Here’s to the Ones Who Try So Hard

One minute you’re sweating your face off at the gym, and the next thing you know, it’s twenty minutes later, and the fingernail-shaped crescent moons dug into your arm are the only thing grounding you in the present, but this time, even that isn’t enough.

One moment you’re on the treadmill all too aware that you’re the only girl in a room with five guys (and those numbers are enough to make your stomach turn). All you want to do is leave. But you can do this. You can do this. You can do this.

You’re so close to finishing your workout when you catch the glimpse of one of the guys in the window. He bears a vague resemblance to one of the guys who raped you, not enough that would normally bother you, but enough to push your already anxious self over the edge.

Suddenly, you can’t breathe. Your heart catches in your throat. The room starts to spin. As you step off the treadmill, the room starts to go black. You bend over, trying to catch your breath, trying to keep the memories away long enough to get the heck out of there. As you go down the staircase, which is basically a metal tube, you hear voices behind you. They’re talking and laughing, not about you, but about weights or basketball or something, but in your panic-stricken mind, it doesn’t matter. Immediately, you’re transported back to that school bathroom, and suddenly, the ceiling starts closing in on you; you feel like you can’t breathe. You can’t get out of there fast enough, running down the last few stairs, pushing the door at the bottom with as much strength as you can muster, and walking as fast as you can down the hall, finally collapsing on a bench.

You try to catch your breath; your heart is pounding out of your chest, and all you want to do is keep those memories at bay. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t keep them away. You don’t know how long it’s been–seconds, minutes, years. It feels like seconds. Someone may have walked by asking you if you’re ok because apparently, you look spaced-out. But you don’t hear them: you’re so far into the own memories of your past that the only thing you can hear is: Bitch. Slut. Worthless. All you can feel is their hands on your skin, which you realize later is your own finger nails digging into your arm so hard that they leave marks that are still there 24 hours later. And you can’t breathe, partly because your lungs are on fire and partly because you feel like their are hands around your neck.

You drink water bottle after water bottle to get the taste of shame out of your mouth, and eventually, the memories start to fade. But the pounding in your chest is refusing to quit, and your lungs are refusing to stop sprinting a mile a minute. Your leg is sore from the bouncing it’s been doing for the last twenty minutes. And all you can think is: I’ve got to go home. I’ve got to go home. I’ve got to go home. Which really translates to, I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get out of here. I’ve got to get out of here.

You start to head down the hallway to the locker room, trying to keep your hand from shaking by rubbing it up and down your leg, but, you get a quarter of the way down, just to the door of the weight room, and you feel sick like you’re going to throw up.

You turn around, and head back up to the hallway, alternating between leaning against the cool wall that feels so good against your sweaty, panicky skin, and pacing up and down the hall. Every time you try to take a step down that hall towards the locker room, you feel nauseous. So so nauseous.

It’s been half an hour now, and you’re wondering what the heck you’re going to do. You need to go home. You need to. You need to. But you can’t face the locker room that’s so similar to the bathroom you avoided for the last month of middle school.

You don’t know what to do. You’re so close to just going to the weight room and sitting down, not to be creepy, but because you need to be around somebody, anybody. You’re gathering up the courage when all of a sudden, you see a girl you know–someone you knows your story. Someone who, without hesitation, when you asked them to go to the locker room because you’re having a flashback and panic attack, went with you and talked with you for another hour as you tried to calm down.

And that’s how long it takes: another hour. It takes another hour to calm yourself down long enough to drive home, another hour for your heart to stop racing the demons, another hour for you not to feel like you’re going to pass out. Another for you to stop thinking about everything you’ve spent the last nine years trying to forget.

And then you get home and take the hottest shower your skin can stand. And then it takes who knows how many hours to fall asleep because every time you close your eyes, you’re transported back, and all you have this time is a prayer that this time, you’ll fall asleep. And you do.

When you wake up the next morning, you don’t know where you are. You don’t really even remember what happened, until you look at your arm and realize that the fingernail-shaped marks are still there.

The day after the worst panic attack you’ve had in months and the worst one you’ve ever had in public, you go to a wedding. Trying to hide the fact that your hand is shaking from the anxiety you still feel. Trying to hide the fact that you still feel nauseous. You dance the Cha-Cha slide and the Cupid Shuffle, and you walk to your car by yourself at night. Halfway there, when the panic begins to set in again, you look up at the sky, and you see the stars, and you remember that God is there no matter what.

A day-and-a-half after the worst panic attack, you go to Church, still feeling the residual effects: you’re exhausted and anxious and your heart is still pounding. But then God has this way of reminding you that He’s got this. You can climb this mountain.

And now it’s a few minutes past the 48-hour mark, and you’re just starting to return to normal. Your heart isn’t pounding as hard. You’re not as tired. You feel less and less nauseous as the minutes tick on. You no longer feel like the world is caving in around you.

And you’re trying so hard to convince yourself that you’re not crazy–other people feel this way sometimes, too.

Here’s to the ones who try so hard, who are so scared of being vulnerable but do it anyway.

Here’s to being vulnerable because sometimes, being vulnerable, allows others to know your story. And with others knowing your story, they can pick you up and walk alongside you when the going gets tough.

Or, in my case, walk with me to the locker room and spend time with me on a Friday night, instead of with their boyfriend, when it felt like my world was falling apart.

Here’s to the ones who care for the ones who try so hard.

 

 

Advertisements

RIP Alan Rickman: Mourning in the Age of Social Media

Yesterday was one of those days that I wanted to end before it even began. Opening my eyes, I instinctively rolled over, grabbed my phone, and looked to see if I had any breaking news notifications. After skimming the numerous headlines on my lock screen, I decided it was in my best interest to roll over, go back to sleep, and hope it was all just a dream.

Alas, when I woke up, a brief 20 minutes later, I was dismayed to find out that what I had read earlier was not just a dream as I had hoped, but was in fact real. There are a few things you don’t want to read when you wake up: first, is that you did not win the Powerball Jackpot. Second, is that there was a terror attack in Jakarta, because even though it’s become almost commonplace in our world today, you still feel pain for all of those affected. Thirdly, you don’t want to find out that one of your favorite actors while growing up, Alan Rickman, died.

It’s this third event that I want to focus on for two reasons: firstly, I wasn’t expecting to win the lottery, so I didn’t even waste money buying a ticket. Secondly, it’s easier to make sense of a single death than it is to make sense of multiple deaths. I haven’t yet been able to make sense with what is going on in this world.

So, I mourn Alan Rickman, while also talking about him.

I know him best as Professor Severus Snape from ­Harry Potter. He’s the actor who brought the not-so-good, not-so-bad, morally ambiguous character to life. You can read a story so many times and still not fully understand a character. Such was the case with Snape. I didn’t love him, didn’t hate him, wasn’t quite sure how to feel about him.

And then I watched the movies. And BAM! Alan Rickman’s portrayal of Snape caused my eyes to open. I understood the character in a way I didn’t before. I understood why he did what he did. He did right things for the right reasons, right things for the wrong reasons, wrong things for the right reasons, and wrong things for the wrong reasons. I understood his actions, but I couldn’t justify them.

Which was ok, because I was still sad when (SPOILER ALERT) Snape died.

I’m even sadder now that Alan Rickman died.

Death is a private event, reserved for a party of one, but sometimes witnessed by family and close friends. Death is intimate. Mourning is public, a collective experience. Especially in the case of a beloved celebrity like Rickman. When a celebrity dies, the earth seems to stand still, like a pillar in the community has died.

The earth stands still, and people begin remembering. All my social media newsfeeds were filled with tributes to Alan Rickman. Twitter and Tumblr were perhaps the most personal, with users sharing how Rickman’s characters got them through a tough time in their life, sharing quotes of Rickman’s that mean a lot to them, sharing stories of interactions they had with Rickman by chance. Celebrities, too, got in on the collective remembrance. Those who worked with him sharing personal anecdotal memories of what it was like to work with Rickman: how funny he was, how truly he cared about the characters he portrayed, how he impacted the lives of his costars.

This sharing of memories is not just reserved for celebrities. I’ve seen it happen at funerals. When my grandfather died almost ten years ago, I distinctly remember a portion of the service reserved for neighbors and friends to share stories about him, stories I wouldn’t have heard otherwise, stories that made my grandfather a full-fledged person, and not just a person with a title: he became a man with a name, in possession of a whole identity other than “Grandfather.”

I’ve become more aware of this with my remaining grandparents, gathering stories about them from anyone who knew them when they were younger.

With celebrities, I don’t’ have that luxury—we don’t have that luxury. We don’t have the luxury of hearing stories first-hand. All we have are the roles they filled.

So we gather stories and memories anyway we can, from whoever we can—memories and anecdotes of how their roles impacted lives, but perhaps, most importantly, who the celebrity was as a person.

It’s easy to place celebrities on pedestals, forgetting they are real people with real lives, real families, real friends. We strip them of their humanity, judge them solely based on their artistry.

Collective mourning as a group, over the internet, allows family, friends, and fans to combine artistry with humanity, creating a whole person.

We forget that people aren’t immortal, sometimes we hope that our favorite people are immortal because dealing with death is difficult. Death is easy; it’s the mourning that’s painful.

I’ve found mourning to be easier when stories are shared. Perhaps Rickman himself said it best, “. . . it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible?. . .”

We tell stories to keep memories alive.

We told them yesterday; we told them today; we’ll probably keep telling them for a while.

And that’s ok.

The people who knew him best—his friends and family—have stories and memories.

We, the fans, have the characters he left behind, the memories of what they brought us through. We read books and watch movies to temporarily forget what we’re going through, to be transported somewhere else.

So, let us mourn.

We’re not only mourning Alan Rickman, the man. We’re also mourning for the characters he left behind: Hans Gruber, Colonel Brandon, the husband who bought the necklace, Severus Snape, and whoever else he had been. We mourn for the characters he never will be.

And I think there’s beauty in the way Alan Rickman was different things to different people, and how, despite the varying degrees of intimacy we may have had with him—whether personally, emotionally, or artistically—all of us are mourning at the same time.

“The pain we all feel at this dreadful loss reminds me, reminds us, that while we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”-Albus Dumbledore

You Look Like a Leprechaun!

Have you ever laughed so hard you sound like a retarded seal?

I have. I do. All the time. When I laugh, I either blow a little bit more air out of my nose than usual, or I laugh so hard tears stream down my face, my face decides to do tomato impersonations, and my very distinct giggle turns into a deep laugh, which turns into absolutely no sound at all. I have been told I look like a leprechaun when I laugh. I have also been told my laugh makes other people laugh, which is a good thing… I guess?

I remember one time I was sitting in my college’s library, and I read something punny on the internet. And I laughed so hard. A few seconds later, one of my very dear friends came and found me. She told me, “I was sitting upstairs in the library, taking a nap, and I heard you laughing. So I had to come find you.”

…Gee, thanks. I laughed so loud and hard I woke you up from a nap. I was never self-conscious about my laugh before, but now I am. My laugh may be obnoxious, but hey, it’s better than the cackle I used to do. I’m moving up among the Ranks of Laughter. Gold star for me!…

Personally, I think laughter is great. It’s one of my favorite things to do (besides smiling and crying), and I believe everybody should have a healthy dose of it every day. If you live in my house, it’s not hard to do. Seriously, if you ever come over to dinner at my house, be prepared to have most of your dinner come out your nose.

There is no such thing as “normal” conversation at my house. Conversations at my house turn into stand up comedy routines pretty quickly. We use accents and different voices and hand motions and puns and one liners and more sarcasm than you can imagine. And we’re pretty much the stupidest bunch of geniuses you’ve ever met.

But this post is not about that. My post is about this picture one of my Facebook friends dared me to make my profile: 1005200_10201617908555441_329423959_n

This picture was taken after I had had a particularly difficult day, which, I’m sure you know if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, occurs frequently.

I once read somewhere smiling is the easiest way to trick yourself into being happy. It’s as if the simple act of smiling is enough to release Magical Happy Hormones into your bloodstream. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it worked that day. The smile turned into a deep fit of laughter, which is not uncommon. Because, as my family can tell you, I’ve been known to start laughing hysterically for no reason.

Some days, smiling is the last thing I want to do. Some days my Depression is so bad it’s hard for me to get out of bed. Some days I hardly ever smile. But that’s ok, because some days I can’t stop smiling.

2 weeks ago, I had to be to work at 6:30 in the morning, and I was extremely un-smiley (mostly because I am the complete opposite of a morning person. I’m as close to being a morning person as a mouse is to being a blue whale).

But, by the time the end of my shift rolled around I couldn’t stop smiling. I had a conversation with Rudy the Janitor, and we were discussing my boyfriend situation. I told him I didn’t have one. To which he replied, “Oh. I’m sure you have two or three. They just haven’t introduced themselves yet. I mean, you sit in the Pearce Coffee Shop all day, staring out the window with a big smile on your face. It’s like you’re so happy to be here and are so content to just sit, think, and watch the world around you. You’re just so content and relaxed and studying hard, all while daydreaming. And you’re always smiling. It’s like you’re telling yourself stories in your head, which, since you’re an English Major, you probably are. That’s the kind of girl most guys want. They’re just too scared to admit it. Keep smiling! It lights up the room!”

This information had me smiling all day for two reasons.

1. Boys.

and 2. Random compliments are fan-super-tastic!

For the longest time I didn’t think I’d ever laugh and smile again. I thought my past prohibited me from ever feeling happiness. I thought my hurt and pain was too great to ever overcome. And I thought beauty was only reserved for those who were never ugly.

But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s life is beautiful. I’ve learned how to feel pain, and I’ve learned how to feel joy. And I will keep smiling, because one day the one whom God has planned for me will reveal himself.

I just hope his laugh is as joy-filled and obnoxious as mine!

Death in a Fandom

I am silently grieving today. You see, there’s this part of me that I keep hidden from people, a part of me that I’ve only let come out and play a few times in public. A part of me that so many people on the other side of my Tumblr Dash understand, but one that not many “real-life people” do.

To put it simply: I am a fangirl. Google defines Fangirl as “A fan, sometimes also called aficionado or supporter, is a person who is enthusiastically devoted to something, such as a band, a sports team or entertainer. Collectively, fans of a particular thing or person constitute its fanbase or fandom.” I belong to many a fandom, and I’ve been known to randomly geek out when I scroll down my Tumblr dash and see a post that pertains to any of my numerous interests.

So, why am I grieving? Was one of my favorite characters killed off? Did Steven Moffat ruin my life? Probably. But, that’s not why.

I’m grieving because one of my favorite actors died last night.

Cory Monteith, best known for his role as Finn Hudson on Glee, died yesterday at the age of 31. I don’t belong to the Glee fandom because it’s a great show, because honestly I can make a list at least 100 items long of what’s wrong with the show. I belong to the Glee fandom because, at least originally, it was about a group of misfits who were trying to figure out where they belong, where they fit, which is all what we really want from life. And this group of misfits strived to be better. Glee addresses topics we don’t talk about in society today because of the social stigma, and they do it so delicately and honestly it hurts.

But, I’m not grieving because the show lost a great actor. I’m not grieving because the fandom will never get their “Finchel” happy ending. I’m grieving because the world lost a great man. Cory was more than an actor; he was a human, just like you and me. He was open and honest about his past, and he used his celebrity status to draw attention to the issue of Substance Abuse, an addiction with which he struggled. He was so open and honest and painfully genuine, and I rooted for him. The whole fandom did.

Surprised is not the right word, because I was surprised when I found out a few years ago he was nearly 30, neither are shock or sadness. And the fact that I can’t find the right word to describe how I feel is a little disconcerting, because I am an English Major.

What I do know is this: this is the first time a celebrity’s died my generation’s grown up with. This is the first time a public figure we’ve admired has died. Michael Jackson does not count, because we didn’t grow up with him. This maybe the first time that a teenager has lost someone they look up to, and it puts everything in perspective: it makes us realize that nobody’s immortal. Everybody will die, friends, family, celebrities. 

I grew up with Glee. It got me through difficult times. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It made me shake my fists in anger. It made me nod my head in agreement. It made me believe that somewhere out there is a place where I belong, where I can be myself, where I can be accepted for who I am. To that I say, thank you. Thank you for making me believe in myself. Thank you for making me believe that I can be better, that I can succeed. Just… thank you.

And how do we, the fandom, respond? We can’t call in sick because one of our favorite celebrities died. He was one of our “friends” (because he was our friend, in the most general sense of the term), but we can’t go to his funeral. And we certainly can’t let our grief go unvalidated, because then our feels* will take over. Glee changed my life, and if you think I’m not going to cry over the death of one of it’s kindest, brightest stars, you need to learn a thing or two about the inspiration celebrities can be. If you don’t think that I wanted to go back to bed this morning because I was not emotionally ready for this day, you’d be wrong. I wanted to redo this day since I woke up this morning.

And it’s not just the fandom who’s grieving. Because somewhere out there are people who really knew and loved him (like we, the fandom knew and loved him, but they did for real, for real). Yesterday, someone lost a son. Yesterday, someone lost a brother. Yesterday, someone lost their boyfriend. Yesterday, someone lost their idol. Yesterday, someone’s whole world came crashing down.

Yesterday, the world lost an inspirational gem of a man whose Twitter bio reads: “Tall, awkward, canadian, actor, drummer, person,” and who said: “Be yourself. That’s good enough for me.” Yesterday, the world lost a man who inspired us all to be better, to embrace our past, to learn from our mistakes, and to root for the underdog. Yesterday, the world learned that your idol can save your life, but you can’t save theirs.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever be emotionally prepared to watch Glee episodes. I don’t know if the fandom will ever be ok. But what I do know is that the whole fandom is struggling today.

So to my fellow fandom warriors:

I feel ya, bro.

*feels: it’s a known fact that people belonging to a fandom feel things more intensely. The objects of our affection and interests make us explode with all the emotions (hence the term, all the feels).