Breaking the Bubble

It’s over.

Junior year is over. Summer has finally begun. We are assuaged, at this point, with an uncomfortable dichotomy between what we expect to feel and what we actually feel. I thought I’d feel happier, jubilant, more primal somehow–scenes of pelting down the halls, flinging open the front doors, and streaming out into sunlight come into mind. Or at least the mental equivalent of such.

Instead, I just feel…empty.

In the midst of the hurricane that is the IB Programme, it feels like we’ve arrived at the eye of the storm. Suddenly the wind’s howl subsides, the debris stops flying, and we find ourselves standing in a circular spot of quiet and silence. We are now at the perfect middle, right between junior and senior year. Behind us was everything that happened from August 2013 to June 2014–a cacophony of tests, projects, standardized tests, awards, elections, and general suffering. Ahead of us, tumultuous and boding on the horizon, is senior year. It’s still too surreal to believe. We’ve been caught up in the storm for so long that it feels so strange to finally not have all those Internal Assessments and service hours and final exams hanging over our heads, breathing down our necks. It’s weird how suddenly school has let up and disappeared from sight.

Do you ever feel like high school–grades, tests, competitions, all of that–is just a bubble? A big, fat, opaque bubble that you blow from the tip of a plastic wand, that grows and grows and grows and accelerates exponentially until it fills up your vision, it’s all you can see, and then you realize…you’re not the one blowing it anymore. You’re trapped underneath that dome. Freshman year started out innocuously enough–I was a newbie ninth grader who cared about her grades, but had yet to experience a bedtime after ten, a math grade below an A, or an essay longer than a couple pages. But before I knew it, sophomore year had torn by, and then junior year. The academics spiraled down so far, and the stress levels shot up so high, that any past vestige of normalcy seemed ludicrously distant. Nowadays, I can hardly see anything beyond school on a daily basis. It has become, for so many of us, the be-all and end-all.

Yet, when considered rationally, school is not the ultimate frontier. That’s precisely the problem, though. No matter how logically I approach these situations, nothing really cancels out the sheer emotional impact that I’ve come to associate with academia. Even now, as I write this, I can’t imagine what it’s like to do much of anything beyond what few activities I have been carrying out this year by rote. Go to school, go home, repeat. Occasional deviations outside this one path for things like piano competitions at Oakland University, school band concerts at Groves, or the ACT at BHHS. My world has literally been restricted to within this 15-mile radius, in this tiny Michigan suburb and the suburbs around it. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to explore, or see new things, or be exposed to new ideas. Even on breaks, you know what I do? I don’t travel–I stay home and think happily to myself that now I have a little more time to do more practice math problems. I haven’t gone outside out of my own fanciful will to relax and enjoy nature since last summer. Maybe that doesn’t sound too extreme to you. But a year is a long time to spend underneath the bubble. A year is a long time to starve oneself of sunshine, of perspectives, of oxygen.

I don’t want to wait until senior year is over to appreciate the life that I could be living now. Why wait when I could realize, at this moment, that there is more to my future and my abilities than the sliver of what I have shown within these enclosed walls of high school? There is an entire world out there. So many new pairs of shoes to put myself into, so many more characters to meet, and so many more breathtaking panoramas to witness. And the potential that arises from those experiences, I believe, far outstrips any test score that I could get in class.

I was watching the 2014 FIFA World Cup a few days ago, and there was a throw-in. For a couple moments they changed camera angles to a view from directly behind the sidelines. Suddenly, staring at the screen of my laptop, I felt as if I’d broken through a surface. Just from that particular angle, glimpsing the huge stadium field and all the bigger-than-life athletes converging into the viewpoint of the player who was about to throw in the ball, I saw the world in a whole different way. I was reminded, briefly but powerfully, of what it had felt like to play soccer way back in my middle school days. The sound of grass ripping underneath cleats, the twist and jostle of bodies, the salt sting of sweat dripping into my eyes–all of it came rushing back.

That, I thought, is a sensation worth living for. And not just worth living for, but one also worth waiting for–so that, someday, I could somehow feel it again.

- J

How Gabriel Garcia Marquez Stole My Novel Idea

In English class, we’re currently reading Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel’s plot revolves around the death of a man named Santiago Nasar, and how nobody in his town did anything to prevent his demise, even though they all knew it was going to happen and had a multitude of chances to stop it. One of the book’s primary messages concerns the bystander effect, which is a psychological condition that is described by Wikipedia as:

A phenomenon that refers to cases in which individuals do not offer any means of help to a victim when other people are present.

This strikes me as quite funny, because I wrote a noveljust last fall for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and any guesses on what it was about? That’s right, the bystander effect. I know its sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true. In fact, I named the damn thing itself Passerby Empire. Passerby…bystander…get it? And Empire refers to the world, and how widespread the condition is within the society in my book.


Left, mine; right, his

Chronicle was published 1981. I wrote Passerby Empire in 2013. Nonetheless, I vehemently maintain that Gabriel Garcia Marquez has stolen my novel idea. Not only that, but he won a Nobel Prize in Literature for it. I was that close to a Nobel Prize, people! Put that on my gravestone.

In all seriousness, though, I just had to write a post about this because it was too odd of an event for me to pass by (ha). I guess the point to prove here is that ideas, especially book ideas, are often more universal than one may think. Pretty much any author, whether professional, hobbyist, or amateur, has probably had this whole “novel idea stolen” experience before. It may be frustrating, and also existentially perplexing (which then naturally leads to wild conspiracy theories, such as the one I currently stand by that asserts that Marquez waited 70 years for me to be born so he could swindle my greatest artistic thought from my mind-spirit as I lay in the crib, then used a time machine to travel back roughly two decades back into the past to publish the idea into a book, entirely written in Spanish), but ultimately, I believe it’s something all creative individuals must learn to live with.

Besides, ideas are best when they’re not copyrighted. Hoarding character inspirations or plot twists to yourself doesn’t actually help make you any better of a writer, nor does it make those ideas any better than they would be if they were freely discussed and maybe even shared. I’m not speaking out of direct personal experience, but I do believe this statement is true because it matches a fundamental truth that I have observed in my own life–the self-truth that jealousy, anger, and suspicion always work the opposite way than they are intended, and that none of those negative emotions brings any benefit whatsoever to the person who harbors them.

There’s also the issue of magnitude to consider. I mean, if I’m mad that my “bystander effect” idea was stolen and therefore forever invalidated from any possible future publication, significance, or Nobel Prizes, what about all those other poor souls in history that had their ideas snatched and/or miscredited? What about all the unrecognized sidekicks in the world, the Engelses of the Marxs, the Franklins (and, arguably, Wilkinses) of the Cricks and Watsons? And did you know that Darwin wasn’t the first to propose the theory of evolution, or that Einstein wasn’t the guy who discovered E=MC^2? Even that Greek philosopher Pythagoras wasn’t the original one to get to the Pythagorean Theorum.

Thus, I feel inclined to let my distress about my idea being stolen go, and simply lay the whole incident to rest. But first, a special shoutout to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: I got my eye on you, old man. My next NaNoWriMo novel better not make an appearance as another one of your famous 20th century prize-winning books when I sit down to write it this November…

- J 


1 = please forgive the pretentiousness that seeps from the webpage when I refer to the 50,000-word piece of disoriented nonsense I wrote as a “novel”. If there were some other word that had the same meaning, sans the arrogance, I’d use it.