What I Want

I want to be okay. That’s all. I want to be healthy, happy, unconcerned. I want to wake up in the morning and be excited to get out of bed.

I want friends. I want people who like me and understand me. Not a lot of them, maybe – just one or two would be nice. One or two who stay. One or two who don’t move away or find other people or just stop talking to me all of a sudden. I want to sit in a group of people and not feel like the outsider for once. I want to be with them and not feel like I have to keep trying for them to like me.

I want to fall in love. I want to meet someone who is attracted to me and who I am attracted to as well. I want a relationship that goes beyond an exchange of phone numbers and maybe an awkward kiss or handshake. I want someone who understands me.

I want a job that I enjoy. I want to spend the majority of my day doing something that makes the time go by, and yet I still make money nonetheless, at least enough money to survive. I want a stress-free place to stay in and depend on. I want the opportunity to feel free, like I can grow and change and become who I was meant to be. I want to be in the light and the earth, growing tall and new and green like a vine, rather than stunted and ugly like a weed.

I want a mind that remains calm in the storm. I want to face difficulty with a carefree smile and a shrug, rather than the question of whether or not this is it, the thing that breaks me for good. I want confidence in my ability to weather the hurricane, rather than the fear that I will be drowned in it. I want arms that are clear and soft and free of cuts or claw marks. I want hope and thrill and contentedness.

I want little, I think. I just want to be the way people say I should be – a happy, beautiful, well-adjusted young woman with my whole life ahead of me. That’s what I want. That’s all.

Bullies at the Gym

I’ve only really been attending a gym since about last summer, although I’ve been exercising regularly for a year and a half now. There’s no real reason why I started at home, besides the fact that I had a sufficient amount of equipment (thanks, mom), it was fairly inexpensive, and it was just easier to do in general. But because of this, I never really had the experience of being a person who was self-conscious of her body going to the gym. By the time I started, I already felt like I was fairly fit – maybe not as fit as I wanted, but still, nothing that I was ashamed of.

But even still, I hear stories all the time of girls who are incredibly self-conscious of their bodies and afraid to go to the gym because they might get made fun of.

Hell, I hear stories all the time of girls who do go to the gym and get made fun of.

And though I’ve never seen it personally (I’m pretty oblivious to what’s going on around me at the gym, with my headphones blaring 80’s rock music directly into my brain), I am sorry and disgusted for the girls who have, and the girls who are afraid to go to the gym because of it.

Because the gym shouldn’t be an elitist sort of place. In fact, I love the gym because of that. I love looking around at all the different sorts of people that go there. I love the muscle-heads who drop their weights dramatically after every set and walk away, satisfied to have achieved dem gainz. I love the super skinny girl there to show up every guy who automatically assumes he can do better than her. I love the people who are just starting out and don’t know what to do yet, because this is all so new to them and who knows, maybe they’ll grow to like it. Or maybe they won’t. That’s okay too.

The gym is supposed to be a place that brings so many different kinds of people together in a non-judgmental, trying-to-improve-your-life-if-you-can sort of way. It is not supposed to be a place that knocks down your self-esteem.

Because regardless of how your body looks, regardless of how much you can lift or how long you can stay on the treadmill, this is supposed to be a space that you can occupy. It is supposed to be a space that can help you – not to lose weight or look better (the two things do not necessarily go hand-in-hand), but to achieve your fitness goals and maybe get a little bit healthier. To build up a endorphins that will make you feel a little bit better throughout the day. To do what you want to do without anyone trying to pull you down because of it.

And that’s what I think all of this bullies at the gym forget when the mock someone for how they look. These bullies buy into a very limited ideal of what is beautiful (probably because they’ve spent so much time and energy simply trying to chase it themselves), and in some strange, cruel way, I imagine that they think they’re helping you by giving you inspiration to work harder and lose the weight that, really, isn’t holding you back. The gym is a place to get healthier, and fat isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re unhealthy. It’s just fat, and it is as beautiful as anything else on the human body.

These bullies are wrong, and you don’t need to listen to them. I know, it can be very hard to do, especially considering (whether they realize it or not), they’re preying on the weak. They’re attacking things that your very presence in the gym might prove you’re self-conscious of. It can be very discouraging to be trying to lose that weight and have some make fun of you because it isn’t going away fast enough. They might make you want to give up, to stop trying altogether. But they shouldn’t. You have just as much right to this space as they do, and you deserve every chance to make the most of it.

So as difficult as it might be to do, if someone ever tries to tear you down because of how you look at the gym, remember that they’re the pathetic ones. They’re the ones who have bought into an incredibly limited definition of beauty, ones that is harmful and false, and you don’t have to listen to them. All you have to do is keep doing what you do, and rocking what you have. Because it is incredibly beautiful.

The Strength and Goodness of Superheroes

In many houses around the world, today is known as the day when a fat man with a bushy, white beard and an addiction to sweets breaks into your house and leaves you nice things. And as the fact that I am DC Comics trash is known as wide and far as the North Pole, Batman and Wonder Woman swag was an easy choice for Santa to leave me.

And as I am opening what must have been my fifth or sixth present that revealed the DC Comics logo beneath the snowflake wrapping paper, I find myself asking a question that I actually don’t consider all that often: what is it about superheroes that I love so much?

Well, my sixth present does, in fact, offer me some sort of hint: I unfurl the entire Wonder Woman workout outfit, and I’m filled with excitement for the inspiration I’m going to receive from it. Because, strangely, superheroes make me feel powerful.

You’d think that it would work opposite. After all, I (unfortunately) don’t belong to a race of Amazons like Wonder Woman, and I’m not nearly as wealthy or mentally ill as Batman. I can’t dress up in a costume and fight crime, and I don’t know if I’d want to even if I could. But nonetheless, whenever I look at these characters, I’m filled with their strength – more their emotional strength than their physical strength.

Because a common theme in many superhero story lines is the theme of never giving up. Of being beaten up and knocked down and losing everything, and yet still getting back up and doing what you know is right, what you know you have to do. Even if I can’t relate to hiding my identity behind a mask so that I can go out at night and beat up the Joker, I can relate to being emotionally damaged and wanting to give up. I can relate to losing all will to continue, and thinking that it would be easier to just let it stop, just giving in to the common flow of life. And whenever I feel this way, I can just turn to my favourite superheroes to remind me that I can’t do that. I have to stand up and I have to fight for what I want and what I need – not necessarily physically, the way that they do, but most certainly mentally.

And, in a way, that leads me to the second theme in superhero story lines that I love so much: the theme of hope and optimism.

Certain superheroes turn to this theme more often than others, but it’s present in all superhero stories. In fact, it’s an almost essential part of the genre, because every single superhero (not anti-hero, necessarily) relies on the belief that there is at least one person out there who is capable of possessing ultimate power and using that only for the good of humanity.

Every single superhero looks at the world and sees a world worth saving. They see people who are, ultimately, good, even while they fight people who do the ugliest, cruellest deeds imaginable. In fact, there are many superheroes (including Batman, despite his reputation for being a more ‘dark’ superhero) who outright refuse to kill their villains, regardless of what the crimes they are guilty of, because they still hold onto the belief that these are people who are simply in need of help, who are capable of being reformed under the right circumstances.

It’s difficult, sometimes, to maintain hope and optimism in a society such as ours, filled as it is with social injustices and war and Trump, but whenever I’m starting to feel a little bit down, all that I need to do is turn to my superhero friends, and they help me to see the good in society once again.

Superhero stories reveal the good, while still refusing to conceal the bad. They explore an endless variety of social themes, from mental illness, drug abuse, physical/mental abuse, social inequalities, ect., but at the end of the day, no matter what happens in the course of the text, there is always this one great, powerful figure, this one man or woman who desires nothing more than to help. And they remind me of the good, strong people that exist in our society, the ones who truly do strive to make a change. They remind me of the sort of person I want to be – the strength that I wish to adopt, the goodness that I wish to embody. Maybe I can’t dress up in a costume and beat up criminals, but I can go out into the world and make a change. And that is all that I need to do.

How Anxiety Has Made Me Stronger

Some days are better than others.

I can’t really say what distinguishes the bad days from the good. Sometimes, it’ll just seem like a thought strikes me when I’m in a bad mood or when I’m hungry, and then my mind will refuse to let it go, clinging tight to it.

You’re directionless, and you’ll never amount to anything unless you change that.

Oh my god, you’re right, I realize, and suddenly the next few weeks are spent in a mad rush to get things done – even if there really isn’t much to get done. Especially when there isn’t much to get done.

Then, sometimes, I can go for days, weeks, even months without even remembering that I have anxiety. I’ll be relaxed, happy, driven but not to the point that I’m causing myself stress over it. I’ll think hopefully to myself, I’m cured! but even at the time, I’ll know it won’t be true.

Because at the end of the day, I know what I am; I am a person with anxiety, whether I like it or not.

I first discovered that I had anxiety when I was about nineteen years old, though I know that I had it long before that. I simply hadn’t attached a name to it yet, because I was still frantically Googling “why am I stressed all the time” to figure out what was wrong with me. Putting a name to the problem was a huge relief, but even still, I elected not to use medication. I wasn’t entirely opposed to the idea, but I wanted to find out if I could learn to control it on my own first.

After reading about the problem and coming to understand it a bit better, my first attempt at controlling it was through diet and exercise. I tried to eat healthier, tried to keep myself active, and with time, I did find that it made a bit of a difference. I was less prone to stress when I ate a good, healthy meal every two to three hours. The only problem with it was whenever I couldn’t depend on that level of regularity, whenever the third hour drifted by and my stomach was left empty and yearning, I got just as bad as I had been before. I have been known to go into panic attacks simply because the person in line behind me at Shoppers Drug Mart was just a tiny bit rude. So, yes, eating healthy and keeping active most certainly helped, but in no way did it cure me.

My second attempt at controlling my anxiety was through a simple change in thought. I tried to be more mindful of my condition and take things slower, recognize when I was getting bad. If I felt myself going into a panic attack, I’d try to talk to myself, remind myself that I was alright and that it was only my anxiety. If I felt like I was going to fast, hurdling toward a brick wall that I knew would break me, I’d remind myself that I needed to slow down. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes I simply forgot about it.

My attempts at controlling anxiety have, as you can see here, been flawed – but effective nonetheless. Regardless of their moments of failure, they have, nonetheless, made me a much stronger person. When I discovered that I had anxiety, it was only because I was crippled by it – I had no other choice than to confront it. That most certainly is not the case anymore. I’m a functioning, self-aware person who is striving to meet my goals – not despite my anxiety, but regardless of it.

My anxiety will always be a part of me – I will never be cured of it entirely, but maybe I don’t have to be. Maybe my anxiety is less a disorder, something that stands in my way and mars me somehow, and more just a part of me – a character trait. Just like some people have to learn how to function in this world regardless of the fact that they’re abrupt or stubborn or self-absorbed, I have to learn how to function regardless of being frequently anxious. I’m a person with anxiety in the same way that I’m a person with red hair, and a person with an affinity for pop culture.

It is nothing for me to be ashamed of, and it is not something that holds me back. It is something that I have learned how to control and live with. It is something that makes me stronger, not weaker.