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

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.