To Live Imperfectly

There are some drives that you tell people are an hour, and you mean it in the sense that if you hit every red light, manage to get stuck behind a horse and buggy, and have to swerve to hit dear, then it may be an hour.  You tell them it’s an hour because why explain that it’s probably only 50 minutes.

The drive to my college from Columbus is not one of those drives.  It is a drive that is an hour, and it will always be an hour no long how your flight was, how badly you have to pee, or how tired you are of making small talk with the people you’re sharing a cab with.  It’s just an hour.

You go through Centerburg, and you realize that you still have half an hour to go, not the 15 or even 20 minutes it would be if it was a fake-hour drive.

You pull out your tiny graph paper Rhodia notebook since you better do something with this half an hour back to Gambier.  You write best when you’re traveling, you decide.  You don’t know if this is exactly true, but you declare it to be.  You think best when you’re moving, when the constant farmland becomes meditative, or when clouds don’t have animals in them anymore.

When you write, you start thinking about the presentation you’re going to give this summer, one on expectations, one hopefully of hope.  You’re going to be speaking to high schoolers.  High school is a hard time.  No one knows what they are, yet everyone assumes that everyone else does. You’re trying to figure out what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and the answers you’re given don’t feel right to you.  You remember that quote: the earliest years, the more important ones, are the trickiest.  Emerging from nothingness takes time.

When you think about the presentation, you think about what else you’re doing this summer.  You’re supposed to be interning, shadowing, doing something to make up for the C that you got on your last chemistry exam.  You’ve heard back from one place, an email asking if “u have horse experience.” U do, you email back.

As you go over the hills that seem to have no speed limit, you wonder how you are supposed to tell these kids any advice.  You’re still young.  Most days, you trip over something, drop your keys in the middle of the doctor’s office, run over a squirrel on the way to a vet’s office.  When you try to kiss him, your noses somehow bump each other, and you end up laughing instead.  You probably spent too much time with the Underwood’s over spring break, and not enough with those around you.  You should have finished your drink your mom poured you, helped with the Jeep your brother and dad are trying to build.  You shouldn’t have complained about not having your own car.

You want to stop writing, but the paper is too nice.  You want to tell them that you don’t have anything to tell them.  You are too imperfect to help these emerging creatures.  You, too, are emerging.

Maybe that is all they need to hear.  You can be an adult and be imperfect.  You can be driving to shadow at the vet’s and kill a squirrel on the way.  You can try, as hard as you can, to walk in heels when you go to the Short North for dinner, but you will still trip.  You can fail your first quiz and still want to be a bio major. Hell, you can fail your second quiz and still want to go to vet school.

Live in this imperfection, you tell them.  You don’t think that you can live any other way.

 

To the Baby In Front of Me

You don’t know me. I don’t know you. Our paths seem to have crossed. You’re in the seat in front of me, on a flight from Columbus to Orlando.

I’m sure you’re going to Disney. Or maybe to visit you grandparents. You are in your mother’s arms. You are laughing, even if you were crying, it would be okay. You are in a flying tube. You are allowed to cry.

You’re standing up now on your mother’s legs. Stand there as long as you can. Let her be your rock. Your foundation. Grip your tiny toes into her quads. Dig deep. Leave marks.

You keep looking around. Observing. I wish the top of the plane were glass so that you could see all of the clouds. They’re so much prettier when you are in them than they are from the ground. Well, they are still pretty from the ground as well.

Your sister keeps peaking her head back and smiling at me. She’s reading a book. I hope that she never stops reading. If she ever needs a book, you call me and I’ll make sure you get one.

Your sister just handed your dad a sticker. What a special gift. I pray that he saves it. Sticks in on the car window. Sticks it on his phone. Sticks it on his heart.

You are so very young, too young to be forming memories.

By the time you’re my age, you’ll have formed so many memories, but you’ll have even more to form.

Some of them will be good. Some will make you cry. Most of them will involve your favorite people, maybe your parents, or your friend, or your first dog. I want to tell you to form memories of every moment. But you can’t. I am sorry about that.

Try to remember the small things. The way your mom’s legs feel underneath your feet right now. The way your sister gives the most meaningful gifts, like stickers.

If you have a dog, remember the way it feels when he falls asleep on your feet.

Hug him often. Hug everyone often.

When you get older, scary things might start to happen. Tumors will be found in your best friend’s leg. You won’t be able to shower because the floor has MRSA. You will be so scared, but you will never be alone.

I’m on this flight now, heading back from college. Heading back home. Back to my mother’s legs. I’ll lay on the couch with her tonight and my unshaven legs and hers will be next to each other, with the dog laying on both of our feet.

You are crying now. I am crying now.

Your sister keeps smiling at me. And I keep smiling back. She’s missing some teeth. She is not fully formed, but neither am I. Neither is anyone.

The flight attendant is coming through now. We are about to land. I hope that you enjoyed your flight, but if it was scary and stressful, that is okay.

No one expects you to be able to handle everything.

For now, all we are asked to do is to stand on our mother’s legs and take it all in.

Supposed to Listen

I’m supposed to be dressed right now.

Showered, hair blow dried,

make up on.

Ready to go.

My face is

washed

my feet,

dirty.

You were supposed to

hug me

but you are doing

a radio show.

I was supposed to

listen but your voice

is too loud and your words are

too many.

I will lie later

say

‘I loved the songs

the insights were insightful

You’re a natural

the next ira glass

She’s the next

sarah Koenig.’

You’ll be too happy to doubt

I’ll be too tired to care

I’ll say thank you for the shoutout

You’ll forgot you never said my name.

(end note: the line breaks are not coming through due to formatting. imagine them how you would like)

How to View Your First Dead Body

When you are told that you will be visiting a mausoleum

Specifically the one of a questionably celibate Vietnamese communist leader

Do not think twice

Hanoi is Vietnam’s D.C

The mausoleum is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Do not question your guide when he tells you

Bring your camera and bags

Do not question the guards when he tells you

All are prohibited

Leave your cash, ID, camera, and voice with your guide

All are prohibited

They will wake the resting leader

Do not shiver when you step into the stone

Tell yourself

It just seems cold because

The heat index outside is come celsius degree

That only means hot to you

Ignore the thought that the temperate seems to be

More for the dead than for the living

Ignore all the signs that say

There is a preserved body in the next room

Tell yourself

He will be under stone

When you turn the corner

Do not meet eyes with Ho Chi Minh

When you hyperventilate

Do not meet eyes with the guards

Avoid their bayonets

You do not want to share a coffin

With a man who has been preserved

40 years too long

When your legs go numb

Stiff like the ones you have come to revere

Do not grab the mourner next to you

Sexual advances are not to be viewed

By celibate Uncle Ho

Focus on the stone wall

Try not to think about the hammer and sickle engraved on the wall

Try not to think about the boy engraved on your fovea

Try not to think about Ho Chi Minh

Was on the other side of your first

Face-to-face encounter

With a dead body

To Share Feelings I Like

Inspired by this video, I want to share with you some of my favorite feelings.

1.The moment when I know I have taken a good photo, which will probably turn out to be my favorite from that series of photos.  Not only am I proud of the photo, I am excited to get home, to edit it, to share it.  It’s this serendipitous combination of both instant and delayed gratification that I simply love.

2. The moment when a sentence, or a segment more accurately, just forms in my head when I’m taking the dogs for a walk, or at school learning Calc, or when I’m in the shower, and I can tell that the segment is going to be the start of a poem, or short story, or is simply just a line that I will come to love. As much as I love this, I need to remember to write even when this does not happen.  I often fall into the trap of waiting to write until I feel like something is waiting to jump out, but I must start letting the words crawl out as well.

4. When I am reading a good book, such as Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood (which I am currently reading), and I cannot wait until the day is over so I can get in bed, curl up with my creature-of-choice (my dog Spencer) and read with a cup of freshly brewed loose-leaf tea next to me. The book acts as the light at the end of the tunnel for a very long day.

5. When I put on a song, such as Rollercoaster by Bleachers, and it takes me back to where I first listened to it.  I listened to the Bleachers’ album while I drove through Big Sur in California, so now every time I listen to that album, I get to enter into that beautiful place. Sometimes I think that music gives me more powerful memories than smells.

6. As someone with food allergies, I love the moment when something that I think will contain my allergen, and it doesn’t.  This has happened with Oreos and Cookie Butter, two of my favorite foods. (I do realize they quite aren’t actually foods).

7. My favorite time of day is right before I fall asleep, when I’m in bed.  I love listening to WYNC and having a few moments totally to myself.

8. Returning home from a long journey and having my house smell slightly different than when I first left.  I then take the best shower I’ve ever taken, as I finally have water pressure and my own body wash.

9. I love being in an airport by myself.  I feel like once you get past security, the rest of the airport belongs to the travelers.  The airport terminal places everyone on a nearly equal playing field; everyone is slightly uncomfortable; everyone is ready to explore.

10. I love completing a project that I have been working on for a long time.  As the editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper, I got to experience this feeling at the end of every month.  There is such a huge release when your project leaves the nest and enters the world.

To Show Yourself Compassion

Today I gave the homily at the chapel at my school. Below is what I said.

Today we are talking about compassion, something that has been taught to use since we were little. In preschool and kindergarten, we all learned The Golden Rule—Treat others how you want to be treated. In Matthew 22, Jesus gave this rule as well—Love your neighbor as yourself.

We are often told how small actions such as holding the door open for someone can make someone’s day. Although these smalls acts are what makes the day a little more tolerable after you’ve stayed up until midnight catching up on AP Lit reading or when you didn’t do as well as you thought on that Calc test, compassion is far more than that. Compassion calls us to love another person in that moment, to listen to what they are going through, and to walk along their path with them. Compassion calls us to set aside our judgments and expectations in order to simply love.

As important as it is to show compassion towards others, we can’t forget to show compassion towards ourselves. We are at a weird time in our life. All of us are trying to figure out what we like, where we want to go to college, and if we want to go to Chipotle or Chick-Fil-A for lunch. If you had asked me the start of my freshman year, I would have told you that I wanted to study Industrial Engineering at Northwestern University and definitely have Chick-Fil-A for lunch. As I’ve grown up, I’ve changed. Engineering is most likely not going to be in my future, I’m going to Kenyon College in Ohio, and Chipotle is clearly the better option.

It can be hard to give up plans that we had made, but as Jeremiah reminds us that God has a plan for us. “For I know the plants I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When we start to realize that God is in control, it becomes easier to show ourselves compassion. We are not able to control every part of our lives and our lives won’t be perfect, but that’s okay. Whatever path you are on is the path you are supposed to be on at this moment. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change your path. In the words of Marina Keegan, “What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.”

Showing yourself compassion means to accept where you are right now and not to judge what you are going through. When I was diagnosed with OCD my freshman year, it took me several months to accept what I was going through. I just wanted to be a normal high school student, but instead my OCD prevented me from living my life how I though it was supposed to be. I lost a lot of normalcy from my OCD; I couldn’t drive a car, spent most of my time counting letters in my head, and was petrified of offending someone. This was not how I thought my high school as going to be. Once I accepted that my high school years might not go as exactly as I planned, it made it easier to start to change and to regain my life back from the illness. I started to open up about what was happening, made several friends that also have OCD, and spoke at the International OCD Foundation Conference. None of these things were part of my high school plan either. When I decided to show myself compassion and embrace what I was going through, things started looking up. Whatever you might be happening in your life, show yourself compassion and embrace the path you are on.

Showing yourself compassion also means to encourage yourself to try something new and to make mistakes. I did not start to try new things until my junior year out of fear that I would not be good at them. I joined the track team and attempted to run hurdles, which ended terribly, and also joined the weightlifting team, which turned out much less terribly than track. I thought that I was too old to try something new since it was so late in my time here at Trinity. I imagine there are going to be more times in my life when I think I am actually too old to try something new. Maybe after I graduate from grad school I will want to go to art school. I hope that I will show myself compassion in order to try this later in life. I hope that you show yourself compassion as well when you want to try something new, no matter what age it may be or how little experience you have.

We weren’t placed on this earth to be perfect; we were given this life to love and explore. We must not only show compassion to the rest of God’s creation, but to ourselves as well.

to my normal followers: sorry for the lack of postings.  I don’t have any good excuses, so I’m not going to be making any.

Ri(tu)als

I nailed my feet to the ground

I did not trust gravity

I did not want to float away

Feebly flapping

My arms tried to fly (they didn’t like that we were rooted)

So I duct taped them to my torso

When my fingers wiggled

I tied them together

A breeze came and blew my hair

I weaved my locks into a tapestry

They could have made good money if they would have sold it

When the birds sang, my ears would hear them

I filled my ears with silly putty

Stuffed cotton balls into my mouth

I sewed my eyes shut

Velcroed my lips together.

Only then could I sleep.

I do not want (to)

I do not want to

look in the rearview mirror

see the damage

cry for the dead (only on the inside)

drive on

leave the last 27 seconds behind

waste the next 27 years forgetting

the past 27 seconds

drive on

your sunglasses with block out the blood

your radio will drown out the screams

roll the window up

lock the door

you are in

they are out

you are safe

they are dead

you’ve been spared

check your seatbelt

it prevents deaths, they say

turn up the radio

it prevents thoughts, they say

keep your foot on the gas

leave the scene

flee the pain

do not turn around

it is done

you are complete

you are innocent

the blood does not stain

your hand or

your wheels

it only tints the side mirror

avoid them for the rest of the drive

the rain will clean it all later

On Books and OCD

Books, Me, and OCD

“Can we please read Madeline tonight?” I asked as if I were a toddler asking to read her favorite book for the fifth time.

She ignored my pleas and excavated through the piles of clothes and books that littered the floor of my room. She came up with Eloise Takes a Bwath.

“For someone with OCD, your room is a disaster,” my mother said.

I ignored her comment; she knew that OCD didn’t work like that.

“We read Madeline the last two nights;” she declared, “it’s time for something different.”

She did have a point. We did need a new book, and Eloise was that new book.

We only made it through the first few pages that night. I kept getting s-t-u-c s-t-u stuck on the words. Starting and stopping, we read for an hour that night, and every night. She read aloud, and I listened, trying to form the words into sentences instead of grouping the letters into clusters of fives.

This counting of the letters interrupted my life the summer before my sophomore year when my great grandma had her second heart attack. Because I could not save my grandmother, I had to do the second best thing: make sure that every word that I saw or heard or thought had five letters in it.

Diagnosed in with OCD in 9th grade, I thought I had lived the hard chapter of my life. I had spent several months in therapy and was finally doing better, until my grandmothers got sick. In 9th grade, my OCD had been nothing more than a series of rituals in order to make sure that things felt just right. When my grandmother had a heart attack, my OCD turned into preventing her death. As my OCD became more intrusive, school became harder since all I was doing was counting, and I lost one of my favorite things, reading.

Mom and I never finished Eloise Takes a Bwath; we switched over to The Phantom Tollboothinstead since you can only read the first page ofEloise Takes a Bwath so many times before you cannot take it anymore. We slowly made our way through The Phantom Tollbooth.

As the harsh Florida winter ended, I was at a point where it was no longer necessary for me to be read to; I could finally read a book on my own, something I had not done since school had started back in August. Over the course of six months, I had gone from nearly illiterate to reading again.

My parents often say that they wished they could have made it all better, wished they could have made my OCD go away. Looking back, I am happy their wish did not come true. Although I am grateful that I am better and my OCD is managed, I am more grateful for what my OCD has given me. When I was diagnosed with OCD, I was given the choice to let it control my life or get my life back. Through therapy, I’ve been able to learn one of the most important things, that I have the power to change my life. Beyond learning the power I have to change, I’ve also made some of my closes friends because of my OCD. I’ve met an incredibly community through the International OCD Foundation’s Conference and was able to speak to kids with OCD on the Teen Success Panel. I feel like I was given this challenge in order to make something out of it. Because of this belief, I’ve started a nonprofit summer camp for kids with OCD. Since I had to fight to get my life back, I will make something out of the life I now have.