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Jacob Lawrence

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Advice, thoughts and regrets from some members of the class of 2013, after a year away.

From left, Jacob Lawrence, Isabella Bennett, Erin Sullivan and Sarah Thompson — Photo by Michael Cummo

After 18 has been following the lives of four 2013 graduates as they made their way for the year after school — in college, developing a video game, traveling. This collection features the last dispatches from Jacob Lawrence, Sara Thompson, Erin Sullivan, and Bella Bennett. Next month, we’ll introduce the next After 18 group.

So, Summer is Finally Here!

By Jacob Lawrence

I’ve done it. I walked into my first year of college, independence and freedom and made it out the other side and best of all I did it all on my own! Okay, maybe not all on my own: there were the two or three calls home for some advice on living alone including how to properly do laundry. Also, thanks to my discovery of the amazing invention that is delivery food, there were about 15-20 calls home for money. But besides that it was all on my own.

Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence

Growing up, one of the most common things I had ever heard about college was that it’s where you “find yourself.” When I was young, the naïve me heard this and thought “but I’m not lost. How can you find yourself?” When I finally was old enough to understand what it meant I still didn’t pay it much mind. I was in high school and thought that I had already found who I was inside and out and I was comfortable and secure enough (as secure as a teenager with acne could be) to be happy with who I was. It has been a full year since I first set foot on campus during orientation; and as I think back to whom that Jacob was, the musician, student, and athlete who thought that he was already on top of the world, and compare him to the one who just finished school this year, I see two completely different people on two completely different paths.

As I think back to all the good times I have had over the last 10 months, I can really see how most of them, even the bad ones, have changed me and taught me important lessons that I can use to improve my life. For example life lesson #1: learn to budget your money. Take it from someone who is lucky enough to have the #1 ranked food service in the country, you will get sick of the food in your dining hall; not to mention there’s always a trip or a concert coming soon and if you call home to mom once every three days asking for money, she will eventually tell you “no.” So make sure that when those times come you’re financially prepared. Lesson #2 is that college is one of the only times where you are not only exposed to an infinite number of opportunities, but you can take advantage of them at your leisure. So in my opinion, you should join all the clubs and take all the trips you can to find what you really like. I personally found happiness in my fraternity. From youth groups to community service to sports teams I have always wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, so a fraternity to me seemed like the best thing for me and I couldn’t be happier with my decision to join one. I love my fraternity brothers and I would do anything for them.

So here I am, sitting at home on one of my rare days off from work and there are two things on my mind. The first is that working three jobs this summer is the worst idea by far that I have ever had in my life. And the second is all the awesome things that I have set up both socially and academically for myself this coming year. I have set my schedule with fun and engaging classes including a public speaking class which I’m super excited for, not to mention that I’m done with class at noon on Fridays!

In addition to excitement about my classes (which my mother and father will be happy to read about) I’m also planning snowboarding trips for the winter and my fraternity is planning a trip to Canada in the spring. I can say that without a doubt my freshman year was the best year of my life so far. But I think sophomore year and every year after this will be even better.

(Past dispatches here.)

Still 17

By Sara Thompson

(written in late June.)

Sarah Thompson
Sarah Thompson

I’ve been back on the Island for one month. I still don’t know what day it is. Nor did I really know in Portland. Though, in Portland it was wake up and go to class at 8 am, four days a week and then slave away in the studios for the next three and repeat. With self-discipline, I pulled off my overly ambitious projects while wandering Portland every now and then seeking a new coffee shop to spend hours in, reading about science of course.

On Island, my concept of the day is far worse. I know what day it is when my alarm goes off at 7:20 in the morning on Sundays. Sundays I show my work at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals. Starting in July, I’ll know what day it is twice because I’ll start showing my work on Thursdays.

Being back at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and seeing everyone bright and ready to start the season is calming and refreshing. Dozens of warm, friendly artists came over to me to ask of my artistic adventure 3,000 miles away and especially to see my new pieces of jewelry from the new techniques I’ve learned while I was away.

The truth is that I only made two pieces of jewelry while I was away at Oregon College of Art and Craft. I had no new work at the Memorial Day shows. Modestly, I shared with the other artists that I’ve taken a big step in my metal career as I’ve begun to branch out into the world of sculptures. Some readers who have followed my writings I imagine are thinking, of course you make sculptures! On the other hand, the busy weeks of the festivals, I’m cranking out 15-50 pieces of one-of-a-kind handmade jewelry pieces. It’s a completely different change of pace. The new direction I am taking has caused me to reflect deeply on it, especially when I wrote the articles for this paper. The opportunity the MV Times has given me is extraordinary. This opportunity to write for After 18 (I’m still 17…) has allowed me to share with readers not just: “Oh, I go to art school.” Rather, “Here, I want to share with you my process: what I create, how I create it, and why I create my pieces.” My sculptures, in particular, are pieces that come from deep within me and resonate closely with me. They are both part of my artistic and intellectual nature that drives me to create and to learn about the universe around us. My sculptures have allowed me to marry those two natures to share with others to interact with them so that they appreciate my craft, but also learn something new. Writing these articles has allowed me to bring viewers along of the process, and hopefully, learn many new things or a different perspective.

For the summer, I am taking a break from my sculptures and fully throwing myself into my jewelry work. I missed making jewelry. I missed painting with molten glass enamel and creating hundreds of settings. My wrists may disagree, but it’s good to be settling back in. Arriving on Island, I wasn’t quite ready to start designing; I strongly believe that you cannot force creativity. I wasn’t ready. My summer project was to build a website. However, at my first Artisans festival this season, I was approached about wholesale orders.

Wholesale. Oh boy. More on that later.

Needless to say, I avoided jewelry and slaved on my website, sara-thompson-metalsmith.com.

I made something that’s not made out of metal. My website allows me to share with viewers both branches of my work — jewelry and sculptures — and have a shop built into the site. Viewers can learn about my enameling technique and handcrafted jewelry while seeing what drives my sculptures and how I made each one.

One part of the site that is being updated is my series section. A year ago I started a Black and White series. In this series, I am exploring the power of contrast. How does different amounts of black and white with the safety of grays affect the overall feeling of the piece. I enjoy this series the most, in addition to that I wear mostly black and white and that it is my best seller — some pieces sell off my neck!

Fast forwarding to this week, I finally felt creative, very creative, 18 hours straight of creativity (with only two cups of coffee, mind you.) After feeling not my greatest, I forced myself into my studio only emerging to get more mapp gas (gas for my enameling torch.) I ran out of mapp gas, twice. Within this creative Monday, I started two dozen pieces. My wrists were and are not happy. Tuesday followed with an overly productive day as I finished the last solderings on the settings, set the enameled pieces, and began the polishing process. It was only a 12-hour productive day.

My two new series are enameled-focused. Enamel is a kind of powdered glass that is fired to create a glossy surface of glass. I have nearly 200 colors, but I mostly use two dozen. Traditionally enameling is done in a kiln; however, I torch-fire mine. Torch-firing allows more variables to affect the glass. I enjoy torch-firing because I can then paint with the glass while it’s molten to create truly unique pieces. One new series, titled Growth, ecompasses single bright colors against a white background. The colors are swirling up from the bottom as if they’re growing vines.

My other series from the concerning overly productive Monday was a result of working with the enamel in a new way. I think I might glass this series Glass Pulling, though I’m not sure yet. I was literally pulling the glass. I began to ball up the enamel while it was molten and work with gravity to pull the enameling as if it were mozzarella cheese. This results in creating thin thread-like glass enamel that I then place onto the main enamel piece. It’s a difficult but is enticing me to trying glass blowing as soon as I can. (I wrote a research paper on the thermodynamics and molecular physics of glass blowing. I’m not sure if other art students loved it as much as I did.)

The last three days I have pushed out two dozen new pieces and it’s not even fourth of July yet, nut that will be the rest of my summer- happily creating in my studio and reading multiple books a week while upsetting my wrists. I’m settling back into my groove. I look forward to meeting new faces at the Vineyard Artisans Festivals and creating close customer relationships as I share with others my artistic processes.

I’m on the Vineyard until say August 31. August 31 is my last Artisan Festival for the season. Then I have to go back to Portland to start my second year in my BFA. I’ll be learning new metal techniques such as casting and electroforming while starting another studio concentration in wood working…because why not make functional art?

Past dispatches here.

Learned a lot

By Erin Sullivan

The past year has had its ups and downs, with Driftwood’s Kickstarter being fully funded, switching out artists, personal endeavors with moving and the (not so) shocking revelation that every college isn’t going to accept me simply because of my experience with game development so far…and in the end, I wouldn’t have done or wanted it any different.

Erin Sullivan
Erin Sullivan

I’ve learned a lot from my time outside of school, mostly life experiences — things you can’t really experience in the classroom or in a lecture hall. If I had been in school, I don’t think I would’ve picked up on a lot of those lessons, I probably would’ve been too distracted by classes and work and ignored the real problem, only to run into it again later on.

Driftwood, while helping me stay motivated and busy, which in a sense has kept me happy, has also made me equally frustrated and angry at times. Spending the past two years on it, and only having so little to show for it, at least in terms of how much of the game is actually completed, or how much art is done is unsettling to me. Although I’ve learned over the months that work that involves a lot of people will always take time, there’s a reason studios take months and months to get games done. Quality takes time.

But…things are getting better, both for the game and myself. This fall I’ll be attending Becker College majoring in Game Design, and my basic plan is to finish Driftwood during my first year of school, and work onwards, using my connections and friendships at the school to start another long-term project.

Driftwood itself has had a few changes, for the better, in the past few weeks. We’ve changed our artists, so we have a more consistent style; we’ve managed to acquire a background artist, which helps a lot with making the semi-fictional world the game takes place in more believable. (Basically Martha’s Vineyard in 10 or so years.) Simply put, the game takes place in a world where the Charter School has converted into a full boarding-high school, with dorms and all the like around the campus.

A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.
A fictional boarding school at the Charter School.

I recently attended the 2014 Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School graduation, and it made me realize how much time had really passed. Just a year ago I had been standing on that stage, and it didn’t feel nearly as long as a year, but…time is relative. It’s just a thing humans made up to calculate when the best time of year it would be to plant crops, or when they could hunt migratory animals that move about between winter and summer.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to get at is that “time” passes quickly. Each day rolls into a week, and each week rolls into a month, and eventually, a whole year has passed.

Use your time wisely, and enjoy yourself.

Nothing gold can stay

By Bella Bennett

The final dispatch!

One of my favorite (yet entirely un-optimistic) sentiments has always been Robert Frost’s “Nothing gold can stay.” This year it meant a multitude of things for me. While my year of travel and adventure looks glorious on paper, it’s been somewhat more turbulent in the family department. We’ve felt the heartbreak of both cancer and Alzheimer’s, and I’ve begun to understand how magical the gift of family is. It’s the worst thing in the world to be helpless when a loved one’s health is threatened.

Isabella Bennett
Isabella Bennett

Before I left last summer, a good friend of mine told me, “the struggle is real,” and Ben Dwane, you were too right. However, I’m learning now to pick my struggles, as they have a tendency to grow quickly in number — similar in my mind to a population of poisonous spiders, which undoubtedly reproduce more quickly than I’d like to imagine. Unfortunately most struggles can’t be squashed as a spider can, and I’ve learned instead to attempt to balance the struggles I face with moments of fun and joy. As my past articles have revealed, I’ve been very lucky with the amount of joyful memories I’ve made over the past year, and I’d say that for the time being, I’ve thankfully tipped the struggle scale towards happiness instead of despair.

The past year, however, has taught me that time is a thing to be cherished. I don’t mean time as a measure of length, but instead as a measure of significant moments. While I struggle to pretend that everything is normal as my grandmother, who is one of my most inspiring role models, now forgets my name, I realize that while I don’t have more time with the woman she once was, we did have many great moments in the past — reading and writing stories, exploring nature, and just being together — and those times were a beautiful gift. I hope that I will be able to find the value that I do in those memories, in present moments, and that I will remember to always be grateful for what I have in front of me at any instant. I hope that everyone will. While some things have deteriorated, other glorious things have begun, like the lives of my brand-new twin cousins Lilly and Mira, and every moment that I spend with them, I feel lucky, because through my grandmother’s illness, I have learned the value of the moment, and I cannot thank her enough for that realization.

Bella Bennett and her grandmother.
Bella Bennett and her grandmother.

The past year has been a big growing year for me (I went from 5’6½” to 5’6¾” !) In all seriousness, I feel that I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I think that honestly I’ve recognized quite a bit of this growth through writing, and through these excerpts into my life especially. Writing for The Times has been a very positive and productive experience for me, and I look forward to writing more articles throughout the rest of the summer. I hope that everyone has a summer full of family, sunshine, happiness, and love.

It’s Over….Almost

Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communication major with a minor in Spanish.

It’s spring time! You all know what that means: warm weather, shorts and tank tops (my personal favorite thing to wear), and students seem to shed their conventional anti-social and bitter personalities brought on by the cold weather like a chrysalis and suddenly everyone is a social butterfly. But wait there’s more. As every student 14 or older will tell you before you can officially break free from the shackles that is higher education there’s one last obstacle: Final Exams. And a high school final exam doesn’t compare at all to a college final exam. No matter if it is take-home or in class, the only good college final is no college final.

I have a couple of regular “pen and paper” exams to take care of but it seems this time the cards have also dealt me a take-home exam. At first I thought that this was awesome. That’s one less crowded, hot, windowless lecture hall that I didn’t have to show up to. And best of all I didn’t have to study! When I finally sat down with my laptop to take the exam I didn’t think it was so awesome. I figured that since I was such a great writer, and I have multiple A+ papers and three other articles in this newspaper — which I am being paid for — to prove it, that I could do some brief research and review of past materials for supporting evidence and then fudge my way through the rest. What had never crossed my mind was that since it is “open book” (I can use any notes and the textbook in order to answer the questions) that she can ask questions about super specific concepts and use terms which we had not covered since week two; and she had no reason to expect anything but the best. And you know what the best part was? As if she had read my mind and figured out what my plan was, each answer had to be 350 words or less! To put this into perspective, everything that you have read so far from the title to this sentence here is about 360 words.

“It’s impossible”, I thought as I read the first question. I had a paragraph’s worth of words to write an intelligent and thorough answer about how the problems plaguing our environment are also in fact social problems and, more specifically, how each environmental problem affects different social and racial groups around the world. Considering that problems regarding the environment, society or race by themselves is a topic big enough for me to write a book on, it goes without saying that I needed to painstakingly read as much of that textbook as I could in order to find the key points which tied the three together. For those of you who remember having to do those reading open response questions during the MCAS exams growing up it was the grown up version of those. Having to read over and over huge chapters of this textbook…what’s worse is that I couldn’t “mark-up” or highlight the book because I need the book to look as new as possible so the person or company buying it off of me in a week will give me the most money for it, which unfortunately won’t be anywhere near how much I paid for it. But that’s also another blog entry for another day. But after two cans of Monster Energy Drink, a large Domino’s pizza and a whopping six and a half hours in a small cubicle with no windows I finished all four questions. You heard me right. It took a high-school’s school day to finish four questions. Welcome to higher education.

As a former all-division sprinter in track and field (side note: none of you realize how much it kills me to say the word former but that’s a blog entry for another day) it’s easiest for me to look at my academics in terms of a 200-meter sprint. You are full of energy and excitement in the beginning and are convinced that you are going to do well. About a third of the way through the “race” you lose focus a bit worrying about what everyone else is doing. Then you gain focus at the halfway mark and are determined to finish up strong; not realizing just how exhausting that last 100 meters is going to be. Right about now I am at the final 20 meter mark: I am so close to the finish but I am exhausted and just want to quit but I know that I have to do everything in my power to finish strong and beat that final opponent. That opponent at this time is the deadlines which seem to keep stacking up. How am I managing, you ask? I’m leading this race, but let’s just say that I will be the first to jump for joy when I cross that finish line. It better be about 65 degrees and sunny when I come home. Fire up the truck pops! I see a nice spot on Norton Point, some grilled food and a soda in my immediate future.

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Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year. This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communication major with a minor in Spanish.

The honeymoon is over….College is starting to feel like College

“The best four years of your life.” I have heard many people describe college differently over the last couple years but that seems to be the overall consensus of the best way to describe college in so few words. And for the last six months, I definitely would agree with them. Sure I have pulled a few all-nighters, I’ve gotten my heart broken a time or two but for the most part college life has been very good to me. However, they call it “higher education” for a reason and there are definitely some high expectations that come with it.

Looking back to the first few weeks after we had come back from winter recess, things were pretty normal. I was attending class as I normally did, I took notes about 98% of the time (I’m not perfect, I did doze off or watch Netflix once or twice in class). I was doing a good job of balancing my extra-curricular activities, my social life, and of course my studies. But little did I know I was in for a rude awakening.

It all started the Friday before the Valentine’s Day three day weekend. Everything was right in my life: I had a thriving social life, I was showing up to class on-time and well rested, momma had just put some more money in my bank account, and, best of all, for the first time in my life I had a special someone to spend Valentine’s Day and the rest of the weekend with and she was arriving in a couple hours. I arrived to Spanish class that day floating on cloud nine, and my teacher brought me right back to earth with only a simple sentence: “We are going to have a test on Tuesday.” Now I like to think of myself as a fairly good in Spanish. I am nowhere near being fluent, but I can speak and write with confidence. However, memorizing 50 different words and grammar rules is no easy task in English, let alone another language. Eventually class ended and while I wasn’t thrilled about having a test coming off of a three-day weekend (I mean who would be?) I wasn’t too worried.

Next I went to Biology which was my last class of the day. In 55 short minutes I could go back to my room and get it nice and clean for my big weekend. My Spanish test was still in the back of my mind, but like I said, I wasn’t going to let it ruin the weekend I had planned. I knew I’d find time to study. I always do. So as I’m sitting in class my instructor is going on about something plant-related while I was trying to take notes that I could use. I love animal biology, but there is something about plants that goes in one ear and out the other. Just as she is about to dismiss us for the weekend she announces that we will be having our first big exam — on TUESDAY! So now I had two tests coming up on the same day for two subjects which I find challenging. And I had no idea when I would be able to study for them. I looked down at my phone and found that it was too late to call her and cancel; she was halfway to school. It looked like I had no choice but to cram, much to my dismay.

I knew that there was nothing that I could do about it now. So I went on with my weekend. And while I did have a really fun time, in the back of my head the whole time I was thinking about studying for those tests. The good news is that I did find time to study, the bad news is that it was at 7PM the night before the tests.  I had less than 24 hours to study for two tests in two subjects which were not related by any stretch of the imagination. Needless to say, it was a long exhausting night and I knew the minute that I finished both tests that I had not done as well as I should have.

On top of that, my self-pity and a much-needed nap would have to wait because I was reminded by a classmate about a two-page sociology essay due the next day.  I eventually got the paper in on time and received a fairly good grade on it. Unfortunately for me this was only the beginning of a very academically demanding and stressful few weeks which wouldn’t end until spring break!

Between February 18th and March 7th my schedule averaged at least two tests and two papers due every week, in addition to chapter after chapter of supplemental readings online and primary readings in textbooks as well as smaller write-ups and responses to readings. This doesn’t include the week I missed just before spring break because of the flu.

While the physical work load itself is very large and the demands and expectations are high, I feel that the intangibles are what truly make the work near impossible. There are a lot of expectations for us college kids and the pressure is on us to do well for multiple reasons: the biggest being that our grades have a direct effect on our future career prospects. My dream is to go to UCLA, USC or possibly Harvard for graduate school, but one bad exam could dash all my hopes. Even if you look at the immediate future or the present,  the pressure is still there: I need to keep at least a 3.0 GPA in order to keep all my scholarships. I cannot even imagine what would happen if I were to lose my grants and scholarships. But I have a feeling it ends with me being back on Martha’s Vineyard for a little while longer.

Since I have been at school I have adopted a motto. This motto sums up everything that I have been told growing up about college, from the academic to the social. That motto is simply “college.” Admittedly this motto is very basic and ambiguous, but that’s why it works so well. I go to this motto when I am unsure about which decision I should make in a given situation: if I get dealt a good hand, I just say “college” and go about smiling. In this case I was dealt a very, very bad hand, which consisted of countless all-nighters, a lot of reading, pounds and pounds of junk food and a lot of energy shots. But nevertheless, I just chalked it up to “college,” and I took care of business.

Since I have been writing these [MVTimes] articles a lot of people have come up to me and my parents and made comments about my articles like: “Boy, he must be getting straight A’s for him to be doing all this partying and socializing,” or “Does he ever study? Or does he just socialize and party?” And to those folks I say: Thank you for reading my articles; rest assured it’s not all fun and games. College is starting to feel like college.

By the way, things didn’t work out between me and —-.

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Jacob Lawrence is a freshman at UMass, Amherst where he is finishing up finals, before heading to the Island to fish. — courtesy of Jacob Lawrence

After 18 is an ongoing series about what four graduates from the class of 2013 are doing this year.This week’s dispatch is from Jacob Lawrence, who is attending the University of Massachusetts, where he is a declared communications major with a minor in Spanish. Jacob, 19, grew up in West Tisbury and is 2013 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.

It’s finally over. College kids all over the country are returning to school because the seemingly endless winter break is finally over; and the general consensus, at least for the freshman, is “thank goodness!”

My break started off really great with a trip to the mountains with my uncle and little cousins to break in the brand new snowboard I bought over the fall. Unfortunately, that was more or less the high point. Don’t get me wrong — it was great to see my parents and some of my friends and share some of my experiences from my first semester away from home with all of them. Not to mention the quality and amount of sleep I received was great. It’s amazing how well you can sleep when your mind isn’t racing thinking about the three papers that are due on the same day or when there aren’t a bunch of kids running up and down your hallway screaming at three in the morning — on a Tuesday!

Nevertheless, my break turned really boring really quickly when I realized that I did not have all of the resources at home that I have at school to occupy my time: no hockey or basketball games at the Mullins Center, no malls or fast food restaurants to go and hangout at with your newfound friends, no newfound friends in general, and in my opinion the worst part of all: no basketball courts to play at. Obviously I don’t share the same experience with other students home on break, but for me it felt like I did nothing but watch TV, play video games, and try to make plans with friends, which ended up falling through because either they were sleeping and being lazy or I was sleeping and being lazy. Also ask any college kid who has ever gone to a party: once you have experienced your first college party, there is no going back to high school parties. How I made it six weeks I will never know.

When I got back to school, it was great. I got to see all of the friends I had made last semester, we shared the traditional stories about our break and our holidays and we were as close as ever. When I asked them about how it felt to be home again, they all echoed my same thoughts: it was fun for a couple weeks and great to see family and friends, but it got old really quick. A couple days later I was in my dorm room napping on my bed when I came to realize why I felt so bored, and tired and a little “out of my element” while I was at home. While a lot of it was because I had a whopping six weeks off, I can’t stress that enough, it was also because college is much more than a physical move out of your childhood home, it’s an emotional one as well. At college I have started to think of things on a more global scale; not just how my actions and those of others will affect me, but how they affect everyone around me as well. I have the resources here to accomplish whatever action I feel needs to take place. At home, I didn’t have even half of the resources I have here. I was “trapped,” which is ironic seeing how my room at home is a whole lot bigger than the half of a room I have at college.

I am about four weeks into the second semester here at UMASS, but unlike my first semester, I hit the ground running. The fraternity I am pledging started right up the first week of school and shortly after everything else fell into place and my other clubs from last semester started up as did my classes and unfortunately, like last semester around this time, I am up to my neck in homework, reading, and research essays. I guess some things never change.