What It’s Like Currently Being a Student in America

I’ve grown up in a post-Columbine world. The talk of school shootings is not something new to me, I’ve been taught how to prepare for one my whole life. I’ve spent hours siting in dark classrooms, huddled in the corner with my classmates praying it’s only a drill. As of February, there have been a total of 18 school shootings in 2018. The latest, taking place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman killed 17 people.

As a current student, this terrifies me. Many days I wake up wondering if I could be next. I’ve made action plans for every classroom I go to, in case I find myself in an active shooter situation. When I see students walking with their hands in a hoodie, I wonder if they’re concealing a gun. When I hear screaming in the hallway, I immediately think “where should I hide?” The worst part about all of this is that it is a preventable issue, yet our government just won’t do anything to prevent it.

I don’t want to be the next victim of a school shooting. I don’t want to see my classmates be victims of a school shooting. I don’t want to see anymore children die in school a shooting. We’re required by law to go to school from the time we turn five until we graduate from high school, and yet we are not safe there. I may now be in college, and have made the decision to be in school, but I still deserve to be safe. No students will be safe until we have gun control, and no students will be safe until our government stops taking money from the NRA.

It is not too soon, now is the time to talk about this. April 20th, 1999 was the time to talk about gun control, December 14th, 2012 was the time to talk about gun control, February 14th, 2018 was the time to talk about gun control, and yet we didn’t. We’ve become so numb as a nation that we get over mass tragedy is a few weeks. We don’t even remember the details of all the recent shootings, because there have been so many. The victims of these horrific acts of violence deserve to be remembered. They deserve justice, and that can only come when we, as a nation, make sure this never happens again. People my age and younger, like Emma Gonzalez, are having to step up and lead a movement. Children, and people who are barely adults, should not have to constantly tell grown-ups that our lives are worth more than your right to own an automatic weapon.

 

Advertisements

Being Successful in School while Chronically Ill

School and chronic illness are two things that do not mix well. From the constant absences, and annoyed teachers, to the  piles of make-up work the whole experience can be really difficult, and quite overwhelming. The majority of the time I’ve been chronically ill (roughly 5 1/2 years) I’ve also been in school. Here are some of the things I do to try and be successful in school:

  1. Organize Everything

Having a planner or agenda is important for anyone in school, but is essential for those who are chronically ill. Having to keep up with regular due dates, make-up due dates, and study hall times can be overwhelming. If you have brain fog like I do, it’s also easy to forget things, so writing everything down is important. It also helps you prioritize certain things in your work load.

2. Email Your Teachers

Inevitably some teachers aren’t going to like you if you’re absent all the time. It causes them to have to do more work and they feel like you’re a nuisance. Emailing all of your teachers when your absent helps show initiative and helps you get school work even when you’re not there. I also find that telling them when you’re in the hospital is important so that they know you’re definitely not going to be in class for a few days. Keeping everyone is the loop is the best to make sure you’re not falling too far behind.

3. Push Yourself…

There will be days that are ROUGH. You know you have an exam, a quiz, and a group project presentation that day but your body is rebelling. Sometimes when it feels impossible, you actually can do it. It will suck, it will be painful, but it is possible. You probably won’t have a good day, but you tried as hard as you could.

4. … but not too far

There will also be days that it is impossible. Do not ignore big warning signs from your body just to make it to class for a test. Do not send your body into a huge fit (well a bigger fir than it already is) because of the inner and outer pressure to conform to societies ideas of “successful.” A fulfilling life does not have to include a formal education or a long career. Also missing a few days of school will not keep you from getting the things you want. Will it make it harder? Sure. Will it take longer? Probably. Doing what’s best for your body is the most important thing.

5. Take Advantage of Disability Services

There is no shame in asking for help. Although it will never be an equal playing field between you and your peers due to your chronic illness, disability services can help tremendously. They help especially when it comes to absence policies and dealing with teachers who don’t understand your situation. You have rights and your school cannot infringe upon them just because they want more money from the state. **

 

These are my five tips for being successful in school while chronically ill. Do you have any tips for other students with chronic illness? Let me know!

 

 

** Schools often have a 90% rule where you have to be there 90% of the time and if you aren’t you have to do make-up hours. They want you to be there that much because for every student that makes it to school 90% of the time they get a certain amount of money. Not only is it ableist to force students to stay before and after school if they are absent due to illness, it is also illegal.

 

Getting My GED

I finally bit the bullet and took all four of my GED tests!

I had studied off and on since January, but I knew I was stalling and needed to go ahead and get it done. Honestly I was just really afraid of failing.  When I was studying it wasn’t that hard, but I thought it would be really embarrassing to fail a test that’s supposed to be easy.

I took the social studies portion on May 2nd and passed with flying colors. Then I took the math test and the science test on May 9th, which were the ones I was most nervous about. Luckily I also did really well and overall it wasn’t very hard. Finally I took the English test yesterday. I’ve always done well in English and aced all of my state mandated English tests, so I wasn’t worried about this one at all. I could have done them all in one day, but with my chronic illnesses I didn’t think that would be a good idea. They allow you so much time to test, and I wasn’t sure how much I would actually take so splitting them up seemed like the best choice. I passed them all as college ready which was really exciting, and I was one point away from getting college credit on the science portion. 

I’m so so happy to be done with the high school portion of my life! I honestly can’t express enough how much this is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. I’m done with high school… early. Yes a GED isn’t as good as an actual high school diploma, but back in the fall I wasn’t so sure I was going to be able to even get this done before the Summer began. Now all I need is my license and I can start taking college classes at my local community college in the fall! The situation may not be ideal, but I’m choosing to celebrate the win and look forward to getting my life back on track.

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Dead: Chronically Misunderstood

I can remember this moment as if it were yesterday.

I walked into fifth period with a haze over me from the pain meds I had taken that morning. I felt horrible but I had missed this class everyday for weeks and knew I needed to go in order to attempt to catch up. There were three people I recognized in that English class and the rest were complete strangers.

When I walked in there was a boy siting in my seat, naturally I though they had changed seats so I asked a girl who sat by my presumably “old seat” if the teacher had changed the seating chart. “Ugh no,”  she scoffed at me, “we’ve been in the same seats from the beginning of the year.” I didn’t have the energy nor the will to scoff back or come up with a witty comment. “I used to sit there, where’s your old seat? I’ll move,” I ask the boy.

Before he can respond the girl juts in, “Oh your that girl” she says as she rolls her eyes. The boy got up and I sat down exhausted and slightly annoyed at her unnecessary attitude. As I unpacked my things the other students began to talk about me as if I wasn’t there. “I thought she moved” one kid said, “I didn’t think she was ever coming back another chimed in. Then as if the whole world went into slow motion the same rude girl spits out, “well I thought she died.”

I thought she died.

The conversation continues with the other students saying “Oh no I didn’t think she died, but I’m surprised she’s back.” I sat in disbelief. These people who don’t even know my name are having a whole conversation about me while I sit right in front of them. I’m just “that girl” to them.

Looking back I wish I was coherent enough to have snapped back, “thanks for coming to my funeral. You seem really upset by my death.” Honestly the lack of social awareness is what makes this semi-funny. I have to admit a part of me is still a little annoyed that they behaved that way and couldn’t care less about the status of my life. Teenagers can be so insensitive. Of course they didn’t know this but at the time I wasn’t sure if I was going to die or not, soon I mean; we’re all going to die. I had no diagnosis (but that hasn’t changed) and I was in such severe pain everyday that something was obviously really wrong.

Now it’s almost comical, but in the moment it was just one more thing to deal with. Moral of the story think before you speak, oh and also just don’t be a jerk.

Lots of Love,

If a dead girl can even love 🙂

Alyssa

Why are you here?: Chronically Misunderstood

This one is going to be a bit of a back story, but I’ll make it quick. At the time I in high school and it was my freshman year. The school I went to really didn’t like that I was absent a lot and made me jump through a lot of hoops in order to “make up my time.” This had happened for the past two years I was in middle school as well, but their obsession with me being in school makes this story funny to me. Also at this time doctors thought I had abdominal migraines also known as cyclical vomiting syndrome.

I walked into school late and went to check in  before heading to class. Normally I would go to my house office, but the secretary at the front desk stopped me and asked me my name. When I told her who I was she looked me up in the computer system which I thought was odd. I had come into school late a lot and no one ever questioned me. Normally I just went to the office, got a note, and was on my way.

The lady started to look really confused and said, “you aren’t supposed to be here.” I didn’t know what to say to that. Here I am at school, specifically at a school that get’s very angry when I’m absent yet this lady is telling me I’m not supposed to be here? “You’ve been counted absent for the whole day,” she told me. I responded with, “I don’t know why, I didn’t tell anyone I was going to be gone all day.”

She furiously tapped away on the computer and I just stood there throughly confused. She walked away into the main office and came back looking relieved. She exclaims, rather loudly I might add, ” OH YOU’RE STOMACH MIGRAINE GIRL!” I guess I had developed a reputation. “Yeah…” I replied trying not to laugh. For some reason being stomach migraine girl made everything okay and she let me go on my way. I’m still honestly not sure what that situation was all about, but it was funny nonetheless.

Tell me a funny or weird story about your high school experience!

Lots of Love,

Alyssa

Being on Your Own Timeline

In the U.S. and especially in the suburbs there’s a pattern to life that your assumed to follow.

Graduate high school, go straight away to a University, graduate college in four years, get your first job, get married, have kids, etc.

I was raised to believe this is the only way to be successful in life, but after having my life interrupted by chronic illness and having to pave a different path for myself I’ve learned just how wrong that is. Everyone does things at their own pace; some people aren’t mature enough to go to college straight out of high school or can’t financially make ends meet so they have to work before going to school. For other people college just isn’t the right choice for them, or they choose to go back to school later in life.

While I am definitely pro-education and believe, given the opportunity, you should obtain as much education as possible, I can see that there are situations that can make that difficult or near impossible. You don’t have to have life figured out at 22, or even your own life figured out.

While there’s always going to be a lot of external pressure to follow a certain timeline, only you can know what’s best for yourself. Right now it’s best for me to be out of high school while I pursue my GED and get my health on track, to other people the decisions I’ve made may not be what they think is right, but I don’t believe you can speak to experiences you haven’t had.

Every time I meet someone new there’s always a million questions about school and extra curricular’s. I don’t feel the need to tell my sob story to everyone I meet so I often tell them the town I live in and let them make their own assumptions. Occasionally I’ll tell people the things I used to do when I was in school without mentioning I don’t go there anymore, but that’s normally when I’m uncomfortable with all the questions and feel like I’m being judged.

It’s crazy how narrow minded people can be. I try to put myself in other peoples shoes and examine situations from all aspects the best that I can. There isn’t one correct way to live life and I think this plan we’ve created as a society and seem to believe everyone should follow to a T can be really detrimental. You’re not a failure if your life doesn’t look like the majority of your peers, friends, or family members. You also don’t have to have the same dreams and goals as everyone around you.

Be yourself and do things on your own timeline!

Alyssa

Continuing Education

I’m setting a date to take my GED.

If you aren’t aware, I dis-enrolled from high school back in November and have been navigating what I’m going to do ever since then. After trying online high school, it not going well, and having a the biggest fight I’ve ever had with my parents, I’m finally going to take my GED test like we had planned all along. Since I’m only seventeen I had to get approved from the state, and I was approved yesterday morning so things are starting to get in place!

I’ve been studying a little bit here and there over the last few weeks and I don’t think passing it will be a problem. I’ve always done really well in school, and the GED test is supposed to be pretty easy. I’m still going to continue to study up until my test day because unexpectedly failing would be quite embarrassing.

I feel like this is a step in the right direction, even though it makes me really sad. I never wanted to leave high school, but this is the only way for me to move on and continue my education. I want to start some college courses over the summer, so I need to get my GED and then my license and I’ll be set. I guess hard decisions are part of “becoming an adult,” and I should get used to them. It’s definitely not the end of the world, it’s just a major disappointment. The burden and stigma of being a “high school drop-out” and a GED holder could set me back in my career which makes me nervous.

This is the right decision for me and I feel good about that. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it, researching it, and talking about it with my family. Now I just want it to be over with so I can move on.

How was your high school experience?

Lots of Love,

Alyssa