YEAR TWO: UITWAAIEN
(dutch): to take a brief break in the countryside to clear one’s head
I probably needed to do a little more uitwaaien-ing during my sophomore year of college. Sophomore year was my best academically - I took classes I loved and excelled in them - but the worst mentally and emotionally.
Academic: Learning with Illegal Bones
In spring 2015, I took "Forensic Anthropology," a special topics class in Biocultural Anthropology. The class included lecture components, but was mainly a hands on experience where me and my table-mates learned skeletal anatomy and forensic anthropological techniques by working with bones! My professor even tried to simulate an "archaeological dig site" by burying bones at a spot on campus and have us excavate them. Disappointingly, though not unsurprisingly, UW administration nixed this idea.
For our final project, we were given a box of bones and were required to reconstruct the skeleton and make an anthropological assessment about the decedent's age, sex, and race, as well as any trauma sustained to the bones. Our rearticulation is pictured below.
This class conflicted with the last quarter of the biology series, and I worried about deviating from my carefully constructed four year plan and taking biology off sequence. As someone who overthinks, overanalyzes, and constantly worries, this was a bigger decision to me than it might have been to someone else. But in the end, the forensic anthropology course was likely to be offered only once, and I could wait until fall to take biology. I'm very glad I made this decision; this class was one of my favorites at UW.
(And yeah, the bones were obtained from overseas and were later learned to have been stolen from graves. UW has not returned them as requested. Illegal bones!)
Personal: Anxiety, or, My Mind Hates Me
I participated in an Honors 100 panel during the fall of my junior year, and one freshman asked us, "What was the worst day you ever had here?" This question took me by surprise, because it's certainly one I've never been asked before. I answered with a story from my sophomore year in organic chemistry laboratory.
In ochem lab, we use a drawer of glassware for all the experiments. It is our responsibility to lock this drawer at the end of the lab period; the glassware, we were told, is worth over $600 and if stolen, would be replaced using funds from our student accounts. One evening, I was talking on the phone with my parents when suddenly, I couldn't remember whether or not I had locked my drawer the day before. I started to panic, freak out, and told my parents I would call them back-- much to their confusion and minor amusement. I shoved my lab coat and goggles into my backpack and ran down to the chemistry building. A lab was in session, and I paced outside the room for a few minutes, too nervous to go in, before the TA noticed and came out to ask what I needed. After explaining that, "oh, it's nothing, I just think I forgot something," I entered the lab and saw that my lab drawer was locked.
The room of freshman exploded into laughter at this point in my narrative. And yes, in retrospect, my excessive freak out is a bit humorous. In the moment, though, my anxious and paranoid thoughts were anything but. I ended my story by explaining that this instance, along with countless others that year, made me realize that my levels of concern and worry were not healthy, and that I was not coping well with events that occurred during my freshman year.
To this day, anxiety plagues my mind, affecting many of my interpersonal relationships. I am getting a better handle on it, as I have learned to confide in people when my emotional state gets particularly bad. For all the fun sophomore year brought me - all the good classes and sense of belonging I finally felt at UW - I don't think I'd like to repeat this year. My friends and I all lived in singles next to each other, and the walls were thin. One night, in the middle of an anxiety attack, my friend texted me asking, "Did you just blow your nose?" What she heard was my uncontrollable sobbing and sniffling, but all my shaking hands could muster was a text back: "haha yeah." I sat staring at my desk for the next half hour or so, unable to focus on anything but the sheen of my wooden desk, unable to do anything but hyperventilate and cry.
I also stopped writing poetry during my sophomore year. I originally chalked this up to the fact that I was just really busy with school work, but I think it was more that I was too anxious to write. Too worried I couldn't make the words feel right. Too controlling to let myself express myself freely through this outlet. If the poetry I wrote in excess freshman year was representative of how conflicted, lost, and confused I was, then the dearth of writing this year most clearly indicates how... nothing I was. I did well in my classes and was happy, for the most part, but there was always this pressing feeling of nothingness. Lack of control. Fear. Hollowness.
The upside of all of this is that I wrote about my anxiety and got a $12,000 scholarship. And though it wasn't poetry, writing about this experience helped calm my mental state, at least for a little while.
Other highlights this year were:
- discovering my love for organic chemistry
- nearly passing out in biology lab
- being an Honors 100 Peer Educator
- starting my work as a tutor at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center
- seeing rad concerts
- investigating gentrification in Capitol Hill and its effect on the LGBTQ community
- studying abroad in Berlin during summer 2015