermore, the film and TV productions happening in MA have a trickle down effect that supports other industries. Creating a film or TV show takes a lot of effort and collaboration that people often forget about when watching the finished product. They see the glamorous actors on screen, they see the director’s vision, they hear the screenwriter’s dialogue and they know Hollywood producers made it all happen, but there is more work that goes into a production than just the people with “above the line” credit. It takes hundreds of people working on a production to get the finished product, and that equals a lot of job opportunity.

Additionally, other businesses are supported by these productions. To transport their equipment and props, sets hire trucks and truck drivers, once again supporting local blue collar workers. The crew must be feed, as well, and if they are in MA, they are not going to order food to be shipped from California. Instead, they are going to turn to a local MA catering company to feed their cast and crew three meals a day for an extended period of time. For example, my aunt works at company in MA that sells used science equipment and over the past few years she has received several larger orders from films and TV shows shooting in MA seeking props.

If the film tax is taken away, productions will chose to film elsewhere, either in milder climates around the US or even abroad which will take jobs away from Massachusetts residents and New England residents as a whole. Producers and production companies are simply looking for the most cost effective place to film that will give them the aesthetic they need. Without the film tax incentive, MA will not make that list and they will go elsewhere. Personally, I don’t want to be watching a movie that is supposed to be set in Boston only to find out during the credits it was filmed in Atlanta, Georgia. If films and TV shows being shot in MA dwindles, people who rely on a steady stream of productions to support themselves will be forced to relocate to other states, which means uprooting their lives and leaving their family and friends in search of work.

Although they may cost the state more, ultimately, they create a wealth of job opportunities, which is essential considering the job market has still not completely recovered from the recession. These jobs are not limited to within the film and TV industry itself. Productions coming to MA also give business to the hospitality industry. Additionally, big name celebrities coming to town and films being set here give the great state of Massachusetts some publicity, which, in turn, helps drive tourism.

If you want to see the real faces of the MA film industry, I recommend checking out the Facebook group called Save MA Film Jobs. You might even see some Emerson Alums in there who decided to stay in MA instead of going the traditional LA route!

Shut Up and Drive

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In my head, the process towards adulthood is basically a big checklist. There are certain milestones that you have to hit and only after you check them off your little list can you officially become a “capital-A” adult.

Did you have braces? Check. Have you had your heart broken? Check. Have you worked a crappy retail job? Check. Congratulations, kid. Here’s your card. Don’t lose it.

I know that this isn’t how it really works. But it’s always felt that way, like life is a video game and there are certain achievements you have to unlock before you can level up. If you miss a step, you have to go back and re-do it or else you won’t be able to go any further in the game.

One of the steps that I missed was getting my driver’s license. I know that not everybody can drive (or even needs to) but when you grow up in the suburbs, taking your driver’s test is a rite of passage. I started driver’s ed when I was 16, like most people do, but for a variety of reasons I never finished it. Luckily, not being able to drive wasn’t a huge problem in high school and I had always planned on going to college in the big city, where I wouldn’t need a car anyway. Plus, I figured that plenty of people get through life without having a driver’s license. What was the rush?

Now that I’m 20-years-old, though, it’s getting to be a hassle to have to call home for rides whenever I go anywhere in the summer. Having a license would also make my life easier and open up more opportunities. As much as I hate to admit it, the T doesn’t go everywhere. Thus, I decided that driving school would be one of my big projects for the summer and I started taking classes the weekend after the semester ended.

In Massachusetts, the driver’s ed curriculum involves sitting in a classroom for 30 hours, watching someone else drive a car for six hours and then driving with an instructor for 12. These requirements are only mandatory for the under-18 crowd, who have to do it to get their licenses early. But completing the whole program gets you a pretty significant discount on your insurance and the package deal worked out to be cheaper than booking lessons individually so off to the classroom I went.

There were 14 people in my class and only one person besides me was over 18. The rest were 16-year-olds, who looked exactly as thrilled to be there as I felt. To make things even more interesting, two days prior to the start of classes, I had crossed another big-ticket item off of my road-to-adulthood checklist: getting my wisdom teeth extracted. Though I wasn’t in a lot of pain, my cheeks were still pretty swollen, so much so that I couldn’t really smile or eat.

But there I was: in a classroom with a bunch of unwilling 16-year-olds on a Saturday, still recovering from a minor surgical procedure. What could possibly go wrong?

Of course, I had forgotten by then that the classroom portion of driving school is basically just 30 hours of being told all the different ways you can die behind the wheel of a car. Either that or you spend two hours straight talking about how to park on a hill. There is no middle ground and the mood-whiplash can be startling: “And that, children, is what the different colored street lights mean. Now, let’s look at this picture of a dead guy who was driving drunk without wearing his seat belt.”

The latter is, I think, an attempt to scare the 16-year-olds out of doing stupid things behind the wheel. I’ll admit that this is an important conversation to have and that it’s hard to talk about these things with teenagers (or anyone, really) without coming off holier-than-thou or sounding like the lame babysitter who won’t let them eat candy for dinner or jump on the bed.

The solution to this, apparently, is the scare-them-straight route. The message is not: “You should wear your seat belt, because it will keep you from getting thrown from the car in the event of a collision.” Instead, it becomes: “Here is a picture of Little Sally’s mutilated corpse. Little Sally did not wear her seat belt and that is why her corpse is so mutilated. If you do not wear your seat belt, you will end up like Little Sally.” There is even extra-special footage of real, fatal accident scenes, which is especially fun if, like me, you have a severe, crippling fear of dead bodies.

I always wonder what the purposes of these videos are. Actually, I do understand the emphasis on texting and driving, because texting seems pretty harmless. After all, if you can walk and text, you can drive and text, right? (Plot twist: you can’t do either and I say this as a serial texter-and-walker. You really can’t do both without, at best, acting like a huge asshole.)

But who among us actually needs to be told that driving drunk is a bad idea? Do people think that we won’t believe that driving drunk or high kills people until we see it for ourselves?

Then again, I think about how many people my age smoke cigarettes, despite the massive campaign lobbed at us since our Sesame Street days telling us that even looking at cigarettes the wrong way is going to give you cancer and kill you. I think about the fact that my orthodontist literally sat down and told me, “Now that your braces are off, you have to wear your retainer every day, or else your teeth will be pushed back to the way that they were before.” And I thought, “Yeah, right. I don’t want to wear my retainer,” which why I have crooked teeth now. I think of all the times my friends and I have stayed up late doing a project that we knew about for weeks, because we deliberately chose to put it off until the very last minute.

This FIGHT THE POWER impulse is something that I think we develop as 13 or 14-year-olds. After hearing the word “no” so many times during your adolescence, you just get so frustrated that you say, “Watch me!” and do what you want to anyway, even if it’s a stupid idea. You cut off your nose to spite your face, as the old saying goes. Moreover, I don’t think it’s something you ever really grow out of, either. As college students, we like to pretend that we’re so much older and smarter than our high school selves. Sometimes, we are. But that doesn’t mean that we’re above any of the petty drama or any less prone to procrastinating.

One of the things that kept getting emphasized at driving school was that driving, for the 16-year-olds, was going to be their first real, proper adult responsibility. Obviously, this is not wholly true for me as a 20-year-old, seeing as I’ve crossed getting into college, living away from my parents and safely taking the T home at questionably late hours off my list, among other responsibilities. But having a driver’s license is still a big deal. After all, it does literally give you the power of life and death.

A popular refrain I’ve heard (usually in terms of making big life decisions) is that if you wait until you’re ready, you’ll never be ready. If you wait until you feel mature to start to act mature, then you’ll never actually get there.  That’s why we have to pretend to be adults for so long, or at least, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few years. You just have to go with it until you start figuring out some of the rules. Getting your driver’s license doesn’t automatically make you more mature than you were the half hour before you took the driving test, but it can definitely help you pretend to be, at least until you eventually figure it out.

One particularly memorable driving school class (it involved many detailed, gruesome accounts of car crashes) ended with the question, “So, are you ready for this?” Obviously we all said “yes” because we wanted to get the class over with. And I do think that I’m ready, in spite of the repeated warnings that there are about a million different ways that I can die driving, half of which don’t even have to be because I did anything wrong. I know that yellow lights don’t mean “slow down,” or “speed up to beat the red light,” but “stop if safe to do so.” I know that the speed limit in a school zone is 20 miles per hour. I know not to flip any other drivers off in case they shoot me in the chest with a crossbow. (The road rage class, ladies and gentlemen!) But I’m not actually going to know whether or not I can drive alone on a highway until I do it on my own.

I don’t know if I’m ready for a lot of the adult responsibilities that I’m going to face in the next couple of years. I don’t know if I’m ready to graduate and get a real job or to move halfway across the country away from my family if a job required me to. But there’s really only one way to find out.

Buckle your seat belts, kids. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.