The Tissue Box Memory


I was at a Youth Legislative Assembly conference for the weekend during my senior year of high school. I had never been to a conference before, and even though I was enjoying the experience and fighting for anti-bullying policies, I couldn’t help but feel intimidated by the hundreds of students around me who were not only intelligent, but who acted like they were a billion times more intelligent than me.

I connected with some students while I was there, but usually I felt like each conversation was some sort of intellectual competition for mental superiority.

On Saturday night of the conference, students were expected to be in the large conference room for a night of “games” (which were supposed to be a mystery to us). When we arrived, they divided each of us into teams and revealed that we would be playing Minute-to-Win-It games for ultimate team bragging rights.

My team seemed mainly composed of the braniac bullies with the “perfect genetic blend.” Uninterested in attempting to pull out a conversation with them, my competitive self lived vicariously through the people stepping onto the stage to play the Minute-to-Win-It games.

Each game had to have one representative from each team. One by one, each of my team members walked onto the stage. Despite how badly I wanted to play, I purposely didn’t volunteer each time because I knew that my team wasn’t in it to just have fun.

After about eight games, though, our team leader asked who hadn’t yet played a game, and everyone pointed to me. My face instantly went red and my legs were shaking, but I was secretly excited to play. I stood up and walked over to play the next game, and as I walked to the stage, I noticed that my team didn’t yell my name or rally support for me like they did each of my previous team members.

For whatever reason, they had taken one look at me and decided I was going to suck it up.

The host of the games showed us the video which explained the game–each person would have a tissue box placed in front of them on a table. The goal was to remove all of the tissues in the box–with one arm behind your back–in 60 seconds.

My adrenaline kicked as they yelled, “Go!”

By instinct, I took my hand and dug underneath to the very bottom of the tissues. I looked to my left and right and noticed that everyone else was furiously pulling out one tissue at a time. I started pulling with the entirety of the tissues in my hand, but they wouldn’t come out.

My team started yelling at me: “What are you doing, Erika?!” Some watched, annoyed, while others assumed I was doomed to lose and turned to have conversations with others.

Why are they yelling at me? I thought. This is a way smarter way to do it.

Holding all of the tissues inside the box, I lifted it up and punched the air once, then twice, trying to pull all of the tissues out of the box at once.

It wasn’t coming off.

I started to panic, but I stuck with it. I furiously shook my arm in the air with my hand in the box for what felt like an eternity (but was actually like 5 seconds), and the box came flying off, all of the tissues in my hand.

Suddenly my entire team erupted into cheers and my competitors started whining, “She cheated!” I didn’t say a word, but I smiled from ear to ear.

I sauntered back over to my team, graciously returning every high-five, but returned to my spot in the corner. I sat off to the side by myself and stretched out, ready to enjoy the rest of the games in mental peace.

Caring: Why We Should and Shouldn’t Do It


The world needs more people who care.

People who care about other people, people who care about their jobs, people who care what impact they have on the world.

They are the people who make this world a better place.  They are compassionate shoulders to cry on, dedicated employees and students, passionate pioneers of change.  They are the teachers who make potentially great students believe in themselves; the I.T. employees who spend the night at work when something needs to be fixed–even if they’re not getting paid extra; the amazing stay-at-home mothers and fathers who coach the soccer teams, run for their child’s PTO board, and spend extra time helping their children with homework when they don’t understand.  They are the medical students pursing ten or more years of education to save lives; the people who try to see the world with an open, unbiased mind; the teenagers who continue to make good grades and display their musical, artistic, and athletic talents, despite the stereotypical view against them.

The world needs more people who really don’t care.

People who don’t care about their looks, people who don’t care what other people think, people who don’t care about the failures of yesterday or tomorrow.

They are the people who make this world a better place.  They are models of self-love and respect,  highlighters of humor, couragaeous, unbridled fighters.  They are the teachers who foster the importance of education and character, not appearance or popularity; the I.T. employees who realize you cannot work your life away, who know when to put their foot down;  the amazing stay-at-home mothers and fathers who don’t get wrapped up in school or sports politics, or put undue pressure on their children.  They are the medical students who are undeterred by a poor exam score or a rejection; the people who see the humor in everyday situations; the teenagers who put together unique, creative outfits, no matter how out-of-style.

Maybe it’s not that we need more people who care, or more people who don’t care, but that we need more people who know what to care about and what never really mattered in the first place.

~~~

“Too  often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening  ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the  potential to turn a life around.”*   –Leo Buscaglia

“Never  believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all  who ever have.”*   –Margaret  Mead

“Caring  about others, running the risk of feeling, and leaving an impact on people,  brings happiness.”*   –Harold Kushner

“As  soon as you get over caring what people think, you can have a nice  time.”*   –Lara  Flynn Boyle

“I  have friends who wear Star Wars costumes and act like the characters all day. I  may not be that deep into it, but there’s something great about loving what you love and not caring if it’s unpopular.”*   –Kristen  Bell

Sincerely, Erika

*Quotes taken from http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/caring_4.html.

Absence


The sun was blinding as I wandered down a dirt trail in River Park North.  Its light touched my skin like a mother’s reassuring hand, but it lacked its familiar warmth.  Ahead, I spotted an old wooden bench in between two ponds and decided to rest and observe the park from there.

In front of me, the water from the ponds was strikingly blue with streaks of green.  The beautiful surface hid Nature’s secrets like a mask, covering the scars of pollution.

Towering above me, the trees were stripped of their chlorophyll-filled glory days, their rough bark puncturing the sand from which they grew, and their claws tearing at the skies.  They symbolized the harshness, the barrenness of winter.  They symbolized loss.

Just behind me, a single bird was chirping.  Its chirp was not ongoing, nor did it hold the harmony of a happy song.  Its chirp was short, high-pitched, and periodic, as if to ask, “Are there any survivors?”  Why hadn’t the bird flown farther South for the winter, where Nature was still surrounded by relative warmth?

The animals, unlike me, cannot be fair-weather fans of Nature—they are here through the brutally cold winters, the torrential downpours, the droughts and the wildfires and the pollution that threaten their very existence.

The woods wore only the dull browns and grays of winter, but the hopes of care-free spring days were painted in the blue tones of the sky and the water above and below me, as if the sky and the water were holding all of the woes of the woods together in a giant sandwich.

10 feet away from the blue ponds of promise? Three cigarette butts stomped into the ground.  Mankind’s threat—“We’ll do what we want.”

The sun continued to shine down on me, shine down on the park bench, shine down on all of the trees and on the glistening water, but there was an absence of heat.  I hated being so terribly cold when I was merely half a mile from a heated building.  I could not concentrate on anything but the tingling of my toes and the numbing of my nose, the slow burn of icy hands. But that is why I am not wild.  Very shortly, I will march off to a heated building, and the plants and the animals will carry on.  Maybe if I could tough it out, I would grow strong bark like the trees or thick fur like the squirrels.

I heard voices and turned around to face the opening of the trail.  Approaching me were two small girls, a puppy, and their father.  The two girls ran in between the ponds and down the trail, laughing and picking up rocks—“Daddy, daddy! Look at this!”  They didn’t care about the cold—they were smiling and playing in spite of it.  Their father, however, had a face of stone, callous from the cold and weathered from the wind.  He appeared to feel no emotion toward the barren park, but he watched his girls carefully, as if recalling a time when he, too, used to find joy in being in the woods.  Eventually, they disappeared down the trail.

Alone once again, I could not help but fixate on the electric cords dangling above the water, the crumpled sunflower seed wrapper hiding among the crunched leaves.  Because when I’m bitterly cold, I’m bitterly critical about the way things have turned out—whether I have control over them or not.

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What Does It Mean to Be Wild?


(The following is an unedited free write I wrote during my Wilderness Writing course after being given the prompt “What Does It Mean to Be Wild?”)

To be wild means to be independent of any formal rules or regulations. Animals in the wild do not have to wear clothes in public or only hunt during certain seasons; they do not listen to a government and are not punished for breaking any sort of rules.

Being “civilized” means following a certain set of rules that are deemed necessary to live and work together in a peaceful manner.  These rules are regulations are often created by some sort of government or authority, but our culture also places additional sets of rules that must be obeyed to be considered civilized.  For instance, we must eat with a fork or a spoon unless we are eating finger foods. We are not punished by the government if we eat mashed potatoes with our fingers, but we are socially punished because we are judged and/or scolded by our peers.

That being said, group rules do exist among animals, and there are sometimes authority figures.  An alpha male leading a pack of wolves is an example of authority in the wild. The other wolves are supposed to listen to and follow the alpha wolf–in other words, obey his rules.  Another example is the fact that ants who attempt to reproduce by having sex are attacked by the other ants in the colony–they are enforcing the rule that only certain genes may be passed on in the ant colony. (I’m sure there are many other examples of rules in the wild that I’m not aware of.)

Maybe deeming someone or some animal “wild” is similar to calling them “weird” or “abnormal”–they are categorized as such because they do not follow the same set of government or social laws as we do.

Or maybe being wild simply means living solely off the land and being at one with nature.  Free of bills, work hours, and inhibitions. Plants and animals meet all of those criteria.

What do you think makes something or someone wild?

~~~

“A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”* –Albert Camus

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”* –Albert Einstein

Sincerely, Erika

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*http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_nature.html

My Reference to Ants: http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1870695,00.html

Something Worth Fighting For


Today is my 4-year anniversary with my boyfriend, Seth.  We have been dating since January of our freshman year of high school.  Our relationship has been long-distance ever since I moved to Wilson, North Carolina in December of our junior year of high school.  (I am currently a freshman in college.)

Being in a long-distance relationship is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  It’s that weird phase where I have all of the commitments of having a boyfriend, yet very little of the companionship: I don’t have date nights on the weekends unless it’s with Skype, “I love you’s” are usually expressed in text messages, and Valentine’s Day is spent watching other couple’s cuddle and exchange stuffed animals.

The funny thing is that I really don’t care about Valentine’s Day.  It’s the little things that make me ache.  Not being able to cheer at my boyfriend’s soccer games with a home-made t-shirt.  Missing his 18th birthday.   Listening to the simplified, watered-down version of his day late at night, instead of just seeing it for myself.  He’s a freshman in college this year, and I have no idea who his friends are—I have to imagine the places he’s going to, and try to understand what it’s like to live there.  I can’t truly convey to him how amazing ECU football games are or how cluttered my dorm room is.

For a long time (and still to an extent today), none of our friends understood why we would put ourselves through that.  Strangers understood the situation even less.

         There are plenty of fish in the sea. Why don’t you just date other people?

         Wow, what do you do, kiss over Skype?

         You shouldn’t be in that serious of a relationship in high school.

There are always going to be people who don’t believe in what you’re doing.

Sometimes, I can’t stand it.  Sometimes, it drives me nuts that I don’t completely fit in with my single friends or my coupled friends.  Sometimes, I get so frustrated that me and my boyfriend’s schedules are so different that we can’t talk over Skype for the third night in a row.  Sometimes, I get so depressed that I don’t have my best friend by my side that I go through life without really living.  Sometimes I even wonder if I’m crazy for doing this.

But then, I finally get to see him through the computer screen late at night, or I’m finally meeting up with him for a summer break after a long period apart.  And then I realize just why I do this.

Because he is the best part of my life.  Because everything is so much more fun when I’m with him.  Because my life goes from black-and-white to color when he’s around.  Because he balances me.

No, I don’t have to be in a long-distance relationship.  But if you’ve got something good–something worth keeping–it’s worth fighting for.

Never stop fighting for the people and things you care about in your life, whether it be the loved ones from your past, the joy of the moment, or a dream for the future.

~~~

“FEARLESS is getting back up and fighting for what you want over and over again….even though every time you’ve tried before you’ve lost.”*   ― Taylor Swift

“Never let go of a good thing without a fight. Especially if that good thing is a pair of boxing gloves.”*   ― Jarod Kintz

“Three months ago, if you asked me, I would have told you that if you really loved someone, you’d let them go. But now I look at you, and I dreamed about Maggie, and I see that I’ve been wrong. If you really love someone, Allie, I think you have to take them back.”*   ― Jodi Picoult, Mercy

Sincerely, Erika

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Freshman Homecoming
2009

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After High School Graduation
July 2012

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Freshman Year of College
December 2012

*Quotes taken from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/fighting?page=1.

The Beginning of my Blogging, and Why You Might Care About My Ramblings


As New Years was quickly approaching a little less than a week ago, I sat in my room and thought about what I could possibly change about my life. What did I want to accomplish in the new year?

One of my problems with New Years resolutions is that I don’t just make one resolution — I usually make a dozen.  I end up dividing my time into a bunch of different resolutions for the new year, and in the end, I end up accomplishing little to nothing.

So this year, I made myself stop at four.

One of my resolutions was to write a science-fiction novel.  I have always loved writing, but I never seem to have the time to work through a finished product. I’ll imagine great story ideas, write the first chapter of a book, and then grow tired of it. I’ll write a poem, but I will be too lazy (and sensitive) to edit it later.

Writing a novel was also my resolution for 2012. I give myself some credit — I managed to get down 50 pages. However, as usual, I became distracted, and it was pushed to the side for the rest of the year.  My goal was to finish writing this novel.

After I came up with this resolution, along with the resolutions of training for a 5K, buying much more thoughtful Christmas presents next year, and donating some of my clothes to Goodwill, I got to thinking about how much I love writing and how I never get to do it.  After coincidentally stumbling across a friend’s blog on New Years day, the idea to start my own blog was born.

There are a few things that I can promise about my blog posts, and a few things that I cannot promise.

I promise that everything I post on this blog will serve some sort of purpose — to inspire, to educate, to reflect, or to laugh.  I will not ramble on about the great cafeteria lunch I had on Pizza Friday or take you through a verbal scrapbook of my childhood.  If I share my life experiences, it’s because I found them important and applicable to some greater meaning.

I cannot promise that my blog posts will be short. It’s very likely they will be long because I’m a wordy writer, but I will try to tone it down.

I promise that I will update this blog frequently with things that I think my potential followers will care about, or should at least know about.

I cannot promise that I will not post the link to this blog a billion times on Facebook.

I promise that I will be as honest as I possibly can.  It’s my personal belief that the most important aspect of writing is honesty.

Welp, the rules of my blogging world have been laid down for all to see.  Blog post number one, complete!

Happy New Years, everyone! :-)

Sincerely, Erika

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Go Pirates!!!