Beach Pail List

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I am a woman of lists: lists of what to eat, what to do, how to behave, and even what I should think about. I know I’ve mentioned this before. 
My summer starts in six days. Because I am a girl, I’ve started dreaming up tons of expectations for my summer. I do it every year, just like everybody else. 
I don’t want to call it a bucket list. That name just seems a little ominous, especially with what’s going on in the news right now (you know, the bucket list baby that died today?). Besides, this isn’t a list that I want to cross out before I die; it’s more short-term. I mean, sure, I can do these things some other time, but I’d really like to do them this summer. This summer is important to me. I’ll be in Europe for six weeks. It’s going to be crucial to my development. This list needs to be lighthearted, not heavy like a bucket. Beach pails are pretty light. Plus they’re brightly colored and obviously marketed for summer vacations. That works. This will be a beach pail list. 
I’ll keep my beach pail list relatively short because I don’t want to bore you all to death and I really should be studying or eating or writing my feature story or something. 
1) Go stargazing. I have wanted to go stargazing for years. Well, I kind of did it once, but that was almost six years ago. I’d like to go again. I think it would be good poetry material. I just need to figure out the best way to defend myself against mosquitoes first, because those bitches (only the female ones want your blood) love me. This brings me to my next item on the list….
2) Figure out some way to get mosquitoes to stop biting me. I’ve heard that drinking vinegar helps. Actually, can’t you get B-12 shots for that? I’ll do that. It beats getting bitten every time I go outside (I’m already sporting several welts, as a matter of fact).
3) Go to Munich and see my friends. That will be awesome.
4) Try new foods when I’m in Europe. More food equals more chances to get fat!
5) Read a lotOnce I get all those books that have piled up out of the way, I can get some more.
6) Work on my people skills. That is a big one.
7) Unwind a little.
8) Make that classical music pilgrimage to Vienna.
9) Go on an impromptu trip. I think that will be very possible in Europe.
10) Write a good story. Because I’m a little out of practice and really need to. 

That’s all I can really think of. My brain just turned to mush, so you guys are lucky. I guess I can always add to this.
Now all I want is some prosciutto and a nap.  

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Do I See a Light?

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Despite the fact that I am a somewhat normal human being, I’m not really abhorring finals week this time around.
I don’t know, I actually feel kind of good about my finals. I mean, I got a 90 on my Paradise Lost test. My Milton final should be manageable. I can write, and I write better closer to deadline. I have to turn in 10 pictures for my photo class, and we’re allowed to use pictures we’ve submitted before.
Do you have any idea how awesome this feels? I’m not worrying. I’m eating whatever I want, and it feels awesome (I actually don’t eat that unhealthily when I’m not sticking myself to any sort of regimen, I’ve discovered). I even think I look okay. All of me.
This is crazy stuff, guys! This does not regularly happen to me!
I am making great decisions this week. I might as well get fat now instead of waiting for Austria. Actually, this week can be practice. I can test my stomach’s capacity limits. It’ll be fun! I don’t think eating prosciutto has ever been a mistake for me before, so I’m completely okay. Oh, and I found out about this class that’s going to be offered spring semester that would be perfect for my emphasis (because I’m a huge nerd and wanted to create my own emphasis, radical religious literature): comparative Islamic literature. Doesn’t that sound awesome? The answer is yes!
I’m also going to a party dressed as that fine-ass bitch ballerina ostrich from Fantasia. Let me be honest, I kind of wanted to be her when I was little.
This bitch. Just… wow. I thought she was the greatest character ever when I was a kid. Well, I thought almost every character in Fantasia was the greatest character ever when I was a kid, minus the dinosaur part. It was boring to me.

What else am I feeling good about?
Actually having a little spare time. That’s actually why I’ve been on here so much. I have time to write things! And I’m actually inspired to write about things. That hasn’t happened in a while. Well, I guess a few weeks since I’ve been fantasizing about spending six weeks in Europe this summer so much.
I have time to read too, so I’ve gotten a little more of The Flame Alphabet out of the way (I guess I should be rereading all those Milton poems I had to learn about in the beginning of the semester… Nah). I still like it, by the way.
See how carefree I’m being this week? Shouldn’t I be acting a little differently? I studied for my Milton exam outside at 10:30 tonight. I’m blogging about a cartoon ostrich I idolized about a child when I have a test in a day (and a half, I guess).
I’m feeling great. I’m feeling really great. And I know I’ve picked the oddest time to unfurl my optimism, but hey, at least I’m not pulling my hair out anymore.
It’s nice.

12 Things I Learned in 2012

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Well, the semester’s almost over and for some reason I’m not panicking. For the first time in well, ever, I’m being motivated to do well on my exams and projects by excitement instead of anxiety. In two weeks, I’ll be at the beach, and in two months, I’ll be getting fat in Austria. Thinking about what lies ahead is much more motivating and comforting than worrying about a number on top of a piece of paper or on a computer screen.
I’m in a somewhat cheesy mood since I’m almost done with school. You know, reminiscent, reflective, calm. Kind of like the end of an episode of a TV show or a book. So I thought I’d verbalize (or, um, type) the important things I’ve learned this year because hey, I’ve learned a lot both in and out of school. The things I learned really helped me, and I hope they can help somebody else too.

  1. Make time for what keeps you sane. It’s important. (This is why I’m writing a lot more even though my finals start Monday.)
  2. The people who want to hire you don’t necessarily care about your grades. Now if only my father could learn this….
  3. The AP style likes to make certain words and sentences less appealing.
  4. Talking to people you don’t know isn’t as scary as you think.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take on experiences you normally wouldn’t or talk to people you’d avoid otherwise. This is especially important if you want to be a journalist.
  6. Just because something was written hundreds of years ago doesn’t mean you won’t be able to understand and appreciate it. (Case in point? Milton is a genius.)
  7. Although I hate to say this, there really is a thing as too much sleep. If it’s severely interfering with your life, try to eliminate or reduce whatever may be responsible.
  8. Pills may suck, but anxiety attacks that are so bad I can’t leave the house or drive are much, much worse. Take the damn pill.
  9. Remember that 3-subject notebook you bought at the beginning of fall semester? Well, it will take four classes and one news writing lab to fill that notebook up.
  10. Have at least one guilty pleasure and try to incorporate it into your routine. When you’re down, go to it. (This works especially well if your guilty pleasure is Degrassi. It really just puts things into perspective.)
  11. Pay attention to your body. If you keep having nightmares, you’re probably really stressed out. Analyze your dreams and try to find out what’s bothering you. If you’re shaky, eat more, take some iron pills, and get your blood tested. Even if you don’t have anemia, you’ll be relieved that you got checked out. Also keep cold and allergy medicine nearby, because you will get sick at least four times a year in a university setting.
  12. People are kind of like tennis matches (or whatever game you wish to insert here): you win some, you lose some. Don’t let it bother you so much, because that’s just the nature of the game.

Control-Alt-Delete

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I am a control freak. Every day is a battle between my dictatorial urge to exert complete control over every aspect of my life and my battered, overly stressed psyche. I moderate whatever I can: how much work I do in a certain day, what kinds of food I eat, the amount of food I end up eating, how much money I spend on food, how much time I spend in my room, and when I want to get things done. You should see my day planner – it may be adorable and uplifting on the outside and come with stickers (I know, it looks so harmless here), but on the inside, it’s a sentence for anxiety attacks. I’ve scribbled pages and pages of to-do lists that range from my academic tasks for the week to what I need to buy at the grocery store to certain ways I want to think. They’ve taken multiple forms, too – I’ll draw a calendar next to an obsessive bulleted list to remind myself that my tasks aren’t simply jarred strings of words, but real actions that are chained to deadlines and time. That’s right, I have multiple lists for the same thing. My attempt to become more organized and subsequently think more clearly has only thrown me into an even larger spiral of worrying. My motion to reduce my anxiety has not only backfired, it’s managed to stress me out even more.
Did I mention that I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Yeah, that plays a huge part in this.
I’m a worrywart. You probably inferred that from the tone I used earlier in this post. I will worry about anything – I worry about everything, actually: grades, whether I’m marketing myself enough, what I eat, my cholesterol intake, time, my friends, my family, my weight, not getting enough sleep, sleeping too much, my performance, my car’s MPG, you name it. It can take me a matter of seconds to trap myself in a cycle of anxiety, and once I’m in there, it’s very hard to pull myself out. I have to take pills for it – pills that are supposed to mellow me out, which just make me tired all the time, and bipolar pills, because I can’t stabilize myself when I get anxious.
For some reason, I love worrying about things I have absolutely no control over. This category namely includes quarrels within my family (and since it’s divorced and partially Iranian, that happens very often), what other people think of me, and any negative situation my friends get into.
Of course, it’s only logical that I cope with situations I can’t control by taking it out on myself. Here’s where my nature as a control freak comes in. I tell myself that by achieving perfection, I can fix things that I honestly can’t do a thing about. I’ve tried to cope with my school-based stress and ignore the series of intense fights my dad and sister had a few years ago by cutting off a chunk of my food supply. That worked stupendously. Then I’ll bottle everything up and crack weeks or months later. That method helps me out too. Ignoring my anxiety or covering it up with a control-based issue is my go-to method is coping with a stressful or depressing situation.
The thing about my coping mechanisms is that they don’t work. They make things much worse, actually. There’s also the matter that they’re completely inappropriate methods of stress management. Since when has shutting myself away from the world and hiding in my bed helped me get over something? It hasn’t. It hasn’t helped me at all, but for some reason, I am set on doing it every time something troublesome comes my way.
I cannot do this anymore. I can’t! It’s driving me crazier. Even thinking about my anxiety is stressing me out. I have to change. And it’s not just so I can make it past May 7th in one piece – I don’t want this interfering with the rest of my life. I want to be a journalist. I want to travel and write and get paid for it somehow. How am I supposed to get my stories and interview people if I’m afraid of talking on the phone?  I’m afraid that if I can’t tame my anxiety, I’ll be living with my parents or something and not be able to work efficiently. That isn’t exactly my dream.
I have to tackle this on a short-term scale right now because my finals are creeping up on me and I’ve got two projects due within the next week. They’re both for my journalism classes, so that means I’m going to have to talk to people I don’t know and sit at a computer for a long time. I can’t have any distractions, especially not anxiety.
I’ve started by eliminating my sources of stress. It’s proven to be pretty easy so far. With school, it’s getting things out of the way and setting up meetings and interviews for my projects. I don’t have to worry about my Paradise Lost test anymore, so that relieves me a lot, especially because I think I did really well on it. So that’s one issue out of the way. I’ve got some leeway on my projects, and I’m in the process of finalizing setting all my interviews and appointments up. I’ve got one tomorrow, one on Friday… I have to set my other two interviews up, but that shouldn’t be a huge deal, especially because I figured out how to record phone conversations (that one was a bit of a lifesaver.)
Then there’s studying for finals, which I’m actually not too concerned about. But I’ve got all my notes typed up, so I don’t even have to let any senses of impending doom concerning not having studied for my news writing final at all bother me. That’s good.
I’ll get my projects done. I’m typing that again to encourage myself. It’s working, just so you know.
I have to say that the easiest adjustment I’ve made was shutting off all my worries about food. I mean, yeah, food is important. But for these next few weeks, I’m going to try not to worry about what I eat as much. I mean, I’m not scarfing cheeseburgers down for every single meal. And at this point, I really believe that a slice of bacon is healthier than all the stress I’ve endured over the years from fixating on food so much. So for now, all worries concerning food will be shut off, and I’ve made a good start. I drank one of the best iced lattes I’ve ever had today, and I spontaneously took 15 minutes aside yesterday to sit down and have a few scoops of blood orange gelato.
It was definitely worth it.