Tag Archives: Anxiety

Frankly, I Have No Idea What to Title This Post

There’s a line from Twenty One Pilot’s “Migraine” that says, “Sometimes to stay alive you gotta kill your mind.”

I really love that line.

I also wish they gave advice on how to do just that.

I’m an over-thinker. A worrywart, as my companions and parents growing up dubbed me. I’ve always been this way. I know I’m not alone in this, but sometimes, that knowledge doesn’t help me deal with my incessant need to look at every angle of a situation–and often situations that haven’t happened yet, but are possible–and then fixate on the worst possible one, causing anxiety, stress and depression to set in as I then obsess over this outcome. Which, nine times out of ten, doesn’t even come true.

But let’s not keep this simple. Let’s include the heart into this, add another layer of complexity.

I’m a big believer of following your heart. It’s why mine is so scarred. I’m not afraid to chase what it wants without abandon. Some believe that’s foolish. Yet that’s not something I’m going to change. I’m sure it comes to no surprise that often, the heart and the mind conflict, even to the point where the mind overrules the heart and makes it confused on what it even wants, which makes it even harder to come to a decision about what to do in X situation.

Hold on, though. Still not complicated enough. Then add in the need to please others and the reliance on your fellow’s good opinion and approval.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Welcome into the mind of Nicole.

‘Tis a confusing place.

Of course, I have a specific conundrum in mind: my love life. It’s complicated and confusing and conflicting, which I think is the most difficult thing to deal with. At any given moment, my mind will tell me to do one thing and my heart will agree. The next, my mind and heart splits. Another second passes and my heart has completely changed its tune, but now my head is questioning. And then you add in the opinions of everyone else I value–and don’t forgot the overthinking mind that doesn’t fail to look into every possible solution into every possible scenario, and frankly?

I’m just at a loss.

Here’s the situation (you might have gathered inklings about it from this postthis post or this post. Sorry my complicated love life has taken over this blog. But this blog is my outlet and I’ve never been confused like this before. Ergo, a lot of emotionally-charged posts).

Entered into a FWB relationship which actually felt and was treated like more of an actual relationship, just in secret. Not surprising that, on my end, feelings developed and complications arose. I “left” and then came back, twice, before finally deciding to leave the “benefits” side of a relationship and trade it for a “just friends” side, so I could move on emotionally and find someone who’d be capable and willing to meet both my needs and my wants. It’s been…hard, but I’m getting there. What’s been the hardest, however, is being plagued with one question:

What if? 

Because while I left because I needed more stability, more commitment and more certainty, I’ve been lost in this realm of uncertainty ever since. Because though the “relationship” is officially “over,” there are some small seeds of hope that it could still actually blossom into something real. So we could, potentially, still have a chance at having a relationship. Or I could say no, if that question was ever asked. Or it could never be asked and I could find someone else. Or I could find no one. There are so many different ways this could pan out and there are plenty of What Ifs to accompany each route.

What if we date and everything is as amazing as I always thought it would be? What if it’s everything I ever wanted? What if we completely fall on our faces and the relationship crumbles? What if everyone thinks I’m an idiot for giving him another chance? What if everyone hates him? What if I miss out on the guy “meant for me” because I gave him another chance? What if he is the one meant for me and I gave him up too early because it took a little work beforehand? What if I end up alone forever (but kill it as your ultimate dog lady)? 

Yeah, sometimes, my mind sucks.

There are just so many elements in play: my emotions, my feelings, logic, the opinions of others…all of which conflict and fight each other on a daily basis, which isn’t exactly comforting.

You got the feelings I have for the guy that everyone I care about tells me “didn’t treat me right” and constantly reminds me that I can “do better and deserve better,” yet part of me still wants to try because he does mean so much to me and I know he could treat me exactly the way I “deserve.” But then that raises logical questions, like, why hasn’t he already? What made him take so long to chose me; which, in turn, brings up some questions regarding trust. Yet he’s also made me happier than any man before him. Doesn’t that count for something?

Then I look at all the relationships I’ve ever known. All of them have had some sort of conflict, at one point or another. To varying degrees of complexity and difficulty. Some started great and got rough in the middle, only to become stronger. Some started out difficult and took work, but made it in the end. And very few have been really solid throughout it all, hardly a hiccup in sight. And sometimes, when people tell me that I can “do better,” I want to point out that every relationship is different and maybe this one is just experiencing the rough patches at the beginning. I want to ask not to be so quick to judge, even though I know everyone is just looking out for me and wants me to be happy. And I haven’t been happy, recently. So I understand that. It just adds another level of complexity.

And then you get all of those corny quotes telling you to never pick a guy who made you question or made you guess or made you walk away. Then there’s the small excitement of meeting someone new, wondering who is out there for me and the excitement of flirting and getting to know someone; battle that against the comfort of already knowing someone and admitting there are some challenges there, but there is also certain happiness, as well. Then there’s the fear of never finding anyone else juxtaposed with the fear that I already found them, but I’m just giving them up because it takes work and everyone else tells me I should and they are proud of me for finally letting go of something less than what I deserve. But is that really what want?

Yeah, I’d love to just kill my mind for an hour now, thanks.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to two things: choice and risk.

Everything is uncertain. I have no idea if said dude will ever want to try an actual relationship with me. I honestly have no idea if I’m willing to try, if he wants to–my heart and hope scream yes at the same time my mind, my doubts and my fears shout no. I have no idea how I’d meet anyone else or what I’d say if I did. I have no idea about any of this and all this worrying and thinking I’ve done in the past week isn’t really helping.

Regardless of whatever happens, the choice is mine. And though I do recognize that I really rely (a bit too much) on the approval of others, I have to trust that those closest to me will support whatever decision I make. And I need to let myself make that decision, without basing it off the opinions of others.

Even though I’ve been searching for the right answer, through talking and blogging and praying, I think I’ve come to the realization that there isn’t one. There is no right answer. That’s why it’s a risk.

I can’t know that my choices are going to be the best ones. I have no idea how they are going to affect my future or if they are going to hurt me or make me happy. There is no guarantee that whatever choice I make is going to be the right or the wrong one. Because that’s what risk is. It’s making a choice and sticking with it even though you don’t know the end. It’s trying to decipher the feelings in your gut and learning to follow them. It’s talking with those involved and learning to trust them. It’s finding a balance between hope and logic.

At the end of the day, it’s weighing everything I’ve been describing and more, and then finally making a choice, trusting yourself to make the right one. It’s accepting the aftermath and forgiving yourself when you make the wrong one. It’s having the courage to change your choice, if that happens. Or the courage to stay, depending. Or even trusting yourself enough to believe that you made the right choice and believing that everything is good, even when it feels too good to be true.

That realization doesn’t make figuring out my love life any easier. I know that I definitely don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m trying my best to follow my heart wherever it guides me (even if that journey is a bit confusing, at times). I’m doing the best I can and I’ll take a small comfort in that. Because all I can do is try and follow my heart, trusting it to guide me true. Even it it leads to failure and ruin, at least I gave it my all.

Hopefully, when I look back at all of my choices, no matter how many were “right” and “wrong,” I’ll be able to take comfort and avoid regret, knowing that I did the best I could navigating this quest called life; amidst every wrong turn, pleasant surprise, lucky break, difficult choice, second chance, mistake, celebration and achievement, I tried and followed my heart.

Can we really ask ourselves to do more than that?

Cheers.


Non-Existent Eggshells

(Tangent before the post even begins: I totally want to use that as a title, for something. So I call dibs.)

I’ve been realizing lately that I do those closest to me the absolute greatest disservice by treating them like eggshells to be tiptoed around. This is especially ridiculous because they don’t deserve any such treatment in the slightest and I can’t even really explain why my actions lately are to treat every relationship like it is founded on non-existent eggshells.

I don’t have much of a social life. I’ve never really had what you’d probably label as a traditional social life, full of partying and going out on the weekends and drinking. Mine has always been much more low-key, hanging out in living rooms, gorging on chips and talking too much while YouTube plays in the background. And I love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything. Yet as each year goes by, I grow more introverted by nature. I find myself spending more time alone, as my favorite hobbies are all solitary: writing, reading, video games, blogging. I’ve always loved doing those things, but growing up, in high school and in college, there was always something else to break up those hobbies; something involving other people. A club. A class. Meeting the group for dinner. Soccer practice.

Ever since graduating college, it’s been very different.

Go to sleep. Go to Job One, where we are usually too busy to talk to anyone. Go to the gym alone. Shower. Eat and get ready for Job Two. Socialize a bit with my employees, but I usually have to cut that out so I have time to write. Go home. Sleep. Repeat. Though I love my main job, my schedule–working from the early afternoon until 12am Sunday through Thursday–makes it nigh impossible to fit in any socializing throughout the week. Then, my weekends, which consists of Friday evenings and Saturdays, are always jammed packed to the brim, trying to fit in time with the few friends I still have and my family, putting me in a constant struggle of trying to have enough time to see everyone I care about on a consistent basis.

Amidst all of this, I find myself worrying that all of these relationships are going to disappear. A lot of my other relationships have disappeared. My group of high school, I have one friend (and she’s a lifelong friend) who I still cherish. A few others I talk to occasionally. And one friendship that I hope is about to rekindle. My college friends? Gone, too. Some I still text occasionally or run into, but most of them have moved away and started careers, gotten engaged or married, talking about starting families. So the few relationships that have stuck it out throughout the change, I cherish more than I ever have before (and I’ve always cherished them deeply). But with that love towards those relationships, there is a new fear; a fear that if I miss one hang session, I’ll piss someone off. If I don’t text someone for a day, they are angry with me. When I try to juggle these relationships over the weekend, that’s when this fear materializes the most. What if, by hanging out with X friend instead of Y friend, Y friend is angry? If I stay home instead of visiting people, will they be angry? Will I lose them? 

These are the non-existent eggshells that I walk on.

Keyword: non-existent.

Non-existent.

You see, to me, these eggshells, for some undefined reason that I seriously cannot pin down, are very real. The fear is there. This fear that all of these relationships I hold so dear are suddenly going to disappear or be ruined by my actions/inaction. Which doesn’t make sense for a lot of reasons. First off, the relationships I have now are the ones that have lasted the longest. If nothing else, these are the ones meant to last, because they’ve already persevered through so much. Yet I’m over here treating them as if they are brand new, to be gently held and tiptoed around, as if they are fragile. They aren’t.

Secondly, I feel it is such an insult to those relationships for me to be questioning their longevity or fearing their end. These people–my best friend, my parents, my sister, amongst a few others–have done absolutely nothing to cause me to question. Sure, sometimes we don’t talk as much as I would like or we don’t get to see one another every week. But hell, that’s life. And when you’re working 60 hours a week like I am, the main bulk of those being worked when everyone else if off, yeah, it’s going to be a little more difficult to make plans and see people. You won’t get to do everything you want to in one weekend. You’ll have to put off plans or have weekends where you don’t make any, just to recharge. That’s my reality now. A change, certainly, but nothing warranting these fears.

So why the hell are they there?

I have no bloody idea.

I do know that I hate it. I hate being so nervous all of the time and so insecure in this area. If there is any aspect of my life for me to feel confident and secure in, it is the relationships I’ve built with those closest to me. The relationships that have battled growth and change and conflict and come out stronger. The relationships that deserve more than my misplace fear; deserve more than to be treated as eggshells that will shatter as soon as I come near them.

I’m not sure why these fears are there. I’m not sure exactly how to combat them, honestly. I’m talking with one of my friends now about it. Though my stomach is still in knots, I do feel better than she knows and understands exactly how I feel–which is impressive in and of itself, considering I’m feeling a load of different things all at once: Loneliness. Fear. Sadness. Stress. Neediness. Anxiety. Guilt. This weekend, I have plans to see almost everyone that I care about the most, which will be really nice and really, really needed. So those things are happening. But at the same time, I’m sort of at a loss about what to do with the jumble of feelings inside of me. I am certain that I don’t like this unease that has crept into me and making me feel so skittish and inadequate and alone. Advice, my internet friends (particularly those 20-somethings like me who are trying to navigate this complicated life known as “adulting”), would be most welcome.

Cheers.


A Sliver of Peace

Overthinking, friends, is a bitch. It’s a bitch that I’ve been dealing with a lot, lately. I won’t bore you with all the fine details, but needless to say, I’ve been overthinking certain aspect of my life lately. A lot. Needlessly. Pointlessly, as there is no point in overthinking all of these things when most of it is out of my control anyway and I should ignore the voice in the back of my head whispering lies and instead just trust that things will work out the way I hope they will; that I’m a person that deserves happiness and is capable of achieving happiness. I know this. I am so totally aware that I am overthinking. Friends, family, both have called me out on it.

Yet I can’t stop.

And today, at work, with the quiet buzz of students working and nothing but a six hour shift to distract me, it gave those worries and anxieties power, as I felt trapped. So much power that I physically felt the stress I was causing myself due to a situation that is partly out of my control. I couldn’t focus on anything. The first hour of my shift was spent looking at everything I needed to do or should be doing–or hell, even wanted to do–yet my body was so pent up with anxiety and worry and fear spawned directly from thinking too much that I was left without an outlet. I was stuck at work, in a public place. I couldn’t escape anywhere else. I couldn’t slip into bed and hope tomorrow I feel better. I couldn’t hide in the shower and let hot bullets of water pelt into my back as I attempt to release my worries through tears safely shed in the comfort of my own home. I couldn’t even go on a run and try to physically rid myself of all this pent up ridiculousness that I shouldn’t be feeling to begin with but can’t help it because I’m so insecure and don’t know what I’m doing. 

Except, there was an outlet. One shiny, glorious and downright surprising sliver of peace: writing a pitch.

On my To-Do list was writing a pitch for THE RESISTANCE, the novel I’m pitching next week to the Pitch to Publication contest. I opened a document to start writing this pitch at the beginning of my shift, but gave up on it because of the knots in my stomach and the stress caused by overthinking things I shouldn’t be overthinking (which is only made worse being hyper aware that your worries are for naught yet they still exist within you anyway). I ate dinner during my break and came back and opened the blank draft again. And I stared at it for a bit. Eventually, I got a sentence down. And then another. I pushed and wrote and focused on the always difficult task of trying to sum up an entire novel into three paragraphs that make it sound enticing, unique and make you want to figure out the end, while also making sure the hook, the stakes, the characters, the genre, the age group and the word count are all included. And then I finished a draft of the pitch and reread it. And reworked it.

It wasn’t until I was tweaking a third read-through that I realized my chest didn’t feel so tight anymore; my muscles not to tense; my mind not so panicked. Granted, all those emotions are still lingering and fighting their way back to the forefront of my mind, even as I write this post, but for a moment there; for a solid 30 minutes of work, I was able to escape it all when I thought there was no outlet available to me, through crafting a pitch about my writing. Something that I normally loathed to do, because I suck at it. Yet in this instance, it gave me peace, even if it was short lived.

Life can get hard, sometimes. Living with insecurities and anxiety and depression and self-doubt and being a worrywort and an overthinker makes life harder than it probably should be, at times. Being aware of that makes it even worse. And there are so many aspects of my life that I don’t have control over; that I have to trust others with, knowing that things might not always work out, even if I desperately want them to. But I take a lot of comfort in knowing that no matter what life throws at me or what I go through (or sometimes put myself through) emotionally, there is one constant, one comfort, I can always count on in my life: my writing. I may never get published, but that’s not what I mean here, when I talk about my writing. My dream of being an author may never come true and a lot of that I have no control over. But that won’t stop me from writing. I’ll never run out of stories I need to pen or the desire to write. And I don’t think life will ever grow too difficult that writing won’t give me an escape or a chance for peace. I will always have that.

And thank God for that.

Cheers.


An Anxiety-Riddled Weekend

For the first time in a long time, I found myself counting down the days until the weekend was over, hoping that by the time Monday came around, everything would be okay.

It all started with me feeling good, even slightly accomplished. I have anxiety on various levels regarding different things and one of them is talking on the phone. I’m not 100% sure why this is an anxiety-trigger for me, but it is. So one afternoon, after making lunch, I managed to suppress it long enough to call and schedule not only an apartment showing, but also to get recall repairs done with my car (which I had been putting off for a little over a month). I felt accomplished. I felt like I was adulting and doing it well. I have a decent amount saved up in my bank account and I recently applied for a job that, if I get it, would solve a lot of financial problems. Things were looking good.

Cue apartment showing. The apartment itself was cute, albeit small and, since we were being showed a place where a tenant currently lived, trashed. That was a bit disappointing, but I still liked the apartment and thought I could make things work with it. So I started making tentative plans of possibly moving into one around the end of the summer and wrapping my mind around the paycheck-to-paycheck living that would induce. Even looking at the cheapest apartment I could find, bringing in paying for loans and not getting cable/internet, I was looking at $50 extra a month after bills. So not exactly exciting, but with my savings, it was doable.

Fast-forward to Friday, when I took my car to the shop. I’ve always had old cars, so I have massive anxiety when taking them up to the car shop, because no matter what I take it in for, nth number of problems arise and I always owe over a grand in repairs. Luckily, my friend surprised me and we got to go eat lunch and run some errands during the repairs, so I didn’t sit wallowing in anguish waiting for my wallet to drain. We get back and the recall repair went smoothly and they changed my oil. Damage: $33 dollars. The relief is beyond anything I’ve felt in a long time. I skipped out to Smaug–that’s what I named her, with her maroon color and my love for dragons–started her up and left the lot. As I turned out of the lot, I touched the brakes as a car is about to drive past.

She didn’t stop.

I slammed my foot down and the other car swerved as I barely managed to get the car to stop. My entire body shook. Why weren’t my brakes suddenly working? I managed to get her turned around and back to the shop. Of course, this situation only grows worse because my natural response to most emotions is to cry (not to mention my period, at that point, was only days away from beginning, so the waterworks were in high supply and overeager). So I walked back in, found the gent that was helping me, my eyelids brimmed with tears, and tell him my breaks weren’t working. He discovered that not only was I out of break fluid, but there was also a leak. Plus, oil leaks. And advised me to drive really careful on the way home, because it isn’t particularly safe until I get that looked at. I had told him previously I had a friend who was a mechanic that was going to fix my taglight (as, a week or so earlier, I got pulled over for the second time in my life for having my taglight go out) so he suggested that I had that friend take a look at my breaks. And then he left.

Sidenote: Only after I got home did I think that perhaps the car dealership that did the repairs was to blame for the faulty breaks. I just wrote it off as miraculous timing on my part. I also didn’t even think about asking them to look at my car, as the man made it seem like that wasn’t an option and I just wanted to get out of there before I started truly crying. Not the best situation all-around, in hindsight.

Shaking uncontrollably and braking each time by touching the pedal to the floor and stopping at least 100 feet behind the car in front of me at each stoplight–pissing off all the drivers around–I made it home. Midway through, the dam broke and I’m bawling, yet only out of one eye, I noticed at a stoplight. Still shaking, the skin around my eyes and on my cheeks tight, I run into the bathroom to avoid my brother, lest he see me as a hot mess. I get in the bath and finish out my stress-and-anxiety-induced-crying-session, with one conclusion: I have to bite the bullet and get a new car. I’ve been putting it off as long as I could, fixing Smaug every time she broke down. It was proving too dangerous and too costly to continue doing so. Yet the problem remained:

I don’t have any money. Not enough to afford a new car or a higher car payment, that’s for dang sure. Yet I have to commute to work. And just a few days prior, I was struggling to figure out how to come up with paying for the cheapest apartment I could find in the town where I work; and that was before I had to consider a higher car payment. Plus, my first payment for my student loan comes out next week. Oh, and this all happened on Friday and I was supposed to start back up at work on Sunday. Yet I needed a new car.

Yeah, let’s say I was more than a little stressed out, as flashbacks to the stresses that inspired my Catch-22: My Life Edition post came rearing their ugly heads again. Friday night was spent with a lot of tears in front of my parents as they were both forced to rearrange their Saturdays so they could go with me to the dealership–because even if I didn’t want their expertise, which I definitely did, I don’t make enough to get a new car without a co-signer. I didn’t sleep, riddled with the anxiety of trying to buy a reliable car without money and contemplating selling my organs, plus trying to avoid being conned and ripped off, as is common with places like car dealerships.

We’ll fast-forward through Saturday, as trust me, it doesn’t make for a riveting story. The only highlight of the day was when I sat outside and read Jeff Salyards’ Chains of the Heretic for almost two hours before we left for the dealership–the only ounce of peace I managed all weekend, despite the book not being peaceful at the slightest. Damn Deserters. Left home at four, got home at 11:30pm, but came home with a used 2015 model that had working a/c, a radio that didn’t stop working when you hit bumps in the road, a plug-in for an IPod, plus so many other features so foreign to me, previously never owning a car that was less than 10+ years older than the current year.

Oh, and a car payment double what I had previously.

It’s Monday. I’m back at work. I’m still getting used to having a car that actually functions and trying to get used to driving it (as, of course, I get anxiety driving, as well, regardless of what car I drive). I have a trip to the DMV to look forward to. I didn’t submit the application to the apartments as I need to reevaluate my financial situation. Again. I’m so thankful that weekend is over. I’m thankful for my supportive parents who helped out and dealt with my tears, my frustrations and my anxiety, while giving me support and rides and advice. And I’m stressed out. Like I always have been, money drives me mental and makes me want to curl into a ball and never unfurl. My anxiety has been worse of late and I feel myself unfolding, dangerously, and losing hope that I’ll ever make it out in the “real world,” if I ever figure out what “making it” means.

Yet life is good.

Why? Because for the first time ever, I have a safe, reliable car I can depend on (and a stereo finally befitting of my  hardcore jams). I’m reading a good book that kept me up past my bedtime last night and I didn’t even regret it this morning when my alarm went off at eight. I just started writing a new book about a character I have already fallen in love with, yet I’m only five pages in. My coworkers greeted my return today with warmth. My dog and I have walked for two weeks straight now and I get to take him on a walk when I get home tonight. There are yummy leftovers in the fridge and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies came out on DVD, finally.

Yes, I’m stressed out. Yes, I’m struggling. But a part of me believes that every 20-something, every young professional, goes through struggling and living paycheck-to-paycheck at the beginning; almost like a rite-of-passage type of deal. So I’m going through that rite now (ha, look at that witticism. Look at it!). And a lot of it sucks. But life doesn’t suck. Not having a lot of money and always keeping a tight wallet is a bummer, but it isn’t the end of the world. Life is still great, regardless of those factors. And one day, I’ll make it. Until then, I’ll keep pushing, struggling, stressing and finding the things that make life worthwhile and chokeholding them to remind me that regardless of it all, there are still good things and good people in the world. I desperately hope you had a better weekend!

Cheers.

PS: In case you were wondering, I did already name my new car. She’s named the nickname I wish I was cool enough to give myself, because I think it is just awesome. Her name is Dovahkiin.


The Power of Reading

I’ve mentioned a few times, I believe, on this blog, that I recently just moved roughly 11 hours from home, to start the next step in my adventure: grad school. And let me just tell you that the process of being admitted late into grad school, plus figuring out the next steps required to enroll, not to mention finding a place to live while being unable to visit before you actually move, is not the easiest — or smoothest — process in the world. I found myself often times getting frustrated and overwhelmed. And, unfortunately, my instinctual reaction whenever I have any intense emotional response (positive or negative) usually involves the water works. I remember making cookies in my kitchen back home, one day, trying to find an apartment when all the leases started in June — this was mid-July. Surprisingly (and almost disappointedly) you couldn’t even taste the tears in my cookies.

Needless to say, it was a rough period for me. I was constantly running into roadblock after roadblock, making even step in this process require ten more unnecessary ones just to move forward. Only to be hit with, yet again, another roadblock. Frustration didn’t begin to cover it. Yet I was able to overcome many frustrations and anxieties through, to some, maybe a surprising form of inspiration and courage: by thinking about what I have read and written.

What does that even mean? I have read many books, most of the fantasy genre. I believe that also means that I have lived many lives. Through books, let me tell you of my accomplishments: I’ve walked into the very fires of Mordor. I’ve escaped my branding as a slave until I rose to the rank of general (despite not even being a lighteyes). I’ve became a knight, even though I was a woman. I’ve pulled the sword out of the stone and I have sat on the Iron Throne. I’ve fought wars, I’ve healed wounds, I’ve been betrayed, I’ve fallen in love. I’ve conquered and I have lost. I have suffered and I have survived. I’ve roamed with Elves and Dwarves, fought against — and with — dragons. Through reading, I have lived a thousand lives.

With every text I read came its own set of accomplishments and failures, some that stuck with me more than others. And when I was crying in my kitchen, looking at a list of a dozen apartments, most of which were crossed off because they were either full or out of range for my meager budget, I couldn’t help but feel completely lost. I felt like I had agreed to do something completely out of range of my capabilities; bit off more than I could chew, as it were. And, on top of it all, I also felt stupid for getting so worked up — and failing so miserably — at simply finding a place to live. It was just an apartment search, after all.

I went downstairs, determined to give up. It was hopeless (I know, I am one for the dramatics, it seems). I opened my laptop and found a copy of my manuscript I had been working on the previous night, opened up on my screen. And I started to think about one of my characters: McKenna. Her life is not easy. Often, when I wrote her chapters, I came up with the worst path she could possibly have to endure and then I went down that road, to see where it led. And no matter what I made her go through, I never turned around. I never backtracked to the easier path. I made her push through it. And she did.

In one of the most odd ways, I drew confidence from her. Here was a woman who had a shit life, who was forced to harden herself against the world, after it had taken everything away from her, simply to survive it. And her task wasn’t finding a place to live — she wasn’t lucky enough to have a place to call home. Nothing permanent, anyway. No, her task was to try and save multiple worlds, despite having every deck stacked against her. And she went after it without a blink of an eye. And I created her.

If she could do all of that, I could find a bloody apartment. I closed my laptop lid and went back upstairs, list of apartments in tow. It took a few more phone calls, but by that afternoon, I had a plan. By the end of the week, I had a lease. A few weeks later, I moved in.

Since moving away from home, I’ve continued to run into plenty of roadblocks: living in an apartment without a stove/dishwasher/a/c unit; staying in town for a week and not making a single friend; attempting to cook an entire meal on a single hot plate and quickly discovering that pasta is about the only weapon in my arsenal I can wield properly and not feel sick after wielding; undergoing my first teaching demo and failing. The emotional roller coaster has been real. Then, the night before I had to teach for the first time, I felt all of the stress and the nerves and the doubt and the self-loathing threatening to overpower me. I couldn’t sleep, could barely eat, couldn’t concentrate on anything else, but the inevitable failure that loomed before me. Not knowing what else I could do, I turned to the only place I could imagine where I could have comfort, solace or even guidance:

A book.

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks, to be precise. Weeks is one of my favorite authors, having read his other series, The Night Angel trilogy previously. I started Prism a few months ago, to be honest. And it has taken me that long to work through the first 200 pages. I found myself choosing to do other things than read and neglecting the book a lot more than I should have. Yet as I lay in my bed, the clock ticking closer and closer to the dreaded first day of teaching, I found that I wanted nothing more than to get lost in that world; to engulf myself in Kip’s problems, to sympathize with Karris’s anger and to be both intrigued and impressed by Guile. Between that evening and the next morning, I read over 100 pages. When I slept, I wasn’t haunted by the nightmares that plagued me the previous week, of failed lesson plans and drowning underneath ocean waves. I dreamt of living in the world of Tyrea, with Prisms and drafters and the power of light. I woke up too early that morning, still with the flutterings of nerves, but I got ready slowly, my mind still reeling from the latest twist that I read over my cereal. I got to campus early and ate my lunch on a bench, rereading a few pages to make sure I had read the words right — Guile could not have done that to his brother. That meant…

My walk to class, I contemplated what my new discovery revealed. And as I walked into the classroom and greeted my freshmen, preparing to teach my lesson and preparing myself, I kept Prism sitting on the table beside me. If Kip could survive the Thresher, I could survive 50 minutes with students that were just as terrified as I was, only for different reasons. And I did.

My point is this: books are so much more powerful than you could ever imagine possible. Those who do not understand the pleasure of reading obviously are not doing it right. You invest yourself within these stories and that investment is returned to you tenfold. You have the chance to experience wonders that are impossible to this world at the hands of a paperback. The stories you fall in love with, you do so for a reason. There is a power to them that is unstoppable. For me, I find courage within them. By reading, I feel whole; myself, in ways I can’t otherwise. And though the “problems” I have dealt with the past month or so may have been minuscule to the problems I have read and survived, they felt very real to me.

The books and characters that helped me through them were just as real. And I am forever grateful to them.

Cheers,

Nicole

PS: If you caught some of the references I made to very specific books throughout this piece without actually naming them outright, I’m impressed.