Writing Samples

I Play Pretend. I’m Twenty-Six

Anxiety comes at different times and at different volumes, so we must have an arsenal on hand to combat it. Me…I combat it by playing pretend. I write stories. I journal about the random nonsense in my imagination. Sometimes even, I play with makeup and costumes and temporarily turn myself into someone else.

Combatting anxiety begins by being aware of the present moment. But often, for me, the present moment of breathing in and out is unexciting. Noticing your thoughts and letting them go is a productive method, I will concede to that, but I prefer to steer those thoughts in another productive direction. So, I pick an imaginative scenario, and just let my mind play with it. Maybe I start out in a forest, and I keep walking until I reach a beach, or perhaps a castle. Then I will try to notice every detail about that setting. Is the beach golden and full of seashells, or is it crystal white with sparkling bits in it? Is the castle old and grey, or is it tall and pristine with alabaster towers?

Some might think this is more a distraction than actually facing my anxious thoughts, but I’m creating something to draw upon when anxious thoughts arise: a happy place, if you will. And the more I get to know this place, the more I can add things like characters, voices, and music to it. In this present moment, I am choosing beauty over misery, directing my imagination toward pleasure and hope.

Of course, this method is when I’m away from home. When I feel anxious at home, I use my makeup brushes to paint a new character onto my face. I’ll even curl my hair, which requires a steady pair of hands, as well as deep, even breathing. And finally, I’ll slowly create a character by dressing up. The further along I get in this process, the more I’ll begin inhabiting the character’s thoughts. That’s because the character doesn’t share my anxieties, and I therefore have no place thinking of them.

It probably sounds a little like Ed Wood and Glenda, but getting into a character’s head is a twofold activity. I’m not just calming my mind with imaginative scenarios, I’m also creating new ideas to write about.

What I Learned During My First Adjuncting Year

You go one of three routes when you graduate from an MFA program: you pursue writing full-time, you return to your old job now declaring you can write, or you become a teacher.

By August 2018, reality had cooled me and my friends’ idealistic post grad dreams. We still wrote from time to time, but now we had to make some kind of living. I made mine by teaching English at a community college.

I had previous experience as a teaching fellow—a job made incredibly fun by a great mentor and a crop of amazing students. But I quickly learned to not compare being a teaching fellow with being an actual teacher.

For one thing, the environments were totally different socioeconomically. Most of my own students came from lower-class families or lower-tier schools, which meant their English education had been of significantly lower quality. Much of what I felt was common knowledge about English or essay writing was new to these kids. And that was beyond frustrating. I dreaded grading because I knew the same “stupid” mistakes would pop up time and again. In moments when my frustration at these mistakes bubbled into rage, I almost convinced myself I was teaching a bunch of idiots.

The fact is, I was realizing just how little American students could be taught about English. And it frustrated and horrified me all at once. How could an eighteen- or even fifty-year-old possibly not know the difference between “you’re” and “your”?

Sounds like a comedic sketch, doesn’t it: put an overeducated grammar Nazi teacher into a class of disinterested or ignorant students, and wait for the teacher to lose their cool.

It’s true that, much of the time, I was frustrated, lost, overwhelmed, and floundering—just like any workplace newbie. But there was one surprising little thing that kept me going.

I loved my students. Yes, they tested my nerves, but I still wanted to do right by them. I wanted to give them the English education that perhaps they never received. And if I had to work my butt off correcting all their mistakes and explaining MLA style for the fiftieth time—if it got them closer to achieving their dreams—then so be it.

As of August of this year, I have officially passed my first year as an adjunct. I’m no expert in the adjuncting world, but I like to think that I am in a different place than last August.

Be flexible 

Remember, you’re not just teaching college-age kids. You have adults with commitments like children, babysitters, relatives, as well as jobs. Outside emergencies may prevent some students from coming to class, or require them to step outside for a phone call. Don’t get angry at students for not sticking to your schedule if they have honest commitments. Being flexible also means being patient.

Prepare to work

Depending on your school of employment, how many credit hours you’re allowed to teach varies. That also depends on how many classes you manage to snag each semester. But either way, you have to keep track of several different students with different learning paces and learning needs. Some students might require extensions because of disability accommodations, or you might schedule several meetings to provide extra help. Your number one priority is always, always your students, but you have to still be mindful of your own health. Speaking of…

Take care of yourself

Make no mistake, you might have to work a twelve-hour day to get four classes’ final exams graded and turned in, but you should never, ever lose yourself to the grind. Even if it means taking five minutes between each paper to breathe and meditate, you have to slow down every once in a while. Yes, hard work and persistence are important, but so is making sure that you are centered and present so you can do your best work.

If at first you don’t teach right, try, try again

Teaching is an evolving practice. Not just because new material comes about year in and year out, but because it is also filled to the brim with trial and error. Don’t be afraid to tweak assignments or lessons if they don’t work. For instance, for a few semesters, I asked my students to practice evaluation by analyzing a short film we’d watched in class. But because this was a solo assignment, they turned in lots of summary and very little analysis. So eventually, I decided to turn it into an in-class assignment, where they could discuss among each other what made the short film good or bad. Not only did my students bond over what they liked and didn’t like, but they produced much better analyses with each other’s help. After that, their evaluative assignment grades skyrocketed—because I took a chance with another method.

Be kind

Whether you know it or not, your students have other concerns besides what’s happening in your class.   Being kind is every teacher’s responsibility, but especially toward freshman students getting used to a college schedule. Who knows? Your class period might be the only bright spot in a student’s day. I’m not saying you should hope your students’ lives are miserable to make your class a saving grace, though. Whatever’s happening in your students’ lives, extend kindness and courtesy to them.

Be the professor you loved most

After my first semester evaluation, my English Department Chair gave me one big piece of advice: relax. Fortunately, my Chair was understanding of my anxiety, and our conversation got me thinking about what I expected from my own college professors. It all came down to two things: that they respected what I had to say, and that their personalities and interests bled into classroom conversation. Once I learned to embrace these principles, I not only had more fun in class, but so did my students.

Obviously, teaching is not always a walk in the park, but neither is any vocation. When I graduated last spring, I did not expect to wind up a teacher, but the fact that I earn a small living teaching what I love most is a blessing. It just took several mistakes and much floundering in the dark to make it this far.

View at Medium.com

My First-Ever Relationship Came at 25

Everyone’s looking for love, and we seem to look for it younger and younger all the time. That’s not to say that relationships are beginning between, say, five-year-olds. But certainly, at five years old, we are already priming ourselves for meeting tall handsome strangers and falling in love.

Don’t worry, this isn’t another article bashing the Disney Princesses, nor the little girls wanting to be Disney Princesses. I’m just saying that this romance-addicted wallflower didn’t have a real relationship until her mid-twenties.

I’d always wanted a relationship, but I never really looked for one. I think I only started actually looking because I was twenty-four and had never been kissed. Experiencing love in more ways than mere distant pining sounded very nice too.

Long story short, I was terrible at the online dating game—in the sense that I was overeager. A “like” on my profile presented the thrilling possibility of a boyfriend. For a whole year, I made connections with some “likes,” but it stayed generic and polite. Luckily, my relentless optimism—or, I suppose, my inner Mary Katherine Gallagher—kept me going.

Imagine my surprise when one night, in late October 2018, I instant-messaged one guy for over seven hours, and by the end of it, we had exchanged numbers.

For context, I’d talked here and there with guys all across my school years. But I can’t remember having intimate conversations like this new guy and I did. After just a few weeks, I could touch his shoulder with ease, or not feel embarrassed when I laughed so hard I snorted. I could honestly, and very easily, call this guy my friend.

By the time we’d confessed our feelings, had our first kiss, our first cuddle, all that constitutes a relationship, I was twenty-five. I was not a teenager full of hormones and visions of forever—I was a working adult who could only take things one day at a time.

My boyfriend and I lived fifty minutes apart, so any sudden SOSs were answered with, “Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie,” rather than “Want me to come over?” Which was fine—the distance couldn’t be helped—but it wasn’t what I imagined my first relationship to be.

Being twenty-five also meant having my own apartment. So if I wanted sex, there were no parents or siblings to sneak around. Except, if I actually did have sex, then I was responsible for the consequences. Many times, I was desperate to feel the next realm of pleasure with this man I cared so much for, but the risks of sex shouted much too loud for me to ever do it.

And even with all that sexual desire, I could never fully say I was in love with this man. I kept weighing my feelings, but I never felt that forever vibe. After we eventually broke up, I remember feeling profoundly sad that I didn’t feel that. Wasn’t that how your first love was supposed to be? We never fought over stupid things and we communicated our needs relatively well. So why didn’t I feel like I would be with him for good?

I do sometimes wonder if my first relationship had happened when I was, say fifteen, rather than twenty-five. If I could have driven five or ten minutes to see him, done homework and talked gossip and nonsense with him—really felt that forever was just another possibility in our wide-open futures.

True, teenage relationships can feel great, but they are also full of awkward trial and error. You’re not good communicators, and your worldly perspective is not the most mature, which, you know, is just being a teenager. I had observed and learned enough about relationships to be prepared for them (more or less) by the time my first one happened.

All right, so maybe my first relationship wasn’t the wild, dramatic, or even awkward, stuff of romantic lore, but I am still glad it happened. Regardless of when relationships happen in your life, you learn from each one.

Five Tips for a Crisp, Brisk, Gentle Walk

Walks are, not surprisingly, pretty awesome. After all, they’re not very physically strenuous, and you get to slow down and enjoy your favorite sights. I myself happen to live by a scenic bike trail that winds not only through a quaint forest, but also my favorite part of town. So you can bet, when the trees turn all the shades of the earthy rainbow, I’m pulling out my floppy beanie and strolling through those trees and breathing that crisp fall air.

That said, there are ways to get the best for your boot, if you catch my drift. You can exercise your body, but do it comfortably and safely. Here are just a few tips I’ve learned over many years of strolling down country lanes and city bike trails.

1) Keep your back straight. When you walk, walk with pride. It’s not going to feel good to slump forward. Remember that a walk is supposed to gently move your body, and not cause undue physical stress. When you drop your shoulders and puff out your chest a little, you’ll not only walk a little taller, but you’ll feel a little taller too. Think back to The Princess Diaries when Julie Andrews teaches Anne Hathaway how to walk in a crowd like a princess (“We don’t slump like this!”).

2) Don’t force your pace. If you want to walk a certain distance in a certain amount of time, that’s fine. But I think a walk is enjoyed best when you don’t force a certain speed. Walk with a natural gait, and try not to consciously increase or decrease your speed. If you start walking faster for whatever reason, keep that speed until you naturally slow down.

3) If it’s safe, close your eyes for a moment. Sometimes, a walk relaxes me so well that, for a step or two, I will close my eyes and enjoy a good breath. With this step, though, you want to be aware of your surroundings. Don’t take this step when you’re crossing a street, or when you’re very close to other people. Wait until there is a suitable distance between you and other obstacles, and only close your eyes for a step or two. While you do so, make sure you take a good deep breath. The breath will not only help you keep your posture, but it’s also good timing for when you open your eyes again.

4) Wear supportive shoes. A good walk happens from the feet up. Supporting your feet will lead to good posture, and will maintain comfort on longer walks. I’ve sometimes gone walking wearing a fun new outfit, but that outfit’s shoes were not supportive for the walk I wound up taking. Shoes that have padding, or at least some give, for your feet can assist in you feeling and actually walking taller, as stated earlier. If you want to be fashionable on your walk, I would only recommend going as far as you are comfortable; it might not be as far as you want, but you don’t want to hurt your feet by taking them beyond their limit in improper shoes.

5) Listen to music that fits your pace. Have you noticed that you walk faster when you get an adrenaline boost? If I listen to music that excites me, I start walking in beat with the music. But if the music is slow and soothing, then my pace is the same. Again, you don’t want to force your pace. But if you want to keep a pace going for a while, then music might be a good idea. Remember, you want to take whatever steps you can to make yourself comfortable.

Long story short, walks are meant to be gentle, so enjoy them. Enjoy your surroundings, enjoy the company you keep, and don’t rush yourself — you probably already do enough of that during the day.

Save Your Heart for Someone Who Actually Tells You “Hello”

Online dating is a game that requires payment. Either method, whether it’s actual money, or your heart, is difficult to give up. It’s an especially tricky game when you have expectations. Strike that. Anything is tricky when expectations are involved. But expectations can run high when there is so much potential for so much to go right.

The truth is that you could play the online dating game for years, and only have a handful of meaningful connections. Sure, you might exchange pleasant small talk with several people, but maybe once or twice will you truly find something that promises rainbows and roses.

I think back to my first ever match, and I hardcore cringe at how hot I was for a guy just because he happened to “like” my profile. I thought, “Oh my God, I might have a boyfriend within the month!” Actually, that guy and I never even met. He didn’t even reply to my first message.

You see, I may be twenty-six, but I still have a young girl’s romantic aspirations. Heck, my favorite musical is Rogers’ and Hammerstein’s Cinderella because sparkly, romantic fairytale schmaltz is my jam! Despite my romantic inklings, though, I always hesitate to say on dating sites, “I’m just a whoever-I-am waiting for my prince.”

The very connotation of fairytale romance invites so much cynicism nowadays; even Disney, the modern inventor of “fairytale romance,” has cracked at it since 2007 with Enchanted. If a man says he’s waiting for his princess, it’s adorable and sensitive. But vice versa, a woman waiting for her prince is passive and naïve. A man can find his princess no problem, but a woman can’t find her prince because they’re not real and her standards are nigh on impossible.

But it all comes back to expectations.

I got ready for my first date like it was the prom: I spent a week shopping for the right outfit, and agonized over my hair and makeup, determined to make the best impression I could. I’d been talking to this man for a week, and this date could determine whether we went any further, which I wanted. Not necessarily because I was head over heels — goodness, it had only been one week — but more because someone merely expressing interest made this high school wallflower so gosh-darned jittery.

Long story short, there was not a second date. But I was proud, at least, that I’d gotten my first-ever date in the bag.

Over time, I learned to let my expectations go when meeting men. Just because they “liked” my profile, it didn’t mean that it was true love. And especially just because we have a good first date doesn’t mean we should make a Christmas card together. I admit, I still get the slightest flutter with each “like.” But then Time and Experience will snap in my face and say, “No, no, no, young lady. You can only feel this way when he actually talks to you and actually charms you.”

That’s not to say that online dating should not be exciting. You’re allowed to be eager about meeting new people and watching where the journey leads. But you might have a problem when you mourn the loss of a man who never even said “Hello” to you.

Can We Stop Pretending We Should Not Make Mistakes?

“We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way…”

I think about those lyrics from Natasha Bedingfield’s classic song “Unwritten” all the time. But then it sparks an inner debate that I still cannot quite settle. How much should we strive for perfection, and how much can we allow ourselves to screw up?

When I was younger, my father introduced me to an acronym he christened DIRTFOOT — “Do It Right The First Time.” To really push his point, he wrote it out in pen — the most permanent of all writing utensils, as a famous yellow sponge once mused. From then on, erasers were banned at the homework table. You had to strive to use the wrong end of your pencil as little as possible — if never.

Looking back, I see it was more of a measure to take careful steps in problem solving. But it still made me afraid of making mistakes. Starting over on a wrong math problem was a waste of time — something that could have been avoided if I had just been more careful. If one misstep occurred, then the entire problem was wrecked — start over, and do it right, this time, for God’s sake.

And yet, here I am, working in a profession that thrives on mistakes. Don’t worry; despite my father’s best and most desperate efforts, I’m still the fumbling eraser/backspace-user I was in childhood.

I think we all have an innate fear of judgment. Even those who proclaim their fearlessness at making fools of themselves have the smallest fear of winding up a comment section laughingstock. Or, in a more realistic sense, that the smallest mistake will irreparably upset someone.

Sometimes, it takes a stupid amount of time to ask a question, for fear of looking incompetent or ignorant. For instance, we’ve all had that teacher who expects us to know everything, and when we need help, they get angry that we wasted their time with a “dumb” question.

As a teacher, I always assert that no question is dumb. Because questions are, for the most part, honest. Judging a question as dumb actually wastes more time than a student — or any person, for that matter — making an honest inquiry.

I can also attest that, even if someone asks a lot of questions — and they might just as easily look this stuff up on the Internet — they trust you, an actual human being, with your wisdom and insight. It might be tiresome, but you’re taking part in another person’s learning opportunity. And that is a beautiful thing!

In fact, I center my freshmen composition classes around one principle: to not freak out if you mess up the first time. Writing is a skill that takes years to master — if one can ever truly master it — so not producing something great the first time is nothing to fret about. Once I give students the tools to do better next time, then that is what they usually do.

If someone is afraid to mess up, they expect to be punished for it. But in most situations where a mistake is punished, it does not need to be. Rather than reacting with anger or disappointment toward mistakes, and creating a learning stasis, we need to give people the tools to be excited about improving.

Perfection does not exist anywhere on Earth. So we should stop expecting it, especially the first time around.

Roses and Daffodils Don’t Compete

Let’s say you go on Facebook and see that your ex has found someone else. Regardless of how happy they seem, or how nice their new partner looks, your first thought might be “What a slut” or “What a douche.” Or perhaps your best friend gets their dream job, while you’re still stuck as a temp. You find yourself hoping, just the slightest, they’ll screw up their first day. Whatever the situation, you know you should be happy for the other person, but you still feel as though you’ve been cheated.

Being happy in your own situation is not easy. And the one thing any rational adult knows is that nothing is easy, especially being happy. We have so many daily grinds to balance that something like seeing an ex with someone new, or watching a friend move up the social ladder, can throw a wrench in keeping that balance consistently steady.

My father always says, “There’s always something” — always something to worry about, always something to keep an eye on, some new problem you have to solve. Whether those problems are internal or external, it doesn’t matter — our attention is always drawn to something worrisome.

Easing that vicious daily cycle starts with not turning life into a race or a contest.

We each have an idea of what will make us happy, ideas usually preceded by “if”: if I have a boyfriend…if I have my dream job…if I have this amount of money to my name…if…if…if. “If” indicates that something could be, and possibility is very appealing. I’m not saying that entertaining possibility is a bad thing, but we cannot spend too long dreaming and pining. Eventually, you have to suck it up and carry on with your day.

There is a saying about how the moon never competes with the sun: that is, the moon and the sun each rise at a designated point in the day. Each is equally beautiful and important to our lives, but they each have their time to shine.

It’s the same thing with flowers. They never compete as to who can bloom the fastest and look the prettiest. Each flower grows at its own natural pace, and each one is beautiful for one reason or another.

In other words, you might be a rose, and another person might be a daffodil. You’re both equally important, but you bloom and grow at different times, and at different rates. Know your own importance and self-worth, and you can thrive like the rose or daffodil — or whatever bloom you like — that you are.

No Cure for Cancer — That’s Okay. No Book Yet — HOW DARE YOU!

When I was a high school senior, I eagerly took an Advanced Creative Writing class. By graduation, I had written a full-length novel — my proudest accomplishment as a young writer; I’d pulled the only all-nighters of my high school career to get it done. As a result, my teacher gushed that it was the “best” project she’d seen in the several years she’d taught the class.

My parents were thrilled to hear that my book was the “best.” To them, that meant I should start writing query letters and looking for an agent. Forget revisions and re-reads — it was ready.

After ONE draft.

I truly appreciated the praise, though I think when my teacher said “best,” she meant “finished”; apparently, it was rare that students formally completed their projects. Regardless, until I started college, I was bombarded with one question from family and friends alike: When are you going to get published?

Several years later, I completed my Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, and the same question followed, though much more fervently — urgently. As though not publishing my graduate thesis, regardless of its quality, was an item to be checked off on a list ASAP.

Now, part of why I never published my senior year project was because I was afraid to take the step. I wasn’t lazy or unmotivated: just a teenager scared of rejection. But also, every time I revised, my critical eye got sharper and sharper. And I enjoyed it. Knowing that each revision made my work better was a comfort — that I was growing as an artist.

But still, the question kept coming: When are you going to get published?

Every writer faces varying degrees of pressure to actually publish. It can be just an idle pondering, or a serious inquiry as to where your hard work will go.

It is no secret that writers are their own worst critics. But it leads observers to think that writers want to achieve perfection in their creations. In extreme cases, perhaps. But the one thing every writer wants to achieve is emotional resonance. They want their work to make people feel and think — at the very least, they want people to connect with their work. And that is frustrating because, nearly all the time that they spend creating, they’re floundering in the dark.

“But,” a well-meaning outside observer might ask, “what about all those formula books on writing great fiction? Hmm? Surely there must be some formula for creating a young adult fantasy or an urban espionage thriller! Hmm??”

I think of writing formulas as over-the-counter medicine. Some, like ibuprofen, can cover all kinds of genres and storylines. But others, like melatonin, can only cover one or two. Sometimes, in order to achieve your writing goals, you have to come up with your own home remedy. And that is freaking hard! The amount of trial and error that comes before you make the slightest breakthrough is astounding!

Scientists trying to create new medicines do the same thing: they work with what’s at their disposal, trying over and over to see what will work. They always grow their knowledge and experience so that the next try will be better.

As a creator working with your own knowledge and experience, you are your own kind of scientist. Scientists don’t get flack for not having yet found the cure for cancer, so no one should give you flack for not having yet achieved your goals, in spite of your hard work.

As Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” It doesn’t matter if you find 10,000 ways, or even a million ways, that don’t work — you stay conscious of your goals and always use your failures to push you. You’re doing your best, with the tools and experience you have, and don’t ever let anyone undermine your work just because you haven’t checked it off yet. You’ll get there in time, just like the next scientific breakthrough.

Your Bed is for Sleeping; Your Thoughtful Spot is for Thinking

We literally carry our to-do lists wherever we go, in our minds and our phones. It’s practically impossible to detach and take a damn break. And sometimes the only place we can get a break is when we go to sleep — if we manage to get enough of it, or even any at all.

Think of it like this. Each room has a purpose, right? We cook in the kitchen. We hang out with friends in our living room. We tackle our to-do lists at our office desks. These are designated areas for different parts of our day, and you usually move from one room to another to do these things.

Remember Winnie the Pooh’s “thoughtful spot”? All you see him do there is sit and “think, think, think.” He doesn’t play there, he doesn’t take naps there — he doesn’t even enjoy his favorite snack of honey there. He is there to think, because that is the purpose of the thoughtful spot.

Therefore, if each room has a different purpose, then each room must be suited to it. If your living room is your hangout space, make it well lit and fill it with fun décor. If you want to sleep, create an environment that encourages relaxation. Light scented candles and have one or two soft lamps. You can string fairy lights over your bed for a gentle ambience.

So, when you finally lie down and close your eyes, take that ambience with you. Remember, your worries have a designated time and place to be tackled, and that place is not your bed. Focus on the softness of your sheets, or the warmth of your significant other beside you. Sleep is eight to ten hours of you in your own head, and you’ll only have so long to enjoy this quiet space, so you might as well make it pleasant.

Because you only spend so much time with your bed — and this might sound strange — you probably miss it during the day. So when you come back to it, savor the moment that you go between the blankets. It’s like your bed is hugging you close, glad to help you relax and leave your day behind. You can also complete whatever saga you started in your work-time daydreams.

Recall that you’re sleeping under a sky full of stars. Even if it isn’t a clear night, imagine them glittering and twinkling, like diamonds in the sky, as the song goes. There is comfort and relaxation in beauty, since it is sometimes hard to find in the daily grind.

To reiterate, your bed is your designated relaxation space. Enjoy the quiet of the room, the soft blankets, and leave your worries at your thoughtful spot.

Fighting Anxiety with Imagination

Anxiety, for me, comes from second-guessing everything. Everything. When people tell me everything will be okay, I can’t help wondering if they’re saying it just to quiet me down, or to cover up that they don’t believe that themselves.

In July 2017, I got into a vicious cycle of overanalyzing the news. Even when I walked along my favorite trail, or got ice cream with friends, I couldn’t get off that anxiety track. I went to bed crying because I couldn’t get the worst-case scenario out of my head. Many Friday nights, I told my parents I was coming home for the weekend because I couldn’t stand to be alone in my head a moment longer.

I took steps to quell my anxiety: I spent little to no time on social media, went for walks, and read my favorite books out loud to regulate my breathing. I listened to meditation music, and drank a crap-ton of chamomile tea.

But none of that worked, because I wanted to know what was going on in the world, however much I wanted to remain ignorant. My thoughts would go me everywhere I went. As long as I still thought thoughts, I would remain haunted.

And then, one day, as I turned home from a walk, I thought, very, very briefly, about suicide.

Now, I know that thoughts are only thoughts. But it’s hard to push thoughts down when they have the potential to become real. As long as the negative is a possibility, I have little rest.

That being said…

The same way I never know where my next jolt of fear will come from, I also don’t know where my next joy will come from. I don’t pretend to be an expert on anxiety, but I know it well enough to say that the small moments of happiness and relief always count for something. So, what helps me?

1) Hug a stuffed animal: Describe how it feels to hold the stuffed animal. Is it soft? Warm? Perhaps there’s a tiny soul inside that plush telling me that my thoughts cannot hurt me if I don’t let them.

2) Talk to someone: Had I kept silent about my anxiety, I wouldn’t have half the help I have today. I talk to my best friend every day so she can check up on me, and I can check up on her. Talking it out to someone who will actually listen works wonders.

3) Plan a project: I love to sew, so sometimes, I’ll put on a fun movie, and work as long as I need to. I’ve spent many an evening sewing bead and sequin designs onto old costumes.

4) Pinterest: It is a treasure trove (or a rabbit hole) of ideas, whatever you search. There are recipes and stories and lists from people who have dealt with and conquered anxiety. Remember, the Internet is full of just as much loving and caring people as it is with trolls — perhaps more.

5) Gently stretch your body: Sometimes I get chest pain, and a nice relief is to gently stretch my arms back or do a whole hour of yoga. I also think of it as opening myself up to the universe. If I kindly and happily receive whatever positive energy is floating about the cosmos, then I feel less alone.

6) Get dolled up: Curling your hair, or using your face as a canvas, is a nice way to forget your troubles. The more glitter and color, the better.

7) Watch a favorite movie or TV show: Disney and Faerie Tale Theatre episodes always put me in a good mood.

8) Sing or dance like no one is watching: Put on your favorite dancing music and just go to town with the silliness. Jump around and pretend that there’s a great big audience cheering you on!

9) ASMR: Some people may find it creepy or weird, but audio and visual triggers can work wonders easing your mind as well as your body.

10) Ignore your triggers: Rather than feeding the worry-bug, ground yourself with a deep breath, or focus on something with one of the five senses. If you find something nice to think about, you’ll gravitate toward that instead of what’s worrying you.

11) Express gratitude: Okay, you don’t have to make an extensive list or a rousing speech. You just have to keep the best things in your life close to you, knowing that you’ll experience even more to be grateful for tomorrow.

12) Take a day for yourself: Something as simple as spending a day in your pajamas, making a huge pot of herbal tea, or a grand yummy breakfast, is like a great metaphorical hug to yourself.

13) Personify the anxiety: Transform everything that makes you anxious into a monster — the ugliest and scariest you can imagine. If you can look your anxiety in the face, and accept that it’s with you in the moment, there’s no way it can affect you. You might even imagine the monster getting so scared under your badass super-stare that it shrinks into a conquerable little speck.

I know it’s daunting looking at the plethora of tips the Internet has to offer. Sometimes, what worked for me one day does not always work the next, and it’s an uphill battle that you get tired of fighting.

If nothing else, remember this: nothing is forever. The rain will only fall so long before you’ll see a sunny sky or, better yet, a rainbow. If you panic, your body will do everything it can to bring you back to earth. After all, human beings have adapted to a changing world over centuries, and we’re made of the same stuff as stars and comets. And so, you were made to endure. You were made to shine just like the stars that shine over your very head.