I Won’t Give Up On Me

For this post I wanted to write about something a little personal but that is also a big part of me. According to the National Association of Mental Illness in a 2013 publication, one in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, or

LMU's own namesake is known for struggling with depression.

LMU’s own namesake is known for struggling with depression. It’s good to know that even the greats struggled!

about 61.5 million people. This statistic remains the same within the 18 to 24 age group- the age of most college students. In sharing my experience I hope to encourage others to seek help and to let them know that they are not alone.

For as long as I can remember anxiety has been a huge part of my life. Family and teachers would sometimes say that I worried so much that my hair would turn grey before their own hair did. I really only worried about grades. I loved school and I wanted to be good at it. This didn’t bother me so much because I thought it was just a sign of me being a good student. While that may have been the case, I came to realize when I was older that I could be a good student without having to worry about my hair turning grey.

Anxiety hit me really hard the beginning of freshman year of high school and slowly crept into every aspect of my life for the next four years. Tests had always been so easy for me in elementary and middle school but for some reason I could not get the hang of them in high school. I could go into a test knowing the material front and back but once the test was handed out it was like I had never been in that class before. The days we would get graded exams back were often devastating. Teachers I became particularly close to were key in helping me make it through those four years. They listened to my concerns and let me talk out my problems. I wasn’t looking for answers; I felt like when I talked about it openly it couldn’t hold so much power over me. Even if my teachers could not help otherwise, they were a sound board in which I could talk about the things I was afraid to.

Anxiety was not only an academic hindrance, but also a social one.  It wasn’t until high school that I went to parties or even stayed the night over at a friend’s house. Whenever I’d go hang out with friends I would have to promise myself to stay for at least an hour or so before I could allow myself to leave. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to hang out with them. It was just that we’d be out somewhere with lots of people and noise and I’d feel overwhelmed. I would want to go off by myself to get away from it all to calm down. I distanced myself from friends and turned down more offers to socialize than I accepted. I closed myself off from everyone and everything and soon became seriously depressed. I was giving up on everything in my life, from friends and grades to my future goals. I was giving up on me.

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Blue Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference

I knew that when I came to college that it would be the perfect time to try new things and become a more well-rounded student, so I was determined to take advantage of this opportunity. I made a promise to myself to do at least one big thing that scares me each semester. This did not have to be anything extreme like going skydiving or trekking through the Amazon, although the latter would be cool! Rather, I needed to do something new that I am either nervous about doing or would normally never consider doing before. I came up with this new rule for myself when I learned about the Blue

Baby sea otters are a soft spot of mine.

Baby sea otters are a soft spot of mine, so it’s natural that they would be part of a plan to make me try new things!

Ridge Undergraduate Research Conference (BRURC) from one of my professors. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew I needed and wanted to get experience with research and get my name out there as early as possible. I may only be a freshman, but time runs out very quickly and there’s too much life out there to just passively live.

It was decided. I would start off on a different foot with a project that I affectionately named (Don’t laugh!) OTTERS: One Terrifying Thing Every Remaining Semester. I have a deep love for acronyms and otters, so the two naturally went together! The first step on this journey, I knew, had to be something big. One of my biggest fears is public speaking and, despite absolutely not wanting to voluntarily put myself in a situation in which I would have to do so, I started working on a project that I would present at BRURC.

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The Chamber of Secrets – a.k.a. Your Professor’s Office

CoS

Being able to speak Parseltongue is not a requirement!

As most of you already probably know, I thrive on being in small classes and one-on-one attention from professors is priceless to me. While I am only a freshman, I have already had classes with just three students in them. , including me. Even my “worst case scenarios” involve me being in classes with fifteen or so students, so it never is unbearable for me. However, even with such small classes, a little extra guidance or help with an assignment is almost always needed. Asking a professor in class may not be your forte or asking for help with something after class may not be the most opportune time. After all, LMU is a busy place! Chances are, your professor has something going on after your class or you have something else that is occupying your own time. Using office hours is often the best way to get one-on-one attention from your professors, even though it may feel a little intimidating at first. Entering their offices for the first time may make you feel like you’re Harry Potter first entering the Chamber of Secrets. But instead of finding a basilisk on the other side, you will find, as cliche as it sounds, a ton of resources you may have otherwise not have known about!

When I attended Governor’s School in the summer of 2012 (which you can read about here!), a lot of adjusting had to happen on my part. That was the first time I had ever come across professors. I was fascinated by the fact I called them Dr. “Whatever their last names were” instead of what I called them in my years of education leading up to that point. It was a little intimidating, I’ll admit. These people were serious and I felt like I did not want to waste their time. I soon adjusted to this fact until I found myself wanting a little bit more help in my English class. I wanted to improve my writing, but I had no idea how to ask my professor in such a way that wouldn’t require us to completely stop both of our schedules to formulate an answer. I remembered that both of my professors at UT Martin had given us a list of their office hours and told us to come by if we ever needed anything. I decided to try my English professor’s office hours, so I emailed him, scheduled a specific time for me to come by, and prepared the questions I wanted to ask.

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Honors Preview Day

On February 15th LMU welcomed twenty prospective students and their families to partake in the interview process to gain admission to the Honors Program. This was the second annual Honors Day in which prospective LMU students who qualified interview in hope for admission to the Honors Program. I was part of the first group to participate in Honors Day, so this was the first time I was on the other side of the interview process. It was such a big day for me!

Walking to class sometimes feels like I'm doing this!

Walking to class sometimes feels like I’m doing this!

Check-in began at the Hamilton Math and Science Building at 10:30 a.m., and those of us already in the program who were helping had to be there thirty minutes prior. Merry, my suite-mate who is in the Honors Program with me, and I volunteered to help out together and we were both excited to meet the incoming freshmen! Because of the massive amount of snow that accumulated here in Harrogate that week, and the distance between Mitchell Hall, my dorm, and the Hamilton building, it was necessary for us to leave a little early in order to walk there in time. There’s one perk to living in the mountains in the winter: you quickly learn how to walk on snow and even ice without falling (or without people seeing you!) or slipping too much! Walking to class when it’s snowy and icy surely adds a sense of adventure to my day!

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Putting the “Lingua” in “Linguaphile”

I love words. My favorite part about words has always been language- ever since I was younger I loved talking (only to those who knew me best), listening, and reading more than anything else.  Many people who have known me for quite some time are not surprised that I became an English major. In fact, many say that I was born to become one! However, my love for words has not remained only in English. Much of my love for words finds itself in dusty Latin books or in the corners of the world I may only get to travel to in the books I read.

languagebooksHigh school was the first time I had any formal foreign language education and it set the course for my love for it in college. I took three years of Latin and was a member of the Tennessee Junior Classical League (TJCL), a society of middle and high school Latin students who participated in a variety of state-wide competitions. Students can do anything from art pieces and skits, to sports and academic testing. My freshman year, my high school’s Latin club went to the TJCL competition in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and I took the Vocabulary Level I and Grammar Level I academic tests. To prepare for this, my Latin teacher gave me about twenty pages of Latin vocabulary to study about one month away from the competition. I carried that list around with me everywhere! With all the studying I did, I was able to place 4th in vocabulary and 22nd in grammar. With hundreds of students taking the test and me placing so high, I was overjoyed with my accomplishments!

A lot of people I talked to prior to the Gatlinburg competition wondered why I was so into looking at all of those sheets of vocabulary. All I could think to say was that I couldn’t get enough of it. The sense of accomplishment when I was able to figure out what a word in English meant by remembering its Latin cognate was incomparable. I was not only learning Latin, but I was also learning how my own native language developed. I began to realize that you can’t quite fully understand your own language and culture until you know where it comes from. The same love for language I had when I was younger has since followed me here to LMU and has greatly shaped who I am and who I hope to become. Continue reading