It is oh-so-worth it to get out of bed.

March 6th, 2014, 5pm

It was 2.8°C with scattered clouds. There was moderate breeze.

You have to know when to cut yourself some slack.

It’s a tricky thing— knowing yourself so well that you can decipher between seasonal depression (pop some Vitamin D!), hormonal moodiness, dehydration, heartache, exhaustion, and full-blown depression.

I’m too afraid to even consider the latter a possibility.

When I have a hard day— when my bed feels so good, when it’s raining out and I can’t be bothered to step outside, when it takes me hours to accomplish a single task, when I can feel the tears crowding behind my eyes, when I have no appetite or am constantly finding new treats to snack on (I swear, these chocolate covered almonds just fell from the sky!)— I just can’t seem to cut myself some slack.

“What, do you honestly think this is depression? Grow up, that’s a serious problem. You’re just being a brat.” —me to myself

People like me aren’t allowed to have the blues. Life is too good, things come too easy, there’s too much privilege and opportunity in my story for me to go all boo-hoo on the world. There’s too much work to be done! To-do lists to dominate, people to encourage, a room to clean, miles to be run. Moping around a darkened room, taking an easy day, is not part of the process.

Months ago, I broke down on the phone with a friend. Apologizing incessantly, I was shocked to hear her stop me. “You are going through a divorce. A move. Money is always tight. You’re essentially starting a new job. All of those things are the leading causes of stress— and you’re experiencing all of them. I’m honestly surprised you’re doing so well.” Am I really allowed to be sad?

Today was feeling like a wasted day. I fought back tears during a mini therapy session with my training partner during our run. I broke down and cried in front of my coach during a meeting. In a phone interview, my subject started off with a few sympathetic remarks about my parent’s divorce— an awkward beginning that resulted in me fumbling through the next 30 minute Q & A. I took 20 minutes to put up an Instagram for a social media client. I laid in bed. I got up. I looked at the clock— 3pm, time to go volunteer at a local elementary school. The kids in the after school program weren’t well off, craved attention, were often rowdy, but ultimately were sweet and sassy. I hadn’t been in over a month and I just couldn’t face it.

Guilt overcame me and I pushed myself out the door. Walking up to the main entrance, I nearly turned and ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction… And then, in a blink, I was standing in the doorway of the fourth grade classroom, fielding hugs and being pulled in three different directions. “Ms. Garcia, help me finish this!” “Can you buy some Girl Scout cookies from me?” “Give me a spelling bee word!” I was overwhelmed by the warmth of their voices, the satisfying crack of soft pencil lead breaking as I puzzled out fractions on a homework worksheet, the crash of chairs, the shouts of excitement, the chaos of movement and color and sounds.

The after school counselor, a pudgy but cute boy who often wore a plain black t-shirt and jeans and went by simply Mr. E, asked me questions about what I studied and shyly told me he was going to divinity school next fall.

“You look like a Barbie,” one Hispanic girl whispered to me. She wore her thick black hair back in a low ponytail. When I asked what she was wearing for picture day tomorrow, she blushed and shrugged. She stuck close to me in the classroom, her dark eyes looking at the tattoo on my ring finger instead of the fractions I was writing out. She charmed me into buying 3 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

When the class lined up to go to the gym for basketball, four boys lingered in the back near two of the shoddy folding tables. “Come on guys, basketball time,” I chided gently.

“I gotta show you something,” said the petite Hispanic boy. “When Mr. E leaves the room.”

The way they were hanging back looked suspicious— a real teacher would hustle them along— but, frankly, I had the privilege of being an outsider— neither taskmaster nor classmate.

Mr. E led the front of the line out of the room and I nodded at the boys. “He’s gone!” In a flash, three of them pushed two of the tables together, hot dog style, and the little boy jumped up on the close end of the elongated table. Dropping his book bag, he hitched up his jeans, threw his arms over his head, and did a clumsy cartwheel across the tables, as the three other boys looked on in awe.

“Good job!” I whispered as he landed and leapt off the far end of the table. The boys scrabbled to separate the tables again, then I shooed them out into the hall. “That’s a cool tattoo,” a tall black boy who had never talked to me before said, nodding down at my UVA emblem inked on the top of my foot. The group dashed to catch up with the end of the line.

Mope the day away in bed and miss out on moments like these?

Max, Annie, Adrian, Emanuel and 3 others said thanks.

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Stephanie Marie

A make-it-happen kind of girl. My worlds: a steeplechaser sponsored by New Balance and training with Furman Elite in Greenville, SC | The Fête Blog | Be Loved PR | University of Virginia grad

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