Students in Jamie Rabideau’s English 9 class at Saugerties High School ventured into writing personal narratives based on Tina Chang’s essay “Why I Write.” Students were tasked with describing an activity and the significance it has in their lives. Here are two of them.
1st place winner
WHY I DANCE
By Anonymous, freshman
My hands clutch to the hem of my t-shirt. My fingers twist the fabric in between them. The sweat I’ve accumulated before I’ve even started practicing mocks me. It tells me no matter how hard I try, I will never shine like my teammates. They all have some special talent and glow to them when they dance. Some girls are muscle powerhouses and others are perfectly balanced on their toes. Some have their overwhelming height to use as an advantage, and then there’s me. I can barely stand on my own two feet when walking. If an anime or something was based on my dance studio, I would be the side character no one remembers at the end. None of that really matters to me though. I would much rather have part of the side character or Villager B over the main character any day. The main character always has a big story arch and someone better than them who they constantly try to beat. I much rather like the small victories. It could be a simple turn and I would be beaming with pride.
I peaked in second grade. I know that sounds incredibly sad, but it’s true. In second grade I got to be the main character, but I didn’t like it all that much. I was in competitive cheer, and I was told I was the best at what I do and that made me nervous. So, I started underperforming until I was placed in the back. The minute I got a way out, I took it.
Flash forward a couple years later, my mom put me in a dance class. It was different from cheer. In dance I could express myself and be comfortable in the back row. As I practiced the routines, I got more comfortable practicing them in the group. Although something that stayed the same as when I started is that I could practice or perform by myself.
Now I’m at a different studio with people I’m more familiar with. I’ve known some of the dancers for years, and that makes me more comfortable with them during practices. Dancing makes me more aware of my mistakes and what I need to improve on. Like occasionally I’ll keep my foot flat when it should be pointed. Sometimes, however, the mistakes can even be in my everyday life. For example, when I publicly mess up on something, in and outside of dance, I have the urge to give myself a quick smack on my face. Not enough for it to hurt though, just enough to bring me back to what I should be doing.
Maybe one day I’ll stop fidgeting and getting nervous before I even do anything, but for now I would say I’m doing alright. Maybe one day I’ll get the chance to do something extraordinary, but for now I’ll gladly be Villager B. For now I’ll keep getting those small victories that I love.
3rd place winner
WHY I RIDE
By Cosmo McIntosh, freshman
“I’ll go first, you count to seven. Once you hit seven, send it!”
“Ok, I got you, ready when you are.”
He kicks once, twice, three times and the engine roared to life. You can smell the two stroke as he hits the rocks in second gear. I start the count, “1.” He begins scaling up the hill. “2.” He loses speed, but the bike keeps pulling. “3.” I kick once, twice, my bike roars with it’s throaty 4 stroke sound. “4.” He hits the turn with speed, leans over, and disappears around the corner. “5.” I pull in the clutch with my left pointer finger and put the bike in first. “6.” I hear his bike fading off, continuing up the mountain. “7.” I whip the throttle back, pop the clutch and fly towards the hill, already in second gear.
Let’s start from the beginning. I’ve been on two wheels since I was five. I guess it wasn’t exactly two wheels, considering it had training wheels until kindergarten. The minute the training wheels came off, I fell. Unlike what I had originally assumed, I was no master at the sport… yet. I continued riding and continued falling, determined to improve.
When it came time for me to turn six, my dad got me a plastic jump that we set up in our driveway. It was another mountain to overcome, but I soon would. I quickly learned that I lost two things whilst flying: steering and brakes. Just as I had gained my balance, I hit a jump. I kept hitting the jump, loving the feeling of the air whistling through my ears and the feeling of flying, scary as it was.
Just as my sixth passed, my seventh birthday was here. At this point, I was getting taller, or was the bike getting smaller? My parents surprised me with a new bike! It was matte army green with darker green accents to top it off. I hopped on, and although it took some adjusting to, I was hitting the skies soon enough.
One day I was on the bus, and I don’t know what hit me, but I decided to talk to someone. He told me his name was Bubba. We were not in any classes together, but I soon came to learn that he lived right down the road from me. Eventually my parents let me go to his house. When I got there, he had bikes too! We rode his bikes for the entire afternoon before I had to go home.
A couple of years went by, I kept riding the bike, going to Bubba’s house, riding my bike, going to Bubba’s house. Eventually I was ten or so, and I got into BMX racing. I soon realized that my bike was different from all the others. My tires were thicker, my bike was heavier, and I was always last across the line. I told my parents, and upon my eleventh birthday, they came home with a shiny new bike. It was white and blue with skinny tires, and weighed only 19 pounds!
I hit the track at 6:00pm in fall. The stage lights were bright, the announcer was lining everyone up for the parade lap. It was a lap at the beginning of every night where everyone that had a bike, big or small could line up at the start and most of the time they would. We waited, “Ready!” One foot on the pedal, “Watch the gate!” All left feet came up, and a woman started singing the national anthem, Beep! The gate dropped, and we were off, down the hill, “What so proudly we hailed, at the twilight’s last gleaming” echoed across the track. I was in the first quarter out of the group as I went around the turn, over the first jump, wind whistling through my helmet as the world around me disappeared. It was me, the track, and the other riders. Although this was no race, we couldn’t help ourselves from having a little competitive spirit. As I came near the end of the track, I put one hand on my heart, the anthem coming to a close.
Like the last one, I continued riding this bike for years, and still have it to this day. A few summers went by without going to the track. I still rode the bike, but had other interests along with it. Then came 2020, a new year, a new decade, a fresh start. It was a time to try new things. I had my mind set on getting a full time summer job. At the time I was working on a farm every saturday for some money but I wanted to work hourly.
I eventually ended up on one of my friend’s dirtbikes and found that I really enjoyed it. I was terrible at it, but I still loved it. It didn’t evolve into anything until a couple of months later when another one of my friends let me ride their bike. That’s when I realized how much I loved the sport. I went home that day and talked to my mom about buying a bike. She said she would let me have one, but I had to buy it. I knew I would need a job to have enough money to buy one before the summer came to an end. I ended up mowing a 162 acre plot for the entire summer. During my freetime I would look for a bike to buy and found lots that I liked. In the end, I had just enough to afford a bike, gear, and gas. I bought it: My 2006 Kawasaki Klx 125. I love the bike and ride it whenever I can.
It came time to bring it to my friend’s house. We took to the trails and came across a rocky hill. It was at least a 45 degree angle but reached probably a 60-70 degree incline. “I’ll go first, you count to seven. Once you hit seven, send it!” and with that, he was off.
I believe that I will continue to love not only dirtbikes, but all two wheeled vehicles. I plan on continuing to progress my skills on the trails and eventually hit the road, improving bikes as I go. “When in doubt, throttle it out.”