Teen redefines rebellious, pursues dreams of becoming a published author
February 28, 2012 • Olivia Porath, Feature Editor
Filed under Feature
From the outside looking in, junior Taylor Clifton is just a regular teenager. She wakes up every morning, gets ready for school, and says goodbye to her dad after he drives her to Howell High School. But what most people don’t see is that her dad stays parked at HHS. He says goodbye, but he isn’t far away. He can be seen every day in the Guidance Office, while she is merely working on her studies like every good student should. Though people don’t usually make any relation to Taylor and Mr. Eric Clifton, the junior class guidance counselor, Taylor doesn’t think they need to. She is fine being herself and finding out who she might be someday, in her own way and on her own time. She just happens to have her dad for support at the moment as she enjoys the journey.
“I mean, my dad…he’s just a dad,” she shrugs. “I don’t really get any perks [as a guidance counselor’s daughter]. It’s not really anything special.”
Following the footsteps of her two older brothers, Clifton entered band in 6th grade when she started middle school. Her brothers both chose to play brass instruments, Paul with the French horn and Evan with the trombone, and since then has succeeded beyond any parents’ dreams. (Paul is currently part of the Western Michigan Symphony Orchestra, and Evan was recently named a finalist in the 2012 George Roberts Bass Trombone Competition. He will compete in Paris, France in July at the Paris Conservatory at the International Trombone Festival.) So it was no surprise when Clifton noted the subtle expectations of her band career from the beginning.
“I joined because of them [older brothers],” she says of that deciding moment in middle school.
“It’s like, ‘Band or choir, take your pick.’”
The transition to high school brought Clifton a level of obvious expectations. Because of her brothers’ notorious success as musicians, one might think that she would feel a certain amount of pressure to live up to her brothers’ achievements. But sure enough, Clifton stays true to herself and explains that her focus of her dreams in life will not be wavered.
“I don’t really care…at all,” she says of the comparison to her brothers. “I just don’t let it bug me, ‘cause if I did I would be a really depressed person.”
Sadly, by the time her sophomore year arrived, Clifton was well aware that being a part of band no longer gave her happiness. She began to contemplate her options, but the choice was already made in her heart: drop out of band class. So as the time came to sign up for classes for junior year, she skipped the band section and checked off Advanced American Literature, an English course that she knew would hold her interest.
“I love listening to music,” she promises. “I just hate playing it.”
Clifton not only defied her parents by dropping out of band, but she also continues to go against their wishes- with good nature- in an understated way. She explains that as esteemed alumni of Western Michigan University, her parents always have a partial attitude toward her attending Western in the future, to which she simply shakes her head, smiles respectively, and says no.
Their convincing tactics even went so far as to buy Clifton brown and gold laces (Western Michigan’s colors) for her sneakers as a Christmas present. Clifton may not know exactly which universities she wants to apply to – although since she hasn’t organized a plan yet she is begrudgingly still keeping Western open as an option – she will not let her parents force the decision.
“They call me the little rebel,” she jokes. “I kind of fight what they say. It’s fun sometimes.”
Unlike some other people her age, Clifton is confident with her future plans. Her ultimate dream is to become a published author, specifically writing historical fiction novels.
“I know what I’m going to do [when I get older], and I actually care about it,” she says confidently.
As for the reasoning behind historical fiction novels, Clifton blames her obsession of the Jane Austen books and movies.
“Everyone seems to be writing modern books,” she says. “It’s like, do something different, you know?”
While Clifton used to continue the charade of going to band class every day, she always delighted in writing stories. She found her passion of writing in 6th grade when she started taking the characters from the Lord of the Rings book trilogy and creating plot twists with them.
Looking back Clifton says that was minor, because it was in the 9th grade when she really became dedicated to writing novels. She even jokes that her computer is so full of unfinished stories that she wouldn’t be surprised if it crashed from all the storage space they take up. Other than her love of reading and writing, Clifton assures everyone that she is hardly a social butterfly.
“My life is boring,” she laughs. “I complain about it a lot.”
The most meaningful time in her life, she feels, is when she vacationed to New York with her godmother when she was 10-years-old. Recalling the exciting moment with sparkling eyes, she says it was awesome – except when the subway broke down. But even then, her experience with her godmother only confirmed her feelings of branching out of Howell and establishing herself in a large environment, especially since she has lived in Howell all her life.
“I like big, big cities,” she says with animated hand motions. “I want to write like there’s no tomorrow [when I get older]…Be like J.K. Rowling and get ‘em [stories] out there. It’s not likely, but hey, it’s a mindset.”