r ann arbor affairs: just words by tanaz ahmed
My fourth grade teacher, Ms.
Savur, probably had no idea that
her praise of my mystery pic-
ture book, painstakingly woven
together with pale blue yarn and
featuring a madcap plot of miss-
ing jewelry and secret bathroom
passageways, would lead to argu-
ments with my parents at age 18
and, eventually, culminate in the
first English major in my family.
Ever since I learned how to
read, I loved doing it. I read every-
thing I could get my hands on. I
was an avid reader of cereal boxes,
airplane safety guides, "The Baby-
sitters Club" books ... You name
it and I probably wanted to read
it - that is, if I hadn't gotten to it
already. I was proud of this fact
about myself. I beamed when, in
third grade, I read the most books
of any student in my class. I held
my head high when, during the
summer before fourth grade, my
family made fun of me for read-
ing (attempting, really) "The
Fellowship of the Rings" and car-
rying around a dictionary. I barely
understood what was going on
and it scared the shit out of me, but
I loved every minute of it.
It wasn't until Ms. Savur told
me what a good writer I was that
I got this notion in my head - I
could be some-
nerdy kids (like
me) could pick
up and read one
that day, I was a
writer. Thus, it
began with me
to food, writing
into me writ-
ing articles for
well as web-
sites. To my
ILLUSTRATIONS BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND
Wednesday, , 2014// The $tatement 7
Personal Statement: Coming up caffeinated
by Yardain Amron
ILLUSTR ATION BY MEGAN MULHOLL AND
may, this was not just a phase
that I eventually grew out of or a
dream that I soon became disillu-
Everything came to a head dur-
ing my senior year of high school.
All anybody - including my par-
ents - wanted to know about me
was what I wanted to major in, and
what my future career plans were.
I was honest. I wanted to spend the
rest of my life writing. I wasn't sure
if it would be through journalism,
creative fiction, technical writing
- but I was going to always write.
This was mostly met with a range
of negative reactions. "What will
you do with a major in English?"
"You won't be able to support your-
self!" "There's a high chance you're
going to be living with your par-
ents for the rest of your life."
I disregarded all the negativity.
Maybe I was - and am - delu-
sional, but only time will tell and
I'm willing to see it through.
My parents and I have come to
an understanding of sorts by now.
They have accepted that I'm stub-
born and pigheaded. Conversely,
I've accepted that in a family of
engineers, doctors and lawyers,
it's hard to have a daughter who
wants to be a writer. However,
many still don't understand why
I do what I do. I could tell people
about becoming an effective com-
municator or developing criti-
cal thinking and problem solving
skills, but the truth is, I write
because it's what makes me happy.
Perhaps this is a cliche, but it's at
the heart of my ambitions. Spend-
ing hours trying to pin down my
floating thoughts, obsessing over
synonyms and comma placements
fills me with a kind of frenzied
excitement that I can't adequate-
ly explain. Writing is painful,
frustrating, time-consuming but
ultimately the most rewarding
activity that I do. Nothing can
come close to the sense of ful-
fillment that comes from look-
ing at one of my finished writing
pieces. Words on a sheet of paper
are not just words for me. With-
in the graceful curl and sharp
edge of each and every word, my
emotions, thoughts, desires and
dreams are embedded.
Mom travels with her French press and
a bag of Oren's Daily Roast. She flies econo-
my, but scoffs when she passes the Admirals
Club: Armani suits unbuttoned within, guz-
zling airport Joe as their shoes are shined.
She stops at the Starbucks in Terminal C.
"What would you like, Ma'am?" Outside,
a New York blizzard wreaks havoc.
"Grande, extra-hot-no-foam latte,
please." Her winter drink. It flows off her
tongue like a prayer. No foam, I've learned,
leaves more room for milk. She swipes her
"Ma'am, that's your 12th star. This
drink's on us."
She spreads a satisfied smile. Starbucks
has subtly re-implemented the star sys-
tem one might see in a Kindergarten class-
room for kids on good behavior. You need
just 30 stars to remain at gold status. Mom
amassed 250 last year - class valedictorian
by a long shot.
"What would you like, sir?" says the
"Water, please," I say. It's vacation, and
coffee - for me - is off the menu
I must have been about seven years old
when I first encountered the drink. I was
always an early riser and so was Mom, and
she had her routine - a breakfast of one
mug, French-pressed, no sugar. Nothing
I would sit across the table, more focused
on landingthe perfectratioof syrup to chal-
lah French toast. Coffee was for grown-ups,
I had assumed. And then she asked,"Wanna
try a sip, Dain?"
I had looked into the brown blackness
and wondered how old grown-ups were. I
sipped, and yucked.
"Bitter," I said.
Mom smiled. She knew I wouldn't like it.
But then Mocha Frappuccinos happened.
It's visiting day, and my first summer as a
"two-monther," at camp. I'm twelve maybe.
We're walking around the quaint town of
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, leash in my
hand. I couldn't believe she schlepped him
on that long drive, but he looked happy - a
soft coat of brown black and gold, blended
like a cup of coffee right when you add the
milk before it vanishes. His name was Star-
bucks. Mom chose the name. No, I'm not
"I need a coffee," Mom says. I groan and
we walk into Starbucks, Starbucks the dog
unaware of the irony.
"What would you like Ma'am?"
"Grande iced dopio, please." Her summer
drink. "It's identical to an ice latte, but at
half the price," she says. She tells me: "Just
add the milk yourself."
"I'll have a small Mocha Frappuccino,"
my older sister says.
The barista looks at me. I usually settle
for a hot chocolate, but I like the sound of
"Um ... I'll have the same please, with
Mom looks at me, surprised.
"Dain, you know that has caffeine in it?"
"I know it has whipped cream in it."
"Please make it decaf, miss."
I couldn't have cared less. The frappa-
whatever tasted like ice cream and there
was even caramel drizzle on top.
Was this coffee too? Was I a grown-up
No, not yet - just a pubescent high
schooler. When my parents got divorced
(only Dad cried), we moved from the shel-
tered suburbs of New York to the big city.
I grew six inches in two months, and Star-
bucks, our dog, died from prostate cancer.
But Starbucks was also everywhere now -
Manhattan, I discovered, had one on every
other corner. I wondered why Mom hadn't I was there some time ago for breakfast
moved there sooner. Lucky for me, my with friends and observed a friend-of-a-
allowance didn't cover four-dollar Fraps. I friend drink five cups of coffee without
say luckily because I was only beginning to blinking an eye. Like that girl in the Diag
understand the danger of caffeine. some time ago I overheard say flippantly,
It was a month before Yom Kippur - "Whenever I pop an Addie it feels like three
when Jews don't eat or drink for 25 hours shots of espresso." Like Mom who no longer
straight - and Mom was reading the paper depends on coffee, but is dependent to cof-
without her typical morning coffee. When fee. The benign connotation coffee carries
I asked why, she said she was weaning in many-a-mind is evident in our countries
herself from caffeine so she wouldn't get a overindulgent consumption habits.
crippling withdrawal headache during the So I drink it with respect. Writing now
fast. It scared me to think she couldn't last into the early morning, a mug with a green
a day cold turkey, that caffeine had become damp Bigelow bag stands emptied next to
a staple of her existence, an obligation like me. I'm wired and focused when I would
water, an addiction if you must. I didn't otherwise be sleeping. That's amazing! And
want to be dependent on anything, so I I want it to stay amazing so I'm aware that
stayed warily away cup is my second and last dose of caffeine
But then college happened and I grew for the week. Because a drink a day in my
up just a little. Suddenly, coffee was per- mind is overuse. And with overuse, the
vasive and free: It was in the dining halls, stimulant loses its power to tolerance, and
during any number of three daily meals and tolerance to dependence.
access to bottomless coffee dispensers; in It's noteasythough. I mighthave caffeine
my room, with the electric tea kettle Auntie in control but I'm just as guilty of abuse
Nancy bought me as a dorm-warming gift; with many other relationships. Maybe I
and on a campus with cafes up the ass - smoke too much weed, spend too much
there are over 21 on Central Campus alone. time on Facebook, drink too much alco-
I tried to stay away but its utility over- hol, party too much, work too hard, have
powered my discipline. I was studying too much sex; maybe I don't relax enough,
more, sleeping less and filling up with more spend enough time with loved ones, slow
brown sludge to keep the engine chug- down ever, care for my body enough, laugh
ging. It lost its allure of sophistication, its enough, cry ever.
"grown-ups only" label. It granted me the Each is a relationship and it's in my best
bitter power to stay oiled when my gears interest to respect them all and find their
started to slow. respective efficacious thresholds. Some-
I never got addicted, though. I've stayed times there's no blatant harm and I can eas-
wary of her power and I've harnessed it ily rationalize a desire that may not be best.
with awareness. I drink it black no sugar, It takes a healthy dose of reflection and self-
because I don't want to enjoy the taste. I honesty to recognize an overused tool no
drink it sporadically and with purpose, longer benefiting my life and an even larger
because it's medicine. I drink it not as req- dose of discipline to regain control. I don't
uisite and not abusively, but in awe of its have the answers or the fix, but I know how
potion-like magic. easy it is to ignore it all. So I'm working,
I drink it with all those who abuse it in experimenting and feel myself improving.
mind. Like that guy from Afternoon Delight: One day soon I'm sure, I'll grow up.
COVER BY AMY MACKENS