Waking Up Happy

It was really refreshing to wake up this morning unreasonably happy; no thoughts about anything in particular, except trying to remember the dreams I had last night. I walked over to turn my air conditioner off, and when I got to the window to turn the dial to the “Off” position, I wondered why I was so happy. It wasn’t even the kind of happy you experience on your best day with friends, or the jubilant relief that accompanies realizing a gnawing worry is resolved. It was, in the only way I can think to describe it, ignorant bliss (Clichés-1, Wiggygirl-0). I wasn’t sure why I was happy, but I was obviously enjoying it. Honestly, I have not felt that happy in weeks or months. Months. That’s a long time to not experience an emotion, let alone a fantastic one. This realization made me wonder how long it would be until I felt this strange elation again. After a few weeks of believing my depression was actually going away, I was hit by an especially depressive mood at the beginning of this week; unfortunately, I have to wonder if I brought it on myself. I had been sick after coming home from vacation at the beach, and through a mixture of not really wanting to go to work and guilt of probably spreading germs to my coworkers, I coerced myself to take Monday off. I texted my boss that morning and he told me it was fine if I didn’t come into work, and to inform him when I would be able to come back in (have I mentioned my boss is really chill?). Monday was spent sleeping a lot, browsing a variety of sites on my computer, maybe a little reading….nothing too productive, because I was attempting to relax and “get better”. However, as the day progressed and I knew I would have to go back to work the next day, I started feeling unmotivated, though not quite depressed yet. Since my boss hadn’t said “see you tomorrow”, rather telling me to contact him when I was feeling better, why shouldn’t I take another day off? Though I told myself I would see how I felt in the morning, I knew in the back of my mind my decision had already been made. Not wanting to tell my mom I was taking another day off, I decided I would wake up normal time and pretend I was going to work. I drove to the park behind my house to chill and listen to music/my anxiety tape while I waited for all my coworkers and mother to get off the roads. Then, I spent three hours driving around South Jersey with no actual destination in mind. I love driving, but this wasn’t supposed to be a leisurely escapade through main streets and lonely roads. This was foreshadowing for the lowest low I’ve felt in awhile. Flashback to last summer, when my depression went along unnoticed and untreated. I was so afraid and anxious to tell my boss that once soccer started I would not be able to work, I decided I simply would not, and instead texted him two days in a row saying I would not be coming to work that day. No explanations or excuses; I just would not be working, and in my last text I told him I would not come in again because soccer would be starting. Minus the vague text messages, I did the same thing I did this past Tuesday; I pretended to go to work but instead drove around aimlessly. When I told my best friend about what had occurred, she completely brushed it off. She didn’t get it. This was what I did when I was very depressed. I know now after talking to her she was trying to help by distracting me and discussing other topics, but I had to tell her this was not how to help me. I don’t know about other people, but when I am really depressed or upset about something, I don’t want people to distract me immediately. I don’t even necessarily want advice. What I really need and covet is sympathy and someone who will tell me it’s okay that I’m upset. I really would like someone who will ask questions; this will either show they are interested in what’s going on or it will help me look at the issue and work through it. After a similar conversation with my ex/guy friend, my depression became severe, and I’ve unfortunately spent the past few days feeling alone and melancholy. I barely talked to my friends and spent a lot of time inside my room, traversing the dark regions of Tumblr and listening to music that makes me sad. I excessively and genuinely cried for the first time in awhile. Luckily I conversed with my friends and therapist about this issue and, after this wonderful morning, am starting to feel sort of normal again. Though I know this intense change of mood is fleeting, I have some sense of hope for future happiness.

Busiest Week of My Life

This week I had no time to blog; as much as I feel bad about not posting anything for a long time, there were occasions and to-do’s that I could not ignore.

Monday was my only semi-fee day, though I had an orthodontist appointment right after school. I spent tonight finishing an application for a special first-year “virus hunting” research course at Gettysburg as well as finishing a variety of other assignments I would not have time for later in the week.

Tuesday was a half day in school, but I attended a paint crew meeting after school. Last year I was hired, along with some of my peers, to be a part of our school’s paint crew, which (you might’ve guessed) paint the parking lots, hallways, etc. of all of the schools in the district; I will be doing the same thing again this summer. This meeting took almost three hours, but I can’t complain because we were all getting paid. We have not been told who will be the paint team managers, and I am torn between wanting to make more money by ascending to a leadership position and not wanting to have to assert myself to be in charge of a group.

After this meeting I went home and got ready for a scholarship reception dinner. I won a scholarship through my father’s union, and we were invited to attend a fancy dinner. I had a slight headache by this time, due to high temperatures that, after a cold winter, I am not quite used to yet. The food was good, the conversation, which I managed to interject into a few times, was excellent, and it was absolutely phenomenal to see all these students who had contributed so much to their community.

Wednesday after school was our Science League party. I had previously been very excited to attend, because Science League has been one of my favorite parts of high school over the past two years, and I love everyone in that club. However, we did a competition bowl, and I did not answer a single question though I knew a lot of the answers. Not only that, I was jealous of one of my peers who is incredibly intelligent and began to hate myself and feel very angry. When I came home I essentially gave up on doing anything and succumbed to sadness.

Thursday I was supposed to take a AP Chemistry test, but even if he put a 64 in the grade books (the lowest grade you can get on a test in AP Chem because of a lenient curve), I would still get a 94 overall. When given the option to skip the test, I took it. I was supposed to have an appointment with my therapist but did not have a car to drive, so we had a very short phone conference before I went to my friend’s house so she could paint my nails for prom. After that we sojourned together to Senior Awards night, where I was very happy (not jealous for once) to see everyone winning small monetary prizes for excellence in academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and community service. I received $50 as an academic award and $50 for Science League.

And…Friday was my senior prom! Half the fun was preparing for it. We had a half day of school and I went to the salon and got my hair (in the style of Elsa’s coronation from Frozen) and makeup done. We went to my friend’s house and stopped at school to get inexpensive professional pictures taken. We did not participate in Promenade, so we went back to my friend’s house and spent some time eating and watching RuPaul’s Drag Race in our prom dresses.

Then our parents all came over and we took a ton of pictures. My parents drove us to and from prom for fear of reckless and/or drunk drivers. The first hour or so was awkward picture-taking with friends. Two girls from my AP Chem class essentially attacked me when they saw me, telling me I looked beautiful and they hardly recognized me (yanno, because I never wear makeup in school and wear glasses, whereas tonight I was all dolled up and wearing contacts). The one girl actually came up to hug me and told me I could easily be the most beautiful girl there. Not to be conceited by writing about this, but I was very grateful for the compliment, which really helped my self-esteem.

I may be biased, but my friends and I were the most beautiful people there. Both of them looked like absolute goddesses. After eating we all got up to dance for two and a half hours straight; my feet did not hurt until the last half an hour of the prom, a huge accomplishment considering I wore my (albeit comfy) wedges the whole time. It was great dancing with my two best friends as well as a lot of my other friends in school. My friends and I reflected a little, on the ride home, how we were already a bit nostalgic because this was our senior prom, which would never happen again. But it was a fantastic time, and I would not have traded my prom experience for anything.

Now that this memorable week is over, I am both proud I have survived and am looking forward to whatever challenges await this week.

Feeling Comfortable With Myself

Last night I attended my neighbor’s Sweet Sixteen party. We used to be really really close, but because I no longer take the bus to or from school, we don’t see each other. Maybe the birthday girl hangs out with my little sister and felt obligated to invite both of us? Or maybe we forged that type of friendship that still resonates after you stop consistently communicating?

Anyway, it was the first fancy Sweet Sixteen party I had attended. Technically I’ve only been to two: my own party, which was held in my backyard, and though we wore dresses, it was pretty casual, and my semi-friends’ party, which was held at a house, no formal attire necessary. This party was at a reception building, required black and white formal clothes, and included fancy cake and the sixteen candle thing (which I had never heard of before).

When I got there, I expected to see a bunch of sophomores (that’s what birthday girl is), and to spend my evening following my sister, maybe interjecting myself into the conversation every now and then. Upon entering the glitzy ballroom, I immediately locked eyes with my good senior guy friend, and we were both like, “hey, what are you doing here?”. To my surprise, there were quite a few seniors there…though I do not talk to most of them, and they quickly filled up a table of their own so I stayed at my sister’s side.

I felt quite awkward, just sitting there with my sister. In my mind I kept thinking of reasons I was not mingling-excuses I could give to other people, though I was sure no one would ask, so they were really just excuses for myself. Sentiments like, “my sister is really shy and I don’t want to leave her alone”, etc.

Then another senior girl came in who I am good friends with, and I basically followed her around and talked to her (and whoever she had chosen to mingle with). She sat next to us when we ate, and when the music started she danced with us. However, she soon found other friends to dance with, which left my sister and I alone in the middle of a crowd of (mostly) strangers. In addition to my inherent awkwardness on the dance floor, I was now alone.

But you know what? I didn’t really care. Why couldn’t I just dance with my little sister at this party? Why should I feel awkward because I’m terrible at dancing, probably making a fool of myself, and a senior without other teenagers to talk to?

I suppose someone (my overbearing parents or aunts, for example) would have encouraged me to mingle with everyone and anyone at the party, because that’s what people do at parties, right? That’s the supposed reason for get-togethers? Plus, how would I expect to make new friends or have any fun if I do not converse with other people? This seems like a fairly important skill to acquire for college.

But you know what? Dancing with my little sister, along with dance interjections from my two seniors friends, was fun. I did not feel the need to awkwardly approach strangers/acquaintances to complete my evening. I was, except for my sister, alone, but I did not feel alone. I could just dance and sing (when I knew the lyrics) and be content in my own skin.

In my opinion, changes in mindset like these do not occur because of silly encouragements telling you to “be yourself” and “not care what other people think”. Maybe they help guide you on the path to self-enlightenment, but the ultimate transformation has to come from within. Someone else cannot tell you you are a wonderful person, or that it’s okay to be quiet/alone/an introvert, or you do not need a boyfriend to be self-assured and confident. You must discover these things for yourself.

And in the dimmed lights of that wooden dance floor, I realized I could be completely comfortable with myself, a skill I cannot wait to employ in college.

 

Of course, it’s also Mother’s Day, and as soon as my mom gets out of the shower I’ll be spending most of the day with her. Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women out there who deal with us rowdy, impertinent children day after day. Your perseverance is truly one of your greatest attributes.

And good luck to all my fellow introverts/low self-esteemers in finding comfort within yourself.

8 Reasons I Fell In Love With “The Fault in Our Stars”

(Sort-of spoilers ahead, specifically in #3, 5 and 7. If you haven’t read the book yet, you should be able to read the other numbers or at least the bolded sections. Maybe writing this in depth list isn’t so helpful to people looking for a good book to read if it spoils parts of the novel…oh well.)

Yesterday I finished The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, which has got to be one of the greatest modern novels composed, for the following reasons (in a somewhat but not really particular order).

1) Allusions and Symbolism. Lots and lots of allusions. Being a former AP English Lit student, I was able to identify them many of them as the meaning each work brought to the novel. Allusions include “The Red Wheelbarrow”, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, and of course, Shakespeare. The title of the novel comes from a line in Julius Caesar, in which Caesar says, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars/ But in ourselves” (Shakespeare 1.2.140-141). Furthermore, there is a smorgasbord of symbols, particularly representations through the characters. There is a ton of water (rebirth, cleansing) symbolism (for example,  Augustus’s last name is Waters and they (Hazel and Gus) travel to Amsterdam, a city famous for its canals).

2) Writing Style. I’m usually a fan of the classical, lots-of-fancy-language-and-run-on-sentences style of writing, but the ideas surrounding the novel are so strong John Green does not need to be “fancy”. Moreover, it just makes more sense the writing style is more relaxed, considering a teenager is the narrator. It includes some script-like conversation between characters (Example: Me: Hi Mom. Mom: Hi there), which I really enjoyed for some inexplicable reason.

3) Themes. There are a multitude of important concepts covered in the novel, the most important being the struggle for immorality and two ultimate life questions: Will I be loved? Will I be remembered?

The novel emphasizes the way even a novel cannot immortalize an individual. For example, John Green states, “Nothing (at least that can be done by humans) immortalizes anyone. The Fault in Our Stars will hopefully have a long and wonderful life, but it will eventually go out of print, and eventually the last person ever to read it will die, and then the characters will no longer live in any consciousness” (The Fault in Our Stars Q and A 5-6).

So that might seem depressing, especially to someone like myself who adores the possibility of immortality promised in writing. However, Green goes on to explain, “Also, that is okay…What Gus in particular must reconcile himself to is that being temporary does not mean being unimportant or meaningless” (TFIOS Q and A 6). Even though one is mortal, the here-and-now of life is just as important as it would be if our lives were remembered forever. Essentially, the novel suggests the meaning of life is to continue to lead significant lives notwithstanding our own mortality.

The novel also describes the struggle of those like Hazel who attempt to refrain from becoming a “grenade”, harming their loved ones with their departure (specifically death). John Green demonstrates through Hazel and Gus’s relationship hurting one’s loved ones, simply by being loved, is okay. As Gus writes, “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you” (TFIOS 313).

4) Characters who also love literature, metaphors, and using big words. These are people I can relate to! Not only do these characters make reading more personable (to me at least), it allows John Green to include important literary allusions flawlessly (see #1) in the novel.

5) “Okay”. Isaac and his girlfriend say “Always” to each other as a sugary, romantic way of saying “I will love you forever”. “Okay” becomes Hazel and Gus’s “Always”, which is not a promise of a forever but of real, substantial love. Sort of the kind of thing I find attractive in a relationship (not overly romantic).

6) Realism. Many of the other components of this list could fit into this category, such as writing style and theme, but I wanted to point out just how real this book feels. Its characters and the interactions between them seem pretty legitimate to me. The novel addresses realistic ideals, including the impossibility of human immortality.

7) The novel does not portray cancer patients as overly cheerful, strong, wonderful people, or the dead as virtuous and venerable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mommom, who passed away this year. But she had many, many flaws. Cancer patients, stereotypically depicted as heroic survives, can be these astounding, angelic individuals. But they are still real people, who experience anger, misjudgments, and, well, all of the normal human emotions. All of the cancer patients in this novel-Hazel, Gus, Isaac and Caroline Mathers-are complex characters with good and bad qualities.  Additionally, when Isaac and Hazel write their eulogies for Gus’s funeral, though they opt for a more sentimental speech at his actual funeral, they poke fun at his life and his shortcomings. Green does not “sentimentalize or romanticize anything in the book” and combats the oversimplification that “suffering is heroic, and that cancer suffering in particular strengthens you and makes you better” (TFIOS Q and A, pg 23).

8) I read this novel at a perfect time in my life. The past year, more specifically the last month, of my life has been encompassed by the question of the meaning of life. More importantly, what is it that I want from my own life? While I was reading the novel, especially in the beginning, I was shocked by the reality of my own mortality, and, in short, would not accept it. As I began to realize I was “temporary”, I spiraled into more depression. I would channel my inner Augustus Waters and ask myself, what is the point if no one will remember us?  After finishing the novel, I have been satisfied with a somewhat answer. Indeed, there is a point in living fully even though we are only mortal. I have yet to discern the specifics of the meaning of my own life, but will and must continue to hope living is truly worthwhile.

I am so excited to see the movie when it is released in theaters, and am very pleased to have enjoyed the “small infinity” contained in this novel.

#GottheDot

After much painful and protracted deliberation, I have decided to attend Gettysburg College.

In the end, the University of Rochester was just too far away, in too wintery of a location, and too large. Additionally, I felt a lot better when I went to visit Gettysburg’s campus-it had that special feel about it, like I could imagine myself spending my college years there.  Rochester didn’t give me the feel. Though I will be giving up immense diversity (because let’s be honest, Gettysburg College is mostly a bunch of white kids) and specialization early in my college experience (Rochester had Molecular Genetics as a major and is a research institute), I am quite pleased with my choice.

After doing some research I discovered a variety of Biology and BMB students who are currently studying at great universities for grad school, including at Johns Hopkins University (which is where I would like to  go for grad school). Because Gettysburg is so small (the incoming class last year was about 700 students, I think), I’ll have that small community feel I love. I’ll also form tight relationships with faculty, which will lead to research opportunities. And even though the location is not a lively city like Rochester, it’s a beautiful landscape rich in history only two and a half hours from my hometown, versus the five and half hour drive to Rochester.

Ultimately, college is what you make of it, and I intend to do A LOT. I’m going to major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, with a definite minor in German and possible minors in English, Writing, or Neuroscience. Because there are so many subjects I want to delve into, I’ll probably end up taking five (versus four) classes in at least two, if not more semesters. I plan to study abroad, perform research with faculty, get some internships and experience in there, and do all kinds of college type things!

After making this decision, so much weight has been lifted off of me, and I feel a lot better. I do have moments of doubt, thinking perhaps I made the wrong decision…that’s just my nature at this time in my life. But talking to people from the college (and of course stalking their Facebook pages), I’m really excited to embark on this new chapter of my life.

Here’s to making the last few weeks of high school count and salmon colored pants! (Which reminds me…I gotta get some Gettysburg gear!)

Going Batty (In More Ways Than One)

This morning I woke up and there was a bat in the basement. No, not the baseball kind. This cute lil brown thing with fur, wings and the tiniest little fangs.

Thankfully, I was not the one who stumbled upon it in our basement because I would have freaked out. My dad was going downstairs for some toiletries and heard something squeaking. When he looked on the floor, he saw this thing, which he thought, in a slight panic, was a giant tarantula before taking a closer look. He yelled upstairs to my mother, commanding her to get a sheet, and he wrapped it up and brought the bat outside into broad daylight.

When I got outside, it was sitting in the same spot where my father had left it, a mulch-filled area by our deck where my mom attempts to grow flowers. We threw some apples its way, moistened a rag (in case it got thirsty?) and built a sheet fort for it to hide from the sun and predators.  I felt really bad for the lil thing. Now we aren’t quite sure where it is, but we’re guessing it took shelter in the dark area under our deck.

A literal bat is not the only thing crazy going on around here lately. My car (really my parent’s car that they are so wonderful as to let me borrow) wouldn’t shut off; the key would not turn in the hole. We took it to the dealer and I’ve got to wait a few weeks before new parts can come in. We received a free rental car, but because I’m only 18, I can’t legally drive it. This gives me a few options, which include:

  1. taking the bus (undesirable but not all that bad)
  2. allowing my grammy to drive us to and from school (she scares me a little when she drives, so I might have to take over the driving. Additionally, I don’t want to burden her)
  3. driving my dad’s truck so he can drive the rental car. This would seem like the best option, except this truck randomly shuts off in the middle of turns, which terrifies me. It’s a whole lot larger than my weeniemobile (that’s my name for the car I’ve been driving), so I would be uber nervous driving it. I’d probably end up leaving earlier from school and waiting for all the other cars to leave before I drive home because I’d be really anxious trying to get out of the tight senior parking lot.

I turned 18 this week, which is crazy in itself. I’ll be able to get my adult, no-strings-attached license on Monday, and then I won’t have to drive with the little red stickers on the car and I’ll be able to drive as many people as I want. I can sign up to vote. I’m an adult, but I don’t feel any different.

However, the thing driving me veritably insane is the looming decision of college. I’m choosing between two divergent schools, the University of Rochester and Gettysburg College. Rochester is in a sweet location, has awesome academics in sciences, particularly in Molecular Genetics, is a research university, and has fantastic diversity. Prior to my visit there last weekend, I was set on attending Rochester in the fall. However, Gettysburg’s close-knit atmosphere really spoke to me, whereas Rochester, much like the climate, seemed cold and stuffy, and just a little snooty.

Moreover, I’m terrified I will get really depressed and overwhelmed in Rochester and my family will be really, really far away. Conversely, I feel like by going to Gettysburg, I’ll always be asking myself the question of “What if”. I have the opportunity to attend this amazing school, perfectly fitted for my educational and career goals…so why am I not immediately grasping this chance? Thinking this over at all times during the day has depressed me more and caused my motivation levels to plummet. I’m hoping to make my decision this weekend, though I’m not rushing or anything. I just can see the reasons for going to each school, and can’t decide which is a better fit.

It’s sort of a head vs. heart decision. It’s also choosing between comfort and a less challenging path or deciding to grab opportunity, which leads me to my final question: Does it take more strength to push yourself beyond your limits, risking your own sanity, or to choose a path you like more notwithstanding it’s not the best option for your future?

Spring Nostalgia

As a student of AP English Literature and Composition, I have a fairly good grasp on what symbols generally mean. Water means cleansing. Light represents truth and enlightenment, while dark is the opposite. Spring usually symbolizes rebirth, or the beginning of a new life, attitude, etc. This is usually  a happy symbol, and associated with new growth, flowers, sunlight, and other natural elements.

Nonetheless, I have become cognizant of an annual spring nostalgia that plagues me and deepens my depression and anxiety. It’s almost similar to the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder-just a different season. I suppose nostalgia isn’t quite the right word, unless you say I’m nostalgic about events that are current.

As the months left before summer dwindle, I become aware of the looming end of school. This year, the end is much more permanent for me, considering I’ll be leaving for college in the fall. I am a very sentimental, thoughtful person, and the end of anything renders my heart heavy. The whole concept of time and never returning to past events baffles me. It also makes me sad, and these feelings are particularly amplified at this time during the year.

One could argue this whole “nostalgia” I experience is ridiculous and I need to get over my sentimental values and just live my life. Notwithstanding I know that’s what I should be doing, the inevitable end of a chapter in my life, no matter how small, sets off immense nostalgia that I cannot discard.

Perhaps I just have issues committing myself to anything.  I think a large part of it involves the fact I do not want to lose my feeling of choice. In high school, so they say, your world is wide open-you do not have to worry about what you’re doing for the rest of your life. You don’t know what college you will attend, what major you will pursue, what your career will be. You don’t have to worry about the real world, and contently consume yourself in the microcosm of your home town.

Now, as a senior, I’m making decisions that could affect my entire life. Maybe they won’t affect me too much, and they probably won’t change my life for the worse, but they will most definitely shape my future. That’s some pretty intense power right there. How do I know I’m making the right decision?

Moreover, I like the feeling of being wide open-the sky’s the limit, right? I could be whatever I want to be. But now I’m expected to become what I have always wanted to be, except I’ve never had a clear-cut image of my future self. It was too much fun imagining all of the different people I could transform into.

In the end, a choice has to be made. But the thing about making a choice is, once you’ve made your decision, you concede your ability to choose.

That’s hecka scary.