Am I a good person?

Today I walked to the quad on campus with my lunchbox and picked a lovely sunny spot in the grass to spend my hour-long break. A southern baptist group was out there, with one man was standing on some milk crates preaching. This particular group, unlike another baptist group who frequents campus yelling brimstone and hellfire, is actually quite nice. They simply try to tell students what the Bible says–not convert people or harass them.

The preacher man offered $20 to anyone willing to do what he called the Good Person Challenge. He asked “Who among you considers yourself a good person?” A young man named Lucas stepped up. The preacher proceeded to ask Lucas if he’d ever lied, disrespected his parents, taken God’s name in vain… By the time he went through the whole list of sins, he determined that Lucas was indeed not a good person (but for the record, Lucas seemed like a very nice boy).

Poor Lucas didn’t disagree with him, but pointed out that God is merciful and might send him to purgatory for these sins. The preacher shot down this idea, claiming that purgatory is nonexistent. The two never reached an agreement. Lucas, a Catholic, was convinced that his soul is alright; the preacher was convinced that Lucas needed to be saved, saying that Catholic doctrine is unbiblical.

As a Catholic, I’m no stranger to the fact that there are fundamental differences between these two religions. However, I didn’t disagree with the man’s message today, and I actually enjoyed his sermon.

I did, however, have a problem with a girl who interrupted the Good Person Challenge to ask Lucas if the guy was bothering him, implying that he forced Lucas to be up there. Lucas was the one who volunteered–Lucas was making $20! The man asked her to not interrupt, since he was having a conversation with Lucas. The girl responded very rudely.

Many students are rude to these evangelists on campus. Some students are downright hateful, cursing the people out and starting debates. These students claim that evangelists are intolerant, but in all truthfulness, the intolerance goes both ways.

Coincidentally, the concept of a “good person” is a theme that’s been running through my head a lot this week. What makes someone a good person? Am I a good person? Is anyone actually a bad person, or is there mostly good in everyone? Do other people care about being a good person as much as I do?

I like to think of myself as a good person, but I can recall times when I’ve been cold, jealous, distant, stand-offish, defensive, or selfish. The man’s message today was comforting to me–no one is perfect, and no amount of good deeds can make us perfect. But because of Jesus, we’re forgiven for all that. It’s up to us what we do with it. We can start by treating others how we’d want to be treated, which includes religious tolerance and respecting others’ beliefs.


My trip to the ER


The “after” picture. We were relieved at the diagnosis!

I spent this summer taking two courses and working at my graduate assistant position. Due to the nature of summer classes, I had homework almost every night, and I spent several days at work out in the 100-degree Louisiana heat talking to incoming freshmen. Needless to say, by the end of July, I was ready for my much-needed three-week semester break. I had big plans to travel to North Carolina to serve as godmother at my niece’s baptism and spend some quality time with family. Although I did get to do so, my semester break turned out much more differently than I could have imagined.

It all started the first Sunday of my break. I had just finished my online final and I was done with summer classes! I considered eating out to celebrate, but instead decided to stay in and eat eggs for dinner. The eggs in my fridge may or may not have been expired…I didn’t check the date. But I was convinced they were when I woke up the next morning with nausea, headache, vomiting, etc.. Thankfully this all passed after a few hours and I went about my day as usual.

The next day my only plans were to laze around my house–and it’s a good thing, because midday I started running fever. I spent the whole day in bed. The same thing happened the next day: I developed a fever and headache as the day went on, and I also had a weak appetite. Convinced I had salmonella poisoning, I made an appointment with the school nurse the next morning.

I was hoping the nurse practitioner would prescribe me an antibiotic to clear this up before I left for North Carolina. Instead, she checked my vitals and told me there was nothing she could do. She proceeded to advise me to not take anything for the fever unless it was over 105. At that point I just stopped listening.

I left school and headed to meet my parents. We spent a couple of days in Baton Rouge with family, and then a few days at the homestead in Alexandria. We then made the 3-day drive to my brother’s house in North Carolina. My aunt and grandpa flew in to meet us, and we all witnessed little Sophie get baptized. Unfortunately, the whole time I had been running fever on-and-off, and experiencing headaches, no appetite, and no energy. Even taking short walks drained me to the point where I had to take a nap. This had been going on for two weeks when my sister-in-law, Dr. Wendy, finally did a checkup on me. She saw an infection in my throat and started me on an antibiotic.

The next day I woke up throwing up, so my mom took me to an urgent care clinic. Still convinced this all started from food poisoning, I described the situation to the physician assistant. She prescribed me two heavy-duty antibiotics: one for salmonella, one for the throat infection. Unfortunately, these made me even more nauseous; I woke up the next morning throwing up bile (I had eaten so little over the last few days, my stomach was completely empty). I couldn’t eat or drink anything, my stomach hurt, and I was extremely dehydrated. I was also upset at the situation and scared, not knowing what was wrong with me.

My brother insisted we go to the emergency room at Duke Med to get tests done, and my mom could tell by looking at me that I needed help right away. So my mom and Dr. Wendy took me to the Duke Med ER. The wait time was only 15 minutes; I first had to explain my symptoms to two different nurses, two doctors, and a PA student. After all that talking and an initial checkup, they took about 5 vials of blood, a throat swab, and a urine sample. Then finally, just when I felt I was about to die, they hooked me up to an IV and treated me for dehydration and nausea (my nurse was very good, so I barely felt a thing!).

A long hour later, my IV ran dry–they had put a whole liter of fluid in me. I perked up a bit. We waited and waited and waited, and finally the doctor came in. He told us I tested positive for mono. My reaction was “Mono? As in mononucleosis?!” My mom, Dr. Wendy, and I were shocked and relieved.

The good news is that my mystery illness wasn’t due to cancer, peritonitis, or some other serious condition. The bad news is that there’s no cure for mono, so I have to wait this thing out. Also, because mono affects the liver and the spleen, I have to take it easy for several months while my body sheds the virus. That means no 5Ks, no triathlons, no lifting heavy objects, and no standing on my feet a lot. In fact, for the rest of this year, I will have to entertain myself with a lot of video games, movies, art, and music.

I’m not upset about it though. If there’s one thing I realized from being sick for 3 weeks straight, it’s that any day you spend in good health is a good day. One of the most miserable feelings is having your family around you, laughing and enjoying good food, and not being able to join in because the mere thought of eating is repulsive, and laughing takes too much energy. I’m only upset that I didn’t get to enjoy my semester break. I made memories though!

Just keep swimming…

Since the moment I was old enough to hold my head up, I’ve been in the water. At less than a year old, I was floating back and forth in the lap lane in an inflatable donut while my mom swam laps. The subsequent summers my parents enrolled me in swim lessons (and despite the occasional temper tantrum, I generally had no objections). I advanced from “swim babies” to “guppy” to “minnow,” then finally to “fish” and “shark.” By the time I turned 5, I was ready for swim team.

And so, every summer for the next 8 years, I woke up at 7am most weekdays and reported to the YMCA for practice. My nanny drove me to pools all over town and spent hours in the hot Louisiana sun while I raced in meets. I was one of the fastest girls in my age group, but there were always the superstars (kids that swam year-round on club teams) who never failed to win every event. So in my closet sits a box filled with ribbons for 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th place (though there are a few blue ones in there!). And for some reason I never really cared. Winning was never that important to me.

I hadn’t considered advancing my swim career until one day in the school cafeteria my sophomore year. I was eating lunch with my friends when–lo and behold–my YMCA swim coach walked up. Turned out he was the new swim coach for my high school, and he demanded to know why I wasn’t on the team. “Be at practice tonight. 5:30,” he said. My peers were surprised to see me at the pool that night, and even more surprised that I was as fast (faster, actually) than most of them. I surprised them once again at my first high school meet, when I placed 10th overall in the 50 free.

I had no problem qualifying for state in multiple events that year (and the following years). Although I missed many practices because of schedule conflicts with marching band, I loved every minute I spent in the pool. I joined a year-round group to stay in shape during off-season. After my senior state meet, I knew I wasn’t ready to give up doing what I loved. That’s when I began looking at colleges with swim teams.

Remember how I mentioned those superstars who swam club since they were children? Well, that is the kind of kid who goes on to swim college. I didn’t stand a chance of getting recruited. Then I visited Centenary College. The school was small, charming, in-state, and it had a swim team. To my delight, the coach actually agreed to let me swim as a walk-on. Everything fell into place after that. I got accepted, got a scholarship, and trained hard all summer in the pool.

Then I arrived at our first college practice. The other swimmers were intimidating enough before we jumped in–strutting around in size 24 swimsuits, their muscles bulging out like the freaking hulk. Then we got in the pool. I got lapped more times than I could count. And that was in The Slow Lane. To make things worse, we didn’t just swim. No. We had to run across the street and jog laps around a mall. And between sets, we had to press out the pool and do jumping jacks, push-ups, and lunges. After 2 hours, the torture was finally over. Coach called us into a huddle. “Practice tomorrow same time, same place. And we start mornings tomorrow, so be at the gym at 5:45am.”

Obviously I survived to tell this story, but it was not easy. Practicing 3.5 hours a day, 6 days a week, spending weekends away at meets, and spending winter break in Florida training was not always fun. I didn’t even compete my junior year because I was so burnt out and tired of being the underdog in The Slow Lane. The other swimmers were rude to me and talked behind my back, saying I was too slow to be on the team. I never wore under-sized swimsuits and I never looked like the hulk. I never placed in any meets. I simply lacked the years of training they all had on me.

Now that I’ve graduated, I realize that I was right for never thinking it’s all about winning. It doesn’t matter whether I was the star of the team, or the queen of The Slow Lane. Because either way, I was part of something. Not many people can say they were collegiate athletes; but I can. And either way, I developed an appreciation for health and fitness, gained knowledge in proper training and nutrition, improved my work ethic and sportsmanship, travelled, met people, and got into the best physical shape of my life. Now that I’m out of college, I continue to train by not only swimming, but running 5K/10Ks, biking, and weight-training. And compared to most, I am a superstar.

Body Image

One rainy night my senior year I attended a women’s forum on campus, a discussion of women’s rights issues led by a thoughtful, highly articulate all-female panel of three students, a professor, a coach, and a faculty member. The panel discussed topics like maternity leave, body image, birth control, and more.

Among the major issues tackled was that of eating disorders. The panel pointed out that disordered eating applies to nearly all women. Women are so pressured to be thin, we’re more likely than men to monitor what we eat and exercise excessively. The coach addressed the issue of female athletes and body image. “You have to know when to pull back,” she said, referring to the amount of exercise women athletes get, particularly in the weight room. Competitive girls have to be careful not to lift too much, lest they take on a manly appearance. They also must be careful to not over-eat or under-eat. As an athlete who participated in weight-training, I could relate to the fear of looking too bulky–I had gained ten pounds of muscle just in my first few weeks as a year-round swimmer.

Later that week I saw a photograph online featuring three girls of ascending size, and the caption read:

Women’s ideal size: 6

Men’s ideal size: 10

National Average: 12

I was surprised at those numbers (if men’s ideal is 10, I should probably hit up the nearest Krispy Kreme, and quick!). It was revealing and comforting to learn that the average girl is not the model on the cover of Cosmo. Regardless, I don’t care what society, men, or other women consider the ideal size for a woman. I love working out and I love eating; I plan to do plenty of both, regardless if people think I’m too skinny, too muscular, or too fat. Women must understand that we all have different body types—and that’s not something that can be easily altered. I believe that if you eat right, exercise, and maintain a healthy BMI, dress size shouldn’t be a topic of great stress in your life.

Roommate horror stories, and why mine has a happy ending

We all have horror stories of our old college roommates. I’d like to share my own–but don’t worry, it has a happy ending. When I was 18, my parents packed up the SUV and drove me four hours upstate for my first year of college. That’s when I first met Kelly (which isn’t her real name, FYI). The swim coach had set us up as roommates. It seemed like a great match at first–we had lots in common (we both loved swimming, sushi, ice cream, and boys) and we stayed up until one in the morning talking, watching Disney mashups to romantic pop songs, and having random dance-offs. But after weeks of eating every meal together, living together, working out together, and travelling together for swim meets, tensions began to rise. Okay, okay. We couldn’t stand each other.

I refused an offer to switch roommates after the fall semester, thinking the cat fights would subside. I was wrong. Neither of us were mature enough at that point to actually try to get to the bottom of it and solve the underlying problem (which, obviously was the fact that we spent too much time together). We somehow got through the year without killing each other. Sophomore year Kelly got a room to herself, and I roomed with an incoming freshman. Me and Kelly didn’t hang out much at first, but we couldn’t avoid each other forever. Swim season was in full swing, plus we were both enrolled in Jazz 202. So we began to hang out again. A few sushi-and-ice cream dates later, we were best friends again (minus the drama).

A lot of my friends in college graduated before me or transferred to other schools during those four years, but Kelly was there every step of the way. From move-in day freshman year to the late nights in the library studying for our last set of finals, she is part of almost all my college memories. So, just because you can’t be roommates with someone, doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. And possibly vice versa… I’d love to hear your roommate stories!