Terri Hendrix is an artist from the San Antonio area who pursued a dream despite all the obstacles in her life. Dealing with epilepsy, she found ways to not only maneuver around challenges, but fight them head on. With tons of stories in her book, along with a couple of songs, Terri is transparent with the readers and allows the reader to enter her life within two hundred and eight pages. However, I found the magic before that.
First, I was reading through multiple pages in her book, I realized that Terri and I don’t have too much in common. She is a songwriter, and I am simply a student athlete from San Benito, Texas. How in the world could we possibly relate? So, I decided to not look in the book, but to go beyond and find out who exactly Terri Hendrix is. In the prelude to her book, she talks about how she was a waitress trying to pay off college until she came across an “open-mic night.” And as the famous phrase goes, “and the rest was history.”
Terri is the ultimate opportunist, and I can relate to that because I found myself in Schreiner University by being that exact way. My parents had gone through a couple of tough years in the workforce so, suddenly my family couldn’t afford to send me to college. This discussion took place at our favorite restaurant, and I vividly remember telling them not to worry because I would take care of it. I was only sixteen at the time, however, by the time my graduation came around I had dozens of emails from coaches from multiple states asking me to join their school. I wasn’t aware of it at the time because I was just living life one day at a time, but looking back, that was one of my greatest accomplishments. When my is against the wall, it’s apparent that I am able to overcome anything. That same thing is found in Terri’s book.
There’s a recurring theme in her book which screams out optimism as well as resilience. She put passion into her work, and there’s no doubt how she became a historic songwriter. While reading, I also came across an interesting line. Terri explains, “always, every race, the same fear, the same prayer”. This is such a simplistic quote, but sometimes those have the most beauty. The race can always be interpreted in many ways, but this quote is meaningful to me because I related it to life. With anything in this world, there’s good and bad, which in this case, is labeled fear. In life it is important to know there will be rainy nights. Sometimes, there needs to be rainy nights so you can appreciate the sunny days. As a hip hop artist once said, “Prepared for the worst but still praying for the best.” Terri followed this by not getting too high and not getting too low on herself, living day by day, and trusting the upper power she believes in. It sounds to me that her confidence doesn’t come from her music; instead, it comes from the higher power she believes in and prays to.
To conclude, Terri Hendrix is a fantastic person to look up to, regardless of particular interests. Her story is an incredible one and showed that anything is possible if you believe in yourself and take life one day at a time. I appreciate what Terri has done for inspiring a generation to become a better person, including myself. Her book changed my perspective on resiliency and having a positive mind through the rough times. Her writing has shown me to take advantage of my dreams. I’m blessed to not only dream, but achieve. I am living my dream at Schreiner University. Since I was a freshman in highschool I wanted to play college basketball. As a fourteen year old to commit to such a big achievement was insane. I was made fun of plenty of times for thinking that goal was possible, but now I found myself in Kerrville, Texas. This might be the ultimate redemption, but I will never take this for granted.
“Whiskey Lullaby” is a song performed by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. Released in 2003 on Paisley’s album, Mud on the Tires, it was written by Nashville songwriters Bill Anderson and Jon Randall. The story that is being told through the song’s music video is one of heartbreak, alcoholism, and tragic suicide. A young and seemingly happy couple fell in love just before the man’s deployment overseas. When he comes home from war after a couple of years, he finds his young bride in bed with someone else. He storms out of the house while she chases after him to try to stop him. Their painful ending and his inability to shake the feelings and memories he has of her drives him to drinking. Eventually his reality becomes too much, and he puts a gun to his head and takes his own life. When his ex-lover hears of his suicide, she begins to drink as well and eventually suffers the same fate.
This song speaks volumes to me because of the alcohol abuse and the theme of heartbreak. Before I was born, my mom fell in love with a man who would turn out to be an abusive alcoholic. When he found out my mom was pregnant, he wanted nothing to do with her or me. He wanted my mom to get an abortion. Young love burns hotter than reason can cool, so she agreed. Due to his emotional unavailability, her stubborn ways overruled any reason to be okay with him not loving her back. She was determined to make him love her. She thought she needed him to love her.
Momma went on to the abortion clinic and sat in the quiet and unwelcoming waiting area. When one of the nurses came to get her, she heard her phone ring. Momma had talked to my granny about the operation previously. Granny had called her, sobbing into the phone “please don’t do this.” Momma immediately stood up and walked out. She carried on with the pregnancy, and there I was in all my tiny glory. He signed his rights away and never looked back.
Heartbreak is the theme of the song that speaks to me the most. When Momma finally told me the story, I spent so many years silently dying inside wondering why I wasn’t enough. He hadn’t even met me yet and deemed me unworthy. He didn’t know what I was going to look like yet or what I might accomplish. It took me many years to understand that it wasn’t me that wasn’t good enough. It was him, and it would always be him. My first experience with true, gut wrenching heartbreak came from someone whose blood ran through my veins and he didn’t even know me yet, or much less want to.
The destructiveness of alcoholism is the second theme that stands out to me. My mom and this idiot were happy until he picked up a bottle. He would hang out in the bars all night, cheat on my mom, and leave her home alone to raise his son from a previous failed relationship. The destructiveness was beneficial for me in the long run, but I know it took my momma through hell and back. The emotional toll it took on her would have been enough to kill me. She’s one of the strongest and kindest women I know. I don’t believe I would have survived something this drastic, but in hindsight, it’s for the best.
“But nobody knew how much she blamed herself, for years and years...”. For the longest time I thought I had ruined my mom’s life. She had big dreams to pursue science, and when she had me, those dreams her no longer attainable. I thought it was my fault that he didn’t want to be with my mom anymore. Momma changed my whole perspective of the situation when she told me that I had saved her life because my being born is what took us out of a bad situation. I saved us because her love for me overrode the love she thought she needed from him.
This song tugs at my heartstrings because of the emotion that spills from the melodies. The intro of the song is an acoustic guitar dispersing into an echo. My heart is the guitar and the sounds are my own emotions attempting to be heard without having to explain. I relate deeply to the story in the lyrics because at the ripe age of 13, I used to silently cry in my bed alone while listening to this song and make the connections between the story I was told and the story in the song. I felt like I couldn’t talk about it because I wasn’t sure of how I was supposed to feel. I felt guilty for being curious, because I already had a dad who loved me more than I even dreamt imaginable, and because I could tell how it hurt my mom even at such a young age. This song allowed me to pour my heart out without saying anything. This song served as a friend who could relate to my feelings, an outlet, and as the closure that I will probably never get to have.
My Journey Into the DMZ
I stepped up to the long distance goggles and slid a 500 won coin into the slot. Behind me, my classmates were taking pictures with a friendly South Korean soldier. In front of me, the DMZ spread out like a green blanket of peaceful tension. I scanned the horizon with my dirt glazed goggles and there it was - the propaganda village.
We had learned about it in class before we traveled to South Korea. North Korea, falling into poverty after the war, had built fake villages at the southernmost edge of their property in order to feign prosperity. There are tall buildings, grocery stores, houses, and factories that actors come to every day and make themselves look busy. In reality it’s just a bunch of concrete and paint. I squinted, trying to make out some movement. Nothing. My goggles were dirty from the weather. But it looked like a real town, complete with a huge North Korean flag flying from the tallest building.
The DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) is a chunk of land spread out between North Korea and South Korea. It was created by the Korean Armistice Agreement (1953) to serve as a buffer zone between North and South Korea, which were in the middle of a devastating war. It is roughly 160 miles long and 2.5 miles wide. The war is still going on today, though it is at a standstill due to a cease fire that was agreed to in the Korean Armistice Agreement. Security is high around the perimeter of the DMZ, but my classmates and I were allowed in because we had U.S. passports and we were accompanied by a respected representative from Hannam University.
There were several things in the DMZ that I did not expect to be there. There were art museums, parks, rice paddies, and restaurants. All of these attractions were empty of pedestrians. They seemed almost like ghost towns, except they were beautiful and new rather than worn down with age. I saw several red crowned cranes walking through the rice paddies - stark pinpoints of white in bright green fields - and asked Hyo-Seon (a South Korean student who was traveling with us) why I hadn’t seen them anywhere else in South Korea.
“They are endangered because of cities,” she replied, “there is peace here, so they live easier.”
That night, we slept in a nice hotel. They had huge bathtubs and giant, cushy mattresses. I was in heaven after sleeping on various floors for the past few days. I looked out the window before I went to sleep at the wall of vines behind the hotel. Barbed wire peeked out here and there between the dark leaves. I wondered whether I was in the safest or most dangerous place in the world. The fluffy white pillows in my bed did a good job of distracting me, and I slept soundly through the night.
The next morning, we visited a less famous part of the DMZ. We learned that in 1974, South Koreans discovered a tunnel in the DMZ that had been dug by North Korea as a militaristic advance. North Korea claimed it was a coal mine. However, there was no coal discovered in the tunnel, which had been dug through granite. By 1990 four such tunnels had been found in the DMZ, each one showing stronger signs of engineering capability. They do not know if there are more tunnels beyond the four. I personally visited what is known as the Third Tunnel which, unlike the others, was discovered in 1978 after receiving a tip from a North Korean defector.
As we were preparing to walk deep into the underbelly of the DMZ via a South Korean constructed sloped access shaft, we were asked to don yellow hardhats and leave behind all phones and/or recording devices. It was hot and sticky in the locker room, so my hard hat stuck to the skin on my forehead and my hair tangled up against my neck. But my sweat had turned cold. I was about to embark on a journey that would lead me to a place of deceit, danger, and treachery.
The access shaft was steep and paved over. I felt as if I were wet cement being churned around and around so that I didn’t dry out or become desensitized to my surroundings. Every few feet there were glass cases attached to the walls containing gas masks and axes in case of emergency. I hoped sincerely no emergency would occur. Again, I contemplated whether I was in the safest or most dangerous place in the world.
Eventually, after a 20 minute long descent, we reached the Third Tunnel of Aggression (as it is called officially). There was a small bronze fountain at its entrance shaped like a turtle spouting a trickle of spring water into a bronze basin. I took a drink; the water was warm despite being so deep underground. We all stood hesitantly at the entrance of the tunnel, which had been reinforced with steel pipes and electric lights.
“Well, let’s go!” I said somewhat enthusiastically, and took the first step forward. I had to duck to fit inside the tunnel as it was pretty small. Condensation was forming on the walls of the tunnel, dripping down occasionally on our backs so our clothes were slightly damp. By the time I reached the end of the tunnel, my back had begun to ache. I had to stop in my tracks because I had come face to face with a small wall of rusty barbed wire. I stood up to my full height, realizing my classmates and I were standing in a small clearing of stone. Barbed wire, wound in loose coils, reached our chests. Not 20 feet beyond the barbed wire was a concrete wall. Its smooth surface was interrupted by a black, rectangular hole.
“It is North Korea,” said Hyo-Seon quietly.
At the time, I was only struck by the novelty of the space I was in. There we were in a place not many people had visited (or even cared to visit). It was full of mystery, hate, and fear. And honestly it felt a little anticlimactic to me. All I had seen of North Korea was a grainy, fake village and a black rectangle. As far as I was considered, it was not a real place that I could see or touch, it was not real enough to be as threatening as it had been made out to be. Nobody said anything in response to Hyo-seon’s statement. We all stood still, eventually turning one by one to head back up into the daylight.
Now looking back on it I realize how strange the DMZ is. Beyond that barbed wire was a land of suffering. The citizens of North Korea are starving to death, working themselves to the bone, living in fear of an oppressive regime; and not 20 feet from their property is a tourist destination focused on exploiting the danger and fear inspired by their country. The DMZ, to me, is a land of painful contradiction. The contradiction between peace and war, life and death, prosperity and suffering. I wish I had taken time the moment I was there to focus in on the true implications of the DMZ rather than worrying about whether or not the souvenirs I bought would capture the spirit of the place.
The truth is, no object or picture can capture the spirit of the Demilitarized Zone of Korea. It is a scar that runs through the entire peninsula, dividing it in half. Like a scar, it aches, a constant reminder of the war that ripped the nation apart. I hope and believe that the same peace found there which helps the Red Crowned Crane to flourish will spread over the entire land and heal Korea. For now, I hold the memory of my experience there as a reminder to pray for those suffering and never take my good fortune of living in a peaceful nation for granted.
It's Alright To Miss Out
Can you remember a time where you felt accepted in a public place, surrounded by people that you identified with on some level? These days, conventions, concerts, and even protests, provide a sense of acceptance and belonging that many younger adults often look forward to attending or alternatively fear the idea of not participating in. With the rise of social media, events such as music festivals have become even more widely popularized than they were in the past. With this popularization also comes the widespread “Fear of Missing Out”. The idea of FOMO can be linked to well-known influencers and the hold they have on their following. By posting pictures of a lavish lifestyle, followers long for the same type of experience and get an urge to participate in the same activities, whether it be flying in a private jet or enjoying the beach of some exotic island. Influencers are also able to massively increase the amount of sales a brand makes with just one feature on their social profile. The influence of trendsetters is almost indisputable and has proven time and time again that many people will blindly believe in the brands that these celebrities feature, often without conducting their own research into a product or service.
Recently a perfect storm arose involving social media, popular influencers, and a corrupt self-identified entrepreneur. All the components perfectly aligned to bring about one of the most controversial events that “never happened.” As it often does, it all started with an idea -- a service that was previously not provided and a product that would deliver that service. The idea was, “how do you book a talent if do not have a way of contacting them directly?” Billy McFarland, a man that at first glance seemed like a promising up and coming entrepreneur, came up with the idea of using an app, very similar to Tinder, that would allow any person to “match” with a singer or band and book them for an event, whether it be for a big party or you own birthday. The concept was one that gained the backing of Ja Rule, a popular songwriter and rapper. With the support of Ja, Billy came up with the idea to promote the app, named “Fyre”, by hosting a music festival. McFarland compared his dream festival to Burning Man and Coachella, two wildly popular music festivals that have been occurring annually for several years now, with many people travelling from different parts of the country just to participate in what many consider the most memorable days of their lives.
McFarland’s vision seemed to be materializing as the official preview for the festival, which would be called “Fyre Festival”, began being filmed. The most popular influencers on social media were paid large amounts of money to be featured in the video, frolicking on an exotic island, riding jet skis, and bathing in the clear waters of an island once owned by Pablo Escobar. Once again the idea of FOMO reappeared as the video aired. Viewers were amazed by the advertisement, believing that they would also be able to spend a couple days on an exotic beach in the Bahamas surrounded by the celebrities they worshiped and fearing the idea of not being able to participate in such a perfect-seeming getaway. As soon as tickets went up, people immediately bought them. Despite the promise of a popular band line up, gourmet food, luxury beach villas, and a private plane ride to the island, many ticket holders only paid between $500 and $1,500, a mistake that festival headers would later realize when the budget was written up.
The first of many problems arose when the owners of the island, which had explicitly told McFarland not to mention the island's connection to the notorious Pablo Escobar, found out that they had indeed advertised the island as having once belonged to the drug lord. Just like that, the festival planners had no venue for the event. After scouring various islands in the Bahamas, it was finally decided that the island of Great Exuma would be used for the festival. Unfortunately, the area allocated for the festival had no sand, no plumbing, and looked more like an empty lot than an exotic beach. In an attempt to make the new venue look like the original island that was advertised, the map of the island posted on the Fyre Festival website was cropped to make it look like the lot was in fact an isolated island itself, which was not the case at all. As time pressed (they only had 6 months of planning time and refused to postpone), work began to transform the lot into a sandy beach with luxury villas and adequate bathrooms. Despite the hard work and long hours of almost every able bodied Bohemian man on the island, the venue was not transformed. Sand was transported and laid but the “luxury villas” were actually hurricane relief tents and many of them had not been properly set up with the furnishings inside that were promised. Personal lockers were delivered but they had failed to mention that attendees needed to bring their own lock, so the lockers sat in the sandy lot with film still on them, never used. The night before the festival arrived, many of the organizers had accepted that they had failed to provide what was promised. But they were still optimistic that at least the tents were set up, there was water, portable toilets, and the bands were still expected to come. At the very least they thought they might be the new “Woodstock”, a terrible festival execution but a pivotal moment for music, that is, before it rained and all their hard work was soaked and washed away.
As vloggers uploaded their journey to the island, people began to doubt the accuracy of the trailer video. They were not being transported to the island on private planes but were all crammed into a commercial plane that one attendee described as “lower than lower class.” But the festival goers were still hopeful when they arrived at Great Exuma and were bused (in yellow school buses) to a local hotspot, a bar by the beach and were encouraged to drink and listen to music while they waited on the festival to “officially” start. Many attendees said that this brief time they spent at the bar was the only snippet of the promised Fyre Festival that they experienced.
Finally, McFarland, after crying for the first time ever during the entire ordeal of planning the festival, (many had broken down weeks earlier) instructed his planners to let the attendees come to the shoddy venue. One video captured the moment that one bus of attendees first laid eyes on the FEMA tent dotted lot, and one person responded “please, turn this bus around.” Some order was established, and festival goers were checked in and directed to their waterlogged tents, until McFarland decided the best course of action was to stand on a table and answer questions. At some point he said, “everyone has a tent, just go get one.” And that is when total chaos ensued. For the next several hours, tents were fought over, people were seen carrying boxes of pillows and toilet paper to their tents, and one group even confessed to urinating on surrounding tents to get others to leave “their” area. One person in attendance posted a picture of the “gourmet” food that was offered: a cheese sandwich, askew and anemic. And the greatest loss of the night, every music group had cancelled. Finally, attendees realized that they were betrayed by their loved influencers and betrayed by the Fyre Festival planners that had deceived them into believing this time on Great Exuma would be the highlight of their entire lives. Their Fear of Missing Out had turned into a fear of not getting out, and as the last flight out of Great Exuma departed with the Fyre Festival survivors, lawyers were called, and lawsuits were filed. Today, McFarland is serving 6 years in a federal prison for fraud and is permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company.
My favorite sweater, knitted together with love and a sort of mustard color yarn. I wear my heart on my sleeve, some say, and with each new love passing, a string is pulled, unraveling me. With each connected person – each being I mumble the words I love you to, a string becomes attached. When they leave, they take a piece of me with them, each one not fully understanding the damage their doing. Or maybe they do and simply don’t care. Year after year I unravel myself for a boy who simply wants what he can take from me – dignity, pride, sex, self-worth. He only wants me for the things he can gain, a string becomes attached that he can’t even see. When will I meet a boy who knows how to knit?
I could see more stars out in the country than I’d ever imagined existed. If I let my eyes glaze over, they connected into different shapes, my own personal constellations. We sat side by side on the tailgate of Mr. Gaddy’s truck. I swung my legs, trying not to breathe. I could smell the faint stench of death clinging to the metal. I pictured the pool of dark liquid I’d seen where Buddy’s head had been, then quickly turned my attention back to the stars, the cool night air, and the swinging of my legs. Jeff, my boyfriend, put his hand in mine. Lani, sitting on the other side of him, was prattling on about the mysteries of the universe.
“For all we know, there’s someone looking down on us right now saying ‘Oh look, a little bacteria!’” Her voice was childish and annoying.
“Well, maybe you are a bacteria, but I’m not.” I said.
Josh laughed. He was Lani’s boyfriend, but he showed no signs of defending her honour.
Lani was annoying me, but I understood her desire to speak of something big. I searched my heart for some great words to recite and came up dry. I wanted to speak so the stars could hear me. This was a night bigger than all of us. Peace and silence rested over us, a bubble of silence disrupted by the yearning for something more - for solace.
* * * *
The grave took two hours to dig. Josh had worn flip flops - thoughtless. We laughed at him, never mentioning the fact that he had probably been too distracted by lifting Buddy into the truck to worry about grabbing a pair of digging boots.
“I’m glad we could all be here together,” Ms. Mary, Jeff’s mother, murmured, slapping my arm gently.
I replied that yes, it was great to be back together again. Jeff and Josh had removed their shirts. They were pale and sweating in the humid night air. I adjusted the flashlight, peering deeper into the grave.
“Alrighty, do y’all think that’s good?” Mr. Gaddy asked.
“Yeah,” the boys rested their shovels.
“Wait,” huffed Jeff as he stuck his shovel back in the hole, digging the sides so they were more even. We knew he was stalling. We didn’t say anything.
“I just remembered,” Ms. Mary shouted, startling everyone, “Earlier today I was trying to get Buddy to eat and he wouldn’t,” her voice wavered, “and I told him that it was okay if the didn’t want to eat. I said ‘Buddy, it’s okay. I’ll still love you if you go. I’ll love you forever. You’re such a good dog.’” We all tried to steady our breathing. Jeff stopped digging. Ms. Mary put her hand on my shoulder and said quietly, almost to herself, “Funny thing is, that’s the same thing I said to my dad on the day he died, too: It’s okay if you go.”
* * * *
Buddy looked snuggly in his grave. He was a retriever with honey golden fur and huge floppy ears. Josh had laid him there so carefully, his paws curled and tucked beneath his jaw, just the way he used to nap. We all knelt down to pet him one last time. I didn’t want to pet him - Buddy never liked to be pet. He used to walk away if we tried to touch him. Now, he was all fur and bones. I could see the harsh outline of his ribs. His shoulder was raw where the bone had rubbed through. It smelled bad, an overwhelming combination of death and dog.
But I swallowed my revulsion and patted his ribs slowly while everyone else rubbed his head and back. Ms. Mary was sniffling loudly, blaming it on allergies. Then, we all stood and pushed the dirt back into the grave. And I just kept thinking he looked so...cozy.
* * * *
We emerged from the trees and looked up at the sky. It was clear black, filled with swirls of stars. All was still. Even the springtime crickets had stopped chirping. I turned into Jeff’s chest and let him hold me tight.
“You did good, baby,” I told him, “Buddy will love it out here. He can roam free and take naps wherever he wants.”
“Yeah,” Jeff breathed heavily, I could feel his hot tears on my forehead. “He’ll guard the place. We can call it ‘Bud’s Pass.’”