A Fairy Tale For Millennials

Once Upon A Time, there was a young… blogger.

She had a college degree in English, because she understood from an early age that the STEM field was not for her, and that she was always going to be more intellectual than physical. If she’d known that so many people were going to say things about “young people who get liberal arts degrees being surprised when they can’t get hired,” she might have sucked it up and gone to law school or medical school instead.

(In her childhood, everyone said “Follow your dreams.” She took that advice, and was subsequently surprised and annoyed when the same people touted the virtues of STEM, trade school, and other career fields and made jokes about English majors working in the drive-through at McDonalds. This is called a double standard, and it’s not her fault. Stop telling her what she should have done, it’s none of your business.)

The young blogger was a hopeless romantic, and she wished to meet— well, not a prince exactly, but a gentleman. She knew what to expect of the dating field, and so assumed that there would be a few cads, a few charmers, and a wide variety of fairly average fellows who would turn out to be extremely lovely on closer acquaintance. However, she did not realize that her own personality was lacking in many ways, and that she needed to fix her personal flaws as she attempted to find and choose someone with whom she could comfortably spend her life.

The young blogger, growing up, noticed that she was a few pounds bigger than the other girls her age. This was often uncomfortable, for the fashion industry had not always been open to the idea of advertising for plus-size women and it hadn’t occurred to successful screenwriters to cast plus-size actresses. So she never saw people who looked like her in movies or television shows, and she never saw people who looked like her wearing pretty or flattering clothes. This served the purpose of making her believe that fat girls were not meant to be pretty or talented, two things she wanted very badly to be.

(She was not aware that she was, in fact, both of those things already.)

Perhaps you are scornful of the influence that advertisement and media had on the mind of the young blogger. “She shouldn’t have listened to those things,” you say. “She should have known from the beginning.”

Maybe you’re right. The young blogger knew, to an extent, that she was worth something. She just had no idea whether the something consisted of gold or garbage or something else entirely.

She knew there were things missing, but she did not know where to find them. She knew there were things wrong, but she did not know how to fix them. It was not until she listened to strangers on the Internet that she began to understand.

“I have depression,” said one such stranger. “These are the symptoms: I am tired all the time. Sadness and happiness feel more and more like apathy, and all that is left to me is an exhausting anger at my own mind and body for not accommodating the things I would like to do with my life. I have gone to a doctor. I take pills. I am getting better.”

The blogger heard this, and it resonated within her: it was one of the things wrong and missing. She did more research, then went to a doctor, took pills, and began seeing a therapist.

She went back to the Internet to listen to more strangers. “I have anxiety,” said another stranger. “Here are the symptoms.”

The blogger went back to the doctor and got more pills, then returned to the Internet.

“I am a woman,” said another stranger, “and every day of my life I have felt like the world does not want me because I am fat.”

The blogger could not go to the doctor for this, but she understood that pain all too well.

“I am a woman who loves another woman,” said another stranger. “I want to marry her, but our families are afraid and don’t understand, so they will push us away.”

The blogger preferred men, but she had often felt that people did not understand her, so she was sympathetic. She kept listening.

“I have autism,” said another stranger, “and the world thinks I ought to be a certain way but I cannot be like that.”

“I am black,” said another stranger, “and I am never sure who I can trust. I have family and friends who are in jail or dead because they trusted the system to take care of them.”

“I am religious,” said another stranger, “and all I want is to worship God peacefully. I don’t understand why some of my faith persecute others, and I don’t understand why some of my faith are persecuted.”

“I was raped,” said another stranger, “and now I am pregnant and I cannot do this. I need to get an abortion.”

“I am Latina,” said another stranger, “and I have American citizenship but some of my friends and family do not, and I am terrified that they will be sent away.”

“I am poor,” said another stranger, “and I do not have clean water to drink or a roof over my head.”

The blogger listened to all of these people, and as she listened, she felt her heart open wider and wider. She wanted to help them so badly, but she was poor and shy and sad and tired, and she could not help the whole suffering world at once.

In desperation, she typed her own question, casting it far across the World Wide Web: “What can I do to help?”

The answers came abundantly, but they were also confusing. Some things she could do— she could continue to listen and to offer comfort and empathy where it was wanted, and to remain silent when she was not needed. That was easy.

The hard parts were something else: admitting when she had made mistakes, for instance. She tried her best to change the way she thought and spoke, so that she would not hurt people more than they were already hurt.

She tried her best to explain her changes to others, but they said “she was too sensitive” and insisted that the things she had learned were wrong or stupid or weird. They said that the things she had been told were lies, that they couldn’t be Proven By Facts.

The blogger knew that there was no way to Prove that someone sharing their experience on the Internet wasn’t lying, but she believed these strangers because they reminded her of herself: they shared the things they could not always say aloud. Their writing was raw and full of pain and heartache. She could hear that, even though it was sterile letters on a page of pixels. There were so many people sharing stories, sharing similar stories, sharing the very same experiences with different characters and settings, that the blogger was convinced that most of them were being honest. She Knew, because truth and pain are two things that are hard to fake.

And still, people did not believe her. It seemed as though, knowing that one person could not fix the world, that all of them had given up on trying.

The young blogger retreated into herself to think. She did not have any money, so she could not donate to Project RAINN or TWLOHA or the Trevor Project or Planned Parenthood. Talking to people had done no good. And despite her best efforts, there was no such thing as “recovering” from mental illness. She had days where she coped, and she had days where she couldn’t. She was already tired because of her own mind and body; the insistent prejudices of the world were doubly exhausting.

“Very well,” decided the blogger. “The things I can do are listen, and act. No more talking, no more arguing. What I must do is live as my conscience dictates, and make sure that I never turn a deaf ear to those who are less fortunate than I.”

And that is what she did. It was quiet work, and there wasn’t a whole lot of it, but sometimes she was able to make people think because of the example she set. She vowed to be kind. Sometimes she didn’t always succeed, but she did try.

The blogger had long known of her knack for words. She was bad at public speaking, but good at writing. She hoped she was doing some good in the world, by writing about things she cared about.

To this day, she has not found a job, nor has she met anyone with whom she would like to spend her life. She got several participation awards, but she never requested them and her report cards always indicated that she did not participate in class anyway. (The blogger was too shy to raise her hand in elementary school, even if she knew the answer.) She has never lived alone, but she still dreams of a decent apartment and a dog that needs her. She dreams of floral curtains on the kitchen windows, of ceiling-high bookshelves, and a good queen-size mattress.

She doesn’t even like avocados. They smell and taste like grass, water, and glue sticks pureed in a blender.

The blogger, like many people, is not entirely sure that Happily Ever After exists. The blogger simply does not have the ability to believe that Happily Ever After can exist on a day to day basis because she does not have the ability to be happy on a day to day basis.

Regardless, she is an optimist and she likes fairy tales, so she has penned a new phrase.

The blogger lived— lives. She lives Hopefully Ever After.

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Letters To My Past Selves

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Firstly, some housekeeping. I haven’t posted in like a month. I apologize, but I’ve also made an executive decision that following a posting schedule is BS unless I’m getting paid for it, and so I’m only going to post when I want to post and I will not be stressing myself out about it. Because that was what I was doing and it made me not want to post things. Now, on to the main event!

Dear pre-Earth-life, spirit Sarah: You made some decisions, kid. I don’t know what all of those decisions were, but I do know that you picked an excellent family, one that makes you feel needed and loved, and one that you need and love. So— you know, thank you. You’ve made some other decisions, and I hope that I don’t get older and look back on what I did with those decisions in mortality and go, “Wow, that was dumb.” For the record, though, I think you’ve done a great job.

Dear in-utero-Sarah: My propensity for inappropriate laughter is thanks to you. You were right-side-up, which for a fetus is upside-down, and they had to manually turn you and my mother was laughing uncontrollably the whole time. It’s one of those things that I am convinced is absorbed by osmosis because now I laugh when I shouldn’t. It is a coping mechanism for severe clinical depression, so I will allow it. And you came out okay, anyway. A little jaundiced, but quite healthy.

Dear infant Sarah: You learned to sleep well at a very young age, to the point where your mother was half convinced you were dead sometimes because you didn’t wake up at three in the morning to cry. Unfortunately for you, sleep is not something you can backlog, and in the future you will be very tired, very often. Mostly due to being sad and not producing enough neurotransmitters.

Dear one-year-old Sarah: I don’t remember anything about this time in my life, but I do know that you were full of joy. Hang on to that, kid. You’re going to need it.

Dear two-year-old Sarah: There’s not a lot of memories, still— but I’ve seen some pictures. You know, Two, you loved the heck out of your big brother. The two of you were best friends. It’s sort of adorable. He’s still one of your best friends. You fight occasionally, but it’s because you love each other so much that it hurts.

Dear three-year-old Sarah: You can read! Good job. You can also use the toilet, but that’s boring and not at all essential to your progress on the path to healthy adulthood. You already have a propensity for interesting names. Your Barbie dolls, Theresia and Evangelina and Susannah, thank you. Also, you believe that you are beautiful. Guard that belief, Three, because it’s unbelievably precious and you don’t get to keep it.

Dear four-year-old Sarah: You wear that princess costume frequently. You also have a windbreaker-sweatpants combo that make this interesting scratching noise when the fabric between your legs rubs together when you move. Yes, that is where that noise is coming from. It’s not a ghost or a tree or the wind. It’s your pants, Four. You can be so adorably stupid sometimes, but childhood is a learning process and I promise I am not judging you. (Just laughing at you. From the future.) Also, you know the big wall of mirrors in the house on Cherrywood Drive? Enjoy them now, because in the future you will hate mirrors.

Dear five-year-old Sarah: You’ve started school. I get it, I really do. School is confusing and loud and the other kids don’t understand your jokes, and on picture day you wore a really cute dress and the boy who sits next to you wore a suit and tie and everybody else said that you two were going to get married. You don’t need to cry about that, Five. Really, you don’t. He moves away after kindergarten and you never see him again. It will be okay. Also, just because you color outside of the lines on purpose sometimes doesn’t mean that you’re wrong. It just means you already have a healthy objection to categorizations like “colors belong in certain places.” The whole world is a big, beautiful rainbow and maybe the rest of them can’t see it, but you can. And you will keep seeing it for a very long time.

Dear six-year-old Sarah: You have the cutest haircut. Every adult you know tells you so. The kids your age don’t seem to agree; in fact, the one girl told you that you have “boy hair” and you cried about it— but Six, you cry about everything. Also, you wrote your first book. Remember the Young Authors program? Where you wrote a story and drew pictures and they bound it all up into a cute book for you? Yeah, you wrote a counting book.

Dear seven-year-old Sarah: This is the year you got glasses— and you promptly lost them three days later. This is a problem because you need glasses, Seven. You REALLY need glasses. It does not help that you have spent your nights reading by the extremely dim light shining through your open bedroom doorway. Stop doing that. You need your eyes. Also, you wrote another book. This one is an entirely fictional story about how your infant brother got lost in the supermarket. But you found him, because you believe in happy endings.

Cling to those happy endings, Seven. I’m begging you. I need them so badly.

Dear eight-year-old Sarah: So you moved to Red Lion this year, and everything is just— weird. You don’t have friends. At the end of the school year, that girl in your string lesson at school will be your friend. She’s a great friend. Everybody in your class thinks that you like the one boy because you played tag with him a couple of times at recess. There is nothing wrong with playing tag with a boy, and you do not have a problem. They’re the ones with the problem, Eight. They don’t know any better, so don’t judge them too harshly— but a boy and a girl can be just friends. It’s okay. At least you have Darcy the purple bear, who is your best friend and will be for a long time.

You were also baptized this year. That’s important, because it marks the beginning of your relationship with God. You knew He was real before this, but this time, it’s more important. My advice to you (not that you will take it) is to remember your baptism day as often as you can.

Dear nine-year-old Sarah: This is the year you learned that you hate math. This is unfortunate, because your father does math for a living but also because from here on out you are going to struggle with math, and therefore science, for the remainder of your education. I’m very, very sorry about it.

Also… puberty is on its way, and it’s not going to be fun. Hold on for a hot minute, Nine. You can make it and I believe in you.

Dear ten-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry.

Ten, I just— this is the year of capital-I Issues. Literally, because this is the year you get boobs and experience menarche, and on top of that you embark upon the lifelong, self-destructive train of Hating Your Own Body and you’re not going to get off that train for the next thirteen years. And even then you sometimes hang out near the tracks and ride from town to town like a hobo in the forties.

This is the year you did a report on the state of Wyoming. In the future, you will go to Wyoming and discover that it is not nearly as interesting as your report made it sound. I mean, you were on Interstate 80 the whole time, but it’s a six-hour drive from one border to the other and there’s one town along the entire highway. Also, it’s always raining.

The most important part about that report is that you stood up and gave that report in front of everyone, and it was the last time you were ever comfortable giving a report because afterward… well, afterward, one of your friends told you that two of the popular girls were laughing at you the whole time because you have hairy legs.

I’m crying for you, Ten. You didn’t know any better. You didn’t know that the cultural patriarchy had already taken an awful grasping hold on the minds of those girls and caused them to believe that body hair is the worst thing a woman can have. They didn’t know, either. But their mockery hurt you, and you asked your mother for a razor and she showed you how to use it.

Ten, you never needed to shave. Neither of those girls had to do it. One of them had light-red hair and her leg hair was invisible, and the other one had tanned skin so her leg hair didn’t show up. You had fair skin and dark body hair, and the only reason that they teased you is because it was visible.

There’s not a thing wrong with your body hair, but you don’t know that, and you’re going to spend the next ten or eleven years having a love-hate relationship with your razor before you and your therapist realize that this specific report on the state of Wyoming is the cause of half of your hang-ups about body hair.

Dear eleven-year-old Sarah: The Puberty Stagecoach took you to the Hating Your Own Body express, and that train has made a stop in Acne City. You have bumps on your face. Sometimes they have cyst-like fluid in them. Sometimes they’re just clogged pores that have become blackheads. Either way— you have acne, and it is the plague of your existence. Eleven, I am sorry to inform you that acne will remain the plague of your existence well into your twenties. It’s unfortunate. The residents of Acne City are also the drivers of the Hating Your Own Body train, and they feel the need to return home frequently. Sometimes you will hate your legs, or your arms, or your back, or your chest, or your stomach— but you will always hate your face because you can’t yet see the beauty in it under the acne and the scars.

Dear twelve-year-old Sarah: Junior high is hell, Twelve. I have no advice for you other than this: Survive.

Dear thirteen-year-old Sarah: This is the first and last time you will get a sports award for anything. You won the Presidential Fitness Award for the V-Sit, which is where you put your feet against a box and reach forward to rest your hands on a ruler on the top. This is supposedly a test of flexibility, but you have an advantage because you have short legs and a long torso and arms. This is the one time you actually enjoy something your body, Thirteen— savor the moment.

Also: that kid who was a jerk to you once in gym class, because you were afraid of getting hit by the volleyball? He’s not so bad, honestly. He’s going to date like half of your friends so you better get used to him.

Dear fourteen-year-old Sarah: So high school is okay. You see a lot of couples sucking face in the hallways, and part of you is grossed out and part of you is deeply, unreasonably jealous. Not because kissing looks all that fun, but because once these people are done making out they hold hands and walk to class together. You would like that, but you’re a hopeless romantic and you are also quiet and you believe you’re too ugly for anyone to look at you like that. It’s not going to happen.

Also, there’s this boy. I know it’s too late to give you advice now, but please don’t fall in love with him, Fourteen. It’s going to hurt you. Please.

Dear fifteen-year-old Sarah: Now that you’re busy and having fun with your friends all the time, you can sometimes forget about hating your own body. I mean, there are still moments— all of your friends are getting boyfriends and dating, and they hold hands and sometimes make out and you’re still unreasonably jealous but not that way, eww. They’re your friends. You don’t want to make out with them— you just want someone to make out with, someone who will fill this growing emptiness inside of you and tell you that you’re pretty.

Fifteen, you are never going to date in high school, and I know that sounds terrible but I promise you it is a blessing. It is protection. God is literally protecting you from getting screwed up by these emotions you don’t know how to handle. I know it’s bitter, and it’s hard to watch and not feel envious, and I know that it feels like the only reason boys don’t look at you that way is because you have thin, beautiful friends— but Fifteen. I swear you are better off. Please just trust me.

Dear sixteen-year-old Sarah: Your mother let you get contacts this year, and your hair is longer than it’s ever been. You not only feel pretty, but downright beautiful. I mean, you still get acne, but your school picture this year was the first one in five years that was not a complete travesty, and they retouch the acne away so you can pretend you are a normal, pretty, slightly overweight girl instead of the fat ugly mess you believe yourself to be.

Sixteen, I hate to burst your bubble— but you are going to cut your hair a lot in the next few years, and you are also going to go back to wearing glasses full-time. Once you get the right frames, they will make your face much thinner than contacts.

Dear seventeen-year-old Sarah: You’re nervous about getting that BYU acceptance letter. Don’t worry, you’ll get it— it just won’t come until March because BYU is really picky and your GPA was on the edge of Nope for them. Fortunately, the abundance of extracurriculars and the whole perfect seminary attendance and lettering thing did it for them. And you know, you did score a 31 on the ACT. Nice going, Seventeen. You might believe you’re ugly, but nobody’s ever said you were stupid and trust me, being smart has done more for you than being pretty.

Dear eighteen-year-old Sarah: So— college. You have a lovely roommate and four other lovely apartment-mates. You are doing your own laundry and cooking; you are going to class; you have your first job selling doughnuts and brownies at the football games. You have made some really good friends who like the same books and TV shows and movies as you. You are doing good. And you are on a huge campus with thirty-six thousand people (including the Independent Study people, so maybe it’s more like thirty thousand) and you feel invisible. It’s the best feeling in the entire world. Nobody is looking at you. Nobody cares. Yes, they’re all prettier than you and there are tall, thin women who wear six-inch-heels to class every day but nobody bats an eye at your sweatpants. Nobody cares and boy, do you feel free.

Eighteen, a small part of me now wishes I could tell you to dress up cute every day and learn to put on makeup, but the rest of me is glad that we didn’t do that. It wasn’t necessary, and if you felt like you had to do that in the future, and… well, let’s say it would have contributed to a whole host of factors playing into your depression and anxiety.

Dear nineteen-year-old Sarah: Remember how I told you not to fall in love with that boy? Well gosh dang it, if you didn’t go and fall in love with that boy. He is going to break your heart, little by little. And— here’s the thing you won’t understand right away— he isn’t even going to do it on purpose. Some of it is definitely his fault but some of it is you over-romanticizing the whole situation (which he did not know about), and the rest has to do with the Hating Your Own Body train, next stop Acne City, next stop Fatty Station. For once, a boy is making you feel pretty, and not because he says so— but because he likes spending time with you and talking to you. It is flattering and lovely, and infatuation is such a powerful drug that you can’t wait for your next hit.

Nineteen, it’s still a drug. And once you came off that high, once you realized that the relationship was toxic and bad and wrong— you crashed.

Nineteen, I told One to hang on to her joy, and I told Seven to hold her happy endings close, and I told Ten that puberty was going to be awful, and I told Twelve that junior high school was hell, and I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend. I told them those things because they were true, but I also told them those things because joy and happy endings are something you can’t see anymore. I told them that puberty and junior high were awful because those things are survivable. I told Fifteen that she was better off without a boyfriend because being single and alive is better than slowly wasting away because your heart is broken.

And Nineteen, it’s not just your heart. There’s something wrong with your head, too. You’re going to be okay, Nineteen. You’re going to be fine. Please— don’t think those things. Don’t think so loudly. Put that bottle of ibuprofen, that full bottle, back into your medicine drawer and call your mother. It’s three in the morning, but call your mother because waking her up is better than… the alternative. You’re not actually going to down that entire bottle of pills, but stop thinking about it. I know that’s not entirely in your control.

Nineteen, I’m talking you off the ledge. Listen to me.

Dear twenty-year-old Sarah: Your new medication is helping. And some other things, too. You moved apartments, and you’ve got a good job at the campus bookstore. You’re quieter now than ever, though you’ve always been quiet. Boys scare you, in a way they never did before. You guard your heart so carefully, Twenty. That’s smart, but it’s also lonely.

Remember Five? Remember how she’s always seen rainbows? The rainbows left and you didn’t even notice, until they came back. Now that you’re on medicine, the whole world looks brighter and warmer. Even rainy days just remind you of home.

Twenty, you spend a lot of time on the Internet. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, I’m glad you did. If you didn’t spend a lot of time there, you would never have learned about the body positivity movement and feminism. Those things have helped you realize that the thoughts you have about your body are— well, you’re not sure what they are, but you know they aren’t quite right.

On the other hand, you have suddenly gotten a lot jumpier. Go to the doctor for that. Anxiety medication will make you sleepy, but it will also help you if you’re about to have a panic attack. By the way: panic attacks are not fun. Also: you’ve been having those since fifth grade, but you had convinced yourself that you were just a crybaby. Don’t do that anymore, Twenty.

Dear twenty-one-year-old Sarah: I’m sorry, again. I’m sorry you couldn’t finish college. You had less than a month left in your last semester, but it was too much and you self-sabotaged because of anxiety. It’s going to be okay, Twenty-one. We’re getting you therapy, we’re getting you new medicine because Lexapro stopped working and Zoloft— well, it was quit college or talk yourself down from the ledge again. And you’ve gained thirty pounds in the last five months of college. That was Zoloft, too.

I’m sorry.

Dear twenty-two-year-old Sarah: Therapy is really amazing, isn’t it? You’ve been going for about a month and it’s already made such a difference. You haven’t talked to your therapist about your body yet— but once you both realize what’s going on, you’re going to fix this. The Hating Your Own Body train will be leaving the station— but you, Twenty-two, are going to get off the train and stay in this new place. It doesn’t have a name yet, but I suggest you call it Confidence.

Dear twenty-three-year-old Sarah: Here we are. We’ve come a long way, kid. Heartbreak, depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation— it’s not been pleasant. But you are finally starting to look back and see little spots of joy. Remember Four? She believes we’re going to be a princess. Maybe we haven’t always felt like one, Twenty-three, but Four is right. You’re a princess.

You’re still uncomfortable with your body, but you don’t hate it. You’re down to high school weight, or a little over. You still have acne, but you’ve also talked to the therapist about the whole picking-at-your-face-and-nails thing and learned that it’s a symptom of anxiety. The comedone extraction kit has been helpful, and once you get hold of a cube or a spinner, that will be even better. And you know, you graduated from college. Not a big deal, or anything. (Yes, it is. Good job on finishing college without dying.)

You’re still lonely, but you’re also beginning to understand that friendships are in some ways more important than relationships. You’ve also learned to serve people. You’ve learned that God loves you, and that even when you don’t believe you are beautiful, He knows you are. You’ve found faith in your healing, and healing in your faith. You can look at a mirror and see your bright hazel eyes and your cute little nose instead of acne scars and fat. You can look at a mirror and see acne scars and fat, and the thoughts are not “ugly and worthless” but “a set of genetic dispositions that have no actual bearing on my aesthetic appeal.”

Dear future Sarah: In June, you will be twenty-four. Sometime after that, you will be twenty-five, and twenty-six, and twenty-seven, and so on. Eventually, you will land a cool job that lets you buy a computer on which you can finally run Minecraft, and maybe someday you will meet a nice boy that thinks your acne scars and fat are just as cute as your hazel eyes and tiny nose, and maybe you’ll marry him and have babies like you’ve always wanted. And you’ll have a little house or an apartment or something, and you’ll grow old and happy.

Of course, maybe none of these things will happen. Maybe you’ll land a job that makes you want to tear your hair out but pays your bills, and maybe you rent an apartment that won’t let you have pets, and you never meet a nice boy in your whole life.

But Future Sarah… you’re still going to be happy. You can write, and you can talk to people you love. Your sister is one of your best friends, and you need her as much as she needs you. Your older brother needs you more than you think he does, but not as much as you need him. Your little brothers are growing up and they are going to be such cool adults. Your parents have always been cool, even when you were a bratty teenager, and they will continue to be cool. And you will always have extended family, and friends, and medication, and Darcy the purple bear, and the love of God.

No matter what happens, you will have such a joyful, happy life. It will be hard. There will be days where you don’t want to get out of bed, and there will be days when you don’t get out of bed, and there might even be days where you think about suicide as a viable option for getting some rest because depression always makes you tired and sleep just isn’t doing it for you. There will be weeks and months and years where you will continue to wonder if any of it is worth it.

In a moment of rare wisdom, Future Sarah— let me tell you that it is worth it. It is worth it now, it was worth it when you’ve struggled before, and it will still be worth it. It will always be worth it.

With love, fondness, exasperation, and more than a few tears,

Sarah

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

Colors

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

One of the things that people don’t always understand about me is that I am an intensely visual creature. Many of my high school friends know me as a musician; all of my college friends know me as a writer; most of the people in my life are aware that I am very right-brain, very artsy, very much a creative thinker.

I’m not good at drawing or sculpture or things like that. I can knit. Kind of. And given a pattern and fabric and several days of frustration, I can also sew. But I have an eye for color and I like coloring things. (Adult coloring books are my jam.)

I painted a 9-by-12 mural for my church’s summer camp for teenage girls. The only way I was able to do this was by transferring a grid from a picture onto the canvas and eyeballing approximately where things went inside the grid as I drew my pencil markings. After the penciling came the paint and voila, very large canvas covered in paint.

I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted artist, per se— but I can make art, with time and rulers and a great deal of erasers.

What I am gifted with is color. I have a knack for knowing which colors go well together. Sometimes my choices are— uh, eccentric, to say the least. My sister has a pair of hot-pink tights and I borrowed them once to wear with a dress that is also bright pink— it looked kind of weird, but I got nothing but compliments. I’ve also been told that I am stylish, and I’m very okay with accepting this compliment because most of my style consists of putting on as many accessories as possible to distract from me not wearing makeup or high heels most of the time.

Anyway, I like colors. Give me all of your rainbows. I have a few favorites which I have strongly considered for wedding colors for my as-yet entirely fictional wedding and I thought I would list a few of them here for you. With picture samples, so you get kind of the idea what color I’m referring to if I don’t describe it well enough.

  1. To start with, there’s purple. I’ve always loved purple. Purple is regal and royal and mysterious; purple is elegant and yet whimsical, stately but mischievous. I’m very fond of deep, dark plum purple but I also like pale lavender and lilac colors, as well as bright mid-violet.

    My favorite shade of purple is lilac, as evidenced by the following photo of my fourth-grade Halloween costume.

    SarahLilac
    The color featured here is “sarah-lilac,” produced by Abramsonola Color Company. Crayola, please don’t sue me. I WAS NINE, OKAY?

     

  2. Pink is also a favorite. It took me the longest time to admit to myself that I actually do love pink. Pink is soft and sweet and gentle— and yes, it is traditionally associated with femininity, but I believe that “softness” and “sweetness” and “gentleness” are character traits that everyone should strive to master, not just girls. I like all shades of pink, but I am especially fond of magenta.
    magenta
    Magenta (according to Google

    But I also love pale baby pink, as evidenced by the following photo of my Halloween costume when I was three (and which I proceeded to wear for the next several years, whenever possible.)

    JoySchoolHalloween
    This is a picture of my preschool-ish group, called “Joy School.” My older brother is on my immediate left (your right) as Peter Pan; I have no memory of these other boys. I, of course, am the pretty pretty princess. And yes, I literally wore this outfit for years afterward.
  3. An honorable mention that gets its own entry is the shade of pink known as ashes-of-roses. This color is also known as dusty rose, or sometimes blush. It’s pink with a slightly gray tint added— it isn’t a pure, bright pink. I like this color because I like pink and I like gray and because it reminds me of sunsets and smoothies.

    ashes of roses
    Ashes of roses (according to Google)
  4. I love bright orange. Orange is the only color I consider an acceptable shade of neon. Neon pink, yellow, and green hurt my eyes, and it feels like they’re so trendy right now. But bright orange? Absolutely. If you scroll far enough back through my Instagram feed, you’ll find a picture of my Converse All-Stars—ankle-cut and neon orange.

    neon orange
    Neon orange (according to Google)
  5. Yellow, for me, is hit-or-miss. I’ve already said I dislike neon (highlighter) yellow, and I’m honestly not too fond of a bright, lemony yellow either. But I love me some dark gold. I hate when people call it mustard, because mustard itself is brighter yellow than the harvest-gold yellow I like.

    dark gold
    Dark gold (according to Google)
  6. I like a lot of green, turquoise, and blue. I think most people do— blue is said to be the most popular color of all time. A few standouts for me are: jade, mint, teal, baby blue, royal blue, and navy. (You know, all of the trendy Pinterest wedding colors.)

  7. I have surprised myself and other people by telling them how much I like brown. Some people see brown as dead and boring, but I think brown is so alive. Chocolate brown is always a good one— Hershey’s Milk chocolate does that precise, perfect color that makes your mouth water when you see it. I love a dark, nearly black-brown; I love reddish mahogany brown; I love pale golden-brown. Brown is so PRETTY.

  8. I do love gray, black, and white as well but I am especially fond of gray. There is something so soft and classy about it.

    gray
    Gray (according to Google)

I didn’t feel like writing a much longer post than this, so I’m just wrapping this up now. I love colors, and I love looking at the world and seeing all of these colors. (And I apologize to any person who may be color-blind and excluded by this post. I offer you hugs and Internet cookies to hopefully make up for it.)

If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.

Miracles

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s been eleven days since I last blogged, but I actually have two good reasons: this last Sunday was Easter and I spent the holiday in Virginia with my family, my extended family, and a Considerable Lack of Internet. This is a good thing, believe it or not; sometimes it’s just best to get away from it all.

And last week, Thursday April 13th, I was in a car accident and once I got home I simply did not feel like blogging. I would say I’m sorry about it, but I’m really not.

The accident happened, ironically, on my way home from therapy. At this particular therapy appointment, I admitted to my lovely therapist, “You know, driving isn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was.” She smiled and agreed and we talked about fears, risk-taking, and the psychological payoffs for risk-taking that often outweigh the fears that prevent us from taking those risks in the first place.

The universe saw fit to punish me for such a blasphemy, of course, and as I tried to get on the highway I chickened out and failed, looped back around underneath to try again, and made a left turn into an intersection. A series of events then happened, and I’m not sure I can accurately describe them because I don’t know if I’m remembering accurately. I’ll do my best, though.

What I think happened is that the light turned green and I went into the intersection, turning left (on a green arrow, it was totes legal) and somehow failed to see the police officer’s truck that had come to a stop in the middle of the intersection. By the time I saw the truck and comprehended the need for action, I was probably somewhere between six inches and a foot away from the back of the officer’s truck. I believe I turned my wheel a little bit, but only after a lot of crunching sounds and some slight movement on the part of the truck did I remember that I had brakes, and promptly used them.

I was more surprised than anything. The first thing I thought was, and I hope he forgives me for thinking this, “Oh my God, Dad is going to be so angry.” (Forgiveness being hoped for because 1) I was thinking the Lord’s name in vain and 2) I assumed that my dad was going to be angry.)

Then I realized that the front of Gerald, my beloved little old-man car, was the thing that had been making crunching sounds.

At this point, the police officer I had hit got out of her truck and walked back to look at me. She was a bit older, and she looked a little bit annoyed but I remember looking at her and fumbling to open my door, and the first thing I said was, “I am so sorry, I’m so sorry, sorry, sorry—”

And then her face changed. She’d been squinting against the sunlight and it made her look a little bit angry— maybe she was angry. But her face seemed to soften and she just said, “Are you all right?”

I said, “Yes, I’m just fine.”

Because I was. I’d been doing something between thirty and thirty-five probably, and I hit the back of a truck with the front of my car and the front of my car crumpled like tissue paper, but the airbags didn’t go off. The only thing that happened inside of my car was that the check engine light went on.

The officer nodded and said, “Okay, that’s good,” and she went back to her car. I’m pretty sure she radioed for the aid of another officer, because about twenty seconds later there was another police car right behind us. This officer was a tall man with a mustache. He also asked me, “Are you all right?” I said, again, “Yes, I’m fine.” At this point the shock and anxiety set in and I started crying. (Until I say otherwise, you can assume that I am crying during the rest of this story.)

The female officer pulled her truck away a little bit. Gerald shuddered, but nothing happened. The mustachioed police officer directed me to try and drive Gerald over to the right-most lane, under the highway bridge. I was able to drive Gerald over and park him along the curb. The truck parked behind me. I put my hazard lights on and stared out the window and took off my sunglasses and proceeded to call my mother.

My mother answered the phone. I said, as clearly as I could manage, “Mom, I’ve been in an accident. A car accident. I’m fine, I’m not hurt at all. I need you to come and get me.”

Those were the important things to say, I think; I was able to get those things out clearly and loudly despite the fact that I was underneath a highway, surrounded by busy traffic. I told her vaguely where I was.

The mustachioed police officer told me that he was getting another officer to fill out the incident report, and that he was going to call a tow truck because my car didn’t look driveable. He asked me if I wanted to stay here under the bridge, or if I wanted to go with the tow truck driver. I elected to go with the tow truck driver, and I called my mother again to update her with this information. The tow truck driver hadn’t arrived and I didn’t know where he would be towing Gerald and I, but I told my mother I would let her know when I had an address.

Another police officer arrived to do the incident report. This guy was younger and I remember he had a really kind face. He came over to the passenger-side of my car and I opened the door to talk to him.

“So, can you tell me what happened?” he asked.

My response: “Um, yeah. I was trying to get on the highway and it didn’t really work because I was in the wrong lane to begin with and I kind of err on the side of caution when I change lanes because I hate doing it because I’m new at driving and so I looped under the first bridge back there, and instead of taking the other loop to get back onto the highway ramp I, like an idiot, went to the intersection instead and I didn’t realize she’d stopped but I’m pretty sure it’s completely my fault anyway because the driver behind is always at fault and I’m really sorry.”

Yes, this was probably all one sentence; yes, it was probably exactly as incoherent as I wrote it; and yes, I said I was sorry again; and yes, I told the police officer it was my fault. Because whether or not the female police officer had made a stupid decision by stopping in the middle of the intersection, my opinion didn’t matter, and anyway I was the driver behind. Legally, I was at fault.

Also, I’m pretty sure the babbling was due to what was more or less a full-blown panic attack, but I knew I couldn’t take my medicine yet because it would make me sleepy and I couldn’t go to sleep yet, as much as I would have liked to close my eyes and not wake up Until The Nightmare Was Over.

The kind-faced police officer was quiet for a couple of seconds, and then he said, “Okay. Thank you. Can I see your license, registration, and insurance information?”

I handed them over. “Yes, here they are.”

“Thank you, ma’am. I’ll be back soon.” He left.

Meanwhile, I moved over to the passenger seat of my car, turned off the engine, and continued to cry.

I heard a noise and saw the female officer pull her truck out into traffic and drive away. I kind of stared at the back of her truck, but I couldn’t see any indication whatsoever that her vehicle had been damaged. Heck, I couldn’t even see a paint scratch.

The mustachioed officer left as well, and I was left with the kind-faced officer, who came back with my information and some papers. I opened the door to take my stuff.

He handed me a paper. “So, you were at fault.”

Me (quietly, taking the paper): “Yeah, I thought so.”

Cop: “We’re letting you off with a warning, and we’re not going to ticket you.”

Me (with renewed tears and sobbing): “Really? Thank you, thank you so much.”

Cop: “It’s failure to control your vehicle. You’re going to have to be sure you can do that in the future.”

Me (incoherently babbling): “Okay, I’ll do that, absolutely, thank you so much, thank you.”

Cop: (kind of half-laughing): “You’re welcome. The tow truck is on its way. I’ll stay here in my car until it arrives, and you said you were going with the tow truck, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m going with the tow truck.”

Cop: “All right. You just hang in there.”

Me: “Thank you so much.”

He left and I kept my door open because it was starting to get kind of warm outside. I sat there crying and praying and thinking, “Okay, maybe Dad isn’t going to be quite as angry.”

The tow truck driver arrived, and he was this short little dark-haired guy with a beard and glasses and he smiled at me and I felt instantly safe. I didn’t know why, because he was a complete stranger and I tend to err on the side of not trusting people. I gave him Gerald’s key, he gave me a business card, and I called my mom while watching him drive my tissue-paper car up his little ramp and fasten belts around the tires. I read the address of the garage off the business card and my mom plugged it into her GPS. Then I climbed up into the extremely tall cab of the tow truck and put my seatbelt on.

Tow Truck Driver: “Did you call your ride?”

Me: “Yeah, I just got off the phone with my mom. She’s coming to pick me up at the garage.”

TTD: “That’s good, you’ve got somebody to come and get you.”

Me (tearing up again, dang it): “Yeah.”

TTD (probably seeing me start to cry again and feeling kind of bad): “You know, I have to come tow people from under this bridge about once a week. You’re not the first person I’ve towed in a situation exactly like this. In fact, my wife did the same thing just the other week.”

I think it was then I really realized that this tow truck driver was an extraordinarily kind man, because he went out of his way to say something kind to me. And also I learned that he was married and that made me feel instantly more comfortable about getting in a truck with a male stranger.

I can’t remember the specifics of the conversation, but the driver continued to chat with me for about half of the trip to the garage and then stayed quiet for the latter half. I was grateful, because he had his air-conditioning up on full. It was quiet and cool and sunny and I could finally feel my body start to calm down a little bit, could at last feel my lungs getting the right amount of air.

We got to the garage, and I went inside and called my mom to tell her we’d gotten to the garage. I had to wait for a little while for her to arrive, but I was also able to go out to the impound yard to get some of the important things out of the car. I have no experience knowing how damaged a car is by looking at it, and it looked kind of bad, but the people in the garage were saying that they didn’t know if it was a total loss because the airbags hadn’t gone off.

I slipped out of the impound yard and saw my mom walking away from her van. I called out to her and walked over and you know, I really thought I was done crying. But I wasn’t.

There’s something about finding a person you love after you’ve been through something awful or lonely or both. No matter how long it’s been, no matter where in the world you are, it feels like coming home.

I’ll spare you the boring details about insurance and adjustors and evaluations and phone calls, but on Tuesday we got word back from our insurance that Gerald was definitely a total loss and we needed to empty him out of everything so that he could be taken to salvage. My dad took off work yesterday to go and empty Gerald out, and he came back with the most amazing news.

Here’s the thing: Gerald was a piece of crap. I called him a “little old man car” because he was a 2000 Honda Civic that needed full gas to go twenty-five up a hill. My sister actually named him Gerald because he smelled funny (like an old man, so she gave him an old man name). My parents bought Gerald because my brother needed a car when he was living at home, and they assumed that I could also learn to drive on Gerald and we could both use him for work. My brother moved out to Utah nearly a year ago now, and I became Gerald’s primary driver because I learned to drive on him. I got my license exactly three months ago today, and in the last three months I have done a lot of errand-running and a lot of chauffeuring my youngest brother around because he has Extra-Curricular Activities Of Vital Importance To Eighth Grade.

My parents paid about four thousand dollars for Gerald. The insurance took five hundred bucks for a deductible, but they gave us thirty-eight hundred as his worth before the accident— which means we got thirty-three hundred bucks.

I’m religious, if you haven’t noticed. I’m a Christian— a Latter-Day Saint, to be exact. (A Mormon, colloquially.) I was baptized around the age of eight, like most Mormon children— we consider that the age of accountability. I mostly did that because I was expected to, and also because I had a childlike faith in my parents. I don’t know if I really believed as a teenager, or if I was just going through the motions because it was expected of me. I do know that I tended to value my high school experiences much more than my church experiences, as a teenager.

I don’t think I really believed until I had nowhere else to turn. In late 2012 and early 2013 I was going through some of the most awful experiences of my life and struggling to realize that I needed help— specifically, medication and therapy.

Once I began to get the help I need, I was able to look at my experiences with the perspective of a survivor. I hadn’t actually made an attempt to kill myself, but I’d thought about it quite seriously (as a person does, when they have suicidal thoughts) and come to the conclusion that it would be more inconvenient for people to clean up after and mourn the mess of a life I would be leaving behind. So I kept struggling to live.

It hurt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt and it was like Swimming Through Molasses. It was slow and dark and uncomfortable and I couldn’t see ahead of me or behind me and I couldn’t breathe. But somehow, I found the strength to keep going. I know now that it was not my own strength. If I’d just tried to rely on myself, I would never have made it this far. It was only through God that I could keep going.

I have to come to see late 2012 through the end of 2014 as a miracle. I was at college, on the other side of the country as my family, and I wanted to die and my medications sometimes didn’t stop me from wanting to die and I was doing sixteen credits per semester and holding down a part-time job, twenty hours a week and I was walking up to the health center once a month to renew my medication prescription and I was trying to schedule therapy at BYU’s very, very overbooked Therapy and Counseling Center (or whatever it’s called, I can’t remember anymore) and somehow, I came to the realization that I couldn’t do it, and I came home to begin the long, arduous, and oddly boring process of mental and emotional healing.

Late 2012 through 2014 was a big miracle, and 2015 through now was another big miracle, and in this incident, in this car crash, I count several small miracles that add up to a very large miracle:

1. I wasn’t injured in the car accident.
2. The female police officer wasn’t injured in the car accident.
3. My airbags didn’t go off.
4. The other car was probably barely even scratched.
5. The female police officer didn’t yell at me or get angry.
6. The mustachioed police officer also did not yell at me or get angry.
7. The kind-faced police officer did not give me a ticket.
8. The kind-faced police officer let me off with a warning.
9. All of the police officers were nice.
10. The tow truck driver was even nicer.
11. The other people at the garage were also very nice.
12. I was able to adult by myself until my mom arrived, and I did a pretty darn good job at it even though I was extremely traumatized and mid-panic attack.
13. The insurance people were also very nice.
14. Gerald cost $4000 and was a total, but we got $3300 from insurance.
15. My dad has not once been angry with me about any of this situation.
16. My dad kept the collision insurance on Gerald in anticipation of an event like this.
17. We are in a better place financially than we were when we originally got Gerald, so when we are able to look into getting another car, it may end up being a much better car. (Sorry in advance to my brother, who will undoubtedly resent me for this as Gerald was originally purchased for his use.)
18. Everybody I know has been extremely kind to me about it, and some wonderful people have even given me rides to and from places.
19. Driving my mother’s minivan has not been as completely terrible as I thought it would be, and I am slowly getting used to it.

Nineteen little miracles, all of which add up to another big miracle. As my dad put it: “This was the best possible outcome for a car accident.” It kind of sucks that it had to happen at all— but since it did happen, I could not have asked for a better outcome. It’s one of many things that proves to me that God is real, and that He loves me and wants to take care of me when I can’t do it myself.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

Creations of Fandom

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

Here’s the thing: I’m a fangirl. I don’t go out of my way to advertise this about myself, but I don’t try to hide it, either.

I read a book, watch a movie or a movie series, play a video game, and I fall in love with the characters and the story and the lessons. I fall so hard that I, and people like me, take to the Internet on places like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, DeviantArt, etc. to talk about these things, to point out the cool little things we notice that maybe a more casual consumer doesn’t, to appreciate this thing that we all love and have in common.

That’s the definition, in my opinion. Your mileage may vary.

However, many people think that fandoms are weird. Objectively, this is true. We get obsessive about universes that don’t exist and people who are not real. That’s kind of quirky. I don’t deny it.

I find it ironic, however, that the people who think your love for a book/series/movie/video game/ TV show/comic book/tabletop game/blog/webcomic/webseries/YouTube channel/podcast is weird— well, they are often the people who are Very Adamant about the Life-Changing Importance of their Chosen Sportsball Team.

Now, I’m not denigrating sportsball of any variety. I was in the marching band for three years of high school and I did enjoy attending football games. I’m just pointing out the hypocrisy here: sportsball fans go to or watch games and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Sportsball Team and talk to other people about it. People who are part of media fandoms go to events or view their media and cheer for their favorites and buy merch and emotionally connect with the success or failure of their Chosen Media Fandom and talk to other people about it.

That being said, I’m here today to talk about some of the amazing things that media fandoms accomplish.

We have to start with the classic: fanfiction. Fanfiction is OLD AS HECK. If you think it’s some weird new phenomenon where teenage girls write stories about their favorite characters in their favorite YA paranormal romance, you would be dead wrong. One of the most famous examples I can think of is The Divine Comedy, written by Italian poet Dante Alighieri and published after his death in 1472. The Divine Comedy is a trilogy of narrative poetry about a tour of hell, purgatory, and heaven— or, as you might know them, Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

What makes this fanfiction is that the main character is, in fact, Dante Alighieri himself. This is what is known as self-insert fic, where you write yourself into your fanfiction story because you want to be the sexy alien of the week who actually joins the Starship Enterprise and marries Captain Kirk instead of being just one of his many flings. Dante wrote himself into the story so that he got to interact with many notable historical figures, saints, politicians, and European nobility. (All of whom are dead, but that’s beside the point.)

In Inferno, Dante’s tour guide through hell is the Roman poet Virgil, the author of the Aeneid. Virgil and Dante are nowhere close to being contemporaries— Virgil lived from 70 BC to 19 AD and Dante was born in the year 1265 AD— but they become friends on their trip through the nine circles of hell. As Dante travels through the earth (because apparently the nine circles of hell are located inside the mantel of the earth), emerges on the other side at the base of Mount Purgatory (which is apparently in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, directly across the globe at the furthest point from Jerusalem), and climbs Mount Purgatory where he ascends to space and sees Paradise (which is apparently located in the Milky Way and has different sections categorized by the planets of our solar system), he and Virgil get to know one another and become friends. Virgil has to leave him about halfway through Purgatorio because Virgil was a heathen Roman and technically belonged in Limbo (but was permitted to show Dante around by virtue of being Dante’s favorite author). Dante’s guide at this point is Beatrice, who finishes up Purgatorio and takes him to see Paradiso. Beatrice was a woman who like Dante was from Florence, Italy. Dante met her in childhood and admired her from far away— and then immortalized her in verse. (This is after the fashion of “courtly love,” the ideal of pining over your crush, which is noble and godly, instead of telling them you like them, which is sordid and vulgar. Basically, me.)

Dante was also involved with some political intrigues of his day— Italy at the time was split between the Ghelphs and the Ghibellines. Quick history lesson: the Ghelphs supported the Papacy and the Ghibellines supported the Holy Roman Emperor; there was fighting, there was silliness; the Guelphs split into the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs; then Dante, a White Guelph, was exiled from Florence at the order of Pope Boniface VIII, who supported the Black Guelphs. Dante was really angry about this, and it shows in The Divine Comedy because all of the people he liked and supported were shown to be in purgatory or heaven, while all of his political opponents and people he disliked were shown to be in hell. In fanfiction, you can change the reality to suit you. The Divine Comedy is absolutely, one hundred percent self-insert fanfiction.

As we look at the history of literature, you can see that fanfiction is prominent. The famous poem Paradise Lost, by John Milton, is literally fanfiction of the Bible, specifically the events of the Garden of Eden. This form of fanfiction is what is known as a retelling— when you say, “No, wait, it actually happened like this.” Without Milton, we might never have gained the cultural image of Satan being an oddly charming fellow, which makes sense because how else would he be so successful? (Seriously though. Read Paradise Lost; Lucifer is one of the best characters in it.)

Star Trek launched a fanfiction movement in the sixties. It was mostly done in letter-writing communities, but you had excited fans writing stories to each other about things that could have happened on the starship Enterprise. As the Internet became a thing, people created websites and forums to share their work and their excitement, and now you could probably search fanfiction for literally any book, movie, or TV show and find results.

However… you may not like what you find.

Look, fanfiction already has stigmas. It’s not “original” and sometimes networks and producers aren’t sure if you’re trying to make a quick buck off of it or not. So the community stays in this sort of quiet, hidden place, and what happens in that place is that you get a lot of people writing pornographic material. I’m not going to get into detail, but Rule 34 of the Internet states that: “If it exists, there is porn of it.” In my forays into fic I have done my best to avoid porn, but it is there. Studies which I’m not citing because I don’t remember where to find them have shown that men prefer visual or “hard” pornography, but women prefer written or “soft” pornography; if you don’t believe me, consider Fifty Shades of Gray and the demographic of its audience. (It’s pretty much women.) And because fanfiction is a quiet place, you also get things that are made for communities who do not find media targeted to them. The LGBTQ+ community, in particular, takes advantage of this. Because you don’t often find anything except heterosexual characters in mainstream fiction media, fanfiction becomes a place to explore: “What if this character was gay?” This isn’t because the gays are out to get you or anything stupid like that. They just don’t see themselves in the media. The question is not “What if this character was gay?”, but “What if this character was like me?” As a person who has often felt alone and isolated, I have great sympathy for people who ask this question.

In summation: if you find my explanation of fanfiction fascinating, and you can think of a few books or movies you love and would like to see fanfic for— expect to find porn. Expect to find gay porn. You can find PG, heterosexual material if you look for it but proceed with caution, because you will almost certainly come across things you didn’t intend to see. You have been warned.

However, fanfiction is not the only thing that fans create to show their love, obsession, appreciation, and support. Fan conventions are a big thing— events made by fans, for fans. Ever heard of Comic-Con? The best one is in San Diego, but you can find them in pretty much every major city in the USA. At conventions you see all kinds of fan creations. You get cosplayers— people who devote unbelievable amounts of time to making costumes, obtaining wigs, and learning makeup skills so that they can dress up as a character they love. It’s Halloween on steroids and I love it.

Fan art goes along with fanfiction. The PG stuff is very easily found, and you can often find it on Facebook where someone has shared it from their Pinterest account or something like that. There is also rated-R fan art. It’s the Internet— Rule 34 will always apply. If it exists, there is porn of it and if you go looking for it, it’s there. I advise you not to go looking for it, because some things can be forgotten but not unseen.

My favorite form of fan-created work is devoted to video games. Video games are an interesting type of media because they are entirely interactive. You have choices about what you do in a video game. Some games have more choices than others, but they all have choices. Sometimes the choices even affect the outcome of the game. When you have a fan that is devoted to this form of media and decides to create something related to it, the something can come in a few different forms.

Mods are fun. If you’ve ever played Garry’s Mod, you might know that it’s a physics engine developed from the coding of the video game Half-Life 2. Garry’s Mod is very elaborate and has had a lot of successful derivatives— Murder, Prop Hunt, etc. I would venture to guess that Garry’s Mod is the most famous video game mod. The PC version of Minecraft has TONS of available mods made by fans. If my computer were not a complete potato, it would run Minecraft and I would try to get some of the mods I’ve seen used: Biomes O’ Plenty, OreSpawn, Chisel and Bit, DecoCraft, BiblioCraft, Mr. Crayfish’s Furniture Mod, Ars Magica, Botania, Witchery, Tinker’s Construct, Immersive Engineering, Mekanism, Forestry, Applied Energistics, Ender IO, Galacticraft— to name but a few that look really, really cool. Seriously, there are hundreds.

And then sometimes you have fanmade games. Pokemon, a favorite franchise of mine, has quite a few of these. The idea of Pokemon is that you have a lot of little (or not so little) animals that have elemental or magical powers, and you train them to become powerful and form a close bond and beat other people. Yes? Okay. Now, the fun part is when you get people who love Pokemon so much that they do some coding with RPG Maker or some other video game design programs, and they put together a Pokemon game with original characters, a new story, and sometimes completely new and made-from-scratch fake Pokemon (Fakemon, as they’re known). I love fanmade games because they are such creative endeavors. I’m an author and a musician and sometimes an artist and I love to see what other people make. Fanmade Pokemon games are absolutely fantastic. I’m currently playing Pokemon Uranium, one of the few completed games, and it’s brilliant— story, characters, music, Fakemon, everything. Pokemon Zeta and Omicron are also complete. They don’t have Fakemon, but they do have a ton of the existing Pokemon. I don’t love them the way I love Uranium, but they are very good. The maker of Zeta/Omicron is currently working on Pokemon Insurgence, which at this point is a demo version with six available gyms. Insurgence is not for the faint of heart— it’s dark and gritty, there’s death and cults and blood sacrifices and it’s rated PG-13 at the very least. It’s also very difficult, but I’m enjoying it. Again, there’s no original Pokemon— but they do have some twists on the ones in existence. And Pokemon Ethereal Gates is a demo version with only two gyms, but it has all-original Pokemon and music and I love that little bit I’ve played far, far more than even Uranium. I am so excited for the full version to come out.

I like fan creations because they are a labor of love. Legally, you cannot profit from fanfiction, fan art, or a fanmade video game without breaking copyright law. So the people who make these things? They do it for free, and they do it for fun. I am a person who writes and plays music and creates things for fun, and I know for a fact that creatives are my favorite types of people. Both of my parents are creative. My older brother is creative. My sister is creative. My two younger brothers are creative. Many of my extended family are creative. I have a ton of creative friends. And the celebrity role models I have (which is different than just liking a celebrity, but I won’t get into that today) are creative people.

If I met these people who write fanfiction, draw fan art, and make mods and video games— if I met the fans, the cosplayers, the writers and the artists and the crafters— I would be at home. They are my people. They love the things they do, and they love hard. As someone who has always loved too hard for her own good, I admire that.

Have a lovely day, and may you take just as much satisfaction from the things you love as I do.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

Writing Progress: March

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

It’s time for another Writing Progress post! I have to admit, I have not gotten a lot of writing done this month. I’ve been sick, and I’ve been working on applying for jobs and things. I’m not going to lie— it’s been a bit rough.

But I do want to write a proper blog post, and I do sort of have a topic in mind. Today I want to talk about how my mental health affects my writing, because it’s very clear to me that it does.

They say that all the great artists and writers and musicians had some kind of mental illness, or something that caused them to suffer. And I won’t lie— I think there’s truth in the idea, that suffering often produces art. Some of my best work has come from my most painful experiences, and I think that holds true for many other creators. I think that suffering allows us to experience empathy, and I think it empathy that enables us to create art and literature and music that people really connect with. I think when we feel something, as we create, we will cause other people to feel something, as they view our creations.

With that in mind: I can’t write when I’m really depressed or really anxious.

If I’m just a little sad, or just a little worried, then I’m fine. In fact, that usually helps, because I can channel that. I can focus that, in the way I’ve already described.

But if I’m having one of those days where it feels like every limb is weighed down by an ocean and my brain is swept over with fog and crumbs— then, no. I can’t write when I’m like that. All I do on those days is lie in bed and watch videos on my phone. Sometimes I read, or play video games. Sometimes I do those things when I’m healthy— but when I’m feeling better, I’d rather be writing.

I’m kind of working on this story about a girl, Caroline, who’s dealing with PTSD after a war. For once, I’d like the romance to take a backseat to Caro’s experience as a soldier, and as a person with both physical and mental illness. She was shot and got an honorable discharge; her best friend and sort-of boyfriend was killed. Caro’s dealing with survivor’s guilt, she’s using a cane and she’s got a sling on, and she’s also dealing with the Regency-style expectations for a woman of the upper-middle class, the expectations of Matrimony and Motherhood. These expectations are not inherently bad— in fact, she would quite like to get married and have kids; but the pressures that they sometimes produce are less than desirable. In order to experience Matrimony, Caro has to Attract Suitors, and in order to do that she has to Wear Skirts and Be Charming and Elegant and Ladylike. Again, these things are not necessarily bad. But Caro is a soldier, has been for a few years, and she prefers to Wear Pants and Be Blunt and Honest and Comfortable, and these are traits associated with masculinity. She has to deal with the expectations of her family, the expectations of her friends, and the expectations of society in general; these things go against what she actually wants.

It’s always more fun to write a female character who defies society’s expectations. And most women actually don’t conform to those expectations— when you get to know any given woman, on an individual level, you will probably learn that there is something she resents about society’s expectations. For some women, it’s this idea that they’re expected to become wives and mothers. That’s fine— they don’t have to. Some women want to be wives and mothers, but resent being told that they have to be. And some women resent the expectation of fitting a certain physical standard for beauty, and some women resent the expectation of modern sexual practices, and some women resent objectification, and so on and so forth, you get my point. Society tells women that they have to be mothers and wives, but also career women and beauties, educated but not too smart, alluring but modest, and most importantly, quiet. Different women will resent different parts of this hypothetical and impossibly perfect woman, to whom we are all expected to conform. I resent different things than my mother does, and she resents different things than her friends, and my friends resent different things than me. We’re all different.

But it’s even more fun to write a female character who uses society’s expectations to surprise people. A perfect example of this character is found in Marvel Comics, and more recently the MCU. I’m talking about the Black Widow, or Agent Natasha Romanoff of S.H.I.E.L.D. She’s a beautiful woman (and so is Scarlett Johanssen), she’s intelligent and talented and a deadly assassin and an expert spy. She uses her beauty and her body to do her job: by putting on a soft, squishy feminine front facade, she’s able to learn things and to manipulate people. She uses society’s expectations to get what she wants— and then usually she stabs them and leaves, because it’s comic books and movies and she’s an assassin.

I’m not writing my character, Caro, as an assassin. She knows how to kill people; she’s a soldier and a fire mage and she’s done what one must do in a time of war. She doesn’t use femininity to surprise people. In fact, I would go so far as to say she uses masculinity. Caro is, at her core, what society defines as feminine. She likes the color pink (which is traditionally associated with femininity okay), she’s kind of shy, she’s clever and mischievous but soft-spoken, she smiles a lot, she makes people feel comfortable. Not all of this is immediately apparent, because that’s Caro when she’s healthy— and Caro, with a cane and a sling and PTSD, is arguably unhealthy at the moment. But she’s a soldier, and she’s also tall and thin— army training gave her a more muscular form and she’s grown to prefer her army uniform to a dress. She presents a more masculine appearance to the world, which is the opposite of what a Regency-style society would expect— and that causes people to avoid her, which is what she wants. With the space and privacy she prefers, she has room to be feminine and feel safe about it. Presenting a feminine appearance invites suitors and suggests to the average man that Caro is “just a woman;” but Caro, like all women, is not “just a woman” and by manipulating the way people perceive her, she can gain some control over them.

This isn’t unique to Caro. A lot of women do this, in real life. Some of us like pink, but we pretend that we prefer blue, that we’re “just one of the guys.” Some of us like blue, but we pretend that we prefer pink so that other women will accept us. Some of us like purple and yellow and orange and we feel out of place.

And then you get guys who say things like “You’re not like other girls,” and I hate that because there is no ‘other girls’ to be like. We’re all different. I’m sensitive and intellectual and fat and I’m just as much of a woman as Scarlett Johanssen. And she is just as much of a woman as me. And every woman you know is different, but their way of being a woman is just as valid as mine or Scarlett Johanssen’s.

This went from mental health to gender roles and stereotypes, and I don’t mind that because gender plays a role in mental health. If we could just stop expecting certain things from each other, we would all be so much healthier. I try to live by the rule of “Never make assumptions.”

I try to do that when I write, especially. I mean, I’m writing heterosexual romance and there are of course going to be some things that are Traditionally Masculine and things that are Traditionally Feminine, but I try to— well, not blur the lines exactly, but to suggest that they are an imaginary construct of a patriarchal society. Because I’m a feminist it doesn’t matter if a boy likes pink or a girl likes blue, and it doesn’t matter if a woman wears a skirt or trousers. She’s still a woman.

I have plans and hopes and dreams for Caro. I want her to live and to love and to hope, which is something I want for every woman and every man, too. If I could write you all, it would be so much easier to let you have the good things you deserve. Since I can’t write, I shall instead offer you my best wishes, for life and love and hope.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

Birthday Interviews: Sewage

Hello, and welcome back to the blog!

I didn’t post on Thursday because I have been suffering from a Random Spring Illness since about Tuesday. It began with a sore throat and headaches, which took backseats to an accumulation of phlegmatic material in my upper story; but at this point it’s mostly coughing and headaches. I have moved my posting schedule back a day, with an exception for the “regularly scheduled” pieces like the name thingy and the writing progress thingy.

Yes, I am very elaborate when I’m sick.

So, this interview is with my mom, and I will just be very honest with you: my mom is literally my favorite person on this entire planet. She is very, very very closely followed by the rest of my family, but my mom is my favorite person and probably my best friend. As you read through this article, you will see where I get a lot of my writing style. The way I write is similar to the way I talk; the only difference is that I don’t generally include conversational fillers unless I’m recording an exact conversation. I’ve included my mom’s conversational fillers because we have very similar speaking styles and by reading what she’s saying, you can sort of picture the way I speak. That is, when I bother speaking.

The title of this post comes from my mom’s habit of putting the suffix “-age” onto words it doesn’t belong to. Like you have cabbage and triage and pilgrimage, and other words of that sort that actually have that suffix; but my mom adds it to like, everything. Foodage. Sleepage. Drinkage. And my favorite is the article/adverb “so,” which she uses as a constant conversational filler; and then it becomes “so-age” which then becomes “sewage,” and not in the original meaning of that word. I like to helpfully remind her of the original meaning of the word by adding “raw sewage” whenever she says that. I’m such a charming, mature woman, I know.

Anyway, here is her birthday interview. Because she tends to be a bit more verbose than my brother, I have included less in the way of author’s notes. Please enjoy.
S: Are you here because you have willingly consented to this journalistic piece, or because you are being bribed?

T: I want to be here. (Author’s note: she actually did seem kind of excited to do this. I don’t know if it was because she likes helping me or because she actually likes the idea.)

S: What day is your birthday?

T: March 23rd.

S: How old are you turning?

T: Fifty-three. Prime number. Dad says this will be one of my best years. (Author’s note: my father is a mathematician and he likes prime numbers. )

S: What did you get/want for your birthday?

T: So, that’s really hard to say, because… I mean, I don’t really, you know, get things. But any time I want something, I can have it. Know what I mean? And I’m a spoiled rotten child, in that way. My husband gave me the sweet potato and flowers, and that was really nice. So I got three new audiobooks. I got the latest Sarah Eden book, which was interesting because it’s in continuation of a series that I’ve already started, so that’s cool. I also got another Melanie Dickerson book, and I’ve enjoyed all her books. They’re very much alike, but somehow I still like every single story that she writes, so. I also got some new shoes, because my exercise shoes— once they get worn, I just need good shoes for my wretched feet. So I got new exercise shoes, except I forgot to use them. And I got more stuff than that, but anyway. Those are some of the things I got. I had some fun, I shared treats with most of my piano students that day and that was kind of fun. I would have liked to have six pans of cinnamon rolls ready, but I… didn’t do that. But I had pies in the fridge and I thought you know what, I’ll get those out. It was fun. And my husband is a great gift every day of the year. (Author’s very fond note: Ewwwwwww.)

potato

(Pictured above: the aforementioned sweet potato, a birthday gift from my father to my mother.)

S: What are your hobbies?

T: Define hobby.

S: I would say that a hobby is something you enjoy doing, whether or not you have time for it.

T: There’s a lot of answers to this question. I hope you don’t get to two thousand words in this thing and say “no more!” I like books. I like reading, and I like a lot of different kinds of reading. I do, um, do the escape reading, which is to think about something else. But I do enjoy my daily spiritual reading, which I do partly out of obligation and partly voluntary as well. I know it just helps me stay a lot healthier than I would otherwise, in every sense of the word “health.” Of course, the music is always something I’m going to do probably every day, whether I have time or not. Again, it’s scheduled into my day, because it’s work. Sometimes that’s all I get to do, but I still love it, every time I do it. It just so happens that I get to get paid for some of that, which is quite a bonus. It’s really fun. It’s one of the best things my mom ever did for me, is give me that. I like any sort of creative activity. That comes in several different ways. I like sewing, creating; I like certain other crafts, creating; I’ve done some composition and arrangement (music); even food I consider to be creative, cooking. I like doing those things. I need to focus on making my work in the kitchen one hundred percent healthy but still, there’s a lot of ways to use creativity and I like it, regardless of what form it’s in. I wouldn’t call church or family a hobby, but I’m grateful for all the time I can spend serving the Lord and being with family.

S: Would you say you’re more of a dreamer or a doer?

T: *laughs* Oh, man. That’s a really hard question, for me. I think it would be really interesting to know how other people might answer the question about me. I can work, really hard and diligently, another gift my parents gave me. Especially when I feel like I know what it is I either need or want to do. I can get a job done. Part of me is still what I was at about the age of six, which was this totally innocent, naive child who believes in everything that’s ideal. So I’ve had my heart broken over my life when things weren’t that way. Because I have this part of me that just likes to think that everything can be a certain way. It can be perfect. Not that I’ve ever achieved that, or anything close… but, you know, it’s what draws me to romance in stories. I like thinking about the concept of true love, and I like reading about it. Most books, of course, don’t get into true love. Which is what you see in your parents after fifty-plus years of marriage. So I think I’m almost equal parts, because I can work really hard, but I also, you know, my mind goes off on all these idealistic dreams.

S: What’s your favorite period of history?

T: Okay, well. I’m horrible at history, okay? Just saying. My knowledge of history is just pitiful. *laughs* I hope it will happen someday that I really get a family history bug, like Dad has. And my mother, of course, spent a major part of her life doing this. So that I have a drive to discover and help those people. Sometimes I think family history is the most interesting history there can be. I certainly like all the history I read about in the scriptures, because I think that’s very valuable and relevant to my life. So I like that, as far as history goes. Other aspects of history, like I said, my knowledge is just so abysmal that it’s not worth even thinking about. That’s my confession.

S: What’s your favorite place?

T: … Okay, so… I don’t think I can pinpoint one physical location that I can regard as my favorite place. I live in Pennsylvania. I love Pennsylvania. You know, I think it took me a lot of years to become accustomed to living in the East, but now I regard it as much my home as the West. And I love Utah, I grew up in Utah. I love the dryness of Utah and the humidity of PA. I love the desert of Utah and the deciduous forest of PA. They’re both really amazing, great places and I love them both. I spent some time in Europe, in Austria, as a missionary, and I love it there too. It’s been a long time, thirty years since I’ve been in Austria, but I love that place. I think if I had to identify a place I love most, it wouldn’t be physical, it would be… it would be a mental, emotional place. Where I’m at peace with myself. When I feel like I’m doing well spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally, that’s where I want to be, regardless of physical location. A lot of times I am falling far short of that place. And I don’t like that, when I’m falling short. I don’t like when I’m stressed out because I know I’m not taking care of myself physically or emotionally. Or I’m spending too much time on one thing and neglecting another. So, that is the place I like the most, when I’m at peace with what I am currently doing in terms of taking care of myself.

S: What’s your favorite season?

T: I think I’ve got to go with winter. I like winter because— well, I don’t mind all the snow. I like shoveling, I even like the exercise of it. In the last couple of years I’ve done enough exercise that it didn’t feel hard for me, that it didn’t hurt my back. I didn’t suffer side effects. I think I could handle a lot more snowfall than, for instance, we got this last winter. Spring stresses me because I feel like it’s just going to be this influx of insects in my life. If they respect the boundaries of my life, I have no problem with them. But if I have ants in my house, I am annoyed, continually. Summer is just hot. Like I said, I love PA and I love Utah; but I am less likely to be happy anywhere in the heat of summer. Though I love that time of year, because my kids are out of school and I like being with them and helping them do things. My kids are probably groaning, “Oh, the Daily Summer Schedule.” I LIKE that. I like doing that. Fall would probably take a close second to winter, because my eyes are just in a feast. Especially in Pennsylvania. There’s nothing greater than this area than when you have all of these amazing colors. I’m not a visual person, particularly; I don’t have that gift. But the Lord sure has this down, so I really appreciate it.

S: What’s your favorite smell?

T: Good night. Probably something that’s forbidden to me now, like pumpkin bread, because I can’t have it anymore. *laughs* That’s really hard to say. I like a lot of the spices that I associate with pumpkin— cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, that kind of thing. I love all those smells. Cinnamon is definitely a favorite. I like chocolate, I like that smell. I like the smell of almost anything that’s being baked. Fresh bread, how can you beat that? Cinnamon rolls, good night. How can you beat that? I love that cinnamon roll recipe that came with the bread mixer. But it’s like the most direct invitation to diabetes that I have, probably, but I love that smell. You become a mother and you become so much more sensitive to smell than before. Too much of something I don’t like. A little garlic, a little onion, is okay— but enough is enough. I don’t like super, super spicy kinds of things. I guess I don’t really think about smells from day to day. (Author’s note: In an unfortunate incident the Thanksgiving season before last, my mother became allergic to pumpkin at the age of fifty-one. RIP all of the recipes she had that involved pumpkin-flavored anything, because she always bought the pumpkins and did the smushy-boily-freezy thing instead of buying canned pumpkin.)

S: What’s your favorite memory?

T: Boy, so many. It’s hard to choose just one. I’ll have to tell you some… Well, meeting Dad. Meeting Mike, and getting to know him… and knowing that he can love me, which is something I wasn’t sure would ever happen. So I love that memory. The whole courtship and really, not just courtship, but the last twenty-six years have been really good, and I have so much to be thankful for. And we’ve both changed a lot, but we sort of change together, too. And I feel like we’re both learning still, and we’re not going to give up on each other. So that’s always pleasant… There’s nothing like your own babies. So I know that my babies are really precious memories. They’re a gift from God, the sweetest things possible. And your baby grows into a person who’s sitting over here interviewing me. And you don’t think of that when you’re holding that innocent and pure creature in your hands; but there’s just a lot of joy between birth and, you know, the accomplished, amazing, profound girl sitting here next to me. It’s kind of an overwhelming thing to think about. And I can say the same about all of my kids, in different ways. So my babies are just— there’s difficult memories associated with them, too; but it’s really touching to think about… And then I would just have to say, my parents. My dad because he’s gone, I think about all the times I spent sitting in his office, just having normal girl problems. Teenage girl depression, feeling horrible about yourself, your body, your nonexistent social life, whether you can accomplish anything, be anything, do anything with your life— and how patient, kind, and constantly supporting my dad was. Is. He would sit there and tell me I was beautiful, and I thought he was lying through his teeth, but there was such a look of sincerity in his eyes that you could tell he believed what he was saying. So just thinking about my dad… that’s a really good memory. And my mom, too, is just a constant. She’s still here, but I think of such an inspiring example of hard work and faith and determination. And courage. She’s such a strong woman. I’ve never seen my mom be weak in any way. She’s especially not one to sit and talk about stuff. So much of my mother is what she does. She’s the ultimate “doer.” She definitely doesn’t spout anything that she doesn’t do. The furthest thing from a hypocrite that’s possible. And then there’s just, my own siblings. I can think of good times with each of them. I can think of bad times with each of them too. *laughs* But your siblings are your best friends, growing up; I’ve had a lot of best friends in my life. I’m really grateful.

S: Who is your best friend or friends?

T: My siblings. Well, first there’s Dad. First there’s Mike, he’ll always be my best friend. But then there’s my siblings. Enough said. And you would think that I would stay in touch with them better. I’m not as communicative, I don’t talk with them as much as I should; but when I’m around them even for a few minutes, the bond is there. It’s always going to stay. It’s going to be there.

S: Who is the funniest person you know?

T: I think there’s a five-way tie. Because my kids are hilarious. Literally. They all, I mean, you’re all so different from each other, but you’re all so funny. Yeah. Definitely a five-way tie on that. (Author’s note: Despite the fact that this is an opinion question, I would argue that it is objectively true. I am obviously hilarious and my siblings are also some of the funniest people I know.)

S: Who is the kindest person you know?

T: Ooh, that’s tricky… Well, I’ll answer this locally, because from the past, I could probably give you a lot of people. But I’ve had a really good friend for a few years. She’s so kind, so thoughtful. Yoon-Joung Hill. She’s just kind, she’s amazing, she’s thoughtful. A truly kind, right to the bottom of her heart kind of person. It’s amazing to get to meet and know somebody like that. I mean, there are other people I think of. Quite a few years back, there was Aimee Allen, she was such a celestial person. I’ll never forget her. But I was always drawn to her. There are a lot of women around here I admire, too. I wouldn’t say kind is the first description I have for a lot of them. They are my mentors, in many ways. Because this has been my home for a long time. Billie Rae Morgenegg— she’s kind, but she’s more like a mentor. She teaches me, when she talks to me. I love that about her. Tina Wagner is always— she’s a mentor too, because she’s so helpful and knowledgeable about everything, and she will support you in the best way she can— which is sometimes to correct you. I’m okay with that sort of corrective type thing, because she’s helped me grow. So I regard her as a good friend, because she helps me, and is not afraid to say what needs to be said, and that’s a true friend. There’s others. Carmen Estes is certainly somebody that comes to mind, because she is so supportive and helpful, and willing to help you. She’ll drop what she’s doing and she’ll come to your aid. And I have a lot, I mean, there’s so many good women around here. I hate to even mention names, because you almost feel like you can’t stop. There are so many good women in my life. They’re my examples, they’re mentors, they’re friends, they’re supportive, they’re helpful. It’s something really amazing about the Church. I don’t quite put them in the same category as my siblings, but they’re still my sisters. We’re really blessed to have that kind of association with people.

S: Do you believe in magic, or do you believe in miracles?

T: Miracles. (Author’s note: There was no elaboration required. Miracles are a given in this household.)

S: If you had the opportunity to write books about the most important people in your life, what would they be called?

T: With Dad, I would probably say The Greatest Miracle of All Time. It should be Christ, but Dad comes right after that. Joe, what came to mind was— and I’ve said this repeatedly— Nothing Should Ever Surprise Me Again. That’s what I would call a book, if I were thinking of just Joe. That has a positive side, and it has, mmm, another side. But both sides. He’s kind of an enigma, but he can do anything he wants to do. Let’s see, Sarah… ugh. I’ve been thinking of how to title it. I know the crux of it, but you might have to help me with the words. That part of you that’s so sneaky, Getting Away With Murder Quietly. That kind of says a lot. And it’s not just murder; but when you were younger, it seemed like there was a lot of murder there. But nowadays, it’s more that what you see, with you, isn’t always what you get. Judy, I’ll just say in a nutshell: Take Everything You Thought You Knew and Throw It Out the Window. And you should laugh, while you say that title. Because that’s what it is these days. Everything I say is somehow hilarious; I don’t know why. Now I’m rethinking the title for Dad, because I came to Paul… so I’ll say it this way: The Sweetest, Greatest, Most Miraculous Gift God Ever Gave to Dad and Me. That would be Paul. And it’s like “The Greatest Miracle” which is Christ, because Christ came to save us and I think God sent Paul to save us, too. He’s got his work cut out for him. James… *laughs* Oh, that’s a tough one, too. It’s almost like, you can’t name this book because The Minute You Think You’ve Got It… It’s like Judy and Joe. And you! You can’t quite put your finger on it. It’s always changing, it’s always different, always something new. And always very funny, too. *laughs*

S: What was your favorite part of this last year of your life?

T: Oh, that’s easy. Because I had the most amazing opportunities given to me in association with the dedication of the Philadelphia Temple. So many blessings. I’m completely overwhelmed by the blessings and the gratitude that I feel. I was given a job that was way too difficult for me to do, which was of course to conduct the Cornerstone Choir for the dedication of the Philadelphia Temple. It was certainly beyond my ability, but it was like 1 Nephi 3:7— he gives you a job, and he provides a way for you to do it. He gave me people to help. I would say every single person in that choir, and the pianists, and my contacts with the committee— everybody went the extra mile just to help, to be supportive, and help me learn and teach me. So I feel like, with everybody’s help, we got the job done. I certainly couldn’t have done it without everybody’s help. It was amazing. The day of, I felt the presence of the Lord right there. I haven’t talked about it much, because it was a sacred memory and I don’t want to talk about it lightly; but it was an amazing day and I’ll never forget it.

S: What are you looking forward to in this next year?

T: *laughs* Well, I hope to improve myself. A lot. That’s something I’m always hoping that I can do, that I can improve. I’m looking forward to spending time with my mom, with her 90th birthday this year. Our family’s been talking about some things we can do for her birthday, but I just look forward to more time I get to spend with her before she goes. And not just being with her, but being with all of my kids, Joe too. So just having my family all together, but also all of my other family. Seeing my family as much as possible. I mean, all my nieces and nephews are grown up and I don’t know them anymore, they have families and kids, but I want to know them. It’s always great to spend time with family. I’m curious to see what this year’s going to bring, actually. I feel like change is coming. I have no idea what, but it just feels like there’s going to be changes. I don’t know what they are, but I hope I can get ready for them.

Author’s note: Me too, Mom. Me, too.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

i Things That Give Me Anxiety

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

A couple of days ago was Pi Day. This isn’t a super significant thing in my life, though I did have a roommate in college who always made a couple of pies because she is a fantastic baker and loves math. She still makes them, too. I just saw pictures on Facebook and now I want pie.

The desires of my stomach aside, however, I have a vaguely mathy post for you today. It’s not about pi, though that would be cool. It’s about pi’s only slightly lesser-known cousin, i.

(Okay, it’s not really about i either, it’s about anxiety but there’s a connection so give me a hot minute to explain myself.)

Pi is what is known as an irrational number. I have not ever considered myself a math person; the closest I got to being a math person was barely passing the AP Calculus test in high school and therefore testing out of my math requirements in college. However, I am fairly certain that one of the defining traits of an irrational number is that you can’t write it into a simple fraction that accurately represents ALL of it. I think this is mostly due to the fact that pi doesn’t end. You get infinite decimals that can be written into fractions— .3333333333 etc can be written as 1/3, and my favorite, .142857142857 etc can be written as 1/7. (It’s my favorite because I am .142857 etc of a family, and since I believe we’re an eternal family the infinite decimal thing is sort of fitting.) 1/3 and 1/7 are rational numbers; pi is not, and neither is the square root of 2, for instance.

You have rational numbers, you have irrational numbers— and then you have imaginary numbers.

To me, imaginary numbers are to math as quantum physics is to science— I’m not entirely sure that they’re not Just Making Things Up. However, I did learn enough math to know one imaginary number, called i. This number, i, is the square root of negative one. Or, if you prefer the notation with symbols, i = √-1. Yes? Any questions? It’s okay, me too. I have all of the questions. I can’t wait to ask God how to write i in numbers.

We don’t really know the exact numerical value of i. At least, I didn’t learn it in any of my high school math classes. But i x i = -1 and I don’t think the point of it is to make sense. It’s just a stand-in for a value we don’t yet know.

So i is an imaginary number, and imaginary numbers are by definition not rational. You can’t write i into a fraction that expresses its entire value— mostly because it doesn’t really have one.

Now we get to the part where it relates back to me and my anxiety, because this blog is about me and not math.

Anxiety, much like i and pi and √2, is not rational. As it is a noun and not a number, it also cannot be expressed as a simple fraction. If there were some way to state “Life, divided by Stressful Situation, equals Anxiety,” then I would try and make it cute and mathy for you; but the thing is that it’s different for everyone. There is no Formula. There is no Equation. There is no Law or Theorem or Rule or Pattern for how anxiety works.

There are people in the world who will say that anxiety is imaginary, like i. These are the Lovely Sorts Of People who also tend to say things like, “Well, why don’t you just decide to be happy and calm?” or “You know, other people have it so much worse than you do.” These people believe you are making up a legitimate medical condition for attention. These people believe that even if it is a real illness, you aren’t supposed to talk about it or ever admit you have it because it’s got the social stigma of Mental Illness, and you Just Don’t Talk About It because it’s Not Polite.

The thing about anxiety is that it tries to convince me it’s imaginary already. “Do you really have anxiety, or are you just worried? Do you really have anxiety, or do you just not want to do whatever thing you’re supposed to do?” I don’t need other people trying to invalidate me. I already invalidate myself constantly, thanks.

There is physical proof for my anxiety, which is something I have to remember when my mind is trying to invalidate me.

When I am experiencing anxiety from outside sources such as Facebook and other social media, I tend to bite my nails a lot. It’s a terrible habit and I’ve never gotten out of it because I have had anxiety for a very, very long time. I’ve probably had it far longer than I believe I have. I would go so far to say that I have had it since I was a child, but I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know how it manifested in my life until fairly recently. Besides nail-biting, I also end up picking at the skin and cuticles right around my nails, and I also end up doing this to my face and picking at the acne. When I need proof for my anxiety, I just go look in the mirror. It’s all right there. When I need proof, I look at my hands and am reminded that playing the piano or typing with bitten-to-the-quick nails is kind of painful.

When I am experiencing anxiety from social situations, I get physically sick. I don’t actually throw up, but I do often get nauseated. My stomach hurts, and I feel like I want to throw up but can’t, because throwing up would promptly relieve the stomach pain, but I don’t actually need to throw up. If psychosomatic nausea is a thing, then it’s a thing I get because of anxiety.

When I am experiencing anxiety about some internal crisis, I tend to sleep poorly. The last few days have been very Weathery in Pennsylvania; we’ve had about a foot and a half of snow and everything is cancelled. My brothers haven’t had school for three days in a row, we haven’t had evening church activities, my mom had to cancel half her piano lessons, etc, etc. Everyone has been spending time at home, and I haven’t needed to go anywhere and my sleep has been awesome. When I’m worrying about something— when I don’t know what to do with my future, when I can’t find a job, when I have a bad day— my sleep is terrible.

I’m sure there are other categories, and I will bet you anything that with some more self-evaluation I could probably pinpoint exact behaviors to exact situations; but there are a lot of things that cause me to experience anxiety. I’m going to provide you with a fairly brief list. Unnumbered, because anxiety isn’t rational. Some of the things on the list you will probably read and think, “Wait, really?” Yes, really. I’ve been getting to know my body and its responses, and this list has things that cause my body to respond in a manner consistent with anxiety.

The point is, the list isn’t rational. Anxiety isn’t rational. I don’t know how many times I’m going to say that in this post. Let it sink in. Anxiety isn’t rational.

  • Going to any social event that may involve speaking
    • Subcategory: Church, weekly
    • Subcategory: Institute, weekly (when I go, that is)
    • Subcategory: YSA activities, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Shopping or errand-running, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Public speaking, sporadic
    • Subcategory: Teaching Relief Society, monthly
  • Getting crushes on boys
    • Subcategory: Being in the same room as said boy
    • Subcategory: Talking to said boy
    • Subcategory: Trying to decide whether said boy likes me back
    • Subcategory: Telling the boy I like him (if I tell him, which usually I don’t)
  • Performance
    • Subcategory: Choir practice at church
    • Subcategory: Accompaniment in general
    • Subcategory: Performance in general
    • Subcategory: Violin
    • Subcategory: Vocal, with my sister
    • Subcategory: Vocal, alone
  • Driving
    • Subcategory: Rush hour
    • Subcategory: Highways and Interstates
    • Subcategory: Changing lanes
    • Subcategory: Other drivers
    • Subcategory: Driving somewhere I’ve never been before
    • Subcategory: Getting lost
    • Subcategory: Inclement weather
    • Subcategory: Driving at night
  • Specific people
    • Subcategory: A person I completely cut out of my life five years ago, further details unnecessary
    • Subcategory: People who ask me too many questions
    • Subcategory: People who dislike or resent me (I always know. Always.)
    • Subcategory: My father
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing finances or my bank account
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
    • Subcategory: My mother
      • Subsubcategory: The “do I really have to do the dishes” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “whoops I forgot this song has a swear word in it” conversation
      • Subsubcategory: The “given any media there is probably gay fanfiction of it” conversation
    • Subcategory: My older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Literally every Facebook post ever
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my sister
      • Subsubcategory: Mental illness
    • Subcategory: My sister
      • Subsubcategory: Discussing my older brother
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
    • Subcategory: Extended family
      • Subsubcategory: Political discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Religious discussions
      • Subsubcategory: Feminism and LGBTQ+ activism
  • Cooking
    • Subcategory: Using/opening the oven
    • Subcategory: Mistakes
    • Subcategory: Preparation
  • Looking for a job
    • Subcategory: Seeking perfection
    • Subcategory: Overqualification and boredom
    • Subcategory: Lack of qualification
    • Subcategory: Relocation
    • Subcategory: Phone calls
  • Dating
    • Subcategory: Variety
    • Subcategory: I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE
    • Subcategory: Relationship > dating but dating has to happen first
  • Future Events
    • Subcategory: Childbirth
    • Subcategory: Raising children through depression
    • Subcategory: My parents
    • Subcategory: My sister, who has epilepsy
    • Subcategory: My second-youngest brother, who has autism
    • Subcategory: Being an orphan
    • Subcategory: Terminal illness
  • Body Image
    • Subcategory: Acne
    • Subcategory: Yellow teeth
    • Subcategory: Hair
  • Self-esteem
    • Subcategory: Dying alone
    • Subcategory: Depression
    • Subcategory: Fear of activism
    • Subcategory: Slippery slope
    • Subcategory: Loneliness
    • Subcategory: Uniqueness
  • Writing
    • Subcategory: Courage to submit work for publication
    • Subcategory: Criticism
    • Subcategory: Fame
    • Subcategory: Money

Some of these you may find relatable. I have been assured that many people worry about dying alone, and that many people do not like driving in inclement weather, and that many people hate making phone calls.

And some of them, like using the oven, are probably… less relatable. I only know one other person who has a problem with using the oven. But I really don’t like it. Turning it on, fine. Opening it and putting things in and taking them out— bending over, hot air on your face, your center of balance is off, usually the thing going in and coming out is kind of heavy and what if you fall over on the oven door and sustain third-degree burns all over your face and hands and have to be rushed to the emergency room and have skin grafts taken from your butt— okay, I need to stop. Let’s just say I Don’t Like It.

Don’t try to make sense of this list. It’s just a thing I wanted to share. And I know I tend to overshare (though I have a lot of worries about sexual activity and bodily functions which I left off the list, you’re welcome), but this doesn’t feel like oversharing to me. This feels like me letting out a few secrets, a few carefully selected burdens. This feels like me saying, “I’m afraid of these things, or they make me worry, or they make me feel sick, or they make me bite my nails.” My hope is to end some of the stigma around anxiety by sharing these things. My hope is that you might look at this list and see something that you relate to, whether it’s because you have anxiety or you simply dislike the concept.

Anxiety is not rational, but this list is proof that it’s not imaginary, either. See you next time.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


 

Birthday Interviews: I’M BORED

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

So in my last post, I promised a new series. I’m delivering. Welcome to the Birthday Interviews.

The concept is simple: I ask my immediate family members and a few very close extended family members or friends a series of questions. The timing of the interview is near or around their birthday— hence the name. None of the questions are particularly intrusive. Some are designed to be easy questions, something that helps a reader get to know the interviewee; some are questions that will make the interviewee think a little bit, and hopefully help the reader to better understand the mind of the interviewee.

I’m beginning the Birthday Interviews series with my younger teenage brother, James. You may be surprised at this. How, might you ask, did I get a teenage boy to agree to be interviewed?

Well, it honestly wasn’t that hard. The title of this Birthday Interview comes from one of his Top Catchphrases Of All Time. The kid is constantly bored because he’s a smart cookie. Consenting to be interviewed is probably a way to amuse himself for ten minutes.

But in all seriousness, I can interview James because I have a really good relationship with him. We have a lot in common. We’re both intelligent and mature for our age; we’re gifted musicians; we both like Pokémon, Zelda, and Minecraft; and we share a certain belief in our own intelligence, as compared to the rest of the world. I say this sort of self-depreciatingly, because I have this tendency to think I’m better or smarter than other people and it is a Bad Habit and I Should Not Do That. It’s actually something I admire in James because he is smarter than most people his age. He doesn’t get mean about it; to him, it’s just A Thing That Is and he lives life accordingly.

Here’s the thing: this is my blog. It’s meant to be about me. And for the most part, it is. I have like, ten posts on this blog so far, and many more in the future, that are/will be all about me. I am my own person, and I like being my own person. But there are parts of me that are somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s granddaughter, niece, cousin, or friend. I don’t want to be defined only by these labels, because the people I love do not consume me— but they do play an important role in understanding me and how I relate to the few people I do, in fact, relate to.

I believe that like a Russian nesting doll, I have layers. The outermost layer is, Sarah the stranger. I’m a person who exists in this world and you may never meet me, but if you do, it’s the layer you interact with first. The next layer is Sarah the professional— Sarah the writer, Sarah the student, Sarah the musician, Sarah the worker. If I ever work with you on something, you know this Sarah already. The layer beneath that is Sarah the friend. If I am your friend, you have a friend for life. (Unless for whatever reason you abuse my trust and I choose to completely excise your presence from my life on a permanent basis; but I have only ever had to do that to one person and odds are that you’re a decent enough human being that I won’t feel like I have to do that.) The layer beneath that is Sarah the grandaughter, niece, or cousin— Sarah the extended family member. I value family, which is why I burrow that a little deeper than friendship in theory— but I do have some friends who are closer to me than some of my extended family, and they fall more into this category. I think everyone has friends like that. And below that is Sarah the daughter and sister— my immediate family are, in all truth, my best friends. They belong in that spot. Someday, I hope for another layer beneath this one, the layer of Sarah the wife and mother; but as I am currently single I am content to keep on hoping. And finally, the innermost layer is me: Sarah, the person I see when I look in the mirror. Sarah, the person whose thoughts keep me company when I cannot sleep. Sarah, the person who dreams big and grieves deeply and loves faithfully. Sarah, the person who can’t figure out how to do things by halves.

I picture myself in these layers, a Matryoshka Identity if you will, and I think everyone else is the same. We all have these nesting identities and we are different people, to different people. It’s not acting or lying; it’s just living.

I hope that this interview with my little brother will tell you more about me, through the relationship I have with him. My questions, in italics, were formulated beforehand, but I’ve tried to include James’s answers exactly as he said them, in bold, and have provided some of my own notes (in parentheticals). Any irregularities in grammar or phrasing have more to do with him than with me, and some of them are on purpose because he’s a little troll. Please enjoy.

S: Are you here because you have willingly consented to this journalistic piece, or because you are being bribed?

J: Willingly.

S: What day is your birthday?

J: The eleventh of March.

S: How old are you turning?

J: I am turning fourteen years old.

S: What did you get/want for your birthday?

J: Okay, I got four Rubik’s Cubes— one being a MoYu Aoshi; another being a mirror cube; a four by four, and a five by five. I also got a fun sound machine that plays sixteen different sounds, and a “Yes” button, which makes yes sounds and one of them is rather suggestive, unfortunately. I also got a few pairs of shorts, two shirts, a pair of running shoes, and a bag for track practice. And I also got a whole bag of Chewy Sprees, all of which I ate yesterday. (Author’s note: if I had gotten a whole bag of Chewy Sprees, I probably would have done the same thing. Neither James nor I is particularly skilled at practicing self-restraint.)

S: What are your hobbies?

J: My hobbies include doing my Rubik’s cubes, doing track now that I’m doing it, making loud noises, and overall just having fun with my life. And music, of course— which instruments are trumpet, piano, and possibly cello, because I want to learn it. (Author’s note: James just began track like, a week ago. He wants to do shotput and other field activities. I offer props to him for being currently more athletic than I have been in my entire life.)

S: Would you say you’re more of a dreamer or a doer?

J: A doer. (Author’s note: No hesitation here.)

S: What’s your favorite period of history?

J: Ancient times nobody remembers what the heck was going on and we all have to guess about what happened then. (Author’s note: When I asked James this question, he kind of made a face and I qualified the question with, “I know you’re not really a history kind of guy, but what do you think?” I got this answer. I’m fairly certain he’s trolling because he would probably not like Ancient Mesopotamian culture, it was very weird.)

S: What’s your favorite place?

J: My house, of course(Author’s note: SAME.)

S: What’s your favorite season?

J: Winter, most definitely. The snow is pretty. Also, possibilities of getting off school. (Author’s note: Winter is also my favorite season; another thing we have in common.)

S: What’s your favorite smell?

J: Not the one I’m smelling right now, which is someone who farted. Um, I’d have to say that my favorite smell… is probably that of brownies. (Author’s note: I don’t know if anyone actually farted or not. The only people in the room were me, James, and our sister. I certainly didn’t hear anything, and as the saying goes: “He who smelt it, dealt it.”)

S: What’s your favorite memory?

J: … I’d probably have to say the time in fourth grade when the guys all got an hour-long recess because the ladies were having talks about nasty stuff. (Author’s note: He means the puberty chat. He’s not that mature.)

S: Who is your best friend or friends?

J: I’d have to say that my best three friends are, at this moment, all people that I know from school or church. Namely, Luke from school, Harrison from church, and Zane from church.

S: Who is the funniest person you know?

J: No contest: a kid from school named Jaden. He constantly makes funnies about memes and is an overall slapstick prankster, which is my kind of humor. (Author’s note: He did mention he was fourteen. You shouldn’t be surprised.)

S: Who is the kindest person you know?

J: My mother. (Author’s note: Here, we are in absolute agreement.)

S: Do you believe in magic, or do you believe in miracles?

J: I’d say that I believe in miracles, because when Jesus walked the earth, he performed many miracles, and miracles are still performed today through priesthood holders. And regular people. (Author’s note: we are a religious family. I’ll make a post about my beliefs at some point, but today is not that day.)

S: What was your favorite part of this last year of your life?

J: I’d probably have to say meeting all of my new teachers and friends at school, figuring out who I liked and didn’t like so I could figure out where to be most of the time.

S: What are you looking forward to in this next year?

J: Definitely the change from middle school to high school, because high school is a bit more about where you’re going and your future, whereas middle school is more about your reputation and drama and stuff, which is really just stupid. (Author’s note: Having had a similarly vile junior high school experience, I am quite in agreement with my brother here.)

And that concludes this part of the Birthday Interviews. We (James and I) thank you for joining us today. Until next time, friends.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.


The Universal Fear of Rejection

Hello, and welcome back to the blog.

I originally had a different post planned, but I had therapy today. I visit my therapist every two to three weeks. I used to go weekly, but my progress has been such that I don’t need to see her regularly. It’s a forty-minute drive up to Lancaster— York’s waiting lists for therapists were six to nine months long when I first started. I don’t mind the drive; it’s one of the longest trips I’ve ever made by myself and it’s fairly peaceful, especially when I go on Thursday mornings.

Anyway, I’ve been talking to my therapist about some stuff, mostly having to do with applying for jobs— but there’s a pattern I’ve noticed with myself, that has a lot to do with my life in general. It begins with a story.

In elementary school, I was a smart cookie. Not smart enough to skip grades, or anything; but smart enough that they gave me IQ tests in third and fifth grade to see if I qualified for the Gifted and Talented program at my school. I took the tests— they were very interesting, puzzles and patterns and things; but the results came in when I was eight (and again when I was ten) and it turned out that I was just barely— barely not qualified enough for G&T. I remember being very cut up about it at the time because I had a couple of friends in G&T and they got to go off and do other things during math classes.

I wasn’t smart enough for G&T— but I did meet the qualifications for them to send me a bunch of summer camp packets. The summer camps were run by the same people who did the G&T program for our county and several counties around, and it was a really nice summer camp program. They were basically week-long art and music classes. I did three camps total over the years: one was a drawing class, one was a sculpture class, and one… was an acting class.

If you know me, then you know I am not an actress. I’m a pretty good liar— which is not the same as acting, but they have a similar underlying principle of pretending to be something you are not. (The difference lies in intent.) I don’t like lying, but I can do it if I feel I have no other way to protect myself. But being in public, with other people, costs me too much energy for me to be anything but myself. If I’m faking too hard, it’s pretty easy to tell.

But I was just finished with sixth grade, heading for seventh grade, and I decided I wanted to do this acting class. What followed that week was a combination of fun activities and utter hell: on the one hand, it was kind of fun to practice the acting techniques they taught us. I learned how to project my voice, a skill that’s served me well over the years.

On the other hand… performing in front of other people. Ick.

We had three short plays we were putting together that week. Most of the other students in the camp auditioned for a few parts. I auditioned for one part— and I nailed the audition. I got the part, and I nailed it in the performance, and I did a fantastic freaking job. Twelve-year-old me was incredibly pleased with myself.

What I didn’t realize, until the directors at the camp congratulated me on it, was that auditioning for only one part was actually kind of ballsy. All the other kids were hedging their losses by auditioning for multiple parts. If they didn’t get the part they wanted, then maybe they would still get something that was okay. I only wanted the one part— I was actually too scared to audition for any of the others. (In case you were wondering, the title of my role was Writer. I am very, very predictable.) For whatever reason, everyone thought this was really cool. “Sarah took a great risk by only auditioning for one part,” I remember them saying. “But it paid off, because she did really well and she got the part. Bravo, Sarah.” And they had everyone clap for me. It was really weird.

Fast-forward six years: I was a high school senior, making decisions about where I wanted to go to college. I had good grades— not a 4.0, but still pretty good. I did a lot of extracurricular music activities; nice. I did a lot of volunteer work through my church: looks great on a college app. I took the SAT: 1200-ish, pretty good. I took the ACT: 31, with a Writing score of 34. I think it was this in particular that probably made some colleges turn and look at me, because I began getting a metric crap-ton of mail from the fifty thousand liberal arts colleges on the East Coast of America— half of which, at least, are in Pennsylvania. I kept a shoebox with all the letters and brochures and sometimes I would go through them and sort of gloat to myself. “Ha ha, I’m smart. Ha ha, everyone wants me to come to their college.” (I was a weird kid and I felt ugly and undesirable throughout high school. Let circa-2010-me have a hot minute, okay?)

I only wanted to go to one school. I’d only wanted to go to one school since I was twelve. I’d visited the campus when my family went out to Utah to visit my grandmother and other family there. I wanted to go to Brigham Young University, and to Brigham Young University I would go. There was simply no question about it.

So I filled out one college application, in October 2010. It went to BYU-Provo and BYU-Idaho.

It was the same thing I’d done when I was twelve, only auditioning for Writer. I only applied to one college— a college known to have fairly high standards for their students. I also sent the application to BYU-I as an afterthought, more than anything. Idaho has a much higher acceptance rate and I got the letter in like, December. I was like, “Okay, cool, but I really want to go to Provo.” There wasn’t anything wrong with Idaho, but Provo was the campus I’d visited. Provo was the campus I loved. Both of my parents had gone there and they’d met there and I’d never, ever considered any other college in my entire life. It had not occurred to me, until December passed, and January and February, that I… might not get in.

March rolled around, and I was beginning to get very antsy; but right after the first weekend in March, when I was in the orchestra for my high school production of Les Miserables, I got my acceptance letter to BYU-Provo.

Once again: I took a huge risk, and it paid off.

This is what I do, when I get to crossroads in my life. Maybe the acting class wasn’t a crossroads as much as it was a milestone— but I made a decision and went with it and winged it and it all turned out really, really well for me. Same with college. I think people apply to nine or ten colleges. Some people apply to way more. I made a decision, I went with it and winged it, and it all turned out really, really well.

I have this problem, however, where I will refuse to do this if I don’t think I’m going to succeed at something.

Case in point: me in my last semester on campus at BYU. I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. I had no idea whether or not anyone would want to hire me. I hadn’t done a minor or an internship or a study-abroad, which is something that the Humanities department stressed as Very Important For Your Future Endeavors. I was too stressed out about mental illness and money and time to do those things, and I couldn’t drive anyway so there would have been some problems with transportation and things.

So— I panicked. I chose nothing. I chose plugging along at my schoolwork and going to my job at the on-campus bookstore and steadily pretending I was not going to graduate that December, until the repressed emotions and the anxiety and depression and thirty pounds courtesy of Zoloft got to me, and I told my parents, “I can’t do this anymore, please let me come home.”

My lack of decision, in this case, was unproductive and unnecessary. If I had graduated, I would have been able to just go home anyway. I didn’t need to have a job lined up out of the gate. It would have been fine. But I wasn’t sure what to do, so I didn’t do anything. I didn’t make any commitments, I fumbled my way through and winged it again, and this time it just went poorly for everyone involved. My parents wasted money on that semester, and they had to pay for arline tickets for my mom to come out and take care of me. She helped me turn in my resignation for my job, and she helped me talk to people who could erase the semester from my academic record and make sure I didn’t just collapse into a sobbing mess because I was just so entirely nonfunctional at this point.

Well, you know what they say: go big, or go home. Literally.

I don’t know where I learned about risks that were really worth it succeeding if I knew what I wanted, and failing if I didn’t. I don’t know why I thought the way I did, and I’ve decided that I shouldn’t try to justify it to myself. Mental illness turned me into a sad, overweight pile of sweaters and there is no explaining that.

I’m having some of the same hangups about putting in my resume for jobs. So I’m browsing LinkedIn, right? I’m searching for “Writer” jobs in Pennsylvania or Maryland and I’m looking and looking. Everything wants you to have “1-2 years experience in the field” or “a thorough knowledge of the financial/medical industry” or be “PCI compliant” and I don’t know what any of this MEANS.

I read through the other requirements and see: “good writing skills, good communication skills, work ethic, manage projects, work alone and with others, experience with social media, experience with Internet trends” and I’m like BUDDY I WOULD BE PERFECT FOR THIS JOB. Whatever happened to on-the-job training? Why do they assume that a college education is supposed to teach you how to do jobs you don’t yet have? My college education taught me how to analyze books, movies, and TV shows; how to argue a point; and more importantly how to write. These are skills I can apply in the real world. I haven’t seen a single job for which I appear to be completely qualified; thus, I believe they don’t want to hire me, without even applying; thus, I haven’t been submitting my resume and applying to these places; thus, I do not yet have a job. Like my last semester of college, I am panicking and doing nothing. I can assure you that it is neither enjoyable nor productive.

But the point is: I am afraid of rejection, and I was talking to my therapist about it and she assured me that this fear is universal. Everyone is afraid of rejection. I am practically a misanthrope and I am afraid of rejection. (I don’t really hate people. I just get very drained by human company.) However, I’m not alone. You are probably, on some level, also afraid of rejection. Your mother is probably afraid of rejection. So is your father. So are your siblings, your children, your grandparents, your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your aunts and uncles and cousins, your friends, your acquaintances, your enemies. Everyone is afraid of rejection.

And yet— other people seem to feel far less fearful than I do. I expressed my confusion about this to my therapist, and she told me that these people are simply better at accepting their fear than I am. They’re afraid of rejection; but there’s nothing they can do not to be afraid of it, so they live anyway. They submit their resumes. They apply to nine or ten colleges. They audition for four parts in their junior high acting summer camp and they maybe don’t get the exact part they want, but they do okay. They don’t try to plan too hard, so they don’t get derailed when their plans do. They accept their fear— and then they act with courage.

I woke up from a strange and vivid dream this morning. I’ve been pondering a lot lately about being alone, about love, about marriage and finding someone to be with. I’ve been thinking about that and I had the weirdest dream that I ought to tell this person I kind of like that I kind of like them. I can’t explain it. I’m afraid of that kind of rejection, too. But I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve been praying about general loneliness and love, I’ve been curious and dreaming and trying to find answers— and I think I’m maybe going to do it. I think I might tell him that I like him. My therapist would remind me: what’s the worst that can happen? He says he’s not interested? Well, that means you don’t have to think about him anymore.

Well, she’s got a point. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle rejection that easily— if I am rejected. Don’t aim too low, self.

And besides that, I’m going to send my resume somewhere today. I’ve got a relatively healthy baby blog to serve as a Very Professional Digital Writing Portfolio and I think the name posts will indicate my researchy-style, and everything else can be more personal— plus, starting Sunday, there will be another new series beginning where I tackle an interview-and-report kind of deal which is a different kind of writing. Stay tuned, and all that jazz. So I’ll send in my resume. Just to one place, and that’s all. And tomorrow, I’ll try another.

Accept the fear, and act with courage. And trust me: if I can do it, then you can do it, too.


If you’re looking forward to seeing this blog in the future, consider following. If you want to see Occasional Pictures of My Face and Food I Have Made, you can follow me on Instagram at hypotheticalelephants. If you want to see me being a Whiny, Immature Human, you can follow me on Twitter at sadINFJwriter.