You Don't Think It'll Happen To You, Until It Does

You Don't Think It'll Happen To You, Until It Does

I'm 300 miles away and my heart is breaking

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I'm sitting here typing this after finding out and I'm still having trouble processing the information from this event. On February 15, 2019, a gunman opened fire in his office in Aurora, IL and I'm still shocked something like this happened so close to home. I find my voice shake and my heartbreak. I don't really know how to express my real feelings because let's be honest, experiencing things second-handedly, what do you really know about how to act after a tragedy?

I can't shake this unsettling feeling. I can't imagine the fear of those involved, having the whole situation feel surreal, learning what happened even in the midst of the situation, and knowing that an event which always seems worlds away, hit so close to home.

I've joked around for years about how the town I live in is a bubble. When something bad happens, it's rare and the news travels fast. I've always felt safe and protected in my hometown because I knew that nothing truly bad happens there. I'm not even kidding when I say this either: we had a storm go around my hometown and nothing happened. But am I still sure that this town and the places I go back home are still super safe? Now? I'm not so sure… I'm not naive enough to believe that nothing bad ever happens, but what I'm saying is that nothing that's really bad feels as real until it happens close to home.

It's been hours and a day or two after this horrific event, but I'm still shocked, with words tumbling out of my mouth, unsure of how to feel or what to say. My heart is still breaking. Never did I think that an event like this would happen so close to home. I'm almost 300 miles away and I don't know what to do. I hate that events like this keep happening. I hate that, even as a Christian, my first reaction isn't to fight- it's prayer. It's waiting for a sign to do something, waiting for something to do. I want this world to change and as they say, "actions speak louder than words". But my question is why no one's actually changing anything?

Why isn't anything changing?

People in our society are afraid to live their lives because of tragic events like these. Shootings at concerts or high schools or even at universities and workplaces. My heart goes out to those who were affected by this event and past events similar to this, but sending good thoughts and prayers isn't enough. It's time we take action and do something. Our country has this problem and everyone seems to be ignoring it.

I'm upset and broken that events like this keep happening. They aren't stopped and it feels like no one is DOING anything! Our society is losing children and people and we're not doing anything. I have 4 words: This. Needs. To. Stop. According to gunviolencearchive.org, including this most recent one- there have been 39 mass shootings in 2019 alone. 39 and we're less than two months into 2019. This is ridiculous. But really, what am I, a student writing about a tragic event back home going to do? Besides sending good thoughts and prayers? I'm stepping up and taking action. It's time that this stops. It's time to end gun violence and save our people. It's time to fight gun violence and stand up.

This. Needs. To. Stop.

While I'm still writing, I want to send my thoughts and prayers to those affected by this tragedy, especially those who lost loved ones. I also want to thank the first responders involved and the support of the community which has come together.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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