Tag Archives: college

College

I had that recurring nightmare last night where I’m in college and I have all these exams coming up that I haven’t studied for, nor have I attended any of the classes, and I’m now suddenly realizing that this isn’t a recurring nightmare it’s just me remembering college.

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My 21-Year-Old Self Was an Idiot. Here’s Proof.

We are moving apartments tomorrow, so the past week has been a lot of packing and cleaning out old crap. All of which has been done by a constantly sweating yet not ONCE complaining Eric, while I sit on the couch rubbing my belly, drinking ice water, and grumbling that I’m overwhelmed.

Yesterday Eric pulled this huge dusty box out of the depths of the closet and said “Hey, Emily from 1990, here are your files. Maybe go through them and see if this is something we can throw in the garbage, since we now live in the computer age, and have for 20 plus years?”

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So I just went through the box and he was right– I do not, in fact, need a paper copy of the 1-year-warranty for the Sony Vaio laptop I bought in college, nor a receipt for a Gap cardigan purchased in January. Of 2004.

It took me over an hour to go through, rip up, and discard all the blatantly irrelevant crap this box possessed, but my hard labor was rewarded when I reached the end of the files and came across THIS little gem, posted below (in the form of a PDF link. Sorry, after a whole 2 seconds of trying, I couldn’t figure out how else to post it).

It is a paper I wrote during my senior year of college, entitled “The (abridged) Autobiography of Emily Lerman,” and it is ABSURD. Absurd because it is exactly the kind of sarcastic, self-deprecating shit I would post on this blog, except I HANDED IT IN TO A PROFESSOR. AT AN IVY LEAGUE SCHOOL. FOR A GRADE. 

Now, granted, I got an A. So my professor was either awesome (don’t remember that being the case) or EXTREMELY bored (more likely). Or maybe she appreciated seeing something “different” come across her desk? Most likely she was just drunk. I don’t know, but there’s no doubt something was amiss, because this shit is less a paper for a college course and more a bad audition for Last Comic Standing that ends with the comic sweat-stuttering offstage to a chorus of “You suck!”

So naturally, I need to share it.

A few parts are redacted to protect the innocent, but otherwise I left it in its purest, this-was-definitely-written-by-a-21-year-old-moron form. It’s not even that the writing is that bad (save for a few blatant grammatical errors), it’s just VERY dramatic. Not sure if that was for comedic effect (important in a paper for HISTORY CLASS) or because I was a CHILD when I wrote it, but I do feel the need to clarify that I probably wasn’t THAT miserable as a kid, and Potomac was not THAT absurd a place to grow up (furthermore, the random unneccesary dig I took at my mom, saying she was a real estate agent “when she felt like working” was completely unfair. I can make that joke NOW, but back then, the woman hustled).

Or maybe I was that miserable and growing up in Potomac was that absurd but I’ve now had 15 more years of distance from the “trauma” (img_7593) and kind of just want to smack my young self across the head and be like, “Lighten up, Sassypants. Your life wasn’t hard. You drove a 4Runner.”

Anyway here it is. Enjoy. ( shrug_1f937)

Yes I wrote this for an academic college course

P.S. Future daughter– if I send you to college and this is the kind of shit you produce on my dime, you’re paying your own way.

 

I Will Never Stop Wishing

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Four years ago, Ari Johnson, an incredible human being and dear friend, took his own life. On this anniversary of his death, here’s a little known story that I’ve never shared publicly, but think about all the time, particularly on this day.

It’s no secret that I struggle with my mental health. There were certainly incidents throughout my childhood that indicated an issue, but my first semester as a freshman at Penn is when things really started to spiral out of control. I was on my own for the first time, and the anxiety was skyrocketing. I cried all the time and felt completely and utterly alone. My sister Steph was a junior at Penn at the time, but she was spending that first semester abroad in Australia. I certainly had some friends on campus who I had known before college, so I wasn’t actually alone– but my god did I feel that way. Because that’s what depression does.

Ari was a very close friend of Steph’s, and a senior at the time. I had met him dozens of times when I was a high schooler visiting my sister at Penn, and he was the best. Just a super chill, friendly, funny, laid back guy. The first week of my freshman year, his fraternity, TEP, had a party, and he told me to come by and bring all my friends. I gathered the acquaintances I knew and headed over to the “TEP Deck.” It was a crowded mob scene, as first-week-of-college parties tend to be. Ari saw me and told everyone to move the hell out of the way and let his friend Emily, and all her friends, come in. It was absurd but fantastic– and at age 18, yeah, it made me feel super fucking cool.

Ari totally took me under his wing that first semester while Steph was away. He could see that I was kind of struggling, and wanted to be the surrogate older sibling in the absence of my sister. This was certainly not his job, but he made it so. Because that’s just who he was.

I started confiding in Ari more and more as the weeks went on, because he was one of the few people on campus I felt I could relate to. While he never explicitly said it, I sensed a darkness in him. An underlying, inner battle. There’s a certain kinship that exists among people with mental health issues– we can sense it in others, even when they haven’t sensed it yet in themselves. Something about the conversations Ari and I had led me to believe that deep down, he was struggling, too.

But I never asked. I didn’t feel it was my place, and I sensed he probably didn’t want to discuss it.

Words cannot express how much I regret that.

About a month into freshman year, my anxiety and depression began to take the form of bulimia. I was living each day grasping at strings, and bingeing and purging was the only method I had for feeling in-control (the ultimate irony, because nothing says “out of control” more than eating a meal for 5 and then shoving your finger down your throat). By the second month of college, I was making myself throw up 3-4 times a day.

One day I just grew weary. Shortly after a purge, staring at my bloodshot eyes in the mirror, I got so damn tired of carrying this secret. It was at that moment that Ari sent me an instant message (remember those?!) asking me what’s up. I responded, “I think I might be bulimic.”

I told him everything. He responded with immediate, genuine concern, and told me I needed to get help at the student health center. At the very least, he said, I needed to tell my family. That’s when I panicked and tried to backtrack. I didn’t want my family to know. I didn’t want to disappoint or worry anyone. I just wanted to tell Ari so that I could get it off my chest– but really, I was fine. 

I was 100% not fine. But I tried to downplay what was happening. I told Ari it wasn’t that big a deal, I was just having a bad day, this was all under control. I begged him not to tell my sister. By the end of the conversation, I was sure I had convinced him that a little bulimia was not really a genuine health concern, and that I’d be fine.

But Ari was no idiot. And he had too much heart to sit back and do nothing. He did exactly what he should have done– he told my sister. And then, immediately after telling her, he told me that he had told her. And that was the first step in my realizing that this was a real problem, and that I needed help.

Knowing that I now had no choice but to take action, I immediately confided in another friend of mine, and she took me to the student health center. It was the first time in my life that I had ever been evaluated for the state of my mental health. Needless to say, I did not pass. I was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. The doctor was amazed I had made it this far without doing something truly drastic, seeing as though I was waking up every day hating myself and feeling so utterly alone. I was put on medication and set up with a doctor for talk therapy. I have been in treatment ever since, and can’t even fathom where I’d be today if I hadn’t taken those beginning steps to acknowledge and understand what was happening to me.

In that sense, I truly feel I owe Ari my life. I wish I could have told him that while he was still alive. I wish I could have told him that in recognizing my pain, taking it seriously, and putting me on the path to getting the help I needed, he did more to save my life than he will ever know.

And I will never stop wishing that I had done the same for him.

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If you know someone struggling, say something. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation. There are no wrong words– if you think someone is suicidal, ask them. Urge them to get help. Remind them that you care.

If you’re looking for a way to help someone today, there are two links to fabulous causes below. The first is for Active Minds, a mental health organization that is extremely dear to my heart, and whose ultimate goal is to change the conversation about mental health, creating a world where no one has to feel alone in his or her struggle.

The second is a link to the Ari Johnson Memorial Scholarship– started by my family, this scholarship will keep  Ari’s memory and impact alive, and will be awarded to a student at Penn who shows dedication to overcoming adversity and disadvantage, including but not limited to the area of mental health challenges and advocacy.  

Active Minds Giving

Ari Johnson Memorial Scholarship

Emails From My Brothers #10: Please Don’t Elaborate on Said Canoodle

The following sibling email exchange took place in 2006. Steph and I were living in an apartment together in NYC– she was in law school, I was in graduate school. Jeremy was a senior at Penn. Zack was a freshman at Wisconsin. The whole chain was started as an attempt to improve communication skills in our family. It failed.

But what did happen is that Steph contributed one solid, ridiculous email that made the rest of us genuinely laugh out loud.

To this day, it has never happened again.

I already posted that email (here), most of which she forced me to redact. So it’s not included below. The rest of the emails in the chain are, including Steph’s only other contribution (at the very end), which is much more in line with her character.

The emails themselves are not all that hilarious, but as a chain they create a pretty clear picture of the family dynamic, with some classic throw-back references.

**Note: any blurred-out content has been done so to protect the innocent– most importantly those who made the regretful decision to canoodle with Jeremy.

email 1

email 2

email 3

email_4 finalemail 5

email 6email 9email 10Email 11email 12

email 13