I spent the last weekend bedridden with a horrible flu.

The flu can be detrimental to one’s health in a number of ways- there’s the physical component of the illness, of course, in which the immune system is insufficient for fighting off pathogens, but there’s a physiological component that, in my experience, is far more harmful than any fever, bout of chills, or stuffy nose.

When you’re as sick as I was last weekend, you have no other option but to slow down-your body insists. But your brain is not forcibly stagnated to the extent that your limbs might be. What I’m saying in way more words than are necessary is that I had far too much time for thinking over the past couple of days for my own good.

In a desperate attempt to occupy my mind and focus my racing, unorganized thoughts, I began (and finished) the Netflix original series Thirteen Reasons Why. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, I suggest that you set apart the next 13 hours and binge the entire series. If you don’t have the time for that, I’ll provide a brief synopsis.

The story centers around Hannah, a high schooler who takes her own life, but not before explaining her reasons for doing so via 13 audio tape recordings. The topic of each tape is one of her classmates who has contributed to her ultimate decision to commit suicide. Among those reasons are betrayal, rape, objectification, and harassment. Ironically, all things that I have experienced, as well.

This powerful series was profound and resonated deeply with me, and unfortunately, has forced me to face some things that I’ve never truly allowed myself to process. Ever since my body was invaded, it’s felt as though it no longer belongs to me. And sometimes I feel that all I am is a body, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been handled with care-by men since him, or by me. The most practical remedy is to enclose oneself in a pod of isolation-just big enough for one. Because the illusion of control is much more satisfying there.

I’ve been played with, used, ridiculed, and objectified. I am left weak, afraid, and tired.

I’d like to think that I’d never engage in self-harm, but this sudden flooding of relived past experiences has forced me to feel things that I’ve suppressed for far too long, and I’m paying for it now. How does one who’s deceived herself into strength cope with the fact that she’s been wounded the whole time?

I think that the biggest take-away message I got from viewing Thirteen Reasons was that we are reckless. Humans are reckless people with little to no awareness on how significant our actions can be in the grand scheme of things. Our actions have the power to significantly alter another’s perception of self, and the consequences of a poor self-perception can, as in Hannah’s case, be fatal.

Human interaction is a complex phenomenon, and everyone experiences his or her own truth. If you claim that I hurt you, I don’t get to decide that I didn’t. So it’s best to err on the side of safety, right?

Unfortunately, unless you’re Ghandi or Mother Teresa, you will inevitably hurt those you interact with, intentionally or not. But we don’t walk around with a gauge pinned to our shirts, notifying those around us how close we are to our breaking points.

It’d be extremely difficult, and frankly boring (not to mention unrealistic) to treat everyone as if they are fragile as fine China, all of the time for the rest of our lives. That’s where I think that a little self-awareness could go a long way. And believe me, my hands are definitely not clean here.

Watching the way Hannah was treated by her classmates in Thirteen Reasons was piercingly painful for me to watch. I could feel her solitude through my computer screen, and it transported me back to my own lonely years as a high school student. (Which was much more difficult in some ways than my desolate college years now.) Each episode’s conclusion catalyzed another stream of tears from my eyes, and I found myself in bouts of severe regret for the way my life has been going so far.

People can cause a lot of harm, but they can also do a lot of good. The only problem is, once you’ve experienced enough harm, you find that it’d be foolish to put yourself out there in pursuit of some good, because that would leave you vulnerable to even more harm.

So, you withdraw further.

And what’s so noble about being fine all the time, anyway? Why does being able to be okay with people treating you like shit make you strong? Resilient, maybe. But I’d argue that strength is found by allowing yourself to feel real pain-to hurt to the extent that it hurts, and to heal in your own time, and your own way.

That’s what I feel like my experience from this weekend is forcing me to do-to allow myself to not be fine anymore. Because the last thing I am is okay. I am weak, wounded and alone. And if I don’t accept that now and deal with it, the next time I get hurt might pull me completely under water, and I’ll drown.

I fully admit that I’ve done more than my fair share of harm to other people. My hands are far from clean. But I’ve gained a heightened awareness of my deeds and their potential for harm or help to my fellow man.

But why are we so reckless with each others’ lives? Should it not be more of a priority to minimize the pain we inflict? Or are we simply just not aware?




Talking In Movie Theaters And Other Common Indecencies

I am really, really trying to force myself to enjoy being around other people in public settings. I’m the type of girl who will go anywhere and do anything by herself. Shopping, hiking, bowling, walks, going to Cold Stone or any other eatery, you name it! And, of course, movie watching. (Although, I can’t help but feel bad when I see other people doing these things alone.) People make it really hard for me to enjoy their company when they engage in an abundance of behavioral indecencies. 

Take yesterday, for example. I finally went with a buddy of mine to see a late showing of Spider Man 2 (Bravo to Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, by the way. Flawless.) It was an exceptionally slow night at the movie theater, even for a Monday. There were no more than 7 people seated in the entire auditorium.

Seated a row in front of us and slightly to our right hand side, were two fellow film spectators, all loaded up with extra large drinks and a bucket full of buttery, probably diabetes-inducing, popcorn. My greatest pet peeve in the world is being able to hear other people eat popcorn. It is the most repugnant of sounds a human is capable of making. And I would not hesitate to shank a sucker who chomped that stuff in my ear.

So, as a public safety to the moviegoers around me, I always isolate myself in the very last row of seats, and out of earshot of concession consumers.

The seven of us were all comfortably seated and deeply immersed into the plot. Well, I take that back. 5 out of 7 of us were deeply immersed in the plot. The other two were the hoggish, popcorn-chomping chums sitting diagonally from me. I kid you not, every 12 seconds, one of them would turn to the other and LEGITIMATELY YELL OVER THE FILM’S AUDIO.

The first time they decided to rudely intervene with my movie experience, I turned my head and gave them the glare of death. Unfortunately, in a dim theater, people can’t see your glare of death signifying them to cease their reprehensable behavior. The second time, I was on the brink of snapping. I did NOT pay 9 dollars of my hard-earned cash to have my viewing of Spider Man 2 ravaged by two inconsiderate jerk faces. 

They continued their chatter throughout the movie, and it took every ounce of willpower in my little body to not march over there and give them a piece of my mind. I resisted. Why? Because I WOULDN’T WANT TO DISTRACT FROM ANYONE ELSE’S ENJOYMENT OF THE MOVIE. Because I am a considerate, well-behaved lady. 

Another thing that I cannot, and will not tolerate, is the chewing of one’s lollipops. The other day, I was in the waiting room at the doctor’s office with my mommy because no almost-19-year-old should be expected to endure a meeting with her physician on her own. 

There was a man and his son seated behind us. The son stood up, went to the front desk, and grabbed a handful of dumdums to share with his father. They both unwrapped their suckers and simultaneously began to chomp their lollipops right off the stick. The sonacy of their crunching of hard candy resonated throughout the entire doctor’s office. I was gripping the sides of my chair until my knuckles turned white. It took all I had in me to not freak out in anger and annoyance. 

As a re-cap, just don’t eat loud foods in front of other people. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. I think that my tolernace of other peoples’ presence would significantly improve if they would just be more considerate of the sounds they make when they consume things. Loud chewers stir a sense of hatred and rage in me. 

Actually, beyond that, let’s all just be considerate and sensitive to how our behavior might affect those around us. That way I will be less inclined to punch total strangers in the larynx. If we all did this, the world would be a happier, and much less violent place. 

Vote Maddie for president.