A perfect teen

RN&R’s annual teen issue focuses on artistic expression

Photo by Jackie Hickman, 18

Photo by Jackie Hickman, 18

This year, for our annual teen issue, we sent a shout-out for teenagers to contribute their poetry, essays, art and photography for publication in the newspaper. All we asked was for these young people to tell us what they’re thinking about these days. Teenagers, their parents and their teachers answered the call, sending far more submissions than we could ever hope to publish.

Teenagers from many local high schools and middle schools participated—from Fernley High School to the Opportunity School to Reno High to Damonte Ranch High School to Truckee Meadows Community College High School to Reed High School to Rainshadow Community High School and the Regional Technical Institute—too many to mention them all.

So what’s on teens’ minds these days? Pretty much the same thing as on everybody else’s minds: the War on Iraq, immigration, money, looks, pop culture, popularity, politics and art. And then there’s MySpace.

Can MySpace Make You Go Blind?
Have you ever had a habit so taxing it encompasses all your free time? Have you ever felt the sweet embrace of feeling dependent on an inanimate object as your only means of human interaction? If not, you have never experienced the pleasure—nay the purgatory—of a MySpace.

MySpace, a division of Fox media, is an online community where people can meet, network, interact and do the things normal human beings do face to face. You create a profile which includes a little about yourself, a few pictures and a space to blog out your thoughts. Your profile can include decorations as ornate as intricate backgrounds, movies, music videos and even your new favorite song. All in all, from the very beginning of owning a space, you are your own PR director. You want to market yourself like New Coke, using whatever means at your disposal to ensnare people into your “network.”

Isaac Reid, 18, of Regional Technical Institute, provided “Cristal Forest.”

Now all is fun and games until someone loses their grasp on reality. Being your own PR director is hard work. You have to update your space, take new and much more flattering pictures—as many as humanly possible from the most obscene angles—and you have to talk to people you’ve never seen before. You gotsa have friends, right? You have to know these people. They have to know you. Christ, everyone has to know you, and if they don’t, then they will, because tonight you are going to go home and take as many pictures as your camera will hold. On the rare occasion that you do venture out into the world, you will take pictures of yourself in Wal-Mart. You’ll be doing absolutely nothing productive, but people will know how fun you can be as you fight with swords in the aisles.

Soon after this phase, things start becoming a problem. Soon you have friends, but you’ve never seen these people. You have never shaken their hand; you have never looked them in the eye. You take pictures of yourself that even your mother couldn’t recognize. But why?

It is my hypothesis that MySpace is the masturbation of interactions. Nothing is like meeting someone beautiful, brilliant or even just interesting—in the flesh. Connecting gazes, hearing voices, touching, all for the first time, can be mind-blowing. When we take the humanity out of interaction, we take away that part of ourselves that can grow with each person we meet. Interacting on MySpace feels good, works when you’re alone and leaves you feeling momentarily satisfied. But performance anxiety can be caused from never meeting someone face to face, and when you finally do experience personal contact, you get overexcited and end up going home humiliated. You never get enough, whether it be comments, pictures or instant messages. You keep digging to fill a void, while sinking deeper into your own new grave. Why would you want to be a part of something so hollow? You never get to know someone for what they truly are, just what they want to show the world of the Internet. Saying you met someone through MySpace is like saying you met someone’s marvelous new sweater.

So what’s my prescription? Burn this mother down. Delete your account, and go write some poetry, go to a concert, set out each day and meet someone new. Keep track of all these people—tally ’em up; and maybe—just maybe—you will have as many real friends as MySpace friends.

Michael Moberly, 18

Have you ever had a day when you wonder to yourself if this world, your country, your city, your ‘hood would ever live in peace? I know I have. I live in a place where gang-banging is out on the streets, where gangsters are out looking for trouble, getting payback for what happened in the past, or even suffering for their loved ones. I know how it feels for people to lose their loved ones. People out in the world might only think living a thug life is all about looking for trouble, stealing, fighting, violence, etc. The way I see it, it’s not all about that. Just because you see a guy or girl walking down the streets dressed in baggy clothes doesn’t mean they would do anything to you. They have really deep feelings, too. They’re normal people on the inside. Even though they dress different doesn’t mean anything. Look at myself and others. Haven’t you noticed we all dress different? I know you might think there still are bad people because they tag and graffiti private properties. All I have to say is that they do it for a reason. They don’t only do it for their ‘hood or barrio or to mark their territory. The way I see it is because they want to express their art and have at least some respect. Like what they say, you have respect for us, we’ll have respect for you! You might think, how does this 13-year-old girl know these things? I know this because I’ve been living with and talking to gangsters, thugs or whatever you want to call them, almost my whole life.

Russell Henry, 17, of Regional Technical Institute, sent in “Inventor’s desk.”

Melanie Roldan Salem, 13

Crossing the Border? Umm, Bad or Good?
Crossing the border isn’t anything bad. Well, at least for me. Don’t people always say all people need a second chance? Well, George W. Bush is trying to ruin that chance that we have to experience other place besides Mexico, Asia, Thailand, Iran or any other places. Illegal aliens have the right to experience a better life. Why is George W. Bush suddenly caring about people crossing the border? He thinks it is so bad. Well, it is a miracle that he is actually doing something that has to do with people that isn’t golf or sitting his butt down on his chair and doing nothing until later on. I don’t even know why they elected him to be our president. He said the United States was going to change when he is president. I didn’t know it was going to change this way. Not to offend anyone, but some people that want the border shut down and send Mexicans and others that are illegal back to where they come from are white people. I think George W. Bush thinks if Mexicans cross the border we are going to mess up. Probably he is saying we are stupid just because we don’t speak English. The president probably doesn’t know the only reason we come to America is to work and start a new life. If Bush shuts down the border, then he is shutting down our dreams.

Diana Vasquez, 13

A wonderful seven letter word
Meaning equality and rights
To be able to express how you feel
Like eating an unending piece of candy
But sometimes taken for granted
Not appreciating the essence of being free
Pleasant, lovely, and divine
So many words to describe freedom
But sometimes never enough
The wonderful seven letter word

Jin Gweon, 14

What I care about
“You passed
The proficiency test!
My counselor said,
As she handed
Me a card…

Yoganathan Palani, 17, of Truckee Meadows Community College, sent in this photo, titled “deathly.”

I walked out
Feeling great,
But then I remembered
The dreaded “p” word…


One thing down,
Two to Go.

I’m so close…
The light
At the end
Of the tunnel
Is getting larger…

But if I don’t pass
The dreaded
“P” word,
There is no light
At the end
Of a very long tunnel.

Alli Bolton, 17

*drags soapbox to the center of the room and gets on it* I’m going to talk about something I have w-a-a-y too much personal experience with: the effects of bullying.

I’ve been harassed and teased and pushed around constantly by my peers since first grade. I’m in the 10th grade now, and it hasn’t gotten any better. I still get called weird, obnoxious, fat; people throw things at me, they talk behind my back, they try to take advantage of me because I can’t always see through them. It’s left a mark by now that will likely never entirely go away. My self-esteem is in the hole. I’m even shyer than I started out. I automatically assume people dislike me and lash out if I even think they’re talking about me. Sometimes I don’t even trust the handful of offline friends I have. I doubt any of the jerkoffs that have been bullying me read this (if they even read at all), but if they are, pay attention! See what you did?

I don’t try to start anything. When I have the nerve to talk to someone in the first place, I’m just trying to be friendly. I’m only mean in retaliation—yet when I ask what their malfunction is, they say I’m rude and bitchy. Failure to communicate much?

Addie Jaramillo, 17, of Reno High School, shot the photograph below, titled “At Ease.” Jaramillo also took the photo that appears on the cover, “Alone on Stage.”

It would be great if people would learn not to reject someone just for acting different from them. I know I’m weird, and I like being the way I am instead of following the pack. If other kids would stop ostracizing someone for not fitting in, maybe more people would have the guts just to be themselves.

Bullying is a serious problem. I don’t know the statistics, but everyone hears about people who are messed up because they’ve been teased. Not everyone goes to extremes and turns to drugs, alcohol, suicide, etc.—it’s a cowardly way out, anyway—but even the stronger ones take a hit to their self-esteem.

Who else is sick of it? Who else wants their peers to look past their fashion, their clique or lack thereof, their likes and dislikes, and just try to be kind? If the bullies’ heads are too far up their asses to just say something nice now and then, why don’t they learn to just ignore people they don’t like? The world would be a better place for it.

To my fellow outcasts, hang in there. Look for others like you, and laugh at those jerks together. You know you’re better than they say you are.

Peace out!

Rhiannon Brannan, 16

My Strong Belief
Is life really all that hard? I’m constantly hearing the complaints of my peers. Their life sucks, they’re not pretty, etc., etc. Truthfully, it’s beginning to annoy me. I wish they would stop, but then again, that’s just me complaining as well. Have you ever noticed how the kid whose life is really messed up will complain about it a lot less than the kid whose life isn’t? I’ve noticed … and I’ve just gotta laugh. If you were to tell them that, they probably wouldn’t listen. They’re too busy whining about how nothing is the way they want it. Sometimes I wish I could show them how hard life really can be—you know, give them something to complain about.

Then you look at the not-so-good-looking kids. They hear others whining over their looks while they could only wish to look nearly as good as them. I feel sorry for them, but at the same time, I’m angry with them for not trying to do something as simple as cheap make-up and a hair-cut to at least raise their self-esteem. I find it strange that they can’t seem to get that.

Justin Hamilton, 17, of Rainshadow Community High School, contributed this painting.

So, tell me, is life really such a drag? Look at what other people have to go through, and look at how they handle it before you decide that your life sucks so badly. My younger sister was born with spina bifida, and you hardly ever see her without a smile. She’s been through more surgeries at the age of 7 than most people will go through in two lifetimes. But she makes the best of it. And if you think about it, it kinda makes you ashamed to know that you complain about walking down the street, while she can’t even walk across the room without braces on her legs.

Acacia Soltyshak, 16

It’s like I’m doing everything wrong
I don’t clean the house good enough
I get A’s and B’s but my grades still are bad
“Try harder,” you say
“Be more like her.”
But when I try harder
When I’m like her
I’m still not good enough
I can’t do anything right
“You’re fat and fucking worthless”
You rub it in my face
“Be like those models, wearing size 0”
And I try
I puke and I starve
But still I am worthless
Still I am fat
My body is ill
I’m not me anymore
“Look at that girl!
She’s so pretty
Be more like her
Dress like her
Talk like her
Be her.”
I’m a replica of your foundation
A piece of clay you mold
I’m trying so hard for you
But nothing I am is good enough
Nothing I do will make it work
I want to be me
But my strength to go on is fading
“Be more like your sister.
She’s so perfect.”
But for once I’m going to turn away
I’ll stick with my scars
Scars all for you
You were so wrapped up in perfection
You didn’t take the time to notice
But when reality kicks in
Things are going to be sick
You’re going to see what you’ve done to me
I’m addicted to wrongs
I smoke
So I don’t feel
I drink
So I can’t think
I cut my wrists
So I can control some small part of my life
Because unlike you
I’m so imperfect
That I’m perfect in every way.

Felicia Davis, 14

Cheyenne Brown, 14, of Fernley High School, sent in this photo of a butterfly.

Ode to the Guilty Party
dancing Light on playful Water blurs into obscurity
yet not so ambiguous as reflection is not known
but how hard the Light, as images on Water
and beyond the playful surface hides Eyes to the Dark
trying to see through the tangible pane of mercy Water
and so he had to break the Window,
which worked better as a Door.

his fist through Water splashes back at him
Dirt and Grime guilds his hands now unclean
but shame to those on looking Eyes, smiling with deceit
Water continues to dance and play with the Light
simultaneously Lighter and Darker with every breath
as images become more clear on dancing Water
yet thicker the Gritty Glass becomes

staring into the deep pools of Blue and Black
but all the time straining to see what is really there
Eyes staring back at him laced with a Silver Surface
but in the deep pools of Black and Blue nothing can be seen
Eyes straining to see him as the Gritty Glass becoming thicker still,
every second more a Door in between He and Himself

Pummeling his want to vindicate Himself
the Dark Light continues to play on choppy mercy Water
vindictive Light illuminates what he can never have
yet just Dark enough that he cannot give up
fists fighting vigorously but thicker the Glass Grows
never able to shatter the barrier that keeps him so

Rachel Trigero, 17

Ode to a Shadow

Kelly Abend, an 11th grader at the Opportunity School, sent in the above, untitled work.

Darkest of all though transparent,
Often forgotten and constantly ignored.
Yet, you stay by my side,
Never criticizing nor judging
Just, existing.

Hidden within the night amongst the others,
Can you see my dreams?
For they consist of nothing but you
Haunting visions of such a woeful shadow.

You see the unseen and hear the whispers of the soul,
You know every lost detail of every
Thought and every word unspoken.
Comfort lies in the fact that you will never reveal a thing.

When my body succumbs to death
And my soul travels to some secret existence,
You will stay, cursed by your own immortality,
Unable to move on, only able to exist

Camille Pratt, 17

There are a lot of things going on, but there is one thing that I do not like—this immigration. Bush is saying a lot of thing about Mexicans: that we make the world ugly a lot because a lot of my family does not have papers. If he makes them go, I am going to be by myself with my brother. People cross the borders only for one thing: to make a living in the United States. Also to be free because over in Mexico, people are poor, and there’s nothing over there but drugs, and that is why people die every day. Many people can not be with their family. I know I can’t.

Roberto Lomeli, 13

Shayna Kueby, 16, and Justin Hamilton, 17, of Rainshadow Community High School, painted the untitled piece above.

When I turned 13, I thought gangs were cool. I wanted to be in a gang until my mom and dad sat me down and said, “Robbie, you shouldn’t mess up your life ‘cause you should be a better person.” What’s important to me is my family. Family comes first; then I want to play basketball and become a good person like my mother told me.

I don’t think it’s worth messing up your life. Some people think it’s cool going to jail and being in gangs. But it’s not. All you’re doing is messing up your life, so don’t do it. Become a better person. Go to school, and get an education. Just don’t choose to make bad choices; make good ones. I’ve been through a list of stuff in this world. Now that I look back, I did feel like I was messing up my life. But most people could change their life and become a better person. That’s how my world is. I’ve changed it, though. I became a better person.

Robbie Wendt, 14

Too many people take life for granted. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, would you have any regrets? It’s so common—so often people don’t realize what’s important. The ones they love are here today and could be gone tomorrow. If you have a family member in the hospital, don’t dwell on what’s going to happen when he or she passes away, because he or she could pass in 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Just focus on what’s happening right this minute.

I have a 17-year-old cousin who has been in the hospital since Thanksgiving. He is faced with making the decision to continue cancer treatment that may end his life or stop treatment and just live the rest of his days how he wants. The outcome of either choice is evident and unavoidable. Don’t wait until you’re faced with a situation between life or death because at that time, it may be too late. Please take the time today to appreciate those close to you, and let them know how much they mean to you. I feel that it’s important to share this message with others.

Sam Vega, 13

The world, it is said, is changing. The cost of living increases as our population rises. In the last century, we’ve more than doubled our population. Are we, as a whole, doing anything to control this outbreak of mass reproduction? How long will it take for the world to finally realize that we have caused mass starvation, disease and death as a result of our uncontrollable need to replicate? How long will it take for us to realize that, if we continue on this wanton path of disregard for the future, we will destroy the chances of a future for life on Earth?

We are slowly draining the life from the world. We have become parasites on the otherwise balanced equation that is life on Earth. I’m no environmentalist, but it is easy to see the death of the planet looming as we tear up more and more of Earth’s surface so that we may place more offspring of the human race. And have we analyzed the threat and settled on a solution? Some have, while others push the threat aside for others to deal with, so they don’t have to face the danger of having to make a decision. Then, before they know it, they are faced with mass starvation and disease. Even then, they do not lift a finger but push it farther away. Mankind has no peer, nothing to control this outbreak. We have no predators, so the world has become our prey. Sure, many may say that disease and war control our population, but I must ask you, what disease do we not have a cure for or will soon have? What great war exists to cut 10 billion down to a quarter of that number?

Jonathon Reyes, 17, of Wooster High School and Regional Technical Institute, sent in the digital image “Spheres.”

And what of our solutions? Have we any? Some governments have set some population controls, like family limitations. Others pay for people to breed like cattle. Some people who cling to religion in these confusing times believe a holy presence commands them to reproduce in mass quantities. In short, we are battling each other on different fronts. Half seem to rein in their ever-growing population while others do the exact opposite.

We, as a people, have to decide how we wish to push forward. What sort of future do we want for our children? Our grandchildren? Family limits can help secure our future. Yes, space has opened up new opportunities for us, but how long will it take to utilize this new and “final” frontier? Will it be too late? Humanity needs to look to its future and secure a place for itself.

Roman Clewell, 16

MySpace Bulimia
Her day starts with a flashbulb. Stop and pose for the people. Put on that face of yours that we all know and trust. And hate. Seen too many times. Hide behind a mask. Of rotten lipstick and bad eyeliner. Smile filled with venom. Kiss smeared with death. We hate this. We know you. Others don’t. Get your hands on any boy you can. A disgrace. It’s bad taste. Trust your true friends, or you’ll never see them again. Beaten senseless with the truth. Ignorance is for faggots. A point system that leads to nowhere. It all starts on that same page and that same friend.

Isaac Rubin, 15

I’m so lonely I just want to cry
I’m so lonely sometimes I want to die
Yes I’m lonely but I don’t know why
I feel sad but I also feel mad
Am I lonely or am I frustrated
whatever it is I can’t take it
I want to be happy, smile and laugh
I want to be happy not sad or mad
I’m hurting with pain
All this sadness fillin’ my brain
I can’t hide it this time
It’s too strong to shake
It’s too hard to break
It’s gonna make me go insane
So I’m lyin’ on the couch tryin’ to clear my mind
of whatever it is that’s going on inside
I close my eyes and don’t make a sound
And pray my happiness can be found

Denysha Frazier, 14