Thursday, July 31, 2014

Extra! Extra! Amercia's Next Great Author Volume Three! (Weeks 4 and 5)

There is a reason I am combining weeks four and five. Number one is because both weeks I submitted a nonfiction essay for the assignment. I think nonfiction is one of my best areas of writing and I love writing it; it was the only weeks last year that I actually did half-decent. I’m really used to writing essays for school, college and scholarship essays and other things like that, so nonfiction essays come easy to me.
Number two is because I don’t feel comfortable sharing my week four assignment. The prompt was titled The Struggle is Real and we were tasked to write about a personal struggle we faced in life. There weren’t a whole lot of things for me to pick from because I haven’t faced really any big struggles in my life yet. The content of my entry isn’t really something I want to share with everyone. I used a personal problem and I’m not sure if I’m proud of writing it or not.  The funny part is that I did however end up placing second (only one point away from tying with first) in this week’s prompt. I do think that my essay was written very well and I am proud of the technique behind it, but I’m not so sure about the essay itself. I ended up over-dramatizing a lot of things, to the point where I was talking about a problem that I really didn’t face so I think that if I shared it, it would give a false representation of myself. Overall, Lori won the week, myself placing in second, Avahline in third, and Mckinley was eliminated because he didn’t submit a piece.

I will however share my week 5 essay. In honor of the Fourth of July, we had to write either an essay or short story about/set in our home state. I ended up writing about my time as a Mackinac Island Governor’s Honor Guard. This week was the week my old troop was up in Mackinac serving and this year was my first year in a while I would not be going to Mackinac and I wrote the essay reflecting back on my experience and what I loved about the island.
Lori won the week (yet again xD), Adam placing in second, Avahline in third, and Destini was eliminated.

Below is my week 5 essay:
Being able to watch four different firework shows simultaneously on the Fourth of July while sitting atop the ramp leading up to Fort Mackinac is a sight that very few people ever get to see. Looking out over the edge of the fort as the lights on the Mackinac Bridge brightly twinkle in the distance while a display of colorful fireworks light up the night sky is a sight that’s truly hard to forget.
Sure, hundreds of people visit the fort during the day and take pictures of the beautiful view overlooking Lake Huron, but seeing that same view at night is something completely different. It’s almost magical. Main Street which was once bustling with tourists carrying bags full of fudge is now calm and empty, with only a few street cleaners roaming the street. The ferries are all docked back in Mackinaw City, and the lake is calm and quiet as it reflects the colors of the fireworks that light up the sky.
Only the few soldiers who work the fort during the summer, a select few people who pay enough money to receive access to the fort at night, and about forty teenage girls get to see that sight ever year. I was lucky enough to be one of those forty teenage girls, for four years in a row.
“Which ones are you going to watch this year?” I can almost hear my friend Sarah ask me. I imagine myself and my other friends sitting along the top of the ramp, doing our best to avoid the spider ridden flag poles. The night is cool with a gentle breeze blowing in from the lake as we try to find the best place to sit to see as many of the shows as we can.
“The Mackinaw City show is always the best,” I imagine myself responding.
“But they’re so far away you can barely see them.”
“I’ve never even actually seen the ones in St. Ignace.”
“And Round Island always blocks the Turtle Island ones.”
“I hope the island ones are better this year. They are the most convenient to watch in the first place.”
That’s how the conversation plays out every single year while we waited for the fireworks to start. This is my first time in four years I won’t be there on the island to witness them or be able to talk to my friends about them. It’s a strange feeling, knowing that for the first time in what seems like an eternity, I won’t be there to witness an event that has had a tremendous impact on my life. 
The Mackinac Island Governor’s Honor Guard is something most people – even those who live in Michigan – don’t even know exists. It’s consists of various troops of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts from Michigan who were handpicked to alternate weeks working service hours at the fort. The troop I became a part of, the Royal Oak troop, was lucky enough to get the opportunity serve during the week of the July Fourth each year. Of course, working the Fourth of July week comes with many more responsibilities, including working a shift two hours longer than usual, and having to learn a long and very tedious flag folding ceremony, but all the hard work pays off in the end.
I first joined the troop in the fall of eight grade after hearing about it from someone I knew at school. At the time I didn’t really see the point to it. It didn’t seem like fun at all and I didn’t understand why people would volunteer to stand still for three hours while getting burnt in the sun. Even while thinking all of that, I joined anyway, basically because it would look good college applications.
So, my mom went and bought the hideous green uniform with shorts that didn’t fit right, knee high socks that cut off my circulation, and a jacket they never let your wear when it was cold out. I spent the next school year driving forty minutes away – an hour in the winter – to attend three hour meetings every other week about how to march in step, raise and lower flags, and most importantly, how to stand still while on guard duty for three hours, something that to this day I am still no good at. We marched into the middle of the city on the days the weather was decent and got stared at by passing runners like we were some kind of strange green caterpillar.
When the time came around to actually go to the island, I did not want to go. The only things you could take with you were whatever you could fit in a three by three foot plastic box, and there were no electronic devices allowed. The day we left for the island, I got up at four in the morning and we set off on a five and a half hour bus ride, cramped, and noisy the entire way there.
I cried my first two nights there, and I had good reason to. The place was run like a military school. Wake up at six in the morning, get ready, eat breakfast, and then bunk inspection before setting off to raise flags at nine. All of your belongings need to be shoved back into your plastic box, nothing on the floor, and everything had to look presentable, even though no visitors were allowed in the barracks in the first place. I told myself I wasn’t going to come back ever again, but that changed soon enough. Well, four years later and I was still going to Mackinac and designated as a patrol leader with extra leadership responsibilities.
My friends were a big part of the reason why I came back every year. I only saw them at the meetings and that one week out of the year, and yet, they had become some of my best friends, but they weren’t the only reason.
It started at the end of my first year while I was watching the fireworks on the Fourth of July, and it continued to grow from each year on after that. I started to feel a personal connection to the island; it started to feel like a second home to me, even thought I was only there a week out of the year. There’s an aura to the island that’s hard to explain. It’s almost as if the entire island is frozen in history. The rest of the world keeps on changing and progressing, but Mackinac Island still stays the same as it was years ago. No cars allowed with horses and bikes as the main source of transportation. It’s laid back, but not to the point where everyone is too lazy to want to walk up “killer hill” to go visit the fort. It’s a strange sight to see Governor Rick Snyder wearing a Life is Good shirt while relaxing with his family on the porch of the governor’s residence, but at the same time it reminded me that he’s no different than the other tourists on the island. They went to visit to take day off to relax with their family, and that’s exactly how he was. The island was a place where people can take a step back from the world and appreciate simpler things in life.
            Every person I’ve met who’s had the chance to spend a week in the Honor Guard program has felt the same personal connection to the island. I remember the disappointment I felt when I realized the annual baseball game wasn’t going to be held the week I was on the island, the outrage when we noticed they had put a Starbucks on Main Street – taking away from the island’s historic antiquity – and how I was overjoyed when the state decided to spend money to refurbish the extremely underappreciated but just as important Fort Holmes. 
            It’s strange to think that an island only eight miles in circumference impacted my view on the State of Michigan more than the entire Lower Peninsula itself. It brings in tourists from not only all over the country, but from all over the world. I still don’t really understand why people come from miles and miles away to see a small island with nothing on it but one street full of cute stores, a large hotel without air-conditioning, a fort, and a couple golf courses.
            Maybe it’s because they see the same thing that I see in the island. A place so close to the ever changing world with its technology and brand names, but still secluded from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, stuck in a simpler time period where people didn’t have to check their Twitter every five minutes. Of course, it’s not so outdated that people see it as a floating ghost town, but it keeps enough of its history to seem authentic.
            When I close my eyes I can almost imagine the fireworks lighting up the sky. The Mackinaw City ones always extravagant, but tiny off in the distance, the Turtle island ones just peeking out over the top of Round Island, the boom of St. Ignace ones going off from the Upper Peninsula from the opposite side of the island, and the Mackinac Island ones, never as extravagant as the others, but always the biggest in the sky. It’s a sight I might never get the chance to see again in my life time, but one I will be sure to never forget.

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