May 21

Kirsten Schlorff (Choice 1: Identity and Time Travel)

Kirsten Schlorff

ENGL 121

Dr. Wender

2 November 2017

Choice 1:  Identity and Time Travel

My Identity Map (top) and Zits/Michael’s Identity Map (bottom)

In the novel Flight by Sherman Alexie , the protagonist, introduced as Zits, goes through multiple transformations in which he assumes different identities. As a matter of fact, experiencing these various transformations helps Zits find his true identity by the end. In the opening chapter, Zits identifies himself as half-Native American and half-Irish, which society often sees as conflicting heritages. It is difficult for most people to see someone as both white and Indian, even though it is possible for both heritages to co-exist. However, Zits is confused and unsure about who he really is, because he doesn’t feel Irish or Indian since neither of his parents have been a part of his life for years. In fact, Zits describes himself when he said, “I’m a blank sky, a human solar eclipse” (Alexie, 5). Throughout the course of the novel, the protagonist assumes six different identities. These identities include: Zits (himself), Hank Storm, an Indian boy, Augustus Sullivan (Gus), Jimmy, and Michael.

Zits is a 15-year-old foster child, who is highly ashamed of his life, his physical appearance, and even himself in general. Zits wakes up inside the body of FBI agent Hank Storm in a motel in 1975. Hank is also a half-breed Indian, and while Zits likes Hank’s physical appearance better than his own, he also feels trapped. As Hank, he states, “I am looking at a very handsome white guy in the mirror. His hair is blonde. His eyes are blue. His skin is clear. This guy hasn’t had a zit in his whole life. And this guy is me” (Alexie, 40). Speaking on Hank’s behalf, Zits also says, “I am beautiful,” after examining himself in the mirror (Alexie, 41).

After assuming the identity of Hank Storm, Zits runs into the middle of a gigantic Indian camp, complete with thousands of real Indian tepees and thousands of real old-time Indians. Transforming into a thin and muscular 12- or 13-year old Indian boy, Zits realizes he finally has a real, loving father and family. As an Indian boy Zits says, “I have a family. A real family. A true family. I am happy for the first time in my life” (Alexie, 65).

Next, Zits awakes to the sound of a reveille, a military bugle call. Even though Zits is aware that he is a soldier, he thinks he is still his normal self. However, after being shouted at numerous times, he is introduced by a general to the troops as Augustus “Gus” Sullivan. General Mustache described Gus as, “the best Indian tracker in the entire U.S. Army” (Alexie, 84). Gus is an old soldier, who has served for at least 20 years. Revenge made Gus lead 100 white soldiers into an Indian camp and kill innocent Indians. As Gus said, “This is what revenge can do to you…We are killers.” Considering Zits is half Native-American, he said he couldn’t lead the white soldiers in to kill his own people. Zits clarifies that not all Indians are the same though, when he rhetorically asks, “But we’re not all the same kind of Indians, are we?” (Alexie, 87).

When Zits transforms into the pilot Jimmy, he finds himself flying an airplane. Zits can feel the pilot’s emotions and see his memories. Jimmy can be considered a traitor because he cheated on his wife several times. Zits compares Jimmy to his own father when he says, “Okay, so I guess that Jimmy the pilot is a dirty liar and a cheat. My Indian father was a dirty liar and a cheat. So I guess this another kind of justice. I’ve been dropped into the body of a man just like my father” (Alexie, 118). Zits also states his opinion of Jimmy stating, “Jimmy is a major-league jerk. He’s made two women weep and wail in two minutes” (Alexie, 119). After his wife, Linda, leaves him, Jimmy flies his airplane into a large lake. As the plane falls, Zits thinks about his mother, father, the people he’s loved, hated and betrayed, and those who have betrayed him. At this point in the novel, Zits conveys that betrayal is a natural human vice when he says, “We’re all the same people. And we are all falling” (Alexie, 130).

Zits experiences the most emotionally painful, yet eye-opening transformation when he assumes the identity of his father. Forcing his father to remember the day he left him, Zits realizes that his father was emotionally abused growing up and was forced to believe that “he wasn’t worth shit.” Zits’s father was afraid of becoming like his own abusive father, and that fear made him leave the hospital when Zits was born.

In the final chapters of the novel Flight, Zits opens his eyes and returns to the bank in Seattle. When he realizes he is back to his normal self, he says, “I have returned to my body. And my ugly face. And my anger. And my loneliness” (Alexie, 158). Ultimately, Zits decides not to shoot the strangers in the bank and says, “I think all the people in this bank are better than I am. They have better lives than I do. Or maybe they don’t. Maybe we’re all lonely. Maybe some of them also hurtle through time and see war, war, war. Maybe we’re all in this together” (Alexie, 158).

Zits’s new foster mother, Mary, is the first person to ever genuinely care about him and keep promises. Mary provides Zits with skin-care treatment for his acne and shows him how to properly use it, and hugs him tightly when he cries. No one has hugged Zits like that since his mother died, which makes Zits think he will finally be happy and have an almost real family. After apologizing repeatedly, he says to Mary, “My real name is Michael. Please, call me Michael” (Alexie, 181).

To conclude, Zits’s journey of transformations throughout the novel Flight helps him realize that he is in control of his own identity by providing insight into several other perspectives. Each identity somehow speaks to Zits’s confusion, yet he discovers that every person has inner conflicts and moments of confusion. Ultimately, Zits learns that an individual’s identity is defined more by his/her behavior than by his/her race or wealth. No magical identity solves every problem. Instead, each person must work hard to become someone he/she can be proud of.

This overarching theme relating to identity is still prevalent even today. Most teenagers have a hard time trying to “find themselves.” People are constantly being judged, ridiculed, and labeled by others. Many foster children remain unsure about where they came from or who their biological parents were. For instance, Sherman Alexie incorporated much of his Native American heritage and first-hand experiences in writing and creating the protagonist for this novel.

Likewise, there have been many times throughout my life during which I have wanted to be someone else rather than face my own problems. However, in college, I began to realize after facing many emotionally difficult situations that I am the only person who has control over my identity and life. I have since learned to assume responsibility for my actions and solve my own problems, rather than blaming or relying on others to help me. The week before finals during the spring semester of my sophomore year at IUP, I was raped by someone I barely knew. After crying and being distraught about the situation for several weeks, I had to decide whether to let the situation define my identity as a victim or heal and move forward as a survivor. I was judged, victim-blamed, ridiculed, and labeled as many negative things. Sometimes it felt as if no one believed me. When I realized I was the only person who had control over my identity regardless of what others were saying about me, I emerged stronger than I ever was before.

May 21

Briana Briggs (Choosing the Right Path)

Briana Briggs

English 100

08 October 2017

Choosing the Right Path

Carl Luciano is currently a professor at IUP. He grew up all over the place, mostly in West Chester County, New York, and also West Virginia. In school, he wasn’t a very serious student, but managed and was determined to pass. His favorite subjects throughout school were mainly Reading, English, and Biology because he liked learning new material. In high school, his main goal was to get into college. Growing up, Carl didn’t have many skills besides the basics, such as riding a bike, watching television, and reading. He was involved in many clubs during high school like service, academic, and social clubs. He won a history award and English essay award. From being involved in school, academically he learned how to be organized.

He graduated in 1970 and attended college at West Virginia University in his hometown , and majored in chemistry. He did okay, just enough to keep his family happy. There were lots of teachers in his family; he knew it was a family occupation. That’s when he decided it’s only right if he teaches too. Luciano’s most memorable moment he had in college was when he was struggling in a class and had a professor who did everything he could to help him through the school year even when he didn’t need to. In college, his biology and chemistry professor weren’t as good as his biology and genetics professor; he liked how they presented material and interacted with students. That’s what inspired him to go to grad school and major in chemistry. He thought since his professors were good in college, he could be exactly like them or even better. His goal in college was to get into a good graduate school. He chose the path that he did, as far as school, because it gave him the most freedom to take different courses that interested him, which is something he wouldn’t change.

To Carl, being a professor is the right job for him; he made the right decision and feels as though it suits him pretty well. He felt as though the professors in college were all different people; some were good but some weren’t as good as he thought they would be. Some requirements Carl feel as though are needed to become a professor of biology would be having a biology, chemistry, physics, and math background. At the moment, Carl Luciano is most passionate about an interesting project in the Biology Department that he’s currently working on called virus discovery. The students are finding new virus species in the soil, which is a lot of fun for him. He enjoys interacting with students and learning more, but wishes he didn’t have big classes so he could get to know the students better. In addition to being paid money, his career has created value in his life by giving him an identity. The biggest influence in his career would be a retired professor at IUP by the name of Frank Baker because he walked him through what to do as far as school and taught him how to get his act together when he was stressing in college. Another big accomplishment he’s  proud of is  being able to interact with students, and teach.

When Carl was in graduate school, there were alumni from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He thought they were well trained in biology, so when a job opportunity opened up here at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he applied for it. He has been teaching at IUP for 32 years and seems to love his job. He faced many challenges to get to where he is now, such as making money, applying, preparing, and actually getting a job, spending time at work which sacrifices personal time for yourself, working in the lab, and raising a family. Finding a job and making money wasn’t an easy process for Carl; it took days after applying until someone got back to him about a position. Spending time at work and in the lab took more of his time, but he found a way to balance work and his personal life. Lastly, being a father is challenging to Carl, but he always wanted the best for his children and wanted to see them succeed, so he was tough on them.

Since Carl has a BA in Chemistry and Ph.D. in Agricultural Biochemistry, he’s been able to travel all over to places outside of the United States, such as Europe and Africa – South Africa, Swaziland, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia. Carl’s most memorable travel experience is the yearly South Africa trip with Biology students. He enjoys being around others who are from different cultures, the new experiences in different countries, and the wild animals. This is something he loves and will continue to do all over again. Being able to do the things that he enjoys motivates him. For example, reading about infectious diseases led to what he teaches at Indiana University of Pennsylvania now. Carl Luciano’s definition of happiness is not really that you have what you want, but you have what you need. If you have that, you don’t have to worry too much. Success means happiness to Carl Luciano too! Doing a good job and being at work is important to Carl right now.

He feels as though IUP is a “red-brick” institution because the University was built in the 50-60’s, so there’s a lot of brickwork. For incoming college students deciding to come to Indiana University of Pennsylvania, they should find a university and program that suits them, and IUP could possibly be a college they could take a look at, but ultimately the decision is what’s best for the individual. Sometimes you may not be able to find that out until you feel out different places. Carl Luciano feels as though IUP could be a place for you to go because there are a lot of opportunities. If you were to go anywhere else, it may not be like IUP, so you might not want to miss it once it’s given.

May 21

Cadence Thomas (Sports Drinks: Physical Enhancers or Athletic Alcohol)

Sports Drinks: Physical Enhancers or Athletic Alcohol

Cadence Thomas

Sahar Al- Shoubaki

English 101 Composition 1 Section 041

November 20, 2017

Sports Drinks: Physical Enhancers or Athletic Alcohol

          I am sure we have all visited the drink aisle of our local grocery stores. We walk through the aisles, navigated by the signs above that read water, soda, juice, and sports drinks.  For decades, sports drink companies have been competing amongst each other to develop the ultimate product. A drink that hydrates, gives energy, and replenishes electrolytes. These companies more notably include Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Powerade, and most recently, Body Armor. These companies claim that their products are healthy and helpful to and for the human body in all assets, but there are those who argue against this. I believe these drinks do more good than harm. I also believe that they do what companies claim. Sports drinks are effective in terms of helping enhance athletes’ performances and are healthy for the human body when used correctly.

Let us take a step back to the year 1965. In 1965, The Unites States was at war with Vietnam, African Americans were given the right to vote, and Gatorade was invented. Gatorade was introduced to the public on September 9, 1965 (Gatorade 1). It was created by a group of scientists at the University of Florida located in Gainesville, Florida. It’s goal, to replenish electrolytes being sweated out by athletes thus restoring the athlete’s energy and bettering their performance.  Gatorade was the first drink of its kind and set the bar for all other companies and brands.

Many have asked the question, do sports drink actually enhance an athlete’s performance? I think this question can be answered with another: is there a difference in the performances between an athlete who consumes these drinks and one that does not? In either case, I believe the answer to be yes. There have been several studies and experiments conducted to find the answers to these questions. It has been proven that sports drinks rehydrate the body thus enhancing the athlete’s performance. According to the sports medical journal, hydration is imperative for optimal performance for all athletes. Athletes who develop a systematic method of ensuring they are consistently hydrated have better recovery and higher energy levels. When an athlete is adequately hydrated, their body is able to transport nutrients and oxygen to working muscles and aid muscle repair, remove lactic acid build up, eliminate nitrogenous waste and regulate body temperature. Losing as little as two percent of body weight through sweat can impair an athlete’s ability to perform due to a low blood volume and less than optimal utilization of nutrients and oxygen (SportMedBC). Hydration is key in terms of athletic performance. An athlete that is properly hydrated will almost always perform better than an athlete who is not. An argument can be made that sports drinks will dehydrate the athlete, but this is only if used incorrectly by the athlete. Sports drinks are only successful when used correctly. They should only be used if physical activity last for one hour or more and in combination with water.

Not only do sports drinks enhance performance by hydration, they also offer small energy boosts to the athlete, which can help result in a better performance. We can all recall our parents saying, “That’s enough candy, too much will make you hyper.” This is because candy possesses glucose, or sugar. Sports drinks also possess an exceptional amount of sugar. Once the drink is digested, this sugar begins circulating through the blood. The sugar is then transformed into energy, which is used by the athlete. Some may argue that the amount of sugar in sports drink is unhealthy however, once again if used correctly, the sugar poses no immediate threat to the health of the athlete (Kravitz 4).

Another question often asked, can sports drinks be harmful to the human body? Sugar is but one ingredient that leads people to believe that sports drinks are harmful. I think an effective way to answer this is to take a look at the main ingredients used and what exactly they do. They include water, citric acid, salt, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B, and artificial dye. Water is used as the base of almost all drinks. Citric acid adds flavor to the drink. Salt is used in the drink to replace the amounts of salt be excreted through the athlete’s sweat. Vitamin A is a good way to include antioxidants, which help to keep the body strong, as well as defend cells against free radical damage (Jureviciene 5). Vitamin B is also used, but as an energy supplier in order to increase the body’s stamina. The artificial dye is used for color. All of the ingredients listed pose no threat to the human body unless consumed in mass quantities at a time (Anderson 45). It is true that overtime, the consumption of sports drink can lead to health issues like dehydration or kidney stones. However, this is one again only if used incorrectly. If athletes are using the drinks properly, under the right circumstances and with water, there should be no reason to fear these products.

When is come to companies such as Gatorade, Vitamin Water, Body Armor and Powerade, one question still remains. Which product is the best? Now that we have an idea of what exactly sports drinks do to help athletes, we can begin to take a look into which companies have the best products. Since all products have the same goal, to hydrate and replenish electrolytes, taking a look at the nutrition facts will help to distinguish the top product from the worst. When it comes to sports drinks, there are three main things to check for on the nutrition facts label; sugar, sodium, and carbohydrates.

Gatorade and Powerade both contain thirty-five grams of sugar per bottle, while Vitamin Water contain thirty-two grams and Body Armor contains seventeen. In terms of sodium, Gatorade once again has the highest amount with 275 milligrams per bottle, while Powerade contains 250 grams. Body Armor and Vitamin Water are much lower. Body Armor ranges from thirty to forty-five milligrams depending on the flavor while Vitamin Water posts a zero in the sodium category. Carbohydrates are the most important factor in an energy drink. They are what the body creates energy from. In a sports drink, carbs are often equal to the amount of sugar. This is because the source of the carbs comes from a mixture glucose and fructose, both sugars (SportMedBC). This means that Gatorade and Powerade will both contain thirty-five grams of carbohydrates, while Vitamin Water contains thirty-two grams and Body Armor contains about eighteen.

According to these three categories, Gatorade is the ultimate sports drink. While it does have the highest amount of sugar, it also has the highest amount of sodium and carbs, two things that are crucial for a sports drink to accomplish its purpose. The sodium in the drink replaces that sweated out by the athlete. The more exerted the athlete, the more they will sweat. The more the athlete sweats, the more sodium there is being excreted. This sodium must be replaced. As mentioned earlier, carbs are what gives the body energy. Second, we have Powerade, which like Gatorade is high in sugar, but also high in sodium and carbs. Body Armor comes in at third due to the fact that Vitamin Water contains absolutely zero sodium, which is key in enhancing an athlete’s performance.

Now as we walk down that drink aisle, we should be able to better recognize sports drinks and how they benefit us as athletes, as well as what to look for in a good product. Sports drinks are effective in terms of helping enhance athletes’ performances and are healthy for the human body when used correctly. If used correctly, there should never be any question of negative effects. These drinks rehydrate the body while simultaneously providing it with energy. Athletes across the globe have used sports drinks for years and have no plan on stopping, so long as these products continue to prove effective.


Works Cited

Anderson, Nina, and I. Gerald. Olarsch. Analyzing Sports Drink: What’s Right for You?                             Carbohydrate or Electrolyte Replacement? Text. Safe Goods/New Century Pub., 2000.

“Gatorade .” Gatorade History Comments, Gatorade, 1 Jan. 2012,` Accessed 25 Nov. 2017             

Jerry, Mayo, and Kravitz Len. “Sports & Energy Drinks: Answers for Fitness Professionals.”                   Sports & Energy Drinks, University of New Mexico, 20 June 2013. Web.                            

Jureviciene, Leva. “Top Sports Drink Ingredients .” Top Ingredients for Sports Drinks, 4 Nov.                 2011. Web.

“Sports Drinks and Athletic Performance.” Sports Drinks and Athletic Performance |                       

SportMedBC, SportMedBC, 30 Sep. 2014, Accessed 25 Nov. 2017. Web.

Time Magazine “What’s the Best Way to Rehydrate-Besides Water?” Time, Time, 26 May 2014,   

Zelman, Kathleen M. “Drink Up for Sports and Fitness.” WebMD, WebMD, 17 Apr. 2011. Web.               


May 21

Maggie Prutznal (Put it Down & Look Around)

Maggie Prutznal


Dr. Shelly

Section 301

Put It Down & Look Around

We often fear that “robots” and technology will one day take over the world, but the devices we use every day are turning us into robots and are our own worst enemy. Though we may not realize it, tech devices are slowly taking away our self-control and our lives.

It is no secret that, as college kids, we are compelled to tweet, snap, like, and text to stay in the loop. It is easy to think that we don’t spend that much time scrolling through Instagram or Tweeting our feelings, but a study done by Baylor University proves otherwise. Baylor’s study of college students found, “Women college students spend an average of 10 hours a day on their cellphones and men college students spend nearly eight…”

Clearly, our phones are our life, but having them glued to us is a bigger issue that we think. From the book, Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter, the author focuses on tech addiction and the negative consequences that stem from it. In the chapter, “The Rise of Behavioral Addiction,” Alter explains that this type of addiction is becoming more and more prevalent in society.

According to Alter, “These [Technology] addictions make our lives less worthwhile, make us less effective at work and play, and diminish our interaction with other people.” Alter goes on to talk about how we can no longer think for ourselves, and we give up many of the things we used to enjoy like hobbies and socializing, as we fall victim to our devices.

With all of the distractions that technology provides us with, we end up losing sight of what really matters in life such as family, friends, or goals. We have become so numb that we even have trouble feeling empathy; without looking at someone in person, it is hard to put ourselves in their shoes. In fact, in Alter’s research, “One analysis of seventy-two studies found that empathy had declined among college students between 1979 and 2009.”

Phones force us to live life behind a screen, inhibiting us to really connect. They don’t allow us the privilege of meeting people in person, holding a real conversation, and developing skills to be empathetic, social creatures of society. We take on a different role on social media than in real life. The question is: is our online voice the one we want to portray?

Of course, technology allows us to connect to college students from different countries, cultures, and classes, but how does that help us in the long run? It’s great to learn about others and make new friends; however, what happens when we meet face to face and have nothing to discuss but that new Instagram post or Snapchat feature?

Yes, it is hard for college kids, or anyone for that matter, to unplug. Society makes us feel that the only way to be relevant is to have thousands of followers and likes. On the other hand, we need to be able to see that it’s not the random online “friends” who share a smile when we’re down, who make us laugh uncontrollably, or who high five us for a job well done.

It is simple; technology prevents us from living. We don’t have rich experiences that shape us. We don’t have the motivation to be adventurous. We don’t have the will to explore new worlds. We just have our phones.

It is obvious that technology is only getting more and more advanced. So, there really is no getting around it. We could try, however, to live more and text less. Let’s not keep our phones with us 24/7. Let’s set aside time to enjoy technology, not obsess over it. Let’s remember that there is a world out there that isn’t filtered.

Phones, T.V., laptops, and video games aren’t necessities in life, but they often make us feel necessary. They are a part of our lives, but we can’t give them the power to take away living life.

May 21

Kirsten Schlorff (Redefining the Stages of Grief)

Kirsten Schlorff

12 October 2015

Redefining the Stages of Grief

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, grief is classically defined as a kind of hardship or suffering, a negative expression that one possesses. Grief is a wide-ranging topic though, covering various types of loss including breakups, divorce, and death, as well as an infinite array of emotions. Frequently, people judge others who take longer to progress through the stages of grief, labeling them as weak. Grief is also believed to be destructive to an individual’s health when it reaches a certain point. However, if that point is immeasurable, varying from person to person, does it truly exist?

In their famous hit song “Six Degrees of Separation,” The Script categorizes the grief of heartbreak after a failed relationship into a specific numerical sequence. “First, you think the worst is a broken heart. What’s gonna kill you is the second part, and the third is when your world splits down the middle. And fourth, you’re gonna think that you fixed yourself. Fifth, you see them out with someone else, and the sixth is when you admit you may have messed up a little.” Because of songs like “Six Degrees of Separation” that attempt to define the breakup process, we tend to think there is an ideal way of coping with and grieving over a breakup. Many people also believe that the grieving process adheres to an organized pattern throughout its different stages. This is fair to assume, especially when the media is constantly distorting the public conception of grief. However, this argument that grief follows a set organization fails to consider that just as all relationships are unique, all grief is also individual.

Because grief differs between individuals, the grieving process cannot be taught nor judged. There is no correct way of expressing grief. We are all human, healing in our own time and respective ways. Grief is not a static process starting at denial and resulting with acceptance, but rather a fluid process in which a person can both progress and regress toward a goal of acceptance.

When grieving the loss of a person, grief becomes more than just an emotion, involving the various stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler describe these stages in further detail within their book, On Grief and Grieving. According to the book, denial is the first stage of grieving and helps us to cope, to survive, and to pace our feelings. Anger, the second stage, can provide strength and structure as a normal reaction to the inequality of death. The third stage of bargaining can reprieve a person from pain, while hiding the underlying suffering as well. Bargaining is followed by the stage of depression, which allows us to slow down, rebuild ourselves, and actually comprehend the loss. The grieving process concludes with the final stage of acceptance, focusing on acknowledging the reality that our loved one is physically gone and recognizing that the new reality is permanent. After introducing each of the five stages in order within the first chapter, Kübler-Ross surprises readers by saying, “These steps are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or goes in a prescribed order” (Kübler-Ross 7-28). This quote illustrates that every person experiences the grieving process in their own unique way. Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief aren’t instructions defining how a person should grieve, but rather a personalized roadmap providing a sense of control over emotions that may seem uncontrollable.

For the victims of divorce, grief is an interminable cycle without a cure. Divorce rates are climbing to new heights in today’s society, ending almost fifty percent of marriages in the United States alone. My parents divorced when I was only a year old, but I was too young at that time to understand the long-term effects it would later impose on my life. Despite the fact that I had no control over my parents’ divorce, I have never experienced or understood the true concept of a cohesive family. Instead of living under one roof with two parents who loved each other, I spent every other weekend living out of a suitcase while I visited my dad at his house. Growing up in a divorced family caused me to experience grief that shifted stages numerous times throughout my life. When I was younger and did not understand the reason for my parents’ divorce, I was depressed more than anything, because my parents were never together like all of my friends’ parents were. I felt as if I was missing out; my friends had something I would never have. As I grew older and began to realize why my parents divorced, I became angry with my dad for having an affair and leaving my mom to take care of twin babies all by herself.  Clearly, the grief of divorce can be far different than the loss of a loved one.

Age is an important factor that influences the way a person experiences grief. Young children do not understand the concept of grief or losing someone. When death occurs, children cannot wrap their minds around its permanence, because they only see it as a temporary vacation.  Even at 11 years old, I was unable to come to terms with the death of my Grandpa, stuck in the depression stage for multiple months. My dad, on the other hand, was able to accept the loss of his father fairly quickly, comfortably speaking at my Grandpa’s memorial service less than a month after his death. A child may not experience the same stages of grief that an adult does. In most cases, it takes longer for a child to accept the loss of a loved one than it does an adult, because an adult has developed a better understanding of coping with grief and death.

Russell Friedman, an online author representing The Grief Recovery Institute, describes grief as the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior. Regardless of whether grief results from the death of a loved one or parting ways from a significant other, both signify an adaptation to a new, unwanted reality. My first heartbreak following a relationship that had lasted almost two complete years caused me to experience grief in an entirely new manner. At first, I was left in shock and disbelief that Cullen, the guy who said he would love me forever and marry me one day, was now leaving me. After the reality of the breakup set in, I became depressed and refused to leave my room or talk to anyone. The depression was eventually replaced with feelings of anger and revenge, because all I wanted was for him to regret his decision to leave me. In this situation, I ended my grieving process with the second stage of anger. Therefore, I did not grieve following the exact order of the five stages.

The initial shock of grief is like a heart attack. It leaves you feeling as if the weight of the world is crushing down, pain radiating throughout your body. Shock can be synonymous with denial and disbelief. During his sophomore year of high school, my friend Ty Yonkin, was tragically killed in a target shooting accident. In denial that her son was actually gone, Ty’s mom posted on his Facebook wall for weeks following his death. Even now, two years after his death, she still writes posts weekly about the heartache she feels after losing her child. This past May, around the time Ty would have graduated from high school, she posted, “Time is not always the great healer, and sometimes you just can’t pick yourself up off the floor and go on for others. Sometimes you just aren’t able.” A few months later in August, she also posted, “It never, not once, crossed my mind that I would lose my child. That my heart would continue to beat. That the world would continue to turn. It never crossed my mind.” In some instances, people never recover from the death of a loved one. As Ty’s mom mentioned in her post, “Time is not always the great healer,” because the reality of losing her son is just as painful now as it was the day he died. It is often thought that time can heal anything and everything. Even though time provides healing for most people during the grieving process, there are still people, such as Ty’s mom, who are never healed regardless of the time that passes.

The stage of anger in the grieving process may last an entire lifetime, depending on the circumstances of the loss. My mom has been divorced from my dad for eighteen years, and still battles feelings of anger towards him. She explains:

Losing your partner through separation and divorce is worse than death, because of the betrayal component. When someone dies you can still have positive and loving feelings for that person. However, when someone divorces and separates from you, all of the positive feelings you have for them disintegrate in a gradual or, occasionally, abrupt process. You feel as if you no longer know the person, and begin questioning whether your relationship with them was ever truly real. If there is children involved, it feels as if your dream of a happy, intact family and future is blown up by a bomb. Feelings of regret and revenge feed your anger.

A person may still experience feelings of anger, even after they have reached the goal of acceptance during the grieving process. Although my mom has accepted her divorce from my dad, she still remains angry towards him for ruining her ideal future.

With maturity comes a developed understanding of how to cope with grief. At the beginning of this year, my Gram passed away at the age of 89. When I first found out about her death, I was never in denial because I knew she was suffering from Alzheimer’s, an incurable disease. I was aware that after living a long life, my Gram would reach a point where the disease had consumed her mind. Despite the fact that her death was inevitable while her health conditions progressively declined, I was very depressed when she passed away. She was the last living grandparent I had, and had taught me so much growing up as a child. As a young adult, I was able to cope with her death and appreciate her influence on my life in a mature manner.

After reaching the goal of acceptance, people are able to channel their grief in a variety of positive ways. I was not able to fully accept the death of my Gram until I decided to get a tattoo in memory of her on my hip. The tattoo consisted of a music note heart with a horizon sun inside the heart, followed by the quote, “You Are My Sunshine.” As a child, my Gram always sang that song to my sisters and me. Although the pain of the tattoo was agonizing, it felt rewarding when it was finally complete. Getting this tattoo allowed me to feel closer to my Gram, and I will forever carry her legacy with me. Even though she is not physically with me anymore, I can now fully accept her death in a mature and positive way, as many others do.

Grieving in a disorganized manner provides a person with the freedom to heal naturally in their own time and express their personal emotions, without feeling pressured by society to simply “get over” the loss they are suffering. Of course, people typically associate grief as being a sign of weakness, especially when a victim cannot surmount the stage of depression. Nevertheless, reaching acceptance in the grieving process requires a tremendous amount of emotional strength, hitting rock bottom while somehow managing to find the power to persevere. Time is often considered the ultimate healer of grief because most people tend to get better as time progresses, but the amount of time fluctuates depending on the individual. However, in some instances, like Ty Yonkin’s mom who is still stuck in denial even after two years, no amount of time can provide healing. Acceptance ultimately delivers the light at the end of the tunnel for those who are grieving.


Works Cited

Friedman, Russell. “The Best Grief Definition You Will Find.” – The Grief Recovery Method. The Grief Recovery Institute, 6 June 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

“grief.” OED Online. Oxford University Press. Web. 27 September 2015.

Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth, and David Kessler. “The Five Stages of Grief.” On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner, 2005. 7-28. Print.

Schlorff, Rhonda B. “Divorce Is Worse than Death.” Telephone interview. 30 Sept. 2015.

The Script. “Six Degrees of Separation.” #3. Mp3. Phonogenic Records. 2012. AZ Lyrics, 28 Sept. 2015.

Yonkin, Tammy. “It Never, Not Once, Crossed My Mind That I Would Lose My Child. That My Heart Would Continue to Beat. That the World Would Continue to Turn. It Never Crossed My Mind.” Facebook. 8 August 2015. Web. 30 September 2015.

Yonkin, Tammy. “Time Is Not Always the Great Healer, and Sometimes You Just Can’t Pick Yourself up off the Floor and Go on for Others. Sometimes You Just Aren’t Able.” Facebook. 19 May 2015. Web. 30 September 2015.


May 21

Hannah Duminske (Being Brave)

Hannah Duminske

Being Brave

The day was grim, much like everyone around me. The room we stood in was lit by disorienting fluorescent lights. We stared at the greenish yellow glare the lights gave off the white walls. It felt as though at any moment they would suck us into an abyss, and if they didn’t, they were going to close in on all of us who stood in the room, crushing us to pieces.

“It’s cancer,” the doctor said in his monotone voice as he stood in the doorway.

The news made us shiver just like the unbearable cold outside had done as we entered this wretched place just moments ago. However, that wasn’t the end of what he had to say about the diagnosis of my grandfather who laid on the bed unaware of the monster called cancer taking over his body. The doctor went on. He explained how it was stage four and that there was nothing they could do to help him at this point because treatment would just cause more harm than good.

“Nothing you can do?” I wanted to scream out, but I held my tongue.

I knew that this was the reality of cancer. It was anything but pretty. It was a dark and scary thing, in this case with a set outcome, death; however, when it would come was unknown. Although those hospital walls didn’t crush us, this news surely did.

The doctor exited the room and you could see the sorrow on everyone’s faces. The beeping of the monitors seemed to make everything worse. Beep, beep, beep. It felt as though they were getting louder every time. I looked at the labyrinth of wires and IVs all connected to my grandfather and felt a pit form in my stomach. Then I looked at my family. All of us together in one room was so rare and I couldn’t let this go unnoticed. So, I tried to lighten the mood. I cracked a few jokes and shared my love for them. Smiles grew on their faces. I couldn’t let this pain shrink me. I had to be there for them and I knew that I had to grow from this experience.

The months leading up to the end of my grandpa’s battle with cancer were difficult. It included many visits and dinners at my grandparents. My grandpa after that day in the hospital lived at home and received hospice care. We did that so that he would be able to stay in his own home for his remaining time rather than having to stay in the prison-like hospital. We figured that would be most comfortable for him.

I remember sitting at his bedside, holding onto his cold hands. They were tinted a pale blue from being under-oxygenated. I looked at him and he smiled. As we sat and talked you could hear the choppiness in our sentences and the uneasiness in our tone. My voice was uneasy because I could hardly hold back that quiver you get in your voice when you’re trying to hold back tears. His was that way because of his state of health. But, we understood each other and got each other like we always had before. This moment in time took the most bravery of all. I can still feel the unsettledness of my stomach and lump in my throat as I talked to him and heard some of the last things he would ever say to me.

As we got closer to March we knew the days with my grandpa were numbered. You could see it in the way he looked. His eyes no longer sparkled; instead, they looked as though life had already escaped his body. His cheekbones protruded out of his face and his cheeks sunk in. They always say to remember people the way they were and looked before they fall ill. However, it’s hard when you cannot erase what you have seen from your mind.

Through these months, I never shed a tear. Not in front of anyone that is. I wanted to comfort my family. Although I was young, I still knew that the way I acted would impact the people around me. It’s hard to be brave and no, holding feelings in isn’t always the best thing to do, but in this situation I think it helped.

Spring seemed to be on the horizon. We had been longing for it all winter. The air was still crisp, but the earth was thawing out. Spring is known for renewal and rebirth. However, my grandpa’s health was going in the opposite direction.

The call came on the 16th of March. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping. But, no amount of sunshine could bring us happiness that day. My mother was the one to receive the call.

“No!” she cried out as the person on the other line spoke to her.

She wept and wept. Although I hadn’t heard what that person said, I still knew what happened. I put my arms around her and held her gently. I tried to be strong for her. I always thought of my mother as being the one who should comfort me, but I knew that it had to be the other way around.

“It will be okay,” I reassured her over and over again.

Once she was calmed down enough, we got into the car and went to my grandparent’s house. As we entered, the feeling of despair hit us like a train. We walked into the eerie room where he once laid. The emptiness was almost haunting. For the rest of the day, everyone stayed out of that room. We all crammed into the tiny kitchen instead. I comforted many of my other family members.

I knew that once again I couldn’t shrink from the pain put on me. So, I decided to celebrate my grandfather’s life. I began to bring up some of my favorite memories of him. Once I began doing this everyone else started telling their favorites as well. Before you knew it, we were all smiling and crying from laughter. I figured that we should remember him for the good things such as his jokes, his laughter, and his kindness. This man knew how to brighten up any room he walked into. We couldn’t let the tragedy cancer caused bring us down forever. I knew that he wouldn’t want us to feel that way anyways. He would’ve wanted us to celebrate and appreciate the life that he did have.

Bravery can be truly hard to have at times. When life hands you a situation that is awful and painful you just want to give in and let it defeat you. Then, sometimes life hands you a situation that hurts not only you, but the loved ones around you. That is when you realize that being brave isn’t something you only do for yourself. There come times when you must be brave for others, because in that moment they may need you to have that courage for them more than anything else.

May 21

Ashley King (My Powerful Moment)

Ashley King

Professor McKinley

English 100-005

12 October 2017

My Powerful Moment

On January 3, 2003, when I was three years old, my life took a turn. A few days before, my parents had taken me to the doctor, for I had a fever and other flu-like symptoms. The doctor examined me, diagnosed me with the flu, and sent me and my family on our way. Two days later, my parents woke me up; I had an even higher fever. Worst of all, I didn’t recognize who my parents were. I went to sit up, but found myself stuck, as if my bed and I were strong magnets. My parents rushed me to the doctor. After explaining everything that had happened to me and the doctor examining me, he feared my condition might be something worse. The doctor ordered me an immediate admission to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. I was sent to the hospital by helicopter without my parents.

My helicopter trip was cut short by a snowstorm and instead they had to go back and transport me by an ambulance. EMTs and nurses surrounded me. Not understanding what was happening, wishing I could see one of my parents. I felt alone, I didn’t know why I had to get out of the helicopter or why everyone was talking and yelling random words. The medic was nice and tried to keep me calm, but in that situation all a three year old wants is her parents.

Test after test, hour after hour; I was finally able to see my parents. I was lying down in a hospital bed when they ran into my room and went straight to my bed. I felt a sense of relief and happiness. I finally saw people I knew that wouldn’t be shouting random words and letters. My parents were beside me, but occasionally one of them would step out into the hall, phone in hand. They were calling family and friends keeping them updated, but hours passed and there was no update. My parents were worried, but I didn’t fully understand why they were worried and why we were still at the hospital.

Late at night a doctor and nurse came into the room with IVs and monitors. The doctor stepped outside with my parents while the nurse put IVs in me. Too exhausted to care what they were doing at this point, all I wanted to do was go home and sleep in my own bed with my dog. The later it got, the more I realized I wasn’t going home for a long time.

Over time I found out my diagnosis was leukemia— acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). After that, my life changed. I had to watch what I did and ate. Doctor appointments would take up most of my schedule, but none of it mattered anyway since I was always at the hospital. Missing friends’ birthday parties, school activities, playdates, anything that involved a kid being a kid.

My family would take turns spending the night with me. On Sunday and Thursday nights, my grandma stayed with me. She would always bring me mac and cheese and mashed potatoes. On Friday and Tuesday nights, my grammie and papa would stay with me. They were always careful with me, especially my papa. He was always scared when my grammie left the room. He knew with his luck something would happen to me when no one else is around and he wouldn’t know what to do. The other nights were my parents. They would bring movies from blockbuster and they didn’t mind watching the same shows and movies three or more times.

This was my family’s schedule the first month I was in the hospital. After that, my grammie and papa had to go back home to Virginia for a few weeks.Once they left there was no set schedule. It would rotate between my mom, dad, and grandma. My parents were at the hospital spending time with me and taking so many days off work that eventually their jobs were at stake because of their lack of attendance. My mom started going back to work, but she lived at the hospital with me. She only allowed herself to stay home one night, and it was to check in on the house and do laundry. My dad was able to get transferred to the AMC in Plymouth Meeting. He lived at the hospital with me too, only allowing himself to go home one night a week.

After two weeks, a doctor drew up release papers for me. My mom got into an argument and told them I wasn’t ready. Moms are always right; in the middle of their discussion, I started projectile vomiting. Needless to say, the doctor filled out new papers and had me readmitted into the hospital.

Later that week, I had outpatient surgery to install a central port in my chest.  This was supposed to reduce stress. They poked needles into my arms  4-5 times each week, BUT the port in my chest flipped over and they could not get it to flip back. I went back in for surgery to have it fixed and they sewed it into my chest. I also spent anywhere from 3-5 full days for a 6 month period in the clinic for chemo and transfusions.  All that varied constantly based on red blood count, white blood cells and neutropenia.

Years went by until finally in March 2007, I was declared cancer free. My family and I had a celebration, doing everything that I couldn’t do for the past 4 years. Realizing all the work and time put into making me healthy was worth it. We could finally live a life where I went out with friends and didn’t have to work around doctor and hospital visits.

I’ve seen cancer destroy families, friendships, and people. I was lucky. Cancer may have ruined my childhood, but I still had my family. Of course going back to school full time was hard, by then everyone knew what was wrong with me. That’s where things fell apart. Some families allowed me to play and have playdates at their house, others didn’t want their kids near “the sick girl.” I learned not to care. I didn’t care about the people who were scared to be near me, it was the fact all they could think of when they saw me was “cancer,” “disease,” or “sick.” Cancer doesn’t define a person. Their character and personality do.

It wasn’t until I got to high school that I was comfortable talking about this. All I would tell people is that I was diagnosed with ALL at age three and I’ve been cancer free since 2007. I would end it there and if anyone asked for more details, I would tell them I didn’t remember any of it because I was so young. It was a lie, I didn’t remember everything, but I remembered a lot. Throughout the years I had dreams, more like nightmares, about being in the hospital or in surgery. I wanted a normal high school experience, no judgement.

One day, my senior year, I broke down. I started day dreaming in class and my mind wandered, the next thing I know I’m imagining myself back in the hospital room, IVs and monitors attached to me. I ended up telling my best friend, who I met in ninth grade, everything. From beginning to end, no lying. She calmed me down and told me everything was okay now. She gave me a big hug and just let me cry. Didn’t say anything, just stayed with me. Even though I told her everything, it didn’t change how she saw me. She still saw me as Ashley, her best friend who always had her back, was caring, and normal. She was also one of the very few people who knew and didn’t see me as a “disease.”

That day I learned not to let this define me in a negative way. Yes, I had cancer when I was young. It made me who I am today, not taking my life for granted. It’s because of cancer that I volunteer, put others first, and want to be a nurse. Cancer changed my life, but in the best way.

May 21

Kirsten Schlorff (Love Squared)

Kirsten Schlorff

30 November 2015

Love Squared: Insight into the Life of an Identical Twin

Dear Reader,

Writing and compiling this essay has not been an easy process to say the least. Growing up, people always asked me what it was like being a twin, but I never really gave them an answer beyond, “well it is great sometimes yet horrible at others.” It is a complex question really, because no one else truly comprehends the experience unless they are also a twin. I have hidden the true, much deeper response to this question as a dark secret over the years. In a way, writing about my relationship with my twin is a form of public humiliation. It cuts to the inner core of who I am, and who Alison and I are as twin sisters. Yes, we are identical twins, even though we definitely do not look or act exactly alike as we once did.

I knew that in order to be completely honest in examining my “twinship” with Alison, I couldn’t tell the perfect story of dressing alike, confusing boyfriends, or trading places. Being an identical twin includes all the clichés: having an unwavering life partner, knowing the exact feelings of another person, wanting her to be the first to hear your story, respecting her opinion before anyone else’s, and physically experiencing someone else’s raw emotions. Alison has always been there for me, from the very first breath of air that I took. Never once have I been alone. We were welcomed into this world as a package deal—becoming each other’s playmate, sidekick, supporter, advisor, and biggest fan. It is hard explaining to other people that we could never hate each other, though we constantly fight and intensely argue; that we wouldn’t handle other people judging one of us, even though we are cruelly judgmental of each other; that we always want to tell each other everything, regardless of whether we are two hours away or just across the hall.

Here are some important facts you should know about Alison and I’s “twinship”:

  • We were born on October 1, 1996 at Williamsport Hospital in Williamsport, PA.
  • Our mom conceived and delivered us naturally, incredibly rare for twins these days.
  • Alison was born six minutes before me and she has never let me live it down. I should have been born first, but I was breech and suffered a broken clavicle.
  • We are each other’s only biological sibling.
  • My mom wrote our names, Alison and Kirsten, in her Bible far before she even discovered she was expecting twins. (1)




Kirsten Schlorff




“Friends Yet Enemies”

She’s my twin sister.

My best friend since day one.

No one else can understand me quite like she can.

Through good times and bad, we are each other’s shoulder to cry on.

She’s supported me through breakups, lost friendships, and even losing loved ones.

It’s so much different here at college, without being associated with my twin.

Never imagined I would miss her this much.

Love you Al! <3


She’s my twin sister.

My biggest competition since birth.

Arguments between us are relentless, it’s like fighting with yourself.

There are times when she frustrates me so much that I wish she didn’t exist.

We may yell and scream, but the hardest hit determines who wins the fight.

Despite the arguments and tears, it isn’t the same at home without her here.

Never imagined I would miss her this much.

Love you Kirst! <3

Alison and I were baptized when we were about eight months old. Even as babies, we were never camera shy. (Kirsten on left; Alison on right)


Being a Twin

What is it like having a twin sister? People constantly ask me this, but I do not blame them for their curiosity of the unknown. It is a complex relationship—a rare bond that few individuals can fully understand. Someone who looks exactly like me. Identical. Nine letters that almost reveal identity. Clone. Always being called the wrong name. Mistaken. Two separate identities that combine to form one. Schlorff. Twins. Sounds desirable to those who haven’t actually experienced it first-hand. Not as great as movies like the Parent Trap make it look. Sharing is automatically assumed. Everything. My half. Her half. Together equals one. Unfair. Trapped. Inside the identity of a twin. When will I become whole?

Twins are double the trouble, but Alison and I were also double the blessing. (Alison on left; Kirsten on right)

At two years old, we looked and dressed exactly alike. Most of our toys were even the same. (Alison on left; Kirsten on right)

Being Kirsten’s twin sister is definitely very unique and special. We have become each other’s best friends, not only twin sisters. Having a twin, is like having a best friend live with you. She is usually the first to know when I need help with something school-related, or even when I simply ask her for advice. I would describe Kirsten as very determined and motivated. She also has an incredibly uplifting spirit to support me when I am going through rough times. She has her mind set on being successful in life, and I doubt she will settle for anything less than what she deserves. I consider myself lucky to have been blessed with a twin sister, because she has been my best friend since birth.

–Alison (3)


My Family Tree

Image created using “Geni”


The number of twins in the U.S. continues to multiply every day. According to a 2012 report by the National Center for Health Statistics, the birthrate of twins rose 76 percent from 1980 to 2009 (Jacques). Identical twins are conceived when a single embryo splits in two after fertilization. Therefore, identical twins have matching DNA, because they came from the same fertilized egg (O’Connor).

Because twins share the same DNA, most people think that their fingerprints must be identical, which is only a falsified myth. Fingerprints are not solely produced based on DNA. When identical twins are conceived, they start out with the same fingerprints. As the babies start to move and each touch the amniotic sac, unique ridges and lines are formed on each twin’s hand resulting in different fingerprints (Jacques).

Embryo splitting occurs randomly, so identical twin births don’t run in families and genes are not an influencing factor. Having twins can become a trend in families, but it doesn’t necessarily bypass generations. However, a couple has an increased likelihood of having twins if there is a trace of twins within the maternal side of the family (O’Connor).

As depicted in my family tree, there is no trace of twins on neither the maternal nor the paternal sides of my family. Born as identical twins, Alison and I were exceptionally rare in our family because we were the first set of twins. When my mother first found out she was expecting twins, she was completely shocked. Nineteen years later she says, “Even though it was totally unexpected at the time, having identical twin daughters was the best thing that ever happened in my life” (Schlorff, Rhonda B).

Even though we still dressed identically, our different facial structures made it easier to tell us apart when we were in first grade. (Alison on left; Kristen on right)

Who’s Who?

Top 5 Differences Top 5 Similarities
1.      Our facial structure (Alison’s face is more round-shaped) 1.    Voice (sounds exactly the same over the phone)
2.      Height (I’m 5’7”, Alison’s 5’5”) 2.  Laugh (quiet, identical)
3.      Weight (I’ve weighed more from birth, now only about 5 lbs. difference) 3.  Intelligence (graduated 3rd and 5th in our high school class)
4.      Personality (I’ve always been more outgoing, Alison’s been more shy) 4.  Friends (same friends we’ve known since 4th grade)
5.      Interests (I performed in musicals and sang in choir, she played soccer) 5.  Clothing Sizes ( but we never share clothes)

Alison and I’s differences and similarities help to characterize and connect us as identical twins. However, our twin sister bond has never been that concrete, because it surpasses what we share in common and what we do not. The “twinship” we form together amounts to a relationship far greater than the sum of our individual personalities.

Image created using “ImageChef”

In high school, it was a rare occasion that Alison and I chose to dress alike. Even in our senior pictures, we wanted to dress differently. Wearing different clothes makes it easier for people to tell us apart from each other. (Left picture-Kirsten on left; Alison on right, Right picture-Alison on left; Kirsten on right)


Alison and I have been best friends with Chyann and Kaitlyn Jewell since fourth grade. They are also identical twins, and are only about a month younger than we are.


Q: What is it like being a twin? (5)


A: Being an identical twin isn’t as easy as it seems. Bring two humans that look the same, act the same, talk the same, and think the same together, and there is bound to be issues. There are times when I love having a twin sister, because I will always have a life-long friend. However, having a twin sister sucks at times, especially when you get into arguments. You are constantly fighting with your mirror image! Even though Kaitlyn looks exactly like me, we will never have the same personality or hobbies. I tend to be more outgoing and talkative than she is, but she beats me at every sport and reads more often than I do. Kaitlyn also enjoys cooking and spending time alone. Hands down, I can beat her in any argument!



A: As twins, my sister and I usually argue 24/7 over the stupidest things. We tend to be very competitive, especially with grades and friends. There are good days and bad days. Somedays I love having a twin, but there are others when I absolutely hate it. We may look identical, but we have very different personalities. Chyann is more sociable and dominant than I am, and she tends to boss me around at times. By now, we know how to push each other’s buttons and that’s when her stubbornness comes out. Regardless of our differences, we will always have each other to count on for anything. Twins have an indestructible bond that is complicated for other people to understand.


Spreading My Wings

Every high school senior planning to attend college knows the stress of completing college applications, hoping to get accepted to the right one. During this process, many students wonder which school is the best fit. Being a twin only made this process harder for me. I already knew I wanted to major in journalism and after visiting the campus, I fell in love with Indiana University of Pennsylvania. However, this college was over two hours from home and Alison wanted to commute to Lock Haven University. We had never been separated from each other for a prolonged period of time, so our relationship would take on a whole new meaning in the fall. I grew increasingly more nervous as the start of the upcoming school year was just around the corner, rethinking and questioning whether I had made the right decision. Maybe if I had chosen a different major, I could stay at home too and wouldn’t have to leave.


When the day finally arrived to drive out to IUP and move into my dorm, I was torn apart emotionally. I was leaving my twin sister, my best friend, my partner in crime behind at home, as I went off to college to begin my new future. Although most twins prefer to stay together through college, there are some like Alison and I, who decide it is best to venture off in different directions. In a way, going to college at IUP without my twin sister, has given me a sense of individuality that I never had back home. Everyone just called us both, “Schlorff” or “Schlorff Twins,” because they could never tell who was who. At college, no one knows that I have a twin sister, unless I tell them about her first. For once, it feels rewarding to hear my own name, to finally be called Kirsten. (6)

As twin sisters, Alison and I share the same group of friends we’ve known since 4th grade. Deciding to follow my dream career in journalism and attend IUP two hours away, required me to leave behind both my identity as an identical twin and my best friends.


College Separation

In the everyday rush of the college lifestyle, I rarely get the opportunity or freedom to relax. School work consumes my life and I find myself lost in a whirlwind with no time to spare. Little time exists to think about people from back home, even if it’s my twin sister, my other half. Texting each other a few times during the week is sufficient, although I wish I had enough time to catch her up on everything happening in my life. Wakeupshowerclasseslunchmoreclassesdinnerhomeworklimitedsleep. Repeat. Within a few weeks of my transition into college, my twin gradually became more and more like a stranger than my best friend. There was no time to tell each other every minute detail, like we had growing up together for 18 years. Our lives grew busier and we slowly drifted apart. Every time I leave home it is harder to leave behind my family and twin, in order to live my other life at college. Even though only two hours separate us, it feels as if we are years apart maturing in our independent ways—twin sisters becoming less identical with the passing of time.


Dear Al,

No matter how far the distance separating us from each other is, my love for you will never change and I want you to always remember that. I am grateful to have been blessed with you as my best friend, from the very first moment I entered this world. There are not many people who can say someone has “had their back” since they were born, but that is one thing that will always remain true between us. Regardless of what paths we take in each of our lives, what decisions we make, where we decide to settle down one day, who we decide to marry, or what future career we pursue, know that I will fully support you.

I know that growing up with me as your twin sister has not always been easy. There have been times when I have screamed at you at piercing volumes just to get my point across, and others when I physically fought with you trying to slap some sense into you. Despite our countless altercations over the last nineteen years, I hope you realize that I never meant to hurt you. All I have ever wanted is the best for you, because even when you do not see the successful potential you possess, I do. In your future, various people and things will try to hold you back and prevent you from attaining this success. Ignore them. Don’t settle for anything less than you deserve in life, whether it be in relationships, school, or even your career one day. If you are not happy, makes changes so that you are. As selfish as it sounds, sometimes it is necessary to value your happiness before others. After all, in order to truly love someone else, you must first love yourself.

College has brought new experiences for each of us, especially with living two hours apart from each other. I know there are times when you miss me being at home, and others when you are thankful I am no longer there. Whether I am at home or far away, I will always love you and you will forever be my best friend and partner in crime.

Love your other half,

PS: Some things are meant to be, the tide turning endlessly,

The way it takes hold of me, no matter what I do.

And some things will never die, the promise of who you are,

The memories when I am far from you. <3 (8)

This is what my twin sister Alison and I currently look like. Though we no longer physically appear identical to each other, we will always be identical twins.


Notes Page

  • Opening Letter- While trying to find exactly the right words to communicate what Alison and I’s unique twin sister relationship is like, I stumbled across the book, One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned about Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular written by Abigail Pogrebin. Every other book I found online about twins just skimmed the surface, and none of them actually provided inspiration or a deeper meaning behind the experience of being an identical twin. After I read the introduction of Pogrebin’s book, I was left speechless because it was like she had stolen the words right out of my mouth. Because she is an identical twin herself, she is able to describe in vivid detail what life is like having a twin sister. For this reason, I chose to model my opening letter to the reader around various parts included in this introduction.
  • Twin Sister Quote- I wanted to include a quote that both summarized and described a twin sister in a broader context, since I also included my own descriptions of my twin sister Alison. While browsing through quotes on Pinterest about twins, this one stood out to me immediately, because it uses a metaphor to compare a twin sister to a mirror revealing future possibilities. Prior to reading this quote, I had never thought about my twin sister from this perspective, even though it is a very accurate comparison.
  • Alison’s Note- Rather than just writing from my own perspective about Alison and I’s relationship as identical twins, I felt her thoughts should also be included. Because I’m away at college, I asked her to email via email what it was like to be my twin sister. I wanted readers to understand both of our feelings, not just mine.
  • Best Friends Since Birth- On my way to class one day, I received a notification that my sister had posted this old image of us as toddlers, on Facebook with the caption “Best Friends Since Birth.” It was completely random and surprised me, but it let me know that she still misses me while I’m away from home. This picture also illustrates how identical we looked when we were younger.
  • Q&A- I chose to interview my best friends, Chyann and Kaitlyn Jewell, who are also identical twins, in order to establish a broader context of identical twin relationships. Although Alison and I are identical twins, not every pair of identical twins acts exactly the same or has the same relationship. I asked both Chyann and Kaitlyn to explain what it is like being a twin and describe their twin sister. In identical twin sisters, one of the twins is usually more dominant and bossy than the other. Chyann is the dominant twin in her relationship with Kaitlyn, and I am the dominant twin in my relationship with Alison.
  • Spreading My Wings- While writing this narrative piece about my transition to college and separating from my twin sister, I incorporated findings from a scholarly article titled “College-Age Twins: University Admissions Policies.” This article concluded that while most twins prefer to be together through college, there are also some who do not. There is no single solution that will apply to all sets of twins. Deciding which college to go to is also harder for twins because they have to decide whether it is in their best interest to stay together or separate. Because I chose to major in journalism and IUP felt like home, I had to separate from Alison.
  • Today I Said Goodbye- Saying goodbye to my twin sister, who I had never been separated from longer than a week, was more difficult than I could have ever imagined. After I left that day, Alison posted this status on Facebook and it describes exactly how she felt having her twin sister move away. Because I included my feelings in a narrative piece on how it felt leaving Alison behind when I went off to college, I felt it was necessary to include her perspective as well.
  • PS Song Lyrics- I concluded my final letter to Alison with these lyrics from the song, “Some Things Are Meant To Be” from the musical Little Women. I performed in a production of this musical during my sophomore year of high school, and these lyrics always reminded me of my relationship with Alison. In the show, Beth and Jo who are sisters, sing this song together before Beth dies. Beth isn’t afraid to move on because she knows she is loved by everyone, including Jo. Regardless of where our future lives take us, I know that I will always love Alison.


Works Cited

Foster, Sutton, and Meg McGinnis. “Some Things Are Meant To Be.” Little Women The Musical Original Broadway Cast Recording. CD. Ghostlight Records. 2005. Metro Lyrics, 15 Nov. 2015.

Jacques, Renee. “11 Facts About Twins That Make Them Even Cooler Than You Already Thought.” The Huffington Post., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Jewell, Chyann, and Kaitlyn Jewell. E-mail Interview. 9 Nov. 2015.

Nicolson, Laura. Being a Twin. Digital Image. Pinterest. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. <>.

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Twins Always Skip a Generation.” The New York Times. N.p.,

2 Oct. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Pogrebin, Abigail. “Introduction.” One and the Same: My Life as an Identical Twin and What I’ve Learned about Everyone’s Struggle to Be Singular. New York: Doubleday, 2009. 11-16. Print.

Schlorff, Alison. “Best friends since birth.” Facebook. 16 October 2015. Web. 8 November 2015.

Schlorff, Alison. E-mail Interview. 10 Nov. 2015.

Schlorff, Alison. “Today I said goodbye to my sister as she moves off to IUP for college.”

Facebook. 21 August 2015. Web. 8 November 2015.

Schlorff, Rhonda B. Phone Interview. 14 Nov. 2015.

Segal, Nancy L. “College-Age Twins: University Admission Policies / Twin Research: Birth Weight And Neuromotor Performance; Transfusion Syndrome Markers; Vanishing Twins And Fetal Sex Determination; Mz Twin Discordance For Wilson’s Disease / Media: Big At Birth; Planned Separation Of Conjoined Twins; X Factor Twins; Cinema: The Identical.” Twin Research and Human Genetics: The Official Journal of the International Society for Twin Studies 17.6 (2014): 594-598. MEDLINE with Full Text. Web. 7 Nov. 2015.

May 21

Maggie Prutznal (The Search for Hope)

Maggie Prutznal

Composition 1

Section 301

The Search for Hope

            “I really didn’t want to tell you this…I don’t know how to tell you this, but your mother has cancer.” I will never forget those chilling words pouring out of my grandma’s mouth on that bleak November day. I will never forget those words that changed the way I look at life and at love. I will never forget those words that changed me, Maggie Prutznal, forever.

November 12, 2014 was an unusually warm day for November, but the clouds were still grey, and the air bitter. It was two days after my sixteenth birthday, and even though you would think a teenage girl would be gleaming, my life felt dull. I was extremely depressed, but the hardest part for me was the fact that I didn’t fully know why. I just knew things weren’t right. My home didn’t feel warm or loving anymore; it felt like a place where everyone was distant. I felt as if I was living amongst secrets. In the evenings, I could hear my mom crying with her door shut, and I remember my dad avoiding the subject and brushing it off. But I simply couldn’t get all the consuming, negative thoughts out of my head. Before I knew the truth, I leaned over to my best friend during geometry class one day and told her, “I think my mom is dying. I just know she has cancer, Donna.” She replied, “I think you are just overreacting.” Unfortunately, what I told her was not completely wrong.

The day of November 12th, I walked out of my high school, still unable to shake the sadness I was feeling. Then, I saw my grandma waiting to pick me up in her van. That sight sent chills up my spine. Why? My dad picked me up every day, religiously, in his green truck, unless he had somewhere else to go or was working late. This time, I had a feeling that wasn’t the case. I got into the van slowly, reluctantly, and looked at my grandma’s face. She looked drained, sad, and lifeless; she didn’t look like her usual pleasant self. Again, everything was different. In that moment, however, everything came together, while my world was falling apart. I found out my mother had cancer, she had just gone through surgery, and my immediate family was waiting for us at the hospital. All I was hoping for was a normal day­­­­­­­­—to go home, have a snack, and do my homework. Instead, what I got was a day that I will always remember.

On the drive to the hospital, I was silent. A car ride that takes five minutes felt like an eternity. I sat there in the front seat, holding back my tears and my true thoughts, as I gazed out at the melancholy skies. My head was spinning, and it was a moment in my life where I had no hope left in me. I was thinking, “How am I going to live without my mother? She will never get to see me graduate, go to college, or get married. My life is going to be terrible from this point on.” Finally, though, we made it to the hospital where I thought I was going to have to say my final goodbye. The automatic doors opened at the front entrance of the Punxsutawney Area Hospital. Immediately the “smell” hit me, and I saw my dad standing there. I ran to him and burst into tears. I couldn’t hold them in any longer. The only thing I could hold onto was my daddy as we sobbed together. I never wanted to let him go because I thought that he was going to be all I had left. In an attempt to reassure me, my dad told me that my mom had breast cancer and that they caught it early, but I just couldn’t listen. I felt nothing. Hopelessness was getting in the way. None of the outside world mattered then; I blocked out the sounds of the nurses’ sneakers squeaking, the buzzing of the elevator, and the white noise of the waiting room T.V. The only thing that I cared about was not letting my dad leave me like I thought my mom was going to do. I felt so much shame in my tears that I couldn’t look him in the face. I wanted to be strong, hopeful, and independent, but my entire being felt weak. I thought that I was experiencing the end of life as I knew it.

After much convincing, I eventually stopped crying and sat down on one of the hard, uncomfortable chairs in the waiting room. Everyone was trying to comfort me, but I didn’t want to hear it. For some reason, I was now the one feeling cold and distant. I put on an act, like I always do, but no one’s words were going to change my hopeless attitude…so I thought. A nurse came down the hall and sat down with me and my family. I don’t know why I felt like this woman was an angel because she had scrubs on, but I realized I had to listen this time, and I am glad I did. Her words were the only words that got through to me. She told us that my mom was recovering, and she did so well in surgery. I instantly sat up in my seat to listen more intently because I was so happy to finally have some explanation. I remember my dad telling me earlier that my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, they detected it early, and she was going to be fine, but that nurse was the one who provided me with the reassurance I was craving. She looked at me and said with a smile, “Your mom was in the recovery room telling us all about her wonderful family. She was telling us about you and your brothers, and how proud she is of all of you. And, we tried to give your mom painkillers, but she refused. She is a strong woman.” Those words were the only thing that made me smile that day. I felt like that was my mom: strong, and always talking about her kids.

At first, I was very nervous to see my mother after her surgery. My head was pounding from the events of that day, and I thought I would be looking at a stranger going into that room at the end of the hallway. I don’t know why I felt that way; maybe it was because my mom felt like a stranger to me in the months leading up to her surgery. Either way, it was something I had to do. She is my mother. My heart was beating out of my chest as I walked down the hall, avoiding eye contact with everyone I passed. When I reached her room, I took a deep breath and peered in. There she was, alive, with a smile on her face. The look she gave me spoke a thousand words; she looked genuinely joyful and happy, and I knew this was real. I didn’t touch her because I remember thinking she must be so fragile. She told me, “I am doing fine…just a little sore. I had the breast removed where the cancer was, and even though it wasn’t necessary, I wanted to make sure it was all gone.” Everything sounded very convincing, and my hope for her and her future was back to the way it used to be; I felt hopeful once again.

The next day, my mom came home from the hospital, and she looked like the woman I always knew. The day of her surgery, her appearance was obviously pale and tired, but she seemed radiant the following day. I laughed because she had a full face of makeup on when she was discharged. I was so happy to see her with my dad, picking me up at school. I could spot her signature red lipstick from a mile away. I remember thinking, “I got my mom back.”

The weeks following my mom’s surgery, and the weeks before, were some of the hardest of my life. However, I noticed such a dramatic change in myself. I went from feeling hopeless to hopeful practically overnight. Everything was still unresolved; we had to wait for the results to make sure the cancer didn’t spread, hope the healing went well with no complications, etc. But, seeing my mom’s strength gave me all the hope I needed to make it through the rest of that trying time. Her strength continues to inspire me to this day, as I wake up and feel hopeful when I roll out of bed each morning; I believe I can make it through anything, and look forward to a brighter future. Of course, life is constantly unsure. Every day we are faced with new uncertainties, with new challenges, and with new obstacles to overcome. However, the way we approach it makes all the difference. I no longer look at every sad situation with lost hope, but I take on a new perspective. I developed an “everything happens for a reason” attitude that allows me to live a more positive life. Hope is a character strength that is essential to life because hope enables you to feel more fulfilled, and it can be that shining light that, gradually, guides you out of the darkness.

May 21

Sabrina Nirmaier (Narrative)

Sabrina Nirmaier


Do you have a moment in your life that has completely defined you as an individual? Do you have that moment in your mind? If you’ve got it, good; this is the point in time that represents the woman I have become, and who I am today.

It began in Annapolis, Maryland, it was my first time experiencing this specific location, and my first time having what we called in culinary school, an “externship.” Remotely, it is defined the same as an internship, the sole difference being that we were paid hourly to do work. I chose my Culinary Externship to take place at the Annapolis Yacht Club; or, I guess I could say, they chose me. I interviewed in March of 2015, hoping that I would be the selected student for their establishment. A few days post interview, I received the call; I got the job! That interview was the start to a bright future, and that is something that I could feel the moment I walked in to it. I moved to Annapolis after graduating Culinary School in August, and the moment that I drove past the sign “Welcome to Maryland”, my life had already completely changed; I just didn’t know it yet.

I remember feeling so nervous; and not for the first day on the job jitters reason that you’re probably thinking. No, it was something completely different. I was set up to live with a host family, a family who I had never met before, for the next four months. They were members at the Annapolis Yacht Club and allowed their home to be opened up to a complete stranger (me), as I accepted the invitation to live with complete strangers (them). It was going to be new territory for all of us, and I was afraid that I would not enjoy my time in Maryland because my host family wouldn’t necessarily enjoy me. I remember pulling into their driveway, looking at their beautiful home, shaking from head to toe. My parents were with me, luckily, so it eased the nerves I felt coming on. I knocked on the front door, and my host mother opened the other side – her name was Joan, and we clicked instantly. I was so extremely blessed to have ended up with host parents who I now stay with on a month to month basis and can call them a close second to a set of parents. They took care of me for those four months, feeding me dinner every night, getting to know me. These two have impacted me so greatly and I am forever encouraged by their words of wisdom.

Aside from having the greatest host parents, I also experienced the greatest four months of my life working for the Annapolis Yacht Club. Not only did I learn a variety of culinary skills, but life skills as well. I was mentored by the most amazing staff, and I can truly thank them for all of the accomplishments that I have made as a student here at IUP. They taught me to never give up, to persevere no matter the struggle, and to shape myself into the person that I wanted to be. At the end of my externship, I was told to write about my experiences from August-December 2015, but I truly could not find any words to describe the way that I felt; Annapolis would forever be carved into my heart in a way that I couldn’t explain.

I found it to be one of the most complex writing assignments I had ever been given. How does one write four months of experience into a small, one-page limit? I thought this through for days on end, hoping that I would be able to fulfill the requirement of this final paper for Culinary School. I finally asked my host mother for help because my struggle was clear, and she said, “Sabrina, you are so much smarter than you believe; you don’t have to write about every single piece of food you cut on the cutting board, or every dessert you made; write about what you feel in your heart.” This is the quote that changed me as a writer.

I ended up writing about the way that Annapolis impacted me, and the way that the Yacht Club would be in my heart forever. I wrote about the things that I learned, not only about food, but about the meaning of life and the way that my co-workers truly helped me become a person who I am proud to be. I wrote about the experience I had with my host family, and I wrote about the way my heart broke when the Annapolis Yacht Club caught on fire three days previous of my culinary externship completion. I wrote about all the banquets I got to be a part of and working alongside some of the most prestigious Chef’s in the entire country. I wrote about how honored I felt to have been chosen to be a part of something that was so genuine and special, something that shaped me, and something that I knew I would never forget.

My paper ended up being six pages of gushing over my past four months, and I didn’t care if I was penalized for writing over a page; being able to write those experiences down made me realize how truly blessed I was throughout this adventure, and I wanted to share that.

This was my moment in life, the one that defined me as a person; it truly did. As well as defining me as a person, these moments defined me as a writer. I learned that maybe not every writing assignment will be concealed into a page alone, no matter what the required outline may appear to be, and maybe to be a good writer you don’t always have to follow the rules. As my host mother said, write what’s in your heart. I have written with all I have in me since that moment, and I know I will continue to for the rest of my life.

May 21

Alexis Hoffer (My Experience with Eating Disorders)

Alexis Hoffer

English Composition 101


My Experience with Eating Disorders

                In the words of Flatsound, congratulations, you’re cordially invited to a small list of things that I normally would hide. Let me just start out by saying that on top of all the messed up, undiagnosed issues going on in my head on pretty much a constant, daily basis, I have body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This basically means that I see myself very differently than others because I obsessively hyper-focus on perceived flaws in my appearance that may or may not even be there. Now, like I said, this isn’t necessarily diagnosed by a registered physician or whatnot, but it doesn’t take a genius to figure these things out. If you aren’t getting any help from anyone and you’re determined enough to find out what’s wrong with you, it’s actually fairly easy to figure it out— or at least this one was. It’s funny how misunderstood BDD is, though— even amongst therapists in my experience.

When I first found out that there was a name for what I’d been dealing with for so long, I approached my aunt about it. Seeing as she has a major in psychology and works as a child therapist, I thought she’d be a good person to talk to about it. I brought it up to her and her immediate response was, “Don’t be silly, that is only a diagnosis for people who starve themselves or throw up and you’re not doing either, are you?” At the time, I hadn’t really considered what I’d been doing as “starving myself” so I answered honestly with a no and she changed the subject. But that’s not what BDD is.

BDD is about how one perceives themselves. An eating disorder is just something that can pop up because of it and an eating disorder isn’t just “starving yourself” (Anorexia Nervosa) or “throwing up” (Bulimia Nervosa) either. In fact, you could have the complete opposite of anorexia, which would be binge-eating and just eat compulsively. I guess I had a combination of binge-eating and anorexia at the beginning, but mostly anorexia. Wow that was really weird to type since I’ve never actually told anyone. I was never too bad about it— never noticeably, of course, so no one ever found out.

I have always had a problem with the way I look— or problems to be more specific. I’m sure you could’ve already guessed that, but because of that, I’ve spent a lot of time in front of mirrors, criticizing myself. It’s an impulse I can’t control. Any reflective surface I pass—a shop window, a trophy case, a glass door— I immediately turn my head and look into it as I walk by, looking at my reflection mirroring my own walk. It’s like clockwork, really. And as the seconds slip by, I stare hard into my reflection, looking for every unmistakable flaw in myself before I’m past it and I have to act like nothing happened. In those short few seconds as I pass the reflection, though, I think of the foulest things about myself and I try to think of something— anything—to fix those things. That’s how I ended up skipping meals in high school. When I was younger, I was always fairly thin. People used to marvel at how they could fit my wrist in the space between their pointer finger and their thumb. As I started to grow out of my high metabolism, though, I got increasingly more obsessed with the way I looked and the fact that I didn’t think I looked skinny enough or pretty enough. Mind you, when I say that I was growing out of my high metabolism and gaining more weight than I ever had before, I don’t mean that I was blowing up like a balloon or anything—I had just gone from about 76 pounds to 110 in middle school and since I was so delusional about the way I looked, I thought I looked horrible and ugly. I struggled with just that for a really long time and I couldn’t think of a way to lose weight fast enough for what I wanted. After all, food and I never really had any problems getting along before since I could basically eat whatever and never gain any weight and I also am a bit on the lazier side so I don’t really exercise although I know I really should. My only solution that I could come up with was to eat less and so I did.

I would get away with it at school more because there was no one there to supervise me and know I wasn’t eating much except for my friends, who never even had a clue anyhow. At first, it just started with me eating less and less for breakfast. In elementary school and the beginning of middle school, breakfast was always just like any other meal (like it should be since it’s the most important meal of the day) and it would consist of pancakes some days, eggs and bacon on others, and so on and so forth always with the usual glass of milk or orange juice. But as I started eating less and less, it became a Special K meal bar on the bus with a few sips of water. That breakfast routine was enough to satisfy me for a bit, but I started to notice that I wasn’t losing any weight. I was, instead, still gaining some and got up to 120. It was the normal amount of pounds that any girl should put on to maintain a healthy weight I suppose, but I thought it was the absolute worst. My solution? Eat even less.

I started to cut down on my lunches, too. Before, I usually ate either whatever the school served in the main line or packed a lunch, but I stopped doing either. Instead, I would go to the a la carte line and buy some yogurt for lunch and that would be it. Some days, I would refuse to eat anything at all and I just sat at the lunch table, sipping my water as I watched my friends eat their lunch. No one ever said anything, really. Sometimes one of them would ask why I didn’t get any lunch and I would just fib and say that I wasn’t feeling well. They always believed me because I have stomach problems and I get nauseous incredibly often so it would be understandable that I wouldn’t be in the mood to eat. Around my mom, I’d always eat a lot to put off suspicion and also because I would just be so hungry by then from not eating much for breakfast and little or nothing for lunch that I would just compulsively eat. Because of my binge-eating problem, I hadn’t really seen any change in my weight like I’d been hoping for, so I started to cut back on what I ate while I was home, too.

My parents are divorced and I live with my mom, but I used to have to visit my dad every other weekend and that’s when it probably was most apparent. My dad really didn’t care much about making sure my brother, sister, and I ate three times a day and there wasn’t much around the house except for food that’d been expired for years and my stepmom’s diet food that we weren’t allowed to eat. Since there wasn’t much around, my dad had grown accustomed to me complaining about being hungry a lot while I was there or eating a lot of any food that they got delivered, which was generally pizza or Chinese. And I mean I really complained about it. I can remember when I was really little that I was so hungry one time that I ate a bit of my chapstick to hold me over. A word of advice, don’t do that— it tastes awful. Anyway, I guess I had stopped complaining about it and when we did get food, I wouldn’t eat much or sometimes none of it at all. As unobservant as my father is, he still must’ve caught on. I can’t quite remember exactly how I found out— my mom probably told my brother who told me— but at one point, my mom had been on the phone to my dad and he told her that he thought I might be anorexic to which she flipped out. I remember being genuinely insulted at the time for such an accusation. I thought that he must have flipped his lid or something to assume I’d be doing something so absurd, but in reality he was kind of right. He never said anything about it to me himself, though, and he never brought it up to my mom again so I guess he must’ve dismissed the suggestion as much as my mom had and that was the end of that.

My problem with eating got to the point where, at school, the most I’d be consuming all day was a bottle of water and then I would go home and eat a meal bar and maybe something else small and that’d be it. It was physically draining. My depression already makes having motivation and energy difficult, but I was at a point where it was almost impossible to have any energy. I was always pale, but I saw myself getting paler and paler and with my fatigue came lightheadedness, dizziness, weakness, and a general bleak outlook on pretty much everything. I was so sickly and tired all the time that I was convinced something must be wrong with me. I thought that maybe I had anemia, a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells and causes fatigue, skin pallor, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness, and a fast heartbeat, like my friend and that’s why I was so tired all the time. I took it as far as making my mom make an appointment with my doctor about it and get blood work done. As you can imagine, when the blood work came back, it showed I did not have anemia. It did, however, say I was on the borderline of having hypothyroidism, which explained why I couldn’t lose much weight even though I was barely eating anything. Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone and causes fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, and lethargy. In hindsight, that may have had something to do with my fatigue as well, but I was eating barely enough to offset the hypothyroidism. Yet, I didn’t think of that at the time.

Calorie counting and checking the scale became an everyday thing for me. If I ate anything, I would try to figure out how many calories it was and sometimes, I would get on the treadmill a while after and run for a bit to get rid of them. I think checking the scale made me feel the worst, though, because ours is broken so whatever number it gives you, you have to add on 7 more pounds. I would see a weight that I thought wouldn’t be too hard to get down to my goal when I stepped on the scale, but then I had to factor in the extra pounds and it made me feel really fat even though I knew rationally that I wasn’t. I also had never really liked having my picture taken growing up, but I always went through with it. As I was getting worse with my eating disorder, though, I couldn’t stand the way I looked so much that I would literally run away at the first sight of a camera. I absolutely despised cameras and people would think it was funny and try to mess with me by taking pictures of me when I wasn’t paying attention. I always figured it out though and I would flip out on them and scream at them to delete it. It was completely erratic behavior, really, and it got so ridiculous to the point that I’m not even in my yearbook and I paid like $80 for it.

I was so obsessed with trying to get my thighs to be as thin as my calves, my arms to be as thin as my wrists, and my stomach to be as flat as possible that, that was all I was thinking about. I would be walking down the hall to class, thinking about how fat I am and how tired and hungry I was when I should have been thinking about the test I would be taking in less than a minute. As you can imagine, my grades weren’t doing too great at the time. My mom was valedictorian when she went to school and my older brother was offered to be in the honor’s society every year because he got straight A’s, so it was kind of unacceptable in their eyes for me to be getting bad grades. I knew I had to buckle down and at least try to focus on school or I’d go home to yet another lecture about how bad I was doing at literally everything.

No one helped me. No one told me I needed to start eating like most people who suffer from eating disorders. I had to do it all on my own. I alone recognized my problem and I realized that it was leading to more and more problems. I didn’t have a support system saying that it will all get better or something. I just had myself and everyone else was too oblivious and ignorant to even see that I had a problem or to worry about me getting better. I forced myself to eat more on days that I knew I’d need the energy and on days that I would be testing or making a very sad excuse for a presentation. At first, it made me sick all the time because I had been so used to eating next to nothing in a day and all of a sudden I was forcing myself to eat three times a day. Towards the end of senior year and during the summer, I finally started eating somewhat normally again. Unfortunately, I relapsed quite a bit during this first semester of college. I’m trying to do better, though. Even though pretty much every time I eat, there’s a little voice in the back of my head telling me how disgusting I am and how gross it is that I’m just consuming so many calories without a care, I continue to eat— usually. Some days, it’s harder than others and I’ll just put down whatever I’m eating and not finish it, or I won’t eat anything afterwards. I had to do a project in one of my classes where I recorded everything I ate in a day and how much of it and then turned it in. I ended up losing points because my professor didn’t think I finished it because I only listed two “snacks” and a scoop of ice cream. I ate ice cream. That’s a lot for me and I didn’t want to eat too many calories and overdo it. After all, I just started trying to recover from this not too long ago and it’s a lot better than I had been doing before. Still, no one I know knows about this, so it’s not really her fault for thinking that. My family doesn’t know. My friends don’t know. Nobody knows— except for you now, I suppose.

In the United States, there are 200,000 new cases of eating disorders per year. That’s a lot of people who have problems with eating. Approximately 24 million people in the U.S. struggle with an eating disorder and almost 50% of them also meet the criteria for depression like me. It affects people aged 14-60 the most and usually it’s women more so than men who develop it, although men do make up 10-15% of those with a problem. Eating disorders are characterized as a mental illness, and, while it’s not genetic, it can be caused by psychological issues like coping skills, control issues, trauma, family trouble, or social issues, but there are many causes for each type. Many people probably think that the disorder is harmless, but eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. The mortality rate of anorexia is even 12 times higher than any other cause of death for women ages 15 to 24 and more than 50% of teen girls and nearly 33% of teen boys admit to using unhealthy methods to control their weight including smoking cigarettes, skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, or taking laxatives. Personally, I started smoking cigarettes, skipping meals, and fasting, but I never did the other two. I would get the cigarettes off my brother for a while during high school, but then he stopped giving me them to me because he didn’t want me to get addicted, and he was concerned about my health, so I got a few packs off of a kid at school.

I don’t think I was too bad about it because I was never the poster girl for anorexia—someone severely emaciated like the media and other public discussions about eating disorders focus solely on. Many individuals with anorexia may not ever appear so drastically underweight. And while someone can make the choice to pursue recovery like me, the act of recovery itself is a lot of hard work and involves more than simply deciding to not act on symptoms and “just eat” unlike a lot of people think. The best thing to do is to just take it one step at a time like I’m trying to do.

May 21

Remington Reichard (A Look Inside)

Remington Reichard

English 101

Professor Slater

November 4, 2017

A Look Inside

No one person is immune to depression. It pays no attention to race, age, or sexuality, it just happens. As a victim of this disease and also a psychology major, I believe these topics are important to discuss. According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, approximately eight million people in the U.S. alone suffer from these related diseases. Eating disorder statistics provided by the National Eating Disorder Association are even higher, indicating that ten million American women suffer from eating disorders.

Unrealistic perfectionism concerning body image and all or nothing approaches remain to be a very common habit in first world consumer cultures. Although the exact cause of eating disorders remains unknown, it is generally believed that a combination of biological, psychological, and also environmental abnormalities contribute to the development of these illnesses. What I want to explore is whether eating disorders and depression fall hand in hand. Why do people choose these lifestyles? What made me fall into these habits? Why is it such a popular diagnosis? And, how can we decrease the number of those affected by it?

Not only does this video,  go into depth concerning these topics, it also gives an actual insight to real people’s lives as well. Young girls who told their stories throughout the video Eating Disorders: Mind, Body, and Society shared similar thoughts, as do many other sources. Julie Harrower states in the video that, “Eating disorders are an atypical type of eating pattern which can have quite serious effects both psychologically and physiologically and can be fatal” (Online classroom Ltd. 2001). In addition to this, Ira Saker, an eating disorders specialist at Langone Medical Center at New York University states, “Depression may lead to eating disorders, but there’s also evidence that eating disorders can result in depression.” In order to determine whether depression is an underlying factor for eating disorders, doctors will often spit out a handful of questions concerning multiple topics. Topics such as feelings of sadness, irritability or anger, loss of appetite, and loss of sleep are often discussed in hopes to discover a diagnosis. To my concern, it is almost essential to be treated for these disorders. Typically, disorders as such begin to develop during adolescent years or young adulthood.

It was during early eighth grade when I realized I was beginning to change my eating habits. For me, everything happened so fast. Depression is often a demon among itself, consistently persuading you how unhungry you are, how miserable your life is, and reminds you of pretty much any negative thing you could think of. I could go from being the happiest girl you could ever meet, to one of the saddest. After a while, I didn’t take notice of the symptoms anymore… it became such a regular thing. For years, I kept this problem to myself. Of course, people would question why I had been thinning out, or why I hadn’t been eating, but I could never truly answer those questions. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure I knew how to approach my disorder, let alone address to others what I had been going through. I think that was the hardest obstacle I had to face. Above all, before any healing process begins, you must first learn to love yourself. At this point in my life, I can honestly say I never thought I would be where I am today. Throughout my senior year of high school, a lot of unimaginable stuff happened. It wasn’t until that year when I learned how to cope with who I was and who I had been becoming. I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship of five years, lost a family friend to suicide, lost my great grandmother due to old age, and lost some close friends as well. I did not realize how much that was going to set me back. I had fallen into depression due to my loss of appetite, hardly eating a single meal. One morning, I approached my mom with the inner pain I had been dealing with, expressing the sense of torture I was putting my body through, both physically and mentally. Because of this, for the first time, I reached out for help.

My experience wasn’t quite what I had expected. In fact, it was the opposite. A Wednesday morning before school, I found myself in a state of mind which insisted I stay in bed. I texted my mom, “I don’t feel good, going in late,” but to my surprise, she had the day off. As I walked downstairs there were so many things running through my mind. After contemplating what I would say, I walked outside, asked her to write me a note for school, and while doing so turned around, no longer facing her. My mom looked at me, her eyes full of questions, wondering what was wrong. She claimed I had been quiet lately and said I hardly even act like myself anymore. At that moment, the words I had been dying to spill for months came flooding out of my mouth, “I think I’m depressed.” Before this, I never pictured having to discuss something so personal with my mom. She was my best friend, but this was different. This was serious. Part of the reason I held off for so long was because telling others made me feel weak. But that day, I felt a sense of pain. I had just told my mom what had been hurting me for so long, answering her question as to why I had been acting so indifferent, and yet, never once did she offer me any sort of help. Now, I wish I never had.

I was visiting the doctor for my yearly checkup when she asked if I, for any reason, would want to take a test concerning depression. Caught off guard, I instantly shot up off the table, spitting out the word, “No!” Moments later, my mom spoke up and explained what she thought had been going on. After talking with my doctor about all I had been facing, she had nothing to say to me. Not one word. As I sat there in tears, I wondered why my mom had put me in this position. Why didn’t she talk to me about it first? Why did she go behind my back? We talked about everything, we were like two peas in a pod, why didn’t she say anything? We left the office that day and I never looked back. I had felt completely alone. Thinking no one was there for me, I realized I needed to find a way to approach the situation myself, and I did. I began by taking little steps, setting an alarm with a positive message attached, leaving sticky notes around the house with a positive quote written on it, eating small snacks throughout the day to help regain appetite, waking up earlier so I would attend school, and lastly, getting rid of all the negative people or surroundings in my life. The thing is, as a victim, you think you’re alone but, in reality, you’re not.

For teenagers, there are so many resources available, but as you get older, that changes. Hotlines, government funded programs, resorts, therapies, at home methods, and sometimes even institutions are open 24 hours for patients seeking help. Due to the complication of adults finding an available treatment, I found that the most popular choice for people suffering from this disease is to enlist themselves into an eating disorders program. At the University of North Carolina, Cynthia Bulik, the director, stated that, “Eating disorders are typically ascribed to the young: in particular, female teenagers. But experts say that portrayal is inaccurate. Adults develop eating disorders too, some much later in life. Because of the lingering stereotypes about who gets sick, they can face lower rates of diagnosis, unique medical complications and limited treatment options, as well as the stigma that comes with having a disease associated with teens.” Buliks program launched in early 2003. Originally, she had expected to see primarily adolescents, but that was not the case. “We are seeing both women and men in midlife and beyond who are presenting for treatment,” said Bulik, including how she had done research indicating that 13 percent of women 50 and older often exhibit symptoms of eating disorders. From a medical perspective, “that’s a serious concern.” After doing a significant amount of research, psychologists found that “adults with eating disorders typically fall into three categories: those who have struggled with disordered eating since adolescence, but don’t develop a full-blown eating disorder until later in adulthood, those who may have successfully been treated for an eating disorder as a kid but relapse as an adult, and those who develop eating issues for the first time as an older person,” stated West Hartford psychologist, Margo Maine. For this reason, and many others, I believe it’s important for those affected by these diseases to understand that people care. They will listen to you.

People often express that our society’s expectations are constantly destroying the individual perspective. Years ago, during the preindustrial societies, thickness on a woman meant she consisted of high standards and a sense of attractiveness, not “fat, overweight, or considered outside the social norm.”  In fact, it was not until recent years when females began altering how others would perceive them. “It’s very different today. Thin is in, and women and girls are bombarded with images of the glamorously starving,” states an anonymous speaker in Eating Disorders: Mind, Body, and Society. While young girls are thin, they often fall to the pressure of those around them. One girl said, “I was pressured to be thin because of all the magazines and stuff. I think that creates a lot of low self-esteem for people. If you’re not a size zero, then people think you have to go on a diet.” But this is not the only factor. I have watched the full length of this video at least four times now, and each time the words of these young girls speaks louder volumes. Many underlying factors have yet to be discovered, both genetically and psychologically. Saker states, “They become obsessed with perfectionism. That perfectionism begins to focus on what they eat. But underlying it is depression and anxiety. Often, these patients have suffered from a lot of emotional trauma.”

Jasmine, an adult woman now, but who suffered for many years, shares her story today. Proudly, as she should be, she explains all the emotions and actions she took to regain self-confidence. As a young girl, she was naturally thin due to sports and biological features. “Never having been a person who works extremely well under pressure, I didn’t think that I measured up to my peers and I didn’t believe I deserved to be in the school. I was constantly comparing my abilities, my grades, and my body to those of other people, judging myself unworthy, and feeling depressed. I had difficulty expressing those feelings and was sinking deeper and deeper into depression.” Jasmine had been exposed to a genetic disposition to developing an eating disorder. Aware of both her mother and grandmother suffering from related diseases, she knew the experience she was about to endure. Ironically enough, Jasmine said “the one thing that had given me a sense of control (my eating disorder) became the very thing that spiraled out of my control.” Several years after graduating high school, she stopped carrying the burden alone and reached out for professional help. She took a screening at the university she had been attending at the time, which then began her many years of treatment. She entered therapy where they told her if she did not tell her parents, she would involuntarily be committed to a hospital. “I felt betrayed and backed into a corner, but the scare tactic worked. Feeling exposed, ashamed and terrified, I told my mother.” Jasmine’s parents fought with their insurance company long and hard, trying to get treatment costs covered in order for their daughter to receive the treatment necessary to cure her illness, or at least attempt to. In the United States, said treatments can range from $500 to $2,800 per day. Shortly after informing the insurance company that their daughter was going to kill herself, they approved only two days in a treatment facility, two days.

Unfortunately, only about 1 in 10 people with eating disorders receive treatment. Eating disorder statistics show that about eighty percent of girls and women who access care do not receive the intensity of treatment needed to stay in recovery, they are usually sent home weeks before the recommended stay is fulfilled. “During my third year in graduate school, I began to have several setbacks. I once again became focused on my weight and body, and started struggling with feelings of depression.” Realizing she would soon be faced with similar obstacles from before, again, Jasmine reentered herself into another eating disorder facility. She admits, if it weren’t for the resources Jasmine’s family and doctors made available to her, who knows where she would be today. With the help of a good therapist, four years later she stated, “In the end, I was very fortunate that my parents were able to find the money for me to remain at the treatment facility for as long as necessary. Down the road, I stayed almost three months, during which time I gathered coping tools and gained a better understanding of myself.” Today, Jasmine is a doctor of psychology, a wife, a mother, and a survivor of both eating disorders and depression. “I consider myself 100 percent recovered and cannot imagine ever going back to my eating disorder. I want to be a role-model for my daughter and I want to break the cycle of eating disorders in my family. I accept the challenges life brings and allow myself to feel everything I should. I am in a place I never thought I would be, and I would not change it for the world.”

Ten to fifteen percent of all Americans suffer from some sort of serious eating disorder. Without treatment, it is said that up to twenty percent of people with serious eating disorders die. Because of this, it’s time we all take a step in the direction of recovery! According to Carolyn Costin, founder of Monte Nido, a residential treatment facility in California, says that recovery is, “When you can accept your natural body size and shape and no longer have a self-destructive or unnatural relationship with food or exercise. When food and weight take a proper perspective in your life and what you weigh is not more important than who you are; in fact, all numbers are of little or no importance at all. When you will not compromise your health or betray your soul to look a certain way, wear a certain size, or reach a certain number on a scale. When you do not use eating disorder behaviors to deal with, distract from, or cope with other problems.” Eating disorders take up a significant portion of your time. From the second you wake up until the moment you go to sleep, you are constantly putting all your time and energy into your behaviors. But, when your eating disorder is no longer present, you feel free, and it allows for so many blessings to enter your life. After experiencing multiple moments of being symptom-free, I know how incredible life could be. I am proof.


Works Cited

Peter, Jaret. “Eating disorders and depression.” WebMD. 2015.

Online Classroom Ltd., 2001.

May 21

Heather Bair (A Pirate’s Legacy)

Heather Bair

Composition 101

Strength Paper


     Message him, e-mail him, ask him how he is. Tell him how you’re still writing.

     Eh. I’ll do it later.

     It had been a constant battle back and forth with my inner voie. For some reason, I’d been thinking about my old teacher from school, Mr. Rolly. The last I’d talked to him was two years ago when I’d graduated, inviting him and his family to my Graduation party. A few days after that, I’d told him about my plans for my life and thanked him for everything he’d taught me.

For the past two weeks, I’d been wondering about him and whether or not he was still teaching. In the past when we had exchanged e-mails and messages back and forth, I had seen him as my mentor. I would send files upon files of my latest writing projects, asking for advice on how to make something better. After receiving advice on my latest creation, however, I hadn’t responded. In the last e-mail he wrote me, he had wished me luck in all my future adventures. He also told me that, if I wished, I could keep him up-to-date on my career as a writer and continue using him as an editor.

He inspired something in me to keep questioning and learning everything possible. He told all his students that, before they turned 21-years-old, they had to read at least one Jack Kerouac novel. (The one I picked was “On the Road”, which is amazing, in and of itself. It also happened to be one of Mr. Rolly’s favorites.) We also had to see a play on Broadway before we died. He inspired all his students to keep creating fictional worlds in their minds and that, even when we were adults, pretending was okay.

I remember March 12. It was raining. It was chilly. There were threats of flash flooding here and there. I was off work and decided to stay home that day. I had hobbies I wanted to get back into, one of them being my sketchbook.

I settled on the floor, the nagging voice to e-mail or message Mr. Rolly becoming stronger and stronger since the previous day. I kept shutting it down, wondering what in the world could be causing it. He’d probably forgotten all about me, two years later.

As I picked a playlist on my phone, my mother let out a soft gasp. She sharply inhaled, her eyes filling with sorrow and dread.

I looked up at her and, before I could stop the sarcastic comment from falling out of my mouth, the words tumbled on their own accord, as if someone pushed them. “What, who died?”

The look on her face as she turned to look at me said it all. Now was not the time for sarcasm. I would later regret asking the question at all. Something bad happened. She read something bad on the computer. My first thought was my best friend, Ian. He was driving home today from New York and the weather wasn’t pleasant for driving. But no, that wouldn’t make anything yet, if something had happened.

“Mom? What is it?” I pushed, wanting to know.

Seconds seemed to last centuries. “You can’t cry, okay?”

I got up off the floor, pulling my earbuds out. I sat on the arm of the couch closest to her. I swallowed hard, pushing down the ball of worry that decided to reside in my throat. “What?”

“Mr. Rolly passed away yesterday morning.”

I stared at her. I stared at the photo up on the screen of my teacher smiling. He still resembled Captain Hook, even though it had been five years since I’d first met him and told him so.

I couldn’t comprehend what the words meant. Mr. Rolly? Dead? No. No, they had the wrong name, the wrong man! No, that’s not my teacher. He’s still alive and he was probably at work that day on the Gateway Clipper or he was working on his musical, A Pirate’s Tale. He wasn’t dead.


The tears came quickly. I remember they were hot tears, falling. My hand went to my mouth. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. The memories came flooding back…


I was told, in ninth grade, that I was allowed to take an online enrichment course. Basically, “gifted” classes for the above-average students. I looked through the list and really, none of them stood out to me. My mother insisted that I pick one. This would look good on resumes and might offer me some socialization with other cyber schoolers. I reluctantly agreed.

There, at the end of the list, was a class. “Introduction to Commedia del’arte. Instructor: Shaun Rolly.”

Below that, a brief summary of the class. We would be talking about the beginning of theater and the main characters in plays. We’d be discussing musicals, plays, programs, and the behind-the-scenes history of comedy in theater. “There you go!” My mom, overly happy, was trying to talk me into it. “You like plays!”

I shrugged. Sure. Why not? Maybe it would help me get out of my shell?

I agreed and signed up for the class. A week later, I signed in and waited in an online classroom. A few other students arrived shortly after. A few minutes after 3:00, the teacher signed into the room. He began addressing us all by our names and having us tell him one fact about ourselves. Then, the fun began.

The next few weeks, every Tuesday, I’d sign into the class and anticipate another hour filled with laughter. Commedia del’arte became my favorite class. I remember one class, in particular, that he was teaching. He had a window open and his neighbors were cutting down a tree with an obnoxiously loud saw. He forgot to turn the microphone off and made his way to the window. The next thing we heard was his voice, shouting to his neighbors, “Get a beaver!” Then slamming the window down.

He came back to a room full of fourteen students laughing and commenting. He was confused until he realized he’d left the microphone on. That’s one of the best memories I have.

Towards the end of the 12 weeks, I was sad that it was ending. I wanted more of Mr. Rolly’s teachings. I wanted to learn everything I could from him. I was craving for my other teachers to educate like he did. He made it personal and like he truly cared about each and every one of us. After the class, he was offering four more. I took up three of them, including Commedia del’Arte. Actually, I took the class three more times, his sword-fighting class the same, and his Disney Class, three parts, two times each. I was dedicated, you could say.

One of the assignments for the class was to write a short scene, using the characters he had taught us about, such as Pulcinella, Pantalone, Il Capitano, Il Dotore, Brighella, and so on. Being the overachiever – a moniker I hadn’t wanted but developed – I ended up writing a two-page play. I e-mailed it to Mr. Rolly and never received an e-mail back.

The next time class came, I still had received no feedback about my scenario. I waited anxiously in the second-to-last class of the course. I chewed my nails, tapped my foot, bounced my pencil, I couldn’t keep still. Two minutes until class started. One minute until class started. It was time. One minute passed. Another minute. Okay, he was now three minutes later. Ding! The sound that happened when someone entered the “classroom” echoed in our ears. Mr. Rolly!

I continued chewing my nails as he took role. Afterwards, he made an announcement.

“Alright class, before we begin, I need to bring something to our attention. Last week, I asked for a scenario. I had said it could be a few sentences, even a paragraph or two, but it didn’t have to be a whole paper. However, one student didn’t follow the rules.”

A deadly silence.

“Instead, this student wrote me a play. An entire play. Complete with characters, setting, emotion, and yes, comedy! Let me read a little of it…”

After reading the first two paragraphs, I realized this was my paper! He was reading my play aloud to the entire class! He had three classes per week, and out of all of his students’ papers, he had picked mine to read!

My stomach did flip-flops and my cheeks grew sore from smiling throughout the reading. After he was finished, he cleared his throat. “Heather! Where are you?”

I clicked the button to “raise my hand.” (It put a little hand waving icon by our name to let the teacher know that we wanted to speak or had something to contribute.)

I was given the permission of using my microphone. Only two people could use it at one time, so the only two voices hitting the other students’ ears were mine and Mr. Rolly’s.

“Ah! There you are! Okay, so, this is your paper, yes?”

I cleared my throat. “Yes,” I managed to squeak out.

“You can be louder than that!” A small laugh then, “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, that’s fine! I used to be shy too! Anyway, is this a scenario?”

I cleared my throat again. This man was a character that had no problem speaking to a whole auditorium of people. Me? I hated just talking in public with my friends!

I cleared my throat a third time and took a deep breath to steady myself. “I, um . . . I just wanted to . . . I like to write and . . .” The words refused to make sense and come out. My shyness was getting the better of me. I could feel my nervous habits, even if no one else could see them. I bit my bottom lip, I stuttered, I blinked more than usual, and my arms crossed in front of my chest. Thankfully, Mr. Rolly didn’t miss a beat and came to my rescue.

“Don’t apologize! This is amazing! Tell me, what do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to do with your life?”

Aha! An easy question! One I was confident in answering. “A writer, Sir. I want to be a writer.”

Then, the words that would follow me for the rest of my young adult life, probably my whole life, were spoken. “Well, Heather, going by this play, you are not going to be a writer. You ARE a writer!”

The rest of the class began after those four words, but my ears echoed with them, just as they do even now, long after the rest of the class and the speaker himself had forgotten.

After that, I craved his advice about my short stories I was writing. He became, unknowingly to both of us at the time, my mentor. I would message him with files and files of chapters, stories, outlines, and so on. He would offer me back details and advice on how to make a scene more emotional or comedic. He would help me with writing a play I’d had floating around my head for the past three years.


My mind found its way back to reality.

“Heather? Honey, are you okay?” My mother’s voice breaks through the echo now. Her words jumble together with those spoken five years ago in an online classroom.

“W-what happened?” I stutter out, tears trying to suffocate my voice.

She does some typing on her computer. She doesn’t want to tell me. No matter the reason for the death, she knows I will cry. Once I start crying, letting all the tears have a mind of their own, I will not stop.

In February, I had lost my estranged father to lung cancer. It hadn’t affected me much, but it was still a death in my life. Now, my mentor had passed, suddenly, overnight. His son, Kyle, had found him in his bedroom. The death was being ruled as “under investigation.” A few days later, it would be ruled as a suicide.

I remember sitting on the couch, staring. I couldn’t comprehend how this would have happened to Shaun Rolly. Pirate, teacher, actor, playwright.

Just the few weeks prior, he had been on my mind. My mother knew the impact this man had had on me. He inspired me to write more and to write better. He’d gotten his theater troupe to put on the play; it ended up lasting about half an hour. He broke through my shell and made me realize it’s easier to laugh at yourself than be afraid of people laughing at you. He taught me to keep my head up and not let anyone tell me that I couldn’t do something. We were all capable of doing whatever we wanted, despite being told no.

In the next month that followed, Mr. Rolly’s page was flooded with tributes and memories from his former and present students, friends, family members, and people whose lives he had touched. I fell into an obsession of finding out why he would do this. Why did the man who told us to never give up decide that this was the only way out? Why would he leave us like this? Why would he allow us to remember him this way? If I had e-mailed him, would I have been able to stop him? Would I have been able to ask him a question or two that would have given him the ambition to carry on?

Did I blame myself? Yes and no. I hadn’t ever met him in person, though all of us had begged and begged to find a way to meet him. I think he was everybody’s favorite teacher. He made learning fun and easy. He incorporated everything he could into his lessons to make them more interactive and fun. Especially in his sword-fighting class, where we learned how to handle a sword like a talented pirate.


Now, almost seven months after his death, I’m dealing with it better. It still hurts, days when I remember. It’s hard to talk about.

When you know someone who has committed suicide, the subject is touchy. I find it hard to vocally tell people about him but, once I get going, I can’t stop. I want to get the word out about suicide. That there is help, that people out there will listen if you need someone to talk to. I’ve had to use those people from time to time myself.

He wouldn’t want us to mourn him. He wouldn’t want us to stop living. He would tell us to carry on, to continue fighting, to not be like him. He would give us all the words that we would need to get through the hard days of our future. He would tell us not to miss him too much. He would tell us to ignore the ones who tell us we can’t do something, that we are ALL capable of doing whatever our heart sets its sights on.

As for me, I’ve found things to remind me of him. I have the phrase he would tell us at the end of each class memorized. “Take up your swords, it’s your ship now.”

So, Mr. Rolly, this one’s for you.

I’ve picked up my sword, and no one will take this ship from me.