Tag Archives: help

It’s Time to Save the World

“Is my English OK? Is the microphone on?” asked Greta Thunberg, in one of her most recent addresses. “Because I’m beginning to wonder.”

Laughter from the audience.

It wasn’t a joke. No one seems to be listening.

Nine years ago, when I was Greta’s age, I wasn’t aware. I wasn’t politically, globally, socially, environmentally aware. I wasn’t aware of what our biggest problems were–or that I, as a kid, could do anything about it, even if I did know what was happening in the world.

Nine years ago, I was LARPing (live-action role playing). For those who don’t know, LARP is a game wherein you create a character for yourself, dress up in costume, and run around in the woods at night, fighting faux villains with foam sticks. It’s like playing make-believe in the backyard when you were little, but on a larger scale, with maybe a better production value.

LARP comes in a number of forms, but the game I played was mostly like Dungeons & Dragons. It was a fantasy game. Swords and sorcery. Lightning bolts. Storming the castle. All of that.

While I knew that the events in the game weren’t “real” and that the character I played wasn’t “real,” they always felt important. They felt bigger than the small “reality” I actually lived in. I often felt that my character was better than me. She was stronger, prettier, freer. She had more goodness in her; more to give. I wanted to be like her in real life.

This disconnect–the idea that my character was false and somehow separate from me–affected my growth in a number of ways. I could write a book on it. There’s a lot to unpack. But the point here is that even after I managed to quit the game, I had a hard time developing an idea of who I was without that character.

Recently, with the changing of the seasons, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia. It would be the start of LARP season now, if I was still playing.

I’m still sorting through it, but one of the things that finally occurred to me was that I could be like the heroic character I used to play. I already was like her. She came from me.

But there were still situational differences, systematic differences between that character’s world and mine, dragging me down.

I posted this on Facebook:

larp

And, only days later, the sentiment was echoed by somebody else:

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I’ve been flailing for a solution. Something I could do to help the environment, and reconcile the reality of my apparent helplessness with the idea of once having played at being someone courageous and able to create change.

In this video, Jane Goodall advises people to act locally. “Quite honestly,” she says, “if you think globally, you get depressed.” Break it down, then. Start with what you know you can do. Do something. Even if it might seem small. “We’re all interconnected.”

I’ve been worrying myself sick. I woke up today with a sore throat, and a headache, presumably from my newfangled teeth grinding habit. In an anxious, somewhat dissociated haze, I drove to the store for some groceries, just to get out of the house. Everywhere, meat and dairy. Things packaged in plastic. Delicious things that I only felt bad about craving. I bought one of those chocolate bars that claims to help endangered species, and felt doubtful about its impact, but I hoped.

On my way home, it seemed like all I could see was trash. Scattered along the side of the road, accumulating in the ditches, washed up along the curb. Plastic bags blowing in the wind and caught up in bushes.

Enough is enough.

I found a metal stick–one of those garden hooks for hanging bird feeders or little candle pots–and I filed the end to a point on my dad’s bench grinder. I walked across the street to the park outside my house, and I attacked the garbage in the rain garden. I chased it through the foliage, piercing it with my makeshift rapier, collecting its remains.

Maybe this will help.

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Photo by Robert Stuart Lowden

I’m an adventurer. It’s my job.

And for all the shitheads out there who consume without thinking, and leave their trash lying around; for the people who continue to make a mess of the world, I have just one message:

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Graduation is Terrifying

As of today, Sunday, the 10th of March, there are 48 days until commencement on April 27th. I have a counter going down on my phone. (Why commencement isn’t after the official end of the semester, I have no idea. Someone please let me know the logic behind this.)

It’s exciting, knowing that I’m almost done with this four-year journey. I feel smarter, more mature. I feel qualified for things, which is great.

But I’m also terrified.

After I graduated high school, back in 2012, my world slowly imploded. I didn’t know where I wanted to go to college, or what I wanted to do for a living. I didn’t have a very good grasp of what the world was really like. I was a kid.

So I followed my crush to his college, a very teenage girl thing to do. It was expensive. It was lonely. It was cold. For the first time, I faced the very real possibility that I might be a failure. I was embarrassed. I was depressed. My parents finally convinced me to come home after that first semester. I’m not sure why they let me go in the first place. I was a kid.

It went downhill from there. I had been told from a young age how independent I was. How I was so talented, and would surely be going places. I don’t know what I was thinking. As soon as I got a full-time job, I moved out of my parents’ house. They would have let me stay, but I felt that I shouldn’t.

Life with roommates was tough. I lived mostly with strangers, and boyfriends who broke up with me before our leases ended. Sharing a bed for months with someone you thought was going to love you is hard. Doing it more than once is heartbreaking.

Our apartments were cramped, split three or four ways so we could reasonably afford the rent and utilities. I was the kid in our first apartment, too scared to take initiative or touch anything that wasn’t explicitly mine. To compensate for the lack of control, I became the mom of my second apartment. I managed the money, drove the college kid to school and her friend’s house when she couldn’t take the bus. I dealt with dirty dishes, and took out the trash, and sorted the recycling. Sometimes I cooked, but often I didn’t have the energy to do more than scramble an egg or pour a bowl of cereal for dinner.

A rash started developing on my neck and wrists. My feet hurt. I was constantly tired. I lost 30 pounds and thought because my body seemed different, I must have gained weight, and started eating even less. I wore larger clothes without noticing how baggy they must have been. I didn’t have much money at the end of the month to put into savings. I was stuck.

Was this going to be my life forever?

I hit the last straw, finally, one day, and decided to go back to school. Community college, close to my parents’ house. As long as I was pursuing a degree, I could live with them, without having to pay rent, or buy groceries. The ultimate form of stability: food and shelter. A clearly paved path forward.

Stress had destroyed my health. As soon as I moved back home and settled in, became a person again, and not a mechanism going through the motions, it was like a dam broke inside my body. It stopped trying to hold itself together. The rash that had been threatening my skin in small patches exploded across my entire body–literally, the whole thing. Showers were painful. Clothes were painful. I itched constantly. It was exhausting. I often woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks: hands shaking, and a feeling in my chest like the balloon of the world was poised on the sharp end of a tiny pin. I started sleeping with the lights on; it sort of helped.

That was just the tip of the iceberg. I could be here for days, trying to describe the few short years that managed to demolish me from the inside out, and the long and infuriating road to recovery. I might look like an ordinary person now, but that’s thanks to years of allergy immunotherapy, a relatively new bi-weekly immunosuppressant injection that keeps my skin from flaring up, hyperthyroid medication, anti-depressants,  and therapy.

So, after all of that, the idea that I’m about to be done with school again, that I have to try any of that life again is absolutely mortifying. I can’t think straight. My brain is trying to come up with hundreds of ideas at once to keep me safe and on my feet and doing something worthwhile, if plan X, Y, and Z don’t happen to work out. There are so many contingency plans trying to build off of one another that I haven’t been able to pick any one of them to start off with. Focusing is difficult. Writing a coherent paper or blog post has become difficult–which, when you’re a writing major, with a typically very natural affinity for writing, only snowballs the issue.

I don’t want to be stuck working for someone else, especially a large corporation with headquarters far removed from its people. I want to be an entrepreneur, I want to start my own businesses and do my own freelance work–and I know I have the skills to do it now–but the uncertainty is crippling. The idea of being stuck somewhere I won’t have control over my life and my mental health is mortifying. The idea that my plans will tank, or won’t take off in the first place, is frightening. The fight or flight response is getting worse by the day.

I’m nearly 25, but I’m just a kid. A kid with invisible illnesses, and only so many spoons. Worlds and worlds of good ideas, but only so much time.

And I am scared.