I remember the first time I had an anxiety attack.

Perhaps it wasn’t the first time ever, but it was the first time that I had one and recognized and named it, and had the help of another person to calm down.

We were talking about a scary movie. I don’t like scary movies. I might as well clarify that now. I hate them. I hate feeling scared or jumpy. I scream when people startle me by walking into a room unannounced. R touched the back of my neck the other day and creepy chills ran down my body. She eventually stopped after I repeated myself, but I didn’t find it as funny as she did. I don’t like being scared.

People seem to think it’s funny. As if I’m so strong otherwise that I must be kidding around. Why do people always think you’re kidding when you protest something? I say it’s because they’re projecting their own needs or wants on you, and they’re just looking for an excuse to get their way. That’s how people get raped.

Let me say this right now: when someone says, “stop,” you need to stop. I don’t care if you’re playing or teasing. If they say, “no,” if they protest, you need to stop immediately. It doesn’t matter why or when or how. STOP.

But I digress.

Essentially, I hate anything that scares me. Blood and gore do not scare me. But cruelty does. Other things scare me as well, but for the purpose of this post, I’ll stick to cruelty. Sickness of the mind, perhaps. Hurting other people for no other known cause than to please oneself.

I don’t watch shows or movies that have that aspect to them, for the most part. However, one of my friends wanted to go see this Halle Berry movie. In it she is a 911 operator and takes a call about a girl being kidnapped. There’s a lot more to the plot, but that’s the premise I was aware of when we went to see it.

Little did I know, the girl was not only kidnapped, but dragged out from under the bed that served as her hiding spot, raped, and murdered. This was the first ten minutes of the movie.

After that, Berry’s character resigned from phone operating and became a teacher. She then had to take a call as a girl was kidnapped by the same man and woke up in the trunk of a car. We got a bit further into the movie – the kidnapper/rapist/murderer killed a man who got in the way – before I finally caved and searched on imdb for the plot summary. I found the parental guide and read that there were many more gruesome scenes to come.

At that point I began to feel sick to my stomach and insisted that we leave. I recall saying something along the lines of, “If we don’t leave now, I’m going to start crying hysterically.” I was completely seriously. It’s happened before with much less provocation.

After that we did other things, but essentially that’s the end of that story. The bigger story, however, is when I was telling this to a guy I was “talking to.” (Dating? I don’t know what to call it anymore… Is it still dating if you don’t actually go on dates, just stay over at his house and watch movies and talk and cuddle? Someone please explain this to me…)

This guy, S, is pretty magnificent. I mean, he’s seriously amazing. Anyone would be lucky to spend time with him, let alone date him. He also happens to be a Psychology major. Thank goodness for that, because when I started freaking out, he knew exactly what to do.

I won’t explain precisely what happened because, honestly, it was fairly intimate and it’s a fuzzy warm memory in my brain that I selfishly want to keep to myself. It’s amazing that I consider the memory warm and fuzzy considering it was prefaced by an anxiety attack (not a warm or fuzzy or remotely enjoyable experience, for those of you that want to know). But I will tell you that he used a few methods to help calm me down.

I don’t know where I was going with this. Maybe I just needed to write it out. I was prompted by an article on Everyday Feminism talking about a woman’s experience with her anxiety (much more severe than mine) and dealing with it through yoga. (Why Yoga Is a Lifestyle Choice For Me | Everyday Feminism)

I guess my point in writing this is to express how thankful I am to have had someone there that knew how to help me. I hadn’t really had anxiety attacks before then, but I have breakdowns all the time. They usually occur in a bathroom stall and consist of sobbing and rocking back in forth curled into a ball alternated with streaming tears and hugging myself tightly, wedged between the porcelain and the wall. The last vivid memory I have of one of these breakdowns is from about a month before the end of the school year. It was probably about midnight and something triggered me in the coffee shop, so I left quickly and went to the bathroom to let everything loose. The building was almost deserted, so no one heard my wracking sobs and came to investigate. I just recall going over people in my mind that I could call to help or that I wished would suddenly walk in to save me. But as I scrolled down the list of beloved companions, I couldn’t find a single one that could properly comfort me, let alone be someone I would want to walk through that door.

Now I have that person. I mean, I don’t have him. Obviously. We aren’t dating and we haven’t spoken since the end of the school year. He’s very much too busy to put time and effort into dating me. But now when I have breakdowns or anxiety attacks, S is the one I think of. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I think my therapist would be proud of me for even letting myself be that vulnerable in front of someone.

In the comments, tell me about a time you went through a breakdown or anxiety attack, and who you had (or didn’t have) to help you!


On Long Hair and Being Yourself

I recently went through the torturous decision regarding whether or not to chop off my hair. The last time I made such a venture I was in middle school. ‘Twas brave and exciting, and made me look much older than my adolescent self. Now, being in college and having spent the last few years wrestling with that awkward medium length, I have finally achieved the magical, past-the-shoulders, brushing-my-elbows goal. The climax of posh, white girl style, so to speak. In the same way, though, I have found myself frustratingly, suddenly, dare I say it, fitting in. A plague on my non-conforming soul, to have such lengthy tresses is a bow to tradition and invisibility. How, after all, will I stand out when I am encumbered with these almost-red, almost-blond, almost-brown locks? I won’t, surely. I have lost any appeal I had previously amassed in a wave of old dye and lazy buns. This ‘do would not do.

So I struggled. Although only briefly and occasionally mentioning this plight to my dear companions, I fought my internal self. I do like the versatility of long hair. It promises to hold daring curls or to swirl into a messy bun when the mood strikes. Boys seem to like it – they certainly never have complained before. But are these benefits worth the potential Typical White Girl Persona that threatens to be adopted? Could I sacrifice my daring, chic look for comfort and old-fashioned appeal?

It seems that I have come to a conclusion. I’m not sure when I realized it. Perhaps when I sat among the surely dwindling audience members in AU Chapel. Or rather during a lengthy and heart-felt discussion with my dear friend Lizzie Loveland. Or maybe it was this afternoon, when I walked outside and felt the comfort of my hair settle around my neck and down my sweater. It could’ve been a culmination of moments, little thoughts meandering into my unconscious mind, reminding me that yes, you are still creative and talented and unique and intelligent and witty and confident and dynamic, even though your hair is not.

To the outside world this may seem like a silly issue. And in the grand scheme of things, it probably is. No one is going to sit at my funeral and talk about the length of my hair. I know that. But as I grow into myself, I find that it is important to recognize what I find important. I need to ask myself: why do I care about the length of my hair? Why do I associate so many unrelated identifiers with it? Most of all, what can I do to show the world that I am more than my hair?

What is your Dream Date?

In my dorm, our RA likes to post pages in each bathroom stall with questions for us to answer. Ignoring the total lack of sanitation in using the same pen and the level of awkward that escalates when imagining my hall mates on the can, I have found that answering these questions is an interesting addition to my day.

Typically the questions are something like “What is your favorite holiday?” or “What’s the best place on campus to hang out?”. Simple, easy. But for some reason she decided to post the question “What is your dream date?”
Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I find this to be a very personal question. Perhaps I’m just uncomfortable with sharing such personal information with various young women that I just happen to share a dorm hallway and bathroom with, but the idea of revealing that type of information is very off-putting.
I could answer with something bland and typical, such as “a picnic” or “horse-drawn carriage ride.” But neither of these are accurate. For one, horse-drawn carriages may seem romantic, but generally they’re very uncomfortable and in the middle of densely crowded cityscapes that are permeated with the very unromantic stench of gasoline and horse excretions. Beyond this, I prefer my horses to be saddled and carrying me across fields at a gallop, not stifled and reduced to plodding down dirty, pavemented streets. As for picnics: I love them but I prefer to experience them in a familial atmosphere, which certainly does not make for a dream date.
So, no. I couldn’t write an answer so bland and typical. Incidentally, I haven’t written an answer at all. But what if I did want to reveal my dream date? What would it possibly be?
Questions such as this tend to evoke the more philosophical side of my mind. After all, the purpose of a “date” as we know it today is a means of getting to know a potential partner. Doesn’t that mean that the date should be formulated based off mutual interest? That, of course, begs the question of whether or not it would be helpful to base the date off of your preference, assuming that you are the girl in a heterosexual relationship.
I would have to say that no, it would not be helpful. After all, feminism is a growing concept. Romantic partnership has expanded in that it is meant to be the relationship between two equals, regardless of gender.
I think, if I had to come up with a dream date, that it would be the meeting of two equals eager to learn about each other and have new experiences. It would be the mutual agreement of an activity that contributes to their potentially growing bond. And, perhaps, I would like some flowers.
Of course, I won’t put that on the paper in the bathroom stall. Certainly, I not only would look pretentious, but I would be interrupting the light and carefree air that seems to be necessary to sustain camaraderie here.
Nonetheless, I enjoy the mental exercise. And, for the sake of discussion, what is YOUR dream date?

Good Writing

I think, perhaps, my favorite thing about writing is this:

You sit at your computer for hours, slaving over this essay, article, journal, story, prompt. You go over each phrase as if it were a delicate flower in need of tender care. Words are like grains of sand that must be placed just so in order to create your masterpiece. Yes, organic. But organic in the way that each leaf on a tree is small but important. Minutes, hours later you sit back for a moment and sip your tea, coffee, beverage. Your eyes skim over the page(s) and you happily sigh. You can feel in your bones that these words are right. They are meant. Even if some of them skitter off in revision and even if the world never catches a glimpse of this draft, for the moment you are content. Your existence, somehow, has managed to find meaning. All in that precise little typeface.

Ouyang: High education costs need better solution

Ouyang: High education costs need better solution

The subject of this article – for those who won’t click the link and read it – is the need for huge reform in our higher education. According to Chris Ouyang, the system we use now involving grants and loans is idealistic and completely impractical. It has few guardrails and almost no system of accountability. This article was written in response to the discussion of education during the 2012 Presidential Elections. Ouyang attempts to dispel myths about education: mainly, that everyone should receive higher education. In case you didn’t know: they shouldn’t. Beyond that, he takes a deeper look at what college or university really costs these days and how much our government isn’t helping. Essentially, our education system, in general, is a complete mess.

I have to say, I agree with a lot of Ouyang’s thoughts. Situations such as the cost of education in the US do not just need reformation. They need complete reconfiguration. In the same way that scientists group together to make discoveries in our world, we need groups of educators, economists, parents, and other leaders to find a solution here. Not only are the rising costs of education a huge factor in the imbalance of students from different economic and social brackets, but overall, the inability to find reasonable and affordable methods of paying for higher education is a detriment to the advancement of society. 

Education should be a right, not a privilege. If we want to really to be a leader for the rest of the world, the United States needs to start prioritizing education.

Universal Rights

What are your universal rights? Philippe Sands at TEDxHousesofParliament (byTEDxTalks)
If you have any interest in foreign policy, this is a very important video to watch. As a person who is interested in but still fairly uninformed about human rights, I felt that a whole world was revealed to me in this lecture. The idea that every single human has basic rights and those rights include the ability to challenge any other person, foreign or not, to justify and be accountable for their actions seems like it should be a no-brainer. One would think that if we are to maintain law and justice there is a necessity that moves beyond borders and sociopolitical constructs. Being in a position of power should never make someone less accountable.
Further, we need to explore what we view as taboo and why. Where do we draw the line? What is the line? Often, taboos are established without regard to the majority and without reason. When our leaders are able to run loose without real consequences, the world falls to pieces. We need to start keeping ourselves and each other accountable.
On a slightly different note, I highly recommend TED Talks. These lectures are informational on a variety of topics and, if nothing else, allow us to see from perspectives we might not have even known existed.

Making Positive Change and My Career as a Student

There is something that I have struggled quite a lot with recently: it is making positive change. I grew up in a privileged household. Not only was I provided with the necessities, but I grew up in a home that was loving and supportive in every way. My parents were and still are wonderful; there are not enough words in the English language to describe how much I cherish their love and guidance. my brother and sisters are equally amazing and I have known many people while growing up that have changed my life. Because of this, I feel a pull towards bringing positivity to other people.

As some of you may know, I am not the warmest person. I struggle very much with affirmation and tend to show my affection through gift-giving and lots of friendly teasing. More often than not, it would be hard for an outsider to see my actions as loving. I am introverted and distant; I do not excel at light conversation. I am awful at cheering people up.

But there are some things I can do. I can write. I write eloquently and effectively. I am a voracious reader and a passionate speaker. Engage me in an intellectual conversation and I am vibrant and witty. But how to translate this into change? How can I take the talents I possess and spin them into positivity for others? This is a question that I have not truly been able to answer.

Yes, of course, there are plenty of careers I could pursue. There is an endless number of jobs that aim towards helping people. But I’m a university student – those jobs are not quite available to me yet. There are volunteer opportunities and mission trips and all sorts of little things to do. However, they never seem to meet my needs. My hunger is never soothed.

I have thought about this problem for quite a while, and here is the solution I have drawn: I must study. Simple? Yes. But, effective. I must learn as much as I can while I still have the time to do it. Eventually, I will be constantly busy – or so I am told. Between my job, my friends, and potentially, my partner, there will be very little time to improve myself. So I shall do it now.

Hopefully, this will be effective. There is so much information to take in – more and more every day. This is the job I have assigned myself. ‘Student’ is no longer merely a title. It is my career. It is my passion. Not only to learn, but to be educated, is my goal. Maybe, in this journey, I can learn how to make positive change.