Laugh as Much as You Breathe

The females in my family are bastions of advice. Regardless of the subject, they assert their superior knowledge and follow up with at least three contradictory suggestions. Ironically, they ignore others’ advice almost as much as they give out their own. I am no exception. This quality proved to be unfortunate when I decided to host several parties at my house.

My house has a revolving door when it comes to friends and family, so we are all used to having guests over. I decided to take our hospitality a step further by throwing a nice get-together, conveniently ignoring the fact that in high school this frequently blossoms into what is known as a rager. I picked the Sunday of a three-day weekend because I could have the following Monday to rest. Immediately, the stream of advice began. My parents and more practical friends posited that since it was the Sunday of a holiday weekend, most people would not have any plans, so I would see many more people than were invited. The more the merrier, I replied, happily inviting everyone I knew and even some I didn’t.

Needless to say, the party got out of control very quickly. My parents had suggested I close the front gate, but people figured out how to open it. They warned me to quiet everyone down because of our neighbors, but trying to control a crowd of 50-plus high school kids is like building a dam out of fishing nets: not very effective. Finally, around one in the morning, I followed my parents’ angry commands and kindly ousted everyone from the house.

Despite the catastrophe that was my party, a couple of months later I disregarded more ominous predictions from my parents and decided to host another soirée. They suggested I make it invite-only to avoid a repeat, so I spread the word that it was to be exclusive. Unfortunately, I again chose a night on which everyone was looking for something to do — the night of my school’s formal dance. Everything was going well until an unexpected and uninvited limo of roughly 40 kids spilled into the house. They released their limo driver, thinking they were going to stay the night. My parents, once again, were seething when they discovered more than 60 out-of-control people stumbling in and out of our house. Their rage was still palpable the next morning.

Following advice is not my strong suit, clearly. But my prom is coming up, and I’m thinking, perhaps I’ll invite just a small group of close friends afterward....

— Jennie Matusova, La Jolla High School

* * *

Five years old and my life had already become a hassle. The world was growing dim. My parents were gone, and I found myself sitting in a stranger’s house, my new place to live, crying for the loss of my home and family. I cried for so long it felt like I was in a tunnel that seemed to have no end.

I remember the day I met a special counselor. I don’t even remember his name now, only his words. As I entered his office, I saw a suited man with a kind face. His black hair was slicked back in a fashionable way, and he had soft brown eyes.

He spoke to me with such love that my heart began to swell. He told me of God. He told me of love. Above all, he told me of the angels that whispered your prayers to the all-loving Lord.

“Kat,” he said, “please remember to pray. The Lord loves you even if you don’t know who he is. Remember, the angels take your prayers up to heaven and whisper them to God.”

Religion has never played a large role in my life, but I will always pray because of this man. I will always pray because I believe that someone is listening.

— Kat, San Pasqual Academy

* * *

"Laugh as much as you breathe. Love as long as you live.” — Elizabeth “Liz” Tran (2/26/90–1/19/07). This is the best piece of advice I have ever gotten. And sadly, I didn’t realize it until I had lost one of my best friends. That was the motto she always lived by, and I had never put any thought into it until it was too late to tell her how genius she was.

This girl lived life to the fullest and made everyone’s day a little bit brighter, whether she attempted to or not. She and I had become really close friends, but junior year we began to drift apart, and I take the blame for it. I began to focus on what I thought were the most important things. I got a job, took on a handful of AP and college classes, and never made time to just sit and smile at life like she did. I was too focused on trying to build my future rather than enjoying the life I am living now and the people in it. And because of this, I never got to mend our friendship before she died, and it is something I regret every day.

To make up for this, I changed how I lived my life. All of a sudden, everything became a little more clear. I still work, and give school my all, but I don’t stress over it nearly as much as I used to. I tell my friends every day that I love them. Every day I make it a goal to find at least one thing to smile about and to have at least one interesting thing happen. And every time my friends and I have a good laugh, I cherish it, because you never know what tomorrow holds and whether or not a moment like that will ever happen again.

I finally realize that life is just way too short to try and rush through, especially as a teenager. These are supposed to be the best years of my life, and I plan on making them exactly that. Little things that I used to get mad about I just disregard now because it is a waste of time to dwell on negativity. Everyone who knew this wonderful girl approaches life a little differently as well.

— Chelsea Kennedy, Madison High School

* * *

Advice is a funny thing. Some people give advice with the best of intentions, but somehow their suggestion happens to be the worst thing you’ve ever done. While that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I can think of many occasions on which movies, music, and all sorts of other things have been suggested to me. I was just stupid enough, and more importantly bored enough, to listen to some of those people.

One of my dear friends absolutely loves to go to the movies; it is without a doubt his number-one source of entertainment. Sometimes, he goes to movies he doesn’t even want to see. What usually happens, though, is that I go to movies with him that I really don’t want to see.

Horror movies really aren’t my deal, but boy have I been dragged to my fair share. I know how to say no, but sometimes.... The last truly horrendous example would probably have to be The Hitcher, a movie about a killer hunting down a couple and eventually slaughtering the boyfriend. I like gratuitous violence sometimes, but at some point, enough is enough. A little gore goes a long way. By the end I was just glad I wasn’t the one who paid for the tickets.

It’s not the end of the world, but I sure have wasted a fair number of hours in retarded movies. Spending two hours with The Brothers Grimm was another painful experience.

A lot of my favorite music has been recommended to me by friends, but some people, when they start talking about music, I know to just tune out. I am rather picky, so the red flag goes up quickly. I’m sure a lot of people wouldn’t take my advice about music either; not everyone will love the band Tool. A former girlfriend and I had drastically different tastes in music. It was an ongoing game to try and get the other one to listen to our music. It was funny, though, and always gave us something to argue about.

— Grant Barba, La Jolla High School

* * *

Growing up, I never really had a “significant plan” to guide me. I was always more of a dreamer. I just assumed that everything would work itself out the way I wanted, eventually, and that life would be served to me on a gold platter. Unfortunately, I discovered that this method works only if you’re someone like Paris Hilton.

I got my first dose of reality from my counselor in my freshman year. He preached to our class how important it was to get good grades and how slim the acceptance rate is for most colleges these days. As the days progressed into my sophomore year, I started applying myself more and more, making a real effort to try to raise my GPA, and swallow as many extracurricular activities as possible without going completely insane. Unfortunately, I noticed that many of my peers were on a path to self-destruction. I learned it is very difficult to keep your head high when everyone around you wants you to cave in.

One evening I talked with my dad about all of this, and he gave me the best advice that I have received so far: “You can’t blame your failures and wrong-doings on anybody but yourself.” He told me that everything in life is not going to be easy; I should not expect everything to happen perfectly every time. He said, “Angela, if you don’t want to be a deadbeat for the rest of your life, you need to take responsibility for yourself. No one likes a 70-year-old woman complaining about her life, blaming her failures on everybody else.” You can’t control how or why you were brought into this world, but you’re in control of where you go from there.

Since then, with everything I do, I always use his advice to keep me motivated and focused. I overcame many mental, emotional, and physical hardships during my life. Everybody will make mistakes and mess up. Sometimes the mistakes are huge. But I learned that confronting the fact that you were the one to mess up is the first step to fixing it. Obviously, it’s never good to beat yourself up about anything; it’s only bad when you don’t learn from mistakes and repeat the past, which was what my dad was trying to get into my stubborn mind at the time.

I’m sure my father’s advice will always be in the back of my mind and will make me more secure about the decisions I make. It is true, just like George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can’t find them, make them.”

— Angela Perna, El Capitan High School

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