The Myth of Liquid Courage

It was a Sunday afternoon. My mom, my sister, and I were the only ones on the dancefloor.

“I told you no one dances at christenings!” I yelled to my mom.

She shrugged. “I guess you were right!”

We continued shimmying, clapping, and side-stepping through whatever song the DJ played for us. Nothing he played would bring the plethora of seated spectators to the floor. He tried “Let’s Get Loud.” He tried “Uptown Funk.” He tried some Italian club songs I’d never heard. When the DJ handed us flashing maracas that glowed different colors, even the gimmick wasn’t enticing enough.

A good portion of the guests were under the age of 40. We had seen them dance at the hosts’ wedding two years ago, so we knew they weren’t wallflowers with two left feet. We approached a few tables and beckoned people to join us. They laughed nervously and shook their heads. Then we approached one of our cousins, but she indicated that she needed a drink.

Ah. Liquid courage.

I remembered a college reunion event I attended a few years ago. I was the first person to sing karaoke that night, after waiting an hour and a half for anyone else to go first. Afterwards I ran onto the sparse dancefloor to join the other brave folks who weren’t professional dancers. An acquaintance of mine chatted with me later, and his breath stunk from whatever he drank. He hadn’t danced at all the whole night.  

Before the event began, I asked several people if they were going to sing at the karaoke mic or boogie down to the music. People laughed and replied “maybe after I’ve had a few drinks.” I thought it was kind of sad that people were going to withhold the joy of singing and dancing from themselves because they needed to wait for some substance to kick in. I didn’t have that luxury–I’m one of those few medicated souls who actually follows the warning label from the pharmacy. Aside from that, I had other reasons for not drinking, but that’s a post for another time. Here’s why I think so-called “liquid courage” is malarkey.

Think back to when you were a kid and you had to play a little league championship game, or sing the national anthem in front of the entire school, or give an end of the year class presentation. Think back to the first time you jumped off a diving board or rode on a roller coaster. You couldn’t rely on liquid courage back then. You had to do it afraid. Do you remember what happened afterward? The reward. The biggest adrenaline rush you’ve ever experienced in your life. That feeling of accomplishment as you emerged from the pool or took your bow or held up the trophy. When was the last time you felt that? I think that with liquid courage, you’re cheating yourself. You’re robbing yourself of a certain kind of happiness–the kind you have when you push through the awkwardness and fear and realize that everything is going to be okay. When you find your wacky dance moves are liberating. When your karaoke singing inspires others to walk up to the mic and give it a try.

You don’t need alcohol to be brave. Be fully present in the crazy moments. Experience every feeling associated with whatever nerve-wracking thing you’re doing. You will want to remember it when it’s over. For the love of all things bright and beautiful, I dare you to do it afraid. Next time you feel the need to reach for liquid courage, challenge yourself to push through your feelings and see what you accomplish. As somebody who doesn’t get to use liquid courage, I can assure you that it is rewarding to do the scary stuff without it, and you do build reference points that you can use later on in life (i.e. “If I did that, then I can do this”).

How do I do it, then, when I can’t drink? I can’t rely on myself. When I feel afraid, I pray. I pray knowing that God is bigger than whatever thing I’m facing. Bigger than my anxiety. More vast than a million stage performances, job interviews, or college exams. The God who gave Joshua the courage to lead the Israelites across the Jordan, Gideon the courage to defeat the Midianites, and Paul the courage to preach the Gospel even when he faced persecution–that same God will give me the courage to ride the Thunderbolt and introduce myself to strangers at an event.

Greater is He who is living in me than he who is living in the world.*


PS This post is not meant to demonize alcohol at all. I’ll explore that topic in another entry, hopefully very soon. Much love. 💛


How to Enjoy Your Summer Without a Vacation

Not going away this summer? You’re not alone. Many of us won’t be taking a trip this year, for many different reasons. But just because you’re not splurging on a modest vacation doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the warm weather, even in small ways. Here’s my personal list of ideas to enjoy this summer without going away.

  1. Organize an after-work water balloon fight–Send out that group message or Facebook invite and get your friends together for a friendly water balloon/water gun fight. Check the forecast to make sure it is a hot, sunny evening. You can get some cheap water guns from your local dollar store, and they probably carry water balloons as well. Organize teams or just have a free-for-all. If you need some ideas for water fight games, there’s some here.

  2. Visit your local park–If hiking is your thing, check online to see which nearby parks have hiking trails (and if you live in a city, check out urban hiking). If you just want some trees and a change of scenery, any size park will do. (Also, if it’s a hot day, don’t be shy about running through the sprinklers. If you’re surrounded by strangers, there’s a good chance you won’t be seeing these people again anytime soon.)

  3. Throw a beach-themed party–Coordinate with your friends and/or family and pick an evening to relax, eat, and have some fun. Decor can be as simple or complicated as you like–at the very least, buy seashells at a hobby shop for the table and hang some paper lanterns (and there are more ideas here). Get two people to hold a broom, and you have a limbo stick. This is also a good time to break out the Uno cards or any board games you haven’t played in awhile. For background music, check out my Summer Beach Party Playlist over at Nikita Listens! (Note: If you don’t have a yard to use, or if it rains, you can always bring this party indoors!)

  4. Spend a day at the beach/lake/pool–If you’ve ever been on vacation to an island or a seaside town, you know that the views can be pretty unbeatable (not to mention those nice breezes in the evening). However, if the view doesn’t really matter and you just want to be near any body of water, organize a get-together with family or friends and head over to the closest beach, lake, or swimming pool. It’s even better if you know someone who has a pool in their backyard because then you can spend your time more leisurely without dealing with crowds.

  5. Visit a museum–Museums are great if you enjoy more intellectually stimulating activities when you go on vacation. Try visiting one you’ve never been to before–you might learn something new, and you can get a few laughs by trying the FaceApp on sculptures, paintings, and photographs (I am curious to see how this app would work on a taxidermied animal…).

  6. Eat a burger–while you can enjoy a charbroiled burger any time of the year, I always associate summertime with barbecues. If neither you nor your friends own a grill, you can still hop on Yelp and find the highest-rated burger joint near you. (If you’re in NYC, Bareburger serves only grass-fed beef, so you know those cows lived a good and happy life. They also have vegan burgers and gluten-free buns!)

  7. Read books–As Arthur once said, “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” Elementary school teachers lure kids into learning how to read with the promise of being transported to other places through books. Therefore, if you can’t physically go somewhere, you can still read about it and utilize the power of your imagination. If you’re looking for some solid suggestions, this list on Goodreads has a whole bunch of books that take place in faraway lands.

  8. Go to the movies–Summer blockbuster season is upon us, which means plenty of popcorn flicks and a few sleeper hits. It’s not Oscar season yet, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any highly entertaining films in theaters. Check Rotten Tomatoes before you go if you have trouble deciding which movie you’re almost guaranteed to enjoy–but to be honest, sometimes the best movie critics you can trust are your friends.

  9. Take a crafting class–Or really, any kind of class. Websites like Meetup and Coursehorse can help you find a class near you, and if there aren’t any, there are so many online options! Utilize the warm weather to do the things you normally can’t do during the rest of the year, like photographing fireworks or painting outside.

  10. Plan a staycation–Do all your errands and chores during the week so your weekend is entirely free. Tell your friends and family to pretend you’re out of town, fix yourself a nice summery drink, and go relax on your sofa/fire escape/porch. Activities are optional.

I am nearing 27 years of age and I’ve been on 9 family vacations. I’m very blessed to have had those trips, since many people have never even had one vacation. Still, some of my fondest summer memories are from the things I did on a normal summer day, like running through the sprinklers at the park with strangers’ kids, and eating ice cream with my grandma during breezy evenings in the backyard. Enjoying the summer is not so much about where you go, but rather about enjoying the moment, and especially enjoying your time with your family and friends. I hope you have a great summer, no matter where you are. 🙂

~Nikita 💛


The End of Nikita Says

Dear Reader,

In one month, it will be the 1 year anniversary of when I last posted on this blog. I am grateful to those of you who read every post and interacted with me here and on the Facebook page. This past “year of silence” has been interesting. I haven’t written much of anything since last year, and the only reason I can come up with is…writer’s block. Also, life. I got a new job last year in the second week of November, and my commutes became longer and I had less desire to write anything once I got home. Also, there wasn’t as much change in my life this past year as there was in the year before. The summer of 2015 did not match up with the summer of 2014, which I still consider one of the best summers of my life. God has brought me a long way with my anxiety, and I no longer see it as a defining part of me, though I do have to fight it from time to time. Other than that, the only other major change is that I got contacts.

I like laughing in my photos. 🙂

That in itself was a big step for me, as I always thought I would be a glasses gal. However, once my favorite frames became permanently askew, and I got tired of constantly getting them fixed, I started to seriously reconsider contacts. I have no regrets–they’re not as uncomfortable or difficult to put on as I thought they would be!

So, you didn’t miss anything serious in my life during my time away from this blog.

When I first started this blog, I had difficulty finding my footing as a blogger. It took awhile for me to find my focus. I remember the day I visited the career center at my alma mater, and the director told me she had checked my blog and could not figure out what the focus was. I was more naive back then–I just wanted to write about whatever i wanted to write about, and I didn’t think a focus was necessary. As time passed, it became clear that writing about my life was more my forte, and that writing about other topics–music, clothes, TV, and the web–was not really my thing. Still, Nikita Says remained about as random as I am, and there was little flow between entries, in my opinion. Nobody, including myself, knew what to expect from this blog.

All this to say, I do want to return to writing, but not under this blog title. I always thought the title sounded a bit contrived–who the heck is Nikita, and why should I care what she has to say? I feel distanced from this alias now, as I had adopted it during my much angstier* college days. I wear different colors more often now. I have a much sunnier outlook on life. I’m not as afraid of people and places anymore.

I still often feel, like many other twenty-somethings, that I am meandering through my life. I’m still in that post-grad phase, even though I graduated 2 years ago and I have a permanent job now. While some of my friends have moved on to careers they love, getting married, and even having children, I’ve been sitting here wondering if/when. Will that ever happen to me? When will it be my turn? It is during these moments that I remind myself of something my mom always says to me–life unfolds as you live it. I cannot know about tomorrow until tomorrow. God will take care of me, and if I seek Him first, somehow everything will work out in His timing and His way–but I have no way of knowing how or when.

So, life remains mysterious, but I’ve always liked mystery, so I can’t complain. As I navigate the road ahead of me, I want to talk about life with you, and I hope you will engage with what you read. I also want to do more than just writing–I would love to get back into video editing and taking pictures. That’s up ahead very soon, and I want to use this blog as a place to share some of it with you. Only this time, the name will be different–I’ve already purchased a domain for the new blog, and in a few weeks will automatically redirect to that domain. The entries up now will probably be hidden away somewhere, so if you want to revisit or read any of those, time is limited. 🙂

Thanks again for reading whatever Nikita wanted to say, and please join me on my next adventure–The Life Unfolding.


*Apparently I just invented a new word.

Say What’s On Your Heart


A few months ago, I went out to dinner with a friend of mine. This friend had helped me during some tough times at college, and she always had a positive, upbeat attitude. She helped balance out the somewhat morbid and pessimistic outlook I had at that time. Since we hadn’t seen each other in a (relatively) long time, we spent the meal catching up on what was going on in our lives. It occurred to me as we were eating that we had both changed quite a bit since we had last seen each other.

Her voice used to sound so happy, like a bird, and she was able to lift my spirits. Yet on this particular evening, her voice sounded like it was weighed down, and I noticed the spark of life was gone from her eyes. Conversely, my voice sounded lighter and happier, compared to the way it sounded a few years ago. The conversation began to feel like I was treading through mud, and I couldn’t pick her up. I figured she was probably tired from work, and I knew she had some stressful situations going on back home, and yet I regret that I didn’t ask her, “Hey–you sound kind of sad. Is everything okay?”

There’s a chance she would’ve said, “Sure, everything’s fine,” but I still feel like I should have asked that question. I think we often try to give people the highlights of our lives and present a positive image of ourselves, so much so that even when we have face-to-face conversations, we keep up that facade that we use online. It’s easier to hide behind a screen, but you can’t hide in person. You shouldn’t have to, either. I wanted to help my friend the same way that she had been able to help me, and I wonder if maybe I failed by not pausing and asking that tough question.

I say it’s a “tough question” because I think on the whole, most people don’t want to talk about pain. Pain is an inconvenience, sorrow is a nag, and anger is a deterrent. We don’t want people to know when we feel those “bad feelings.” I’m guilty of this as well, because there were–and are–plenty of times when someone has asked me “how are you?” and I would respond with an enthusiastic “good!”, when in reality, I felt pretty crummy.  Why do we do this? I know sometimes I do it because I don’t want to hear people’s advice, but then it’s wrong for me to go to bed at night crying because “nobody knows what I’m going through.” If I had the opportunity to share earlier, then it’s on me.

You can be a positive person and still admit that you’re having a bad day–it doesn’t make you any less positive. It makes you more genuine. When you’re willing to be sincere and put yourself out there, you will find that there are people who not only want to help you–they can also empathize with you because they might be going through the same thing. This leads to healing and freedom–when you’re able to share your burdens with other people and uplift one another, and pray for each other. I know not all of you are Christians, but this idea is found in the Bible. No man is an island, and we were made for companionship, not isolation.

Next time I speak with my friend, I will ask her if everything’s okay. But also, I need to learn to stop “good-ing” when people ask me if everything is okay. Both asking and answering can be intimidating, but ultimately, it is liberating.


Don’t Settle for Less

A pair of shoes I regret buying

I hate shoe shopping.

Just the phrase “shoe shopping” makes me cringe slightly on the inside. I dislike stores such as Nine West, Aldo, and Payless. Are the shoes the problem? No–it’s my feet. This is why I wear the same pairs of shoes over and over until they fall apart beyond repair. Then I have to go shoe shopping.

However, once I’m in a shoe store, I try to be as open-minded as possible in my selection process. I’ll try on heels, flats, sandals, boots–I get to a point where I’ll take almost anything. Occasionally I will fall in love with a beautifully designed shoe, and this is where the trouble begins.

I’ll pick out three sizes–7, 7.5, and 8. I’ll try all three sizes on. By process of elimination, I’ll narrow the selection down to that one size that sort of fits right–but not quite. It pinches my toes in the front. It slips off my heel in the back. It’s too wide in the middle where my arch is. So I think, Okay, I can still make this work. I can use a shoe tree to widen the front. I can try to alter the shoes to suit me. And I can wear socks with this pair. I can try to make myself fit well with these shoes. I can put a heel guard in the back. This way there’s a boundary between me and the shoe, but I still don’t have to fully accept what the shoe truly is.

I spend time in the store staring at the not-quite-perfect pair of shoes, trying them on again, walking around with them, dancing in them, and debating with myself whether these shoes are really worth the investment.

I don’t want to leave the store empty-handed, so I end up settling for the shoes that don’t quite fit.

In the end, I don’t even bother wearing the shoes. I wasted my time and money on something that was aesthetically pleasing at best but dysfunctional at worst.

I was speaking on the phone to a dear friend of mine recently. She was telling me how she had been dating this guy from her church for awhile, but she was thinking about ending the relationship. He had some anger and insecurity issues because of what had happened during his childhood and teenage years. He never dealt with these conflicts, so he carried this baggage into his relationship with my friend–along with the aftereffects. He would get defensive for no reason, he would blow up at my friend and later forget what he even said, and whenever she was busy and couldn’t pick up her phone, he would ask where she was and why she wasn’t answering him.

He even said himself that he should probably go for therapy–and yet, he didn’t make any effort to take that course of action.

As I listened to my friend tell me all this, I knew for certain that this guy was the wrong match for her. She’s such a happy, sweet, calm person, I told her–why would she want to put herself through a relationship like this? She deserves better.

Our chat on the phone probably confirmed what she already knew, so she broke up with him not long afterward.

She did tell me, though, that “the pickings are so slim!” And oh sweet goodness, they are. I mean, the dating pool is shallow enough regardless, but when you’re a Christian, it’s even more so.

But I just want to say for the people reading this–Christian or not–do not settle for less than what would be best for you. Do not date someone because you’re lonely, or because you’re in a rush to get married and start a family, or because you’re bored and just want something fun to do.

If you’re dating someone who has the potential to be abusive–or if he’s already abusive–then please, please, GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN. It’s better to be single forever than to marry an abuser.

For my brothers and sisters in Christ, trust God. There’s a reason why you’re single right now. Maybe there’s some personal conflicts you need to resolve. Maybe there’s something you need to accomplish now that will be difficult to do once you’re married. Maybe you just need some more time to grow. Regardless, make marriage a matter of prayer.

Back to the shoe analogy, these are 3 lessons I’ve learned about relationships: 1) The same way you cannot change a pair of shoes to truly fit you, you cannot change a person to become what you really want them to be. Besides, that’s not fair to them or to you. 2) Don’t compromise who you are to be more like them. You will be unhappy and they will be deceived. 3) Don’t flirt if you know you cannot follow through on having a real relationship. Don’t lead someone on, even if it’s unintentional. You may think you’re just friends, but they may not see it that way.

Don’t settle. Know your worth, and know that you don’t need another person to affirm your worth.


Recluses’ Excuses

I wrote this entry back in late May and never published it, so here it is 🙂


There’s been a change in my life over the past 2 months. My anxiety has dissipated quite a bit.

Explanation? I think I’m just getting used to my work routine, and I think the subway is helping me grow a thicker skin, so to speak. Also, lots of prayer. And it’s sunnier longer now!

With the current season of warmer weather, I am entering a season of my life where I actually want to go out and do stuff. I’ve spent the past three years letting my anxiety dictate what I will or won’t do. Now that I’m calmer, though, I’m realizing that a fully lived life requires going outside and interacting with people–and that I don’t want to look back on my early 20s as “the time I did nothing because I was afraid of everything.” Real life doesn’t happen within the confines of my room.

So, for fun, I’ve compiled a list of “recluses’ excuses” that I’ve used over the past few years. (A recluse, by the way, is someone who stays in their house and doesn’t go out. Like ever. Emily Dickinson was a recluse. I can’t help but wonder if that’s why she wasn’t really famous until after she died.)

Okay, so, these are things I’ve either told myself/my mom/my sister/my friends whenever I want to get out of going out (along with some snarky responses I have for myself):

1. “But I’m tired…”–I am convinced that exhaustion is 40% physical and 60% mental. True, there are times when I feel really tired after work, and yet for some reason I find myself doing contemporary dance in front of my bedroom mirror at 11:30 PM. More often than not, my second wind will kick in. I just need to eat some protein and keep calm. (My mom recently joked that I need to take Geritol *sigh*)

2. “It’s too cold outside”–I know I’m not the only one who hibernates in the Winter. And really, it’s not always healthy/safe to spend extensive amounts of time outside in the cold. But if I’m just traveling from point A to point B in a heated vehicle, then what’s the problem?

3. “It’s too hot outside”–As you can probably tell, I don’t like extremes in temperature. I like when the weather is somewhere between 40 and 85 degrees (Fahrenheit). Last summer I did attempt to go to the park with a friend during a heat wave. It lasted all of 15 minutes, and judging by the fact that only 5 cars were parked in the usually-packed parking lot, we were among the brave ones. Same as I said in point #2, though, just because I can’t be in the outdoors doesn’t mean I can’t go out at all.

4. “It’s raining”–Not kidding, I used this excuse twice in the past few weeks. Apparently I’m not waterproof…even though I own a raincoat, rain boots, and an umbrella. I think the reasoning here is just sheer laziness. Also, I get strangely sentimental about being cozy in my house during a rainstorm….

5. “Nobody will care if I go or don’t go”–Don’t go for them. Go for you.

6. “I’m not familiar with that neighborhood”–And I never will be if I don’t visit sometime and explore a bit. Granted, there are certain neighborhoods I wouldn’t visit by myself after 9 PM. That’s common sense, though.

7. “I don’t know anybody there”–Exactly! That means a clean slate for making a good first impression. And if the chances are high that you’ll never see these people again, even better! Hey–you never know who you’re gonna meet.

8. “But I was planning on doing this nice indoor activity”–Oh, like reading? Or going on Facebook? Or watching a movie? Unless it’s a creative project, this excuse doesn’t apply.

9. “My [insert random body part here] hurts”–It will hurt whether you stay home or you go out. As long as it doesn’t prevent you from enjoying yourself and being able to engage in whatever activity is going on, just go.

10. “My nerves are shot”–This is something I usually say after a busy day at work and a tough commute home. It basically means I am emotionally spent and I am in “the panic zone.” This does not necessarily mean I *will* have a panic attack if I go out, but the chances of me feeling anxious while I’m out are pretty darn high. Interestingly enough, there are times when my nerves are shot and I go somewhere because I have to, and then after the first 15 minutes of being there, I end up having a good time for the rest of the night. So, in short, results may vary. But “what if’s” are inconsequential either way.

I will do my best in the upcoming weeks to avoid using these excuses and, as Nike says, just do it. I would love to take a pottery class or sing karaoke or go see Shakespeare in the park.

I just need to find people to do these things with. And I just ended a sentence with a preposition.



Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 9.54.51 PM

When I spent those 5 months unemployed (and looking), I was pretty bummed out. I wanted something to do–needed a reason to get up every morning and leave my room, besides going to the kitchen to get a box of Kashi cereal. It happens. The worst part is that when you have anxiety, the more you stay inside, the harder it is to go outside.

Then, I was hired. Somebody decided I was worth a chance, and to this day, I still enjoy going to work. I like my job, I like my coworkers, I like the the location. The commute is very simple–but I have to admit, taking the train was an adjustment for me. In the beginning, I’d be sitting on the train crouched over, squeezing my stress ball and struggling to catch my breath as I listened to Jesus Culture’s album Come Away. Then gradually, I was able to put the stressball away and just listen to music, but I would still be crouched in the fetal position. Recently, I graduated from fetus to sitting upright. It’s taken me two months, but I’m getting used to the train. Even starting to enjoy it, to an extent. Except when there’s a problem.

Today there was a switch malfunction…or a fire…or a broken pipe…I don’t know, I can’t find an accurate story. All I know is that when I got out of work, all trains going uptown to the Bronx were out of service. I noticed when I first walked into the station that there was a swarm of people rushing upstairs from the 4-5-6 platform. They looked like rats scampering to get out. And me, like an idiot, thought “Oh wow, there’s a lot of people getting off the train.”


So I swiped my Metrocard, went downstairs to go uptown, and figured everything would be business as usual. I noticed it was a little more crowded than it normally is, but I thought, eh, maybe something’s wrong with the 7 train (I always blame the 7 train). But then the people on board the 5 train were told to get out. Well, you’d think the conductor must’ve said something about their mothers, the way one man reacted. But the 5 train people stayed. So we had a mobbed platform full of hungry, angry, lonely, and tired people. And when you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, you need to HALT and make sure you don’t do something regrettable. It was by this point that an already packed 6 train left the platform, and then the disembodied voice came on the PA to announce that “due to a switch malfunction, 6 trains will not be running between 42nd and 139th.” Okay, I thought. I don’t need to get off between here and 139th anyway.

But the longer we waited, the more “delays” showed up on the schedule, and I realized I’d better get my behind to the express bus stop if I wanted to get home anytime soon.

Walking to the express bus is, for me, a revelatory journey of sorts. The few times I’ve done it, I’ve found it tiresome, confusing, isolating…even though I’m surrounded by people. Technically, the express bus is not that far from my job. The problem is me. So I walked to the express bus and had my moment of crashing at 331 Madison Avenue, where I sank down in the hallway of an elitist apartment building. The security guard was about 30 feet away, but I figured I should let him know that I was not deliberately trying to loiter.

One thing I’ve learned as a receptionist is the value of courtesy. Like the Bible says in Proverbs 15:1, a soft answer really does turn away wrath, and in order to come across as disarming, I’ve softened my voice. (To the point that if my mom calls me at work, she remarks about how nice I sound on the phone. Haha. I learn from the best!)

So I told the security guard something like this: “Excuse me, sir, I’m not trying to loiter. I’m just staying until I recuperate.” He said it was okay. I continued. “You see, the 6 train had a switch malfunction, so I’ve been walking to the Express bus at Madison and 45th, and I’m really out of shape.” He said it was fine if I stayed. I could stay as long as I needed to. I could even sit by the stairs.

His kindness undid me. I was going to weep. I got myself together, gulped down some Gatorade and water, put my coat on, grabbed my bags, and headed out to walk to the BxM8.

Where there was a line of people waiting.

I managed to get a seat, and I figured I was set, but then the bus driver had to tell boarders at the next stop that they would have to stand if they got on the bus. One middle-aged blonde lady didn’t care–she just wanted to get home. We all, in fact, just wanted to get home. This is the goal of every commuter. This lady–I’ll call her Cassandra–stood in the aisle right beside my seat, where she proceeded to murmur and complain.

I felt like I should give her my seat. After all, I’m young. I’ll live. So I offered my seat to her. She asked me if I was sure. And I was all, “Yeah, of course!”

Look at me, getting all optimistic. As the bus got fuller, we aisle-standers had to make our way towards the back. I took my coat off and put it in that shelf above the seats. I felt stylish and confident in my black blazer. The feeling was short-lived. Let me tell you something–Express buses were not made for standing. This is why they have narrow aisles and lots of seats. So after awhile, my anxiety kicked in. My feet got numb because I wore my heeled boots today. My legs felt stiff and strained. I tried various positions of leaning. But I became pretty scared once the hot/cold flashes started coming over me. I contemplated sitting on the floor. It wouldn’t be comfortable or socially acceptable, but I don’t know these people so it’s all good. I continued to stand, though.

And it was strenuous. I appreciated the scenery and all, but the traffic and swerves and whatnot made me feel thrown, and I was starting to feel weak.

When I finally felt like I couldn’t take it anymore, the bus driver announced our first stop. Then I was finally able to sit. And I cried because of 3 things: 1) I was glad it was over. 2) I felt bad I put myself through that. 3) God proved me wrong like He always does–I can do it. Because He will give me the grace/strength I need. I prayed while I was on that bus, and the song “Shoulders” by Tal & Acacia played on my iPod.

Slowly, I’m building up resilience. I’m not like I used to be. And I’m not alone.


The Panic Diaries: Fighting Immobility

Hey all. As I announced in my last entry, I now finally have a job!

But with any change comes new adjustments…and new fears.

Thankfully, I’ve built up a pretty sizable arsenal of coping techniques. The unfortunate thing is that I have my moments when even those don’t seem to work…

And those moments are frightening.

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My boss was kind to let me out early this past Friday because many people took the day off and it was a slow day. I was determined to go to Posman Books in Grand Central to buy two contemporary classics–Slaughterhouse Five and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, Grand Central was really mobbed on this particular day because it was Black Friday–which meant that the place was filled with travelers and shoppers. I soon felt overheated and overwhelmed, so I plopped myself down on the floor under a closed ticket booth and drank my gatorade as people rolled their luggage and gave me strange looks. Or maybe the looks weren’t strange, but either way, I felt really self-conscious.

And I continued to sit on the floor. And the fear of getting up seized my heart.

I started mentally going over my options. Cab? No, too expensive. Call my mom and ask her to meet me in Grand Central? Not feasible, and she’d probably want to slap me through the phone. I knew two things: 1) My problem was anxiety in and of itself. I wan’t afraid of any particular bodily ailment or any specific threat or dangerous person. I just felt scared for no particular reason. And it sucked. 2) I couldn’t stay on the floor. I had to get up at some point, whether I liked it or not.

I felt anguished. Based on past experience, I knew a good cry would be somewhat relieving, but I couldn’t muster up the tears. So I had to be a big girl and get up. I unlocked my iPod so I could play Jesus Culture’s album Come Away, and I started to repeat Joshua 1:9 to myself over and over again. I needed to remind myself that God was going to be with me wherever I go.

I walked over to the area where I could go down the escalator to catch my train, but when I saw the crowd of people just waiting to get on the escalator, I thought to myself, “Nope. I’ll just take the Express bus.”

Which meant that I would have to walk to the Express bus. In the cold. By myself….Just like everybody else! But when you have panic disorder, even tasks that normal people find trivial can sometimes turn into mountains. So I made a few stops along the way to the bus so I could warm up. It snowed for all of one minute, and I had to laugh at the whole situation. When I finally boarded the bus, I felt a huge sense of relief.

You can’t die from panic disorder, as I’ve reminded myself multiple times. The problem is that when you’re in the midst of an attack, even though you feel like you’re gonna die, you know you’re going to live…and that there’s a huge chance you’ll have another panic attack sometime soon. The combination of these three things makes me feel miserable at times–I feel like I’m dying, but I know I’m going to live, and I know I might feel like I’m dying again sometime soon. But I cannot focus on the what-if’s. Instead, I can look back on the small victories. To you, these things may be run-of-the-mill and mundane. But for me, getting up in the middle of Grand Central station and moving ahead was momentous. Because it proved to me that I’m more resilient than I think I am, and that God is still with me, even when I’m walking alone.

❤ Nikita

PS Is anybody looking to get rid of an old copy of either Slaughterhouse Five or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? Please let me know via Twitter @Vacca_To_World. Thank you!

Losing Loved Ones (Who Are Still Alive)

A few people in this photo are still with us. My sister is actually the girl standing behind me.

When my sister was in her senior year of high school, she had to take a class called “Death & Dying.” I don’t think I need to explain what the class is about, but when I took that same class at that same high school six years later, they had changed the name of the course to “Alpha & Omega.” The school did this renaming for two reasons:

1) “Death & Dying” was apparently too morbid.

2) They wanted to talk about beginnings as well as endings.

Still, death was very prominent in this course, and I remember reading an essay about mourning the various “deaths” we encounter throughout our lives. Some deaths are concrete–the death of a loved one, or confronting our own mortality. However, some deaths are more abstract–the death of our childhood, the death of a marriage.

Over the past 4 years, I did grieve the deaths of several family members and friends. These deaths are difficult to think about, because when I do I am reminded that I didn’t get to know some of my relatives very well before they died, and vice versa. Now I can’t visit any of these people and talk to them.

Those were not my only losses, though, because over the past 4 years I’ve mourned many friendships. Some of these friendships disintegrated, some were cut down at my own hand, and some just…evaporated. I mourned the loss of the youth group at my church. We went from having 25 members to having almost no one. And yes, I lost these friendships, too. Sure, sometimes a few keep in touch. I’ll give someone a life on Candy Crush Saga, or they’ll wish me a happy birthday when it’s that time of the year. But otherwise, we do not confide, we do not converse, we do not pray for one another, we do not call each other, we do not hang out. At all.

Everyone left for different reasons. Some left on bad terms. Some wanted to go to a different church. Some simply left without a trace. And some wanted to walk away from God.

Most of these people who left did not say goodbye to me. And you see, when somebody dies, that’s usually one of the first complaints of the person who grieves–“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye! I didn’t get to tell them that I love them! I didn’t get to make peace with them before they passed on!” But when the person is still alive and they exit your life, and you don’t get any closure–it just stings. Can I track some of these people down? For sure. I know where some of them live, I’m friends with many of them on Facebook, I even still have some of their phone numbers. What’s the point of it, though, if chances are they won’t be receptive? After all, they haven’t bothered reaching out to me, so why should I reach out to them?

That’s when I realize, though–maybe they’re thinking the same thing. Maybe they get sentimental for the good old days, too. Maybe they want to contact me, or contact someone else who left, but they’re afraid to because we’re all afraid of the same thing–


For those of us who still follow Christ, though, we have no excuse. If we truly are brothers and sisters, why can’t we get along? If my mom or my sister moved to a different house, I wouldn’t disown them. So why do we, as Christians, get into such an uproar when someone leaves our church to go to another?

It partly has to do with how they left, and why they left. What did they leave behind? Did they cause division? Do they speak badly of us now that they’ve left? Did they get into a fight with someone prior to their leaving?

I took some of it personally in the beginning. In my mind, I kept making the situation about me–why didn’t they say goodbye to me? What did I do wrong? We were working on the same ministry team–why didn’t they tell me they were going to jump ship? After awhile, though, I tried to understand their story, their side. Some of these people were abandoned themselves, and maybe they don’t know how to respectfully leave a person or a place. Some of these people had serious issues and needed help. Some of these people felt humiliated and didn’t want to make the situation any bigger.

Now, I can understand these things. I forgive those who have left and I still love them all. I still mourn from time to time, but as time passes by, I can relive the memories without crying. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)