Month: April 2013

Ma mère, l’enigme

Chaque jour elle est là. Les yeux compatissants, les mots gentils comme une berceuse, elle me réveille gracieusement, lentement. On peut sentir des crêpes sur la cuisinière, préparées par ses mains méticuleuses, prêtes à être mangées par les enfants somnolents. Cela montre vraiment le caractère de ma mère, elle pense toujours à tous les autres, rarement à elle-même.

Elle passe trop de temps dans la cuisine, le centre de sa vie, sa charpente longue courbée en haut de la cuisinière ou ses nombreux calendriers, organisant chaque aspect de son monde. Les murs sont couverts par ses notes, les gribouillages frénétiques, les mots qui décrivent la plupart de sa journée. Il faut être stressé pour être productif, c’est le refrain qui dicte son attitude.

En regardant ma belle mère je me vois moi-même, les yeux bleus orageux, la peau d’ivoire saupoudrée par les taches de rousseur claires comme le sable. Et je vois qu’elle englobe tout ce qui est possible pour moi, tout ce que je peux devenir. Ses journées sont pleines de listes, de recettes, de balades en voiture ; bien sûr je sais qu’il faut faire beaucoup d’effort pour arracher de l’information à mon jeune frère, mais ma mère comprend l’importance d’une loyauté féroce, incomparable, incroyable, stable comme un tambour. Ça, c’est ce que je veux hériter.

Je trouve une liste détaillée, collée sur mon napperon, quand je m’assieds pour prendre le petit déjeuner. Et ma mère est là, un bras faisant sauter une crêpe, l’autre avec un stylo, se parlant à elle-même, n’arrêtant jamais pour penser à sa faim, et elle me servit des crêpes avec un sourire et un amour large comme la mer.

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What Hypochondria Feels Like

Ugh, my head hurts. I’ve had this headache all morning and it really sucks. Why isn’t it going away? What if I have a brain tumor or something?

Or…maybe meningitis. It’s definitely meningitis. This feels like meningitis.

Shit. I’m gonna die. I’m driving my car and I’m all by myself and I’m going to pass out. I can’t breathe. It’s really fucking hot in this car. Where’s the AC? My foot is falling asleep. Goddamn it, I’m probably having a stroke. I have meningitis and I’m having a stroke and this car next to me is going way too slow. Come on, jerk, I need to get into the right lane. Just in case I need to pull over and pass out without killing anybody else.

What time is it? I’m late. But it doesn’t even matter because I’ll probably die before I even get there.

Is that a red line on my hand? Wait, really, what is that? Is that blood poisoning? I knew I should have put a band-aid on that papercut. It probably got all infected and now there’s flesh-eating bacteria headed straight toward my heart. I wonder if the blood poisoning will reach my heart before the stroke does.

I might as well wrap my car around that road sign. I’m in for a pretty painful death anyway so I should probably just get it over with. My heartbeat feels weird, like it’s skipping beats. And my chest sort of hurts when I breathe. FUCK. I’M HAVING A HEART ATTACK. I should have known that once the blood poisoning and the stroke got to my heart I would end up in cardiac arrest. Hey you, asshole, now I really have to move over.

I think I left the coffeepot on. I bet the house is going to burn down. Oh well, it doesn’t matter; I’m not going to be around to deal with it.

Don’t you honk at me! I’m having a fucking heart attack! You’re going to feel SO bad about this when I end up crashing into a school bus full of children because you wouldn’t let me- MOVE OVER! Jesus Christ! I would flip you off if I could feel my fingers, but I think the blood poisoning is making them go numb. Either that or the meningitis is causing me to lose my fine motor control. Shit, I REALLY shouldn’t be driving a car right now. Dear Lord, if you have any compassion, please let me at least stay alive long enough to put it in park.

My heartbeat is seriously not normal. And I’m starting to feel sick. Oh yeah, I’m definitely going to throw up. Is vomiting a symptom of meningitis? Or heart attacks? It can’t be a good idea to throw up while you’re trying to drive a car, right? I wish I could direct my vomit out the window and onto the crazy bastard who wouldn’t let me into the right lane.

It’s my doctor’s fault. She was the one who told me I "didn’t really need the meningitis shot" since I wasn’t living with hordes of other people. Well, joke’s on you, doc. See you at my funeral. Tell everyone to wear oxygen masks ’cause my corpse might be contagious. Is meningitis even contagious? I guess it has to be, since they have a shot for it.

I really need to open the window because it’s only getting hotter in this damn car. But then I’ll probably pass out anyway from inhaling toxic gas fumes, so what’s the use? I am NOT taking the elevator today. It’ll probably break right as I’m passing out and by the time the firemen come and pry the doors open it’ll be too late. I wonder what the official cause of death will be, which of my deadly diseases will actually be the one to finish me off. I kind of hope it’s not the blood poisoning. I would hate to be known as "the girl who died from a papercut." But if it was that or not being remembered at all, I guess I’d take the blood poisoning.

At least I parked the car. But it’s no use fighting any longer; death waits for no man. Goodbye, cruel world.

I hope they have WebMD in heaven.

All the Times I’ve Never Been Kissed, Part 4

(See parts one, two, and three.)

I’m eighteen.

I meet you on the fifth day of college. Your shy smile and unassuming nature intoxicate me, though I’m sure you don’t notice. I’m nobody, a little girl, a scared and intimidated freshman. You would not concern yourself with me.

I simultaneously crave your presence and fear it. Concerted effort is made not to look at you, to walk several blocks behind so I won’t feel obligated to force conversation. The moments when we make eye contact are few and far between, but all I can think in those moments are how badly I wish I could drown there, in your eyes, if it means I can move even a step closer to you.

In two years, do you ever figure out how much I care for you? How I am hypnotized by the deftness of your fingers as they leap across piano keys? How color mysteriously appears in my cheeks every time you sit down next to me? Everyone else does. It becomes a running joke for an entire group of people who know us.

What would you think if you did figure it out? Would you tease me for my schoolgirl crush? Become more awkward and aloof? Or could you let me fulfill my dream of holding your hand?

The last day I see you before I leave for the summer, we walk home together because we are heading in the same direction. I realize this might be the last time I ever see you, because you’re graduating and going to a different school and I’ll still be here, feeling your absence like a puncture wound in my heart.

“Well, have a nice…life, I guess,” I say to you as we part ways.

“Same to you,” you say back.

I stop as you’re turning away from me, and in my head time stops as well. In an instant I imagine infinite scenarios: calling for you to wait, running to your side, pulling you in so close that our racing heartbeats converge into one, telling you wordlessly how much I desperately want to love you. Instead, I simply watch you turn the corner, my stomach aching with the sharp disappointment of lustful, idealistic desire and the heaviness of my cowardice.

Why I Can No Longer Love Math

Every day for eight hours (give or take) I stare at a program called MATLAB. MATLAB R2012b, to be exact. For a programming language, it has relatively simple syntax, I suppose, although I’m rather inexperienced and often find myself searching fruitlessly through documentation trying to figure out how to multiply two things together. It’s the simple things I can never find in the help menu, probably because the software developers didn’t think idiots like me would be trying to use their program.

As a student of pure, theoretical mathematics, I can safely say that I’ve been exposed to many extremely confusing concepts. The problem is that I’m simply not very practical-minded. While I can usually grasp complex theories, I am useless when it comes to their applications. I like formulas. I have a photographic memory, so I can memorize them and recall them very quickly. But ask me what they mean, and I will stare at you like you’re growing an extra arm out of your forehead. Physics is lost on me. Chemistry, forget it. Although I did break the record in chem class for blowing up the greatest number of crucibles, so that could also have something to do with my aversion to lab science.

I can’t troubleshoot. I can orthonormalize matrices, diagram Galois fields, and perform high-degree Taylor expansions on demand, but no matter how many times you explain it to me, I will never understand WHY I’m doing those things. And I will do them much slower than MATLAB would. So in reality, I’m not really very helpful to have around. I’m like the dusty old computer in your parents’ basement, only with way more potential for human error.

See, the thing I always loved about math was that every problem had a solution. There was the question, and there was THE answer. I would use a formula, plug in some numbers, and what I came up with was either right or wrong. It didn’t include a whole lot of guesswork or creative invention. It just sort of, you know, WAS. Addition, multiplication, integration, graphical analysis…there was one way to do it, there was one answer, and there was a sense of certainty and security in knowing that. At some point as my education level climbed, that stopped being true. And then I stopped loving math.

Like a lot of people, I crave the realm of black-and-white. I want every problem to have exactly one correct solution, and I want it to be a quick fix. Subtract A from B. Solve for x. I want "42" to actually be the answer to the life, the universe, and everything.

I want someone to say, "Gwen, if you do x, y, and z, you’ll be happy. If you weigh k pounds, you will feel good about yourself. Your purpose in life is p + q + s." But life is not so easy.

I think MATLAB and I are a lot alike. We can store all kinds of functions and data, run scripts and generate output. But when you give us a complicated problem without giving us the necessary information to solve it, we return errors. Like,

">> find(happiness)
Undefined function or variable ‘happiness’."

Don’t expect us to make things happen without telling us how.

Thanks to My Scale, I Know I’ll Recover

Last weekend, my parents went to Cape Cod with a group of their friends and left my brother and me home alone. I kept joking that we were going to throw a huge party while they were gone, but I don’t think that was what they were worried about. Their actual worries were as follows: one, that my brother was going to impregnate his girlfriend, and two, that I wasn’t going to eat. Both of those were pretty legitimate, although I was present enough that I’m fairly sure the former was avoided.

To be fair, the latter was avoided as well, because I did eat. I didn’t exactly follow my meal plan, but food was consumed fairly often. I considered that a success considering how easy it would have been to give in and listen to my eating disorder’s enticing promises.

I will admit, however, that I went a little nuts. On Saturday, as I was fighting off a plague of insecurity, I remembered that somewhere in my house there was a scale. I knew my mom was still using it, because she tracks her weight like a hawk, but she’d hidden it right before I’d gotten home from residential and I hadn’t seen it since. If I stepped on that scale, maybe I could soothe my worries about the amount of weight I’d gained since beginning treatment. It sounded like a good idea.

Thinking back on it now, I’m embarrassed by what I did next. I ripped apart my house looking for that scale. Unpacked boxes, opened closets, dug through drawers like an addict searching for cocaine. I would clean it up later. After I found the scale. God, where was the scale?

Well, spoiler alert: I found it. I have to hand it to my mom – she’d chosen a very good hiding spot. If I hadn’t been so desperate, I probably never would have thought to look there. I yanked it out, turned it on, and climbed on it eagerly. Seriously, I could keep harping on the similarities between me and a coke addict, considering the amount of pure bliss and relief I felt as my feet centered on that cold piece of plastic. Soon, I thought, I would know if things were as bad as I imagined. I looked down…

I stared at the number in disbelief. Stepped off. Stepped back on. It was still the same.

I learned two things:

1. I thought I had reached a "healthy" weight when really I was only a pound away from being considered medically underweight. Meaning I’d only gained a little over ten since October.

2. Knowing that didn’t make me feel any better.

Here’s the thing. My current reality is that I hate my body, and it actually doesn’t matter whether the scale says 110 or 180. When I was at my most emaciated, I still hated it. I weighed myself more than ten times a day, hoping to God that I’d never see the number on the scale rise because my eating disorder told me I would be happier if it kept going down. But I wasn’t. I was never happy. Eating disorders don’t let you be happy.

And now, the fact that I know my weight doesn’t really make me feel any differently than I did before. Sure, it takes some of the guesswork out of it, but do I like myself more knowing that I haven’t gained as much weight as I thought? Of course not. Since Saturday, the way I’ve treated myself hasn’t changed – my eating habits, my thought patterns, they’re all the same. Thankfully (I think), I have been relatively unaffected by my temporary lapse in judgment. That speaks volumes to me, especially because of the fact that since then I have not felt even the slightest urge to weigh myself again.

At the end of the day, my self-esteem still sucks just as much as it always has, which is not exactly an inspiring conclusion to the story I’ve shared. But the reason I’m sharing it is because this experience has renewed in me a bizarre sense of hope. I have passed a major milestone in my recovery: the way I view myself is no longer affected by the number on the scale.

If I can make it this far, there are no limits to how much further I can go.

If We Live in Fear, They Win

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Boston Marathon tragedy lately, as I’m sure we all have. There are so many questions still unanswered, and there’s so little we really know for certain. But one undeniable fact is that whoever is responsible for those explosions made sure that the whole world watched. They deliberately chose a location teeming with cameras and reporters, even though it was close enough to the medical tent that many lives were saved. This was truly an act of terror, meant to make us feel afraid and unsafe in our own homes. And it is right that we should be frightened and angry and emotional.

Boston is fighting back, though. We know that if we live in fear, those responsible for this horrific violence have succeeded. But if we stand up together, united against the forces of evil that want so badly to drive us apart, we defeat them with our strength and resilience. We defeat them with the knowledge that the spirit of our beloved city cannot be broken.

Marathon Monday is a celebration of the amazing potential for greatness possessed by every single human being in the world. People travel hundreds of thousands of miles to display incredible physical strength and emotional willpower, while crowds gather to support and encourage complete strangers. And even in the midst of tragedy, this marathon continued the tradition. First responders, as well as concerned bystanders, showed selfless courage and kindness as they carried the wounded to safety. Enough blood was donated that very day to last every victim through the night. Even some Californians started a thread on Reddit offering to buy pizza for anyone hosting displaced Boston residents.

It is at times like these when I believe, without a doubt, in the benevolent nature of humanity. Yes, there will always be people whose motives are inherently evil, and who continue to astound us with their complete disregard for human life. But when even their most despicable actions do not discourage others from acting with unselfish love, I find myself marveling once again at the human capacity for good.

We can’t let them win, but I don’t really think we ever will. Boston is resilient. People are resilient. We will not live in fear, but in love. We will continue to care for each other and our city, and the marathon will go on year after year as a celebration of good in the face of evil. Those who lost their lives and limbs will be honored – and never forgotten.

It has long been a dream of mine to run a marathon, and even now I cannot think of a better place to achieve that goal than Boston, my home. Someday I will participate in this long-standing tradition of greatness, and I will cross the finish line in honor of those who no longer can. I will not live in fear, I will live in spite of fear. And they won’t win. We will.

12 Things the World Needs to Get Over

1) Girls poop.

While this originally only bothered the feminist side of me, lately I’ve realized that what I thought was a predominantly male misogynistic idea has extended into female-female interactions as well. Like, why do I feel embarrassed when I poop in a public toilet, surrounded by only other females? Because even girls have grown to believe that it’s unladylike to defecate! Ladies and gentlemen, this is ridiculous. Do we need to provide every US citizen with a copy of “Everybody Poops”?

2) Politicians suck.

Stop pretending like you’re personally offended by the amorality of politics. That’s why it’s politics. The people you actually trust would make terrible politicians, because politicians are liars pretty much by definition. They want your vote, not your friendship, so stop expecting them to actually care about what you say. Unless you have money and influence, in which case they’re bound to listen.

3) Everybody can’t win.

Someone once affectionately referred to my generation as the “cupcake generation.” Everybody gets a cupcake. And that’s kind of true (even though I can’t eat cupcakes because they’re full of gluten). When I played Under-12 soccer, every person got a trophy at the end of the season, even though the team was terrible and I was terrible and nobody was really even remotely good at soccer. In fact, I ended up with a shelf covered in trophies that I freely admit I didn’t earn. There is no such thing as “A for effort.” Sometimes you actually suck at things, and you crash and burn and fail miserably, and nobody’s going to give you a trophy for trying. Life is full of competitions where there is a clearly defined winner, and everybody else loses. It happens. I mean, I’m a firm believer that everybody can win at something, but nobody can win at everything. Besides, getting accolades you don’t deserve just makes the real accolades less meaningful.

4) Kids are going to do whatever the hell they want.

I’m lookin’ at you, US government. Replacing the Pop-Tarts in high school vending machines with tiny packages of peanuts and banning coffee during school hours isn’t going to change the world, it’s just going to piss a lot of people off. Anyone who’s seriously addicted to caffeine is going to find a way to consume it, and large groups of obnoxious male athletes are going to end up at McDonalds every single day. This is just a specific example of a general need people have to exercise control over everyone around them. Educating kids about proper nutrition and safe sex is a way better idea than shoving kale chips and abstinence down their throats, because really, they’re going to do whatever they feel like doing, and they should probably at least be smart about it.

5) Adults are too.

Everybody drives at least 5 miles per hour over the speed limit. Unless you’re that asshole who remains at a solid 20 no matter what road he’s on. Rules are meant to be broken, right?

6) Watermelon-flavored things taste better than watermelon.

Yeah, I know real watermelon is healthier than fake watermelon. But that’s because real watermelon is pretty much just slightly flavored water with seeds in it. It’s disappointing, like drinking really diluted orange juice. Fake watermelon, on the other hand, is just the right combination of sweet and sour. Sour Patch Watermelon, watermelon jolly ranchers, watermelon jellybeans…washed down, of course, with a nice tall glass of water so you still feel refreshed. Now THAT’S a summertime treat.

7) There are things that don’t need to be proven.

Call it whatever you like – the Powers that Be, the hand of God, the way it is – but some things just are, without any satisfying explanation. Science and math are wonderful, beautiful things, and I am a huge advocate of using them to solve real-world problems. But it’s okay for science to leave some things unexplained. I mean, people have tried for years to prove or disprove the existence of God using complex mathematical equations, to no avail. And people who have real faith wouldn’t care even if there WAS a solution. The most meaningful things in life are those which cannot even be expressed in words, much less in theorems. Sometimes we just have to let those be. We can’t solve everything.

8) Grammar is a dying art.

You can fight like hell to make sure every one of your Facebook friends uses “your” and “you’re” properly, but the fact of the matter is that the next generation sees both of those words as “ur.” There’s nothing you can do about that. They will go through their lives probably never hearing the terms “gerund” or “dependent clause,” because Microsoft Word will essentially write their papers for them. It’s horribly depressing, I know, but we have to let it go.

9) The Kardashians.

I feel like this is pretty self-explanatory. Getting invested in Kim’s butt implants and failed marriages is probably doing nothing for you but lowering your IQ by a couple of points every day.

10) People make mistakes.

For some reason, we have a tendency to believe that there are some people in this world who are absolutely, 100% perfect. Sometimes it’s a celebrity, sometimes a mentor, sometimes a friend, but when we idolize people, we forget that they’re human too, and everyone ends up under a lot of unnecessary pressure. And then we run into problems like thirteen-year-old girls crying hysterically because Justin Bieber smoked weed. Well guess what, little girl, your parents probably did too, and they turned out okay.

11) Mental illness is everywhere.

We can ignore it all we want, but we can’t change the facts. According to a 2008 study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, about 5% of the US population had been diagnosed with a serious mental illness (defined as “a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder diagnosable currently or within the past year which results in serious functional impairment and substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.”) And that doesn’t even take into consideration all the people suffering in silence. We seriously need to rethink the way we, as a culture, address the topic of mental health.

12) Shit happens.

Sometimes life deals you a crap hand and then kicks you while you’re down. It happens to literally everybody. You can’t escape the shit. But that doesn’t mean you should whine about it, either. Every experience teaches you something, even if it’s as simple as “I don’t ever want that to happen again.” You learn, you adapt, you change, you grow, and you almost always emerge from situations with a stronger sense of who you are. We could all benefit from realizing that even when things are going rather poorly, we are lucky to be given the chance to live through them.

An Anorexic’s Perspective on “Diet” Food

About a month ago, I was at the grocery store with my mother when we were stopped by the in-store nutritionist. “Would you like a sample?” she asked with a big smile. She had a cart with some sort of creamy nacho dip, which Mom happily sampled as I watched (someday I hope to be recovered enough that I can sample nacho dip at the grocery store, but I’m not there yet).

After my mother complimented the dip she’d tasted, the nutritionist handed her a recipe “so you can make it at home!” I glanced over at the paper to see what was in it, because I was curious, and it looked pretty good. But as my eyes ran down the list, I found myself beginning to get angry. Nearly every ingredient in the dip the nutritionist was distributing was “diet.” Fat-free sour cream. Reduced-fat cheese. I felt a strong urge to punch her in the face.

Why did I have such a strong reaction? I mean, I don’t have an agenda regarding low-fat foods – I’m not even trying to say they’re bad. I simply have a personal vendetta against them.

And they’re everywhere.

My eating disorder, on the other hand, adores low-fat foods. The fewer calories, the better. It’s pretty safe to say that’s how it all began – skinny lattes from Starbucks, nonfat yogurt, Truvia, Diet Coke, 100-calorie packs…the list goes on and on. These products were readily available and heavily marketed, and I felt good about myself when I chose them over the “unhealthy” options. And objectively speaking, these foods aren’t a bad idea. With our country’s increasing obesity rates, the general population of people could probably afford to consume less fat and sugar. The challenge is, then, to try to recover from an eating disorder in a society where “diet” products are being shoved down your throat.

I don’t want to shed negative light on my family, but this is an example: in my house we always used low-fat sour cream and fat-free salad dressing. It was kind of just an accepted fact as I was growing up – I actually don’t think I had ever tasted full-fat salad dressing before this year. In treatment, however, anything low-fat or low-cal was not an acceptable part of a meal plan, so I was no longer “allowed” those things. Basically, that meant I had to go to the store and get my own salad dressings and sour cream. If you were to visit our house on a night we were eating salad, you would see a bunch of reduced or non-fat dressing bottles on one side of the table, and a bottle of regular honey mustard dressing on the other – right in front of my place setting. In other words, it is painfully obvious that I am somehow singled out from our household “norm.”

I could give a thousand more examples. When I shop, I have to block out the advertisements that are yelling at me to choose the reduced-fat graham crackers or the 1% cottage cheese. And that becomes even more difficult to deal with when you add on the voice of the manipulative eating disorder that lives in my head and refuses to let me have a moment of peace (I will spare you the things it says to me, but believe me, they are very unpleasant).

Recovering from an eating disorder in a society that idealizes thinness and weight loss and constantly markets dieting? It’s really, really hard.

One day when I was in residential, we were sitting in the kitchen eating lunch and listening to the radio, like we always did, when suddenly we heard a commercial. I think it was for some kind of weight loss smoothie. Anyway, there was a woman on the phone with “customer service,” telling him about her experiences with these smoothies. “I have a problem,” she concluded. “I love your smoothies, but I just can’t stop losing weight!”

We stared at each other in silence, and for the rest of the week we listened to Pandora during meals. We didn’t turn on the radio again.

I want to stress that it is not these products themselves that I have a problem with, but rather my own shortcomings and my inability to stand up to them. I used to feel strong when people complimented me on my ability to resist taking a second cookie or eat plain yogurt (I still cannot fathom how I managed that one), but now with every bite I DON’T take I’m reminded that I still don’t have control over my own life. And while the voice of recovery tells me that I should use that full-fat sour cream, the eating disorder still picks the lowest calorie cereal it can find.

So, back to the nutritionist. I didn’t really want to punch her in the face. I wasn’t angry at her – none of the violent battles going on in my head were her fault, or anybody’s fault. I was just frustrated with the process, and of all the ways my environment seemed to be working against me while I struggled to do the right thing. And that’s not something that’s going to go away. Calorie-counting is always going to be a successful way for people to lose weight and get healthy, so they will continue to do it – and calories will always remain at the top of the nutrition label. Choosing certain diet foods is always going to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, so they will continue to be widely available. And thin is still going to be “in.”

For now, it’s just going to be hard. And it’s going to suck. And I’m going to keep having nightmares about accidentally eating an extra granola bar and feeling pangs of jealousy when I watch my mother eat a nonfat yogurt.

And one day I won’t get angry when I see a recipe for low-fat nacho dip. I’ll smile and say, “where’s the lard?” and move on.

21 Life Lessons in 21 Years

As my 21st birthday approaches (it’s only a month away!) I’ve been thinking a lot about what the first 21 years in my life have given me that I can use to move forward. Here are 21 of the most important things I’ve learned, although there are infinitely many more to choose from.

  1. Thank your parents. They learn not to expect gratitude from their children, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate it.
  2. “Older sibling” is one of the greatest roles you can ever be asked to play. For one thing, you can dress your little brother up like a girl and he can’t say anything about it. For another, you will never doubt your importance in the world.
  3. As a general rule, if you don’t let yourself cry about it, you won’t move on.
  4. Someday you will want to cash in on all the naps you defiantly skipped when you were in preschool. But life isn’t fair.
  5. It is a wonderful thing to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments, but it is small-minded to think you are more important than anyone else because of them.
  6. It’s okay to need help. Our society is becoming more and more individualistic, but it’s important to remember that real strength comes from knowing when you can’t do it on your own.
  7. Keep playing with Barbies long after it’s considered “cool.” There are very few activities that stimulate the imagination the way populating a good Barbie Dream House does.
  8. You don’t need a singular best friend. You can have many different relationships with many different people, all of which may be equally valuable. Limiting yourself to one “best friend” causes you to miss out on all the other wonderful possibilities out there.
  9. Don’t spare everyone else’s feelings at the expense of your own. There are times when this is appropriate, but in the long run it teaches you that you don’t matter. And no one should ever feel like they don’t matter.
  10. If something catches on fire, put it out. It’s probably not the best idea to stand there staring at the flames as they decimate your kitchen. I mean, to each his own, though.
  11. At some point, you will look back on the misery of middle school and have a good laugh about it. However, try telling this to a middle schooler and they’ll probably never speak to you again. It’s hell for them. Respect that.
  12. Compromising yourself for someone else is never worth it. If you are not appreciated for your strengths and weaknesses exactly the way you are, you need to surround yourself with different people.
  13. It’s okay to be bad at things. In fact, it’s kind of fun. And there is no better bonding experience than sucking at something with somebody else.
  14. Every person has something to add to any conversation. Listening to other people teaches you more than classes, books, or the internet ever will.
  15. Drinking orange juice right after you brush your teeth is never a good idea.
  16. High school is inevitably full of two types of people: those who don’t care, and those who care too much. There is a balance. It’s just very hard to find.
  17. Doing what’s right is often messy. You might hurt someone or make your life more difficult, and it will almost definitely be uncomfortable. Do it anyway.
  18. Nothing and nobody can define you unless you let them.
  19. Not every friendship is meant to last forever, even if it’s the strongest friendship you’ve ever known. People grow up, grow apart, and cease to need each other the way they used to. But that doesn’t make the friendship any less valuable.
  20. Bathing suit bottoms are an acceptable substitute for underwear if it saves you $1.00 to skip laundry during finals week.
  21. In retrospect, no catastrophe is so terrible that you cannot recover. Your world doesn’t end. Things can always get better, and there is always something to learn.