Body Health, Essay, Mental Health


In my first-ever gym class of high school, we underwent a fitness diagnostic. Our gym teacher required the students to perform as many chin-ups as they could. If they were not able to do a chin-up, he offered, they could simply hang from the bars.

The oddness of those two choices – to either perform an act or engage in something that arguably proves nothing except the presence of fingers – was further underscored by the vast breadth of physical prowess. If you had hit puberty by then, you could do chin-ups. If you hadn’t, you hung like a limp flag or, more realistically, the trussed and plucked chicken hanging in a meat shop. Since I’m barely hitting puberty at 22, it’s an easy guess to figure out which camp I fell into.

That did not stop me from pathetically attempting a chin-up. I didn’t realize that it’s nearly impossible to do a chin-up from fully-extended arms, so I tucked my knees underneath me and tried to pull myself up from ramrod-straight arms. After several tense, physically agonizing moments, I let myself hang quietly before dropping back down to the floor.

And I remember, in the seconds that I hung from the bar, thinking how completely pointless this exercise was. Gym class proceeded much in the same way; after freshman year, I just opted to do homework with a clutter of the other unathletic boys while the fitter ones fucked around with dodgeball, or whatever. By senior year, I was skipping out of gym entirely – using my senior privilege and status a runner to avoid it. But, to be honest, having a gym class once every six days wasn’t doing me, or anyone, any favors.

So for most of my life, the chin-up, and any desire to do it, eluded me. When I started working out in college, I hopped in and out of the chin-up phase. Once I realized that clinging to the bars and literally leaping up into a chin-up position didn’t technically count, I swapped to the assisted pull-up machine and avoided it whenever I could.

The assisted pull-up machine requires you to put your knees on a pad and subtract weight from your total mass. So if you’re 160 pounds, and you subtracted fifty pounds, you were doing the chin-ups with a body weight of 110 pounds. I was subtracting so much weight that I was actually flinging myself upwards with every pull and reaching an exosphere orbit.

I would eye the people who could do a pull-up or chin-up unassisted with hot glowering envy. It seemed literally impossible, and then I saw people actually adding weights to their own self and doing repetitions with that. That was as unbelievable to me as those stories of mothers lifting up cars to save their loved ones – actually more unbelievable. I began to measure my prowess in terms of how many unassisted repetitions I could do – one was bad, two was better, three was ideal.

But as I worked out more, I began to reacquaint myself with the pull-up machine. As I lost weight and gained muscle, the notches of the weight began to shift lighter and lighter. Eventually, I was doing ten to twenty pounds of assistance, for a weight of roughly 185.

And then, a few weeks ago, I decided to leave the pad entirely. Straining, I pulled myself up – my elbows narrowing into neat acute angles – and down. When I completed sixteen chin-ups, four repetitions in four sets, I fell into a crouch and felt my heart pump blood headily into the aching muscles. But I kept doing it. every day, at the beginning of my workout, I did sixteen chin-ups – always in four sets of four – before moving onto the rest of my workout. I found that the less I focused on what I was about to do, the better I performed. If I hesitated, arms extended upward but feet still on the ground, I could barely get myself into the air.

I began to change it up – I added another set of pull-ups to the routine. Eventually, I switched to sixteen pull-ups (working the back muscles, shoulder muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscles). I tacked on a set of chin-ups, and on arms days, I would do sixteen of each.

I’ve noticed more muscle changes in the few weeks that I’ve started doing unassisted pull-ups. My shoulders are squarer, my collarbones swoop with the graceful lean of ship’s bows, and my biceps are bigger. In the shower, I catch glimpses of back muscles rippling in ways that they didn’t before. I’m obsessed with my shoulder blades, their hookedness like two eagle beaks.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I have a complex relationship with my body. And I’ve often leaned on the gym in unhealthy ways, eviscerating myself on days when I had to skip, or punishing myself for days that I didn’t push myself as far as I could’ve. In my most depressed, the gym becomes more of an outlet and a crutch. Before, when I looked my best, it’s often because I was feeling my worst. At a particular low point in college, mental health-wise, I would escape to the gym for hours every day, later pinching the fat on my hips as it melted away. I obsess over my body’s aesthetic, how this looks and how this lays.

I’ve always carried that anxiety when going to the gym; that I could backslide and become obsessive again. I still have lingering habits, a twinge of despair when I weigh myself, or a slight internal battle about how much cardio to do. I take my backslides softly, and slowly, and I’m trying to treat myself gently. It doesn’t always work, maybe not even half of the time, but I try.

Doing these pull-ups aren’t about how they will make my body look. It is a physical challenge, a test of my own strength – something that doesn’t come from aesthetics alone.

But this feels different for me.

When I’m doing pull-ups, I revel in the strength as I lift upwards. I imagine all of the scenarios where I can pull myself up. Action movie scenes, where the ground falls away beneath me and I have to swing myself up from the lip of a cliff. Deep dark holes that I’m trapped in. American Ninja Warrior monkey bars. I revel in getting stronger, and it feels wholly unconnected to aesthetics or attractiveness. In every muscle micro-tear, I steel myself with strength. I feel myself getting stronger, and I nourish it like a seedling. I picture myself as a warrior, each line of muscle meaning that I am more capable, more sturdy, more indomitable.

It isn’t about how I look – it’s about how I feel.

And damn, sis, I feel good.

college, Essay, Politics


Names have been changed, except the name of that nail polish. Originally submitted as a piece for my Columns & Editorials class.

Last night I went to my first College Republicans meeting. I’m working on a story about political engagement among college students post-election, and when researching political party groups on campus, I found out they were having a meeting that very night.

I don’t know what I thought I would be walking into, but it wasn’t what I assumed. Okay, I knew what I thought it would be—a Nazi circle-jerk, or an anti-Obama pile-on. I expected Make America Great Again hats and enough Vineyard Vines to clothe an entire village.

There was only one MAGA hat but, I assumed, they all had some in their closets. There were a lot more women than I expected, at least half but maybe more. Traitors to their gender, I thought. How can they side with someone who is so anti-women? And there were people of color. Stockholm Syndrome, I reasoned, or internalized xenophobia. The white, presumably straight, guy in a quarter-zip and Patriot’s baseball cap was soaked in so much privilege that anything he would say was bound to be offensive. But in what’s usually the case, per the principle of Occam’s Razor, the simplest answer is usually the truest. They weren’t brainwashed or spies or masochists. They were just Republicans.

The meeting began with typical housekeeping. In light of the new presidency, they hoped to up their meetings from once every three weeks to something more frequent, and then they bandied around ideas for speakers they could get for their semesterly big function. Bill O’Reilly, I learned, is a BU alum, and one girl thought he was worth reaching out to.

After, the conversation turned to discussion. The latest news: The inauguration, and who among the group had attended. The nomination for Supreme Court of Neil Gorsuch. They said it was a “Merrick Garland type of decision,” meaning a more centrist pick that both sides could agree on. The immigration ban, which a College Republicans executive board member, Rocky, said (a common response) was “executed very, very poorly.”

Marianne talked about the immigration ban, sharing that her boyfriend (a green card holder from a “non-white, non-Christian” country) was afraid that if he left America, he wouldn’t be let back in.

Getting visibly upset, she said, “No one should be afraid of that; that if he left for Engineering Without Borders to do work in Africa and came back on a connecting flight through Dubai…” She trailed off.

A lot of the conversation, the feelings of dealing with rabid liberals who operated purely on emotion and attacked without information, was uncomfortably familiar to me. The sense of defeat when having a conversation with someone on the far other side. Frustration with how polarized everything seems to be. Swap any of the names, and I could’ve easily been sitting in on a group of liberals talking about zealous Republicans.

“It’s hard being the elephant in the room, literally and figuratively,” said Robert, one of the club’s executive board members. That earned major laughs from the members, and even a surprised one from me. Who knew Republicans could have jokes? He was answering in response to Lydia, a Chicago native who was relieved to find a group of like-minded people in such a liberal city.

“So it’s nice to have, well I don’t wanna say the word “safe space” but…” said Robert, laughing again.

They were tired of being demonized, of being labeled as Nazis or homophobes or xenophobes or racists or misogynists, and the list goes on and on. To be fair, it’s a pretty long list. Tired of everything being labeled “the end of the world,” a sentiment, they pointed out, is always expressed by the opposing political side to the president. But the sense that I got from most of them was that their primary motivation for voting Trump was either loyalty to the Republican party or fiscal.

Robert told a story about his Republican parents and his upbringing in Michigan. His mother grew up in Detroit in the sixties and seventies, and was witness to the decline of the industrial community.

“When we heard “Make America Great Again,” that’s what we associated it with,” he said. Not the takeback of the country from diversity, but the bringing back of industrial jobs into areas that are starving without them.

When I asked the group if they felt a disconnect or conflict between being a millennial and being a Republican, their hands were raising before I even finished the question.

“I’m socially more liberal, but fiscally more conservative, so I identify myself as more of a moderate,” said Stacey. That sense, that as Republicans they were most caught up in fiscal matters, seemed to resonate amongst everybody. And when Stacey said the (I assumed) most-hated statement, “I voted for Hillary Clinton,” no one recoiled. No one threw anything at her. Her conflict, between Republican and millennial, was one with which they could all identify.

When people hear the name Republican, felt most of them, they assume white nationalists and xenophobes. But it’s “a wide tent,” said Max, and Republicans are much more diverse than people are willing to believe.

One of the last questions I posed to the group was “Is there something you wish you could tell the other side?”

“Ask questions,” said Rocky. Be able to have a conversation. Be open to having a conversation.

Stacey offered a story from her time interning for Governor Charlie Baker. “Many liberals are turning more moderate, to be able to work with a conservative government,” she said, “And that’s really good to see.”

“Thanks for being willing to listen,” said Louis, the communications chair, when I thanked them for their time.

At the end of the meeting, two girls gingerly approached me. “Um, can I ask you something?” one asked, a woman of color.

“Yeah!” I answered, trying to be friendly but predicting (even after all this) that it might be something rude or blunt or homophobic.

“I was staring at it all meeting; where is your nail polish from?”

I looked down at the minty blue color. “Isn’t it great? It’s called ‘Babe Blue.’ But I don’t know the brand. Sorry!”

She looked genuinely anguished, because it is such a cute color. “Oh, okay. Thanks!”

And when I got home and logged on to Twitter, I saw my liberal newsfeed through different eyes. How would the College Republicans see this? They would say probably that it’s catastrophizing everything. And they might be right.

college, Humor, Life


Alternate titles: “THANK YOU, COME A-ZEN” or “CHEAPER BY THE DO-ZEN” or “GOOD AND ZEN-TY”.  

Written while doing laundry, while drinking discount white wine and eating “Lite” string cheese, because whoever said that millennials are lazy clearly hasn’t met me.  

I’ve had a very spiritual, holistic day, you guys. Seriously, you guys, I’m very Zenned out. Why? I’ll tell you why. I woke up at a spritely 8:30, stared blankly at my iPhone—which at 8:30 in the morning is just a slender brick of incommunicable noise—rolled over, and slept until 9:16. Then I sat up, with that same brick in my paw, and debated whether or not I should go to the gym. On one hand, I could stay in, watch the third part of Real Housewives of New York: Reunion, chillax and eat. On the other hand, if I went, I wouldn’t have to deal with the gut-wrenching and spiral-inducing shame that results from me skipping the gym. Both very reasonable, healthy options.

I opted for the latter and got myself up, walked around, laid back down in bed, got back up again, peed, preened in the mirror, decided—yet again—to not wash off my acne medication and let that werk its magic for an extra forty minutes while I schvitzed to “Clumsy” off Glory at the gym.

At the gym I did legs—aka buttz—and sped-walked home, ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and knockoff Trader Joe’s Frosted Flakes each, showered/shaved (my face), got dressed and realized that I was going to be late for my Zen meditation class, which is not very Zen of me.

I’ve been sweating like a mammoth this entire school year thus far, but as the temperature’s dipped a little, I’ve been hoping for a reprieve. Today would have been such a reprieve, had I not had to run-waddle half-a-mile to my meditation class—

Side bar: I keep writing “medication” instead of “meditation” and that’s very telling.

—and so I showed up, actually dripping sweat. Not just schvitzing, but full-blown Niagara Falls-ing. Zen was good, weird, but good, and I actually was able to let go of my thots—and my thoughts—for a moment, which is very weird and very not me.


Source: Giphy// Me @ Zen

After I was all Zenned, I went to a meeting with my psychiatrist. I’m not very good at being normal at a lot of things, so even I know that I shouldn’t talk about what we discussed, so I won’t. I will say that it touched upon lyfe, love, boyz, Boyz II Men (it didn’t, I lied, forgive me?), amongst other things. As usual, after all my psychiatry meetings, I left feeling buoyed, hungry, and a little depressed—I’m all these things already, all the time.

I really like getting back into the groove of seeing my psychiatrist because A) I’m a lot, B) I’m around me a lot of the time, so I need to decompress from myself, and C) it’s healthy and helps me to be emotionally healthy and mentally “stable.” Which is, let’s be honest, pretty sexy. I also like psychiatry because I can say anything and everything goes.

Very judgment-free. Very Zen.


Source: Giphy// Me when ppl aren’t Zen like me

After my appointment, I got coffee/lunch (again, hungry) with my friend Lottie. That’s not her real name, but I don’t give out real names and I don’t know why I picked Lottie, but I panicked and we’re here. We got lattes, I got a BLT—healthhhhhh—and we literally talked for like OVER TWO HOURS. That’s a lot of time, but we glided through it because we’re both so witty. We also look a little alike, which makes me trust her instantly.

All in all, today was one of those “mental health days” without being a “Mental Health Day” because I hate when people say “mental health days” because it’s never the people who actually need/deserve/require a “mental health day.” It’s always someone who’s, like, stressed about something small and just needs, like, a #break. It’s the same person who thinks liking to organize their binder is the same as having OCD. It’s not, and you’re an asshole.

I’m not going to engage in this negativity—I’m so knee-deep in it, I’m practically married to it at this point (AYOOO)—and also it’s literally late so I’m just gonna chop things off here and post this muthafucka.

Side bar/PS: it’s getting a little colder and I love it, because I’m an autumn person (#Virgo) and even though my body is a 7/10, my egomania is a 12/10, my self-confidence is a 5/10 and my body issues are an 11/10, so I’m glad for the chance to cover up, chastely and modestly.  


college, Humor, Life


Written after wearing a NASA baseball cap in Starbucks and running into a guy wearing an (acid-washed, but we all make mistakes) NASA t-shirt and saying goodbye to him as my “NASA buddy”. In related news, I’m planning a spring wedding, space-themed.  

I’m sitting on a bench in front of my college, having just ordered a “grande cold brew, with an espresso shot. Light ice” in a high, irritating voice, because if my drink order is going to be complicated as fuck, then I might as well go the full mile. Also, I didn’t get it sweetened because I firmly believe that if your order requires three specifications or more, you’re outing yourself to the world as a potential serial killer. I also put “three” because I’m trying to conceal the fact that I’m a potential serial killer for as long as possible.

I had my first “Zen Meditation” class today, and besides the mortal fear of farting into the silence, I actually found it to be a really interesting experience. We sat like pretzels—srry for appropriating dough culture—we laid down and listened to music, and we talked about shit like “being okay with mental discomfort” and finding more value in the “question, rather than the answer.” Because once you have an answer, you put yourself into a tiny little box and you die.

As I was telling my friend Shelby—remember that salty old bitch?—I feel like a lot of things in my life are getting together and producing a cosmic neon sign about my life. That’s such a millennial thing to think, by the way, that all the forces of the universe are cooperating to send some dickhead blogger a message about his post-graduate aspirations (asspirations, amiright hahaihatemyself). But let me back up.

Here are the signs the universe has been sending me (at the low low cost of $0.99 per text).


1). Zen Meditation: Our teacher (professor? Shaman? Medicine man? Witch?) told us a lot of mdeditation is not following every thought and letting ourselves immerse in the murkiness of the unknown. He didn’t say it as eloquently as that, but I’m embellishing. So much of life is unknown, but the more you worry about it, the more you suck away at the present and lose life. Rough. Rough stuff.

2). Chelsea: I’ve been watching a lot of Chelsea Handler, and she was interviewed by Ashly Perez of BuzzFeed (wow, Microsoft Word recognizes “Ashly” but not “BuzzFeed”), and basically just talked about pursuing what you’re passionate about. That’s an easy thing for a multimillionaire to say, but she brought up Sophia Amoruso, the founder of Nasty Gal. Amoruso started out dumpster-diving for vintage stuff and selling it on eBay. She followed her passion for vintage clothing and it led somewhere lucrative. Doing things purely for money leads you to glassy-eyed, dead-souled hell.

As a graduating senior, the idea of following your dreams is scary as hell, and often gets masked by the need for “job security” and a “healthy income” and a “401k” (idk I think there’s a period in there somewhere but who knows?). our parents want to see returns on the investment they made, and so we feel this pressure (external and internal) to prove that the last four years have resulted in something.

3). Blerg: I’m taking a beat reporting class, and we had to do “mock-interviews” with a partner, research that partner online and then turn that interview into a 100-word profile. Mine was fucking well-written, and my partner discovered my fat whale of a blog. When people discover my blog, I treat it like an entertaining, but stupid, child of mine. Like I’m proud that it’s made you laugh, but I don’t want you to delve too deeply into it and see what I’ve done wrong. In the profile done on me, my interviewer said that I was “hesitant to label myself a journalist” (true) but that I had a lot to say (very fucking true). Part of my weirdness about school is that I’m not a very “journalist-y” journalist. Unbiased reporting bores me. I like drama, I like weirdness, I like being funny. I have no interest in being impartial, or ferreting out the “story.” So to have someone see my blog, arguably the most raw/polished online representation of myself, and ask what I wanted to do for a career, felt a little bit like someone bursting into me taking a shower and asking me what I planned to do about my problem areas.



The interview thing happened before the Zen thing, so I feel like the universe heard my question of “Da fuck am I supposed to do” and answered with “idk but chill out dude.” Technically the question is supposed to be more important than the answer, and I’m not supposed to be comfortable in answers, so maybe the universe actually didn’t answer me, or it was a wrong number. But I’m going to take it as my own.

I don’t have any direction. I don’t have any goal. But I know what I’m good at. And if the universe/Chelsea Handler has made one thing clear, it’s that that’s what I should focus on. Following what drives my passion, what I’m good at, and finding solace in that. And trusting in that.

Did this make any sense? Should it make any sense? Maybe I should pretend that the reason it’s all rambling is because it’s actually elevated thinking and it’s not supposed to make sense and then it seems like I’m smarter than you. Yeah, I’m gonna do that. Just ignore that train of thought and focus on the fact that I’m smarter than you. Much smarter.

In related news, what do you think the Universe thinks of the iPhone 7? Do you think it’s a matte-black or jet-black kind of bitch? What kind of bitch am I? Will I ever be confident enough to get a jet-black phone? Or will I forever float in the safety of silver?

Also I can’t wait for all the horrible monster-gays to decide what phone means what sexual preference you are. I don’t even know if they updated the chart (cuz there’s definitely a chart) for the inclusion of Rose Gold. If anyone says the gays are beasts, they’re totally fucking right.

Omg I just saw someone I have a crush on and I need to look hotter but I don’t. Fuck my life.