Humans of UNT #39

It was a freak accident. Me, one of my crew-men, and my senior chief went to go defuel a helicopter. I remember seeing him because I walked right past him and looked at him. We didn’t say anything, but I looked directly at him. He was waiting to move a plane. When they parked the plane, I saw a guy cursing and running around. I couldn’t see the other guy anymore because of the view I had when I was defueling. My crew-man was looking directly at the guy and the plane, and his face was frozen. His eyes and mouth were wide open. I walked around to get a view of what happened. The guy had his helmet on, but a blade from the fueling tank had sawed into his head. When I saw him, he had a long gash from the back to the front of his head. It looked like all the blood in his body was on the floor. What messed me up was that I wanted to help him since he was dying. Nobody can do anything except medical, but I really wanted to. I didn’t like watching him die. He was nineteen. We were a few days from Thanksgiving. His wife had a baby on the way at home and we were just a few days from home port. His memorial service was probably the most packed service we had ever had on the boat. I have seen many silver coffins coming off and on that boat while I was in the Navy. It effects me to this day as ex-military because they’re still my brothers and sisters in arms.

 

I had a stroke in 2013, when I had moved to Denton. For some reason, I had headaches. The pain got so bad that it took me onto all fours. I couldn’t lift my head up, bend it down, or turn it to either sides. It felt like a bunch of needles were on my brain. The day before the stroke happened, I had seizures. I don’t know why. I’m 36, I’ve never had a seizure in my whole life. All of a sudden, I was having seizures and, a day later, a stroke. They later told me it was bleeding in my brain. Me being me, I don’t run to the doctor. I try to figure out what’s going on before I do anything like that. I called my mom and I told her that my legs were having spasms out of nowhere. I couldn’t even put my leg down. I wanted to sleep it off, but I decided to call the ambulance. When they were on the way, the right side of my body was paralyzed. The operator stayed on the phone with me until they arrived. I had to army-crawl on one side to the door to let them in.

 

After these experiences, I learned to try to slow down. Being 36 years old with kids, I can’t slow down too much because I have to keep up with them. But slowing down so I can learn to live is what I’m trying to do. That stroke could’ve been it for me and I still haven’t done half of the things I want to do. When I got out of the hospital and had full mobility, I started having more fun. You’ve got to learn to live. Life does pass by. You don’t even believe how quickly time passes. It creeps up on you and you have to have something to show for it. You want to do things in life that I haven’t done yet. You need to learn things. Don’t go through life never learning anything because it’s fun and you can connect with other people. Don’t be so fearful and have an open mind about people and cultures.

I was hit by a car in middle school. It was 4 days before my birthday. I was crossing the street and he was turning right. He didn’t see me because I was on his right. My bike flew out from under me and the car kept going. He took me under his car. My leg burned on his muffler. He continued to go, pulled into a parking lot, and everybody at the intersection was losing their minds. The whole time, my body was so numb, I didn’t even feel anything. Everyone was panicking and telling me not to move, but it was a hot day and I was burning on the road. I kept telling them to call my dad. At that time, the Dell Children’s Hospital had opened in my area and the people were wonderful. I owe a lot of gratitude to the nurses there because I was able to walk in four days. I had a fractured pelvis, a bent tail-bone, fractured rib, and a third-degree burn on my leg. I got out of the hospital still using a walker. I had to go back about once a week for several weeks. Whenever they removed the burn scar, they pulled the skin from below my knee to above it and I had a stiff knee. I used to run track, which was something important to me, but I had to stop because I lost my balance and coordination. I haven’t ridden a bike since.

 

There was a girl who used to go to school here. When we were Juniors, her roommate and I found her in her room dead. She was my best friend. We were at the library on a Tuesday night studying and she was complaining about a headache. I texted her on Friday and I didn’t get a response. She was working full-time and she had a full-time class schedule, so it was pretty typical of her not to respond for a while. That same morning, her mother had called me. It was one of the worst things I had ever expected. She would call her mother every day. So when her mother told me that she hadn’t heard from her in a couple of days, I had a bad feeling. I went to her and her roommate’s place. The place was messy enough to where her roommate couldn’t tell what the bad smell was. When I got into the apartment, the smell was apparent. It was really bad. Her bedroom door was locked, so we had to get someone from the leasing office to help us. They opened the door, but I stayed back in the living room. To be in the same room with my best friend, knowing she was dead, would be the hardest thing for me. I couldn’t do it.

 

She was my motivation and always wanted to study with me. She was supposed to graduate the next fall with a degree in Psychology. She had just applied for the Master’s program here. It was really difficult to know that someone so kind-hearted was taken from the earth. I decided to come back to school that fall, which was really hard to do. It took me about a year before I could go back into the library. When they had finished the new Union, I was hesitant because she loved the old union. She hated change and would have resented the new Union. Sometimes being on campus causes me to relive certain things. She influenced me a lot. Now I’m trying to finish up and graduate. Had she still been here, I think I would have had more fun, but now it’s like I just want to finish. When I do graduate, it’ll be for her.

 

I had never been on a rollercoaster, but, after she passed, I decided to go for it. I want to step out of my comfort zone and try new things. I hyperventilate when I’m near an airport, so my goal is to try to get on an airplane in a couple years. I’ve never been out of the country, but I really want to travel. I think we need to simplify and try to focus on a day. Just today. If we can succeed in the things we need to do today, then we get closer to our long term goals. It took me a long time to get to therapy and I recommend that people who need help try to seek it. I think we’re ashamed to let other people in.

Humans of UNT #34

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UNT Union: So who are you on campus with today?

E: I’m with my son, who is going to be a Freshman this fall and is doing early start, so he starts July 9th. My empty nest is going to start earlier than I planned and I’m okay with that. It’s very exciting, it’s a good thing. They’re supposed to grow up and leave home. My husband and I both met at A&M, and we both remarked about how much this campus reminds us of what A&M was like 25 years ago. I love it here. We have a really good feeling about this.

UNT Union: What do you do?

E: I just retired from owning my own professional services firm in December, and now I teach yoga and pilates full time. I also blog at My Life Between Coffee and Wine and I’ve just been picked up by two large syndication opportunities that are happening in the next two weeks. So I’m on my second chapter of my career, as my son is embarking on his first. It’s very exciting.

UNT Union: Tell us about your children.

E: My oldest is in upstate New York–he was obviously more enthusiastic about being further away from his overbearing Catholic mother than my youngest. My oldest son is 21, so he’s going to be a senior at RPI in Troy, New York. He is pursuing game science design. Which, if you ever thought I’d be paying all this money for a liberal arts degree, I would’ve thought you were a liar… but I am!

My youngest is pursuing forensic science, and they’re both doing it because it’s what they’re passionate about. Both are very competitive fields. You can’t just skate by–you’ve really got to give it your all and I think that’s invigorating. It’s scary, but it’s also the right thing for them.

UNT Union: What are your hopes for your sons?

E: I really hope that they both pursue their passions. My career was more focused on getting out and having a job day one. It ended up driving me into accounting, which actually ended up being fantastic for me, but my passion was always in writing and art and other things. But since I had the uncertainty of understanding how that would pay the bills, the more secure opportunities were higher up on my priority list, just from a survival perspective.

I’ve tried not to keep my kids in a bubble, I’ve exposed them to a lot, traveled a lot, they’ve worked on service projects. But the reality is, they were two white males growing up in a nice middle-class suburban area, and not all the world is like that. My biggest fear is how they go out there and they be part of that. Even when they may not be perceived as part of what’s good, because they have had a fortunate upbringing. That said, I think my biggest fear is that adjustment, and figuring out their place. It’s a whole lot more than holding down a nine to five and having a house in suburbia and repeating what they had.

UNT Union: What are you most proud of?

E: It took a lot of guts to leave home at 18. My best friend’s daddy backed up a horse trailer and I threw what little I owned in it and just left home. I never spent another night in my parents’ house after I left for college. I’m proud that I was stupid enough not to realize how hard it was going to be–maybe I wouldn’t have done it and taken the chances if I’d known. My mother actually tried to talk me out of leaving for college a few weeks before I left and I still went. I’m really glad I went ahead and left.

Leaving home and going to off to college was the best thing I ever did. I stumbled along the way–who doesn’t? Right? The scars are where the light enters you, so you have to get some scars, you have to get hurt. It can’t be all perfect. You can’t wrap your kid or yourself in bubble-wrap and try to go through life avoiding anything that’s going to be painful or uncomfortable. That’s not what it’s about.

UNT Union: How do you define success?

E: I think it so critically important that everyone creates their own definition of success, as long as your definition includes being a service to other people, and being independent, and doing what you can to lift other people up. It doesn’t matter how you define it.

Humans of UNT #6

 

Erin Jake 2

HIM:  My friend introduced me to acro yoga once a long time ago and I thought it was really cool. We couldn’t really get the hang of what YouTube was teaching us, because it’s good to have three people involved: a base, a flyer and a spotter, just to make sure everything’s ok. We didn’t really have a spotter to coach us through things. Much later on, a new friend discovered the place in Dallas—the Yoga Movement—where they actually have classes. They’re very cool people—really compassionate and kind and understanding and patient, all the things you would want in a friend. It’s a safe place just to be yourself and be loud and happy, or quiet and reserved, but you’re just around good people who are accepting of you as you are. I had a blast, but Dallas is really far out.

HER: I was looking for a partner to do acro with, because it’s hard to do it by yourself.

HIM: we got in contact via Facebook, and had been bouncing back and forth with these conversations for like two or three weeks.

HER: I remember I called him and was like “Dude! I have 20 minutes, are you on campus right now?” He showed up and we just jumped on the mat. he has the flattest and most amazing feet I have ever flown on, because i just feel so safe and supported.

HIM: The one time flat feet is a good thing. 

Erin Jake 1

“When it comes to difficult things in my life right now it’s probably about understanding the next step, because graduation is coming up. So, trying to figure out where I best fit. I like people, but I also like quiet, and finding the sweet in-between of serving people. in the health industry, maybe in preventive care, or I might go into dietetics and become a dietician. It’s things like that I’m contemplating. I want to be able to work with people towards a mutual goal with my biology degree. having a goal will keep you on your toes moving in a direction so I don’t become stagnant. So right now, it’s just get what I can… and grow.”

Erin Jake 3

“What I’ve learned from yoga, is how to be quiet by myself. I don’t think anyone can really be happy with another person until they’re happy with themselves. To learn to be quiet, and feel my own body out, it took practice. It seems like you’re either in your own world and in your own thoughts, or you’re just open to whatever stimulus hits you. If you can be quiet with yourself and content with that—if you can sit with yourself—then I think that’s a great start towards being good for other people.”

Erin Jake 4

“I’m graduating—it’s a very transitional period in my life. I just found out I was accepted to the Boston Conservatory for my master’s in Opera. So, I’m moving to Boston. I’ve found a roommate and a place to live. But thinking about graduating and transitioning there, there was a fair amount of anxiety. I think if I didn’t have a fair amount of anxiety about moving across the country, something would be very wrong with what I was doing. And I’m very sad about leaving all these relationships behind. Acro yoga is a strong community across the whole world. I’m already hooked into the acro community [in Boston], so it’s like I already have a family up there.

I’ve become way too much of a positive person. If you’re open, and then somebody’s kind of a jerk to you, you can be like ‘man, that sucks for them! I’m gonna keep being awesome!’ It’s really not even a negative experience for you then, because it’s empowering for you.

People think that meditation is about like being super zen but it really starts with having compassion for yourself. if you start with having that compassion for yourself you can extend it to having compassion for another human being.”

Erin Jake 7

Humans of UNT #3

Maram 2I study interior design, and I love it. It’s been my interest since I was a little girl—I used to draw maps for our house and go to my dad like “ok, let’s move this wall there to make this room bigger.” I loved it so much. Dealing with furniture is something I really love also. My major is so demanding. I have to spend a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of effort in it. 

I graduated high school in 2006. My dad had graduated college from the states, too, from Florida State University. He wanted us to get a better education, me and my brothers. He wanted us to seek challenges and the experience of being out of town. So we went first to England, to an English Institute in the city of Cambridge. After that we were looking for college acceptance wherever… and then I got homesick.

I wanted to go home so bad, especially since a holiday was coming closer. In our religion, we have different holidays. It was Eid al-Fitr. You know how we have a month that we fast, Ramadan? It comes right after Ramadan. All my friends went back home and I was over there, alone. My brothers were always busy with their friends, and I felt homesick and wanted to go back so bad. My dad was going through some financial stuff since he was paying for our schools (living abroad is not really cheap), and I have three other sisters who were living back home with him. He said “if I bought the tickets for you guys to come back home, I can’t send you back again.” And I was like “I don’t care, I just want to go home!” 

So we went back home, and I got a job and was in a local college for business. I was there for one semester, and my dad was like “no, I want you to be abroad.” He got us acceptance at a college in Canada, in a city called Nanaimo, and we went there in 2009. I met my husband there. We went back home, had the wedding, and after we got married we decided to move to the States. We wanted to find a university that has both of our majors at the same university.

He was doing his Bachelor in mechanical engineering, now he is doing his Master’s here. We were applying everywhere—in Canada and in the States. My cousin was here at UNT and was recommending it, like “you will love it, you have to be here! Our interior design program is really exciting, and you have to come!”

Maram 4

We got our acceptance really fast, like in a week, so we said “wow, ok, let’s go.”

 When we came here, I was a little surprised that the city is so flat. Back home, and in Canada, and England, buildings were high. But here, everything was short, and the only building that was really high was the dorms. We thought they were apartments, so we went there and were like “can we get an apartment here?” And they said, “I’m sorry, this is a dorm.” It was so funny.

 The day we came to Denton, the weather was not nice to us. There was a lot of hail, and it was my first time ever seeing hail that big. We were wandering around trying to find a place to stay. It was a challenge.

I had two kids while in school. One is a year-and-a-half now, and the other one is 3 months—born this semester. It’s really challenging, especially that we are far from home. Home is Saudi Arabia. Having those two kids was a surprise, but a lovely surprise–It’s about time, in our marriage. I have been married six years now. Before I had the kids, I would not see my husband for a week. I would be stay up late on campus and go to class. I would stay in the library 24 hours.

Finding out I was pregnant was so stressful. It was my portfolio year—I had to make a portfolio so they would accept me in the interior design program. And I was pregnant with my first baby. I was not sick much but I was super emotional and tired. It would take more time to finish projects when I was pregnant because I was so exhausted and wanted to sleep, and I would fall asleep while I was working. My teachers were really nice about it. They were calming me down and helping me.

The department, they were so helpful. I really thank them so much, especially Cynthia, the chair of the department. When I had my first child, I was stressing about being in school while I have a kid, and she was so supportive and gave me one of the offices in the department so I could breast pump there and not have to go to another building. I would spend a lot of time over there, and so she gave me one of the offices they were not using much. Whenever I was there I would ask her to open the room for me and then I’d give her the key back.

My kids are so cute… I love them. But I feel so bad that I’m not spending enough time with them. I’m always on campus. Thank God I’m almost done. I’m looking for jobs right now, but I would prefer to stay at home just a little bit to relax because I’ve been jumping from one school to another since 2007.

The homesickness comes and goes. I feel like when it comes toward the end of my degree, I feel like “yes, I want to go back now,” especially that there are a lot of things going on back home that I’m far away from—my cousin is getting married, my grandfather passed away while I was still here… and I’m away from all of that. It’s hard to miss everything.