The Food Network Effect

may have a minor addiction to the Food Network. It isn’t bad. Just “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives”. Oh, and that other show he does, “Guy’s Grocery Games”. But that’s totally it.

Except for “Cake Wars”. And the holiday competitions shows. And anything labeled “Kids _______ Championship”.

And “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen”.

“Beat Bobby Flay” might be on the list, too.

So few of my friends seem to share my affinity for the Food Network. Just the other day, I recounted the results of the latest “Food Network Star” episode to a friend, and he didn’t seem to get it. Others enjoy Food Network, but they don’t really like to cook. It’s sad to watch that channel all alone. It’s hard to have your mind blown by a mind-boggling four foot tall cake and have no one to share with.

Every once and a while, I am blessed with a friend who also watches the Food Network. Perhaps not in the same dosage as myself, but still, they watch it. When this rare miracle occurs, I sometimes am given the utmost pleasure in watching a show with my friend.

Sure, they’re actually two hours away and we aren’t technically “hanging out”, but sometimes, guessing who’s getting chopped or conversing about carrying a giant stuffed monkey is as close as you’re gonna get.

I accept this. Unfortunately, this “Let’s watch the Food Network together” doesn’t happen nearly as often as I hope. In my strategic mindset, I love to pick apart competitors successes and mistakes. I even enjoy analyzing the cuts the producers have chosen to feature.

However, I mainly keep these things bottled up inside of me, since no one seems to understand.

Seriously, though. It’s a “Beauty and the Beast” cake with an accurate, doll-sized Belle and it looks amazing, how are people not fascinated by this?

Goodbye to an Era

Today, I said goodbye to my school. I’ve been there my whole life, and as of now, I am no longer a student there.

I said goodbye to some friendships. I know that even if I try to hold on and keep going, they will slip out of my grasp.

I said goodbye to wonderful teachers. I’m going to miss them and their classes dreadfully.

I said goodbye to an era. It was hard.

It’s harder to know that my school friends are all boys, and they don’t understand the emotions I’m moving through right now. They don’t understand their role in those emotions.

Today, I met so many people that I’ve only ever known as names on screens. I put faces to classmates. Some I hadn’t interacted with in years. Some I call my friends. However, none of my friends were particularly good to me. They have all let me down, one way or another. As a whole, they’ve each left me with the burden of maintaining our friendship.

Perhaps that was why the most striking moment of my day came from someone I never called friend. Someone I never saw eye to eye with.

I was walking back through the halls after the ceremony. I’d collected my diploma and was passing the line of students still awaiting theirs.

He stretched his hand out to me for a shake. “Congratulations, Lexi,” he said.

I’m sure my face reflected the surprise I felt, but I shook his hand. “Thanks, Matt, you too.”

How is it that those I called friend could feel like anything but friends on this day: our high school graduation? And yet, some people I never took the time to know blew me away.

I can’t help but be sad to wave goodbye to a precious time in my life. My sadness doubles when I realize I have no one to talk to about it. It triples when I remember those I should be able to talk to don’t actually care. I’m finally pushed to tears when I acknowledge those I call friend aren’t really friends after all.

It was a good day. Dear friends and family made the long drive to come watch me wobble across a stage in heels. The ceremony was shorter than I expected, and it was sweet. The speeches were humble and honorable. The video I contributed to was well received. I sat beside two wonderful people. However, the greatest part of my day was being called onto the stage with seven other students to receive specialized department awards; being wrapped up in a hug with my favorite teacher. Finally feeling…justified, in front of my peers.

I am ready for the new era. I’m ready for deep and meaningful friendships. I’m ready for college and trying to be a grown-up.

Deep inside, I will always miss my childhood and my school. But I think that it’s a good sign that I feel ready to fly away.

Hugging Etiquette

Here’s the hard truth. Hugging is awkward. I mean, momentarily linking two bodies by the arms doesn’t always end up the way you imagine it. Where should you put your face? How much pressure should you apply? How long is an appropriate hug? Is patting on the back acceptable?

Any way you wrap it, hugs are hard. So, I wrote you a guide on different hugs and the scenarios that they can be used in.

The Side Hug

Side hugs are the best way to say, “Hey, you. I want to express our friendship, but I’m not totally comfortable with a full hug, so I’m going to awkwardly snake my arm around you and bump hips.” They are very popular with youth groups, especially between the genders. If you aren’t totally comfortable giving that bro/gal a hug, even if it’s an arm-flapper, the side hug is your best bet.

The best thing about the side hug is that the intent can’t be mistaken. There’s no way to really change a side hug. It means what it means. It feels how it feels. It looks how it looks. If you choose a side hug, you don’t have to worry about anything. (Except possibly breaking a heart if the person who initiated the hug wasn’t going for that.)

To Be Used For: friends of friends; acquaintances; awkward situations

To Be Used By: anyone

The Arm-Flapper

This is a common girl hug. In the movies, it’s usually accompanied by exaggerated cheek kisses and the “mwah” sound effect. This is a nice alternative to the side hug if you’re comfortable with the person you’re hugging, but you don’t really want to…touch them. Essentially, you just flap your arms around them briefly, to the point that it almost isn’t a hug. (It could be the next new dance craze.)

The arm-flapper offers little contact. However, it is difficult to determine on sight. Girls give arm-flapper hugs in all types of attire, and at any time or event. If the person who initiated the hug is arm flapping, try to be courteous and hug them in the same manner. It is reassuring to note, however, that most girls hug the same way, regardless of who they are hugging (except for special exceptions, such as best friends; but if you’re her best friend, you know how you two hug).

To Be Used For: friends of friends; friends; gross boys

To Be Used By: girls, mostly

The Bro Hug

This is the standard boy hug. When a man hugs another man, there is excessive patting on the back. This is what makes the hug a bro hug. There is plenty of contact, to the point that they can sometimes lift each other. Regardless, the bro hug is a very friendly hug (as the word “bro” would suggest). Its intent is to communicate friendship and brotherhood.

If you’re a dude going up to greet another dude and he moves in for a hug, don’t worry! There will be patented bro hug patting, guaranteed. However, guys do not normally hug girls and pat them. (Unless the girl is crying and he does not have any sense of how to comfort her, so he begins to pat her back in a desperate effort to make the tears stop.)

To Be Used For: bros

To Be Used By: bros

The Hug

For lack of a better word, the hug is…well…a hug. It has a normal amount of pressure, goes on for a normal amount of time, and communicates the normal meaning of a hug: you matter. There’s no extra theatrics or fireworks. It’s a pretty basic hug.

However, do not be fooled by its apparent simplicity. The hug has a million variables, despite its average predictability, and these variables lead to questions and mistakes. A common blunder is which direction your head should go. In a hug, your face is situated at a place where you can see the back of their head. But do you go left or right? Left or right? Left or right?! It can sometimes be a paralyzing question, but it’s best to just pick a side and go with it. If the person you’re hugging realizes your faces are about to meet, they’ll quickly adjust with a “deer in headlights” look in their eye.

To Be Used For: friends; family reunions; sentimental graduations

To Be Used By: anyone, provided they can figure out where to put their face

The Tackle

This is another common girl hug, reserved for special occasions. It is very similar to the hug, except it exceeds the normality of the hug. The tackle offers more pressure, lasts longer, and sometimes knocks the wind out of you. Depending on the relative sizes of those engaged in the tackle, it is almost the equivalent of getting sacked. (But a happy sacked, like, “I’m so happy to see you, I hope you didn’t need that oxygen in your lungs” kind of way.)

The unfortunate thing about the tackle is that it usually happens to you, instead of being a mutual understanding between two parties that they are going to engage in physical contact. One moment, everything is normal, and the next–you’ve been tackled. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of your attacker out of your peripheral vision. Even if the tackle leaves you gasping, it is a sure way to gauge that your friend is really glad to see you.

To Be Used For: best friends; long-awaited homecomings; scaring the life out of people

To Be Used By: anyone with proper caution

The Squeeze

This hug means the same thing as squeezing someone’s hand: you love ’em. It’s just a way of communicating a little extra love. Unfortunately, some people do not like to be squeezed. For people who use arm-flapping as their standard hug, the squeeze is rather jolting, despite its good intentions.

Logic would dictate that if the one who initiated the hug is squeezing, that the one being hugged should squeeze back. However, logic fails to include the awkwardness of hugs. This is why, despite who initiates the hug, it should always fall back to the least degree of contact. Hugs are awkward to begin with. There’s no need to force someone to have more contact with you than they’d prefer.

To Be Used For: crying children, yours or otherwise; best friends; emotional moments

To Be Used By: friends; Romans; countrymen

 

I hope this guide was informative and helpful. Did I forget any basic hug types? What kind of hugger are you? Do you have any awkward hug stories? Because I sure do!

(Once, I saw a pair of siblings at Robotics for the first time in a week. I shouted the sister’s name excitedly and wrapped her up in a “the hug”. Her brother then moved in for the same treatment, and I quickly slid to his side to “the side hug” him. Shut down.)

(Another time, I was advertising for a Robotics car wash along the side of the road. A classmate I hadn’t seen in years happened to be in town that day and came to see me after recognizing me along the road. He tried to hug me. I quietly freaked out and shut that down, as well.)

I Get It.

I understand it, now. The loneliness. The emptiness. When you feel as if you have no one, and you just want someone to call your own. The mental pressure to call a friend by more-than-a-friend terminology, to flirt, in hopes that maybe…just maybe…they’re lonely too. Maybe they want someone to call their own.

It definitely isn’t healthy. It isn’t good to be or to feel alone, but wanting to use possessive terminology for another human being isn’t good, either.

I suddenly empathize with the silly relationships I see all over Facebook. After four days, the two say they’re in love. I’d usually raise my eyebrows and wonder how they know what that means, since I don’t and I’m the same age. Now I know that I can’t really judge their feelings, but I know they want to be in love. They want it to be real.

Loneliness is a powerful feeling. It takes the level-headed and plunges them into the feel-sorries and the if-onlys. I can only imagine what it does to those who are naturally led by their emotions.

I’m glad I’ve never had to experience the results of a lonely decision. The worst I’ve done is go outside, spread a blanket onto the lawn, and lay there in my own misery. I’ve never dealt with the aftermath of a proposal. The joy of having someone to be your someone can only last so long. Suddenly, they’re not only yours, but you’re theirs, and they are more than happy to point it out.

What would it be like to be trapped there? Maybe you want to escape. Maybe you say to yourself that it’s better than being alone. Maybe the possessives don’t bother you a bit. I’ve never been there. I hope I never have to visit.

You’re never truly as alone as you feel. Even if all parts of you ache with the feeling of being alone, you aren’t. There are people who you hardly speak to who would be shocked to know how alone you feel. They care.

If they’re like me, they really don’t want to see you get into a pointless relationship with that guy just because he said that he loves you. It isn’t worth the heartache.

I empathize now. I get it. I understand. I know what it’s like to acknowledge that yes, you feel lonely; yes, you could probably date him; yes, that would make you feel less alone.

Remember, despite what you feel…you are never alone.

Threes Are Traitors

This past week was one of my last FIRST Robotics Competitions. Next week will be my final one, unless we win and attend Championships. It was an intense emotional roller coaster of failures and successes. I have never had a smoother scouting program than this past week, and each of my scouters did excellent in their own way.

When I think back on this weekend, I do not want to be negative, as I am often prone to be. I don’t want to focus on the mistakes that cost us our win, or the system of ranking that doesn’t seem to make sense. I want to remember our captain coming to the stands to tell me that teams were happy to be in matches with us, even though our rankings showed us to be a poorly performing team. The smooth motion of a mustard-colored gear sliding up a jiggling peg under the steady hand of our pilot. Dancing in my seat next to my friends. Being the first team picked for playoffs outside of the top eight ranked teams. Most importantly, many games of Fish Go.

I want to remember sitting in the third floor hallway, shuffling cards with my friends and trying to muffle the giggles that came from many sleep-deprived nights and the exhaustion that our responsibilities bestow.

I don’t know why a simple game of cards (or countless games of cards) is so important to me. I won’t remember who lost or who won. But they feel significant. Sitting on a strangely patterned carpet in a hotel hallway for over an hour with a mix of exhaustion induced laughter, serious thought, and grave game-play errors is important to me.

Aces are our favorites, except for the twos who take them.
Threes are traitors.
Fours and sevens stick together, unless they meet a ten.
Fives run off with face cards frequently.
Sixes do the same.
The eight of hearts will always be the most valuable to us, even though we aren’t sure why.
It’s hard to lose a nine.
When you both lay down Jacks, Queens, or Kings, the tension runs for the one, two, three, flip.
Especially when you lose your ace to a two.

Dead Poets Society

From the day I had to buy a pantsuit, I was not thrilled about this college visit. I had to write an essay and be interviewed, all while wearing clothes I was uncomfortable in. To make things worse (or better, depending on your perspective), my friend had also been invited to this Scholarship Competition.

He thought there might be thirty kids. I thought there would be a minimum of sixty.

Guess who was correct?

That would be me.

From the moment I walked in, I felt…out of place. I was dressed appropriately, but I still felt like an outsider. They had prepared a delicious complimentary breakfast bar, but I had to skip it because of how nauseous I was feeling. I found the table I was supposed to sit at, and I waited anxiously, glancing too frequently at the large doorways and hoping for a familiar face.

The others at my table were beautiful and looked stunning in their business professional attire. I had made it a goal that day to befriend a girl.

(Spoiler Alert: I did not successfully befriend a girl.)

After the thirty round tables in the elaborate room had been filled, the college gave speeches. Some were entertaining; others were heartwarming; and as I sat there, I felt sick. Not from nerves, but simply because of the early morning.

When we were whisked away to write our essays, I wasn’t afraid. That is to say, I wasn’t afraid of the essay. I was, however, terrified of tripping and falling as the group of seniors shuffled silently across the campus to our exam room. The incline of the sidewalk, coupled with my heels, only forebode of disaster.

I made it inside without any accident, and snagged a seat by my friend to take the essay. The tension screamed through our silence as the students filed in and followed directions.

The only fear I had regarding the essay was being given a prompt I didn’t know how to answer, but we were offered three to choose from. It was marvelous! Except for the desk pinching my stomach as I hunched over it in a very unladylike manner.

Essay writing has always been a strength. Thanks to that AP English Language and Composition class, my power had only grown. Looking back now, however, I am terrified that I didn’t flesh out my ideas well enough, or that I communicated my own thoughts poorly in my anecdotal fashion. In my defense, I had less than thirty seconds left on the clock when I put my pencil to rest.

I struck up a conversation with the person sitting beside me. (Spoiler Alert: they were not female, hence my failing at my goal.) Before I knew what was happening, my friend was being whisked away for the first set of interviews. I was in the second set, and I marched across the campus with the second set of students. I did casually chat with a nice girl as we walked and I tried desperately not to injure myself along the frigid walkway.

When we entered the room, I had the chance to sit with her, but little time to talk with her. They brought in a panel of students currently in their honors program to market their school to us. The one senior looked very familiar, and it wasn’t until hours later I realized he has an incredible resemblance to Billy Unger. (He was, however, not Billy Unger, which was terribly disappointing.)

The next thing I knew, I was being escorted to the interview. I chatted with my guide, asking her how she had felt in my shoes this time last year. (Though I didn’t ask for any advice for walking in heels. I should have. What a missed opportunity.) She asked me if I was nervous, and I was honest: I honestly wasn’t.

I have been on a live TV interview with minimal preparation. I have faced crowds of my peers and gaped at them, lacking all comprehensive words. I have presented when prepared, and I have winged things. This group of professionals didn’t scare me.

(Complete Honesty: The professor in the middle scared me a little bit when I first walked in, but he was actually a very kind gentleman.)

So I sat in my interview and gave my answers. I told them everything about myself, barring my social security number and the time I removed a single metal folding chair from a large stack and created a large, clattering panic. Later, I realized that I hadn’t sat in the most ladylike of positions, and I chided myself. But it was too late. What was done was done. (Two days later, I would think of the perfect answers to a few particularly difficult questions, and would chide myself again.)

When I returned to the large room where they had kept us for the panel interviews (with Not Billy Unger), I found a group of kids playing Apples to Apples. Unfortunately, they were playing at a very long, thin table and it was impossible to jump in. I was also afraid to show my true colors to these strangers. I am rather competitive. Though, I should count my blessings that they weren’t playing Uno. That would have been a game they would not have recovered from.

A few others came over and squished at the table end I had placed myself at and watched the game, as well. I decided to strike up a conversation with the one to my right, who happened to look a little bit like Josh Hutcherson.

It was actually the one who had been writing an essay beside me earlier, and I had good fun asking him lots about himself and telling him bits and pieces about me (for example, he owns two pigs and enjoys bowling). Eventually, though, he left for his interview and I consoled myself that I would probably never seen Not Josh Hutcherson again.

As I got up to gather my things, I noticed the girl I had talked to earlier–the sweet one I had sat near for the panel presentation. It may have been my imagination, but I’m pretty sure she gave me A Displeased Look, which made me quite confused as well as sad.

Then those of us who had survived the interview process were treated to a fancy lunch, where there was a single bowl of ice cream at each table. As I was lamenting the idea of sharing a single bowl of ice cream among eight people, I realized it was butter.

I am not especially cultured.

I then enjoyed a lunch with my parents, another family, a professor, and Not Billy Unger–all except for the salad, which I did not eat, but appeared to eat because my father switched his finished plate with mine and then ate my salad, too.

He’s a good dad.

After the entire experience was over, we decided to stick around for a tour of the campus, during which I blistered my one foot and caused strange pain to the other. I also thought I spotted a YouTuber named Adler Davidson. However, it was Not Adler Davidson.

Are college campuses filled with supposed celebrities? Seriously, what’s with that? I also saw, like, three lookalikes from the movie Dead Poets Society. And I felt like I was in Dead Poets Society, too, with all the boys in their suits, walking quietly and looking debonair.

Did you notice the change in my language, there? That is a metaphor for when I returned to the hotel, removed the fancy pantsuit, and threw on the sweatpants that I had the extreme foresight to pack.

Overall, it was an exciting day. I failed to make a girl friend, I almost met three celebrities, and I avoided scarring a group of high school seniors with my competitive board game nature.

PS: (I looked up Billy Unger, and he apparently changed his name to William Brent? Granted, it sounds more professional, but he just ruined childhood memories with my best friend. I guess that’s what pantsuits do.)

How to Alienate a Girl

I had low expectations going in, not going to lie. Still, I will never turn down the opportunity to spend time with a friend: especially not in this season of life. Despite my fears and dread, I decided to do this. Although, I wasn’t expecting too much.

I’ve known the guy for years. I’d never met him because of the nature of the cyber-charter school, but I knew him. In sophomore year, we worked very well together on a project. He was fun, engaging, and friendly. I knew all about who he was and what he planned on doing some day.

Then junior year began, and he didn’t treat me very kindly. I don’t mean to be rude, but I honestly didn’t know what was the matter with him. He would constantly poke and jab at me, offering derogatory comments–usually regarding something I was already insecure about. I didn’t know why, but I remembered the guy from sophomore year, so I pushed on. I told my one friend who questioned my pushing that “I don’t give up on friendships”.

Perhaps I should have.

Senior year was a mess. He never tried to talk to me. Never asked about me. Never started a conversation. He would simply answer a question within a week or so of my contacting him. So when I had the opportunity to see him, for the first time, I knew it wasn’t going to be great. But I remembered the guy from sophomore year. He was great. The senior version of him wasn’t as wonderful, but maybe that sophomore kid was still in there, somewhere.

Despite my low expectations, the evening was even worse than I had anticipated. I didn’t think that there was much he could do to make the entire situation even worse for me, but he found a way.

And now, I don’t want to be his friend. I have given up on that friendship. I have no idea where that sophomore boy went, but I miss him. I wish he was still around. And I wish I could have met him before he disappeared.

Cherish your friendships before they change. Sometimes the people you care about will disappear when you aren’t looking. By then, it’s too late to get them back.

Conversational Addict

I don’t know what it is about me, but I really enjoy getting to know people. I love to hear what makes up a person. Their likes, dislikes; hobbies and interests; talents and passions. It fascinates me, that I can get to know another human being.

Naturally, when I meet someone new, I’m bursting with questions for them. I can hardly handle waiting to know something as simple as their favorite school subject or what they enjoy in their spare time.

In the same way, I’m touched when they take the effort to return the question to me. Sometimes I find it hard to believe that anyone else is like me: that anyone else would want to know what I’m like and who I am.

That said, they rarely take that effort, and I settle myself with a pleasant question-and-answer routine, until I feel I know the person, at least from their perspective. It brings me a lot of joy.

But then it ends.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t get bored with people. However, I feel they get bored with me. Conversations which used to boast at least thirty minutes of good back-and-forth are reduced to about twenty minutes of my prodding and their shrugging.

I don’t mind it so much. Sure, it hurts when someone you were getting to know chooses to ignore you. There’s some pain when you realize they have no intention of knowing you as a person.

But there’s always someone new to talk to.

I’m unsure whether my enjoyment of conversation is healthy or unhealthy. I do know that for others, it can be absolutely exhausting. So, I try to take the time to appreciate the conversation I receive from those who are more reserved than I am, along with those who talk just as much as I do.

Why I’m Not Entirely Hating College Anymore

If you keep up with my blog, you’re well aware of my apprehension towards college and higher education in general. I’ve poured out a lot of my feelings, frustrations, and fears into this blog. However, in the recent month, I’ve been almost warming up to college. Here’s a couple of reasons why.

1) New Experiences.

At first, I didn’t like the idea of new experiences. I’m one of those people who has a great fear of the unknown. However, I’m coming to realize that most of what I’m involved with is going to slip away after this year, and what am I going to spend all my time on? Certainly not Robotics. Definitely not camp. I’ve got to start something new to make up for my lack of busyness.

2) Spiritual Growth.

Complete honesty right now: I’m not in a place in my life where I feel like I’m growing a lot in my faith. There, I said it. My spiritual environment has been really weird this fall; I’ve missed a lot of church because I’ve been serving at camp, and my youth group has all but stopped meeting. Not that youth group was an incredibly spiritually growing environment in the first place, but it was something. I’m ready to be around like-minded people and really grow. (This isn’t to say I can’t use the opportunities God is giving me right now to grow. I don’t believe He’s holding me in some kind of “in-between place” where I can’t grow. I need to make the best of the opportunities He gives me.)

3) New Friends.

This may be the thing I’m most excited for, which is kind of funny to me, but it’s totally true: I’m thrilled to be making new friends. As I look over my life so far, I’ve noticed that a lot of my childhood friends aren’t really my friends any longer. Most people I’ve known for this season of my life will be slipping away sooner rather than later. I’m ready to meet some forever friends, guys! If anyone has read the Christy Miller books, you know the kind of friends I mean. I’m so excited to meet some people who will be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I need best friends, and college will give me a way to get that.

All this said, I’m also kind of concerned about how this is going to play out. I’ve been accepted into two colleges thus far, but I haven’t been earnestly seeking where God wants me to go. I guess we’ll find out where He puts me when He tells me. His timing, not mine.

Also, it feels great to use contractions again. All I’ve been writing lately is formal essays for my AP Language class, and contractions are hugely a no-no. I’ll have to return again soon to revel in my literary freedom.

Friendship Crisis

I came to the realization yesterday that if I were to stop putting effort into my friendships, I would only have about two or three left. That was rather sobering, to realize that so few of the people I call “friend” actually contribute to what is considered “friendship”.

As an only child, friendship has always been important to me. I cherish relationships with people. However, most of these relationships are rather one-sided. I’ve always been more than happy to do more than my share of the upkeep. Right now, though, I’m not sure if I’m alright with that anymore.

I have a couple of people who can’t contribute anything to a conversation. They simply laugh after everything I say, and when I try to turn the topic to them, they shrug and say that they have nothing new to share. Others only have one way to communicate with me, and they realize it; however, they choose not to check it frequently enough to actually talk. Some turn the topic of conversation continuously to themselves, even when you’re trying to speak to them about something.

It’s utterly exhausting, trying to keep everything straight. It’s even more frustrating to not have anyone to talk to.

At this rate, I’ll be thrilled to go to college by spring, considering I might actually meet people interested in friendship.

I don’t feel that I’m too unreasonable. However, it could be that my relationship ideals only exist and thrive in a fictional setting. That would be greatly disappointing.

So here I sit. Desperate for conversation, but with no one to talk to. If I email them, will they answer me within a week? Say they answer my message, but they only sending laughing emojis after each thought of mine? Or maybe I’ll try to communicate something important to me and they’ll want to talk about coats.

Perhaps I need to dial back my sense of humor. As much as I enjoy my class clown image, it may be more beneficial for friendship to be less hilarious.