My Train Ride with a Capitol Attacker

Amtrak has become a huge part of my life over the past few years. Though it’s often quite pricey, it gets me from college to home and vice versa safely and soundly. I used to be quite scared of sitting on the train alone for 7 hours, but after a couple of solo trips, it became a pretty natural process for me. Those 7 hours give me the space to catch up on a good book, process the things in my life that I’ve been too busy to give real thought to, and get ahead on work or school. The alone time does me wonders, and it’s something I was really looking forward to as I stepped onto the train to Richmond last week. 

The train was fully booked, so our seats were assigned to us. I made my way down the aisle, eventually finding my seat – D14. In the seat directly next to mine was a middle-aged white man. He offered to lift my huge suitcase onto the overhead compartment, and my noodle arms were quite thankful that he did. I thanked him, sat down, and remained quiet for the first two hours of the train ride as I typed up some articles for my internship. Most people on the train weren’t talking unless they were sitting with friends or family members, so the lack of conversation between me and my seat-mate did not surprise nor disappoint me. As I chipped away at my work for the week, I noticed him taking pictures of the scenery that we were passing by, just as I often do when I am blessed with the window seat. When we were pulling up to the 30-minute Washington D.C. stop, he turned to me, explained that it was his first time taking Amtrak, and asked if it was a bad idea to leave his belongings on the train while he finds the bathroom. I told him that it’s a pretty safe train, but that I usually take my bags anyway. He thanked me, and we talked briefly about our respective destinations before getting off the train. 

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My Mental Health Journey

Mental Health Awareness Month has been at the back of my mind for the past 28 days, as I contemplated whether or not it was worth it to share my own journey and insights on the topic. I feel slightly wrong commenting about the struggle when I’m still in the middle of it, and I was quite worried that this post would only add to the stigma behind mental health. Nonetheless, I know that there is no better time to take the risk and open up about this part of my life than during a month dedicated to exactly that.

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How Strava Destroys the Love of Running


Ever since I graduated high school and stopped running competitively, my relationship with the sport has changed for the better. I’m not able to run a 5k in 21 minutes anymore, but I am able to avoid physical therapy, gain pleasure from my runs, and feel energized instead of drained from my workouts. Though I loved being a part of my cross country team more than anything, I knew that I needed to chill with my running when I got to college. Joining the club running team at William and Mary allowed me to schedule my runs around my other commitments, and not the other way around. After quarantine started, running became the thing that got me away from my zoom screen, allowed me to clear my mind, and pushed me through some really hopeless days. The endorphin release was like nothing else, and whether I was running a quick two laps around my neighborhood or a long run in the park, I was able to find so much clarity and joy from my runs. I would track my mileage and set goals for myself, but never get bogged down on running slower than I wanted to on off days. Though my runs wavered when school started up again in the fall, I’ve been running 4-5 days a week for the last two months, and it has been the best form of self care I could ever recommend. I think I’ve found a really good balance when it comes to my relationship with running, and I believe this gives me credibility in talking about the toxicity of a certain part of running culture. 

A few months ago, I saw someone post about the app Strava. For those who have never heard of it, Strava is an exercise tracking app with the additional aspect of social media. You can post your mileage, distance, and how you felt on any given run. Cyclers and other athletes use this app too, but I’ve stuck to examining its aspect on the running community. As a big fan of running, I found this app really exciting, but the more I heard about it, and the more I analyzed this kind of exercise mindset, the more I was appalled by the app’s implications. 

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The Search for Meaning in Brandon Bernard’s Death

Who was Brandon Bernard and what did he do?

Coronavirus has killed more people this week than ever before, taking more lives than Pearl Harbor in single days. It is impossible to watch the news for long before hearing a Coronavirus death count update. People sick with conditions unrelated to Coronavirus are dying because they are too afraid to enter hospitals- virus hotspots. Moreover, suicide rates in our country are higher than ever before, for many people truly cannot deal with the isolation and hopelessness of this pandemic. Not to sound too existential, but it really feels like this disease is making the concept of death much more of a tangible threat to all of us. The saddest and most enraging part of this whole tragedy to me, however, is the audacity of the federal government to do what they did a few nights ago: deliberately choose to take an additional life. I cannot and will not ever be able to wrap my head around how the government, and specifically President Trump, found it permissible to carry out a federal execution during an era already filled with so many unjust deaths. 

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The Alex Trebek Legacy: A Follow-up

About a year ago, I wrote a blog post honoring the great Alex Trebek. At that point, he had been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for a year. I was constantly impressed by the fact that his diagnosis did not at all diminish the charm and wit that he was famous for exhibiting during his time hosting Jeopardy. Even though I knew Mr. Trebek was a hell of a fighter and thus wasn’t going anywhere for a while, I wanted to reflect on the immense impact that he had on my life. I discussed in the blog how he fostered my love for learning and for knowledge, and I encouraged other people to find someone that makes them as excited and curious about the world as Alex Trebek made me. 

Flash forward to last night, I was on the phone with my sweet boyfriend, and the topic of curiosity came up. He described to me a podcast he had listened to that talked about how the American school system essentially destroys kids’ natural curiosity. As he talked, I started to feel really bummed, for I realized that my own curiosity had really vanished over the last few months. I don’t know if it was the pandemic, the craziness of school, or the challenges I’ve gone through mentally over the last few months- All I knew was that I couldn’t remember the last time I felt the love for learning that I used to feel on a daily basis. I used to watch documentaries about US presidents in my free time, listen to psychology Ted Talks on my runs, and stay very up to date with the news. I realized during that phone call that I don’t do all that stuff too often anymore. Before I knew it, I was in tears. I said to Andrew that I just miss the feeling of wanting to want to learn something, and though he reassured me that such wording meant that my curiosity is nowhere near gone, I don’t know if I fully believed him. Nonetheless, I calmed down and told myself that I would try to work on getting that love for learning back once finals ended. 

This morning, I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional during the previous night’s conversation. Then, I saw the news about Trebek’s passing, and everything made a whole lot more sense. 

I’m not a big believer in signs from the universe, but this felt like one. It would have been easy for me to deem last night as simply an instance of me being overdramatic.  It would have been easy for me to make excuses and blame my rigorous course load for my lack of desire to learn in my free time. It would have been easy for me to keep putting off re-finding my love for learning. Mr. Trebek did not let me do that though, and I’m really appreciative of him for that. Though I would give anything to somehow bring him back to the physical world, Trebek’s death reminded me for good that I can never afford to lose that curiosity ever again. After telling my parents the news and letting myself cry some much needed tears, I put all my homework aside and just listened to a podcast. It was about climate change, a topic that I have opinions on but honestly do not know much about. I learned a lot in those 15 minutes, and it felt so good to be learning it for me and my curiosity. Not for a grade or to impress others with my knowledge- just for me. I’m promising myself that I’ll make time every single dang day from now on to explore like this. It creates a sense of fulfillment that I cannot quite put into words, and I’m very thankful Mr. Trebek helped me discover it back then and remember it today. 

Rather than try to reword my message from a year ago, I’m simply going to copy and paste a section from that post that I especially stand by and want to reiterate to honor the beloved host: 

“To anyone else whose screen this post pops up on, I hope you find someone who encourages you to learn the way Trebek has encouraged me and many others to. We can’t be experts on everything, but there’s a world of knowledge out there for us to delve into, and we owe it to ourselves to take in as much of it as possible since it’s right at our fingertips most of the time. Trebek once said, “My life has been a quest for knowledge and understanding, and I am nowhere near having achieved that. And it doesn’t bother me in the least. I will die without having come up with the answers to many things in life.” We can’t learn everything, but we can learn a whole damn lot. And when we make our lives centered on a motivation to learn more and more, we become better, more empathetic and aware people and contributors to this crazy, opinionated, and often ignorant world. So whether it’s turning on your tv at 7 o’clock every night and taking in information from a Jeopardy category, reading the daily news from a variety of sources, or simply meeting new people and hearing their stories, I hope you choose to learn. It’s not my place to say so, but I think that’s the kind of world Trebek wants to be proud to call his own.”

I don’t think I knew back then how much I would eventually need to reread and internalize my own words, but here we are. 

My heart is really sad knowing that such a remarkable man is gone from the physical world. I struggle with the fact that someone as genuinely good of a person as Alex Trebek had such a painful end to his life. He got 80 years, which is more than a lot of people get, but if there’s anyone who deserves to live forever, or at least not die from cancer, it’s Alex Trebek. The man was in the studio filming Jeopardy episodes up until ten days ago- Who else in this world has that kind of dedication? He focused on his contestants up until the very end, never drawing more attention to himself than he felt beneficial. He was the kind of person who you might not know personally, but you simultaneously feel like you know on a bigger level.  I know that viewers all over the world will take his legacy and let it live through them, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. 

In an interview, Trebek said that he wanted to be remembered as “A decent guy who did his best to help the contestants perform their best.” I think it’s safe to say he will be remembered for much more than that. Viewers all over the country and world will remember him as a polite, insightful, appreciative, and hardworking man. I will remember him as all of that and more. I will remember him as one of my heroes, the person that taught me what it means to want to understand the world, and an epitome of the kind person I will always try to become. 

Thank you for everything, Mr. Trebek. You will be so very missed.

Why The Dark Place May Feel Harder To Escape Lately

Last week, I was on a walk in the park with a friend talking about COVID-19 (there’s not much else to discuss these days, is there?), when he said something that really resonated with me. As we discussed the implications that this virus has on mental health, he reasoned, “never have we had so much in common with each other yet felt so utterly alone at the same time.” He couldn’t be more correct. I don’t think it serves as much of a surprise to anyone, but people are struggling mentally now more than ever. Obviously, the coronavirus has awful physical implications, but the pandemic as a whole has had more effects on the mind than we even realize. While many people have found productive ways to cope with the unknown, from exercising to taking summer classes, many other people have found it increasingly difficult to make the most of these times. Certain friends of mine who I used to describe to others as the absolute epitome of happiness are now on anti-depressants. Other friends who I looked to as sources of strength now tell me about the anxiety attacks they wake up with every morning. I’m in no way saying that everyone is now mentally ill, but the majority of people I know have more bad days than ever before. I couldn’t understand why our brains weren’t just adapting like they adapt to plenty of other challenges until I read a post that said that our brains are just literally not programmed to face a situation like this one. The phrase “unprecedented times” applies to mental health issues too. 

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A Beauty and The Beast Phenomenon- Why Regular Women Fall For Serial Killers

carol

My senior year of high school consisted of way too many coffee runs. Don’t get me wrong- each and every individual coffee venture has enriched my life by blessing that particular day with extra flavor and caffeine. However, one particular Starbucks run had a rather large influence in shaping what is now a pretty big passion of mine. 

My friend and I were catching up in Starbucks after our weekly mentoring session when she asked me if I had ever seen the Ted Bundy Tapes, the new Netflix documentary series everyone was talking about. Before that day, I was already very much interested in the legal side of crime, but I knew very little about the serial killing sector of crime. I told her I hadn’t seen the series, and that I didn’t even know who Ted Bundy was. She gave me a brief synopsis of the documentary and told me I absolutely HAD to watch it. So I did- I watched the whole documentary in one weekend, and as horrible as it initially sounds, I couldn’t get enough. 

I was so excited to tell all my other friends that they too had to watch this series, but often when I would recommend it to people, I would be met with the classic “Oh, so you’re another white girl that’s in love with Ted Bundy” stereotype. I was initially really confused when I got this response, for I couldn’t comprehend that there are actually fandoms of girls who swoon over a man who so brutally and mercilessly killed over 30 women. I genuinely believe my interest in this man and the crimes he represents stems from a psychological and sociological approach (those are literally my college majors…and also even if he wasn’t a serial killer, Bundy physically is just not.my.type). Nonetheless, if someone wants to psychoanalyze me and tell me I’m lying to myself, feel free. 

Anyways, I still wanted to understand why there is a world out there full of women who fall for men like Bundy, and why so many women are interested in true crime in general. Is this fascination, and in extreme cases, obsessive adoration, innate or learned? If it’s just a matter of curiosity, why don’t men dedicate as much time as women to understanding killers?  Is there something wrong with these women, or is something wrong with society for looking down on them? Though there’s not one clear theory that explains it all, my Google venture led me to some really interesting perspectives. 

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10 Steps to Tackling Breakups

 

you cant lose something you have never had gif

There’s no right way to get through a breakup. Just like there’s no right way to make a first move or tell someone you like them, this aspect of love has no singular correct path. There’s also no time period in which you NEED to be over a breakup. I am a big believer in taking your time through the grieving process. However, you should still put a little bit of work in to feel as best you can with every passing day of the process. I can’t claim to be an expert on breakups, but like a lot of us, I’ve experienced how hard they can be. A psychologist or love expert could probably provide much more credible information about how to best cope with one, but I also think there’s a level of relatability that comes from getting these tips from a peer. Nothing helped me more during my own breakups than getting advice from people I knew and trusted who had been in similar positions. So no matter what side of the breakup you’re on, I hope these tips give you some tangible steps you can take to get through a chapter of your life that likely won’t be easy. 

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Why Just Mercy is Much More Than a Film

This past Tuesday night consisted of rushing to eat dinner, driving with my mom to the movie theater, seeing a film based on my favorite book of all time, driving home in the fog, folding laundry, and ending the night by shaving my legs. Like a lot of girls, shaving is a pretty normal occurrence for me, and I don’t usually think much of it. That night, however, a very weird wave of uneasiness came over me as I began to shave, and after about 10 minutes, I realized why that wave was hitting me: In the movie I watched hours earlier, someone else was having their legs shaved too. However, for this person, the shaving was not voluntary. This person was getting their whole body shaved in preparation for being put to death by an electric chair. His name was Herbert Richardson, and he was one of the death row inmates who attorney Bryan Stevenson represented in the movie Just Mercy. The horror on Richardson’s face as the prison guards shaved him from head to toe to speed up the electric current was extremely prolific, and it made me look at the simple act of shaving my legs through a completely different lens.

Herbert Richardson was an Alabama man sentenced to the death penalty after a bomb that he created and delivered killed a young girl. Richardson had an extremely traumatic childhood, yet he chose to rise above the trauma and do good with his life by enlisting in the military and going off to the Vietnam War. The young man was extremely psychologically traumatized during the war, leading to his honorable discharge. Upon returning home, his PTSD exponentially increased. At one of the hospitals he stayed at, Richardson met and fell in love with one of his nurses. They dated for a while before she tried to cut off contact with him. Not able to think clearly, Richardson devised a plan to win her back. He would construct a bomb, leave it on her porch in a box, detonate it, but save the nurse just in time. He had experience with bombs in the war, and he didn’t see this plan going wrong. Except it did. A little girl inside the nurse’s house saw the box on the porch, picked it up, shook it, and was killed instantly. Richardson, who was watching from across the street, was horrified. He had not intended to murder anyone, let alone a little girl. The courts, however, didn’t pay much attention to this. Nor did they pay attention to his deep psychological trauma. Nor did they pay attention to the honorable discharge and his dedication to fighting for the country. They saw a cold-blooded killer, put him on death row, and sent an electric wave through his body to kill him as revenge. Even the help and expertise of Bryan Stevenson and his team wasn’t enough to save this man. This is what the death penalty looks like in Alabama. As I watched his story play out on the screen, I had to keep reminding myself that this actually happened in real life. You would think that no court would overlook so much good and only focus on the bad, but as Richardson’s story proves, a system so ingrained in racism and discrimination often does just that.

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The Alex Trebek Legacy

One night in March of my junior year of high school, my friends and I skipped out on going to our school’s annual charity dance (also known as our school’s annual mini rave/make-out-fest) and instead decided to stay in, order a pizza, and watch some television. Upon arriving at my friend Allison’s house, we quickly turned on the one show the three of us loved to pieces- Jeopardy.

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