Layla Lays It Down

     My name is Layla Joseph, but I sometimes go by Lay. I am involved in National Honors Society, Key Club, Aviedum, Yearbook, FBLA, Student Council, and Varsity Club. I am also a contributing writer for the Titusville Herald and a varsity basketball bench warmer. In addition to these clubs and activities, I am also this year's Woodshed Word editor!

     After high school I plan on going to a state or private university and major in Secondary Education and possibly minor in Journalism.Teenage girl with arms spread wide in front of a painting of a sunset

Bed that is made

HOW TO BE HAPPY: ADVICE FROM A SAD PERSON

Depression is an ongoing battle that I, like many, know all too well. Even on your good days, you can feel a loom that you just can’t shake. It’s an overwhelming sad that you just can’t get over, so maybe you sleep it off, or maybe it keeps you up at night. Everyone’s battle with depression is different; sometimes you can become depressed while grieving or under obtuse amounts of stress or maybe you’ve just always dealt with it and sometimes certain triggers make it worse.
     In my case, I feel extremes, but they can melt into one another fairly quick. One day I wake up and think, “today is a good day” and fall asleep with tears on my face that same night. Other days, I drag myself out of bed, not going anywhere if it weren't for one of my friends dragging me out of my own house. Most times when I go out, I have fun. Sometimes I’ll be having a great time, until something hits me out of nowhere. It’s like a wave of heat or an intoxication. I just want to go home. I just want to be alone, but the moment I'm alone, I wish I wouldn’t have left my friends. Depression, to me, is a back and fourth battle. 
     My therapist and I had a talk one day, about making my bed: It’s a good way to start the day, because it’s the one thing you can’t do wrong. Even if you just pull up the covers quickly or make it right before you crawl back in and attempt to sleep, it is the one thing everyday that you cannot mess up. I could think, I’m failing everything and maybe I am, but the one thing I didn’t fail at, was making my bed. This is just one thing that helps me, and I make it a point everyday to pull up my comforter, fold my single blanket and fix my pillows. It doesn’t give me a sense of accomplishment, but when the world is going left, I know I made my bed right. 
     Depression can make you feel very alone. It's a mind game with yourself, but it is not always mind over matter. If it were as easy as “good vibes!!! drink water!!! paint your nails yellow!!!”, many people would have already cured their depression, but sometimes it's not curable. It can, however, get easier to deal with.
​     Consistency is key: seeing a therapist weekly is important; you cannot just talk to a therapist when you are desperate in order to get better. You should also try your best to find the motivation to get up in the morning; make a list and set your goals for the day, and try your best to complete them. Do this everyday.
       Don't be ashamed: If I had a nickle for every time I was feeling down, but didn't want or know how to talk about it, I would probably have enough money to go to therapy without health insurance. It can be embarrassing, and it can make you feel vulnerable, but if you think you're depressed, it is necessary to get better. 

     This year is going to be a crazy year; there will be set backs and there will be growth. But just know, no matter how bad it seems, there is more to life out there than what's in your line of sight. 

Dear Younger Me,

Dear Younger Me,
    I never thought I would be where I am, and I sometimes wish I would have listened to the guidance that others have given me throughout the years, however, sometimes you must go through it in order to really learn from it. I wish I could tell you what to do and how to avoid certain pains in your life, but I can’t. Still, these are somethings I wish I could tell you.
     Do not be so hard on yourself, and cry all the tears you want if it makes you feel better. You are an emotional person, and that is okay. However, people will take advantage of your kindness. You will love wholeheartedly and get nothing in return. This will hurt, but it is something you must learn from, and from this you will grow. The fact that you care so much about everything, will be part of your downfall. 
    Get a job as soon as you can, don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t call off your shifts for this and that. Making your own money is a great feeling and it will keep you out of trouble.
     Appreciate your “friends” but do not be so quick to trust. Do not post every break down or secret you have on your "finsta". You will have so many best friends and friend groups throughout high school. Talk to people, and do not judge them from the words of others. You may find times when you wish you would have strayed away from certain people, but remember the good times you have had with them. Realize how you would like to be treated and stop letting people walk all over you. Grow a backbone. You do not have to do things that make you uncomfortable; stick to your gut feeling. You will be peer-pressured, but the real will stick by you. At some point you will realize you are the only one who truly has your back. Learn the difference between friends and the people you hang out with. Not all people you hang out with will have your best intentions at heart. They will try to use you; they are not your friends. 
     Do not let people tell you how to feel. Do not let people make decisions for you. You will make mistakes, but don’t let your mistakes make you. Don’t let every mean thing get the best of you, because the world is full of mean things.
     The boy you love your freshman year will not be the boy you love your senior year, and the boy you love your senior year will not be the man you spend your life with. You will have many loves, and you will have your heart broken. Your first love is about learning. When the heartbreak of your first love has set in, realize that it will not last forever. Take note of the pain you feel, and with time, take note of the relief. You will slowly become yourself again, just to find someone knew to love. Your second love will rock your world way worse than your first. Your second love will be everything your first love couldn’t be. When you are going through your second heartbreak, think of the hurt you felt the first time, and remind yourself that you already got through it once. You will get through it again.
     Appreciate your teachers, for they are there to help you; stop arguing with every word Mrs. Ashbaugh says. Talk to your teachers when you are having trouble understanding things; activity periods will become your best friend. Don’t take a blow off year, but don’t stack your schedule full of classes you can’t handle. Challenge yourself. Start looking into colleges junior year, but know that it’s okay to not have it all figured out.
     Have your party phase to get it out of the way; you will need your energy during times later in life, and you will not have the energy to waste. Make memories, and get in trouble, but not too much trouble. Be smart while being stupid, be safe. It is okay to be the parent of your friend group. You can have fun without doing things that are illegal or make you uncomfortable. If you want to leave, call your mom or dad. Your parents would rather have to come get you in the middle of the night than have you not come home at all.​
     Get a grip, and mature; there is no reason you can’t be friends with someone who has conflicting opinions. Do not be a sheep; do not follow the crowd just to fit in. You can like someone that the rest of your friends do not. You need to learn how to think for yourself. You need to be kind. You need to not be jealous of what other people can do, or what other people have. Make the most out of what you bring to the table. People will say mean things, but don’t let them get arise out of you. You can call people out without resorting to violence; stop trying to fight everyone who hurts your feelings.
     Be passionate about something and please, oh please, stick to that something. Don’t let people make you feel bad about it. You need to focus on who you are and who you want to be.
     Please stop cutting your hair every time you are sad. Channel that energy into something else. Write a poem, go outside, talk to someone. You cannot change who you are with a new haircut or color, that will cause temporary relief and anywhere from $20-100 every time you need to fix it afterward. 
    I wish I could let you know how much your life would change. I wish I could give you a heads up for all the people you should’ve been suspicious of. Life will come at you fast, and hopefully, you will run out of bad days. You will learn so much within these terrible, wonderful days you live. Just keep pushing through.
Love, 
Layla
P.S. I am still learning.
 

SUN, MOON, STARS

sometimes 
i am the sun
and i shine so radiantly. 
i give my light to others 
i bring warmth and promote growth. 
without me,
things could not live,
let alone thrive. 
however,
when you take advantage 
of my light,
my warming touch
will turn to flames,
and you will not grow 
you will not thrive
you will be burned,
like an ant hill under a magnifying glass.
you’ll feel my pain 
even after i’ve set. 

sometimes,
i am the moon. 
i am the light 
who will illuminate
the outlines of figures you’d like to forget. 
i am not consistent. 
i sometimes come full send 
other times i fail to make it to the show.
i procrastinate, 
it is rare that i will give you all of me. 
instead, you will receive me piece by piece.
i control the water in the seas
and the oceans in your eyes; 
the tide comes in and out.
i am surrounded by darkness
and i try to make the most of it
but sometimes i am pulled under 
and for the night,
darkness will win.

sometimes 
i am a star.
i feel as though i have no meaning
because there are so many other stars
in the galaxy i call home.
i feel as though i am not good enough
because i don’t sparkle, or shine as bright.
the light i give is not someone's reason to live
for i am not as important as my sister star, the sun.
however,
i easily forget my beauty;
i do not need to outshine
my other stars
in order to feel important,
because what makes me special is my own stories and meanings,
that only i hold.
and maybe one day, before i die
planets will align with me 
and i will serve purpose.

all of the time
i  am good and bad.
i try my best 
to find beauty in everything;
i try to find beauty in every day.
i may just be one star, in the sky of trillions,
but i am also the sun,
and i am also the moon.
i have been gifted with the curse of the sky;
i am too aware of my power,
and i am not naive enough 
to live a happy life,
although i sometimes feel small,
i have the power and knowledge
to know that 
in time, i will find my way.

I LOVE LIFE.  THANK YOU.

On September 7th, Malcolm McCormick, who is known to many as “Mac Miller”, was announced dead in his home due to a drug overdose. So, I am writing this with a heavy heart, knowing that someone who has so greatly impacted my life, no longer has his own. He was young; he was 26, only nine years older than myself. As he once stated,“But now you’re gone, and there ain't no coming back when you’re there.”
      Music is something that captivates many. Feelings of all kinds are twirled and spun; emotional roller coasters in forms of ballads put to rhythm. There is power in every spoken word and strength in every sentence. 
      Music has been extremely important to me, and Mac has been an artist I have listened to since as early as eleven years old, back when I uploaded myself singing Donald Trump on my cringe worthy YouTube. Some of my best memories involve his hits playing in the background, while some of my worst moments he, along with other musicians, were the only people that seemed to be there for me. 
     The death of Mac has hit home for me, like many others. The beloved Pittsburgh artist has impacted the music industry and the lives that he has touched in more ways than one. He died far too young, however, his talent and love of life was timeless. 
Living in Crawford County, you either do drugs, or know someone who does. For many of us kids, addiction has impacted us in some way, shape, or form. Whether it’s your mother yelling at you before her morning coffee, the JUUL you hit before school, or the loss of a family member due to heavier addictions.
     Many people have different perspectives on drug abuse. Is it a choice, a disease, or possibly both? Most people say that initially using drugs is a choice, and then it turns into the terrible disease known as addiction.
     “You choose to do the drugs, so you choose to become an addict.” This is a big mentality among people, not only in our area, but in the whole country.
      Imagine that it is a sunny day, you’re 18 years old, and you love the sunshine. The warm glow you gain after letting the rays soak your body for hours; you don’t always wear sunscreen, but when you do, it is a low SPF. When you were young, your mother always lathered you in sunscreen whenever you went outside: waiting for the bus? Put on sunscreen. Going to swim? Put on waterproof sunscreen. When you became old enough, you swore off sunscreen. Your skin is golden anyway, not red and peeling, so, you don’t need sunscreen. You are young, rebellious, and irresponsible; living in the moment, not worrying about what will happen in years to come. Time flies by, and you have grown more mature, you still go without sunscreen in the summertime sun. You know it is bad for you, but you have an inability to stop; to you, sunscreen is suffocating. A couple more years go by and you get diagnosed with skin cancer. Your cancer could have been prevented, but you were young, irresponsible, and rebellious. However, that does not make your cancer any less of a disease.
​  Not wearing sunscreen, because of rebellion and lack of responsibility, is the parallel of someone young and naive using drugs for the first time. They become addicted, and that is a disease.
       I understand that initially it is that person’s choice to do drugs, with the exception of rare circumstances, but I don’t think people choose addiction. Everyone tries new things, most of the time with the mentality that, “I won’t get addicted, it can’t happen to me.” And living in a small rural area, where depression is common, I understand why people would want to be in an altered state of reality. 
      Drugs, for many, is an escape from reality: nicotine and caffeine help you focus, weed could help you sleep and calm anxiety, while hallucinogens give you a whole new outlook on life. Most people start when they are young: a drink here, a puff there. Soon, that enjoyable weed high turns into just a half a tab of acid, or a gram of mushrooms. Those high’s turn into pain pills, the pain pills turn into something more, and if you don’t get help, soon it will be you turning in your grave. 
      Helping an addict, like quitting an addiction, is easier said than done. You cannot help someone who doesn’t want to get better, and you need to want to quit your addiction. Drugs are addictive, and they can ruin lives. If you need help, speak out. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends, “No, I don’t want to try that.” But don’t judge your friends if they come to you for support in quitting a habit or addiction. Young people have their lives taken, or taken over from substance abuse far too often. We need to be the generation that recognizes that addiction is a disease; we need to be the generation to help those in need.

 

If you or someone you know deals with addiction and would like help on the road to recovery there are many places or people that can help.

Drug Abuse Hotline:
      (855)-516-1669

Narcotics Anonymous Meeting: 
Monday Night Miracles (6PM)
     Stone United Methodist Church
     956 S. Main Street, Meadville, PA

You Are Not Alone (Monday 7:30PM)
    Westford Church Outreach Center
    2031 Westford Road, Jamestown, PA

Come and Get It Group (Monday 8PM)
    2nd Presbyterian Church 
    1st & Reed Street, Oil City, PA

Meadville Council on the Arts

When I asked people what they first thought of when they hear the word Meadville, most people replied with dog food, high school athletes, Julian’s Bar and Grille, flooding, hockey, and drugs. Usually, when you think of Meadville, you may cringe, however, I recently discovered a local gem that doesn’t fit the Meadville stereotype.

Located on the second floor of the Historic Market House, the Meadville Council on the Arts has been encouraging local artists since 1975. The Meadville Council on the Arts is open Tuesday through Saturday. Their mission is  “to enrich the quality of life and provide art education opportunities for individuals, organizations, and our communities by supporting the creation, production, promotion and exhibition of the visual, performance, and craft arts.” On the second floor of the Market House lies the Heeschen Gallery, the Gardner Theatre, and art education among other classes that are available to a variety of artists.

This past weekend, I got to experience a Meadville small town treasure. Poetic evenings is one of the many events brought to the town by the MCA. I arrived with butterflies in my stomach, until my two friends and I were greeted with a smile. We were shown the gallery and told more about what the MCA has been, and continues to do, for the local artists in our community. The gallery holds art and photography that will leave you awestruck at first glance, and the walls are covered with designs made by the students at Meadville High School.

I am directed to a large room with chairs and a small stage; music floods the room along with laughter and chatter of other people. It’s a calm environment that alleviates my nervousness; a man gets on stage and introduces the first poet of the evening, who begins the night with erotic poetry. She stands under the spotlight with a microphone in front of her, while her confidence radiates onto others as she reads her poetry.

I am up next, nervous but also feeling at home. As I read my poetry, feeling comforted by the warm and welcoming environment, I read personal poetry for the first time in a public setting. It is much different from rehearsing in my bedroom with no one to hear, as I have done in private countless times. As the night continues, people read their original works and poems from their favorite books. A woman gets up on stage, and reads a poem titled “Why?” and then continues with a presentation as to why the earth is flat. It is humorous and interesting to see many people talk about their thoughts, feelings, and passions. No matter their viewpoints on the way which the world works, they are given a platform to speak freely, and an open-minded audience for those who listen.

Many personalities and wonderful art is relayed throughout the night, and I realize that there is a lot of unseen talent in this small town.

New Year, Same Me

The new year is full of resolutions and goals; ways you can become a better or improved version of yourself. The latest fad diets and get-rich-quick schemes are put to the test, and people are “cutting out the negative vibes and toxic energy from their life” just to post up with said “toxic person” in a couple of weeks. People take this time of year as an opportunity to finally stop something: maybe it’s how much you bite your nails or stopping some type of addiction.

Most of the time, these resolutions are abandoned by mid-February at the latest.

I have never been one for resolutions, however, I usually do set a list of goals. Who I am on January 1st is the same person I was on December 31st, and that is OK. The goals I set are pretty vague, such as “write more,” and “get new friends.”

There are a lot of things I wish I could change suddenly, but change takes time. I wish I had the motivation and self control to become the best version of myself as soon as humanly possible. Hopefully, one day, I will get there; but for right now I will have to take it day by day and do my best to let things grow naturally. Whether you make resolutions just to break them, or set goals and achieve them every year, just remember that it is okay to sometimes fail, and you don’t have to wait until next year to set new goals. The most important thing to think about, all year around, is your health and you’re feelings. Are you doing your part to better society? Are you being the type of friend you would want to have?

You don’t need to wait until new years to start something new, or quit an old habit. Work on yourself everyday: it’s okay to fail, or grow tired, but recover and regain your strength, everyday is a new day for you to succeed.

My Stance on Christianity 

 

      I have had religion shoved down my throat and my bottom glued to a pew every Sunday for as long as I could remember, that is until I discovered I had the option to stop going. If it was my decision, I would have stopped attending church far before I actually did. 
     I hated dressing up, I hated Bible stories, I hated getting told I was going to go to hell if I didn’t accept Jesus into my heart. The worst part of church for me was singing. I love singing, don't get me wrong, but there is something about singing Bible songs that just made me cringe. I was never one for religion, I was never one for Bible study. I went to church because I had to. 
     In second grade, I was told that “when we accept Jesus into our heart, we will go to heaven and praise him forever.” That didn’t, and still doesn’t, seem appealing to me. When I addressed this issue on the way home from sunday school, my grandmother told me that my teacher was wrong, and we will get to do as we like in heaven. The fact that my grandma and my sunday school teacher had told me two different things made me question what really is to happen in the after life. This made me think, “what if they are both wrong”; this is a distinct memory of mine because this is when I started to question my relationship with “God”. I have had a trauma filled life from a young age. Where was God? I grew older and learned that people will interpret the bible, a book that has been rewritten a countless amount of times, differently. 
     I’m a senior in high school now, and occasionally I put on a nice pair of jeans and a dress shirt and go to church with my grandma. Although it may not be for the right reasons, since I am only going because it is social interaction with people I don’t see often and quality time with my grandma. Still, I go in with an open mind, hoping that maybe something will change and I will “find God”. 
     There are too many things that don’t make sense to me when it comes to Christianity, and being so showered in the culture from such a young age has made me resentful. For example, I have been told, that if a man and woman get divorced, they will go to hell for knowingly living everyday of their lives in sin; however, a man or woman who will murder or rape, will have a place in heaven if they repented and were forgiven of their sins. 
     I was a child born out of wedlock, my mother was an exotic dancer, who was silently judged at my church. My mother would often tell me of some of the men in the pews on Sunday, giving her the side eye and putting money in the collection plate were the same men who would not take their eyes off of her on Friday and Saturday nights; giving their “hard earned Jesus dollars” to my mother in return for her attention.
     Living in America, it is hard to not be religious, particularly it is hard not to be a Christian. Christian holidays seem to be the only holidays celebrated, or that’s how it is in the area which I live, Christmas in particular. Christmas songs, shows, and advertisements are on the tv and radio almost constantly in the month of December. “Winter break” is based around Christmas whereas high schools, PIAA sports, and universities do not give time off for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Lines wrap around department stores in locals malls in order to see “Santa” a made up character who encourages kids to believe in Christmas.
     My father and I are not religious, but we still celebrate Christmas just because it seems to be a social norm. If you don’t believe in Santa at a young age, you’re ridiculed and called a liar, but what if you don’t celebrate Christmas? Are you on the Naughty list? Are you wrong for not believing? The Christian religion is shoved down the throats of adults and children alike from a very young age in various ways. 
     As much as church and state is supposed to be separated within America, it is often not, due to the religious minded men and women put in charge of our country. There is no reason, other than biblical beliefs, why gay rights have taken so long to become human rights. Abortion is also looked upon as immoral in the eyes of many government officials, again, stemming from their grounds of religion. 
    Being raised with a Christian background, I have heard all the Bible stories and sang all the worship songs, however, I have since educated myself and formed an opinion on the the questionable acts and hypocrisy that often takes place in the “loving and God-like” community. I know not every Christian is a bad person and not every bad person is a Christian, but the overbearing lifestyle of harsh judgement upon those with differing beliefs shouldn’t be welcomed in the inclusive society I hope our country will become.  

MAPLEWOOD'S MYSTERIES: VOL. 1

Theresa's Treats

Have you ever wondered what happens after dark in Maplewood’s hallowed, and possibly haunted, halls? 
    At 3PM the final bell rings and students fill the hallways only to leave as quickly as they can. “You better hurry, I am not getting caught behind the buses!” a senior screeches through the halls to an underclassman. Students flood out of the building to their buses and cars; teachers stay behind to tidy their classroom and miss the traffic jam in the parking lot. 
    An hour goes by; it’s now 4PM. Athletes and cheerleaders have stayed after school in anticipation of the upcoming Senior Night, where all fall athletes, cheerleaders, and band members are recognized for their hard work and dedication. Teachers are either buckling in for a long night grading assignments or buckling into their car to head home.
    By 8PM all of the students, coaches, and teachers have left the building. Practices have come to a close and the custodians start to shut down the lights, lock down the hallways, and lock up the school. After awhile, the school is silent and still-  but not for long. 
    For years, Maplewood has fostered families, where these families have opportunity to a free education, food, and living arrangements under three rules:

  1. The family and its members are to never be seen. They must live their life in hiding due to the school board, who would never allow it due to funds, or lack thereof.
  2. The family mustn't leave behind remnants of their studies or food, and must always go to the bathroom between the walls or outside.
  3. The final rule, is that mice may never enter Mrs. Zurcher’s room.

    The penalty for breaking the rules, if caught, is punishable by exile or death in order to hide the program from the school board; who would feel no remorse throwing these families out to the wolves.
    10PM has come creeping up, and the families come creeping out: out of the walls, under the sinks, through the vents. The pitter patter of keyboards in the computer labs is replaced with the pitter patter of thousands of four legged Minnies and Mickeys.
    They scurry up the walls and turn on the lights, small classes of young mice sit around a history book in Mr. Albert’s room, while the older mice try to open the cooler where he hides his food. In Mrs. Douglas’s room many mice are feasting on the leftover candy from the senior mock interviews while also reading Mary Shelley’s classic: Frankenstein. 
    Some mice are more careless than others, the older mice seem to be less fearful and more irresponsible; leaving crumbs and droppings wherever they land. To them it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but sooner than later havoc may be instilled on the poor mouse families, due to the wrecklessness of the older mice and the cruelness of the school board….