Under Pressure

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Something very strange happened to me today.
I had just finished my last final. It was easy. Really easy. All I had to do was translate three short paragraphs’ worth of material: two from Farsi to English, and one from English to Farsi. Straight out of the textbook. Probably the easiest final I’ve ever taken.
I walked out of the room and down the stairs. I went outside, deeply inhaled the scent of warm, wet sidewalk (which I really love for some reason) several times, and started walking towards the bookstore so I could take my textbooks back.
Everything should have felt perfect. I was done with school. Done! And halfway finished with college! Another year closer to becoming a writer. Well, at least writing professionally. Another year closer to true independence and living for myself, because I cannot wait to embrace that cheesy stage of my life. My summer had officially started. I should have felt elated, right?
Wrong.
I felt drained, and the tension in my arms and stomach increased. My shirt started feeling tighter and tighter, and my heartbeat sped up. I was about to have an anxiety attack for no reason at all, and that scared me even more.
Whatever happened to me really troubles me. I am all about reason. I’m ridiculously rational, and even before I was an English major, I was known to seriously overanalyze things. I feel like everything I do revolves around reason. I’m uptight. Sometimes I come across as spontaneous, but realistically, I don’t think I have it in me. I can’t do something without thinking it through first. The only exception to that letting something I shouldn’t say slip out.
I think the anxiety I put myself through over very justifiable worries is ridiculous, even though I can’t bring myself to stop it. This, however… this was just terrifying. All I can call it is a panic attack, because it practically came out of nowhere.
The whole time I was panicking, I kept thinking about how I can’t really comprehend or retain things that don’t relate to writing. It’s like my brain won’t let anything else in or even pay attention to it. I have to be reasonable and at least say I know it isn’t true, but I feel like writing is all I’m good at. It’s all I can really show for myself.
Like school, I’m not really good at school. If I were good at school, I wouldn’t be stressed out about it all the time, right? And people. I’m terrible with people. I can’t even talk to people. And my body. I put shit into my body. I’m clumsy and awkward and uncoordinated, and my stamina is ridiculously low. Possibly because of all the chemicals I have to put into it, because even my brain sucks at doing its job. My own brain, the center of my being, cannot keep me stable. Sometimes I just feel like a huge failure.
With writing it’s different. Words are the one thing I’m really confident about. I can write a story and push my opinion on people without ever actually stating it. I can write a mean paper. I’m really good at analyzing literature. I can recognize the roots in words that belong to different languages. My brain’s a little shot right now, so I can’t really come up with good evidence, so just trust me on this one. I’m a literary genius. I’m not a journalistic genius yet, but I’m catching on pretty damn quickly. Words are my forte.
They’re also my life. All I ever do is think. And my thoughts aren’t really pictures, they’re words. I’ve noticed that words are the only thing that calm me down when I’m really stressed out. I don’t even have to be near a piece of paper or a keyboard. If I start writing sentences in my head, I immediately feel better. I’m not joking when I say I depend on words, because I really feel that way. Words have saved me from feeling sick, pressured, and well, dense again and again.
I think words are the only way I’m going to be able to get through my anxiety. You know, my big anxiety. Not just one little attack, but the fact that I have them so frequently and can completely go off the edge in a matter of minutes. Waking up several times every night from nightmares and not being able to go back to sleep because I start worrying is the big anxiety. There is ample evidence that shows I can’t tackle the big anxiety on my own, not even with medication or anything like that; I can’t overcome this if I’m just Sarra who takes a pill to make something go away. I have to be more than that. I have to be Sarra who utilizes words and channels them into saving her from the big anxiety. I really don’t think there’s any other way.

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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.  

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.

Summertime Clothes

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You know how clothing stores will start displaying their warm-wear apparel when the last thing you want to wear outside is a swimsuit?
I hate that. I don’t even really understand why they do it to us. Oh boy, fashion is so complicated that the clothes have to be shown off half a year in advance. All you’re doing is distracting me! I just started school again, don’t get me daydreaming about spring break or summer. I do understand why stores start showing off clothes an entire season ahead from a marketing perspective, but that doesn’t really motivate me to buy anything. Why would I want to buy something I couldn’t wear or use?
All those displays do is make me daydream about summer and going on trips. The time when I’ll actually have an opportunity to wear the vibrant yellow hat or sundress I’ll ogle over but refuse to buy, because I actually can be rational. I just remind myself that I have school the next day and won’t be going anywhere and the weather won’t be warm enough to wear whatever I’m looking at for a long time, and force myself away from the summer clothes.
Now it’s actually happening, though. The opportunity to actually wear these clothes and live out my daydreams, I mean. School is actually almost over. I will be en route to Austria in 63 days. And that’s just one of the places I’ll be going this summer. I’ve got two beach trips, a weekend in New York, Bonnaroo, and a week in South Africa to get through first.
All of those locations are going to require different types of clothing, especially because there will be some drastic temporal changes. Like the beach? I’ll probably be in my swimsuit or a dress the whole time. Plus I’ll be with a bunch of guys, so there’s no reason to dress elaborately or even bathe – okay, I’m kidding about that part. Then comes New York, which isn’t really that tricky except for at night or if I actually want to dress like a young woman. Bonnaroo will be the complete opposite. I feel like everybody there will practically be naked. I’ve got to figure out the best way to keep cool without getting a sunburn. Lollapalooza was hot enough, but this is the south. I stand a much higher chance of getting heat stroke in Tennessee than I did in Chicago. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be a slut or anything, but I don’t want to be uncomfortably hot, especially since I get dizzy easily.
I have more anxieties about South Africa and wherever I end up going in Europe because those places can get pretty cold. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, after all, so it’ll be winter when I go. Okay, I just looked up the weather. It’s not too bad. This website I found says the average low temperature for Cape Town is in the 40’s. I guess I will be wearing pants between now and October (and I just pledged that I wouldn’t do it yesterday in celebration that it finally warmed up again here, rats!) and will just have to get over my stigma towards them.
For some reason (and a stupid reason at that) I thought Austria would have perfect weather all summer long since it’s so damn beautiful. Apparently this is not the case. At the Innsbruck trip orientation, a few weeks ago, we were instructed to bring warm clothes because the weather there can be unpredictable. It seems I had forgotten a very important factor while I daydreamed about how beautiful Austria’s weather would be: mountains.
The town is in the mountains. It’s right in the middle of the Alps. I can’t believe I overlooked that, especially because I’ve been in mountainous areas before. It gets cold. Winter is freezing. Summer isn’t, obviously, but it gets chilly and I still classify that as freezing because I can’t really tolerate any temperature under 75 degrees.
I guess I’m worried because we were advised to pack lightly. Usually packing lightly isn’t a huge deal for me. I’m really good at it, actually, minus the toothbrush or socks I’ll forget to throw in my suitcase. I can pack a bag for a weekend in Destin or New York in five minutes. Packing for Utah takes a little longer, because I have to pack anything that can withstand snow (rain boots are actually really good for that).
I feel like packing for Austria is going to be a nightmare. I’ve got to bring my own towel, my school books, and enough clothes for six weeks (I will obviously be washing them). I also have to bring all my prescriptions and any medication I might need since I’ll be in Europe. Apparently Ibuprofen is really hard to get in Europe. I guess I’ll be popular over there because I plan on bringing my bottle with 495 Ibuprofen tablets in it to Austria. You know, for uterus issues.
I have packed for a really long trip before, but it wasn’t as far away or in Europe. Plus I actually goofed and didn’t pack enough warm clothes (apparently winter doesn’t end until July in Massachusetts – at least it felt that way, because it rained the first two weeks) so I had to get my mom to ship me pants and sweaters. I just don’t see how I’ll be packing lightly when I have to account for radical changes in weather. It could get up to the 90s and down to the 40s. I pray to God it won’t get down to the 30s, because that range starts to mess with me. Ice becomes involved in that range.
I don’t exactly plan on sticking to their suggested guidelines, because there is no way I’m bringing two pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, and one dress to Europe if I’m going to be there for six weeks. That is just not going to fly. I hate pants, so I’m not really concerned about that part, but I’m going to be in other countries! A different continent! I’ve got this huge country and multiple cultures to represent in Europe. I want to look nice for it, you know?
What is the best way to pack for a six-week trip to Europe? Do I need more pairs of pants than I think? How should I dress if I want Europeans to respect me? And should I just not wear that fanny pack of mine anywhere outside of a music festival? It was a hit at Lolla, but will it be appreciated in Vienna or Munich?
Does anybody have good packing advice? I could give you some of my tips in return. All I do is throw some outfits, undergarments, one pair of pajamas, and my toothbrush in a suitcase. What else is good to have in Europe?