It's been quite a while since I've written anything but research papers, so it seems like it's time for a life update. Lots of things have happened this year, and more is definitely happening in the future. I'll do my little life update, and hopefully there will be some things of interest for those who read these posts. I hope my recount of the last few months offers a few tokens of wisdom? I apologize in advance for my wordiness here. Infrequent blog posts lead to oversharing.
This semester was one of the hardest so far, academically, physically, emotionally... in all the ways. I left my job in late February after I felt like my physical and mental health were suffering a bit. I was forgetting assignments for my classes and missing deadlines. I wasn't going to the gym more than once a week, and I was having major anxiety attacks once every other day. It was not a pretty picture, and the job really had to go. I'm very lucky that I got to make that decision for myself.
My good pal Andrew and I are both working at the Louie B. Nunn Center as Student Indexers for the summer. It's a great opportunity, as history majors, to explore a new and developing form of historical documentation with which neither of us have much experience.
Because I've been so public about my weight loss journey, I feel it kind of necessary to talk about that in detail, because it's been a weird year for that, as well. While I was overburdening myself with 16-18 credit hours per semester, a job, a fellowship (which includes all that is discussed below), starting a club, and being a living, breathing, social human, and my health fell a little flat. I wasn't taking care of myself as I should have been. I think part of that is because I'm in college, and eating well and exercising are not top priority for the vast majority of people I know. It's hard to add that into your routine when no one else around you is really doing it. That combined with my days that were scheduled from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with little time to do anything, let alone eat well or exercise, led me to gain a few pounds of fat over the winter.
Here's the thing: this is not a big deal. Pounds come and go; fat can be gained, but it can also be lost. The issue is not the number on the scale. The issue is that I felt lethargic, tired, I had headaches all the time, and I wasn't listening to my body... like, ever. Once I quit my job, I dedicated myself to going to the gym three times per week and meal prepping on Monday nights, no matter what the situation was. Other than the last few weeks that I was traveling, I stuck to it. Since February, I've gained about 3% muscle mass (I have a very cool scale), and I've lost about 2-3% body fat. It's not much, but we're taking it day by day.
I also think it's so important (for me!) to focus on the percentages that I'm seeing and not the overall number on the scale. Pounds fluctuate ALL THE TIME. I had a mixup with my birth control prescription this month, and I couldn't get it filled until Monday, so I missed a pill, and I've been retaining water LIKE CRAZY. There's no rhyme or reason to it, and I've gained a few pounds as I've been gaining muscle. The numbers don't really matter all that much to me. It's how I feel and how my body is being treated, which is great now! I'm going to the gym six times a week this summer, and I feel wonderful. I'm a little sore, but still... wonderful.
-A little P.S. to this section: If you're not trying to lose weight, don't even give my story a second thought! My experience, my actions, my numbers are not for everybody. I know people that are trying to gain weight, people that are trying to lose weight, people that don't care what weight they are, and all of those are absolutely fine as long as you are healthy and taking care of yourself and your needs.-
Being a part of the Gaines fellowship became a wild ride, as well. On top of the seminar that we had for four hours a week on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, we had to complete an Engagement Project. I know that for a solid amount of the fellows, this was a terribly confusing process, especially amidst all of the administrative change that was happening this year.
Originally, (my good pal) Andrew and I were going to start an amateur community theater company in Lexington. Somewhere along the way, someone slipped the words into our conversation that this theater company would be benefitting substance abuse survivors/those in recovery, which we liked and ran with. After meeting a very cool Appalachian writer, Robert Gipe, we came across the idea that, in order to get people to participate, we needed to tell a story they would be interested in being a part of. That story was their story, and in order to obtain that, we needed to document the story of those in recovery in Lexington through oral history. One thing led to another, and quite a few meetings told us that an oral history project is big enough on its own without adding another leg to it (the theater company), so we dropped the original idea and focused our attention on documenting the stories of those who have dealt with substance abuse in Lexington. That crazy process ending up leading us both to our summer jobs!
I start my research for my thesis this summer, which I'm hoping will lead me to discover how women and racial minorities won the Civil War. Let me tell you, I am exhausted of learning about the white men in the tents, and I want to know more about their wives, about their black brigades, about slaves freeing themselves while their masters were away at war, about Hispanic/Latinx populations running society during the war or fighting in it, about the war on Natives and how they played a role in this era. There is so much more to history than white men. Thank you.
Okay, this is the part that I'm most excited to talk about. If you go the University of Kentucky, or you know someone that does, PLEASE pass along this message. We need donations in order to fulfill our mission, and we can only do that with YOUR help.
A few years ago, I had a fleeting thought to start a club that would loan out books for free to students who need them. This came in the midst of the spiel from professors during syllabus week:
"If you can't afford to buy it now, you have a few weeks, and I’ll post some copies online in the mean time." I let this thought go, but it came back every syllabus week. This semester, it came back in a very real way when I was filling out an application for a scholarship. It was a scholarship for public service, which is something I love but have not done a lot of. I explained to them this idea I had but had yet to implicate. Then I figured that I might as well do it.
Book Bank is an organization for students. We take donations in the form of textbooks from students or professors who bought the books in the past and would only get pennies on the dollar selling them back. We appeal to the goodheartedness of those who have the privilege to be able buy textbooks in our request for donations. Our mission is to loan out textbooks for free to ease the financial burden on students and to promote the sustainability of reusing textbooks.
If you have ever attended a class at the University of Kentucky for which you bought a book, we will take it. We understand that editions change, but the reality is that certain departments will change one or two sentences and sell it to students for hundreds of dollars to make more money. We have a collection of about 50-60 books, and we want to grow to the point where we can offer this resource to as many students as possible.
Please, please, please consider donating and making UK a better place. If you go to a different university but love the idea, contact me! We need to make the university system more accessible in any way possible, especially amidst crazy tuition hikes like the ones we are witnessing.
Something I've been focusing on a lot is being grateful for the privileges I have and channeling that societal power into the greater good. Book Bank started because of the 10-15 textbooks I had sitting on a shelf, which I could afford to buy. That's a privilege. Our Engagement Project became us using the free resources at our university (a privilege) to document those who have had MUCH more complicated and difficult lives than us. Eventually, we hope, the effort to document those stories will help the understanding of the opioid epidemic in Lexington, and their disease will be humanized to the point of people wanting to help instead of demonizing them. Those are a few examples, I guess, of the ways I've been trying to focus on that. I want to ask all of the people I know who possess even an ounce of privilege to recognize it and use your power to help others.
The biggest thing I've learned and dealt with is that I screw up! A lot! And that's okay! I say things that are really dumb sometimes. I try to understand something and end up botching it completely. I have bad gym days, and I leave after 20 minutes. I get a B on a paper and think it's the end of the world. I forget things. I flake on plans every once in a while. I am human! I think it's kind of funny to take some time and think of all the things I screwed up that week. It's humbling to know that it's okay to screw up, as long as your recognize it and keep moving forward. I am dumb, I am clumsy, I am irritable. But I am also smart, I am also passionate, I am also loving. I am human! Isn't that a wonderful thing to say? Maybe I'm reading too much into my life and what it means, but being a person is pretty cool.
General stuff (Where most of the pictures are)
A ton of cool things have happened, despite being a difficult few months. Ben got me a customized planner for Christmas with a quote from Creed (that I also have hanging on the wall above my desk) on it. If the photo is too small, it reads, "One step, One punch, One round at a time." We all know my inexplicable love for the Rocky movies and organization, so this really was just the best gift imaginable.
I chopped off all my hair in the midst of an emotional meltdown. Britney 2007? I think yes.
I got to travel some of Europe with my best friend and roommate. We went to visit Lauryn in London. We stayed in Camden Town, which was very cool. We accidentally saw the Queen and the entire royal family. We hopped a train (no we didn't, we booked the ticket months in advance) to Paris for the day, and
spent our entire day walking around seeing the sights. Love you Noelle!!!!!
I turned 21 with Lauryn! We went to Cheesecake, as not to break our traditions. Noelle threw us a Peppa-Pig-themed birthday party, which was unbelievably appropriate. We love May 4th.
And the next day, Yeinye GRADUATED COLLEGE. I am still in shock.
Not long after that, Ben graduated, too! I'm so proud of him! My mom came out to see him graduate, too, which was nice because we live so far apart now, and we don't get to see her a ton.
Ben graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering and a minor in Mechanical Engineering. He also had that cool, black stole for his Leadership cohort.
He will be attending Georgia Tech (#2 in the country for his program!) in the fall for a master's program in Biomedical Engineering.
I took Ben to his first Orioles game (on his first trip to Baltimore), and made him eat crabs for the first time. He had only had shrimp before this experience. He then ate crab-stuffed shrimp, crab cakes, and clams all in the span of about two days. Safe to say he is a true Maryland guy now.
And finally, my babies, my Purple Turtles, my little peer groupies graduated from Mercersburg and are now legal adults. Two of them gave speeches at the graduation ceremony, and I cried.
That's really all I have as of right now. Thanks for reading!