Twenty Before Twenty-One

We celebrated New Years’ over three months ago, you say. Better late than never, I say.

Normally, I hold off on “New Years’ Resolutions” until my birthday, in late January, anyway. And they aren’t actually resolutions…I like to think of them as missions. And the number of missions I attempt is determined by the age I am turning.

I finally brainstormed up twenty whole things during one of my many train rides over spring break, so here they are:

  1. Try gelato: so far, my favorite flavor is melone. Other recommendations: pistachio & ricotta,
  2. See St. Peter’s with my glasses on
  3. “Learn” one piece of classical music a week. As in, be able to identify the piece when I hear it
  4. Learn a piece on the piano
  5. Run in a race: during the class trip to Greece, I participated in a footrace in the original Olympic Stadium.
  6. Climb a mountain: climbed the Mt. Parnassus in Delphi.
  7. Write a letter to my future self (post-Rome)
  8. Go to the Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis
  9. Make Dean’s List
  10. Play the lick from Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” on the sax
  11. Read 30 books
  12. Write up college advice for my sister
  13. Go to 10 performances: So far, I’ve been to Aida at the Staatsoper in Vienna, Lang Lang at the Koln Philharmonic
  14. Watch 5 new films from the AFI’s Top 100 list: possibilities include Gone with the Wind, Schindler’s List, Bridge on the River Kwai, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Maltese Falcon, North by Northwest, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid, or The Philadelphia Story.
  15. Figure out Fun.’s “Some Nights” on the harmonica
  16. Go stargazing
  17. The Research Project: pick a random topic to read about each month. Possibilities: cartography, astrobiology, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Pixar, operas, saxophonists, Cardinals baseball history, music theory, hair dye color theory, geology, eyes, John Steinbeck, epigenetics…
  18. Post every Sunday (at least)
  19. Punt a pigeon: kicking a pigeon is good luck in Italy!
  20. Not lose my glasses

Here’s hoping I’ll be posting again very, very soon.

St. Sebastian & Reasons to Run

While I was not the person to voice the desire to play hide and seek during the tour
of the Catacombs ofcatacomb_saint_sebastian Saint Sebastian, I shared the sentiment. Walking through the passageways incited excitement more than anything else. People who visited their deceased loved ones here may have been mourning, but they, as early Christians, were on the edge of something big. Bigger than an epic game of hide and seek, even.

crypt_saint_sebastianThere is a church containing the crypt of Saint Sebastian on top of the catacombs, with a striking (pun intended) sculpture of him after his first martyrdom, pierced with arrows. He survived this attempt and was later beaten to death. Sebastian also happens to be the patron saint of athletes, and while I’m not super athletic, I do love running.

Back at school, I help out with the running club, and while organizing for this semester’s remaining officers, I thought seriously about why I love running. Usually, when asked why I run, and I just say something profound, like, “I just…love it SO MUCH!”

Reasons I Run, A List

1. The culture. Crack open an issue of Runner’s World magazine, volunteer or cheer at a race, listen to two random people who find out each other are runners, or check out a running store…runners are a cool group of people, if I do say so myself.
2. Running around a place is the best way to get to know it. I’ve lived in the same neighborhood my entire life, but it wasn’t until I began running the streets that I really got to know the curiosities of the place, as well as that crazy chihuahua who always chases me.
3. Sometimes it feels like flying.
4. Running increases my lung capacity for playing the saxophone.
5. It has saved my life multiple times.
6. The freedom of knowing I can just go run a mile if I want to.
7. Being an example to others, whether it be the random drivers on the road, my family, my friends…I believe anyone can be a runner, and that anyone can benefit like I have, in every aspect of their person.

Great Moments

  • It had been my dream, ever since my first year as a camper 7 years ago, to be the announcer of the Dutch Auction (an activity where campers attach as many items as possible to their person and get a point for their cabin for each item the announcer calls off). At last, this announcer dream came true, and it was so cool to see the girls’ faces light up when they realized they had the tie-dyed shirt or the 1998 penny.
  • I am a wall-sitting champion, at least amongst the camp counselors. I believe the final time was 6 minutes & 20 seconds. I could barely walk the next day, and the sides of my thighs are rock hard.
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  •  I get goosebumps a lot more these days: maybe it’s a side-effect of medication or getting older, but I had full body goosebumps for a majority of Brave. I also got pretty major goosebumps while watching the cabin’s performances of their rewrites of popular songs.
  • A fire ban was issued for all of camp, so we created a campfire out of cardboard, Cheez-it boxes, streamers, and flashlights.
  • It’s traditional for the counselors to party and stay up most of the last night of camp. This year’s adventures involved stuffing most of the counselors in the back of a van and taking them on a joyride.
  • Watching the sun rise over the Missouri wilderness.
  • The counselors produce a musical every year, which involves parodies of show tunes about camp. My favorite is the “Circle of Life” rewrite, mostly because I got to act the part of Rafiki. When I became too old to be a counselor, my younger sister took over, and it was so cool to get to come back and watch her take on my role.
  • For counselor dress-up, I was a “French painter” (whatever that means) and a little 6th grader painted the most marvelous mustache on me. However, my French accent left a lot to be desired, however.
  • I met my pen pal, Maria, at camp in 2007, and we’ve been writing ever since. She’s from Tennessee and goes to college in Virginia, so I hadn’t seen her in 2 years until a few days ago. We caught up over lunch, and it was just so fantastic to see how writing has kept us connected.
  • I had a very small role at camp this year: I helped out in the evenings only, and it was humbling to be in that position. I didn’t receive a counselor award, or get any notes from campers, or a staff t-shirt. It was humbling to help and not be overly noticed, to say thank you for not being recognized or thanked.
  • One of the counselors plays guitar and has begun to write some of her own songs. She trusted us enough to sing them, and that was equally as humbling.
  • It’s not what you’re doing, it’s who you’re with.
  • Your heart just keeps growing bigger and bigger if you allow it.

Head Spinning & Violence

Have you ever had something ripped away from you so violently your head spins?

A high school friend called me today to ask a very serious question. A close friend of hers had been very recently diagnosed with depression, and is being put on medication within the week. What should she expect? She knows I have personal experience with this very scary situation.

I’m not going to go into what I think about the pharmaceuticals, nor am I going to go into the psychiatric drug culture. Sorry if you were looking for controversy. Personally, the entire arena of psychiatry is much too inundated with controversy. What psychiatry needs is a little more understanding, compassion. Hopefully these will lead to a gradual removal of the stigma.

How do you treat someone with depression? How does one act?

First, a reassurance: suicidal people are generally honest. If you ask them direct questions, like, “Do you ever think about killing yourself?” most people will be as straightforward as your question leads them to be.

Second, and logically, make her talk. Most of the time, just make small talk, and if something bigger needs to be said, it will happen. Every once and a while, force a question. This should be done sparingly, though. People need their space, especially if they are licking wounds.

Third, if somebody can’t get out of bed in the morning, what my mom would always do is ask me if I could get up to go for a walk. No school, no commitments, nothing. Just a walk around my neighborhood. Most of the time, I could muster this, and after walking for a little bit, I was good to go. Getting out of bed, taking that first step, is more than half the battle won already.

Fourth, “good endings make for good beginnings”. Rituals at night can help the next day start out right. Brush your teeth, actually put on pajamas, tidy your room, write in a journal, pack your bag.  This is just a general life rule, as well. End one thing well, and the next adventure will be even better. Learn from what you just experienced in order to make the next experience even richer and more rewarding.

Fifth, be mindful of how you look at someone who is breaking. If someone is at a breaking point, and if the person is close enough to you, you will know…don’t stare. Don’t gape. When I was breaking, people would always look at me with this expression of pain and helplessness, their eyes all big. faces wide. Not moving. A person at her breaking point should be moving around, maybe mentally, maybe physically and so should the people surrounding her. Offer to get a drink, or a blanket, or a hug, or a hand. Do something. Don’t just sit there, staring. A depressed person needs to be surrounded by winners, not the perfect. So it’s fine if what you are offering isn’t the perfect thing to say or do. Doing something is enough.

Sixth, take care of yourself.

Seventh, medication is not a magic pill. At least initially, it is a stepping stone to get a person to the point where she can take care of the best medications.  The best medications are good rest, a healthy diet, lots of exercise, good relationships with people and God, and counseling.

I mentioned head spinning and violence earlier, but I think I’ll tackle those monkeys tomorrow.