Monday, May 30, 2016

My TeenPact Experience, Part 1

Hey, y'all!  Hope you've enjoyed Memorial Weekend.  It's nice to see that over the decades, people still care about remembering America's soldiers.

This past week, I've been having a "missing the memories" time of it.  Basically, that means I remember something and feel sad about a good way.  For the past few days, that something has been TeenPact.

I love everything about TeenPact except Sine Die (saɪnɪ daɪɪ - Latin, lit. End of the end.  The end of TPLeg).  So today, I'm taking that happy-sad memory of my week at TeenPact and turning it into a post. :)

TeenPact is rather, um, difficult to describe.  It's a Christian government class for teens.  You write bills, run in elections, hold a mock legislature (where you debate bills), listen to speakers, and debate stances on a subject in the Alumni Track.  And it''  Person who has never attended TeenPact: "Are you kidding me?  How is that fun?  Don't take this personally, but is there something wrong with you?"

I've met kids who have attended TeenPact for years, and they've said their parents literally dragged them to the class their first year.  They just plain didn't want to go.  Four days of government stuff just didn't sound fun.  And afterwards?  They begged to come back the next year!  Hmmm, guess they actually enjoyed this government stuff.

I've never had that kind of story...My big brother, Taw, started attending the classes with his buddies who had been going for a long time.  So, naturally, I was more than excited when I was able to attend.  My first year at the Four-Day class (the One-Day is less intense, but it did prepare me for the new experience of the Four-Day), I was nervous beyond words!  I was excited, but there were butterflies in my stomach that didn't go away.  Actually, they've never gone away.  Every year, when I get up and stand in line, waiting to read my bill, those butterflies come back.  I choke and smile at the other kids standing beside me, wondering if they have those butterflies too.

Besides the butterflies that never leave, I had a crazy first year!  I was one of the new ones at the Four-Day class, so I didn't know how to "play the game."  Yes, there's a "game" of sorts at TeenPact.  The game consists of a lot of inside jokes and "cheating without cheating" of the rules, like where some students (including your big brother!) decide to pull off a "speak con on your bill" thing.  I still cringe when I remember saying "no" to my brother when he asked to "speak con."  All the alumni kids gasped, some chuckled.  Turns out he'd played the game.  Many times, the students speak con to help you (and the other students) out.  To get your bill passed.  They obey the TP rules, but when they get to the well, they joke about how "awful" this bill is for the environment, how this could never in a million years help anyone...Sounds painful, but they say it in the funniest voice, and you know they're not serious.  They're okay with your bill.  They want to help you out.  So they joke their way through speaking con.  And if they're serious about speaking con, that's okay.  At least you're one step closer to getting your bill through TPLeg.

So, I was one of the new ones.  I learned my way through the "game" (I still ended up crying a little that night after Night Class...I was sad that I hadn't known about the game before I'd said no to my own brother!) that week, and decided to run in the primaries.

Primaries are crazy things at TeenPact.  In preparation for the General elections, people create T-shirts, make posters, give out candy (mostly Starbursts and Hershey Kisses), and pass out business cards.  You never know who voted for you, just whether or not you got into the General elections or not.  My first and second year, I tried to be liked.  I wanted everybody to like me.  To me, it seemed like everyone loved Taw.  He'd been elected to every position: Governor, senator, clerk, chairman.  Man, one year he and another former Governor ran a smear campaign against themselves just so a First-Timer could win!  That was a hilarious election.

But anyway, I'd wanted to be liked.  I didn't want to be one of "those kids" who was weird and had a funny laugh and found pleasure in calling "Point Of Order" whenever I pleased.  I wanted to be like Taw.  Liked by everyone.  So I tried to be Taw.  I tried to make funny jokes that everyone laughed at.  Tried to be witty and extroverted.  Problem is, I'm severely introverted.  I can fake extrovert for a long time, but eventually I'll go back to my corner and die inside because I peopled "too much" for one day.  And I can't make up a joke on my own to save my life.  I'm funny on accident.

So, I wasn't myself.  I tried so hard to be my big brother because he was popular and smart and funny and just plain awesome.  And I wasn't myself anymore.  I felt like I wasn't good enough if I tried to be myself.  No one would want to hang out with, much less vote for, a shy, introverted, awkward, not-funny-at-all girl, right?  I made up a "funny" (dumb, actually) slogan in the agrarian party because Taw is funny, so I should be too.  I lost in the primaries that year.  Tried again the next year.  This time, I was a bit more me.  Way better than trying to be Taw.

I lost in the primaries that year too.  But I felt better.  I still wished I was in General elections, but my best friends (including my big brother, naturally) were in General elections, so I was really excited for them.  But there was still that nagging feeling inside me that I hadn't tried hard enough, that I wasn't good enough, that I'd tried to be the best I could be and had failed again.  I didn't want to be myself because no one would want me, like me, vote for me, befriend me.  I got caught up in the popularity of it all, the desire to be identical to my big brother.

But this year?  This year I made myself promise to totally be myself.  The real me.  Not the fake me.  The different, shy, introverted, not-funny, awkward girl with the awesome big brother was going to TeenPact.

Have you been to TeenPact?  Tell me what you liked most about your TP experience in the comments below!  

I hope you enjoy this series of posts about my experiences at TeenPact!  Thanks for reading!
Happy Memorial Day!

Other Parts Of This Series:
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Monday, May 16, 2016

Teen Photographer E-Magazine

Hey, y'all!  Today I'm posting to tell you about my brand new, FREE e-magazine on the Diverse Reflections store!

I've been a photographer since I was 9 years old, and last January I turned my hobby into a business at Diverse Reflections Photography.  Through the years, I've learned many things as a self-taught photographer.  Just recently, however, I got the idea from my Mom to start an e-magazine for young photographers like me.  So, for the past few months, I've been busily working on creating and launching Teen Photographer.

April Issue of Teen Photographer.

Teen Photographer is designed to teach and encourage beginning photographers and inspire photographers who are intermediate and beyond!  Inside, you'll find stories, tips and gear guides to help you on your photography journey.  I'm so excited to launch this new e-magazine, and I hope you'll check it out!

Issues of Teen Photographer are FREE, so check out the Diverse Reflections store for your free download.  Each issue will be free for a limited time though, so don't wait!

Have a lovely day, y'all!