The Art of Growing Up

Art of Growing Up - Hobbies


Lauren -




1. An activity done regularly in one's leisure time for pleasure.

I was probably 9-10 years old when I first learned what a ‘hobby’ was. I was young, so I thought it was an awfully fancy way of describing something you do, because to me, that’s all a hobby was: something you do.

Let me explain.

For the first 18 years of your life, school takes up a majority of your time. However, when you’re in elementary school (or at least in my experience), you don’t spend hours doing homework or lose sleep because you’re cramming for an exam. When you’re young, you’re able to easily disconnect from your schoolwork because it isn’t constantly hanging over your head; it doesn’t consume you the way it does when you get older.

So… what is my point exactly? My point is that, as a child, you have a lot of free-time. And, as a consequence, hobbies aren’t ‘“activities done in leisure time for pleasure”  — they’re just things you genuinely love doing.

Of course, as you get older, your tastes change. When I was a bright-eyed 3rd grader asking my classmates what their hobbies were (and showed off my ‘extensive knowledge’ when they didn’t always know what the word meant), I had the same answer: I like art. It was an easy answer, because I wasn’t sporty and I doodled a lot. Around 7th grade, though, I came to an important realization — I can’t draw. So what did I do instead? I wrote. And I continue to write. Writing is my hobby, and what is a hobby to me as a sophomore in high school? It’s what I do when I’m not busy with school or work.

I do schoolwork from 8:30 AM to 2 in the afternoon, and by 5 o-clock, I’m out the door and driving two towns over for work. I work 20-hour weeks, so 2-3 weekday evenings aren’t my own, and I very rarely have both weekend days off. Though I still have time for my hobbies, I don’t have excess hours to spend on them like I did as an elementary student. Most of my time is now spent inactively preparing for my future: I study hard to get good grades, and I work hard so I have money for college.

I believe that when my attention shifted, so did my definition of what a ‘hobby’ is. Hobbies are no longer simply things I do; they’re ‘’activities [I do] regularly in [my] leisure time for pleasure.” And, if I’m entirely honest, I don’t see that as a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s just a part of growing up.

Kayelona -

Hobbies are important to each of us, and when we consider the big picture, the world. If we didn’t have hobbies, how could an artist know they wanted to pursue art professionally? How might an actor go into that field? If hobbies weren’t pursued, some careers would be void and those careers give our world color. For example, when you’re having a stressful day, you might come home and watch a movie. The people on the screen pursued their hobby and are now paid for your enjoyment. But not all of us are going to make it big--if that’s your goal--because too many soccer players would make our world unproductive. So, why is it important that each of us find our hobbies and pursue them?

Hobbies range from sports to painting, knitting to reading, and beyond. We explore the things that interest us--you don’t even have to be good at it--and attempt those things in our free time, often to relieve stress. For example, I am interested in taking up embroidering, but I don’t know the first thing about it. If I were to embroider, it would become a hobby to relieve stress and spend my time creating something beautiful. Embroidery is becoming more popular and I’m not sure if you’ve seen pictures of the creations, but they are so cool. But maybe embroidery is not your thing; it’s not everyone’s. Maybe you go to your backyard and throw around a baseball when you’re upset or you might play an instrument. Whatever your hobby is, one of the purposes it serves to relieve stress.

When we practice or explore new hobbies, we are voluntarily spending our time doing something we love to do. Especially when we come home from school or work, we want to spend time doing something we want to do, right? It brings us joy to accomplish a piece of music, establish a record running speed, or whatever you enjoy because you enjoy it! The older we get, the more stressful life can become. Our hobbies serve as a coping mechanism against that because after a long day of executing orders--depending on the job or schoolwork--we spend time doing the hobbies that bring us happiness.

Hobbies typically help us with self-expression, at least in the arts. Sports, although I don’t participate, give you space to release your ultra-competitive side while being apart of a team. Maybe video games bring you joy because you enjoy placing yourself in someone else’s shoes. Different personalities might participate in different hobbies; personalities like myself are more likely to enjoy hobbies in the arts whereas personalities like my little brother might prefer sports. We choose our hobbies because they relieve negative emotions, we enjoy them, but also because we find something in them. For example, I love to write. I love writing because I am able to express the thoughts and ideas I have and when I write fiction, I am able to step away and take on the persona of another character. I think there is something romantic about being able to create something so vivid with nothing but words. Just like I have reasons for enjoying writing, you have reasons for your hobby. Whatever the reason, hobbies allow us to either find ourselves or, if we have that mindset, release a part of ourselves.

As Lauren said earlier, the time we have to spend on hobbies diminishes as we grow older. As we gain more responsibility and obligations, the stress increases. We also don’t spend time on ourselves like we used to, as Lauren said, which comes with growing up. This is why I think hobbies become more important as we grow older.

I encourage you to find what makes you happy, no matter how stupid it may be. Maybe you like writing short stories, drawing anime, or bowling. Whatever it is, you do you!

Lauren -

I think the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to balancing responsibilities and hobbies is that finding a happy medium is key. If you spend all of your time worrying about what you have to do, you’ll lose sight of who you really are and what you really enjoy. However, if you spend your time only participating in hobbies, you’ll never get anything done.

Making time for the things you love, even in a busy life, is crucial. It keeps us sane, reduces stress, etc. No matter how busy you are, I can guarantee you can save at least 15 minutes a day to do something that makes you happy. Read a book, write, or draw before going to bed. Find some friends to shoot hoops with, or in this colder weather, maybe go sledding. Hobbies don’t have to be grand affairs or something you have to dedicate hours of work and time to — they’re the things you love doing. So do them.

Thanks for reading! Until next time…

K + L

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Art of Growing Up - Friendship


Lauren -

Being in high school is weird. Having friends in high school is even weirder.  Assuming all of you are fellow RVA students, being home-schooled and juggling ‘real life’ can be difficult enough. Throwing friendship into the mix, virtual or otherwise? I can imagine it makes things a lot tougher.

I personally don’t have this problem; I don’t have any ‘real’ friends. And for a long time, I used homeschooling as an excuse for that. After all, I’m not surrounded by kids my age for 8+ hours a day. In fact, the only time I’m with teenagers is when I’m work. But, if I’m being honest, I don’t think these factors are why I don’t have in-person friendships —  I don’t think I’m built for them, at least not right now. That probably sounds really sad or like I’m lying to myself, but I have my reasons. And, obviously, I’m here to explain them.

1.  Finding people you have things in common with is hard.

I’m not sure if this is a small-town thing or just a real-life thing. Regardless, I have yet to meet someone that thinks the way I do, likes the music I do, has the same hobbies as me, etc. You get the point.

2. I’m an introvert.

Again, this probably sounds like an excuse. Being an introvert and having friends aren’t mutually exclusive; you probably know an introvert with a decent crowd, or you may be an introvert with friends. But when you spend 20 hours a week, up to 8 a day talking to people, sometimes I just want to be alone.

3.  I don’t really know what ‘friendship’ means.

When I was younger, I used to model my idea of friendship off of what I saw on TV. And unsurprisingly, television displays the ‘ideal’ version of things — you hear characters talk about how they’ve known each other for years, and how they tell each other everything. I’m no longer in touch with anyone I went to elementary school with, and I’ve never trusted anyone enough to tell them everything about me.

Does that really mean I’ve never had friends, though? Or have I just never had one of the many possible friendships?

Kayelona -

Friendship is one of the most difficult but rewarding things a person can have. Having friends as a teen is really hard, in case you didn’t know. For half of high school, our parents have to chauffeur us and our friends around town and that gets old fast. We also don’t have a ton of money to spend, which makes doing things with friends difficult. There are so many reasons why having friends can be difficult but rewarding, but I’d like to discuss what a friend means.

What does the word “friend” mean? Well, this word means something different to each of us, both in the friends we choose and how we interact with our friends. For instance, some might say that comfortable teasing is a sign of true friendship while others might say eating off each other’s plates is the sign. I personally know I have a true friendship with someone when the conversation never ceases. My introverted self sometimes finds it hard to keep conversations going, so when I am relaxed and natural in conversation, I have found a soulmate.

There are varying levels of friendship. I have some friends with who I could spew my soul to, but others only know what I’m doing over the weekend. Those friends who know me inside and out have proved themselves over and over and they are special people to me. I have intentionally picked my deepest friendships; I have weighted relationships with people who have proven themselves to be good human beings. Don’t become friends with people who treat others like trash and be intentional with the true and raw relationships you harbor.

We have often heard the words “good” and “bad” tagged onto “friend,” but what does that mean? A good friend is someone who encourages you, loves you for you, and enjoys your company simply for the joy of spending time with you. A good friend is someone who listens, understands, and laughs at the inside jokes. In order to be a good friend, sometimes you have to sacrifice your wants. You must listen without offering solutions because unless someone asks for advice, they probably don’t want it. You have to pay attention to your friend’s likes and dislikes. Aside from having a good friend, it is possible to have a bad friend. This friend will exhibit selfish behavior, talk over you, and never compromise. They might tease you to the point of insecurity or make you uncomfortable. Bad friends not only treat you poorly, but they might exhibit bad peer pressure. Although it’s been implied, I’ll echo myself: don’t be a bad friend.

So, I guess the age old question still stands: how can you be a good friend? It’s easy to be a good friend to someone you respect, so find decent human beings. Once you find a decent human to call your own, pay attention to their personality and what makes them tick. When you find out their favorite food is Chinese, you can take them out for Chinese. If you find out that your human is an introvert, it’ll be easier for you when they don’t crawl out of their cocoon for days. Do you see what I mean? This shows that you pay attention and that you care. Another thing you can do is listen. I cannot stress this enough. We all need someone to listen from time to time, both about our problems and our ramblings. I think the best way to be a good friend is to treat them with the golden rule in mind. If you treat your friend with love and kindness, you’ve already exhibited good friend behavior.

Don’t stress too much about being a good or bad friend; so long as you treat others with kindness, you should be fine. If you stress too much about it, you’ll probably become a negligent friend. Chances are if people like to hang out with you, you probably are an excellent friend.

Lauren -

As Kayelona said, there are many different forms of friendship, and there are many types of friends you can be. I clearly agree with this — you may have noticed that I used the phrase ‘in-person’ or ‘real’ friends to describe why I don’t have any. Well, it’s because I have friends online.

I’ve known my best friend Ella for over 2 years now, and surprisingly, we didn’t meet through school. We met on a social media website, and we quickly bonded over the interests we share and the traits we have in common. But just because we’ve never met in person, people are quick to judge and assume that we can’t actually be friends.  

Basically what I’m trying to say is that friendship isn’t what bystanders tell you it is: friendship is what you and the other party make of it. You can make friends in easy settings, like work or school, or you can bond over something deeper. When it comes down to it, though, one type of friendship is no more valid than the other. As long as you put in the same effort and feel comfortable around your friend, the relationship you share is real and valid.

Kayelona -

I think it’s really cool that Lauren has been able to find friends online. Our society is changing and so are our friendships. The structure of our friendships has changed from a hundred years ago. The types of friends we can meet have also changed. People of older generations may try to tell you what the definition of friendship is, but only you can decide what that looks like for you. Although there are many different formats of friendship, the goal is to form a deep human connection and it doesn’t matter where you meet people or how you interact.

Until next time…

K + L

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The Art of Growing Up - Peer Pressure

Lauren -

Peer pressure is something we’re taught about at a young age; we learn that, as our friends get older, their ideas get dumber, and it’s our job to be the bigger person and walk away. We’re taught tactics on how to deal with the confrontation, from switching the subject to asserting yourself and your beliefs. When I was in grade school, and thus too young to really understand what ‘peer pressure’ meant, I vividly remember imagining a situation where I would be the ‘hero’ and stand up for myself.

Obviously, time has passed — my grade and age are no longer in the single digits. I, as I’m sure most of you feel in regards to yourselves, like to think I’m smarter and more mature than my second-grade self. Which is ironic, because in this context, I still feel like a little girl in pigtails.

I’ve never truly faced peer pressure, or at the very least, I haven’t experienced it in the way we’re taught about it. I’ve never walked into the bathroom to find girls smoking and offering me a cigarette. I haven’t been given beer before a dance. I’ve never gone to a party and been passed pills, weed, or any other drug you can think of.  But, at least from what I’ve heard, these aren’t the most accurate representations of modern peer pressure.

The closest I’ve come to dealing with the peer pressure seen in media is following a crowd rather than following my gut. I suppose in some ways, that’s all peer pressure really is: after all, as Kayelona is about to explain, there is such a thing as good peer pressure. Still, based on what I’ve learned in the past, it’s taken me years and multiple experiences to recognize peer pressure isn’t just people offering you things and you saying no.

So, now that I know peer pressure comes in so many different forms, I think it begs the question of why we’re taught it in such a specific way.

I personally believe we’re taught about peer pressure with such extreme examples because — as I mentioned above — we’re all too young to actually experience this phenomenon by the time we learn what it is. We’re not smart enough to realize that there are subtle ways to peer pressure, or that it doesn’t always revolve around illegal substances/practices. So, we learn about it in the most cut-and-dry style: this is what it is, and this is how you deal with it.

But how much does that actually help? How are we supposed to recognize that (when coerced by friends) staying out a little too late, wearing an outfit you normally wouldn’t, or in some other way feeding into misguided behavior are all peer pressure, just like being offered drugs or cigarettes is?

Kayelona -

I’m sure all of us have learned about peer pressure, if not from health class, then from another source. If you can recall, there is good and bad peer pressure. We all know that a friend that forces you to do drugs or whatever else is bad peer pressure. A friend who encourages you to further a skill you are good at is good peer pressure. But where’s the line and how can we tell how far is too far? How do we know what is good and what is bad?

First of all, what is peer pressure? Merriam-Webster Dictionary says, “a feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one's age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them.” As the definition says, peer pressure comes from our peers. Everyone wants to be liked and accepted, so peer pressure exceeds adolescence, but during our teenage years, this desire is huge. Because we all long to be accepted, peer pressure is a prominent problem during this time in our lives. Peer pressure can come in all shapes and sizes: friends, parents, clothes, technology, and so much more.

Now that we’ve covered what peer pressure is, let’s talk about good versus bad. Bad peer pressure is anything that makes you uncomfortable or compromises who you are. This can look different for everyone. For example, the pressure of social media might significantly impact one student but have no effect on another. Bad peer pressure can have an impact on something so minor as your style of clothing to something as serious as your health. On the other hand, good peer pressure is something we don’t often think of. Good peer pressure is anything that makes you a better person or enhances a skill. If you like photography and a friend encouraged you to join the photography enthusiast club, that would be good peer pressure. A good alternative word for good peer pressure might be ‘encouragement.’

So how can you tell the difference? If peer pressure makes you uncomfortable or asks you to do something you know is wrong, it’s probably bad. Positive peer pressure is something that stretches you to think beyond your average mindset and may make you a better person. You might also be able to tell if it’s good or bad based on where it comes from. If a trusted family member or friend is pressuring you into something beneficial, it might be good. But if pressure is coming from bad influences or untrustworthy friends, it’s bad peer pressure.

Another thing we don’t think about is that good peer pressure can turn bad. Let’s say you enjoy something and there is a club that offers your interest. Maybe a friend wants you to join, and that is good; they are encouraging you to expand your horizons and become better at your interest. Let’s say, for various reasons, you don’t want to join that club but your friend pesters you constantly to join. You’ve told them “no” but they won’t stop. At this point, the pressure is becoming disrespectful; even with good intentions, this is bad because it pushes you into something you don’t want.

How do we say no to bad peer pressure? Well, you can simply say “no.” Even though it’s hard, I would rather be rejected than compromise my morals or wishes. We can avoid people or sources who would provide bad peer pressure. Choose friends that lift you up and don’t ask you to do things you are uncomfortable with. Maybe social media is presenting negative peer pressure for you. Take a “social media cleanse.” In other words, step away from the screen for a little while. You have the power to choose what influences you, so choose well.

Lauren -

Kayelona pointing out that peer pressure can ‘turn bad’ is SO important. I think that, after spending so much time getting to know someone, you start to believe that good intentions is all that matters, which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Of course, in these situations, your friends probably don’t mean to manipulate you. But when it comes down to it, if you’re doing something you don’t want to do because of someone else, it’s peer pressure,  whether the intention was good or bad.

I think almost all of us can recall a time we felt like the odd one out. It’s a very isolating and alien thing, and if you’re anything like me, you wanted nothing more than to shake the feeling away. When it comes down to it, though you have to ask yourself: is feeling good in the moment worth the years/lifetime of regret it could bring?

Like I said: I’ve never been confronted with drugs, cigarettes, etc. However, I have absolutely regretted saying something or acting a certain way because I thought it would impress someone. Now, I’ve decided that people can take me or leave me. But in the past, I’ve made jokes at other people’s (or even my own) expenses, and I’ve changed my personality because I thought it would better complement someone else’s. And I can personally assure you: it didn’t do me any good in the long run.

Kayelona -

Peer pressure isn’t fun, it just isn’t. As Lauren said, it can make us feel isolated and alienated, and no one enjoys feeling lonely. Aside from feeling lonely, when you stray away from popular opinion, you are left feeling like a weirdo. But again, as Lauren said, is a moment of satisfaction and acceptance worth the inevitable consequences? You might end up feeling lonely or weird, but when you stay true to what you know, you won’t regret it.

Lauren -

Impressing yourself will always be more respectable than impressing someone else. So, if someone is pressuring you into doing something that doesn’t feel right, it’s peer pressure. And there is a simple way to make the feeling go away — don’t do it. Obviously, this is far easier said than done, but like Kayelona mentioned, staying true to yourself and what you believe in is something you’ll never truly regret.

Until next time…

K + L

| The idea for this article was brought to you by Monique Roberts, an RVA Student.

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The Art of Growing Up - College


Lauren -

I, like many other children, assumed that college was not only necessary, but that it was pretty much exactly like the same old school I was used to. Boy oh boy, was I wrong.

I think I was around 11-12 when I realized that student loans were a thing. I thought college was only different from high school because you live on campus (dormitories). Learning not only that you had to pay to take classes, but also PAY to live in a dorm, blew my mind.

Until relatively recently, I had absolutely no desire to go to college, and I think a lot of that stemmed from me not knowing what I wanted to do. I have hobbies that could transfer into a career, but they’re all creative, and the creative industry is not a very stable one.  Obviously, it is important to love what you do, but whenever I considered my future career, I saw financial stability. As much as I love writing, it is not the most dependable career choice in existence.

I decided I would never go to medical school at the same time I learned college wasn’t required. I am not sure why I singled out medical school; I think part of it had to do with me watching my mother go through nursing school. And, as some of you may know, nursing school is 4 years long, not including the gen ed that prefaces it. Which, after learning I didn’t even have to go to college to begin with, seemed excessive and undesirable.

As you can imagine, I faced a turning point: I discovered that I didn’t have to drop everything and move into a dorm the moment I turned 18. My brother accepted a full-time job after he graduated high school, and the way my parents responded taught me something really important: my pursuit of higher education didn’t have to be average.

I was never told that if I wanted to go to college, I’d have to move out, live in a dorm, and be broke until I got my degree — I just assumed I had to because it is what everyone else did.  And I think the idea of being alone in a dorm, in debt, without any money… I think that’s what scared me most about college.

I watched my brother take college courses while also going to work and living at home, and my parents merely mentioning I could do the same gave me the freedom to make my own choices. I no longer felt trapped in a role, no longer did I have to choose all or nothing when it came to college. I realized I had options, which was so liberating that I really ca not put it into words.

I wouldn’t have to move out right away.

I wouldn’t have to simultaneously manage being in debt and paying for rent.

I could still work 20+ hour weeks.

It didn’t have to be all or nothing.

Kayelona -

College is an overwhelming thing to think about. Leaving home, studying like crazy, student loans, all on my lonesome. It hurts my brain when I think about for too long. But, for some of us, it is a necessary step towards our future.

When I was a kid, I loved the stories my parents would tell me about their college experiences. Not only did I enjoy learning about how they met and the fun times they had, but college was a foreign and complex idea that interested me. I liked to hear about their majors and favorite professors, among other things.

Unlike some kids, I never felt the pressure to attend college. My parents told me I could do anything I wanted, and that included college. If I did not want a higher education, there was no pressure, at least from parents. I am truly grateful for this. If I had been forced into college, it would not be enjoyable, but a duty. I look forward to college because it is something I want.

The older I grew, the more I wanted to plan my future and so I became fascinated by college. One thing I have learned to love about myself is my idealistic mindset. I am always planning ahead, imagining the big picture. I have been “planning” for college for a few years now because of that trait. Another characteristic that has helped me in thinking about school is my desire to know everything. So when a school interests me, I might spend hours on their website, trying to find everything that I can. I can pick which ones interest me based on the information I have.  

A huge thing that has fueled my passion for college is that I’ve always known what I wanted to do. That does sounds dramatic; so let me break it down for you. When I was young, I wanted to be an author. And then I wanted to be a journalist for a little while. When that phase was over, I was certain I wanted to be an English teacher. See a pattern? You might have guessed it: I want to major in English. Going to college with an idea of what I want my future to look like makes college less intimidating. With all that said, I am not giving you ways to be successful in a college search, or how to pick the best one, or anything like that. I am simply expressing how my personality fits in the “going to college” crowd.

As Lauren said earlier, student loans are a thing, and a scary thing at that. This is the part of college all of us wish we could ignore, right? Sadly, we cannot. In my previously mentioned research, I have found many grants and scholarships that would help any given student. I’ll save you a list of schools that have made education more affordable and I’ll just say: do your research on your chosen school. See if they have scholarships you can apply for and by all means, avoid student loans if possible. I would assume the last thing anyone wants is to be in is drowning debt, at any period of their lives.

I am not sure if you’ve toured any colleges, but if you have, have you noticed how different each college feels? The air you breathe just feels different on every campus. Find the air that best settles in your lungs. In other words, find a college that works for you. Do not please anyone else with your choice. After all, you will be the one studying there for a few years. So look for colleges that offer your preferred major, your favorite sport, has six libraries, or just whatever fits your fancy.

Whether or not we like to admit it, we are all a little bit scared to leave our family and to live on our own. Sure, it will be an adventure. Sure, you have been excited about leaving. But when it comes down to it, you won’t be able to eat Mom’s homemade soup regularly anymore. And obviously, you’ll miss your annoying little brother too. You could attend a school in close vicinity to your family and then you can eat Mom’s soup every night, but some of us might find our home elsewhere. Long story short, it will be a new and scary adventure, an adventure you can’t take your family on like we could in high school.

But not everyone needs to go to college. As I have met several successful people who never even graduated from college. Likewise, there are people my age who would not enjoy and appreciate a higher education as I would. College is not the key to success, but a stepping stool. Long story short, don’t worry about a higher education if that’s not what you want.

Make your college search personal and choose the school that you feel you will thrive in. Be smart about the decisions you make regarding college. Ultimately though, college may or may not be apart of your story, but you need to find the resources to be successful in whatever you want to pursue in life.

Lauren -

Maybe you are like Kayelona, and you have had a mostly positive relationship with college. Maybe you’re more like me, and your opinions on college have changed with your age. Maybe you have already been through these dilemmas, maybe you’re trying to avoid them at all costs. Regardless, I think we all have a lot to learn when it comes to college. I don’t mean that in a ‘everyone should go to college if they want to succeed’ way; I mean that, as cheesy as it sounds, we have a lot to learn from each other.

As you read, a lot of my worries were solved by simply listening to other people’s stories. I was so caught up in my own head that I didn’t realize college doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.

There are so many different ways to attend college, so many different degrees, so many career options. If you are struggling with the idea of college, reach out to someone: a guidance counselor, a teacher, a parent, or a friend. You may discover that college just isn’t right for you. However, you might open yourself up to more opportunities than imaginable.

Kayelona -

Basically, what we’re saying here is to specialize your college experience to what you need. You might be like Lauren who is interested in the unconventional college path. Or you might be like me who is excited about the whole college experience. Maybe you’re in between. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to your personal college experience. When you get to college, if that’s where you’re headed, join clubs and take classes that interest you. Make the years after college about learning, experiences, and meeting new people; however that looks it is up to you.

College is intimidating, I know. Maybe make a list of everything you want in a college and base your search on that. You might be a researcher like me and try to discover all the college has to offer, whether online or by tour. You might be like Lauren and have learned from people around you. But as I said, there really is no cut-and-dry, right or wrong answer to college. Any college experience you can imagine is probably offered somewhere, you just have to find it.

Best of luck!

K + L

The Art Of Growing Up - Holidays


Lauren -

Christmas: the time of year we bask in joy, reflect on the year, and see family members we can never remember the names of. That last part (at least for me) is a massive part of the Holidays, but our Thanksgiving special — appropriately titled ‘Awkward Family Gatherings’ — already touched on that. Thankfully, for the sake of this article, there is much more to be said on Christmas. More specifically, there’s much more to be said about Christmas as a teenager.

As a teen, you’re in that awkward stage of life where you don’t know who you have to give presents to. When you try to follow certain rules, like ‘whoever gives me a gift, I should give them something back’, you’ll probably never remember/be fiscally able to do so. Also, how are you supposed to know how to shop for cousins half your age or aunts you see 4 times a year?

Which brings me to another point: NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO SHOP FOR YOU.

I get it. Really, I do. Between ages 10-14, my personality changed every other day. That’s a lot for people you live with to understand, let alone people you don’t see on a regular basis. After a certain point, I think everyone (except parents, at least most of the time) just gives the teenagers in their lives gift cards. I mean, what else do you get someone who’s not an adult yet somehow old enough to legally have a job?

Of course, I’ve never turned down a gift card, and I doubt any of you have. Heck, when I couldn’t think of anything to get my siblings for Christmas, my first answer was ‘gift cards’ as well. But then my mom chimed in with her opinion and said that — and I quote — “If you’re just going to get them gift cards, why don’t the two of you just agree to not get each other anything?”

This led to me finally understanding something I haven’t for the last 16 years — it really is the thought that counts.

I’ve spent most of my life loving Christmas. My birthday is on the 7th of December, so I always awaited the month. When Christmas ads started showing up on TV, I knew my birthday was approaching, and after that, Christmas would be too! I was the kind of kid who had a hard time falling asleep on Christmas Eve because I was so excited to open presents. One year, I even slept on the family room floor in an attempt to stay up and see Santa.

Now that I’m getting older, I just don’t feel that excitement anymore. I’ve been so busy trying to manage school and work without totally caving in that I honestly keep forgetting Christmas is next week. I’m so caught up in my own life that I forget Christmas time is supposed to be for family and relaxation.

I think this is the first year I’m really beginning to see Christmas from a perspective that is no longer a child’s. Don’t get me wrong: I have no intentions of raiding Whoville and stealing Christmas. I’m just not excited for the Holidays anymore (This isn’t as sad as it sounds. Stick around for the conclusion).

Kayelona -

Christmas! ‘Tis the season for you-fill-in-the-blank. At this point, you’ve probably realized that being a teenager during the holiday season can be difficult, especially the gift-giving aspect of Christmas. We’re here to tell you that you’re not alone when your Grandma gets you socks for the fourth Christmas in a row.

Even though I love Christmas, I personally think that giving gifts is super hard and comes with different challenges. As teens, we don’t have as much money as we’d like to, which means cheap presents it is. If you really search, you might find some good ones, but you have to spend a lot of time finding the perfect gift that fits your budget, however small.

On the other hand, homemade gifts are an option as well. But who has the time these days? If you want your homemade gift to actually look good, you have to spend time tweaking and designing it to your liking. Besides that, you have to find the materials to make things, which can get exhausting.

What’s the happy medium? I don’t think there really is a happy medium; we are forced to find what works best for this time in our lives. That probably wasn’t the answer you were hoping for, but you need to follow your gut when hunting for the perfect present.  This year, I bought my immediate family inexpensive but nice gifts and made things for everyone else. For my schedule this year--it changes every year, this worked best.

Which brings me to another point: who do you give gifts to? There is subconscious pressure put around gift giving during the holidays, for everyone I think. I have discovered that buying gifts for everyone you’ve ever met can get expensive, so I have devised a solution. Make or buy gifts for the people you love without the expectation of receiving anything in return.

On numerous occasions, I have found myself omitting a person from my gift list because I knew I would get nothing in return, which is a wrong mindset to have. I think at some point we’ve all had this mindset, which is why Christmas has grown so gift-crazed.

I have settled into the mentality that giving is more fun than receiving. I would rather see my friend’s face light up in excitement than get something myself. Buying presents should be a thoughtful expression of love, not a looming expectation. This might sound cheesy, but we so often forget the reason for the season, focusing on the “must-haves” and perfect decorations instead.

Christmas should be about the cooking baking day, laughing when Dad forgets what’s in the box labeled “From Mom and Dad,” and seeing Christmas lights with the ones we love. It should be about putting marshmallows in your hot cocoa while laughing with your friend, eating good food with loved ones, and watching Christmas movies. Presents are a way to show love and appreciation, not a ploy to get more things in our already packed lives. Memories are what make Christmas special.

How does all of that mushy-gushy stuff relate to gift giving? Take the expectation of gift-giving off of yourself and focus on the memories you make. Pick out gifts that make you think of your loved ones, and buy for the joy of giving. If gifts are a priority, find the people that you love and give accordingly. We often make it harder than it needs to be, and I’m growing frustrated with the expectations. Let’s make Christmas simple again; let’s give for the sake of giving and spend the time needed to make lasting memories with our families.

Lauren -

Basically what I’m trying to say is that I don’t understand the point of the Holidays when it’s all based on superficial things. So many people get caught up in having the perfect party, snagging the perfect gifts for everyone, and being the best host(ess) that the real purpose of whatever Holiday you’re celebrating gets lost in the chaos. Like Kayelona mentioned, we spend so much time effort, and sometimes money worrying about making/buying presents to the point it no longer feels genuine. And when it comes down to it… what’s the point? So we can add to someone’s collection of things they don’t really need? So we can hope to get something back for ourselves? So we can never, no matter how hard we try, live up to our own expectation of a ‘perfect’ Christmas?

This isn’t me trying to sound like I’ve found the key to happiness during the holidays; I too used to fawn over things like presents under a beautiful tree or, like I mentioned, being so excited to open said presents I couldn’t sleep. However, I think the insanity that is growing up has made me wonder if you aren’t celebrating for the right reasons, why bother celebrating at all?

When it comes down to it, December 25th (or the holiday you celebrate) is just a day in one of the many years we’ll live through. It’s not a magnetic force that causes everyone to celebrate — we celebrate for whatever we think (as cheesy as it sounds) is the ‘true’ meaning of Christmas.

Kayelona -

I love what Lauren said about the Holidays being based on superficial things. Even Thanksgiving has grown superficial, and we’re not even giving presents. I too believe that holidays are growing more superficial and less meaningful to some degree. I think that meaningful Christmases look different to each of us, so it might a lifelong challenge to discover how to have a truly significant Holiday Season.

Lauren’s comment on the 25th just being another day is something I’ve never thought of, but it is quite thought-provoking, isn’t it? We have put so much pressure on one day of the year, and it’s all unnecessary.

Lauren -

If you’re all about gifts and decor and baking, don’t feel attacked by this article: we aren’t trying to say those things aren’t valid. In fact, I feel as though most of my Christmases as a kid were spent enjoying things like gifts and baking. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you, like myself, are struggling to define what this time of year means to you, I purpose a challenge.

Define what Christmas means to you. It doesn’t have to be deep or emotional: it can be whatever you want. Because that’s the point of the Holidays, isn’t it? To be happy. Not stressed, not broke, not overwhelmed. Happy.  

Merry Christmas!


The Art of Growing Up - Grades


Lauren -

To some of us, good grades come naturally. For others, academic success is a reward reaped only after effort (and, sometimes, a lot of tears). Some of you will relate when I say I’m one of those annoying people who easily get good grades — I’m sure the rest of you are groaning or rolling your eyes. Don’t tune me out just yet, though! I still have plenty to say.

It’s not lost on most of us kids/teens that school is important; there has to be a reason we spend over a decade simply learning, right? Of course, I can recognize it’s important without loving it.  But when it comes down to it — whether you don’t study or spend hours studying —, I think myself and all you lovely readers can agree school has a purpose. If you think the purpose is a bright future, I wouldn’t disagree. If you think it’s mind-numbing torture, I also wouldn’t disagree with you. Your opinion is your own.

There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the American school system (and just school in general) in the last few years. The rise of social media and the resulting influencers has made people more outspoken, for better or for worse. A recently debated topic has been what school focuses on teaching and if it’s really useful to you in everyday life. There are of course the opposers (‘anti-school’ preachers, if you will), and those in favor of elementary through high school education.  While the former argue that school doesn’t teach you basic life skills, like paying taxes or mortgages, the latter say education is needed to start a worthwhile career.

Whenever I hear an opinion similar to the ones above, I always ask myself the same question: what does this person consider as successful? (I’m sure you’re wondering how this ties into grades. Don’t worry: I’ll get there.)

I grew up believing that the only path I could take after school was college. My parents never enforced the idea, so I think I decided this simply because it’s what everyone else did. The older I got, though, the more I actually learned about life after school. I learned that college is not only is it something you don’t have persue, but if you do continue your education, you have to pay for it. I have a lot to say about college and my perception of it, so much that I can write a whole other column on it, so I won’t bore you with the specific details.

But… what if you don’t want to go to college? Does that make your time in school useless?  And if it does, why even bother trying?

Well, here are two things I see as fact:

  1. School doesn’t always teach you useful practices, but it does teach you how to learn and interpret information, which is a skill you’ll need for the rest of your life.

  2. Everyone has their own definition of success.

All of us have to go to school. However, as Kayelona’s about to say below, what you put in is what you get out. If you put no effort into school, whether it be constantly late assignments, refusing to learn new concepts, or just not paying attention when you’re supposed to, you’re not doing yourself any good. Heck, you could get good grades, but that’s not really the point. At least, it isn’t in my mind.

Good grades are rewarding. You can look at an A in your coursework and see that your hard work paid off. But some of us work hard and still don’t see the benefits. Spending hours on homework or days deciphering a topic only to submit an assignment and have it come back as less than perfect… it’s a terrible feeling. And I think we’ve been trained to believe it makes us a failure. I’m here to tell you otherwise.

In my mind, good grades are not everything; they aren’t a reflection on how good of a student you are. If this idea sounds initially bizarre to you, let me paint a picture: there are two students in the same class. One answers the teacher’s questions and asks their own when they’re confused. They spend time on their assignments and submit them only when they’re ready. The other student doesn’t interact in class, they don’t ask questions when they’re confused, and they submit assignments after spending only mere minutes on them. What if the second student had a 95% score in the course, but the other one had a 90%? Does that 5% really make the second student a better student? Because to me, there’s no competition.

Kayelona -

Good grades are often something high school students strive for. At least that’s what I strive for. Each student performs differently in the classroom and that is nothing to ridicule, but good grades should be a priority. Believe me, I understand subject preferences. We’re all wired differently and we are good at various things. But because I am not mathematically inclined is not an excuse for a failing grade. In everything I do, even if I’m not great at it, my goal is to put my best foot forward with the intent to learn. Here in the RVA, our grades become personal, which is one of the reasons I love this school. We each take personal responsibility for our grades and overall high school career.

The most obvious answer: if higher education is your desire, grades will be an important factor while attempting to get in. Colleges will look at your academic performance often as a snapshot of your intellectual capability. If a higher education is not the step after high school, that’s cool too. But just because college isn’t in the cards doesn’t make grades any less important.

Education is a privilege that impacts our future. I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again, “You get out what you put in.” If you work hard for good grades, you learn more and develop better skills pertaining to school, such as note-taking or time management. We as Americans have the privilege of an education and, although some useless stuff is taught, we still have a leg-up on many others.

I believe that good grades teach us hard work. Even if getting good grades is easy for some of us, you still have to work towards understanding and doing your best. You still have to take the time to study and do well. People often complain that education doesn’t teach us life skills. While I agree with some of the things they argue, they neglect that school can teach us organization, time management, hard work, etc.

I become proud of myself for earning a good grade that I worked for. It’s like the feeling when you finally sink your teeth into a fresh cookie that you made. I worked on the assignment I submitted and I feel accomplished that it was recognized, or even when a teacher gives me constructive criticism. Not that grades fuel my self-worth, but it makes me happy when I receive a grade I worked for.

Like I’ve said, I understand that not everyone performs the same in school. Just because some of us enjoy school with ease, that doesn't mean that others will. Work towards finding what you’re good at, academic and life wise, and do your best to excel.

Whether school is a place you thrive in or you just struggle through, setting personal goals regarding grades is important. I believe that so long as you do your best in every assignment and ask questions, you are succeeding. Attempting to understand is a huge step towards academic victory. All your teachers ask and what I hope you ask of yourself is to do your best.

Lauren -

Neither of us has really answered the age-old question: “Do good grades in school really matter?”. I don’t know about you, but when I was going through elementary school, I frequently heard that grades aren’t really applicable until you reach a certain age (generally, High school age.) I think this is supposed to relieve stress, but now that I’m older and looking back, I think it’s ultimately harmful.

Yes, grades matter, no matter how far along you are in your education. Grades matter because they reveal your work ethic. Your work ethic matters because you’ll need
good work ethic to get a job. You need a job because you need to support yourself. It’s a cycle that we’re all familiar with and recognize.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘good’ grades are important. As both myself and Kayelona mentioned above, good grades are oftentimes a reward for our hard work. But on the other hand, we also both said that some people put a lot of effort into schoolwork without necessarily seeing the results. So, what’s the middle ground, you might ask?

Words speak louder than anything, including numbers. You could be a student with a 2.5 GPA and 80% average score, but teachers may still have better things to say about you than the 3.9, 99.9999% ranking student.  Because, for the trillionth time, a letter grade or percentage doesn’t necessarily deem you as a good or bad student.

Kayelona -

I do find it interesting when Lauren says grades never mattered in elementary school because now that I look back, that is very true. We were taught to shovel all the stress little kids can feel onto the future. Because of that, the pressure to perform became suddenly real for many of us. Even though I remember as a kid working hard for good grades and becoming excited when I received all “A”s on my report card, the only stress I felt stemmed from myself. Now in high school, it seems that the pressure comes from every which way, and that becomes stressful.

I do agree with Lauren when she says grades, in general, are important. As we have both previously said, some of us are good at school, and others don’t thrive in the same way. We have also said that whichever category you land in is okay. In whatever way Lauren and I attempt to answer this quite difficult question, it is only applicable to individuals, in other words, it’s subjective.

Lauren’s comment about numbers not labeling people is something that rings true. As our country is evolving, so are the colleges. Admissions offices will look at their applicant as a person, not just their test scores. Don’t get me wrong, colleges will look at how you did academically, but they want to know who you are before they decide. They take a holistic approach to your application before saying yes or no, which is why colleges require essays. The higher education some of us work towards doesn’t label us solely by our GPA, so why do we?

Lauren -

Funnily enough, I still stressed out over grades and school as young child. I guess the logic of my older siblings and comforting parents didn’t have the effect they wanted it to. 😅 We really didn’t savor the years before function notation and cellular respiration, did we?

I think the moral of the story is that, while good grades look pretty on report cards and to Ivy-League schools, they definitely aren’t one-size-fits-all. My mom always told me that as long as I’m trying my best, I’m doing well in school. Sometimes I think we ALL — ‘good’ students, not-so-’good’ students, etc. —  need to take a step back and remember that.

Thanks for reading; see you next time!

K + L

The Art Of Growing Up - Thanksgiving Special

Thanksgiving Special



Once again, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Of course, the holidays aren’t over yet — Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/whatever holiday you celebrate in December is still coming up, which means there’s still plenty of family time to be had… Yay…

I think the older you get, the more awkward a family get-together seems to become. I personally love the time I get to spend with my direct family (Aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.), but I’m also one of those people who could absolutely do without the massive family reunions that include 3rd cousins, great-aunts you can’t remember the names of, and 5th uncles that are twice removed. A little bit dramatic, but you get my point.

My family doesn’t have a massive Thanksgiving celebration; we save those for Christmas, which I am eternally grateful for. The Thanksgivings we have are generally small, including only direct family that I see on a semi-regular basis. This keeps the awkwardness in-check, I think.

Instead of passing along the cringe of things that have still managed to happen at said Thanksgiving celebrations, I’ll tell you about the only celebration I’ve had so far this Thanksgiving. It happened on Thursday (One of the few times I’ve celebrated on the actual day), and it was hosted by my aunt. It was probably the smallest gathering my dad’s side of the family ever had, only herself, our family (My siblings and father), and my aunt’s family (Her husband, daughter, and step-daughter). I got to meet my baby cousin for the first time, and she ended up eating half of my pie. So all in all, I had a good time.

The biggest takeaway I want you, the readers, to get from this is that we’re in the same boat; we all have family gatherings we’d rather not go to. I sounded like the Grinch at the start, but when it comes down to it, I truly do love the holidays, awkward moments included.

Kayelona -

It’s Thanksgiving time. A time for thankfulness, family, food, hunting, a break from school, and Black Friday. Thanksgiving means something different to each of us, right? But there is something we all endure: awkward family gatherings. I’ll share a reoccurring awkward encounter with all of you that I’m sure most will relate to.

I’ll set the scene: We host family on my mom’s side at our house every year. It becomes loud when my little cousins come and play accompanied by their parents and my grandpa. Half of my family lives in Washington, so it’s just the few of us. My mom spends all day cooking scrumptious food for us to consume when the time is right, but that doesn’t stop us from snatching off the plate once in a while. I bake a few desserts and my uncle makes his famous homemade pies. As you can imagine, the aroma is delectable. We place the tableware on the dining table, put the warm food on hot pads, and gather around the table.

Like most families, we go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for prior to digging into the food. The answers are brief but insightful; it’s fun to hear what going on in my family’s lives. We take second and third helpings as we talk and watch the food disappear. At the end of our meal, we all look at the remaining turkey and feel the same way it did before it was eaten: stuffed. The meal was wonderful and the discussions were fun.

Now comes time for the inevitable: politics. A political issue is brought up and people start discussing. Everyone has an opinion; some express it more than others. Usually, everyone has been burnt out by the topic, but two of my family members remain. My awesome grandpa and my wonderful aunt discuss for quite a few minutes after everyone else has quieted down. Depending on the topic, they can get pretty heated. While this is going on, we all, at least I, pray for the conversation to cease. I twiddle my thumbs while I sit at the table and consider my response to the points being made.

Eventually, my grandpa will say, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore.” And just like that, the discussion dissipates just as fast as it started. My aunt nods, and then we pick out a board game to play. Unlike some families, my family is respectful towards other opinions, so this conversation doesn’t ruin our day.

So, all in all, my family is great and I really love them, but the political discussions are always involved. The quirks on both sides of my family are what make Thanksgiving a special holiday. And of course, the food.


Happy holidays everyone! Thanks for reading :)

The Art Of Growing Up - Jobs


Lauren -

I think “So… when are you gonna get a job?” is one of those questions pretty much every teenager gets asked at some point. Sometimes it comes after turning 16, when/ if you get your driver’s license, or when a family member you only see at Christmas doesn’t know how else to spark conversation. We’ve all be there.

I’ve personally had a job since the summer of 2017, and I’m only 15 years old. If you don’t feel like doing the math, don’t worry: it means I’ve had a job since I was 14, and I’ve been an employee of my workplace for over a year and three months. So, really, I’ve only heard the dreaded question from my curious parents.

My situation, as you can imagine, is incredibly unique: the only real reason I ever got the job to begin with is because of my sister. She was 16 when she started working at Festival Foods. Thanks to a shining referral from our cousin, who also works there, she was hired pretty much right on the spot. She worked there for about 4 months before she suggested I applied there too. So, one sisterly recommendation and nerve-wracking interview later, I got the job.

Thankfully, our department manager has been kind enough to schedule us for relatively the same hours. Had this not been done, it would have been nearly impossible for me to keep the job, especially for so long. I live in a small town, I was too young to get a driver’s license (still am *sniff*), and both of my parents work full-time jobs themselves. Not to mention, the location we got hired at is 30 MINUTES AWAY from our house. Finding someone to chauffeur me to a town that’s half an hour away from my own just wasn’t realistic.

It’s funny, though, because, despite the hundreds of hours of work I’ve put in, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything. I’ve watched a bunch of coworkers my age come and go, and while I found some of them immature and full of unrealistic expectations, I didn’t use their short-lived employment as a boost of my own success. In fact, most of the time I don’t even look that deeply into it: I just wake up, go to work, and go home. And I keep doing that. I don’t find it as something to be proud of, at least not with my current career. So, I think because of this, I’ve never understood the expectation for teenagers to get jobs.

Kayelona -

Jobs seem like an unofficial passage into adulthood; it’s one step closer to freedom and responsibility. After-school jobs are a wonderful way to have a taste of adulthood. They are a time-consuming, semi-rewarding expectation, but they are just that: an expectation. Most teens have the opportunity to work an after-school job, and others do not.

I speak to the ones that do not work a steady job, as I am in the same boat. Before you jump to conclusions about my work ethic, take into consideration my environment. I live in the country, ten minutes from the nearest teen job opportunity, I am the oldest of four children, and I do not have access to a car as I have not yet obtained my license.

I have grown frustrated with the job search, having applied to multiple employers and being declined or not contacted whatsoever. I understand the frustration of job hunting and the disappointment when it doesn’t work out, but I continue on. I find ways to make money, like cleaning houses and raking yards so I’m not left penniless. I encourage others to do this, especially if it is one’s desire to have money they worked for. I also keep my eyes peeled for steady job opportunities, in hopes that I may find an employer to hire me.

Attaining a job is not my greatest wish and it doesn’t have to be; I am quite content with the amount of money I have and where my time is spent. I have made a choice to remain jobless until I can drive, that way, I don’t have to burden my family with my schedule. Overall, I am content with my spent time and finance situation, but I look for a job so I can be more dependent upon myself rather than my parents.

Whether you are like Lauren and have a job, or you are like me, without a job, spend your teenage years where you see fit. My advice would be don’t be fearful of responsibility and independence, aka a job, but to jump into the world with both feet, whether a job is what you want or not. During these high school years, focus on things that are important to you and learn important life skills before you’re blindsided by adulthood. If having a job is important to you, by all means, go for it! Don’t let others force you into a job, but let the decision be your own.

Lauren -

Agreed! Despite having a job myself, I definitely don’t see it as something a teenager needs to have. School alone can be a lot to manage, especially if you’re involved in extracurriculars. Not to mention, jobs take up a lot of your free time, so if you have time-consuming — but worthwhile — hobbies, you shouldn’t feel the need to give those up in order to prove something. Having a job has opened me up to opportunities, but I would be lying if I said it’s only been good. I have my own money now, yes, but I used to get incredibly stressed out about the lack of time I had to myself. I started out feeling like I was trapped in a cycle I couldn’t get out of, a cycle that was so bad I almost quit after 3 months. If you’re in a place where you feel like a job would be too much, then you shouldn’t force yourself into getting one, especially if it’s for all the wrong reasons (to impress your parents, to prove you can be mature, etc). Like Kayelona said, being in high school is a time in your life where you’re lucky enough to have the choice to do things that are important to you. And, when it comes down to it,  school is your full-time job. Leave the 9-5 for your future ;)

Kayelona -

I agree with Lauren, school is the top priority during these years we’re experiencing. During high school, we are just learning time management, organizational skills, and more important life skills. Most of us participate in many attention-demanding things, so it’s best not to overwhelm ourselves. To tag onto that idea, discovering who you are and what you enjoy are both things we work towards in this time period. So all in all, focus on what’s important during these years while you have the time.

Lauren -

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

See you next time!

K + L

The Art of Growing Up — Introduction

The Art of Growing Up — Introduction

Basically, we’re gonna be talking about growing up. The fun stuff, the not so fun stuff, and pretty much everything in between. Every week, we’ll write about a new topic, each one somehow tying back to the trials and tribulations of being a teenager. Each of us will give our own opinions, and a conclusion with any advice we have to offer on the subject.