The Closing of a Door

Image

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Well, it’s finally happened. After seven years in elementary, three years in middle school, four years in hell—I mean, high school—four years in college, too few years in childhood, too many years in puberty (altogether creating a whopping eighteen years of questioning my sanity), and unless/until such a time where I decide to go get a master’s degree somewhere, I’m done with school. I’ve had to have three graduation ceremonies: 8th grade, high school, and college. Nobody saw 8th grade graduation as a big deal…though then again, we didn’t think there was a lot to celebrate about going to high school. When 12th grade came and went, I was just glad to be done. Half of my graduating class was going to the same school as me in the fall, as were most of my friends, so I didn’t even look back when I left.

But college was a different story. I still have a lot of mixed feelings about being done. On one hand, chances are pretty good that I’m not going to miss three-hour exams, waking up at six in the morning every day to go to work, the school’s weather watch calling me in the middle of a storm telling me what I already know, or being woken up by a fire alarm because of boys who can’t cook and insist on doing so in the middle of the night. I won’t miss forcing my brain to focus during class, or staying up until past midnight to finish homework that I couldn’t care less about, or finding an empty table in the school dining hall. I can’t wait to read because I want to (and not because I have to). I can’t wait to find my own place to live. I can’t wait to get more work done on my book series. I can’t wait to see what life has in store for me. But most of all, I can’t wait for the day where I finally become a published author.

Despite the fact that there’s a lot that I won’t miss, there’s still a lot that I will. I’ll miss rocking out in the jazz club rehearsals. I’ll miss writing for the school newspaper. I’ll miss late night conversations with my roommate. I’ll miss reshelving books in the school library. I’ll miss girl talk with my friend from cleaning crew while scraping gum off of the desks. I’ll miss riding my bike around campus when I want a good study break. I’ll miss singing “Down in the River to Pray” with my group from New England Saints. I’ll miss the jokes that professors make when they’re trying to get your attention—particularly the ones that succeed. But most of all, I’ll miss the people that I interacted with during my time in my second home.

When I started my freshman year, I never gave much thought to how many changes the 18-year-old doe-eyed girl would have to go through to become a 22-year-old woman with a bachelor’s degree in Writing. And yet, here I am. I met a large variety of incredible people, had so many experiences, made more friends than I expected to, and discovered a love for traveling—and that was all in the last year alone. Each year brought different opportunities, different people, different teachers, and different lessons. It wasn’t just four years of school; it was four years of self-discovery. It was a time for me to figure out who I was and who I wanted to be, both as a writer and as a person.

That’s not to say that I don’t have any regrets in the last four years. There are too many moments I wish I had handled differently, too many “what-if” scenarios, and too many “I-wish-I-had-done-this” memories. But I loved it all nevertheless, both the good and the bad. And if I could, I’d gladly experience the last four years all over again. I’m grateful for everything that my school has given me, and I hope that my work as a writer will make my friends, family, and professors proud.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Congratulations, fellow Calvin grads of 2014. We finally made it!”

Advertisements

Substitute blog post

Image

I’m sad to say that I can’t publish a full blog post today. I’m currently studying for finals this week, and so my brain cannot function properly at least until next Friday, May 23. But I didn’t want to let this week go by without recognizing that another week has gone by. So until my return to sanity, please enjoy this little list:

Top 10 Dining & Social Etiquette Jokes:

1. Some items are always on the left, while other items are always on the right. Does this ever affect left-handed people? No. At the time they came up with these rules, left-handed people were either rumors or living abominations.

2. Some places give you two glasses of wine at a proper dinner table, one for red wine and one for white. Other places give you two glasses of non-alcoholic beverages. And in both cases, dessert comes with coffee. Either they want to see how well you can hold your liquor, or they really want you to use the bathroom at some point in the meal.

3. Unless the potential employer indicates otherwise, wasting food at a restaurant is more proper than taking home the leftovers and saving them for later.

4. The waiter serves you on the left, and takes your plates/refills your drinks on the right. It used to be part of a poorly choreographed dance during medieval times.

5. While it’s rude to have your elbows on the table, it’s also rude to have your hands in your lap. If you have enough crumbs in your napkin, it’d be considered playing with your food.

6. You never rip your bread in half and butter the two halves. Instead, you rip off a bite-sized piece, butter the bite, eat it, and repeat. Since they didn’t have refrigerators back then, they thought the butter would last longer that way. I really wish I was making that up.

7. Apparently, there’s a proper way to take a break from eating. Again, I really wish I was making that up.

8. There are at least two ways to use a fork and a knife: the American way, and the worldly way. Yeah. We Americans are so uncivilized that we require our own way of eating that people can consider polite.

9. If you fold your napkin the proper way on your lap, you could hide a bomb in there.

10. You always have the blade of the knife facing you. They’d rather have you commit suicide than declare war.

Photo source: http://www.swide.com/food-travel/etiquette/how-to-behave-at-table-dining-etiquette-for-christmas-2012/2012/12/13

Thank You, Mom

Image

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Well, seeing as today is Mother’s Day, I figured it would be appropriate to say a few words about my mom. Before I get into that, though, I want to talk a bit about mothers in general. Granted, I’m not a mother, nor do I plan to be one for a while. But we all had a mother at some point in our lives, even if it was only for a short amount of time. As JK Rowling expressed when describing Lily Potter in the Harry Potter series, “[mother love] is so formative in everyone’s life, for good or for ill” [1]. And…yeah, it is.

Parenthood is the toughest—and yet most important—job that anyone can take on. I’m often suspicious of teenaged girls deciding to keep their babies when they get pregnant, mostly because we never fully realize what it means to be a mother until we have children. It’s not just giving birth to a child, feeding it the right foods, and taking it places. It means putting that child’s best interests before your own 24/7, taking a genuine interest in it, and making sacrifices whether you’re ready or not. Parenthood is work, and you don’t get paid a cent for it. With that said, the best mothers are the ones who not only pour every ounce of love they can into their children, but also take pride in doing it.

I’m glad I get an opportunity to give thanks for my mom. She worked behind the scenes, creating a safe place for my brother and me to come back to when we were scared or overwhelmed. At the same time, however, she challenged us to learn and grow, especially as we got older. She had her own convictions, but she never forced them on us. She gave them to us when we asked her, but she let us draw our own conclusions about life. Ultimately, of all the things I learned from my mother, the one at the top of my mind is that politics and beliefs should never get in the way of relationships. Form your own opinions, but treat everyone with kindness no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they believe. Because at the end of the day, we’re all human beings bearing the image of God.

At the end of the day, I appreciate my mom because she treated my brother and I like adults, which I think is how we all want to be treated no matter what stages we’re at in our lives. She never gave us more than we could handle, but at the same time she challenged us to learn and grow. She encouraged us to follow our passions, but also asked us about some of the decisions we made so that we’re absolutely sure we won’t regret those decisions later. Were there times when I would disagree with my mom? Of course. But at the same time, I wouldn’t ask for anyone else to be my mom. She was a place of refuge when I was a child, and as an adult she’s an important mentor, role model, and guide. All I hope for in the future is that—if I do have children—I could be the same mother for them that mine was for me.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. You deserve it.”

Sources used: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnb-XIZwbY0

Photo source: http://www.giftstantra.com/blog/2014/04/15/gift-ideas-mothers-day-based-mothers-nature/

Why Study the Arts?

Image

Hello, I’m Leah G. Alfonso. I write so that I may speak.

Literature. Cinema. Music. Drama. Photography. No matter the medium, we’re all familiar with art, both good and bad, in every source it uses to avail itself. We all have movies, books, and songs in mind that we either love, hate, or feel indifferent to. But many seem to be split on how much of an impact the arts have on people.

Some would argue that art has a negative impact on society. In Plato’s Republic, Plato expressed his view on education and worried that the way we tell stories would serve as a bad influence to us. Plato knows that young people always watch the way their elders behave, whether they are parents, teachers, or even strangers. And these young people will often mimic what they see other people doing, thinking that what they’re witnessing is perfectly normal. With that in mind, Plato wondered if the arts should be used in education at all. And if so, should we set boundaries on the kinds of art that we expose our children and students to?

Considering some forms of ugly art that exist, I can understand what Plato is talking about. For example, Garbage Pail Kids is often regarded as one of the worst movies ever made—not only because it’s horribly written, directed, acted, and put together—but also because it’s a children’s movie that promotes disgusting behavior including theft, violence, and sexual cruelty. It’s a movie that makes people cringe and feel unclean just thinking about it. Instances like that justify Plato’s point.

Despite the bad forms of art that exist, too many good forms outnumber them. There are good authors, composers, film directors, actors, and other artists who seem determined to produce the best art they can and learn as much as possible. These people have a passion for what they do; when it comes through in their work, it’s beautiful to behold. Even if we’re not passionate about the arts, we all have a favorite story or song in the backs of our heads. Why? Because they mean something to us. For example, a good novel isn’t just a combination of good prose and good story elements. That’s certainly what it needs. But it’s much more than that; it’s an experience that leaves an impact on its readers, whether they’re aware of it or not. And when it does that, it becomes a story that we continue to read and talk about years after its time, even when other stories fade from our consciousness. That’s why we continue to read JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series or critically analyze William Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets; they left a handprint on our memory that can’t be easily thrown away.

The purpose of good art is summarized best in this quote from film critic Doug Walker: “Good art doesn’t come from focus groups and statistics; it comes from people who share how they see things in their own unique way.” Since the time of Plato, the world has seen both good and bad forms of storytelling. Everything we read tells us a little bit about the people who share their creations and what they believe. Some forms such as the Twilight series are meant to give nothing more than momentary pleasure. But then there are artists who share a piece of something undeniably good with us through clever writing and meaningful morals. Dr. Seuss’s books have shaped our childhoods since the 1950s, and people are continuing to read his stories even today. And as adults, we still talk about works created by artists such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Louisa May Alcott, and Vincent Van Gogh because their works helped us to understand how other people see the world. Maybe art is far more educational than Plato understood it to be.

Until next time, this is Leah G. Alfonso saying “So long.”

photo source: http://www.summerfineartscamp.org/