- Current Issue -
September 9, 2013 • A POSITIVE PRESS PUBLICATION • VOL. 4, ISSUE 1
Taken at Face Value
written by third-year, Melanie Kent
Many of us working in customer service jobs have endured lectures on the importance of smiling. However, when faced with an eight-hour shift, the significance of facial expressions fades, as can their authenticity.
But what really makes a smile? A real smile takes genuineness. A real smile is expressed in all your body language. The sparkling in your eyes, the un-wrinkly openness of your forehead, the light quickness of even your smallest gestures, the welcoming rounding of your whole face, the tilt of your shoulders that says, "I'm here, all for you, all of me." It's the way you look when you are bending yourself toward someone, saying “I like you” with everything but your voice. Unguarded, because the smile isn't about you.
People recognize this. It can add a glittering touch of joy to the most ordinary transaction. It can breathe calm into a taut room, disarm a stony, inward-looking face, and draw out a stifled personality. It can transform a rainy day from a barrier to a space in time in which to actually look at each other.
A real smile requires a decision not to clench your jaw upwards, but to craft and create a valuable gift.
But it’s simultaneously more than and less than that. When you give a genuine smile to someone, you’re recognizing their value. You're looking at them as a person. And when you do that, you see that they are people. You grin at their quirks, beam at their hopes, identify with their frustrations. You're more charmed at their jokes and less ruffled by their moods. You remember to salt the fries and feel like you're giving a perk to a friend. You wipe kid fingerprints off a window and relive adorable thank you’s. You find it comical instead of depressing that a family is so thrilled to find that you can still serve them with just five minutes until closing.
My first attempts at being a good employee missed this. I thought I had to have a smile perpetually bubbling beneath my energetic surface as I went about my thrilling tasks of resupplying napkins,
picking up squashed fries, and pointing people to the straws. I got so tense about squeezing in "have a good day" that I forgot to give back credit cards. This is what you get when you take the conscientious girl from her world of academia and give her a grade for making hamburgers friendli-ly.
But what really makes a smile powerful is the realization that it’s not about me - it’s about us.
Worn Blankets and Staircases
written by third-year, Taylor Tokarz
It was the too-big blanket that did it. She had wrapped it around her in a way that only kids can: tangled enough to feel like a hug, but loose enough to wriggle out of. The house was kept cold in the winter, though she was often found nestled in some warm corner of her home, regardless of season. This is why no one noticed the oversized blanket bunched at her feet as she ran down the hall. She was always a little ahead of herself and after jogging the length of the carpeted hallway, she began to run. Back and forth, back and forth, tirelessly running, never exhausting the need to play, she ran. It was only when the blanket caught around her feet that the momentum carried her a step further than anticipated. Down the staircase she tumbled.
It wasn’t the pain that made her cry. It had more to do with the sudden jolt of the unexpected. A part of her knew she was expected to cry, even if nobody had been in the room to see the fall. A soft whimper turned to violent tears and screams for Mom, and she soon found herself being scooped up, wrapped in a hug, and placed on the worn
leather love seat in the living room. By now, the first blanket lay crumpled in the corner at the base of the stairs, long forgotten, and a second blanket was lovingly wrapped around the child. (This one, plump with down feathers, was more comforting than the first, but would have been harder to run with). After a few more kisses, Mom moved into the kitchen and began warming chicken noodle soup in the microwave. The child sniffled and breathed a few deep breaths, then gave a shaky smile to herself. She could hear the whir of the microwave and the lingering love from kisses, and felt comforted.
Now when she falls, it’s not a result of racing down the hall. It’s usually because life has fallen short of expectations. And now, so far from home, comfort is found in the nooks and crannies of life. In blanket-forts she builds with roommates, in sticky-note apologies, and long drives through short days. It’s a different kind of comfort, a reminder of the side effects of independence. In his book The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman writes that as children, "[we] took pleasure in small things,
even as greater things [crumble. We] could not control the world [we were] in, could not walk away from the things or people or moments that hurt, but [we] took joy in the things that made [us] happy.” Though he captures the nostalgia we often feel for childhood, Gaiman still makes the point that as adults, we have the power to change our circumstances. When we’re young, our parents soothe the aches of life. They teach us that a kiss can heal as much as a band-aid. But more importantly, they teach us that we’re strong enough to heal ourselves.
Literally Doesn’t Just Mean Literally
written by by second-year, Nneka Ewulonu
At the end of a thrilling anecdote, which featured me fighting a shark and jumping through a ring of fire (this totally happened, just run with it), I finished with, “...I literally had a heart attack.” I realized my mistake as soon as I said it, and my friend’s response made her feelings clear: “Literally? You literally had a heart attack? Did you have to literally go to the hospital afterward and literally get your heart shocked?” But as it turns out, I actually hadn’t made a mistake.
Congratulations, Generation Y, we did it! We misused a word to the point that Merriam-Webster said, “Screw it, we’ll just make this new use of the word ‘literally’ a part of its definition.” Now “literally” means both literally and figuratively, a decision that enrages English teachers and grammar prescriptivists far and wide.
But is this change really that bad? While a word that means both itself and its opposite is confusing, the new definition also shows a beautiful and interesting aspect of English. English is a mutable language. There’s no governing board or concrete rules. We’ve all agreed on the formal standard, but non-standard English is a free for all. Once a term, no matter how obscure or nonsensical its origin, is used by our society, it becomes a part of our lexicon.
English’s lack of rules allows it to forever evolve. It stays current so our language can change in new and creative ways. It may be embarrassing for ‘lol’ to be in the dictionary, but it's worth the amount of innovation of our language. Without fluidity, we wouldn’t have words such as ‘lustrous,’ ‘tranquil,’ or ‘majestic.’ William Shakespeare created these words solely to add richness to his writing. If his critics had their way, his work would not have had the impact it did. Of the thousands of words in the English language, many wouldn’t exist without us choosing to use them in new and complex ways.
As much as we might consider this to be a degradation of language, this new definition is within our power. We have the ability to change fundamental aspects of English. It’s something to be encouraged, not discouraged. We’re making our language’s past and bringing ourselves closer to our language’s future. And this is something, both literally and literally, to be proud of.
summits and trenches
written second-year, Megan Robertson
Even though you can’t feel it,
the ground beneath our feet is moving,
stretching into each new morning
with a rustle of its shoulder blades
just like we do.
tectonic plates move about two centimeters
per revolution around the sun.
Not much if you think about it.
Though we bump around a little more than that
we aren’t so different.
Even when we are moving
away from one thing,
we are still moving toward another.
And though on one side
you might feel as thoughthe Mariana Trench is opening up before you,
leaving some people on the other side,
you’ll find that
you’ll start making mountains
The geography of your life
is shifting all the time,
rising and falling
A map drawn today
can be inaccurate as soon as tomorrow,
and some days
you may be swimming
in water the sun doesn’t reach,
but other days will find you
basking in the glory
of a mountain range
spread out before you,
and in you.
Whether you’re bobbing in the ocean
or lounging atop a peak,
you never know when the scenery may open up;
and you are the landscape architect
of this marvelous little world.
written by third-year, Maya Basu
Driving is an art form, constituting many different skill sets and techniques to be mastered. One advantageous skill that has always held particular intrigue to me is the ability to operate a manual vehicle with a stick shift. Driving an automatic car which shifts gears for you is easier because it requires less coordination for the driver, but imagine being stuck in a situation where someone needs medical attention and the only mode of transport available to reach medical care is a vehicle that operates in stick shift. In addition to this extremely practical benefit of driving stick shift, the innate coolness associated with being able to successfully cruise down a road in a manual car cannot be ignored.
Imagine my pure joy when I got the opportunity to learn to drive a manual car during the summer of ‘11. Only there’s a twist: because I was visiting India at the time, I had to learn to drive stick
shift (already a massive ordeal) with the steering wheel on the right side of the car and the gear shift on the left side of the driver, opposite to standard cars here in the US – a challenge which only doubled the fun.
On a picturesque summertime morning, I headed off on a day trip with three of my friends in our bumbling, monumental, box-shaped white van toward the vast green countryside that awaited us. Ecstatic to finally be able to learn to drive this manual car, I jumped into the driver’s seat, belted up, and attentively listened to instructions. Overwhelmed with the wealth of direction, I took a deep breath and started the engine. I think I stalled the car ten times before I got the hang of the supreme coordination required to drive a stick shift, and I slowly started rolling this awkwardly-shaped van I was driving. What a joyful moment! Fresh breeze from the open window meshed
pleasantly with the raw sunshine hitting the dash. My friends were either in the car with me or running alongside the van like youthful spirits, cheering me along on my journey down that dirt road.
Time stalled as I journeyed through the Edenic landscape of blue and green. The sunshine glistened off of my white van, adding to the already bright and joyous atmosphere of that particular afternoon. At one point, a slightly puzzled, yet amused, passerby on the road heard the music blasting from our van speakers and, looking over his shoulder at the approaching car, graced us with one of the sweetest smiles I have a recollection of. I remember this moment clearly, because I felt that I shared a special moment of connection with this stranger, albeit the moment lasting the time it took to pass him on the road.
Sometimes these moments of brief intimacy can create lasting feelings of joy in our hearts, illuminating our memories for years with their gifts. The memorable experience of learning to drive a stick shift car for the first time, surrounded by encouraging friends in such a vibrant atmosphere, is one such snapshot of my memory.
Laughter Leads to Life
written by second-year, Allison Cape
I spent my summer running around with little munchkins at a camp for nine weeks. It was one of the most incredible summers of my life. I had daily hour long rest time and got to frolic around fields and trails. I was also given the opportunity to work at the special needs camp for three weeks and I have never experienced such immense joy. We spent our days at the pool, singing songs and laughing until we cried or couldn’t breathe anymore.
Before these three incredible months, I took my life far too seriously. I had to make the best grades and have the best friends and have the best days or else my life was going to amount to nothing. This summer taught me so differently and I haven’t been able to take anything seriously since. I laugh in the face of every situation, sweet or salty.
The bad things that happen to us do not define us. Most people would have called my first week of school a nightmare, but I couldn’t help giggling every time I thought about the bizarre situations I found myself in. To begin, I woke up and dropped my last left contact down the sink and had to retrieve it with a Q-Tip. Cue my first laughing fit. In my first class, we were supposed to say one word to describe ourselves. Sweet freshmen girls chose descriptors such as “nice” or “caring” or “kind.” I said, “Pizza.” My teacher looked at me for an explanation and I just laughed. Why not? Everyone loves pizza.
However, the highlight of my week occurred the next day when I woke up with a massive, festering rash on my right arm. It appeared two days before as a non-threatening bump but at this point, it looked like it was eating my arm. I hauled myself to Quick Care and the little old man doctor diagnosed it as an infected spider bite. My reaction was an uncontrollable laugh – of course. A few days passed and the bite became worse and worse. People would see it and actually shriek. I just laughed. I laughed when I went back to Quick Care and they told me it was worse. Somehow, I managed to laugh through the pain of the doctor plunging an enormous needle into my arm to drain the infection. And after a moment of terror, I even laughed a few days later when I found a massive black spider in my shower.
Horrible situations can be turned around simply by a giggle. Our purpose here is to make this world better, accomplished by finding the simple joy in our everyday circumstances. Stop. Smile and laugh a little bit. It feels good – there’s no denying that. Through bad test grades and broken hearts and even spider bites, try to laugh, because once you start, you can’t stop.
Trying Times and Making Minds
written by third-year, Haley Burr
A little to the left. Turn it more towards the window. Wait, no…back to the right. Isn’t this how it always goes?
During my most recent transition from my parents’ four-bedroom house back to my college living quarters, I once again assumed the daunting task of trying to fit all of my furniture, clothes, and unnecessary belongings into a 120 square foot bedroom. In my head, I had plans of grandeur about the potential layouts for my future abode, but when it was time for actual execution, my ideas were flawed. In the midst of my ensuing frustration, however, my wise father assured me this, “You won’t know if you like the way it looks until you try all the possible options.” Any rational person would agree that this is an obvious and humdrum piece of advice, but it was exactly what I needed to hear.
It’s curious how these simple phrases or small acts can lead to big moments of clarity and
confidence, just like how the monotonous rearranging of furniture can change the impression of an entire room. Sometimes, we have to experience things first in order to develop an opinion or to decide how we feel. When we shift our furniture around and test out the multitude of options, we accept the opportunity to make up our mind and choose what is best for ourselves.
We must realize all of our options, make adjustments to our mindset, and shift our ideologies until we can decide what is best for us. That is why we are so prone to making mistakes. It is the mind’s way of reshuffling all of life’s furniture to find the best fit, and we have to make copious mistakes before we will realize what is right or what we want. When we are called to make a choice, we sometimes have to make all of the wrong ones first, readjust, grow, and learn what we want.
Make some mistakes, take risks, ask plenty of questions, and get to know yourself. You just might not know what works until you see how it looks first. Try out all of our options if you need to, especially when you can’t make up your mind, until you resolve on the perfect fit. Because at the end of the day, would you want to live in an ugly, cluttered room? I don’t think so.
A Romanization of the Keyboard: Hidden Philosophies
written by third-year, Anna Wilson
The keyboard is underrated. Yes, I am specifically referring to that thing on your laptop or computer that you use to Facebook stalk people you marginally know. The keyboard is the reason why the computer functions so effortlessly, and just so happens to reflect aspects of our own lives within its keys.
Out of all the buttons on the keyboard, the shift key may be the most underrated of them all. The shift key is a modifier to the other keys. Pressing it alone doesn’t do anything, but when it’s pressed with another key, it creates a new, alternate meaning. It is used for capitalization and for the fun types of punctuation. It is used for parentheses, colons, quotations, question marks, and exclamation points! The shift key modifies all the other keys to convey and distinguish thoughts from being ordinary to exciting. It gives this extra oomph to documents, emails, and webpages. Capitalization is used at the beginnings of new thoughts, names, and places. Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure, and make writing easy to understand. Punctuation is vital to giving meaning to sentences. You dish out a colon when you are hashing out a list. You use parentheses to denote side notes and caveats. You use quotation marks when something has already been said but needs to be stated again, and question marks to be curious. And finally, you use the cheerful exclamation point to emphasize the awesomeness of a particular thing.
The shift key is essentially the X factor to the keyboard world. It’s the mysterious quality that you cannot always describe that makes something or someone special. Everything the shift key enables, and the meaning it gives to the other keys when pressed, represents the things we enunciate in our own lives. Capitalization marks the beginnings of thoughts, names, and places. Punctuation guides the reader to a particular reaction, emphasizing particular things over others. We capitalize and punctuate on the things that make us excited. This so happens to be the people and places that we love. We use punctuation to help express these meaningful experiences we have, and to convey it to the outside reader. The shift key is essentially a game changer. It is where the magic happens. It helps us see the extraordinary and see how it is comprised of the things that we love. People strive to live life in all caps, but that’s only with the help of the shift key. The things we love help us become better versions of ourselves, and aid us in writing our own narratives. The shift key is part of the keyboard but we don’t realize how awesome it is until we think about it. The shift key may be the most underrated part of the keyboard, but it just so happens to be where all the good stuff is found!