I Want More in Life

by Ayannah Garcia

There are no limits to what we can do in our dreams.

“And in this moment, I swear, we are infinite.” 

–Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Have you ever wished for more than what you have? If you said it out loud, would people think you might be selfish? Or ungrateful for the life you do have? Would they criticize you and tell you to think more realistically instead of wondering about a dream that will probably not come true? In my opinion, realistic thinking will limit your view on life and how much you can truly accomplish. Life is short, but dreams are infinite. 

Looking out the window at the rolling hills on the farms of Peoria I often think about my dreams. What do I want? To be free, able to leave and drive where I want, when I want. It seems close, but also far away. I want the feeling of being infinite, and I want it to last… well, infinitely.

When I’m feeling infinite, I also feel free. It’s riding in the car with the windows down, cold air on my face, hair blowing in the wind—blasting music and nothing but road and grass as far as I can see. That is my infinite, my freedom. The place I go to when I am sad, angry, stressed, or any of the above. But I only picture it since I can’t be present in it… yet.

“Yet.” Such a funny word that has so many meanings. “He is not dead… yet.” “I am not able to go to college… yet.” The word “yet” simply means there is a possibility something could happen. And that possibility is why I dream, because it is everything I look forward to.

When I am able to go to college, drive and just be free, I will do anything to my heart’s infinite content. I can finally go wherever I want, whenever I want, when my very busy schedule allows of course. Wanting more in life is exactly that. So many possibilities in such a short time… could I accomplish them all?

I think I can. And it is not just believing in myself. It’s motivation, getting up, putting in the time and work, practicing, mindset, and much more. If everyone could just believe and everything would magically go their way, life would be drastically different. My life would be different. But I live in this thing called reality and the feeling of being infinite only lasts in my imagination. And only lasts for five seconds during car rides. So far. Or maybe I should say, “The place where my infinite ‘lives’ does not exist… yet.” My precious dreams of freedom, hair blowing in the wind, infinite roads, and grass fields are sacred. I just have to hold on to those moments of pure joy a little longer, because my life has only reached the start. It has not begun… yet. An infinite world awaits.

About Ayannah Garcia

Ayannah Garcia is a freshman attending Richwoods High School, where she takes part in the Pre-IB program, the Royalettes dance team, and the drama club. Outside of school, she loves to dance, read, journal, travel with family, and play with her dog. In addition to these activities, she is currently a member of the Finale Group of the Greater Peoria Illinois Chapter of Jack and Jill, an organization for young African American individuals who want to serve the community, and a member of her church’s youth group.

About Sophie Liu 

Sophie Liu is a senior at Dunlap High School who has won numerous art prizes such as the Scholastic Art and Writing Gold Key Award and several honorable mentions. As someone who also values academics, business, and volunteering, she has participated in and led many activities in her community. Her volunteering contribution has awarded her the Gold President’s Volunteer Service Award. She is one of the club leaders of her school’s Interact Volunteering Club. During her summers, Liu has participated in several business camps such as Kelley Business’s Young Women’s Institute, where she has gained knowledge and experience in her passion. She also runs her own online art business where she creates commissioned art pieces and gains firsthand business experience. Liu plans to continue her love of business, volunteering, and art in college, where she will major in either Marketing or Business Analytics and minor in art.

Will We Ever Run Out of Original Plotlines? 

by Jessica Wang

If it feels like you’ve “heard this one before,” that’s because you likely did.

Today’s films take place in every setting imaginable: inside buildings, outside in the desert, up in outer space, and in places that do not exist. The current set of characters used in films thus far already represents all of the conceivable types, such as the funny one, the ambitious one, the one set on revenge, and so on. One story’s themes are often repeated across many other stories. These are all components that can affect a plot, however there can be only so many combinations, right? With approximately 605,284 movies and 222,655 TV series listed on IMDB as of this year, we should have covered as many plotlines as possible. Following behind titled films, books—specifically fiction books—add an additional weight to the sum of existing plotlines. Based on a 2017 attempt by the Stanford Literary Lab to provide an accurate count, it is estimated that nearly 19 million fiction books have been published in English. With that many stories, have you ever felt that some feel similar to each other? That’s not a singular phenomenon. 

Storytelling dates back to humans in the Paleolithic period—more than 30,000 years ago—so there is little that can truly be “new” about it (Mendoza). This helps to explain why similar storylines and plots seem to repeat so frequently. Most stories fall into one of seven categories: overcoming the monster, rags to riches, the quest, voyage and return, rebirth, comedy, and tragedy. Because most stories fall into one of these seven categories, the reader will come to realize that there is not an infinite array of different storylines as one might think. Series such as The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Harry Potter all have something in common. The main characters are the typical “special ones,” and they go on adventures that test their values, bravery, and resilience. These three popular stories are examples of the quest archetype.

But will we ever run out of original plotlines? It should come as no surprise that we may have already. This is because most stories draw from one of the seven archetypes at the core. We are not really pioneering brand new plotlines, instead building up new stories from the same basic categories. Looking at the bright side, however, that does not mean that two stories with the exact same plotline 

cannot differ from each other. It is the collective responsibility of all authors to add artistic variations that provide fresh life to recycled storylines.

We get our story ideas from the real world. Reality has a limited number of things we can recreate from, so with stories being either an imitation of the real world or imagination of the real world, we also only have a limited number of ideas. Sooner or later, we will have exhausted all the ideas and only be able to reuse and modify previous stories.

About Jessica Wang

Jessica Wang is a first year business student at Bradley University. Born in New York and currently living in Peoria, she is a lover of making impactful storytelling, drawing, exploring Peoria, playing piano, and eating sushi. She has participated in activities like freshflim and has over 200 hours of volunteer work.

About Faith Marie

Faith Marie is a homeschooled 18 year old freshman at Ashworth College. She enjoys nature, rainy days, and her pet dog and snails. She has an abundance of love for Jesus and people of all kinds. The idea of creating art that has never existed before inspires her. You can find her on Instagram at @faithmariedraws or on tiktok at @_faitha.

Imposter Syndrome Amongst BIPOC Women

by Rasheedah Na’Allah

No one is immune to Imposter Syndrome, but the feeling is different for everyone.

As I mature and become more involved in my community, there has been an increase in the number of achievements and acknowledgments I receive. People around me constantly voice how proud they are of me and how I deserve the accolades I am receiving. I try my best to accept the praise with pride, but in the back of my mind, I cannot help but question if I really do deserve all the accomplishments that have come my way. I question if people are actually proud of me or if they feel obligated to congratulate me. I question if I have just been lucky and if one day, people will notice that I am not as qualified as they thought. As I dig deep into this feeling, I realize that a lot of this sentiment relates to something that many people—especially BIPOC women—experience daily: Imposter Syndrome.

In an article published by Medium, Dr. Leilani Carver-Madalon, professor of strategic communication and leadership, defines imposter syndrome as the experience of someone who “feels like a fraud, intellectually and/or professionally. People who are experiencing imposter syndrome feel like they are not good enough, like they don’t belong and/or that they are a fraud, and it is only a matter of time before they will be found out.” For many Black women, it is not uncommon to face microaggressions, discrimination, and feelings of displacement inside and outside of the workplace and school. For example, when a cashier assumed my sister was on food stamps, or when my hard work was questioned by a teacher as if it could not have possibly been mine.

Imposter syndrome becomes more prevalent when Black women and girls do not see people like them in professional fields or on high honor rolls at school. Research shows that Black professionals account for just 3.2 percent of senior leadership positions at large companies based in the United States.

There are two important things I continue to tell myself whenever I feel like I am giving in to imposter syndrome. One is that it is okay to make mistakes. People often associate self-worth with perfectionism and it is very easy to fall into self-depreciation with this behavior. Realize that you are working hard but you are still human, and sometimes you have to make mistakes to succeed at an even higher level than before. Another tip is that we should learn more about Black achievements in America’s past. Whether that is a well-known woman of color like Rosa Parks or someone more underrated like Ursula Burns—the first Black woman CEO of a major company—it is important that the world sees these multifaceted women and realize we have the capacity to do it like them.

Talisa ‘Tali’ Lavarry was quoted in an article by Darreonna Davis of CNBC, in which Lavarry summarized the sentiment perfectly: “Just remember that we are all human… There’s no sense in you feeling like you are undeserving; you are in the room. Somehow, you got in there. I don’t care how it happened [or] if it was by chance. You are in the room. Work it. You belong there.” Put simply, even when we feel like an imposter, we do in fact belong.

About Rasheedah Na’Allah

Rasheedah Na’Allah is a senior at Dunlap High School in Peoria, Illinois. She is the youngest of her 3 siblings and enjoys the benefits of being the “baby of the house.” Her Nigerian and Muslim upbringing has led her to be resilient and outspoken in her beliefs. Rasheedah is a dedicated student who is a part of the National Honors Society and loves to be active in her community. She planned a diversity assembly at her school in front of the entire student body, formed an extensive research project on racial disparities and inequities in the education system, and has been appointed into the Peoria County Board’s Racial Justice and Equity Commission. She has also served as Dunlap’s representative to engage and network with young state leaders attending the 2020 Illinois Senator Youth Leadership Council. Rasheedah is the founder of her school’s Muslim Student Association, leads in foreign language club, and is a strong member of the color guard team. Outside of school, she enjoys volunteering and regularly posts on her cooking page through social media. She started her own book club and enjoys reading and discussing books by BIPOC authors. She hopes to pursue Business, Health, and Wellness during her college years and is extremely honored to write for the Giving Voice Initiative.

Art by Qaasaani Little

Qaasaani Little is a freshman at Richwoods High School. Little is a member of Student Leadership Team and Student Council. She has loved art for as long as she can remember, including painting and drawing. Little’s artwork is for sale. She also loves animals, after school activities, and is inspired by her mom for always pushing her to do my best. 

The Simplicity of Saying Hello

by Izaak Garcia

Sometimes a simple “Hello” is all it takes to make a new friend.

I can confidently say that out of all the years I have been in school, the first year of college has passed by the fastest. I don’t really know what made my freshman year fly by me so quickly, I just know that it did. Maybe it was moving halfway across the country to Los Angeles, a city I had never been in before. Or the constant activities and extracurricular groups on campus that swept me up in a whirlwind of business. Or perhaps it was having my own freedom to play as many video games as I wanted for however long I wanted. Obviously, going to college is bigger than just these things, but when I look back on my first year, I can also confidently say that it was a definite success.

There isn’t really a specific formula when it comes to acclimating yourself to a new environment as I had to, so honestly, the best way to go forward is to jump right in. And that was exactly what I did. Well, slowly, at least. I still had to find out where my apartment was, the specific buildings for each of my classes, and most importantly, where to get food. But once I had all that down, I was ready for the big leagues: talking to actual human beings. Talking to the people in my classes and getting to know them was a pretty good start. Where they’re from, what their major is, what they do in their spare time. At first, it can all seem kind of formulaic, like the same three questions come up over and over again whenever you meet someone new. But that’s just how college is, and to be frank, I kind of like it like that. Everybody wants to know what everybody else is doing, and not in a bad way either. People are always looking to collaborate, whether it be in-class projects for a business course, or short films that could be distributed out to film festivals. Personally, I was not expecting that kind of environment at all, but it was a great change of pace, especially since I was one of the tens of thousands of students trying to acclimate themselves to one place. And knowing that, it can become a lot harder to reach out to others, since there are so many people around you. But that’s how you have to start out. Saying hello to someone may not seem like much at first, but I guarantee you, the more you branch out, the more things become available to you. For me, a lot of that happened in the second semester. Asking about productions and clubs students were involved in, lending my talents in sound design for the theater, even producing and acting in short films made by students. The scope of my world broadened before my eyes, and all I had to do was say, “Hello.” 

About Izaak Garcia

Izaak Garcia is currently a freshman at the University of Southern California, majoring in Cinema and Media Studies with a minor in Applied Cybersecurity. He has played soccer with FC Peoria, Dunlap, and Richwoods for over a decade combined. Garcia has also played tennis for 4 years, securing a spot on both junior varsity and varsity teams. Along with this, he has competed with the Richwoods Worldwide Youth Science and Engineering team for Biology and English for 2 years and earned multiple awards for the school. Garcia is also heavily involved with the arts. As a multi-instrumentalist, he has played the saxophone for 8 years and piano for 2 years. During his junior year of high school, he was involved in theater at Richwoods as stage crew and manager. He helped with two productions and was being trained to be stage manager for senior year before the COVID-19 pandemic impacted school. Outside of school activities, Garcia is involved in Jack and Jill of America (an organization for young African American men and women to serve the community). He served as his chapter’s treasurer during his freshman year of high school. Along with Jack and Jill of America, he enjoys coding, learning new languages, and playing video games.

Art by Terri Silva

Terri Silva is a 20-year-old sophomore at Bradley University pursuing a major in Television Arts with a minor in Interdisciplinary Film Studies. For Silva, art is a hobby in addition to a potential career, and she takes it very seriously. Silva thrives when she tells stories in all forms: drawings, films, writings, and more. Silva thinks of herself as a creative mind that wants to share ideas with others, while also taking in what they have to offer as well.

The Biggie Award: Kianna Goss

Big Picture Initiative awarded Bradley University senior Kianna Goss the second quarterly “Biggie” Award for June 2022. This award recognizes a Giving Voice contributor who takes the meaning and impact of community involvement outside of the pages of this publication. 

Ms. Goss recently graduated from Bradley University, where she majored in journalism with a double minor in sociology and advertising with public relations. During her time at Bradley, she went above and beyond in her extracurricular involvement. She was Vice President/ Social Media Chair of the Epsilon Eta Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Social Media Director/ writer for Her Campus, team leader/student caller at the Bradley Fun, a peer mentor for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, as well as a student writer for Giving Voice

Kianna first joined Giving Voice in the early days of its formation back in November of 2020. Since then, she has been one of our most dependable writers, submitting an article nearly every month. Her writings explore a variety of pressing topics, from highlighting the exhaustion of college students during the COVID-19 pandemic, to sharing her experience as a Black woman in America. Her writings are consistently informative, powerful, and eye-opening. 

The Giving Voice team at Big Picture has continually been inspired by Ms. Goss’s writings, as well as her impact on the community at Bradley University and Peoria. Now that she’s graduated from Bradley, she has returned home to Chicago, Illinois. While we are sad to see her go, we are confident that her work will inspire new Giving Voice writers and young journalists alike, and that she will continue to make a lasting impact on her community wherever she goes. We wish her all the best, and we look forward to following her soaring career.

The Giving Voice team at Big Picture has continually been inspired by Ms. Goss’s writings, as well as her impact on the community at Bradley University and Peoria. Now that she’s graduated from Bradley, she has returned home to Chicago, Illinois. While we are sad to see her go, we are confident that her work will inspire new Giving Voice writers and young journalists alike, and that she will continue to make a lasting impact on her community wherever she goes. We wish her all the best, and we look forward to following her soaring career. 

In May of 2022, Big Picture Executive Director Dr. Mae Gilliland Wright presented Ms. Goss with the “Biggie” award and a $250 check while treating her to one last cup of Peoria coffee at thirty-thirty Coffee Co. Student Illustrator Ary Westfall created the portrait seen at the beginning of this article and on the cover. 

The award was created by local iron artist Jam Rohr of Black Dog Metal Arts. The cash award is made possible through a grant from the Gilmore Foundation. The next award due date is September 30, 2022. Find more information and nominate someone today.