2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 240,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 10 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My Winter Break Reading List

I’m always looking for great books to read, but never have enough time during the semester to read for fun. Winter break is the perfect time for reading! Now that Christmas has passed and I received a bunch of books, my reading list is getting extensive and I thought I’d share it with you all. Let me know if you have any book recommendations or any thoughts you want to share with me about the books on my list.

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So You Want to Be a Storyteller?

Sam S. Mullins: a blog about anything

Really? Even if people won’t want to date you ever again for fear that you’ll one day talk about them on stage? You’re sure?

Okay. Welcome aboard.

Here’s a cheap glass of wine. Where we’re going, you’ll need it.

I’ve got to tell you – I think you’ve picked a great time to get into the story game. I mean, with the success of storytelling podcasts like The Moth, RISK!, Definitely Not the Opera, Snap Judgement and This American Life millions of people are now aware of the phenomenon of modern storytelling. Just about every city in North America now has a regular storytelling event, and there seems to be more opportunities for storytellers than ever before. For raconteurs like us, the getting has never been good-er.

But before you start speaking your heart into the crackly microphone at the local roti place’s storytelling event (at which no one is there to actually hear stories [they’re just there…

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21st Birthday Checklist

Know someone whose 21st birthday is coming up? Looking for a fun way to make their birthday unforgettable? If you’re planning on hitting up the bars in your town, check out my 21st Birthday Checklist for an amusing way to watch your friend have a great time and make a fool of themselves. Have fun and be safe!

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“You Are Beautiful”

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As some of you may know, I was 19 before anyone outside my family and close friends told me I was beautiful. People had told me I was pretty or that I looked hot, but nobody had ever called me beautiful. The word gained so much power for me because it was so underused in my life. All I wanted for a long time was for a guy to tell me I was beautiful.

But this isn’t about my lack of love life or the concept of beauty, it’s about three simple words: You are beautiful. Those three words take less than a second to say, but people don’t say them. And for anyone out there suffering from insecurity (aka all of us), those words can mean the world.*

Today, tell someone they’re beautiful. Think about all the people in your life who you consider beautiful human beings, and ask yourself how many times you have actually told them they’re beautiful. My guess is that number is pretty low. It is for me. And think about how you would feel if someone unexpected told you that you’re beautiful. So now tell them. You can explain it, you can confess your love, or you can just say the three words: You are beautiful. It’s that simple. I dare you. You have no idea how much they’ll appreciate it.

And you, reading this right now, you are part of the reason I have more confidence in myself, and that makes you absolutely beautiful.

 

* For the record, when I talk about beauty and the word “beautiful,” I am not solely talking about physical attractiveness. To me, “hot” and “pretty” describe someone’s physical appearance; “intelligent,” “kind,” and “interesting” describe someone’s internal being; the word “beautiful” encompasses both internal and external amazingness. Beautiful is a powerful word that is one-of-a-kind. I hope that by understanding my definition of beauty, you can understand the kind of impact it can have on people.

16 Stages of Finals

1. A week before your exam, when you feel like you have all the time in the world.

i got this

2. When all of a sudden the test is in two days.

when you realize the final is in 2 days

3. So you open your books, but you’re immediately bored.

but as soon as you open your books you're already bored

4. And when someone asks you if you’re ready for the test?

when someone asks if you're ready for the test

5. But then they suggest going out…

when people suggest going out

6. And the next morning, you wake up with regret and a pile of work.

and then the next day

7. So when you finally roll out of bed at an early 2:00 pm, you load up on coffee.

so you load up on coffee

8. You gather your friends.

you rally up your friends

9. And you head to the library.

lose motivation five minutes later

10. You feel like everything is finally going the right direction.

you think you're doing well

11. Until you print your paper and you notice a spelling mistake.

when you finally print your paper and find a spelling mistake

12. And suddenly everything is wrong and you can’t believe you didn’t pay attention all semester and now look what you’ve gotten yourself into and you convince yourself you’re going to fail out of college and your parents will be so disappointed that they’ll disown you and you’ll have to live on the streets and beg with (grammatically correct) cardboard signs and hope that people will take pity on you and buy you a coffee once in a while to remind you what the good old days of college were like. So you sit on the floor with your ice cream and cry.

at some point you have a complete emotional breakdown

13. You decide that outfits like this are socially acceptable.

you decide that outfits like this are socially acceptable

14. And at midnight the night before the exam, you finally get your shit together.

you finally get your shit together. at midnight. the night before your test

15. And when the test appears on your desk hours later, you decide there’s nothing you can do except leave it to the higher powers.

and eventually you leave it to the higher powers that be

16. As soon as you turn in the paper, you find the closest place where you can finally lay down and sleep.

and then you take a three hour nap

Good luck, everyone. You got this. And if you don’t, just remember that nobody else does either.

And finally, to quote Shakespeare, “Doomsday is near; Die all, die merrily.”

Behind Every Smile: My Life with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

For an hour and a half, I stared at the floor. My knee bounced up and down. When my eyes weren’t fixed on the carpet in front of me, they darted back and forth to the door, measuring my distance from it. My notebook was open in front of me, scribbled notes covering the page and intricately drawn lines in the border. “You’re okay, you’re okay, you’re okay” coursed through my head. I was sweaty and clammy, my blood rushing to my extremities. It took all my power to not run from that room. I flipped absently through the pages we were discussing, feigning like I was paying attention. I wasn’t very convincing though, as my professor looked at me across the room, subtly asking if I needed to leave. I shook my head. I knew if I left the room, I wouldn’t come back. My hands shook and I felt like I was going to throw up. This was the first time I had a full-blown panic attack in college.

For a week all I ate was rice, saltines, and dry life cereal. I lost 7 pounds. My phobia of throwing up was worse than it had ever been, and sitting down to meals in the dining hall was harder than every test I’ve ever taken. I spent hours laying in bed, trying not to panic. By ten o’clock every night I was exhausted.

I went to a counselor once a week, if not more. I made emergency appointments. I called my parents four or five times a day and I texted them nonstop. They dropped everything anytime I called – sometimes for 5 minutes, sometimes for an hour. I cried a lot. I depended on my friends more than ever before and I couldn’t give them anything in return.

For over a month, my heart beat faster than normal. My thoughts raced uncontrollably. I woke up in a panic every morning, unable to function properly. I went on a lot of walks around campus. I couldn’t be alone. I considered taking a leave of absence from school, but I knew if I left, I’d never come back. Sometime during that month I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition in which a person is often worried or anxious about many things and finds it hard to control this anxiety.”

While the definition is relatively straight-forward, GAD is not. It has characteristic symptoms and causes, but it is different for every single person. We all experience it differently, have different triggers, and deal with our anxiety in different ways. If you know someone with GAD, you may understand how complicated it is. With GAD, anxiety can be all-encompassing and all-consuming. No matter how prepared you are for anxiety and panic, every time is just as terrifying. The more it happens, the more confusing it can become, and the more you think you know about it, the less you truly understand.

I’ve been dealing with diagnosed GAD for over two years, but it is still the hardest thing I have to deal with every day. My anxiety is nowhere near as bad as it was two years ago, but it sometimes flares up and puts me right back in the place I was before. The things I’ve learned over the past two years, though, are things I can only truly understand because I have experienced them. For me, anxiety is scary. Every single time. It takes over my mind and my body and no matter how rational I am, I cannot rationalize my anxiety and panic attacks. It makes me feel insecure and uncertain. It takes away all my confidence and forces me to reach out to others for help. I feel needy and incompetent, burdensome and useless. I become scared of everything. Panic shows up out of nowhere, triggered by seemingly nothing, and all of a sudden it is there. My body turns against me and I can’t think straight. And as quickly as it came, it goes away. Sometimes. The problem with anxiety is it’s always different, and yet always the same. It breaks you down. It makes you feel like there’s something wrong with you. For the past two years it has continually been the hardest thing I have had to deal with. I am proud of myself for being in the place I am today, but mostly I am thankful for the people who helped me get here.

Thank you to the friends who cooked me rice, went on long walks around campus with me, sat with me while I ate dry cereal, encouraged me to eat real food, walked with me through the snow as I cried, told me to buck up and get on the airplane, talked with me about my feelings, and told me that everything would be okay. I probably didn’t believe you then, but you were right. Most importantly, thank you to my parents for always dropping everything for me, even to this very day.

This post may seem out of the blue, but I want people to know that behind every smiling face there is a story. People are good at acting like everything is okay; be empathetic and sympathetic – you never know what may be going on under the surface. This is just my story. It is one of billions.

And to everyone who is suffering from GAD or another anxiety disorder, it does get better. You will eventually feel like you again and you will be a stronger person. What you are feeling is okay. It’s fine to lean on your friends and your family – you would do the same for them. You’re only human, but you can get through this. You made it through yesterday, you made it through today, and you can make it through tomorrow. Be brave. I believe in you.