yet another goodbye

Around this time last week, I was heading to my very last day of school. I had a cake in the front seat that I was trying desperately to keep steady on the twisty-turny roads, “Out of the Woods” by Taylor Swift blasting out of the speakers, and a heart that felt weighed down. I knew that at the end of the day I’d be leaving for the last time.

For the past eleven years of my life, I’ve been homeschooled with a program called Classical Conversations. It’s all I’ve ever known, and I’ve loved–well, maybe not every single second, but most of them. CC has made me what I am. It’s shaped me and my worldviews and my perspectives and my tastes. It’s an enormous part of me.

I spent eight years at one campus close to me. The last three–in fact, all of my high school years–have been spent at one farther away. It’s been a wild ride.

For most of my ninth grade year, I thought my classmates hated me. In tenth grade I came to know that that wasn’t true. In eleventh, I wondered how I ever thought it was. In twelfth, I’m not sure what I’ll think of them.

All my life, I looked forward to graduating from CC–completing the looming, incomprehensible threat of Challenge IV (as it is called) and proudly calling myself a CC graduate.

But God has other plans. Because I’m not going back.

Leaving on Wednesday was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I gave my hugs and said my goodbyes and walked out of that church for one final time. And as I sat there in my car, getting ready to leave, it hit me that this was it. This was when my life was changing.

Isn’t it funny how life changes? Every day, you make decisions. Little ones, usually. What will I eat for breakfast? How will I spend my time today? Should I text him?

And then, sometimes, there’s the big ones. Should I have kids? Should I move? Should I say yes?

Every time you make a new decision, your life shifts. Changes permanently. You can never unmake that decision. Whether you had waffles or cereal for breakfast is now something that has completely altered the course of your life. And the bigger decisions…well. You can imagine how your life changes with those.

This was one of those big-decision moments. For eleven years, I’ve been doing more or less the same thing. Sure, there were variances on a yearly, semesterly, and weekly basis, but it was much the same. 294 weeks of my life (give or take) have been spent in this pattern. See your friends. Go home. Complain about homework. Write the essays, memorize the speeches, read the books. Wait until you can see your friends again. Repeat and repeat and repeat.

For the first time in my entire homeschooling career, I will be facing something different. Something completely new, uncharted, unmapped.

I’m terrified.

Change is scary. Change has always been, and will always be, scary. But without change, how will you grow?

I’ve said a lot of goodbyes, faced a lot of change over the past year and a half. My opa died–the first grandparent I ever lost. My closest friends moved away. My dad left his longtime job for a new one and was laid off six months later. And now this.

My classmates and I are parting ways. I’ll see them again, and we’ll still be friends, bonded by three years of shared experiences, but it’ll never be quite the same. My academic world is expanding. For better or for worse? I don’t know.

I’m so grateful for these years. Every day in class, every assignment I completed (and even the ones I never started on), every tutor and director I’ve ever had has shaped and molded me into who I am today. Even all the trials, all the tears soaking into my ink-stained paper and the late nights agonizing over memorized speeches and the hours spent staring at the same page wondering what I’m just not getting–I wouldn’t trade those for the world.

I cried as I drove away. I’m crying a little now as I type this. Because this is yet another goodbye. Yet more change. I’m scared and sad and anxious.

But I’m a little elated, too.

What more will the future hold?

ninth grade ~ tenth grade ~ eleventh grade

arrows and disappointment: talking about life

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

If you didn’t already know, I’m an archer. I’ve been shooting for something like five years now, and only recently did I figure out what was making a huge difference in each shot.

For a long time, my shots have been super inconsistent. I could be aiming at the exact same spot every time and hit points a foot apart from each other on the target. Now, a foot doesn’t sound like a lot normally, but in archery, those twelve inches can make the difference between ten points and none. It was pretty discouraging to be doing the exact same thing over and over again and yet see results shifting wildly–sometimes I’d shoot twenty-five points out of thirty, and sometimes it was ten.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. In fact, I thought I was doing everything right, and I was frustrated beyond belief. But then, as I watched my fellow archers, I realized that there was something.

For the longest time, I had been forcing the elbow of my drawing arm down, and it was creating an unnatural stress in my shoulders. And as soon as I brought my elbow back up, my shots immediately improved. Quick as that.

I was stunned. Something as inconsequential as the height of my elbow had been drastically affecting the results of my shooting–for years. Surely it had to be a fluke, right?

But as I watched again and again as my arrows pierced the bulls-eye, my elation and surprise gave way to something else. Something I didn’t expect to be feeling.

I was mad.

If I had figured this out earlier, I could have placed first in the competition last year instead of second. Second was respectable, but I could have easily surpassed it. All this time I thought I had been doing the right thing, and there was something so simple as moving my elbow up just an inch or so that could have fixed it.

That’s how it is sometimes. You’re struggling along, splashing down the stream in your metaphorical canoe, and you discover that there was a paddle in the bottom of your boat all along. You’re shocked and surprised and excited, but there’s always that tinge of I could have been going faster this whole time?!

If you’re feeling this right now, I want you to know that that’s part of being a human. You’re going to discover easier ways to do things than the way you’ve been doing it all your life, and you’re going to be angry, wishing you had known it sooner. I know I was. It’s just a thing that’s going to happen.

The problem here is not that it happens–it’s what you do with it. Feel disappointed. Be upset. Life isn’t fair, and it’s okay to feel that.

But when you start stewing in your frustration, the success that you do have becomes tainted with that. You’re no longer thinking about the thing that you did well–you’re only dwelling on the bad. I talked about this in my last post–how when you focus on the bad, you’re actively blinding yourself to whatever little bit of good there is.

When I’m facing this kind of disappointment, I catch myself doing this a lot. But eventually I’m forced to look at the bright side. In this case, it’s the fact that I am so ready for the archery tournament in a few weeks. I’ve identified my problem area and fixed it, and I’m ready to get out there and win.

The bottom line: Feel the disappointment. Don’t get embroiled in it. There’s a bright side–there always is.

I hope you guys enjoyed this post. It’s a little different than what I normally talk about, but it was a message I felt like I needed to share with the world.

Have you ever faced this? I’d love if you shared your experiences and how you overcame disappointment.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

winter update + spring goals

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

We are once again in that magical time of year where the misery of winter is slowly lifting and spring will soon be upon us. I say “will soon be” because I live in Michigan and it doesn’t really act like spring here until around mid-April. Although it is nice to just be able to say that it’s spring.

But you know the drill–it’s time for an update and some goal-setting for the new season!

winter update

I’m trying to remember what even happened this winter. It feels like it rushed by so quickly, what with school and church and school and writing and…school.

I got to see some long-distance friends for my birthday–I hadn’t seen them since they moved in August, and it was so fun to catch up with them.

And then a month later I got to see them again! Their school was going to the March for Life and the Lutherans for Life conference in Washington, D. C. in January, and they invited us to go with them. The March is an enormous peaceful protest against abortion–one of the largest and longest-running in the country–and this year’s was especially momentous, a celebration of the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Since the March, I’ve been doing research on the pro-life movement and getting more involved. It was one of the best times of my life, I think.

In February my sister and I flew down to Alabama by ourselves to visit our grandparents for a week. We stayed on the beach and swam in the pool every single day. It was nice to get away from the cold for a little bit, especially because while we were down there, some enormous ice storms hit. We lost so many tree branches. It was no joke, y’all.

I also built a huge floating island in Minecraft that I’m too proud of not to share. Hey, we all gotta be nerdy sometimes, right?

Those were the highlights of my winter! Now on to the real reason we’re here–my goals and habits.


implement strategies to reduce screentime

I flopped on this one–big-time. Especially when we were on vacation. It felt like a break from normal responsibilities, so I justified my screen use as such, and it was atrocious. I think that my problem was the fact that I didn’t have any specific goals or strategies–I just told myself to cut back and called it a day. Obviously, that doesn’t work, so this goal is going back on the list.

read at least one book every week

I did not strictly adhere to the “one book a week” policy, but I did read a lot in the winter: 37 books total. January was about half of that with 19 books. It was slightly ridiculous. I’ve been rereading a lot of old cozy favorites that make me feel at home.

write blog posts ahead of time

The fact that I’m writing this sixteen hours before it has to go out should speak for itself.

make my pen pals a priority

I think I wrote approximately one letter since my last post, despite still having a stack of them. To my pen pals reading this post: I’m sorry. Don’t give up on me.


begin drafting a “fun” project

I did not actually draft anything, but I have been working on some character development and outlining for a new project! The progress has been slow, but it’s still there. It’s hard to incorporate writing into my daily life. The actions involved are very similar to that of doing schoolwork, which already takes up most of my day, and by the time I’m done with my school there is nothing I want less than to be still typing away at my computer. I think that I just need to figure out a good strategy to differentiate it from school.

work on making money

I had a plan for this, but it fell through because I did not start it in motion when I should have. I have a big problem with actually starting projects, especially intimidating ones, and I let it get to me this time. Nobody’s fault but my own. I’m kind of disappointed in myself, but I know that I can’t stay disappointed in myself and that I just have to get back up on my feet and get working.

spend more quality time with my sister

Though my only sister is now at private school, we still spend a fair amount of time together (mostly crying over Taylor Swift). I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out with her being away all day, but our relationship seems to not be suffering from her leaving. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right?

knit a sweater

I never ended up buying yarn for this because I’m broke, but I am almost finished with a really nice scarf! Of course, this is right when it’s starting to get warm and it wouldn’t make sense for me to wear it. Oh well–maybe I can get some use out of it before Michigan decides to behave.

spring plans


get back into running

If you recall, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to run a half-marathon. I still need to get on signing up for one, and I need to start training, especially since I haven’t run since the fall. All the half-marathon training programs I’ve found have you starting out running three miles, and since I can barely get through one without feeling like I’m going to die, I think I need to train. For the training.


research and implement time management strategies

I’ve been slipping on my time management, and it’s getting to me. I while away hours without really meaning to. It’s been hitting me lately that I can’t get those hours back, and that is a tragedy, so I’m going to up my time management game through this last semester.

stay on top of my Bible reading

Another one of my resolutions was to read the whole Bible in a year. I started out strong, but now I’m finding myself two whole books behind. Oops. I need to weave it into my daily life somehow–maybe make it a part of my school day? We’ll see.


survive junior year

I’m only partially joking on this one. Right now, school is repeatedly punching me in the face. There’s where time management comes in again–I procrastinate a lot and then end up doing all of my schoolwork the day before it’s due. I’ve only got six weeks of school left, but those six weeks are feeling like a lifetime. So my goal here is to just…hang on and not lose my mind. We’ll see how it goes.

outline and draft a new project

While I don’t associate myself with the NaNoWriMo organization anymore, I still want to do something similar to Camp NaNoWriMo and host myself a mini novel writing challenge. I’d like to have a larger goal and a longer time limit. I have an inkling of something to write, and I’m excited about it!

take up a new hobby

My “crafts” board on Pinterest has almost 1200 pins and 22 sections, mostly things that I haven’t done yet but would like to. I even have most of the tools for many of them, but I just haven’t been able to start them for one reason or another. Once school lets out, I intend to actually get started and do something new and creative.

final thoughts

I feel like this is a much longer post than I normally put out. I hope you don’t mind me talking about myself for 1300 words.

You know what–what am I saying? You could have not read this post. But you’re here at the end, and I appreciate you for that.

I’m hoping you all had a good winter and will have a good spring! What did you do this winter? What are some of your goals for spring?

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

let people like what they like

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

In September, I wrote a post titled “please be a nerd.” Then in October, I wrote a sort of sequel to that post titled “are you passionate or possessed?” Both posts were very well received, I liked writing them, and I thought I was done, but there was just something missing. And I think I’ve finally figured it out.

I still think it’s great to be a nerd. You absolutely should be a nerd. But the addendum is this:

You should be a nerd about whatever you want.

Let me give an example.

I love Taylor Swift. I love her music, her style, how she puts it all together. In fact, she’s my all-time top artist on Spotify. And I think that’s great. I am not apologetic at all about being a Swiftie.

However, because Taylor Swift’s music is so widely appreciated and distributed, I often run into people who make it their life’s goal to put down people who like Taylor Swift, just because she’s popular and “mainstream.” Not because they dislike her music (some of them haven’t even heard her music) or even her–just because they think that people who like her are automatically–I don’t even know. Shallow? Also mainstream? I’m not completely sure what the reason for dismissing people who like Taylor Swift is.

I see this a lot with popular media. “I’m special because I don’t listen to Taylor Swift or Harry Styles or Olivia Rodrigo. I’m special because I only listen to 24-hour-long recordings of whale noises”–or whatever.

This doesn’t just apply to music. Maybe you love the latest Netflix series that everyone is talking about. Maybe you’re super into that new fantasy trilogy that everyone on TikTok and Instagram seems to be talking about. You’ll encounter this kind of elitism everywhere. “Oh, while you were reading A Court of Thorns and Roses, some bad book that you were tricked into buying on TikTok, I was reading this really underground, not-well-known fantasy series. What’s it called? Oh, it’s The Lord of the Rings. Yeah, you wouldn’t really know it.”

I think that this is honestly really sad.

Taylor Swift’s music brings me a lot of joy. I love dancing around the kitchen to “Cruel Summer” and singing at the top of my lungs to “Style” (and sobbing on my floor at “All Too Well”, but that’s irrelevant). That person is reading A Court of Thorns and Roses because they enjoy it. It makes them happy. And while I will probably never read it, who am I to take away their joy? Who am I to put them down just because they like something popular?

This popular media was made for this exact reason. The whole reason it’s popular is because it makes people happy. That’s literally the entire point of it being created.

I would urge you to remember this before you judge. If your first instinct upon someone telling you that they like to listen to Taylor Swift is to scoff and roll your eyes, well, you need a little bit of an attitude adjustment, my friend. Even if you don’t like the mainstream media in question, the very least you can do is be a polite and decent human being about it.

And then put yourself in their shoes. I guarantee you there is something super popular that you like that people will scoff at you for liking. Think about that.

I think that you should like what you like, and you should let other people like what they like. If their appreciation of something popular isn’t hurting them or you or anyone else, leave them alone.

If I have come across as rude or abrasive in this post, I do apologize to you. This is something I feel strongly about. I hope that if nothing else I have ever posted sticks with you, this is the thing you’ll take away from my platform as a whole.

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday.

22 more beautiful words

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I had a serious, thought-provoking post planned for this week, but I’m on vacation and I don’t really feel like thinking. So I’m going to give you a post that I have fun writing.

I present to you 22 more beautiful words, a follow up to my post “28 beautiful words”. I hope you enjoy!

  • vellichor: the strange wistfulness of used bookshops
  • kairosclerosis: the moment you realize you’re happy
  • nepenthe: something that can make you forget grief or suffering
  • nefelibata: one who lives in their own imaginations or dreams
  • quatervois: a critical decision or turning point in someone’s life
  • pluviophile: a lover of rain
  • abscond: to secretly depart and hide oneself
  • whelve: to bury something deep, to hide
  • solivagant: to wander alone
  • tacet: performed with the instrument silent
  • lachrymose: tearful or given to weeping
  • lucent: softly bright, radiant
  • orphic: mysterious, entrancing
  • seatherny: the serenity one feels while listening to birds
  • hiraeth: longing for a home that you cannot return to, perhaps one that never was
  • dwindle: to diminish gradually
  • mercurial: prone to sudden changes of mood or mind
  • elegy: a poem of serious reflection, lament for the dead
  • evanescent: soon passing out of sight, memory, or existence
  • onism: the awareness of how little of the world you’ll experience
  • morii: the desire to capture a fleeting experience
  • friscalating: shimmering on the horizon

Did you learn any new words from this list? What are some of your favorites?

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

my vision for 2023

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

I typed “2022” at first there, and then realized that while I may be writing this in 2022, it is not 2022 anymore. Kind of sad about that, honestly–23 isn’t nearly as nice a number as 22.

But it’s a new year, a new start. And I am excited to see what 2023 has in store for me.

In this post, I’ll be outlining some goals I have for the year of 2023. It’s going to be a big one for me, because at the end of 2023 I will become a legal adult. I expect much of this year is going to be spent preparing for that while I’m still a minor and living in my parents’ house.

Anyway, here are my big goals for the year.

read through the whole Bible

This has been a goal of mine for a while, and now that I’m trying to take charge of my faith more, I’ve decided that this is the year to do it. I’m using a Bible reading plan by the Bible Project on the YouVersion app, and so far I’m really liking it. I hope I’ll be able to be consistent with it!

make my own money

Self-sufficiency in adulthood starts with financial self-sufficiency. Obviously (and unfortunately), money is the driving force behind surviving in the “real world.”

I’m currently unemployed, but that’s what this is all about. Ideally, I’d like to be self-employed, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll be working towards it while working under someone else. I’d love to have my own business, maybe a service or an Etsy shop.

I’m also including in this goal becoming financially literate, as well as saving money. l plan to do Dave Ramsey’s finance course after I finish my current matIh, which I expect will help also.

run a half marathon

This is a big goal for me. It feels kind of daunting even to be writing down, but hey, that’s why I’m doing this. I want to do something daunting with my physical health, and seeing as I’ve only ever struggled through 5ks before, half marathons are definitely the type of challenge I’m looking for.

I don’t have one picked out yet, but there’s time for that. I have to prep and train and do all that fun stuff first. (“Fun” maybe isn’t quite the right word, but it’ll do.)

try something new platform-wise

I know that I want to continue with my blog and email list—it’s working for me now and I enjoy blogging—but I’d also like to switch it up abit. I’m not entirely sure what that means right now, but possibly an author social media account, like Instagram. I’ll work out the details as they come. Keep your eyes peeled!

finish at least one draft of a novel

I’m keeping this goal realistic. Ideally, I would finish more than one, but I know that I have to do all the plotting and everything as well. I enjoyed the rush of finishing NaNoWriMo, and I hope I’ll be able to experience that or something like it at least once this year.

learn more life skills

This goal started out as “cook more meals,” but then I realized that I should probably change it to “learn more life skills” because I’m kind of lacking in that department. I’m growing up, and I need to know adult things, much as I don’t want to. My dad has already taught me how to change my car’s oil and replace its wiper blades, and I’d like to be able to do basically anything myself to save as much money as possible.

Unfortunately, that list also includes baking my own bread, because it’s super cheap. It’s just that me and bread making have a long-standing mutual dislike of each other. Hopefully I’ll learn!

be nice to myself

This is the biggie. I tend to “joke” about myself a lot in a negative light, and I think my friends are sick of it. I can’t say that I am, honestly, but I love my friends enough to knock it off for them. So my word of the year this year is kindness. I’m going to be kind to myself, even if it kills me.

final thoughts

I feel like I’ve got a lot to do this year. For the last few years, I’ve approached the new year with a sense of dread. But now, I think that I’m mature enough to face the new year with my arms wide open, saying, What new challenges will grow me this year?

I hope you all have had a blessed holiday season and will make the most of this fresh start.

autumn update + winter goals

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

Today is the first day of winter, which…I can’t say I’m happy about, honestly. I live in Michigan, so it gets gray and gross and dreary. Snow helps, but it’s still wet, and I much prefer to stay inside, thank you. But I did tell myself after visiting hot, humid Houston in July that I would never complain about the cold again, so I guess I have to stick to that promise.

Anyway, the winter solstice means a seasonal recap! Last time, I introduced a new system for making goals. I’m doing both goals and habits this time–habits are ongoing things, and goals are one-time things to accomplish. When I’m making new habits, they’re compounding on the old ones; I’m not getting rid of the old ones entirely, just not giving you a recap every time. Goals, however, are a one-time thing, so you won’t see those popping up again.

Without further ado, let’s hop right in!

autumn goals and habits


cut back on screentime

I did pretty well on this one for a little bit…and then November hit, and for whatever reason, my screen usage started to slowly get worse and worse. I think the real problem here was that I didn’t have enough boundaries in place. Going forward, I plan to start putting actual roadblocks in place–things like installing the Freedom app so I don’t get distracted by YouTube and Pinterest while I’m doing schoolwork and setting up Apple’s family monitoring settings so I don’t spend as much time on my phone every day.

start “touching” my writing daily

All through October and November, this was pretty much a necessity because of NaNo. I did really well with this one! I am taking a break for December because the holiday season is busy and I’m burned out after NaNo, but I plan to get back into it in January with a new idea for a novella.

work out & spend more time in nature

I did really well with this one until it started to get cold. For a while, I had a good fitness accountability group going on YDubs, but then the workout program ended and I didn’t start a new one. I was pretty good with using our Wii Fit for a little while there, but after Thanksgiving it fizzled out. I have a plan for exercising in the new year, however, which I plan to implement once the holidays are over.

utilize the YDubs content library

I’m proud of myself for keeping up with this one! I’ve made a serious dent in the library, which I’m super proud of. I want to have the entire library finished by the time I leave YDubs, which is going to take some work, but I think it’ll be worth it.


win NaNoWriMo

If you’ve been following my blog at all for the past few months, you know that I have accomplished this one! I’m so proud of myself for finishing. Third time’s the charm, I guess.

There’s not a lot I can say here that I haven’t already said, so I’m just going to move on.

come up with a new concept for “fun” writing

Check! I actually have a few ideas that I’d like to draft sometime during the new year.

read three or more new nonfiction books and apply them to my life

I fell just short of this one–I only read two books–but the books I read, Atomic Habits and The Slight Edge, did help a lot. You’ll likely see more about these books in the beginning of the new year. Get ready!

write three or more original poems

Well, it wouldn’t be a goals update if I didn’t not get one of my goals, would it? I did not write any poetry, although that will change as I continue to study it in schoolwork. I did consume lots of great poetry, though.

advance my knowledge of SEO and other blogging techniques

I’ll give myself partial credit on this one. I did do some research and have been working to make my headlines as SEO-optimized as possible, but I didn’t do as much as I would have liked.

winter goals and habits


implement strategies to reduce screentime

This is the biggie. My phone and laptop tend to dominate my time recently. I love to play Minecraft and chat with my friends that live far away, but not at the expense of my other worthwhile, screen-less hobbies. Plus, the more time I spend on my screens, the worse my mental health gets. I can say I’m going to spend less time on my phone all I want, but until I actually put that into practice, it’s not going to do me any good.

read at least one book every week

I’ve been in a reading slump lately, and I really miss just reading for pleasure. I’ve been putting a lot of pressure on myself to read “more intellectual” things–nonfiction, classic fiction, the like. And you know what? I miss reading for fun. So I want to just read and not worry about reading “good” things. That can come later.

write blog posts ahead of time

Heh…so…I’m writing this post the day before it has to go out. I actually really hate doing this–I hate procrastinating in general–but I just can’t seem to stop. So I need to figure out some ways to force myself to do the work ahead of time.

make my pen pals a priority

I have a stack of letters sitting right next to me that I haven’t even opened…postmarked from October. (If we’re pen pals and you’re reading this, I’m really sorry.) I want to make meaningful connections through thoughtful, handwritten letters, but I often find myself pushing off writing back in favor of other ways of spending my time.


begin drafting a “fun” project

I just want to write. Without the pressure of NaNo, without stress or deadlines, just writing purely for fun. I also want to write something I can share with my friends, because they’re all clamoring to read my NaNo project, and I know that if I don’t give them something they’ll hack into my computer somehow and find my awful first draft. No thank you. Gotta give them shiny things to distract them.

work on making money

I am scarily close to being an actual adult with, like, actual responsibilities and bills and–ew–taxes, and it’s time that I start figuring out a way to financially support myself. I’m not going to go into details because I don’t exactly know what I’m doing yet, but I do know that it’s time that I figure out what I’m doing.

spend more quality time with my sister

My sister is going to private school next semester. For the first time in our lives, she and I won’t both be homeschooled. It’s going to be harder to see her because she’ll be at school all day and she’s already busy as heck, but I’d like to spend more time with her, going shopping or getting coffee or just doing fun stuff.

knit a sweater

No, I’m serious. Honestly, this goal goes hand-in-hand with the “spend less time on my screen” one. I like to knit and I need more things to make, plus I have an easy pattern for a sweater, so why not? I’ll do other things than watch YouTube all day, plus I’ll get a cool new sweater out of it in the process that I can point to and say “I made it myself.”

final thoughts

I haven’t made ambitious goals this season, because I know that second semester always sneaks up on you and nearly murders you. Mostly, I just want my goals to be attainable and fun to do. I want to better myself while also giving myself just a little bit of a break, and I think with the goals I have set, I’ll be able to accomplish that.

Thanks for listening to me ramble! Have you made any goals for the winter season? The new year is creeping up on us pretty fast. I feel like I need to get my life in order.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

naïve leaders: a comparison essay

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

One of the biggest parts of my exposition and composition (language arts in normal-people-speak) subject is writing essays. This year, we are studying Shakespeare, and oh boy is it a wild ride.

Anyway, one of the plays we just studied was Julius Caesar, and I got into it. Like, into it. I seriously loved the play. It was so good. And because I also love The Hunger Games, I noticed a lot of similarities between the two works.

So for my Julius Caesar essay, I wrote a comparison between the protagonist Brutus in the play and the protagonist of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen. My former director suggested that I post it on my blog, so…here it is! (Mrs. Arndt, if you’re reading this, thank you for the post idea.)

Be warned! Spoilers for both Julius Caesar and the Hunger Games series abound! So if you have not read one or either of them and you would like to, I do recommend not reading this post. I try to keep most of my book reviews spoiler-free, but in this in-depth analysis, it can’t be avoided.


Naïve Leaders

When one decides to overthrow an entire corrupt government system, be it a dystopian society in the distant future or a soon-to-be dictator in the distant past, one must be ready for the consequences that come with this rebellion. Katniss Everdeen, protagonist of Suzanne Collins’ well-known The Hunger Games trilogy, and Brutus, protagonist of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, both attempted an enormous rebellion. While they were both more or less successful, their personal losses were devastating enough to make it a Pyrrhic victory, and their naïveté meant that these losses were much more acute than if a normal person had been leading their respective rebellions. 

A common symbol in both of these works of literature is that of family. Both Brutus and Katniss’ families play a part, however insignificant, in these books. To Katniss, family is her most important thing. After her father dies in the mines, her mother sinks into deep depression. When Katniss is about to leave to participate in the Hunger Games, she shouts at her mother not to leave again, and in her voice is “all the fear [she] felt at [her mother’s] abandonment” (Collins, The Hunger Games 35). If Katniss lost her family, she would be destroyed. Meanwhile, Brutus neglects his only family, his beloved wife Portia, for his cause. He is so wrapped up in his plot to kill Caesar and the hullabaloo that follows that his wife commits suicide, “[i]mpatient of [his] absence” (Shakespeare 4.3.174). Brutus valued his cause over his family so much that he would not stay with her and give her the help she needed. While family is a symbol in both The Hunger Games and Julius Caesar, the two main characters have wildly different stances on it.

Both Katniss and Brutus are figureheads of a rebellion. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and her merry band of rebels are fighting against the injustice of the Capitol suppressing the districts. In Julius Caesar, Brutus leads the plot to kill Caesar, ending him with his famous final words, “Et tu, Brutè” (Shakespeare 3.1.85)? However, though they are both figureheads, they do not make their own plans for their rebellions. Katniss is not mentally sound enough to be able to lead her country to victory—she is merely a symbol. Her mockingjay that inspires the rebels is used on everything, even “baked into bread” (Collins, Catching Fire 139). Her plot is masterminded by someone else—namely, President Coin, the corrupt leader of District 13. Meanwhile, Brutus could invent his own schemes if he wanted to, but he makes some fatal mistakes and therefore lets Cassius do the orchestrating. Though they are leaders and seen as the most important people behind their plans, there are several others working in the background.

Perhaps the most important and shocking trait of these two characters, though, is their startlingly similar naïveté. For such important leaders as these, one might think that they would be mature and ready to take on such responsibilities. Katniss’ naïveté can be explained, as she is only seventeen years old and already suffering immense losses, but she is still severely mentally ill and should not be leading a rebellion in the first place. She acknowledges in Mockingjay that it is “impossible to be the Mockingjay” (Collins 162). She is clearly not old enough or strong enough to lead a rebellion against an entire country. However, Brutus has no excuse. He was likely in middle age, which means that his brain had had ample time to develop. Given this, he still made fatal mistakes, such as allowing Antony to have the last word at Caesar’s funeral. Antony turns the crowd against Brutus using several logical fallacies, telling them over and over again that “Brutus was an honorable man” (Shakespeare 3.2.96) but clearly meaning the opposite. By allowing Antony to publicly turn against him, it weakened his spirit and his public support so much that he eventually ran upon his own sword, meeting the same end as his neglected wife—death by suicide. Brutus’s naïveté meant a much bloodier and more devastating end than Katniss’s, but neither of them should have been able to lead a rebellion as far as they did, given their lack of mental stability and maturity. 

Given these similarities and differences, Katniss and Brutus are similar to the point where it is fair to say that they should not be in charge of as much as they are. Their families are both detrimental to their cause in extreme ways, and they are both naïve enough that even if they were the masterminds of their own plots, they should not be—in fact, they should not be in charge of a rebellion at all. A rebellion takes mental and emotional maturity. If one decides to lead a rebellion, one would do well to ensure that they are properly equipped and emotionally ready for such an enormous task.

Works Cited

Collins, Suzanne. Catching Fire. Scholastic Press, 2009.

—. The Hunger Games. Scholastic Press, 2008.

—. Mockingjay. Scholastic Press, 2010.Shakespeare, William.

Julius Caesar. Edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. The Folger Shakespeare Library, 2011.

Well, I hope you enjoyed! Have you read either or both of these works? What other similarities have you noticed?

Thank you so much for reading, and I’ll see you next Wednesday!

know the novel – part two: writing Project Runaway

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

We are deep into NaNoWriMo by this point, and with that comes the second part of Christine Smith’s NaNo linkup!

I really don’t have much else to say that won’t spoil the answers to my questions, so I’m just going to hop right in. Let’s go!

1. how’s the writing going overall?

I’m pleased to announce that it’s going very well! I’m actually ahead of schedule due to my 10,000-word head start on the first day. I’ve been able to keep up my motivation thus far and I hope it continues. As of yesterday, I have 30,326 words on my draft!

2. what’s been the most fun aspect about writing this novel so far?

Chapter eleven. Not going to lie, I had more fun writing that chapter than I have basically the entire rest of the book. It’s just kind of a vibey chapter–the characters don’t really do much, per se, but it was so fun to write that I don’t really care.

3. what do you think of your characters at this point? who’s your favorite to write about?

Not gonna lie, they’re kind of bugging me. They are making some really poor choices in the way they treat themselves and others, and I wish I wasn’t in charge of them because it’s like herding cats. Gosh, is this what being a parent feels like?

My favorite to write about is Cady. She’s more innocent than Tessa, her best friend, and writing about her experiencing the real world for the first time is so fun. She’s a lot like me, too, so that makes it a little bit easier. Plus, I love her interactions with her siblings.

4. has your novel surprised you in any way?

Not too much. Since I did so much plotting–well, it wasn’t so much plotting, but it felt like it because up until now I’ve never plotted–nothing is really coming as a surprise to me. I’m right on schedule, my characters are doing everything I expected them to…all is well.

Now, of course, it’s all going to derail and I’m going to wish I had answered this question differently.

5. have you come across any problem areas?

I haven’t come across any in the actual story itself (haha…yet), but one of my biggest problem areas overall has been finding time to sit down and write. I ended up being way more busy on the weekends than I anticipated, so once it became clear that the schedule I had planned wasn’t going to work, I had to do some tweaking. Once I did that, though, everything’s been running rather smoothly.

That’s kind of concerning, actually. The novel is going…really well. Like, surprisingly well. I’m a little suspicious now. There’s gotta be something that jumps out at me and completely derails me.

6. what’s been your biggest victory with writing this novel at this point?

Genuinely just sitting down and hammering it out. I planned really well, and now the writing is going really well. I’ve been really good about writing every single day since November 1st, and I’m on track for finishing well before the 30th. I’ve never been this consistent with writing before, and I’ve definitely never written this much in this little time before. It really shows how much I’ve matured since I last attempted NaNo.

7. if you were transported into your novel and became any one of the characters, which one do you think you’d be? would you take any different actions than they have?

Like I said, Cady is a lot like me, so I’m pretty sure I would become her. She’s a worrier, she’s never really seen the world but wants to, she dreams big, and she is good at making plans. These are all things that I also embody, and I feel like we’d be good friends if she were real.

I would definitely take different actions than she has. There is no way I’d have the gall to book train tickets on a whim and run away to California with my best friend. The story wouldn’t even get past the inciting incident if I was Cady.

8. give us the first sentence or paragraph then 2 (or 3!) more favorite snippets!

Please don’t laugh at my unedited snippets.

The story starts from Cady’s perspective.

Dear Ms. de Smet,

We are pleased to admit you to the University of California, Los Angeles, class of 2024…

Cadence’s heart stopped. 

I got in.

The next one is from chapter five. It’s right before the first plot point.

“Let’s run away.”

It burst out of Cady’s mouth suddenly and spiraled through the air. She could almost see the moment it landed in Tessa’s mind, her eyes widening, mouth opening…. She didn’t know if she wanted to take it back or if it was the most brilliant idea she had ever had.

“That’s the most brilliant idea you’ve ever had,” Tessa breathed. “Let’s do it. What do we have to lose?”

And one last one, from chapter eight, where they take a detour in Chicago, Tessa’s old hometown:

Sometime in the afternoon, Tessa saw Cady pushing her phone deep into her pocket, looking annoyed. “What is it?” she asked.

“My parents keep calling me,” Cady explained. “Henry too. I feel kind of guilty for ignoring him.”

Tessa frowned as something struck her. “Can they track you?”

A sudden look of horror passed over Cady’s face. “Oh no. They can. They can see me on Find My. What do I do?” She began hyperventilating, panicking. “I’m going to compromise this whole thing. They’re going to find us.”

Tessa wanted to panic too, but one panicking party was bad enough, so she willed herself to calm down. “We have to get rid of your phone,” she said urgently. “How are we going to do that?”

“I don’t want to just leave it here,” Cady said. “But I don’t see what other option we have. I feel like we have to destroy it. Like…for good.”

“We could put it in the street and wait for someone to run over it,” Tessa suggested. 

“Or…” A slow, almost sinister smile spread across Cady’s face. “We could throw it in the river.”

Tessa grinned wildly. “Let’s do it. Come on.”

They were nearest to the Michigan Avenue Bridge. Within minutes, they had raced there. What are we doing? a tiny part of Tessa was screaming at her. But she ignored it and looked over the rail of the bridge.

Cady held the phone in both hands, staring at it. She laughed suddenly. “I feel like we need to have a funeral.”

Tessa made the sign of the cross over Cady’s phone with two fingers. “You have served us well,” she said solemnly, “but it is now your time to be committed to the sea.”

Cady giggled. “You will be missed,” she said, pretending to wipe away a tear. 

“Not by me,” Tessa said. 

Cady tossed the phone over the rail into the rushing river below, and they both watched as it disappeared. Cady stared at where it had sunk below the waves.

“You good?” Tessa asked her, worried that she was about to start panicking again. Maybe she regretted her decision.

Cady shrugged. “I feel like we’re littering. But if a sea turtle starts posting from my Instagram account, I guess it’ll be worth it.”

That last one was kinda long, but it’s one of my favorite scenes overall, so I decided to share it.

9. share an interesting tidbit about the writing process so far!

Well, I did change a character’s name entirely about two days before I started drafting. Meredith changed to Cadence, but I call her Cady most of the book. I felt like it fits her better. I’m still not entirely hooked on Tessa’s name, but until a better one comes to me, she’s staying Tessa.

I also finally caved and reactivated my Pinterest account so I could make a Pinterest board for my novel. (Here it is if you’re interested.) It’s been serving me well, because whenever I feel like I don’t want to continue writing, I just go in and add some new pins and it makes me feel productive and inspired.

Another thing I’ve been doing is filling in this little chart that I made whenever I write another thousand words. It has five rows of ten thousand words each, and whenever I hit another thousand-word milestone, I fill in another square. I keep it on my desk next to my computer. It’s a great motivator. I highly recommend having tangible progress in front of you if you need motivation to keep going.

10. take us on a tour of what a normal writing day for this novel looks like.

Well, there are no “normal” writing days, because my schedule is crazy, but here goes.

On weekends and Wednesdays, I’m usually busy, so I don’t get a ton of writing done, usually only about 500-700 words. It’s all I have the mental energy for on busy days, but at least I’m churning out something.

On Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I have schoolwork, so I get it done and then sit down in the afternoon to write. I usually start around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and finish around 4 or 5. How much I write on those days really depends on my mental energy, how much schoolwork I have, and how motivated I feel. I try to churn out at least 1.5k on those days.

However, Tuesdays are my productive days. I finish all my schoolwork in three days so I have Tuesday to write. I’m usually home alone for most of the day, and I can get massive amounts of words out in one day. The first Tuesday of the month I obviously did 10k, and after that I’m hoping to do about 3-4k every week.

As for the actual writing process itself, I usually write in silence. Sometimes I light my amber and sandalwood candle that my sister hates because she thinks it smells like cologne. Generally, I’ll write in my room at my desk with my knees tucked up under me. I write in 50-minute sprints with 10-minute breaks in between, and sometimes I’ll eat snacks or drink my favorite tea. (I’m not being paid to say this, wish I was, but if you like tea, try Tazo’s lemon loaf tea. If you put a little bit of sugar or sweetener in it, it literally tastes like cake. It’s my lifeblood.)

So that’s how my NaNo is going! Thank you so much, Christine, for hosting this linkup. I’m having lots of fun with it!

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, how’s it going?

I’ll see you next Wednesday!

know the novel: part one – introducing Project Runaway

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to Quote, Unquote!

It’s October! And October means Preptober! And Preptober means…Christine Smith’s NaNo linkup!!

I’ve done this linkup for the last two years, and every year I’ve loved answering Christine’s questions about my NaNo project and seeing others’ answers. And since I’m doing NaNo again this year, it’s that time once again!

This year I’ll be sharing about my WIP Project Runaway. (That’s its placeholder title. It doesn’t have a real title at the moment, but there will likely be one by the end of November.)

So without further ado, let’s jump into…

the questions

1. what first sparked the idea for this novel?

I’m really not sure, to be honest. I’ve been wanting to write about a road trip for a really really long time, and now seemed like the perfect opportunity! But I guess if I had to pinpoint a specific time, I asked on the YWWC for reasons two teenagers would be running away. One of my friends gave me a whole truckload of reasons, and then my two protagonists sprang from there.

2. share a blurb!

Meredith is running away. Away from her abusive home. Away from the hurt. Away from the suffocating memories, the panic attacks, the broken glass that is her past. The last straw has just been added to the camel’s back, and her life is now in danger if she stays. So she runs.

Tessa is running towards. She just wants a new life. After the accident that destroyed her old one and left her a pariah in her beloved hometown, she knows she can’t stay. Besides, if she did, her well-meaning parents would leave her to rot in a correctional facility, and she knows she has so much more life to live. So she runs.

When the two best friends take off together, it seems like they’re finally getting what they need—a new home, a new life. When Meredith receives terrible news, though, she knows she has to turn back, but Tessa has sworn that she’ll never return. A rift begins to divide the two. Will they ever be able to repair her friendship?

3. where does the story take place? what are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

My story takes place all over the western United States, really. My protagonists are coming from the suburbs of Detroit (where I’m growing up), and they decide to go west. I’m thinking lots of desert, though. I love the desert (even though I’ve never really been, unless you count Houston), and I plan to weave lots of that into my story.

4. tell us about your protagonist(s).

Meredith values good friendships and great art. She loves to paint her emotions, especially in impressionism–her favorite artist is Marie Bracquemond. Beauty is important to her, and you see this all over her everyday life as she tries to spread goodness everywhere she goes. Despite all of this–or maybe in spite of it–she lives in fear of being abandoned by the ones she loves, whether that’s her family or her best friend, Tessa.

Tessa is a bit of a wild card. She’s been known to do some pretty crazy stuff in her lifetime. As you can probably tell, she loves her freedom and refuses to be held down by anyone. Like Meredith, she is also very artistic, but her artistry comes in the form of music. Her electric guitar is her most prized possession, and she loves to play music from the likes of Guns ‘n’ Roses and AC/DC.

5. who (or what) is the antagonist?

My story is very heavy on the internal conflict, so I guess you would call it something along the lines of man versus self. Both of my protagonists struggle against themselves more than anything else.

6. what excites you the most about this novel?

I think just the general vibe of it is what I’m the most excited about it. I love my protagonists, too, and I have this great mental image of them riding down the desert road at night listening to 80’s rock. And I think I’m also really excited about finally starting a new story. I haven’t drafted in a very long time. It’ll be good to write again.

7. is this going to be a series? standalone? something else?

I’m planning for it to be a standalone, but I always leave my options open.

8. are you plotting? pantsing? plansting?

I’m trying out plotting! I’m plotting my main story beats in-depth, and I might try a chapter-by-chapter outline, too, but I’m not so sure about that one. I’ve been learning so much about the 3-Act Structure while working on plotting this. There are lots and lots of notes.

9. name a few unique elements in this story.

This story is unique because it tackles hard topics. Not a lot of contemporary young adult novels that I’ve read cover controversial things, but I’ll be trying to change that with this novel.

Also, I’ve searched far and wide but haven’t found many books about road trips, so I guess the whole premise is unique. I love reading road trip stories, and I think it should be a whole genre, but there aren’t many out there. So I’m fixing that!

10. share some fun “extras” of the story.

Fun fact: For this novel, I’m using the enneagram personality system to build my characters. If you know me, you know that I’m a little bit of a nerd for personality theory, and the enneagram is especially good for creating characters because it deals with your inner motivations, desires, and fears–all things that good writers should know about their characters. Tessa is an enneagram Eight, and Meredith is an enneagram Six.

Right now, I don’t have any Pinterest boards or Spotify playlists for this story, but I’m sure that will come as I write! I’ll likely be sharing them in later linkup posts.

Also…I’ve decided that as a motivator (and to get over my fear of sharing my writing to real people that I know), I’ll be sharing a snippet from my story every day to my email list! You’ll get an email after I finish my writing most days of November (I’m sure that there will be some days where I won’t be able to write) with my current word count and whatever I’ve written that day. So if you’d like to read my story as it’s being written, you can sign up right here.

So that’s it for now! Oooh, I’m so excited to start writing this. And I’m excited for you to read it!

Thanks again, Christine, for hosting this linkup!

I’ll catch you all next Wednesday,