I attribute a lot of my personality to growing up with brothers. They drove me crazy when I was younger, and sometimes they still do, but I’m thankful for everything they’ve taught me. Whether they realize it or not.
Pressley, born in 1990, is the oldest. He is a great storyteller, because he can make anything hysterical. Pressley loves to be outside and will eat pretty much anything. He loves Clemson football and gives the best hugs in the world.
Jeremy, born in 2000, is the middle child. He is witty and extremely stylish. He loves history and is obsessed with cars. I was born in 2002 so I’m the baby, but they never treated me differently. Just the three of us, trying to have fun and figure out life.
The craziness at our house was never-ending. One time, Pressley built Jeremy a bike ramp in the back yard. It definitely was not stable. Then, Pressley somehow got that same bike stuck in a tree. Another day, Pressley threatened to flush my hermit crabs down the toilet, because I stole his hat. Maybe he was slightly overreacting. A few years later, Jeremy convinced me to jump out of our treehouse using a trash bag as a parachute. I was skeptical, but he landed safely so I thought I would too. However, he didn’t remind me to unfold the bag before I jumped. Needless to say, I hit the ground so hard I couldn’t breathe. Not my finest moment. They would always make sure I felt included, and often times would join me in whatever I wanted to do. They always make sure I know how proud they are.
But I Wouldn’t Change it for Anything
Looking back on my childhood makes me laugh. How did our parents not lose their minds living in the zoo we created? Growing up alongside Pressley and Jeremy is the main reason I am the way I am. My brothers made me tough, strong, and taught me to be a fighter. Everything was a competition, nerf war was a HUGE deal, so I learned to push myself. I wanted to win.
Because of my relationships with my brothers, I know never to settle in any type of relationship. They always make me feel protected and respected. They taught me not to be easily intimidated, that it’s okay to be intimidating and to stand my ground. I know to make sure my voice is heard, even if I have to be louder than everyone else. We show that people don’t have to agree on every single thing, in order to get along. I am extremely thankful for Pressley and Jeremy and what they’ve passed on to me, especially the comfortable sweatshirts.
Many of my friends have said “you should be glad you don’t have a sister” and I am. I have my brothers, and they are all I’ll ever need. They are my most honest critics and my biggest supporters. They both mean everything to me. I’ve watched them grow up into incredible, hilarious, and caring people and I couldn’t be prouder.
We live in a society that claims to be “body positive’, but doesn’t accept all types of people. I always hear “every person is unique” and I get that. I don’t understand why everyone isn’t celebrated. I don’t mean that we should all get participation trophies or be praised for anything we do, but everyone deserves to be comfortable and welcome without exception. It’s true that we are all unique. We are different shapes, sizes, and colors, but we should feel the same – confident and comfortable.
I was taught to be “body positive”. What does that even mean? Why do other peoples bodies concern me? That’s just it. Other peoples bodies don’t concern me, and my body doesn’t concern anyone else. Is that body positivity? Not really. It definitely isn’t my place to tell anyone else what to do with their body. Different things empower different people. I don’t think to be body-positive means that you can’t make observations about other people’s appearance, but I believe they do need to be empowering.
I know that the celebration and representation of all people can be directly related to self-confidence, so why isn’t diverse representation more common? It’s because we, as a society, have become used to a particular image being showcased. Some people cannot see themselves in this image, so they begin to feel inferior. Most people’s first reaction is to be judgemental. I’ll admit it. Sometimes I see someone and think. What are they wearing? but then I remember they can wear whatever works for them. It doesn’t matter what I think. If I don’t like it, then I won’t wear it. We have to train ourselves not to be critical of others because we are constantly reminded of something that doesn’t really exist. The “ideal body” cannot be captured in one image. Everyone has a different body, and that is enough, we shouldn’t accept or strive for one type of body.
On the other hand, we are too harsh on ourselves. I am. You are. We are all hypocrites. We tell others they should be confident, and turn around to belittle ourselves. At the same time, we get dressed, stand in front of the mirror, and pick ourselves apart. This would look better if my stomach was flat…or if my thighs were smaller, I’d be happy. The truth is, I’ll never be 100% satisfied with my appearance, and that’s normal. It’s important to remember that body positivity is for everyone – including ourselves.
I decided to write about how contradictory our society is when it comes to body image, because of a song I love. “Body” by Julia Michaels begins with an apology that we should all take notes on. She is apologizing to herself. She knows that she makes herself lose confidence and feel insecure. She knows that she shouldn’t treat herself like that, but she still does. All she wants is to love her body like she loves others’ and they love hers. Why are we like that? Why can we see the beauty in others, and others can see it in us, but we can’t see it in ourselves?
Personal Relationship With Body Positivity
My relationship with my body is constantly changing. My entire childhood I was a gymnast. I was short, strong, and could never find jeans that fit. Around the age of 11, I got taller. I was thinner, and the strongest I had ever been. Still, I hated my body. Then came an injury that ended gymnastics forever. For the rest of middle school, I was getting zero exercises and eating terribly. I was depressed. I hated myself, and I hated my body even more. The little bit of confidence I had was gone. I wouldn’t even look anyone in the eye.
Then high school started, and I was more comfortable with myself. I was adapting well. I was doing everything I wanted to – succeed academically and socially. Spring semester of my 9th-grade year, I got sick. I lost my appetite almost immediately, I was on a lot of medications, and the doctors were running dozens of tests that were not providing any answers. Nothing. I was also participating in swim team, so I was burning lots of calories and not eating any. Obviously, this resulted in rapid weight loss( almost 45 pounds in a few weeks). The sad part is I liked how I looked. I felt confident. Friends told me “Wow! You look great! Have you lost weight?” Yes, I did lose weight, but I was so unhealthy. I was ill. The time I felt most confident was when I was thin from illness…how twisted is that?
Remember that how you feel is always more important than how you look.
We should live in an environment where every shape and size is not only welcomed but celebrated. It isn’t difficult to be kind to those around us and ourselves. We all need to stop trying to fix what we see and focus on how we make each other, and ourselves, feel.
Want to read more about body positivity and self-love? Check it out here and here!
I always knew that I was extremely lucky to grow up with my mom’s parents close, both in proximity and emotionally. Nana and Pops, my grandparents, mean absolutely everything to me. I am so thankful for every minute I’ve had with them and hope for many more, but like everyone else, they are getting older.
As people get older, they tend to move slower, need more assistance than they did to speak louder or help them with more around the house. That is to be expected. They looked after us when we were young, so we need to look after them as they get older.
no one is ever quite prepared to watch someone you love dearly deteriorate, both physically and mentally, due to a diagnosis.
Every Wednesday of my childhood, Pops would pick up me and my brother to take us on an adventure. He would take us to get a snack, usually from wherever he had a coupon for, and to an activity. For years, on every single Wednesday, we went to the museum, the zoo, the riverwalk, or the movies. When we got to middle school, the weekly Wednesday fun stopped and everyone noticed something was different about Pops. Our funny, kind, car-obsessed Pops was eventually diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and we were all terrified. What does this mean for him? What does this mean for us as a family? How is he going to stay positive even though he can’t do everything he wants?
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s Disease is characterized by the progressive loss of nerves in the substantia nigra, a part of the brain. This eventually causes involuntary tremors, slow movements, rigid muscles, balance issues, and memory problems. The diagnosis meant that some things would simply have to change, whether he wanted them to or not. He would have to learn how to compromise and ask for help. For instance, my grandparents take pride in their yard. He cannot move around to take care of it, so he uses the lawn mower as transportation. That way he can pick up the pine cones and tend to the flowers. I think the hardest part for him is understanding that no matter how much he wants to do something independently, sometimes his body just isn’t able to.
As the symptoms progress, his life is altered more and more. He has trouble staying awake, following conversations, and he is losing control of his body. Pops was once a man capable of serving in the Air Force, and now he can’t button his own shirt. But that’s how life goes sometimes. He has been persistent, we’ve been patient, and that’s all we can do.
I’m proud of my grandpa, because he never gives up. He is fighting with everything he has left. I’m proud of my family for supporting him through anything and everything. Hold on to every moment you have. Support them and love them, even when it’s frustrating. Most importantly, never let them lose their hope.
Many of the parents I know, including my own, give everything for their children. My parents allow me to go on endless adventures and support me through any opportunities I have. They let me study abroad for the summer, they are allowing me to go to residential school for the next two years, and they are always positive lights in my life. The least I can do is strive to make them proud, right?
Growing up, I had ideas of what my parents expected from me. Regardless of the amount of truth in these ideas, I agreed with some… but was extremely confused by others. I thought they wanted me to follow in my dad’s footsteps and become a lawyer. Or that my mom wanted me to stay close to home and my dad didn’t want me to ever grow up.
I didn’t know who I wanted to be, because I wanted to be who they wanted.
I don’t know where I got these ideas because my parents have always been supportive and encouraging in everything I do. Is it even possible to make your parents proud if you don’t grow up to be like them? I wasn’t sure at the time. But yes, it certainly is possible.
My ideas of my parents’ expectations couldn’t be farther from the truth. My parents always wanted me to be whatever I wanted, with a few actual expectations. They taught me that I could be whoever I wanted to be, as long as I was kind, hardworking, generous, and had integrity. Honestly, I am ashamed that it took me so long to realize what they were doing. They want the best for me, but they wanted me to make mistakes. They allowed me to learn on my own, probably because they knew I wouldn’t listen if they told me directly. My parents never truly placed any expectations for my future, because they want me to be independent.
I have to figure out my own life, with their guidance, because it is mine, after all.
My mom and dad’s goal is for me, and my brothers, to be happy, healthy, and love what we are doing. It’s that simple. Although, it’s cliché, it’s true, all you have to do to make your parents proud is be yourself. If I would’ve spent my life trying to make my parents happy, I would’ve missed the opportunities I had to accomplish things that truly make them proud. It is important for me to fulfill my own expectations, with the help of my parents. I take everything I am given to the fullest potential and hope that I can add to their pride, through doing what I feel is right.
Parents should let their children live their own lives, let children make decisions, and fail sometimes. I know my parents enjoy watching what I can accomplish independently, after learning from them my whole life. I experience whatever is on my own path, regardless of what is on the paths beside me. Dreams have to be fulfilled by the dreamer. You can’t live someone else’s dream for them. The only way to succeed is to follow your own dreams, and have the ones you love support you along the way.
Some works of art have clear messages, while others you have to hunt for. Art makes us feel and causes us to think. It should make us ask questions. Falsettos is a musical that ticks all of these boxes.
What Falsettos is all about
Falsettos is a two-act musical comprised of March of the Falsettos, written in 1981, and Falsettoland, written in 1990. They’re written by William Finn and directed by James Lapine. The show opened on Broadway in 1992, revived in 2016, and had a national tour in 2019.
The story surrounds a Jewish family in New York. Set in the early 80s, the AIDS crisis created mass panic and fear. The plot revolves around Marvin. He is married to Trina, and they have a son named Jason. When Marvin leaves Trina for a man named Whizzer, their “tightknit” family is quickly disturbed. Trina begins to lose her mind and starts going to therapy. She eventually falls in love with the family psychiatrist: Mendel.
Just as Trina starts to pick up the pieces of her life, Whizzer becomes sick. Jason is stuck in the middle of all the conflict. He is frustrated, confused, and starts to act out. Much to his parents’ horror, he states that he doesn’t want a Bar Mitzvah. The “lesbians next door,” Dr. Charlotte and Cordelia, are unconditionally supportive to everyone else. Will this family be able to move past their conflicts to support Whizzer, and each other, through his diagnosis?
How I found Falsettos
Personally, I was introduced to the world of Falsettos with the 2016 Broadway revival cast. I was a fan of other projects the cast had been apart of, so I thought I would give it a chance. I was obsessed with the cast recording. Something about the arrangements, the vocals, and the lyrics felt different from any other show. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Will Marvin ever learn to control his emotions? Will Jason push through the chaos and grow up to fulfill his potential? Does Jason only look up to Whizzer? Is Trina okay? What in the world is a “banana-carrot surprise”? Still, to this day, whenever I listen to the album or watch the filmed version, it makes me think.
I saw the national tour in Charlotte, NC, and got to meet the cast! The production exceeded my expectations. I was in awe of the pure talent on the stage and the emotion in the room. Falsettos is heartwarming, heart-wrenching, and important. Some members of the audience have memories of the time period, while others weren’t even born yet. I think this speaks to the significance of the story, and shows that we still have a long way to go.
Why Falsettos is Timeless
Not everyone was accepting of the story and characters of Falsettos in the 90s, and lots of people still aren’t. That’s why the story, and others like it, should continue to be told. Falsettos is simply an illustration of family; it proves that love conquers all. The family is far from perfect, but they make it work. Every person in the audience can relate to something within one, or between two of the characters.
Some things, like acceptance, should be expressed until everyone listens and learns. Life-changing pieces of work stay relevant throughout time, and have the ability to impact many generations because family and love are themes that will never expire.
Anyone who has attended a concert has experienced “that” feeling. The excitement, the anticipation. All of the hours you’ve spent singing, or crying over, the lyrics suddenly feels like minutes. It’s loud, it’s hot, and you might’ve already been elbowed in the face by someone trying to get by, but you wouldn’t trade it for the world. Suddenly, the lights go out and your heart starts to race. It feels like you are floating in the air and everyone in the room becomes unified at that moment. It truly is surreal.
Personally, I think it is important to support the content and the character of artists you look up to.
Artists who are truly powerful highlight their message as much as their music.
I’m pretty sure I was introduced to the music of Betty Who the same way most everyone else was – the viral proposal, flash-mob video in Home Depot. I fell in love with her song, her message, and with her voice. Betty’s music and her concerts are always welcoming. She creates a safe space for anyone who needs it.
(Editor’s Note: I had never seen the Flash Mob video that Aubrey mentions, so I searched it and attached it in case you also want to have the biggest grin on your face for five minutes straight.)
Betty Who isn’t just a Singer. She’s my Role Model
The first time I saw Betty Who perform was at the South Carolina Pride festival. I had never seen so many people on Main Street. Everyone, including me, was waiting for Betty. We sang every word together. We danced together. A few months later, I saw her again and had the absolute honor of meeting her. She was like walking sunlight. Then I saw her again, a few months later. I couldn’t get enough of her or her crowds. They have the same energy every time and it feels incredible to be in the middle of it. No matter where you came from, where you are going, or who you love, you are embraced at her shows. We are all in that moment together, and it’s magical.
Everyone looks to artists for inspiration. Betty leads by example. When she enters a room, it instantly becomes brighter. She has a comforting energy that makes you feel safe. Betty’s activism for equality and her dedication to spreading love reminds me to speak up for what I believe in, regardless of how loud I have to be. Whenever I feel down about something, my mom asks me the same question. “What would Betty say?” and she waits for me to say “Betty would tell me I’m beautiful, I’m strong and I can do anything in the world.” She reminds me to be kind to myself and to love my body.
Does Betty look gorgeous in the sparkly dress, jewelry, and full glam makeup that she wears on stage? Obviously. Does she look gorgeous in jeans and an oversized hoodie? Of course. There is a common theme between these two outfits: she always wears her confidence, and that is eternally stunning. I admire her humility and graciousness and strive to be more like Betty. I adore her, everything she does, and everything she stands for. Betty Who has permanently changed the way I treat myself and the way I welcome others.
Find your role model, who knows, maybe they’re hiding in your list of Spotify Artists.
It is so important to find inspiration in others and use it. Whether it’s the content of someone’s character, something they create, or a combination of both. Inspiration is the fuel for our lives. It pushes us to always contribute something to the world around us, often spreading to improve the lives of others.
To Betty – Thank you so much. I don’t know if I will ever be able to fully express how much you mean to me, so just thank you for everything you do. I will love you forever, Aubrey Best
To Zak (@zcassar) – Thank you for capturing Betty’s beauty and sharing it with the world. Thank you for being so kind to me, and for letting me use your pictures! Also, best wishes to the two of you <3
Planning doesn’t always guarantee your preparedness, as you never know what the future holds. However, your ability to adapt and stay positive can guarantee your success. Sometimes undesirable things happen, but we must learn to use our negative feelings to push us forward, and never let them hold us back.
I didn’t know I’d be meeting my best friend
Every summer, I am fortunate enough to attend some sort of camp. A few years ago, I went to medical science camp at my dream high school. South Carolina Governor’s School for Science and Math, a residential high school I have been daydreaming about for years. I was obviously so excited, but I was also nervous. This was to be expected, as I didn’t know anyone going into it.
On the first day, I was trying to meet people and make friends, but it seemed as if everyone had already created their groups. Then I heard someone say “hey, you are welcome to come over here with us! I’m Sriya by the way.”, and that was it. She introduced herself and opened her arms to me. I immediately felt a weight lifted off of my shoulders and a light surrounded me. She had the most beautiful and welcoming energy that radiated to everyone.
Something between us just clicked. We instantly felt comfortable with each other, so we decided to be roommates the next week we were at camp. During our second week, we were in different classes, so we looked forward to the evening when we could discuss our days. That week was filled with conversations, both silly and serious….and plenty of Harry Styles sing alongs. We started to talk about our futures. We both knew we were going to apply to the residential program. We knew it would be extremely challenging, but we could get through anything together. About halfway through our residential application process, Sriya found out that her family is moving.
Okay, not a big deal. We will be away at school and she will just go home to a different city. They won’t be that far away, right? Wrong.
Pursuing our dream… solo
A few months later, I got a call from the president of the school congratulating me on my acceptance! It was one of the most exciting days of my life! After I finished my crying tears of joy and shock, Sriya was the first person I wanted to call. Then it hit me. My best friend, the first one I always turn to, is moving 8635 miles away. We live in different cities, but I can get in the car for about an hour and be at her front door. That obviously isn’t going to work anymore.
How am I supposed to do it? How am I going to live our dream without her by my side? I felt guilty. I felt guilty about being excited. I felt guilty about being selfish. Why do I get this and she doesn’t? I don’t deserve this. Can I do this? How can I go back to Governor’s School all alone, knowing that there will never be someone like Sriya waiting with open arms?
Eventually, after a wake-up call from my best friend, I realized a few things: I did this on my own. I got in on my own, with the support from her. Sriya will never leave my side. She will always be there, even if she’s thousands of miles away, she will always be there. She’ll still be the first one I turn to, the last one I tell goodnight, and the one I always express my love for.
I can do this. I have to do this. I will go away to Governor’s School and I will be successful. I am doing this for us. I will use the distance as motivation to be the best I can be.
Plans change, but that just means doing things differently
Everyone knows that things don’t always go as planned, but the only thing we can do is make new plans. Whether your best friend is moving across the world, or you just had a bad day, it will all be okay. There is always a way to modify your situation, or just your attitude, for improvement. It is going to be hard, and it might seem inconvenient and unfortunate at first, but distance, or any other factors, cannot destroy things that are meant to be.
To my Sriya-
Thank you for everything – for welcoming me, for being my best friend. I love you more than words can describe, my angel. Please remember that I am always right beside you, even if we are on different continents. You will always be my rock, my #1, and the love of my life. When I held you in my arms for the last time (for now!), my heart broke. My heart broke, so I could give you a piece to take with you. I’ll come see you soon. Pinky promise.